Local business owner Eric Hunt pushes philanthropy through skateboarding


Kerry Webb

Brainstorm founder Eric Hunt throwing down a nollie flip somewhere in the Asheville mountains.

Cassidy O'Neil, [email protected], Arts & Features Writer

Most people struggle to find motivation while recovering from such a life changing accident, but for the Hendersonville native Eric Hunt this near death experience inspired his career path.

“That’s where the name comes from, it’s from having this traumatic brain injury basically. 

The origin story is an interesting one for sure,” said Hunt.

The next year after the accident in 2015, Brainstorm was established. May 8th of this year marks the eight year anniversary.

The local skateboarder turned business owner was cycling home in April of 2014 after being out with some friends from out of town one evening.

“I was riding home and then woke up in Mission Hospital the next day with eight staples in my head and three fractures,” Hunt said.

Although the event would alter his life, Hunt said he doesn’t remember much of the accident.

“I don’t have any recollection or know what happened,” Hunt said. “I think I hit something and just wrecked. Basically I was found at what used to be known as Citi Stop Gas Station in Biltmore at 5:30 in the morning when they opened the gas station by the woman working there.” 

Hunt believes he walked there since it was on his way home.

 “I think that’s what happened through years later of fuzzy memories coming back due to it being a traumatic brain injury and brain contusions,” Hunt said. “I pretty much slept. I was only in the hospital for one night but I had to keep going back for multiple brain scans.”

Hunt now describes this moment as basically a kick in the ass.

“It was this life changing experience that was potentially near death for me. With head injuries of that severity you never know, even concussions can be life changing. It was a reality and perspective check. I had always wanted to start another company,” Hunt said.  

For the next two weeks, Hunt said he slept at his moms house during the recovery. 

“Other than eating and peeing I didn’t move and even after that for months my brain was mushy,” Hunt said.

Prior to the accident in April, Hunt scheduled the first art show that he would be curating for late May to take place at Push Skate Shop downtown. 

This also happened to be the first big group fundraiser for Foundation, the DIY skatepark located in Asheville’s River Arts District.

“My short term and long term memory were all affected, like finding words, but I had spent months working on planning the contest,” Hunt said. 

Despite Hunt’s condition, through his love for skateboarding he was able to stay committed to his role in the event. 

“I forced myself even though everyone said ‘you don’t have to, someone else can deal with it’ but I was like no I want to do it,” Hunt said. 

Sure enough he did well, being present for the contest that took place at the now defunct indoor skatepark Thrashville. 

“It ended up being a huge success as around 300-400 people came out for that and we had the big art show the night before,” Hunt said. 

Although the festivities were successful, Hunt may have taken something far more important away from the event.

 “As a result of working with my friends and when you have injuries and things like that the more you do you kind of bring memories back. Essentially, it’s healthy to use your brain because you’re strengthening the muscle by warming it up again,” said Hunt. 

Besides the neurological benefits Hunt describes his contributions as “curating the art show really helped in my recovery and was so inspiring to me. Not to be hippie about it was kind of a spiritual experience, like an awakening. Just the reality of how precious and fragile life is,” Hunt said. 

Cut to a year after his accident and Hunt is now curating his second art show as well as a contest in coordination with the launch of his skate company: Brainstorm Skateboards. 

Directly inspired by his fascination with the brain as well as his life changing injury, the company gives Hunt a great outlet to incorporate fellow artists and friends.

“It being a collective and a collaborative form of expression vs. one sided. That’s been the art direction and kind of inspiration behind it from the beginning” Hunt said. 

It’s this art therapy that motivates Hunt and is the backbone to his brand.

“Growing up skating with friends that were going through similar things and backgrounds and broken homes in that era I know people say it and it’s cliché that skating saved my life but I genuinely feel like that,” Hunt said. 

It’s this same mentality that Hunt continues to use through his philanthropy as he focuses on fundraising for Foundation as well his work with the city on the current renovations at the Asheville Skatepark.

Hunt also motivates the youth through the annual Push Skate camp. 

“Skateboarding gave me an outlook and I dedicated my life to it because it helped me build self confidence, find a community and a second family,” Hunt said. 

Whether it is Brainstorm, philanthropy or art, Hunt’s motivation is clear.

“My hope, like all the projects I work on personally, is to offer a different perspective. To do things for the community that show the potential and that it can be whatever we want to make it and there’s just so much beauty and power in that,” Hunt said. “When you have an understanding of that and learn how to effectively make those changes there’s nothing skateboarders can’t do.”