Casey Schaum Is a Passionate Skateboarder With Main Line Area Roots

Overshadowed by the more flamboyant bad-boy likes of Bam Margera, Casey Schaum has been a low-key pillar of the West Chester skateboarding scene—even from afar.

Seemingly out of nowhere, Casey Schaum arrives on a skateboard. He’s back in his native West Chester for a brief visit. And though he now resides in the Sierra Nevada mountain town of Truckee, California, he’s equally at home at the Westside Community Center’s Skate Spot. There are a few concrete skating obstacles—a curb, a ledge, a bank-to-curb, a manual pad and a quarter pipe. But it’s really more of a place to skate than a true skate park.

Photo by Ed Williams

Aside from his board, Schaum arrives with a pink terry-cloth towel and his father’s leaf blower. It’s been raining hard for a few days, and a dry, clean surface is essential for a safe ride. Hence the leaf blower, which has SCHAUM written on it in black Sharpie. “That’s my dad in a nutshell,” he says.

A former car wash, the property was a rogue skating ground until the elders at Providence Church intervened, working with private donors and volunteers to convert the building to a community center for borough youth. It now offers things like after-school programs and hot meals, immigration services, and skateboarding. “It’s cool that this exists,” says Schaum, assessing the more refined version of what once was.

Now that skateboarding is an Olympic sport, does Schaum see that as an opportunity missed? “It’s pretty hard to judge skateboarding, and most of us don’t even like the attention,” he says. “It’s mostly about the counterculture.”

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In 2018, the year Providence acquired the old car wash, Schaum relocated to California, where he lives at almost 6,000 feet and works at 7,200. By way of comparison, West Chester is barely 445 feet above sea level. These days, he’s operations manager for Woodward Tahoe, one of five “youth experience” camps owned by action-sports industry giant POWDR. Schaum may see as much as 600 inches of snow in one winter. “You park your car, and it’s gone,” he says. “The next day, it’s 45 degrees and sunny—everything’s glistening. You have endless sight lines, and you think, ‘Holy crap, we survived.’ I’ve embraced it, but it’s insane.”

A young Casey Schaum in his first skateboarding contest in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
A young Casey Schaum in his first skateboarding contest in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Courtesy of Casey Schaum.

Schaum is a mountain man—or at least he’s getting there. “You have to earn those stripes,” he says. “But I do a lot on the mountain that most don’t.”

Schaum’s outdoorsy, sports-focused family spent a few weeks each summer at a cabin in Michigan’s ruggedly beautiful Upper Peninsula. “My grandfather never let us spend much time inside, and I believe that contributed to my love for the outdoors,” Schaum says. “My mom grew up in Ironwood, Michigan, and my family has a lake house outside of Big Bay. My time spent at the lake house is part of the reason I like the Truckee/Tahoe area so much—tons of fresh water, pine trees and wildlife.”

At age 13 in West Chester
At age 13 in West Chester. Courtesy of Casey Schaum.

Schaum’s father, Andy, is president and CEO of Paradise Farm Camps in Downingtown and was once an ice hockey goalie for Penn State University. Both parents steered their child toward team sports. Coached by his dad, Casey was a West Side Little League All-Star until he was 12, pitching and playing nearly every position. But once organized sports began interfering with his skateboarding and snowboarding, baseball fell by the wayside.

Pulling off an impressive frontside air at West Chester’s Robert E. Lambert (“Wawa”) Park post-college.
Pulling off an impressive frontside air at West Chester’s Robert E. Lambert (“Wawa”) Park post-college. Courtesy of A.J. Italiano.

Schaum graduated from Penn State in 2017 with a degree in recreation, parks and tourism management, interning that summer at Woodward PA, POWDR’s Centre Valley camp, as its recreation coordinator. Then he returned home for a short management stint at Fairman’s Skate Shop in West Chester. The following year, he was a week away from another summer position as skateboard coordinator at Woodward PA when he shattered his right ankle navigating a half pipe.

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His worst skating injury, it required a plate and seven screws. Oddly, it also led to a personal evolution. To help with rehab, Schaum spent more time cycling. Then he bought an adventure bike and a splitboard, which made it easier to get up a mountain and snowboard down. “The next thing you know, I’m taking an avalanche safety course,” he says.

Out west, Schaum first worked at Boreal Mountain, which shares space with Woodward Tahoe. He started as a rental and tuning shop supervisor at Boreal in 2018. After some bouncing around, he took over as Woodward Tahoe’s operations manager in 2022. As part of his current responsibilities, he oversees the skateboarding camp. “All the things I’ve always dabbled in have now become part of what I do year-round,” Schaum says.

Casey Schaum was 10 or so when he bought his first board at Fairman’s Skate Shop. For decades, the store’s founder, Dave Fairman, was an indispensable ambassador for the region’s skateboarding scene. Eleven years after launching his retail operation in Prospect Park in 1977, he moved to downtown West Chester, where Fairman’s became legendary. In 2014, Fairman sold the shop to Mike Moll, who kept it going until this past May, when it finally closed after 36 years.

“Dave started it all,” says Schaum, who was a regular on the half pipe at West Chester’s Robert E. Lambert (“Wawa”) Park and skated on Fairman’s teams in high school and college.

Schaum is the first to admit that he isn’t a pro, rating his skills as “extended college level.” Though he has minor sponsorships from Independent Truck Company, DLXSF in San Francisco and Totally Board in Truckee, he’s not making consistent money from anything skating related—aside from what he does at Woodward Tahoe. “The guys on the team would give me a list of tricks and tell me not to come back until I mastered them all,” Schaum recalls of his time with the Fairman’s crew. “When I came back, they’d give me a new list.”

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Dave Fairman is now executive director of the Media Business Authority. For his part, he says the local scene was fun but certainly not mainstream. “We worked hard to stay positive,” he says. “It was punk rock enough, but also acceptable enough to attract a broader client base. Skaters were all connected within a unique skate world, music world and art world—and those scenes supported each other. We were able to capture lightning in a bottle.”

Along with at least five other pros, Fairman’s sponsored Brandon “Bam” Margera, the bad-boy skater, jokester and TV personality whose career soared in the early 2000s thanks to the MTV reality stunt show Jackass and its big-screen sequels. Some Jackass episodes were filmed in an old supermarket parking lot near what’s now Bayard Rustin High School, Schaum’s alma mater. “We met Bam when he was 9, and he was sponsored before he was 10,” Fairman recalls.

Ever since, Margera has juggled mass popularity with a litany of legal and personal problems. It’s the sort of baggage Schaum has never had to deal with. “He’s a great ambassador and among the wonderful, talented skaters we’ve been fortunate to be associated with,” says Fairman of Schaum. “So many have gone on to make a career in skateboarding or in the board sports industry.”

Easily found on YouTube, Palm Island compiles years’ worth of footage capturing skaters doing their thing in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Florida, Nevada, California, Idaho, Oregon, Montana and Washington. The guerilla documentary was edited by Schaum and cohorts Timothy Bloom and Aaron Steinhardt. Often, they’d film all day around Reno, Nevada, then go swing the clubs on a nearby driving range that featured island targets on a man-made body of water. Palm Island was the furthest away. “Of course, we’d have to hit it,” Schaum says. “Once you did, then it was about how many times you could hit Palm Island.”

Conveniently enough, the water feature was surrounded by a concrete embankment. “We thought that if we’re going to call this film Palm Island, someone really has to ride the embankment into the water,” Schaum notes.

So, on a cold January day, Steinhardt found a hole in the fence, crawled under and skated down the embankment into the chilly drink. “We thought, ‘That’s the way we need to wrap up,’” Schaum says.

While Palm Island is chock full of amazing tricks, there’s also plenty of “slams”—also known as face plants. In fact, it’s the wipeouts that give the documentary its crazy sense of humor. Palm Island—slams, golf footage and all—premiered in 2022 in Schaum’s adopted hometown of Truckee. It was also part of a fundraiser for a new skatepark in town. “Building one is never easy,” says Schaum. “They’ve been trying to get a new one in Truckee for over 10 years.”

Filming skateboarding also isn’t easy. Schaum’s first legitimate camera was a byproduct of his work out west. A customer getting a snowboard tune-up was looking to unload a Panasonic HVX200. Schaum bought it for $600, and he still has it. “It can take one or two years to get three minutes of good footage—there’s that many mistakes,” Schaum says. “Even one successful trick only takes up three seconds of film. It takes a certain mindset and eye to capture what other skateboarders will appreciate.”

Now that skateboarding is an Olympic sport, does Schaum see that as an opportunity missed? “It’s pretty hard to judge skateboarding, and most of us don’t even like the attention,” Schaum says. “It’s mostly about the counterculture.”

Still, he says, “the Olympics should grow the number of skateparks.”

Ultimately, Schaum is a skater running on passion. “You do it so long it becomes part of who you are,” he says. “You look differently at a stair set, a ledge or a city’s architecture … ‘What if? Where can I make my art?’ You don’t have to go to the Olympics and be the best—as long as you’re having fun and going after it.”

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