INTERVIEW BY NEIL MACDONALD (@SCIENCEVERSUSLIFE) / PHOTO BY KATRINA SHIPMAN
It’s no understatement to say that Carl Shipman is one of the greatest skateboarders to ever come out of the UK, and while he himself might not agree with that, I don’t think he’ll care that I’ve said it either. From skating Nottinghamshire curbs with friends to touring the world with skateboarding’s first ‘super team’ and back again, Carl’s approach to skateboarding has always been about friends, fun and stylishness, regardless of what’s going on around him.
The photos Carl got throughout the ‘90s are some of the most instantly recognisable, burned-into-the-brain examples of how good skateboarding can look, and his healthy disregard for playing the industry game a valuable reminder of why we started, of what the fundamental reason for skateboarding is and how much fun it can be.
Carl just wanted to ride his skateboard, and ultimately the opportunity to do that in peace with his family around him, in his home town, had far greater appeal than doing it on his own pro board with the biggest names in the world at the most famous spots while constantly having a camera pointed at him and being expected to tour, compete and play the part of a top-level pro.
To turn his back on an industry where it’s generally understood that people will do whatever it takes to get—and to keep—their name on a board or a shoe to devote his time and energy on family life and running his scaffolding business takes a unique kind of single-mindedness, and Carl’s straightforward approach to living and his illuminating, refreshing honesty are rare in this world.
His is easily one of the most interesting stories in skateboarding and it’s one that hasn’t been fully told, so I called him up to find out what happened.
Carl’s brother Lee’s Sk8 Action Cover Photo: James Hudson. Inset below – Varial heelflip at the broadmarsh banks. Photo: James Hudson
You skated with your brother, Lee, a lot, and he was good. He had a cover before you, for Skate Action. How did that go down at home?
Yeah, it was a one-foot nosegrab or something! I was super stoked for him. We grew up so close that we’re not competitive brothers.
Having two skateboarders in the house must have helped you be able to afford more mags and videos between you, so what do you remember watching when you guys were starting out?
We used to watch Savannah Slamma a lot. Streets of Fire with Natas. I still watch those videos now, to be fair. Public Domain and Ban This too, those get you psyched to go out skating. How they skated in those videos was how you wanted to skate day to day, basically. It always looked like they were just filming them doing what they’d be doing anyway. I always remember Guy Mariano, Rudy Johnson, Paulo Diaz and those guys skating together, and their section looked like it was filmed in a day or two. Just totally cruising.
That kind of thing got me stoked, and it continued in how Stereo did their videos, you know? To me, that vibe pretty much appeals now more than anything, how they filmed and made videos. Now it’s just bangers all the time. Although there are some skaters out there now who are just amazing to watch. It’s gone a bit more diverse again now and it’s good to see how things are progressing, isn’t it?
It’s interesting to see what humans are capable of on a skateboard, but I’d still rather watch something basic done with style. It’s the ‘I’d rather watch Gino push’ thing, you know?
That’s so true. Skating with Gino, watching him first-hand, you could just watch him cruise all day. He had that style about him where he could just push and it looks good. Someone else has to do a trick to look good but he could just push and look good, and that’s a quality on a skateboard that’s very rarely seen these days.
Your first proper part was in the Rollersnakes video, 720, but were you in 540? You must have been, but I can’t remember.
I’m pretty sure I might have been in it. I used to skate over in Nottingham all the time, so I’m pretty sure but not a hundred percent.
720 was a bigger deal anyway, in terms of the changes happening in skateboarding, so how significant was a full part in a UK video then? UK videos were rare in 1992.
Rollersnakes who did it were so cool, and that shop had such a good ramp in it. I remember Gonz coming over with Jesse Martinez, and Justin Girard coming over with New Deal, so you got to see good skaters there. Nottingham had a scene, with the Broadmarsh banks, the bus station, and a really good group of friends, and Rollersnakes always seemed like a bit ‘more’ than other skate shops.
I think they were a bit more business-orientated back then; they had business plans for how they were going to run things and what they were going to be doing. It didn’t seem like a normal skater-run shop because they had the business side of things pretty well nailed-down. Putting videos out is them knowing what they want to do, and they always seemed much more mature than we were. They had their heads screwed on and the shop was amazing at that time.
There was Non-Stop too.
Yeah! Non-Stop was just down the road. They were a smaller outfit but it was super cool people running that shop. If I was ever going to Rollersnakes I always ended up going to Non-Stop as well. You’d get people who would only go to one, but I went to Non-Stop as well, they’d hook me up and I would go skating with those guys. The scene in Nottingham was amazing at that time.
So were Non-Stop the first people to give you free stuff for skateboarding?
I think so, yeah. I don’t really recall getting free stuff, they’d just give you a really good deal, you know? Rollersnakes would give me stuff too. I can’t remember but it was one of the two shops because I had stuff to do with both of them. They were both cool and they’d both hook you up if you needed something. They were inspiring, to be honest, because although we had a brilliant scene there skateboarding’s an expensive hobby, isn’t it? For kids coming up. So to be given a board at trade price was pretty much an honour. All them guys were cool.
Pizza avoiding Pop Swatch adorned Melancholy to smith stall. Photo: TLB
How did you come to know the guys at RaD? You started getting in that magazine a lot, with good reason.
Well from where I grew up in Worksop, Retford was about seven miles away—that’s pretty much where I live right now in fact—and there was a family there called the Hudsons. There was Mick, James, John and Chris, and they had a vert ramp in the garden. That was one of the best vert ramps, even to this day; it was just amazing. Those guys rode BMX and Chris skated, and it came about that James ended up having a lot to do with Skate Action magazine, so he had a lot to do with us having photos in there because we were local. We were only down the road.
That was one of the best vert ramps, even to this day; it was just amazing
At that time Tim Leighton-Boyce was doing RaD and I was skating for Vision because Mick, John and James all rode BMX for Vision Street Wear. Me and Chris skated for Vision—and the first demo we did was up in Aberdeen, on a quarterpipe in the town square—and TLB was the guy who’d take us round, so we ended up being in RaD. It was James knowing Tim, and travelling around for Vision, and so on.
Frontside 5-0 in the Vision days at James Hudson’s vert ramp. Photo: James Hudson. Inset Below – Backside sugarcane. Photo: TLB
I had no idea you actually skated for Vision. When did that happen?
It started when I was pretty much about 15. I remember going on tour doing demos around England with Chris Gentry, Bo Ikeda—who was super rad—Mike Crum and Kevin Staab. Bo Ikeda just opened my eyes, the way he skated was like nothing I’d ever seen. That guy was doing things way ahead of his time, but you never hear anything about that guy. You never really did after that… Style was everything to me at the time, and the way he pushed, the way he skated miniramp was amazing. Three foot ollies out the mini to quick-snap disasters, stuff totally unheard of at that time. He was so ahead and it was so dope to skate with him and those guys at the time.
When you’re 15 you don’t know what you’re doing, you don’t know your away around anything, you just want to skate, and I didn’t even realise at the time just how well known those skaters were. It’s funny that I got to skate with them again, later on in life.
Those are mostly transition guys, so I guess that was a skatepark tour?
That’s what it was. I was skating a little bit of street but I always skated vert and miniramp at the time. I’d skate the miniramp with Bo, then see what Mike was doing on the vert. Mike was amazing, and Chris Gentry was dope at the time too. Kevin Staab was more laid-back, he was just slashing the coping and doing really good airs. It was a mix of people but it kind of opened my eyes to what things could be like. Being brought up where I was, in this working-class environment where I was only really skating curbs to skating with these guys was incredible, it was like, “How do I learn this stuff?!” It opens your eyes.
Kevin Staab dressed like a ravey pirate.
Haha! Yeah. He had three t-shirts hanging from his waist rather than wearing one. He had pink bits in his hair. Basically like a rock star. Total rock star status. Coming from where we’re from, when you’re young and you see somebody with pink in his hair rocking three t-shirts at his waist with knee-socks on and more jewellery than you’ve ever seen, you’re just thinking, “Dude, what?”, because you hadn’t seen anything like it at the time.
That kind of sums up Vision at that time, and that’s why that company ended as quickly as it did. They had all their money in these neon vert rockstar dudes. Was it a quick ending for you?
It was just when vert died out, wasn’t it? Almost overnight, and not just in the UK but in the States as well. Everyone was skating street with tiny wheels. That was an odd scene to go through and it was just the changing of the times and people finding something different, but for me vert was so good to watch and it was such a shame that happened. Those dudes had to kind of start again and wait for the scene to pick up, didn’t they? They were like lost causes. People like Gator entering street contests… It was weird to see them having to do that.
Having to learn to ride a skateboard from scratch, basically. There’s footage of Gator skating street, and fuck that guy, but you feel bad watching him having no idea how to do anything that isn’t on vert.
I agree with you. Fuck that guy for who he is and for what he did, but you felt sorry for all of them then. And it didn’t just happen once, because vert picked up then died off again. The Mike Frazier era. He was a total beast in the Powell videos, and the same thing happened to him, but he just kept skating what he wanted to skate. Skaters have to be all-terrain vehicles now, they have to skate a bit of everything.
People like Oski and Ishod Wair just kill everything. For me it’s amazing to see that. If you go back, there was Tom Knox too. Chris Senn. All them dudes who’d skate ramps, street, everything. I remember watching footage of Mike V skate vert in Rubbish Heap or something like that and it absolutely blew my mind just how good that guy was on vert. Just how natural he was. They’re my kind of skaters.
Running the moped back in 1991. Photo: James Hudson
Mike Manzoori’s one of those dudes.
Dude… He’s one of the best to ever come out of this country. Minis, vert, street, everything. And he skated fast. He basically had his big glasses on and could barely see, I don’t think, and that’s why he had the style he had, but he’s so good on a skateboard. Mike’s a filmer now, isn’t he? He’s been a filmer for years and he’s really good at that, but I used to be in awe, watching him on a skateboard. He had such good style… Backside Smiths and lipslides sliding further than anybody else at the time. Mike always got recognition, but not as much as he should have done. When I used to watch him I’d be blown away. Seriously good on a skateboard.
Definitely. So what happened after Vision?
I started being on flow for World Industries, through Alvin Singfield, around about that time. It was all flow back then, there wasn’t teams or anything. Then after that it was going to Northampton and seeing Jeremy Fox there with Rowley, Penny, Rune and all them guys when that was going from Death Box to Flip. So I agreed to join Flip when I was 17, and that’s pretty much where everything else started. Although I didn’t actually have my board come out on Flip.
Carl’s Flip skateboards introduction ad. System magazine 1993. Photo: Wig Worland
I think there was five months between your Flip introduction ad in System, and your Stereo introduction ad in Thrasher. Was there ever talk about you getting on Death Box?
I don’t remember ever riding for Death Box, I was coming in as they were transforming into Flip. I never knew if I was on Death Box, because I didn’t know at the time because it was never actually discussed, it was just, “Right, we’re gonna do this, and you’ll have a board out”, and I was going to have a board out with a basketball graphic.
I think Geoff ended up with those boards, rescreened, but why would a UK company give a guy from Worksop a Harlem Globetrotters graphic?
I’m not sure. I’ve never really understood most of their graphics to be fair. They’ve always had pretty random graphics, but that’s them, you know what I mean?
They were sleeping in the warehouse where they were printing the boards, and were up at Northampton all the time, and it wasn’t the fact that I never thought they’d make it or anything like that, because I really didn’t give a toss. I was just stoked and happy to skate at the time. When I think about it now it seems like it just passed by in a blur.
I never got the impression that you ever cared much about sponsorship. That’s rad.
I’ve always been pretty stubborn as a person. I’ve always done what I’ve wanted to do and I’m not really bothered about pleasing anyone else. So at the time I had the utmost respect for Jeremy Fox and Ian Deacon because they lived and breathed skateboarding, but we never took it too serious, it was always just fun. I remember going to Europe with them and they were cool. I’ll always have a lot of respect for those guys. It’s all part of growing up. Sponsorship, for me—although it happened—was not something I was ever driven by. I just always really wanted to skate.
So that graphic was going to come out, and we went to Münster, to the World Championships thing, and I qualified really high. I did better than I ever thought I’d do. You’re stoked to skate a comp because you’re skating with Cardiel and them, you’re skating with your heroes. You’re seeing everybody you’ve ever seen in a magazine, in real time, but you feel like you don’t fit in there. The way I wanted to skate didn’t really fit in with the way they were skating, you know? I just wanted to be left alone and skate, I didn’t want the pressure or anything.
So I was skating the practice course—they call it the ‘practice course’, it’s the outside bit—and I was doing kickflips over this hip. Jason Lee was there with Dune and these other Stereo and Real guys, Tommy G and all these people, and he comes up and says, “Would you mind doing that flip again, over that hip?”, and I was like, “Fuck, not at all. Whatever”. So I did it again and he was like, “I like the way you push, I like the way you do that trick”, and it was a bit like, whatever, an American praising you for skating, but we started talking and hanging out, just chilling with Dune too, when he said that they thought they had a place on Stereo, and they’d like me to ride for them. I told them I was riding for someone else at the minute, and I was stoked to be talking to them because they’re all an inspiration, but I just wasn’t sure.
The next day we’re skating the competition and I did really well in it. I did a frontside half-cab flip down the big stairs there, but I hadn’t tried it in practice so it was just like, “Fuck it, I’m gonna go for this”, and I landed it first try. After that it was all, “We’ll fly you to America, we want you to ride for us”, and all that stuff, so I was just like, “Fuck it, yeah. Why not?”
It was their outlook when I spoke to them about skating as much as anything. With Jeremy and Ian Deacon, I maybe just saw it as an English company, but whatever, because I just wanted to skate, so if those Stereo guys wanted to fly me out to skate with them, then whatever. I was 17, about to turn 18.
frontside flip Stereo announcement ad from Thrasher 1993. inset below – Huge kickflip to fakie on the infamous radlands roll in from Rad Magazine Oct/Nov 1993. Photo: Alvin Singfield
Deluxe were just putting Stereo together at that point, right? It didn’t really exist yet.
It came from Blue, didn’t it? When they had Kareem [Campbell], John Deago and Paulo Diaz. Paulo Diaz was on when they first made Stereo. When I got on Stereo they had Matt Rodriguez, Jason [Lee], Dune, Mike Daher and I think John Deago as well… Mike Daher’s skating reflected his life, it just flowed, it was so smooth. That’s how he lived his life. Ethan came later because he skated for Toy Machine. Paulo Diaz had just left before I got on… I’m pretty sure of that. Oh, Mike York and Lavar McBride as well, but I can’t remember if they came on later, or were before me. I remember skating with them but I didn’t pay much attention to the team, I weren’t really bothered about that, but when I went out skating with them I seemed to slot into the way that they were skating.
That was pretty clear at the time but I think it’d be obvious to anybody watching the videos nowadays too. Jason knew what he was doing there, but had Jeremy not said he was going to fly you out to California anyway?
Nah, there was nothing like that. They’d said they were going to go to America, and they were going to kill it in America, and I had no doubt about that. They had Geoff, Penny and Andy Scott—who is still amazing on a skateboard now—and Rune, and they went out there and nailed it. But for me, I didn’t want to be a part of it ‘cause I just didn’t see myself as a part of that. I don’t judge myself in terms of, ‘I’m gonna go and jump these stairs today’, or ‘I’m gonna go and do this big rail today’; I just wanted to skate. I didn’t want to be pushed. As soon as someone takes the fun out of it, it becomes boring, and the same thing happened for me with Stereo, later down the line, because it was part of Deluxe and it weren’t just Stereo on its own.
Because I did well in a comp they’re like, “Right, you’re our competition skater now”, and I’m like, “What? Fuck that, no I’m not”. A couple of good runs in 411 then they’re like, “Here’s a rail, we’ve found a spot for you”, and I’m just like, “No”. So we had disagreements about that because I just wanted to go out and skate. We can take the camera and see what happens but I don’t want to go to a spot that I really don’t want to skate. The Deluxe guys couldn’t quite get their heads around that, but the Stereo guys got it. Jason got it and Dune got it. I remember one time I wanted to skate Embarcadero at one or two o’clock in the morning so I called Jason up to tell him I wanted to film something, and he was on it. Straight out there with his little camera, and I did a line that was in A Visual Sound. That was at two o’clock in the morning and that’s the kind of thing that inspired me to want to ride for people like that.
I remember one time I wanted to skate Embarcadero at one or two o’clock in the morning so I called Jason up to tell him I wanted to film something, and he was on it. Straight out there with his little camera, and I did a line that was in A Visual Sound
I always knew Flip were gonna come out and bang, bang, bang, and just be so good, but I just didn’t feel it. I didn’t want that at the time, I just wanted to be left alone. Even though I had no pressure from them, I could see what was going to happen. I get more inspired by the way someone will do a kickflip or a 360 flip, or just pop a 180 ollie, than I ever will by someone backside tailsliding twenty stairs or frontside feebling three kinks, you know? To me, that kind of thing is the most boring to watch because you’ve seen it all before, but back then it was more about doing a really dope back Smith. Now it’s at the level where you’re like, “Is that really fun?”
I missed skating with my friends back home, and at that stage the Stereo family were my friends, so it was easier to skate with them.
That’s better than being stuck out there having to skate with people you’d never normally be friends with.
Exactly. I always treat people at face value so if I get on with them, I get on with them, and if I don’t, I don’t. I’m never rude, I just go about my business, but with Stereo it just clicked. Being new on that team didn’t feel like I was new on that team, so we’d just skate together and there would be weeks on end where a camera would never come out, and that’s how they built such a good team. I won’t say it was an out of this world team, but I always thought of it as a ‘this is how you should skate’ team. This is how you should enjoy skating. Jazz music playing, cruising around, getting a coffee, going for a pint when you’ve finished skating… A relaxed atmosphere that never, ever felt pressured.
Stereo and Adrenalin both had that vibe down. It’s about riding a skateboard rather than NBDs.
Yeah. And Stereo had Ethan Fowler who loved to play music, Dune who was a damn good artist and played music, Jason had his acting… They all had something else other than skating that influenced their skating. They were living that life and it came out in the music, the videos and in the graphics that Dune and Jason did. They let me do some graphics and it was this laid-back freedom. Like, “There you go, get inspired and we’ll get inspired behind you”, and I’ll always remember when I got on Stereo that Danny Way called me up asking me to ride for Plan B, when it was Danny Way, Colin McKay and Pat Duffy, these awesome, brutal, amazing skateboarders.
At that time it was after the Northampton comp, and Alvin had given Danny my number, and he called up and asked me to ride for them. I told him I just couldn’t because I was committed to Stereo, and I’ll always remember Colin McKay getting on the phone after that and saying that he was stoked for me to be riding for Stereo, that they respected those guys, that they weren’t trying to poach me and it was just an option if I wanted to. They said they were glad to meet me and all that, but further down the line they still had me in mind when DC happened. So what goes around, comes around. They remembered how I conducted myself that time, and when I was over there skating with them one time they said how they’d started a company called DC and they’d like me to ride for it. So that’s how one thing can kind of lead to another.
Going back to Stereo then, you’d got on just before you went out there, right? In 1993.
Yeah. I went to Münster with Flip and got asked to ride for Stereo, so I was upfront with Jeremy and Ian Deacon. I still have a lot of respect for them now, for how cool they were and how they handled it. They still brought me home! I basically said, “Look, this is what I want”, and Ian Deacon said they wouldn’t stand in my way if it was what I wanted. I apologised to them, and explained how Stereo was like a dream of mine, and I didn’t want it to slip through my fingers. It wasn’t just about going to America, it was about the people who rode for that team. I’ll never forget how cool they were about it. I hold them in very high regard for that.
Did you ever live in London, or were you just a regular visitor?
Nah, I always just stayed there, with Simon Evans, or Ed Loftus. Matt Stuart as well. I stayed with Paul Shier in Croydon too, stuff like that. I used to go down there whenever I felt like it, then whoever I seen down there I’d hang out with them and sometimes just end up staying with them. That’s just how it was.
Talk about some London people from then.
I used to love how Tony Luckhurst skated, he had a dope style on a skateboard, I used to really love the way he skated. Loose trucks, just always flowing. There was always Matt Dawson and Ben Jobe too, all these heads. Clive Daley and Barrington too. Southbank and Shell Centre were quite cliquey at times but they embraced me as one of their own and I really used to enjoy going down there and skating with them. Toby Shuall as well, I used to love to watch Toby skate. I’ll always remember Slam, Slam were always good to me when I’d come down. It was the meeting spot. If you thought of a skate shop in England, you thought about Slam because it had the reputation, that cool reputation. We had the shops up north, where we were, but Slam had that cool edge.
I’ll always remember Slam, Slam were always good to me when I’d come down. It was the meeting spot. If you thought of a skate shop in England, you thought about Slam because it had the reputation
Slam had Tod Swank and Savage Pencil drawing their logos from the very beginning.
Yeah, that’s sick. It’s amazing isn’t it? It’s fucking wicked. I always liked going to Slam because I’d end up meeting people there every day. That was the place. Skate shops in New York and places like that wanted to have the appeal that Slam’s always had. How old’s Slam now?
It’ll be 35 next year.
35 years old? Insane. That’s amazing, to have gone through all the stuff this country’s gone through, recessions and things like that, and still be current. That is amazing. In the ’90s, skate shops would have about a ten-year run. They all had to change and do scooters and things like that to keep open, but Slam always kept its cool edge.
Carl frontside half cab flipping the southbank seven in 1993. TWS. Photo: Skin Phillips
Did you enjoy Southbank?
I was fortunate enough to skate Southbank in what was kind of the original era, when there was the bank against the wall and stuff like that. To see what they’ve done there now is amazing, isn’t it? It’s really cool, the scene they’ve got going on down there. That place needed to stay as it was. A really good friend from down there that I haven’t seen for a long time is Winstan Whitter. What a guy he is. That Rollin’ Through the Decades documentary he did is sick.
I went there with Skin to do some of my Transworld interview and he took a picture of an inward heel on the bank. That’s one of my favourite pictures.
One of Carl’s favourite photos a seven minute skate away from Slam. Inward Heelflip. Photo: Skin Phillips
The first time you went out to SF was with Simon, right?
He was already out there, from what I can remember, ‘cause when I went out there I actually went out there on my own and met up with Dune and them there. Yeah, Simon Evans was already out there and then Ed Loftus came out so I spent a lot of my time with Simon and Ed.
Did you have a return ticket?
Yeah, I had a return ticket but them guys just ended up staying out there, didn’t they? They didn’t really want to come back but I always went for three months and then came back. I never outstayed the three months because of visas and stuff like that, so I’d just go for three months or if I fancied it I’d come back after one month. I never wanted to stay out there full-time, I always wanted to come back home.
Were Stereo paying for all these trips?
Yeah, they were paying. Whenever I wanted to go out they’d get me a ticket. They were super cool that way, they enabled me to travel and get about. Anytime I asked, they would pay for it, but sometimes I didn’t want them to pay so I’d pay for my own ticket and just go out on my own.
You said the Stereo team were all cool when you went out, but who else was sound?
Skater-wise, I skated a lot with Josh Kalis. He was always in SF, over from Philadelphia, so I skated a lot with him. I skated a lot with Kelly Bird, who rode for Real at the time. I’m good friends with Kelly anyway, but I got to skate with people like Matt Pailes and then when we’d go to EMB it was James Kelch, Mike Carroll, Lavar and Marcus McBride. There were a couple of English heads out there too; Femi [Bukunola], Simon [Evans] and Ed [Loftus] were out there. Embarcadero was renowned for being quite cliquey at the time, but to be honest I never got any of that, I just went there and skated because I was with the Stereo and Real guys who skated down there. I probably spent most of my time there skating with Huf, pretty much, and Ben Liversedge.
The people who would come over from New York were the people I mostly skated with at the time. I was just so stoked out to skate with Huf, to skate with Keith, because he’d want to cruise the avenues, and chill. I was up for that. Then obviously he’s friends with Gino, so he’d be over, and you just got to skate with absolutely everybody. Because Stereo’s part of Deluxe I got to skate with Cardiel, and Stranger, and Andy Roy. All those guys were on the other side of the coin, so you’d skate Embarcadero then go skate with those guys and you’d see a whole different side of skateboarding.
I got to skate with Cardiel, and Stranger, and Andy Roy. All those guys were on the other side of the coin, so you’d skate Embarcadero then go skate with those guys and you’d see a whole different side of skateboarding
Embarcadero was all about lines, and about who did what down the seven, but then you go skating with Cardiel, Stranger and Andy Roy and that’s where you see the enthusiasm in skateboarding. That’s the ‘Let’s go fucking skate’ attitude where they didn’t care about filming, they’d just drive around and skate or bomb hills. That was really inspiring because they were just enjoying skateboarding, and it wasn’t about filming or doing lines or stuff like that. I only ever stayed at Embarcadero for an hour or two then I’d move on. I couldn’t just stay there and chill all day, I’d need to go and bomb some hills or just do something different, you know? I’ll tell you who else actually: Sean Young. Skating with him was really good as well. He was one of the really sound dudes out there.
a Golden time in skateboarding history encapsulated by this beautiful stereo ad from 1994
He kinda epitomises SF and the sort of skating you’re talking about, at that time.
Exactly. He ollied a barrier into a hill that was just insane to even think about. I’ve bombed some decent hills but them guys were just another fuckin’ level. In SF you always see how they’ll do a trick and then bomb the hill, but it’s not so much about the trick, it’s about bombing the hill!
It’s cool how big a part of San Francisco skateboarding that is now, with GX1000.
Oh god, yeah. I try to watch some skate stuff and when that comes up it’s like the same feeling as I felt back in ’93, ’94, when I first saw those hills. Seeing them bomb down them now, weaving in and out of cars, cruising down those, it’s like nothing else.
I know Tobin Yelland was filming with you when you first went out, so is that most of the footage that’s in A Visual Sound?
Yeah. Tobin… What a legend that man is. His photography is just amazing. There was Tobin Yelland and there was Gabe Morford, and both them guys, in my eyes, are just amazing. I’ll always remember Tobin, he was just a character as well, he was a little bit eccentric and it was super pure to hang out with him. It was just cool. There was no fucking bullshit. And Gabe would get on a skateboard and fly around, so the photographer is motivating you to skate and you don’t mind taking pictures because you’ve already got that motivation. He’d just piss around but he’d hit a curb or a transition at full speed and just get you inspired to skate rather than, “I’m just going to set this up, and you let me know when you’re ready”.
With Tobin it was more like, “Well, whenever you feel like it we’ll just do something, but if you don’t feel like it, then don’t worry about it”. That inspires you more than somebody saying, ‘Right, let’s nail this shit, let’s get on it and get this done!’ Me, Mike Daher and Ethan Fowler shared a house—134 Freelon in San Francisco—and we were going to make a video, but Deluxe didn’t want us to film the video because it was out of their hands.
There’s only one UK trick in your A Visual Sound part, a backside ollie over Meanwhile. Was that because Stereo wanted it to be clear you were skating in the US, or was it because you weren’t filming when you were back home?
To be honest I weren’t really bothered where I filmed, it was just easier to film in the US. I can’t even remember who filmed that. It might have been Ben Powell, I did some filming with him… He did my Tincan Folklore one. A couple of days filming with Ben. But I can’t remember who did that Meanwhile one, but that was one of them days where we just went there to piss around and see what happens.
Yeah, there’s more UK stuff in your Tincan Folklore part.
I’d been deported by then, that’s why I was filming in the UK. I’m pretty sure some of it was in SF, but because I couldn’t go back to the States they said they needed me to film for a new video and I told them I was just so uninterested in doing anything because I was happy to be home. I still told them I’d do it, and they said that I had a week, or whatever. So Ben said we’d just go out and film, and we went to Coventry, Milton Keynes and Nottingham to film, and we just filmed bits here and there over a couple of days then sent it in.
Because I’d been deported I was thinking about my future, wondering if I would go back out there again… I just didn’t have a clue what was happening, I was sitting in the pub wondering what I was going to do, just enjoying skating back in the UK, and there’s these people telling me to film, telling me what I have to do. I was there because they hadn’t sorted out the work visa that I needed, so I kind of got angry with them, because they were the reason why I was there in the first place, but I liked it here and wanted to be here. I didn’t want to be back over there until I had a visa, I didn’t want to risk it.
Wallie Contortions outside walgreens. Thrasher subscription ad at the 16th & Mission BART station Photo: Bryce Kanights
Deported after the Vancouver contest.
Yeah. They let me through no problem, on the way in to Canada, but because I was going from Canada—which is part of the Commonwealth—back to America, they said no. I always had to lie and tell them I was working some job, and I had a list of names of people who could cover for me. Stuff you never want to do, but you had to, to get back into America to skate. All this time, and they could have saved so much time and money by getting me a visa in the first place.
This is where all my love for being in America went, and for being with Stereo to be honest. Or Deluxe. It weren’t Jason Lee or Chris Pastras, it was the money men at Deluxe. I was selling a lot of boards, doing well for them, then when the shit hit the fan I was stuck here and they still wanted me to film. I told them to get fucked basically; I didn’t want to do anything for them. That’s where I got pissed with going to America, but there’s always a silver lining because that time is when I met my wife and had my kids. When you get a family everything else seems so trivial, it seems so irrelevant.
It worked out for the best, but what was that like to come to terms with? Being a pro in SF amongst the centre of the industry, to being back in Worksop having a pint in your local?
It worked out for the best but at the time it was depressing. I started drinking a lot, just sitting in pubs or working men’s clubs with the lads thinking that this is where I’m at now, that I won’t be able to go back to America. At the time I was pissed because everything had been steaming ahead but it was still laid-back and the sponsors were good. I didn’t have any pressure until I came back to England. As soon as I got back to England they’re saying that I need to keep the pictures coming and I need to be doing this and that. It was a bit like, “Hold on a minute, fuck you. You basically got me sent back here and now you’re telling me what to do?”
That’s what it seemed like, beside the fact that I was getting paid to skate. I didn’t really see it that way, I was just upset. They’re telling me they need to make a video and I’m saying, “Well who’s going to fucking film it?”, you know? Ben’s a friend of mine so he was able to do it but they needed it in such a short timeframe. I was on my own with all this stuff to do, and they left it to me to organise it all and actually do it.
That’d be frustrating since it’s not like you could email them, or get on Zoom, at the time.
I was fucking pissed mate. I had to wait for calls at certain times of night from them. It seems like once you’re out of there, you’re completely cut off from them and from everything. So you’re going from skating Embarcadero with all these guys every day and being inspired to skate, to coming back here. On the flipside, I was so stoked to be home after a while, to just go skating with my mates like what it was always like. Just skating with friends with no bullshit and no cameras. After going through that time of being depressed and drinking and being absolutely fed-up, it was so inspiring to be able to just go skate with my friends and get back into it. Back into enjoying skating.
When Tincan Folklore came out… I mean, I look at those videos and just think I’m skating like shit in them but I just didn’t care. Some skaters see that as their kind of legacy, but I don’t see videos like that for myself. To watch good videos and see great skating is amazing to me, but I always really enjoyed seeing people in real life. Just turning up and skating with people. The filming side of things just gave me a fucking headache. I went from skating the ledges at Embarcadero, Black Rock, all these perfect spots, to skating a shitty curb with my friends and that was more inspirational for me than anything. That’s what meant everything to me at that time.
I went from skating the ledges at Embarcadero, Black Rock, all these perfect spots, to skating a shitty curb with my friends and that was more inspirational for me than anything. That’s what meant everything to me at that time
I lost hope of ever going back to American because I was blacklisted by immigration, and to get that lifted off you have to go to court, you have to get lawyers and it all costs quite a few thousand pounds. The first time I seen the ‘Free Carl Shipman’ Stereo board I was fucking pissed. I was so pissed. They were selling a board to get the money to get me back. I remember saying, “You’re fucking selling a board that makes it look like I’m a fucking prisoner here, and it’s ridiculous because if you’d listened to me in the first place I wouldn’t have got deported”.
I told them before the comp that if I got stopped I’d get sent home, and they just said it’d be fine. I only had my skateboard with me, and a little bit of money, because I had all my stuff in an apartment in San Francisco. One of my friends from home was staying there too, so I had to ring him up and tell him I was getting deported. It was his first time in America so I had to get my friends to look after him. At the time the sponsors had said they’d sort it out and get me back, but then years pass and you see a board with your fucking name on it saying ‘Free this guy’ and that changed my whole outlook on skateboarding. Industry-wise.
Unmistakable back tail shapes on this Independent ad from 1993
You were on Thunder at the time too, so two Deluxe companies.
I rode for Independent as well, so it was either Thunder or Independent at that time. I think it was Thunder, yeah. And I rode for Forties as well, Tommy G’s company. And I’m just thinking, “Fuck this”, you know what I mean? Basically everything ended with them and I didn’t really fucking give a shit. I rode for Venture, and I rode for Indy and I rode for Thunder, but Venture and Thunder were both Deluxe anyway so it didn’t really matter who you rode for. Sometimes I didn’t know what was going on from one week to the next. Like, “Whatever mate, I’m not bothered what I ride, I just want to go skating”.
So you’re not a truck elitist then.
Nah. The first trucks that I really loved were Ventures. Then Deluxe wanted me to ride for Thunder, so I rode for Thunder because it was part of the same outfit; I got used to the trucks and it wasn’t a problem. I wasn’t really a great big fan of them to be fair, because they were relatively new and they weren’t the best trucks. I always liked riding Indy trucks because at the time they were that much higher. I always enjoyed skating the low Ventures, but I just got into skating the higher trucks, and enjoyed them.
I’m not really bothered about anything, if I like the shape of a board I’ll skate it. Bearings is the only thing I’ve ever cared about, and that’s Bones, you know? Fast bearings, that’s the only thing I’ve stayed solid on. Other than that I’ll ride whatever. Some people really are diehard Indy, or diehard some other trucks, but that’s not for me. I just got spoiled, I think, having free trucks to skate, and it got to the point where I didn’t really know which were the best ones. Haha!
Carl guides a thunder hanger through a Jersey Barrier back smith
So eventually you get back to America.
I ended up going back to America with Stereo, when they got me a visa. But that visa took two years, and in that time I’d moved on, I’d met my wife, we’ve settled down and we’ve got a family together, and I’m just loving life back at home. I’m trying to get pictures but it’s such slow going, and I’m still riding for DC at the time and they’re sending photographers over—Mike Ballard and Luke Ogden came over—but with the board company I rode for I just felt helpless. They weren’t doing anything.
Back in the USA Ad for Stereo 1997. Photo: Gabe Morford. Inset Below – Sam Devlin in the Carl Skateboards T-Shirt. Photo: Jody Morris
When I got on DC I was spending time in San Diego and San Francisco and doing quite a lot for them, but people were starting to get pissed with me being in England. There was nothing I could really do, and if they started pressuring me I wasn’t really bothered. When I got the visa and went back, Stereo were kind of coming to an end, if you know what I mean. Things were shit and you could see that it was fizzling out, and I’d basically fucking had enough so my heart wasn’t in it. I can’t remember the conversation but we just ended it and I basically didn’t give a shit. That was it, really.
You’d left before Deluxe pulled the plug on that first version of Stereo.
Yeah, I got out before. They were pissed at me because it was obvious my heart wasn’t in it. I just didn’t feel it anymore, it wasn’t like Stereo anymore. When I first got on Stereo it was all about the originality, the graphics, everything like that, and then it turned into this thing where other people had their input and it just lost its appeal. It didn’t feel like Stereo anymore. It just felt like Deluxe. The graphics that started coming out weren’t anything to do with what the company was actually about.
Was that a result of Jason leaving? Was Dune still involved in art direction?
He was still involved but not as much. Dune has always been an absolutely inspirational man, he’s a fucking legend that man and he’s done so much for skateboarding, done so much for keeping it real. I don’t know the full story but it just seemed to lose its way, Stereo. It seemed like they were trying to change it to sell more stuff, trying to be more, I don’t know…
Dune has always been an absolutely inspirational man, he’s a fucking legend that man and he’s done so much for skateboarding, done so much for keeping it real
Commercial? It was really cool for a while and then it just turned into this thing that only exists to make skateboards.
Yeah, it had lost its originality and that’s the worst thing that can happen. Now, it’s a pleasure to see what they’re doing now. It’s laid-back, it’s just about them guys and it’s just about Stereo. It’s like stepping back in time, but time has elapsed to the point where people don’t get what they’re about.
There was a Jody Morris photo of Sam Devlin skating a handrail in Canada, and he’s wearing a ‘Carl Skateboards’ shirt, in the Real oval logo. What’s the story there?
Right? I’ve never seen that picture! I wouldn’t be surprised if it was something they did when I got deported. They did some weird shit, at Deluxe. Whether it could be or not, I don’t know, but they did some weird shit over at Deluxe, and I did skate a lot with the Real guys. But I don’t know.
Skin did your Transworld interview, but why’s he credited as ‘Devon Carter’ on it? That’s not Skin’s name.
I have no idea. To be honest I never even knew what he was called, I’d only just met Skin at that time. He was just tasked with doing my interview. I didn’t know he was called Devon Carter in that.
So you met Skin out there? You hadn’t ever met him in the UK?
I don’t think I’d met him before he did that interview. That was the first interview he got tasked with for Transworld, my Pro Spotlight. I’m pretty sure he hadn’t done one before that. I saw him on the Nine Club and he said that. He’s from Wales but I’m pretty sure I didn’t meet him until I went out to America… It’s a long time ago now! Haha!
One year after the TWS Pro Spotlight Skin captured more Shippo magic at Cantelowes for RAD MAGAZINE. Photo: Skin Phillips
You mentioned Skin’s shot of your inward heel at SB, but have you got a favourite photo of yourself from a magazine?
I think one of my favourite pictures that got took of me was a frontside flip to disaster, in Belfast. I think it might have been Andy Horsley that took it. It’s from low down and I’ve got a blank deck with just a DuFFs sticker on it, and I really got psyched on the angle of that picture. Other than that I can’t really think.
monstrous frontside flip catch to disaster in Belfast. Photo: Andy Horsley
Nah. I mean I like the Thrasher cover but it just reminds me of a headache because I hated skating that spot. I fucking hated that spot because it was like a proving ground. ‘This got done down Hubba, that got done down Hubba’, and so on. I did a few tricks down it, I did a backside nosegrind, backside lipslide, stuff like that but never got pictures took. I was more stoked backside lipsliding it than I ever would be frontside bluntsliding it because it was a nightmare.
Front Blunt Folklore at Hubba Hideout in 1994. Photo: Bryce Kanights. Inset below – the bluntslide at Northampton. Photo: Skin Phillips
As much as memorable tricks went down there, I fucking hated that spot. I don’t know if you’ve been but it’s just horrible. It’s high to get on, and it doesn’t slant with the stairs so it’s pretty mellow too. When you see stuff that went down there, like Koston’s backside nosebluntslide, you just don’t realise how fucking hard—and high—that thing is. At the time we were skating that with 45mm wheels, you know? Haha! So any trick at that time was pretty amazing.
I was more stoked backside lipsliding it than I ever would be frontside bluntsliding it because it was a nightmare
This comes up sometimes, so to be clear—you landed it right? Just a bit sketchy?
Course I did. People always doubt it but the thing is that Thrasher always had the policy that if you don’t make it, they won’t run it as a cover. So I made it sketchy, not really happy about it, and they wanted me to go back and film it for the Stereo video, but I wasn’t going back. At the time I just felt like I wasn’t a fucking performing monkey so I wasn’t going back there. I’d only just come back from Northampton, so it came from doing that trick on the flat rail at the Northampton contest, flying out with Stereo and then being taken straight there by the photographer to frontside bluntslide Hubba Hideout because no-one had done it.
I was just like, “Are you fucking kidding me?”, but I tried it a few times and I was getting into it each time until I slipped out and nearly smashed my head on it. Landed on a few, rolled out on a few and fell down, then landed on one sketchy and rolled away, and I just said, “Right, that’s it”. They all said I had to film it for the video, but nah. I wasn’t interested in that spot because it wasn’t fun. It was fucking shit. Because people don’t see it, they doubt it. The same with any trick. I always remember kickflipping the Meanwhile gap in ’91 or ’92, and I don’t think anyone had flipped it at the time. Gonz ollied it, then you had Curtis who did a one-foot over it, and I flipped it but no-one filmed it.
The picture that ran of that kickflip then was tiny, too.
Yeah. You’d probably get a bigger picture for doing a boneless over it. Because I kickflipped it and no-one filmed it, no-one believed it at the time, so we went back and filmed it and it got used in an advert somewhere, with techno music over it. People don’t believe things if they don’t see them. People wouldn’t believe the shit I’ve seen Cardiel do, just the gnarliest shit when there’s no camera there. Stranger too. People like that. But that’s the way skating is now, it’s all cameras, everything’s being filmed. Cameraphones and YouTube and Instagram.
That basically killed skateboarding for me. I like watching it, but fucking hell, things have changed. Back when we were skating in the early ‘90s it was such a scene, such a cool thing to be a part of. The clothes, the music, the laid-back atmosphere, but to look at it from the outside now, for me, it just doesn’t look as enjoyable.
I think I’d rather be standing in the rain waiting for a curb to dry up than watching skateboarding in the Olympics. One of the UK Olympic skate team is a 12 year-old American girl and that’s about as far removed from Fucktards as it gets. It’s like there’s two skateboardings now, the good one we know and then this YouTube version that’s all about stinking tricks and competitions.
That’s exactly right. It’s awkward to see that stuff, anything to do with the Olympics, it’s just… Why? You see some amazing skateboarding in Street League, but I just think, why? It can be amazing to watch, but some of these skaters, and it’s not all of them but some of them, once you’ve seen them do something, then every other video of them that you see is them doing the same thing. I mean Nyjah Houston, who’s fucking unbelievable on a skateboard, there’s no-one denying how good that kid is on a skateboard, but the thing is, it’s horrible to watch.
It’s effortless for him, to the point where it’s kind of stiff and awkward. Everything’s landed bolts, bolts, bolts. But then there’s Tiago Lemos, who’s got so much style about him, he’s got his own style. He’s a fucking amazing skateboarder to watch. And you can watch him. You can see somebody do a crooked grind or a switch crooked grind, but then you watch him do one and he’s doing it for twenty foot. Or a twenty foot switch back tail.
And he’s doing it in dope shoes and a great outfit.
Exactly. Exactly what we were wearing in the’90s. To see him skate like that now is so refreshing. Even if he’s in a competition, if he’s in Street League, he’s still good to watch because he’s popping that trick, he’s not just doing it normal. If he’s got a tre flip in his run, just a little in-between trick, he’s actually popping it. He’s got style about him and he’s making it look good but people like that are few and far between now, for me anyway. One of my favourites is that guy Oski.
He’s another ATV.
He’s amazing. He’s unconventional and you can see that he just enjoys skateboarding. That’s what’s amazing to watch, isn’t it? He’s thinking on his feet, cruising, just enjoying skateboarding. I’d watch somebody like that all day. But the Olympics? How do you score it? How do you judge skateboarding? Let’s have it right, the Olympics is not always the best athletes in the world, is it? I don’t class a skateboarder as being an athlete anyway, I class skateboarding as a hobby. It’s a thing you do for fun, like fishing, so when you see it all regimented, in a uniform, how can you judge that?
Carl was an ATV forerunner. Olympian frontside air on real vert from Sidewalk Magazine 1996. Photo: Wig Worland
With Street League, skateboarders are meant to be running it but then you see the same skateboarders on it over and over again. I’ll always remember watching one Street League and seeing Dylan Rieder in it, and Austyn Gillette, and it was fucking dope because them two are just amazing to watch and it was unusual for them to be in that environment. It’s sad what happened to Dylan but when you think how good that man was on a skateboard, and then to see him in that setting, was just amazing ‘cause you could see that he didn’t actually give a shit. He was just skating like how he’d skate. Then you get Nyjah doing rails, or backside 360 disasters, all this boring shit. And you’ve got Aurelian Giraud, who’s like the European Nyjah, isn’t he? God, it’s like, “You’re gnarly, mate, and you’re an amazing skateboarder, but it’s just boring”.
When Nyjah’s pushing up to El Toro or wherever, you know he isn’t picturing Julien Stranger or Mark Gonzales in his head. He’s thinking about energy drink money and Instagram clips.
Yeah, and his Ferrari and all that. For anybody reading this that thinks this is bitterness, or envy, it’s not. Growing up through them scenes in skateboarding when it was strictly about the skateboarding was an amazing experience. Sponsorship came—and I never actively went looking for sponsorship, ever—but when it came it was unexpected and still enjoyable. It depends what kind of person you are. If you’re driven to be the best at everything, then fine, but for me it’s Mark Gonzales, not Nyjah, that’ll be remembered forever.
The skaters that’ll be remembered are the ones who were breaking ground. Tiago Lemos breaks ground now, for me, because he’s gone back to that ‘90s style but he’s doing things longer and higher, and just enjoying his skating. He’s always smiling and to watch him is amazing. He’s pushing boundaries now but Gonz, Stranger, Natas and Jason Lee pushed it back then. Markovich too. All these people are just inspirations.
Anyone who skated the white wall at St. Paul’s knows how gnarly this Frontside 5-0 is. Photo: Mike Ballard. Inset Below – Droors ad. Photos: Gabe Morford
Yeah. I’m more interested in what trick Mark has learned today than whatever trick Nyjah has learned today. And I’m sure they’re pretty different tricks.
Yeah, exactly. I’ll always remember being at the Rollersnakes mini and seeing Mark Gonzales skate for the first time. He was skating it with Jesse Martinez and he was doing fastplants to fakie. Ollieing, catching it then doing it with the loosest style, the sickest shorts on, no socks and high-tops. The sickest style you’ve ever seen. Unheard of. Floating around this mellow miniramp with just amazing style.
I remember after the Lausanne comp in Switzerland, sitting at a table with Rudy Johnson, Mark Gonzales and Jason Lee, just sitting talking, and Mark Gonzales says he wants to try a backflip. This is ’94 or ’95 or whatever, and he wants to do a backflip over the funbox, and he’s asking if I’ll help catch him when he tries it… So he did actually try it, he flipped out and smiled, and said he wasn’t going to try that again.
sitting at a table with Rudy Johnson, Mark Gonzales and Jason Lee, just sitting talking, and Mark Gonzales says he wants to try a backflip…and he’s asking if I’ll help catch him when he tries it
Back home in England after that competition it was snowing—we had a really bad winter—and I was just having a bath when my mum shouted on me, to say there was someone on the phone for me, somebody called Mark who sounded American. I kind of just thought, “Really? Whatever”, but I answered the phone and I thought someone was pulling my leg. Even though I’d spoke to him before, I still thought someone was pulling my leg, but it was him asking if I wanted to go to Lyon to skate a multi-storey carpark. In the middle of winter. As much as the pleasure would have been mine to skate a multi-story carpark in Lyon, I told him that I was in England, it was snowing and I couldn’t do it.
That call will always stick in my mind because that’s the kind of thing that inspires you—his mindset. He is arguably the most respected skateboarder of all time when it comes to style, and breaking barriers. In Video Days, when he boardslides that double kink, it looks enjoyable. He did it because it was enjoyable to do. And that’s the difference. Somebody boardsliding a rail and it just looks so, so good, and this guy is asking me to come and skate a carpark in France in the middle of winter. That was inspiring because you know full well there isn’t going to be cameras there, this guy is just going out for the love of skateboarding to piss around a multi-storey carpark with someone he’s just called up. That, to me, is more inspirational than anything.
You’ve always just surrounded yourself with your friends, so I guess Don Brown is a friend too, and that’s how you got on Etnies?
Yeah. I’ve always had massive respect for Don. Don’s super cool. Don Brown is somebody like Jeremy Fox, Ian Deacon or Steve Douglas, where they’re your sponsor but they’re happy for you. They want you to be happy, and it’s not about what you’re doing or not doing for them, so if you’re not happy they can understand that you need to be doing what makes you happy instead. You hold these people dear. They always respected who you were and what your feelings were.
So it wasn’t too hard to leave Etnies for DC, when Danny Way asked?
I’d said to him all them years ago that if he did anything in the future I’d be happy to be a part of it. I rode for Droors clothing at the time, through the UK distribution, and then when I got on the US Droors team that’s when they were starting DC shoes. So because I rode for them, and skated with them a bit at that time, they said they wanted me to be a part of it. I knew it would be an honour but there are points in your life where you maybe think, “What if I don’t ride for this company?” Those guys are so gnarly but they love skateboarding. They live it, they breathe it. At the time there was Caine Gayle, Rick Howard, Mike Carroll… Rudy Johnson came on later. Moses Itkonen. Fucking hell, the team was so good. It was amazing. The first tours were absolutely amazing, being able to skate with them lot and watch them skate. For me, Rick Howard is one of the most inspirational skateboarders because he always enjoyed his skateboarding.
And you got to skate with them.
Skating with them guys, you see a completely different side of skateboarding. I hung out most with Rudy Johnson on them tours because we both liked football, we both had families and we both liked to chill out and have a drink. There was a lot of drinking on them tours, but later on it got fucking boring. It got so commercial, and you get tired of that kind of thing, don’t you? But the demos were amazing because they were fun to do.
It does look like you enjoyed those, in the footage. You got a highlight?
They always used to ask who was going to end the demo, who’s got the demo-ender, who’s going to do the trick that shuts the demo down, so you’d have a few skaters who’d do that one. It was at the Amsterdam demo, where they had that fucking horrible steep bank…
The tre flip?
Yeah, the tre flip, and that was the last trick of the demo. That thing had a transition at the bottom, then it bowed out in the middle, and went up to be a flat bank and it was a fucking horrible thing to skate and I just wanted to do that trick. It happened, and then the demo ended, and that just stoked me out so much. After that I didn’t give a shit, I was so stoked that I’d made that trick on that bank. It was a horrible thing but no-one else was really skating it.
I was so stoked that I’d made that trick on that bank. It was a horrible thing but no-one else was really skating it
DC Euro Super Tour Tre Flip imprinted on our memory. Big Brother. Photo: Mike Ballard. Inset Below – kerb cut floater for a Simple ad. Photo: Tobin Yelland
Doesn’t sitting at the front of the plane and staying in the best hotels keep it fun for a little longer? DC looked after you guys well.
Oh yeah definitely. The hotels you stayed in, and the way they treated you, were second to none. It was amazing. I’m not gonna sit here and say that was all bullshit because it was amazing. DC went from making pretty crappy shoes at the beginning—let’s have it right, they were some fucking horrible shoes to skate in at the time—to the Lynx and to shoes evolving so much. Dyrdek was designing a lot of shoes at the time and he had his finger on the pulse. All these awesome shoes were coming out and it went fucking insane. With that, it becomes more commercial and they start sponsoring motocross guys, rally drivers and stuff, and I’m all for it but the team started going from this really good team of people I really respected to where they’d just put anybody on and I got more and more annoyed with it.
I didn’t ever say anything about it but they were expanding the team too big. I’m always happy to see things that are small doing well, so to see it evolve from that to this massive skate team, it kind of just went a bit too far for me. It seemed like it just kept on getting bigger and bigger after I left, then it kind of collapsed and you’d rarely see anything. I mean, I didn’t want to go into Sports Direct and see DC shoes. From being this amazing skate team, to seeing the shoes in Sports Direct next to Dunlop and fucking Umbro shoes was demoralising to me. Those shoes were special and they meant so much, this company meant so much, and then to sell out in such a fashion. Because that’s what it was to me, it was selling out. That’s what got me annoyed.
So you went to Simple.
The reason I rode for Simple, is because it was small. And Gonz rode for it. But it’s in the name, it was simple. There was nothing to it, it was just enjoyable. The shoes were just whatever, I didn’t care, but it weren’t commercial. It was at the point where there was good stuff out there, good companies, and the stylish people can save up and buy it, but then anybody can have that, so it goes away from being a stylish brand. I remember growing up and buying Stüssy stuff, and that got big, but DC just went boom and sometimes you have to stop that train and keep the edginess about it. Or it expands to the point where it’s just fucking bullshit.
Was there ever a question of you having a shoe on DC?
Yeah, it was meant to be me, Keith Hufnagel and, I think, Caine Gayle getting a shoe. That was when it started getting big, so instead of giving people shoes they just expanded the team. It was just like… “Really?!” I’d have been stoked to have had a shoe, anybody who says they wouldn’t be stoked to see their name on a shoe is full of shit. That used to be the one thing that was really amazing, to have your own shoe, but at the time DC just blew up too fast and people got forgotten about.
Not just me but a lot of people on that team. Obviously Rick and Mike left, Rudy left, all these other people went their separate ways and started their own things because they actually seen what was coming, same as I seen what was coming. It was just shit, there’s no other word for it. It blew up way too quick and they lost their edginess and their coolness. There was a time when I’d have been embarrassed to wear DCs.
They’re back to doing a lot of good shit now.
I’ve always had respect for that company, I just lost respect for the way they blew up and went too commercial, but when I see what they’re doing now it stokes me out. It’s almost like they’ve had to strip everything back to start again, and they’ve got quite a diverse team now, which is good to watch. I mean Wes Kremer, the guy’s amazing, he’s original and he does what he wants in skateboarding. He looks like he enjoys skateboarding. And you’ve got Evan Smith and Tristan Funkhouser, you know? They’ve all got that different style.
I’m fucking stoked to see it now, because it was too good to let go to total shit. It was too good of an idea from Colin McKay, Danny Way and Ken Block to just fucking die out. Just too good. And it’s really nice to see where they are now. If it had just fizzled out and been remembered for being sold in Sports Direct or JD, it’d have been a shame.
adidas trek trainers facilitate this B&Q Bar ollie in 1994. Photo: Wig Worland
Are you wearing hiking boots on your RaD cover, the Wig photo of the ollie at B&Q?
No, I’ll tell you what I was wearing there, they were adidas. They weren’t actual hiking boots, it was the Trek Trainer, with the thick soles on them. I just went out one day, skating in them, and then that cover came about on that day. I just felt like wearing them. I always got in trouble for that stuff, and on that cover it’s just a blank deck too. They used to get pissed at me for stuff like that, but it’s hard to explain… Whatever I felt like doing on a day, I just went and did it.
If I wanted to wear something different, I just wore it. It didn’t really matter to me because I didn’t really think about it as I should have thought about it. Haha! But I didn’t. If I wanted to go out and skate in baggy trousers I would, or if I wanted to skate in shorts or whatever. It was fun to try to skate in different things, and I enjoyed skating in those shoes so I wore them that day.
I wondered if it was you making a statement or something.
I’m not that complicated. I’m just that headstrong that if I want to do something, I’ll do it, and if I don’t, I won’t. It just was what it was.
You always wore good shoes anyway, apart from when you were on DuFFs in the late-‘90s.
Those shoes were shit. They were shit but I’d skate in anything, although I did like a good pair of shoes so I never lasted long with DuFFs. The majority of shoes at that time were like that, with the big thick soles, big chunky things… Just a horrible, horrible time for shoes. Rotten. In that picture I mentioned with the DuFFs sticker on the blank board, I’m wearing the only pair of DuFFs shoes that I actually liked to skate in. Every other pair, I just couldn’t stand.
They weren’t even technical at that time, they were just big fat shoes.
They were shit shoes. When I skated for them it was through friends, and when I tried the shoes out they’re all, “Oh yeah, they’re gonna change them”, and then you wait, nothing changes and they’re still shit shoes. I used to get in trouble because I’d be wearing some adidas or Reebok or something else instead.
I’ve always been quite particular about shoes and how good they feel on a skateboard. At the beginning of DC, the shoes were shit. The Boxer, the Clocker, they were fucking shit. It was Danny Way and Colin McKay, those names, that was selling the shoes but them shoes were so shit until later on, until the Lynx and Rudy’s shoe. They still had the beefier ones then too, but the only DC shoe I liked skating was the Lynx. It was the best shoe they did.
I’ll always remember being on tour with DC when I took a pair of adidas with me. Everybody’s full DC, DC everything but I had these adidas in my bag. One night I was walking in these Clockers, and I just threw them in a river. It was in Amsterdam or somewhere like that, and them fucking shoes just hurt my feet so much that I couldn’t take ‘em anymore. I had a pair of Lynx, or Rudy’s shoe, back in the hotel so I put the adidas on to walk back there and put those on but if they’d seen me rocking adidas they’d just have kicked me off the tour but those shoes were like walking on piles of broken crayons.
Soaring above a pile of broken crayons. DC Clocker ad 1996. Photo: Wig Worland
You had a Clocker ad.
I had a Clocker ad and a Boxer ad, and when you had to shoot an ad for them, it’s like… Fucking hell. I used to run them over in my car to try to break them in, to try to soften them up.
I was always stoked to see you skating in Reebok back then. What’s the best shoe ever?
They were amazing! Those Reeboks were so soft and comfy and I loved skating in them. I skated in them for so long, but I’ll tell you the shoe I really loved skating in: the Converse Fastbreak. The high-top ones. At the time I was skating in Sheffield all the time, when Boatworld was opening. I used to buy them from Sugg Sport all the time and I loved that shoe. Skate shoes at the time were dogshit. The only shoes that were any good were Vans, because they’re always stayed true to themselves. If it’s not broke, why fix it? Vans were always consistent and you could skate amazing in them, but al the other ones were just shit apart from the Airwalk Enigma. I loved that shoe.
Shouldn’t you have been wearing Vision at that time?
Yeah… I did used to wear Vision, but god, they were dogshit. The only one I skated in was the one with the velcro on them, what were they called?
DV8, that’s it! They were the only ones I skated in, because they reminded me of the Fastbreak. I was getting them free but you’d get one pair every three or four months. It weren’t like when you rode for DC and got ten or twenty pairs a month. Money was nothing to them, they just wanted you in their shoes. But back then you’d get one pair every three months but you’d wear them out in four weeks. They were alright shoes to skate in but they’d take fucking forever to break in too. It was like skating in Lego, they were so solid, but the Reeboks… They were tried and tested and they were just properly comfy. The Reebok, the adidas, and the Puma at that time were just comfier shoes. There’s nothing better than putting on a sick, familiar pair of shoes. If you feel good, you skate good.
“If you feel good, you skate good”. Adidas campus further elevating this frontside flip over the bar at Southbank. Photo: Nick Hamilton. Inset Below – Alley-oop Frontside flip at a DC demo at Playstation, Ladbroke Grove. Big Brother 1997. Photo: Dimitry Elyashkevich
And they were so cheap that you’d have a different colour every week.
We used to have different colours on each foot. Like one red and one orange, because you could afford them. They were just accessible and cheap, weren’t they? And they were so comfy. And then the price went right up. It’s kind of gone full circle now, where there are all these sick adidas shoes. But when I did the shop I just wanted to support skater-owned companies, Lakai and things like that.
We should’ve been stocking up on £5 Gazelles at the time, if only we’d known.
I know. If I’d kept all my DCs in boxes… You’d just give so much away, or sell them. Always selling stuff or giving it away. If I’d kept all of it now it’d just be ridiculous, because of the amount of product they used to give you.
That was a special time then, when skate shoe companies actually started making good skate shoes.
That decade, the ‘90s, or the early/mid ‘90s, it was just everything. The music, the fashion, just everything. Skating Embarcadero and everyone’s wearing Ralph Lauren or striped rugby shirts, and that’s just the way it was and it was a scene.
You stood out on that DC tour in those army trousers, they weren’t regulation-issue DC trousers.
And a dodgy wooly hat? Haha!
Isn’t that a Kind beanie? It looked like one of the hats Mike Manzoori’s mum made.
I think it is! Haha! I think it went on a kettle. He used to always wear that stuff, Mike, didn’t he? Those trousers weren’t DC trousers, or Droors trousers, they were just trousers I liked to skate in. I’ve still got that DC shirt, and that’s probably the only thing I’ve still got. I never collected any of my boards, I never collected anything. I’m not a collector. Don’t get me wrong, it’d be good to look at these things and go back, but I’m not sentimental like that. I’ll always have my memories. I’ve only got that shirt because I gave it to my dad, and when he passed away, that became the only think I kept.
How did New Deal come about? Through Steve Douglas?
Yeah, through Steve Douglas. That happened pretty quick. I can’t remember who got in touch with who, but Steve said they wanted me to ride for them and they’d give me a pro board, so I went out to America again. I’d been back for a short time with Stereo, but I just wasn’t feeling it. When I was out with New Deal, I was stoked on it, but all my life was back in England. Everything I wanted was back in England, my family were there and I’d got married by then. I didn’t want to be in America anymore, that pretty much fizzled out for me.
The first time I went out there I was skating with Chad Bartie, hanging out with him. He was a pretty cool dude at the time and I just wasn’t feeling it, I’d just had enough, and a few months down the line I had to say to Steve Douglas that I wasn’t feeling it anymore. I told him I didn’t want to bullshit him but I wasn’t really into skating that much anymore. I mean I wanted to skate, but I didn’t want the pressure of having to skate. I think I had a couple of boards on New Deal but I was just over it; I couldn’t get motivated to film and to get the pictures. Steve sent me a Useless Wooden Toys deck last month, out the blue, but back then I felt like I weren’t doing him justice by him having faith in me, and I wanted to be back in England.
Every time I was back in England I always worked, when I was a pro skater. I always got little job because that’s just how I was raised. Scaffolding. And that’s what I do now; I set up my own business a couple of years ago, I work with my family and we’ve got a pretty successful business going now. No hassles, it’s busy, I’m working with family… It’s perfect. That work ethic is something I always got from my dad, my family and my wife. To be happy you don’t live to work, but you work so that you can enjoy your life. Working with my family is so enjoyable; they’ve all tried skating and stuff like that, but we just love to work and that’s what keeps us happy.
That work ethic is something I always got from my dad, my family and my wife. To be happy you don’t live to work, but you work so that you can enjoy your life
Frosty Frontside ollie in Worksop on a short lived new deal pro board. Photo: Skin Phillips
It’d probably be more inspiring to watch you guys build some scaffolding than to watch Nyjah skate, since you’re actually having fun and doing it for the right reasons.
It is for the right reasons. It’s not only to support my family, because my wife’s got a business too, but it’s like you’re doing it to show your family what hard work can do. It’s inspirational to set up a business and see if flourish. It’s inspirational to go out to work, come back and still be smiling. These are all values my dad put in me because he worked down the pits. He worked all his life and that was passed down to me.
I have always seen skateboarding as a hobby, and when it became a job it became boring, because I didn’t see it as a job. It weren’t hard work, so if it weren’t fun, it were boring. It got to the point where I just wanted to skate at night, with my mates. Or just have a pint and not worry about anything, and that’s what I’m still about today. I enjoy life more now than I ever did when I was skating. Except for the early years maybe, when it meant something.
There’s nothing worse than somebody still just going through the motions, just so they can still be ‘that guy’. It’s rare to dip out of pro skateboarding when you’ve got a board out and aren’t injured or anything.
I’ve always had people asking me why. Asking why I didn’t just stay in skateboarding, but trying to explain it to them, especially from being from a fairly rough, working-class town—I mean it’s a bit of a dump but it’s home—to explain why I made the decisions I did, they don’t understand it. To explain to people who don’t want much for their life, they don’t understand it. It’s when you speak to somebody who’s experienced a little bit of life, and understands what life’s about, it’s easier. Life’s full of people like that but it’s also full of a lot of narrow-minded people who could never see why you made these decisions. I made my skateboarding decisions to be happy in my other life, in my home life, with my wife and kids.
I see it as real life, but skateboarding was just a hobby and it’s a hobby that I still enjoy now. I enjoy cruising around and I enjoy watching it; maybe not exactly keeping in touch but I still enjoying watching the skaters who want to skate, but it’s painful to watch the Street League stuff, you know? For me, personally anyway. You think about the money they’re making then you see Nyjah if he loses and he’s throwing shit around. Fucking hell, it shouldn’t mean that much to you. You should just be enjoying it.
It’s like when a band splits up and the fans are angry because they feel like that band owes them music. People feel Carl Shipman owes skateboarding another part or something.
Yeah. Yeah. I filmed some stuff for, I think it was Sidewalk, and I did a little interview and I hadn’t stood on a skateboard for probably year-and-a-half. To set a board up and skate after that long was such a good feeling, and actually being able to do stuff on a skateboard was a good feeling, and I enjoyed that day. After that day I would cruise around a bit too, but I’ve had so many people egging me on to skate or asking me why I don’t skate, and it’s not that I don’t skate, I just don’t want to be that 45 year-old man trying to prove something that I don’t feel like I have to.
I think if you’re skating from your own house to the pub on your own pro board, there’s nothing you need to prove.
Haha! That’s quite funny. I just want to be able to buy what I want. I’ve just bought all my sons BMXs, with Skyways and that, so we can cruise around. My sons are grown men but they’ve got that love for life that they just want to do what they want to do. That’s how me and my wife have raised them, to just be happy. People always ask if they skate, but they’re just free to do whatever they want to do, responsibly.
45 isn’t old now anyway. It was old for our parents’ generation, but not for us. Plenty of 45 year-olds still don’t know what they’re doing with their lives, and that’s totally fine.
Exactly. 45, now, is the new 35. People are more active in life now, people think more about their lifestyles now so they don’t get set in their ways too young, and can stay young at heart. And that’s the trick, isn’t it? You keep young at heart, you keep your mind fresh and you enjoy life. What’s better than that? Nothing.
Don’t get me wrong, skateboarding put me in a position where I was able to live a life that I was privileged to do—the travelling, the meeting skateboarders you’d always looked up to and becoming friends with them and skating with them. People considered these people to be the best skateboarders in the world, but to me they were just friends. That’s how I always seen it. Being sat with Jason Lee having a cup of tea late at night and just talking about life… That’s what I remember from skateboarding. Or talking to Cardiel about his outlook on life. Not just skateboarding but life in general, and skateboarding, to me, is exactly that. It’s about hanging out with your friends. That’s what embodied skateboarding at that time: being with like-minded people and just enjoying life.
people think more about their lifestyles now so they don’t get set in their ways…You keep young at heart, you keep your mind fresh and you enjoy life. What’s better than that? Nothing.
Everything always comes down to the people.
You get quite a few eccentric people, you get quite a few people on skateboards that you think have no business being on them and stuff like that, but it’s about the people at the end of the day. The whole ‘pro scene’ at the time, and the industry, was so fickle with people not wanting to skate with anyone they thought was beneath them, just not wanting to be seen with someone that wasn’t up to their standard, but if I liked the person as a human I’d skate with them. That’s what it’s about. There were the cliquey scenes and cliquey spots, but I was only ever embraced and for that it was a pleasure to be around everybody. It should always be about the people.
While on Blueprint Carl kickflipped the gap at Meanwhile II for the third time. Photo: Oliver Barton. Inset Below – Kickflip lien over the big hip at Radlands. Photo: Andy Horsley
You were on Blueprint for a little while in the late ‘90s. How did that come about? I mean, it makes sense that they’d want to be able to have you in their ads.
I used to skate with Mark Baines and people like that a lot in Sheffield, and at the time I just needed to be doing something with other skateboarders. Blueprint was a way for that to happen, for me. I was never going to have a board out or anything like that, it was literally just riding for them. I wasn’t bothered about getting a board and they weren’t bothered about giving me a board, I just wanted to skate and at the end of the day they were good enough to let me skate for them and put me on the video and stuff like that.
Because I wasn’t doing the whole ‘scene’ thing, being a pro skater, I wasn’t bothered about that side of things anymore. They would send me stuff, I would skate it, and that was it. They didn’t expect much from me but I think they expected more than what I could give them, because at the time I just really wasn’t bothered. It sounds a bit stupid now, but it came about at the time when I was just happy to be in England and happy to get a few boards through from a company that happened to be British that had guys on it that I liked. Paul Shier, Mark Baines, Paul Carter, Scott Palmer…
It was nice to be able to skate with them guys, to go to London and skate Fairfields and that, or to skate with Baines in Sheffield. We did a couple of trips to Europe and it was good to be a part of and quite laid-back for me because there was no pressure anymore. I was just skating and enjoying skating, and I didn’t give two shits whether I had a board out or anything like that. It was just a good group of people who I was lucky to ride with.
Sponsored skateboarding without the pressure of sponsored skateboarding.
Exactly. Without the pressure of ‘You’ve been pro, you need to enter these comps’… I mean they sent me to Italy and a few places like that where I entered comps for them but I never, ever took any competition seriously after that. It was just about going to skate the course, see my friends and fuck around.
After that? I didn’t think you ever took competitions seriously. They were just part of the job.
What I mean by that is that when I rode for Stereo, rode for Deluxe and all that, I had to kind of try and do well in competitions. If you were a pro skater then you were in with all these other pro skaters, but with a competition back then it was so much more rad to see all the skaters than with a competition now. It wasn’t just skaters working on their lines all practice day, then all the next day… All that kind of bullshit. I remember a few comps where you’d just think, “Fuck the practice day”, and go and do the comp with nothing thought out.
That was when you could see who the decent stylish skaters were. When you see comps now they’re working on the same run over and over and over and it’s so regimented, and skaters have their own training facilities… Come on. You can’t get anything better than seeing skateboarders from the street, people like Paulo Diaz, Julien Stranger.
I’ll always remember from one Northampton comp, everyone was going over the pyramid and all that shit, and I just saw Julien Stranger out the corner of my eye kickflipping the box, the opposite way. Sideways. It just came out of nowhere, I hadn’t seen him try it, just boom! Cruising round, flying over things, to me that’s what it’s about. Instinctive skateboarding. Not practicing the same thing over and over again. It’s a shame comps aren’t like that now.
I just saw Julien Stranger out the corner of my eye kickflipping the box, the opposite way. Sideways. It just came out of nowhere, I hadn’t seen him try it, just boom!…to me that’s what it’s about. Instinctive skateboarding
People shouldn’t even see the course before the comp. Then we’ll see who’s good at improvising, rather than who’s good at choreographing a line.
Exactly. When you see the more famous skaters and they’ve got their own skateparks that are exactly like Street League in their back gardens, or their local park is a Street League park… Look at the Northampton comps. They had hips that were nine foot high! Big roll-ins, huge boxes, all that, and then you look now and it’s just ledges and boxes with little driveways and a quarterpipe. Back then the comps were crazy because the obstacles were so good.
Do the people around you now know that you were a pro skateboarder?
I don’t ever talk about it because the people I work with on the building sites wouldn’t believe it but with being where I’m from, people kinda know. Sometimes when I’m going on jobs I’ll bump into people I skated with years ago, but the other week this guy asks me what I thought about skateboarding being in the Olympics and if I wished I was involved in it. We got into this conversation and I spent about an hour trying to explain to him why it’s wrong. Haha!
But it’s not all wrong, kids might get some good parks out of it. There might be some funding now, but it’ll paint skateboarding in a way that I don’t think it needs to be. People won’t know the background, or the culture that went before that took skateboarding to this point.
Street League and the Olympics really don’t show what’s great about about skateboarding at all.
Watch a Natas part. Watch Mark Gonzales. Those two are as inspirational as anybody who’s ever skateboarded. I mean Natas came from the surfing background, and he was riding up walls back then. That was unheard of. And him and Gonz ended up skating together and pushing each other, but not in a bad way, in a fun way. Natas kind of dropped off, but Gonz has always been a part of it, hasn’t he? He’s still here now, skateboarding for fun on his stupid massive skateboard because he enjoys it and people respect him for it because of what he’s done in skateboarding.
And he’s still entertaining. All new Mark footage is good.
What current people do you rate?
Tyshawn Jones is absolutely out of this world, fucking hell. Jesus. That guy is just… You can see when he’s skating that he’s fucking loving it. Flying over garbage cans, all sorts of shit. I do think I get inspired more by English skaters these days, and some of them are just sick to watch. I mean, you’ve got Chewy doing this amazing, loose, enjoyable-to-watch skateboarding, and obviously you’ve got Benny Fairfax too, who’s always sick to watch.
I’ve seen Benny skate and he’s one of those dudes that’s got that special thing. That little extra thing that makes them super good.
Exactly. There are skaters that are good in a video but then when you see them skate in front of you, in real time, you see how good they really are.
Lucien and Heitor too, holy shit. There’s so much good shit from Palace right now, and it’s constant. I think that’s important. Then there’s Harry Lintell, he’s over in the US doing the Deluxe thing.
He rides for Real, doesn’t he? He’s got that dope style, and you just cannot fake looking good on a skateboard. You can’t fake it and when you see somebody trying to fake that style… That 360 flip into the bank, in that video, how he did that, I do not know. Fuck, he’s sick. He just made that look so easy. I’m going to feel shit if I start missing people out now…
I was watching this programme and that Jagger Eaton kid came up on it and I just wanted to throw up because it was so fake. I was so annoyed watching that. Some guys have just got it. Harry Lintell for definite, he’s so fucking sick on a skateboard and I’m stoked that he’s doing it over there on that level. He fits in on that level.
Then with Chewy you can see how much he enjoys being on a skateboard. He’s loose, he’s jamming up walls, he’s got this sick style, and he’s so enjoyable to watch. There are so many sick skaters came out of the UK who, if you put them in an American setting, would blow those people away. We skate the rough streets, the shit spots and we deal with the weather, but when you go over to America it’s just like a plaza everywhere. It’s like heaven. So many skaters from here could just have done so well over there, but the person that inspired me most from this country is Curtis McCann.
Curtis McCann inspired Flashback to 1991. No Comply. Photo: James Hudson
I’ll always remember when we were kids and my dad used to drive me and my brother and our friends to Romford and all these other places, and sometimes Curtis would be there with Reuben Goodyear and Lewis Ashenden, and they were just kids like us but I’ll always remember Curtis just being so fucking dope on a skateboard. He was so young and he always had that edge. It’s not a shame that he bowed out of skateboarding when he did, for me it’s a bonus because I’ve still got those memories from that time.
Everybody always talks about wanting Curtis to come back and skate, but I’m pretty sure he’s just doing his own thing.
He’s doing his own thing, and if he’s happy, then that’s it. He’s being pressured into doing something that he maybe wants to put behind him, you know? Curtis was the first person in the UK scene who I really loved watching them skate. We’d go to the London Bridge skatepark, the one underneath the arches…
Yeah, that’s it, and I will always remember him skating that miniramp there. It was just fucking amazing and he was doing it because he was enjoying it.
He only really had parts in Celebraty Tropical Fish and Skypager too. You could kinda tell he wasn’t all about self-promotion.
That’s it, and that’s why he was so fucking dope. I always thought Paul Carter was sick. I had a conversation with him a while back and his mentality was just the same, still so stoked on skateboarding, and on life in general. He’s inspirational. He had a dope style but he was quite gnarly, he could do some shit but he just looked fucking dope doing it. I always think I was lucky to do what I did, but if he could have came out with me it’d have been fucking sick.
Are you still in touch with Simon Evans at all?
I’m not mate, I pretty much don’t go on social media at all. I had Instagram and all that but my wife does it and pretty much just tells me if anybody comes up on it to talk to me. I just don’t do it because my days are so full. When you’ve got your own company you have to do all the paperwork, go out to jobs, price jobs, do jobs and it’s such a full-time thing that when I come home I just want to chill with my family so I don’t ever put my head in my phone because that’s all I’ve been doing all day, answering the bloody phone. So I just chill out.
That’s a lot more respectable than somebody giving it, “Oh yeah, of course I still skate, I’m still down” or whatever, when they don’t and they’re not.
The thing with me is that I’m not in denial, you know? I’m not trying to hold on to anything, and the way my life has gone, I’ve had to create something new and I get way more inspiration from that. I’ve always got a skateboard—I’ve got a Mike Frazier board here, one of the reissue Stereo ones—and I’ve got a cruiser board as well. I’ve always had a set up so every now and then I’ll go outside and do some 360 flips or ollies, or just cruise around, just to get that nice feeling from skateboarding. That’ll never leave me, it’s just that I don’t always have time to do it.
I’m not trying to hold on to anything, and the way my life has gone, I’ve had to create something new and I get way more inspiration from that
Getting that nice feeling from skateboarding. Photo: James Hudson
I’m not going to grasp onto, or lie about, something I’m not involved in. Stereo can never get hold of me, but they never ask anything of me because they know I’m too busy. When they did the reissue team thing, they asked if I could get some footage, and I was like, “Well, not really. I’m a bit busy”, and they said it didn’t matter but they wanted to reissue some boards and have a Classics Team that they wanted me on. And of course I did, because that’s something that’s dear to me and it’s an honour to be remembered. I don’t want to go out to skate and it feel forced, so I’ll just chill out.
Why don’t you skate your own board now, when you do go out?
I don’t know. I mean, I have done. You had some skaters who would never ever skate their own board, but if I liked the shape of a board I’d skate it, whether it was my board or not. I don’t skate one now because I haven’t got one at the minute. I need to get them rung up and get some sent over!
Massive thanks to Carl for taking time out of his busy schedule to work on this interview. We were beyond stoked to hear all of these stories. Thanks also to James Hudson for the photos from his archives and Nick Hamilton for the Southbank photo. All scans from @ScienceVersusLife.
Previous interviews by Neil Macdonald: Corey Duffel / Eli Morgan Gesner / Jeff Pang