Former US Navy Pilot Takes Longboards to a New Level

Kota Longboards

One doesn’t normally connect skateboarding with the life of a naval aviator, but then you don’t know former US Navy F-14 Tomcat pilot, and Top Gun graduate, Michael Maloney. Maloney was looking for a new way forwards after losing his job during the economic downturn. His love of snowboarding, wooden craftsmanship, and a fascination with the long boards used by the early Hawaiian surfers blended together into a singular idea; producing a high-end, uniquely tailored skateboard for the longboard community. He started his manufacturing company in May, 2012, and employs former US military personnel to handcraft each board. Having the ethos and spirit of fellow veterans in his company has been an important part of Maloney’s vision.

As Maloney himself said in a recent interview with ABC News, “All of us that served in the military come out of that experience understanding what it’s like to have implicit trust, faith and confidence in the men and women next to you. I said, ‘We need to build the entire culture and DNA of the company around that principle. We needed to look back in our family and hire veterans.’ … I am so grateful to them and without them I’m not sure if I could have done it.”

Maloney went on to say, “When I look back, everything that I had done in my life prepared me to start KOTA Longboards. We looked at the market and we thought there was a great opportunity to expand the demographic of people that would adopt longboarding as a part of their action and adventure sport regimen and also the women who had been almost ignored by the skateboard community. We saw a good opportunity to become an innovator and leader in the longboard community.”

Lafayette Escadrille and the U.S. models.
Lafayette Escadrille and the U.S. models.

Each design has a story behind it, and all of them have an aviation-related theme melded into a surfer style. The original inspiration behind the name of his company, Knights Of The Air, came from the pilots who flew in WWI. Aviation lore paints these daring airmen as the last of a dying breed for whom honor, courage and chivalry were everything. Maloney wanted to reintroduce these tenets to the cool side of mainstream culture, and what better way than through the “art in motion” that is skateboarding. Anyone riding these boards is telling a story that others will want to hear. As Maloney said recently, “The greatest satisfaction for me is when you see somebody that you don’t even know riding one of our longboards down the street, and they’re smiling from ear to ear and somebody stops them and ask ‘where did you get that’ and they pick up their board and they say let me tell you about this board because there’s a story here, there’s a community here.”

The new F4U Corsair design in KOTA's Handley-Page line of boards. (photo via KOTA)

The new F4U Corsair design in KOTA’s Handley-Page line of boards. (photo via KOTA)

Knights Of The Air has developed a special high-gloss finish on these boards, called KOTA Grip, which negates the need for grip tape too, preserving the clean look, and doing away with the abrasive material which both ruined the designs of other boards as well as defacing the riders shoes and clothes. KOTA carefully selects the wood for the boards, choosing only to use American hard rock maple from Wisconsin. This particular type of wood apparently has the perfect combination of hardness, durability and flexibility required for a long-lasting, high performance skate board.

KOTA's Flying Tigers edition in the Handley-Page line. (photo via KOTA)
KOTA’s Flying Tigers edition in the Handley-Page line. (photo via KOTA)

dyecrewIIMaloney goes on to say, “We got an inquiry at our email from a nice young lady in Ohio. Her grandfather flew B-17s in WWII and she was wondering if we did a 100th Bomb Group design.  As is our MO, I asked her to send me some photos or patches, etc. so I could start a design for her. She sent me pics of her grandfather with his crew in front of a plane named ‘Sunny II’. I figured it would be a nice touch to put that on the deck so sent her a spec sheet of the design. This is her response, “Haha that’s awesome! I didn’t expect that!  FYI ‘Sunny’ is my dad, who was a newborn at the time. Both ‘Sunny’ Forts were destroyed when in use by crews other than my Granddad’s. He held the record in the 8th for fastest crew to complete its 25 mission tour: 11 weeks. I guess Grandpa wanted to see his son!”  That’s very typical of the relationships we build with our clients. We always strive to go the extra mile to bring them exceptional value for their purchase.  She’s allowing us to use the deck as an example for our website!”



All active current and former military personnel receive a 10% discount on KOTA orders, and the company donates $10 from each sale to the Underwater Demolition Teams SEAL Association non-profit support organization for Navy vets.

Visit for more information.


Be the first to comment

Graphic Design, Branding and Aviation Art

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.