My Board: Chris Pulman

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Our latest ‘My Board’ feature is with our close friend Chris Pulman. Many of us who have worked with Chris can attest to the fact that his understanding of hardware (among many other things) is unsurpassed. His fascination with all things skateboarding is infectious, and his knowledge has always been backed up by the joy of sharing it. This made him the perfect choice to break down the minutiea of his skateboard and the philosophy behind it…

 

Chris Pulman at home with a new setup. Photo taken by his son
Words and interview by Jacob Sawyer. Chris Pulman at home with a fresh setup. PH: Keith Pulman

 

Our thoughts when introducing this interview format was to give you a window into the nerdy hardware-based conversations that take place behind the counter at Slam City Skates, and at skate shops worldwide. Chris managed our Covent Garden shop for many years. When he was running the show, as well as being consistently hilarious, he was informing our staff, and customers about what was best to buy, and why, on a daily basis. Chris even wrote some of our first online product guides, a tradition we try to uphold as best we can. His knowledge-sharing mindset has trickled down for years, and is part of the fabric of the shop.

Chris has remained a positive force within the rich tapestry of skateboarding. His recent work for The Ben Raemers Foundation and beyond has resonated, and helped create more much-needed dialogue about mental health within our culture. Although we don’t touch on that within this conversation, the core connection is Chris’ relentless passion, and need to express himself on his skateboard. In turn, this passion, informed by a science background, affects every preference that makes up the board he continues to ride with inimitable grace. You are guaranteed to find some valuable hard-earned advice in here.

We laughed together before beginning this interview that our subject matter was to be far from revolutionary in the grand scheme of things. I’m very much of the opinion though, that if everyone applied this same level of consideration to other things, the world would be a better place. Read on for the hardware tweaks behind the perfect no-comply and more…

 

BOARD SPECIFICATIONS

 

Chris Pulman's latest rig before and after assembly
Before & after of Chris Pulman’s setup. Centre stage is his Heroin pro board designed by James Jarvis

 

What board are you riding right now?

I’ve got this Heroin 8.5” board, it’s just a straight popsicle shape and has what I like in a Popsicle. It has dead straight rails with a roundish nose that’s not squared off at all. The nose runs straight past the front truck bolts which is always something I look for in a board. I like a good inch straight before it starts to curve. It’s a standard popsicle shape, the tail is not too pointy. I have quite big feet so I don’t like it when the tail is too pointy, I like feeling there is something under me. This board has a medium concave and there’s no inch gap on the tail or the nose.

How long have you been riding the same size board?

Fos made me a tribute board a little while back, I think it was for 20 years of Heroin, so that would have been about 2018. That was 8.38” wide. As things progressed we talked about doing an actual board and I asked him for an 8.5”. He sent me some of these Tom Day boards, the Tom Day board was a tribute to my first ever Heroin board with the guy stabbing himself. That was originally going to be a graphic for Toy Machine. Tom Day’s board was 8.5” and had the same colour, graphic, and font as that board. I really liked it so when Fos said let’s do a board we ran with that standard 8.5”. I imagine it’s the same 8.5” shape as all of the popsicles Fos puts out in that size, it’s one that works.

So from leaving Slam to now you have gained half an inch?

Haha, pretty much, when I left Slam I was riding 8.1” Palace boards. Then I started my little company Descent Skateboards, the board I rode then was the same shape. It was a long Resin Construction 8.1” Dwindle board, just the best stuff. I kept riding that when I had my own deal. Then I got one 8.125” from Fos, then the tribute board came along, and I just kept going up. It was something I had been meaning to do for years.

When you go from an 8” to an 8.5” it’s a case of having to switch everything up. I was never too happy in the middle riding an 8.25” either. You may as well ride an 8.125” or an 8.5”. For me the 8.25” just felt like a whole mess of different trucks, it didn’t balance. Independent had to make that 144 because everyone was riding 8.25” boards, no truck matched so they had to slide in that extra size. I tried one set of those but moved up a size quickly afterwards.

How does wheelbase factor into your preference?

I like a long wheelbase, I just measured this thing and it’s about 14 3/8” so it is kind of long. But then the board itself is long too it’s just over 32.5” long. I just like long boards, they’re nicer for doing certain tricks. It feels nicer when you do a smith grind for example. Or when you do a 180 no-comply it feels nice to swing around a longer board, it has a better swing to it as it goes around. The long wheelbase and my age has completely trashed my flatground game. I always think of having a shorter board also to get my flatground game back. Tre flips and bigspin flips are things I used to kick around and now I don’t so much.

 

“I just like long boards, they’re nicer for doing certain tricks.”

Chris Pulman takes a 540 No-Comply for a spin at his local

Longer wheelbase for the swing. Some added rotation on this 540 No-Comply

 

Growing up did you have a brand loyalty, or a specific woodshop you’d always favour before your Foundation link with Tum Yeto?

I could go all the way back to Schmitt Stix boards and things like that. Probably the most stoked I was on the actual wood would be Prime wood during the early World Industries days. Those boards were crisp, it almost felt like they were double lacquered. They felt nice in your hand like boiled sweets. For that time in ’92 or ’93, those World boards felt like the best. When Girl boards came around they were using Schmitt [PS Stix] but they weren’t a favourite for me. Then Fos started making boards.

Tum Yeto was Watson which was okay, it seemed to work better in California than over here though. It could be something to do with humidity, those boards felt great in the US but not here. Then Fos was using Chapman which was sick. Banging woodshop, good dudes. The boards were crisp, and hard. They popped really nice, and didn’t flex out. My only problem with Chapman would have been slight inconsistencies with the laminates. Sometimes you would get a thick board if the plies were thicker, sometimes it would be thinner.

Chapman boards always felt like the edges were super round.

That is down to the sanding. You also get that illusion when you use clear top stains, which lots of those Chapman boards did have. When you are in a shop gripping loads of boards and you get a clear top stain, it looks weird because you don’t have that coloured layer to match against when you cut around with the blade. They were rounder though, some boards had a noticeable corner on them. Tum Yeto boards for example were a dream to grip because one file on that edge would give you an instant crisp line to cut along. Slam was distributing Toy Machine, Foundation, and Zero when it first started so we saw a lot of them. On a busy Saturday they were a dream because they were the quickest boards to grip.

Did you ever have a board that led to you learning a trick you lost when you got the next board?

I’ll think of one but I’ll tell you another story. I had this H-Street Ron Allen in about 1989. It had a really short pointy nose and I learned wallrides on it. That pointy nose helped me get up the wall more. It had this huge hell concave tail too, I wore the tail out to a knife edge. I vividly remember learning heelflips and sacking myself on a rocketed heelflip so hard that I delammed the whole tail. It must have been hilarious. I loved that board, a red-stained Ron Allen board with the guy wearing a straight jacket graphic. I rode it to death. By the end, the nose was held together with Shoe Goo, but that was the end of that one.

 

“I vividly remember learning heelflips and sacking myself on a rocketed heelflip so hard that I delammed the whole tail. It must have been hilarious.”

 

Everyone is on 8.5” boards right now. Our generation were riding boards as skinny as 7.25” in ’93 or ’94. I had started to skate rails and flat bars at that point so a little skinny board with skinny Ventures wasn’t going to cut it. Every time I went to the skate shop I asked what the biggest board they had was. I remember having an 8.5” Real Drake Jones board, Foundation boards, and then I found that Toy Machine Fists board. That board wasn’t very long, and it was rad for skating a flat bar despite being shorter. I could do tre flips on that thing all day long.

I would skate an 8.5” board, 1/4” risers, Indy’s, and a 60mm wheel. That was a very 1996 setup, kind of like the boards people are riding now. I see people riding bigger wheels now again and it takes me back to that time. It was this 4-wheel drive, wallie the world skateboard. It was short, and great for tre flips and bigspin flips. When I started riding longer boards I lost those tricks. 360 flips definitely have a lot to do with wheelbase. I remember Brian Anderson saying he had a long board and a short board, he favoured the short board for tre flips.

Any superstitions?

I’ve twisted my ankle doing fakie flips down stairs so many times. I did a fakie inward heelflip down about three stairs a long time ago on a board with a short pointy tail. I have avoided them ever since, it always felt like my foot was going to roll if I did anything fakie and landed a bit wrong. That’s not really a superstition, I just don’t want to roll my knackered ankle on anything fakie. I also don’t like short noses, that really bothers me. Even though I don’t use the nose much, bar grabbing it on the odd crailslide, I like there to be nose to look down on. My board feels completely unbalanced with a short nose.

Top Stain preferences?

It’s going to be pink or yellow every single time. Lots of people are weird about red and I never really got that because I think it looks cool. I can deal with dipped boards, that’s totally fine as long as it’s not a rubbish colour. I’m not a huge fan of brown top stains because it’s wood, why would you stain it brown? If I could pick a top stain it would be pink every time. It just works and it makes me feel young. It reminds me of being a kid in the 80s and everything being pink, it connects me back to 1987.

Craziest board selection process you have ever witnessed?

Ah man, we have both seen people do a lot of things when looking for boards. I’ve seen people weigh boards. Seth [Curtis]’s friend Shuggie from Glasgow would pick a board up and shake it to feel the inertia of it. Then he had a ritual, he would shake it, slap it a couple of times, shake it again. Two hands shaking it, Seth can re-enact that so good.

One of the worst things about being sponsored is you have had so many boards that are the same so you notice the smallest things. You’ll pick a board up and notice it’s slightly heavier because you’ve had the same deck 20 times, or you’ll feel that it is fractions of a millimetre thicker. Having the same thing all the time can be good if you ride Dwindle boards because they are always the same but if they are from a woodshop with more variation then you trip out on top or bottom press, thickness, and endless other things. I used to look down the board, check it was drilled straight, look for the concave being out of line. I still always look down a board and make sure it isn’t twisted, I won’t even tape it if it is. There isn’t as much bad production anymore so I’m not as fussy as I used to be.

 

TRUCK CHOICE

 

Chris Pulman's new ACE Hollow AF1 trucks
Chris’ brand new ACE 55 AF1 Hollow trucks

 

What trucks do you ride currently?

I have just set these Ace Trucks up in the last couple of days. They are the new ACE Hollow AF1’s. They are exactly the same as the AF1 which is a tweak on the classic but these have got hollow kingpins and a hollow axle. There are a good couple of grams difference in weight because of that. These are the 55’s so they work perfectly with an 8.5” board. My setup is absolutely perfect now. The balance of these trucks works super good, I have fine-tuned things over a little while.

It came as quite a shock to me after years of Indy brand loyalty. What prompted the switch?

It’s weird isn’t it? Obviously Independent trucks are great and I would always skate them. When I worked for BlackBox distribution I had a couple of sets of Thunder trucks because Jamie [Thomas] always had them there. I skated some sets of Venture trucks back in the day, but other than that I had ridden Indy’s for my whole life. Brand loyalty is such a weird thing. I was never one of those old guys who had Indy tattoos or any of that stuff. They are just things and being loyal to a thing is crazy. If someone is paying you to be loyal, that’s a different story. I just think it’s good to be open to different options.

I had some Indy’s that I had been skating for absolutely ages and I bent them. This was during lockdown and there was nowhere for me to get any product from. I had a go on someones board who had ACE’s and it felt amazing. They turn sharper and when you grind them on concrete or pool coping they feel really hard. They had this hard rattle I really liked, the shape and the metal makes them feel sick when they are grinding. They look really cool and the little details are good.

I remember you always being a fan of the spindly Thunder axle, I guess the Ace hanger is similar in that respect. The shape and geometry is based on an Independent Stage 3 right?

Yeah, it has that arch. When they made the AF1 they just made it a little meatier on the middle wing section. I did always like that spindly thing about Thunders, how it’s thin. But part of you then wonders if that will be strong because of that. If you design the geometry of the rest of it right to absorb that stress then it’s not a factor. Thunders are sick but If you set up a pair you are basically making your wheelbase a quarter of an inch longer, the axle is set much closer to the pivot cup end of the truck. Anyone who has had Thunders in the past, especially with old drilling, will have noticed that. I remember Toby [Shuall] coming in to change boards over and being unable to get the truck bolts off because the axle was in the way of the front truck bolt. That wheelbase thing is rad though, I think Thunders make your board feel more stable.

 

“My setup is absolutely perfect now. The balance of these trucks works super good”

 

I rode Indy’s forever, they are sick, they have an amazing team, and plenty of money to develop different things. They have everything from standard trucks to Titanium. For me the standard orange Independent rubber would always split because I have my trucks really loose. That meant that I would always put Bones Bushings in straight away, those things are rad. I would get a brand new set of Indy’s, put in some Bones rubbers and that was a winning formula for ages. But then you have to always be able to get hold of some Bones bushings. They would last me at least a year so about the lifespan of a truck. I’m heavy and big so for it to work I would get a medium rubber and have it quite loose.

I really liked the look of these ACE trucks though and wanted to try something different. I found they turn good straight out of the box. One thing that was rad, and I really like with ACE, are the stock rubbers that come with them. Whenever I set up a brand new set of trucks I always have them so loose that a quarter turn of the kingpin nut would make it fall off. I have always done that, if you have them loose at the start it feels like the rubbers wear in evenly. Then, if needs be you can tighten them up afterwards. With these ACE rubbers I set them up as loose as they will go and they are fine out of the box. Lots of people have nightmares with new product. I took out a brand new board, brand new wheels, and brand new trucks to the skatepark the other day and it felt amazing. I had a regular skate and it was rad. That could be down to years of being sponsored and being used to new stuff but to have new trucks in that mix is a dream.

How long do a set of trucks last you?

I have been skating a lot more pool coping because there is some at the local park. I reckon with an injury in the mix that I probably skated the last set of ACE trucks I had for about 9 months. I ground them down to the axle pretty much. I could have got another couple of months out of them for sure but then these new hollows came out. I wanted to try them out and needed to shoot a photo as well so I set them up slightly prematurely. I reckon I get 9 months to a year out of a set of trucks.

Spray paint enters the equation when you get new trucks too right?

Yeah, it’s probably a nightmare for anyone doing the marketing for brands. I always spray the baseplates pink. I’ve done it for years now. It’s kind of a nice project. You take the trucks apart, take out the pivot cups, and mask off the kingpin. Then you spray the baseplate, let it dry, put it back together, and you have made your own little thing. Sometimes it’s just a nice project to get a can of paint out and spray something, especially on a rainy afternoon. The pink is the same thing, it takes me back to the 80s. Pink trucks with white hangers have a Tony Hawk Tracker vibe, I think I have that 1987 imagery in the back of my head.

Any other tweaks?

This is the same thing Dougie George said but I put two washers on the inside to give myself a bit of extra hanger width. Then the axle nut is right on the end of the axle. That protects the end of the axle when you land primo, it stops that. I have quite a lot of play in my wheels, a couple of millimetres of sideways movement. That makes your board sound really cool, which sounds stupid. From an engineering point of view it’s really bad too. However, I always figured it stops me from getting flatspots, that could be science or superstition but it works.

The flipside of that washer thing would be back in the 90s. We would ride tiny little boards and the smallest trucks you could get were Independent 139’s. I remember [Matt] Pritchard] putting washers on the outside. The axle would still stick out but the wheel was held under the board. It stopped the wheels sticking out the edge which I can’t stand. Another thing about these ACE trucks which is sick is that they have nuts with a built in re-threader. So when you take them off, they clean out the thread, so they go back on a lot easier. When you buy a set of ACE trucks they come with a spare re-threader nut. It’s just a nut so it fits inside your skate tool and you can re-thread in an emergency. It’s really handy to have and I just keep that on my keyring.

 

WHEELS AND BEARINGS

 

Chris Pulman stays flatspot free with some Spitfire Formula Four Conical Fulls and rolls faster for longer thanks to some Bones Swiss bearings
Spitfire Formula Four Conical-Fulls keep Chris Flatspot free. Bones Swiss bearings keep them rolling

 

What is your wheel of choice and what size is your preference?

My wheel of choice is a wheel that doesn’t flatspot. I’m like the princess and the pea when it comes to flatspots, I can feel the smallest one, on the roughest surface. It’s a mental thing. When I was a kid growing up in South Wales, skateboarding was expensive, and people weren’t that wealthy there. I did a bunch of paper rounds and earned something like £20 a week for three paper rounds a day. Child labour basically. So I saved up for a couple of weeks and got these OJII Street Razors, these white things. Eric Dressen used to have them and I thought they were the coolest thing, if you ever watch Speed Freaks they’re in there. They had the best graphics with razor blades all around the wheel, and they were crystal white. I had already had a set of the pink ones and they were just the best wheels. As soon as I saw the white ones in the shop I asked them to hold them and got saving. It took a week and a half of wages from the paper shop to buy these things.

I got them and I think I skated them for one day. I did something like a backside ollie on the flat and flatspotted two of them. This was the first time I had experienced a flatspot. It could have been a bad batch or whatever. But as a little kid who had worked really hard to earn money to buy this stuff, I was crushed. I lost sleep over it, I was visibly upset about trashing these wheels. I had held this product on a pedestal. That was really good lesson in not worshipping things, not holding things on a pedestal, choosing wisely, and being aware that anything can fail. It also taught me about work, I worked a week and a half for this. It put it all into the equation, how much time and effort it takes to earn money to buy stuff. After that I got some SMA World Industries 97A Gizmos and they were rock hard. I rode around everywhere pretending it was Rubbish Heap where everyones wheels sounded like they were made of glass. That’s my wheel story.

So where has that formative experience led you?

My main thrust when it comes to wheels is that I can’t have flatspots, and they need to slide just about enough. I didn’t have a wheel sponsor as such so I had been trying everything out. I obviously rode Creative Urethane forever, from Toy Machine and Zero to Pig Wheels who I rode for. Then Heroin used that same good urethane for their wheels, and Palace were the same. I just want wheels that don’t flatspot and right now I’m skating Spitfire Formula Fours. Those things just don’t flat, it’s something I never have to worry about.

 

“I just want wheels that don’t flatspot and right now I’m skating Spitfire Formula Fours. Those things just don’t flat, it’s something I never have to worry about.”

 

I set them up, they slip and slide perfectly, and grip when they need to grip. I don’t have to even think about flatspots and they work great. The ones I’ve got right now seem to be what everyone on the planet is riding right now. They are a 99 durometer, and they are a 54mm Conical Full shape. That is a good shape for skating parks, it’s a good lock-in shape for skating ledges and rails. Then when you are out street skating it’s a good size for rougher surfaces.

So you have deviated when it comes to shape?

If someone had said to me you can have all the wheels you want in the world. It would have been a 52mm wheel that is the Spitfire Classic shape, or the standard shape Palace used for their wheels. That wheel is great, but it’s more prone to flatspots, and the narrower the riding surface is on a wheel, the more quickly it wears out. So if you are buying a set of wheels, opting for a wider running surface is a smart move because they just last longer.

I would have imagined you trying that Lock-In shape.

I haven’t tried those you know. For me, that’s just a bit much. There’s a point when you’re skating flat bars that too much lock in means your wheel is dragging along the side of the bar, and there is some resistance. There is a fine line. You wouldn’t want to skate a round bar with a 51mm classic shape, there is no lock in that scenario at all. Something bigger with a slightly squarer edge is going to be what works. The Conical Full is great, it’s a lot of wheel. I guess for each size that shape is going to be the heaviest wheel they make because it is the most volume of urethane. We are talking grams here but it’s a factor. They are balanced, a great all-round shape.

Graphics in or out?

Graphics off, hahaha. They just come off, I hate wheel graphics. There are a couple of wheel graphics I like. That Street Razor graphic I mentioned is cool, a repeated unit around the wheel. That nice Spitfire Classic pattern is another which looks sick. But I don’t like anything else on a wheel. If you have the graphics out and they get scuffed up it looks like hell, and if you have them in and they are half scraped off from skating ledges they look like hell too. Unless it’s a really nice, clean, repeating graphic, I just get a razor blade and scrape the graphics off. So my wheels will always look super generic to anyone looking at my board. From doing my own company and working with Fos as well I have learned the ins and outs of designing a wheel graphic. From a graphic design point of view it is the hardest thing to do.

Skateboarding’s smallest canvas.

Yeah it’s crazy. You have got a 10mm border and a circle. From that point of view putting a graphic into that is a mission. The only thing that ever really works is a repeating pattern that goes all the way around. Even when I did my own Descent wheels, I’m terrible at Illustrator. I spent hours trying to figure out how to make my little swirly Descent logo go around in a circle. I look at a set of those now and it reminds me that I spent way too long on Illustrator trying to figure out how to make that work. They still look pretty sick. So graphics off or graphics in. The shape of the wheels affects it too. Some wheels have a nice inside radius where the graphic can stay on and look clean. I’m really overthinking this stuff but I just like it to look clean.

Tolerance for coloured wheels?

Bring it for sure. White, pink, orange. I had a set of 51mm orange Heroin wheels once and they were so rad. They reminded me of this old photo of Barker Barrett doing a wallride nollie out on this graffiti covered wall. I love that photo so much. When I rode for Heroin we did all kind of combinations, three pink wheels with one white one. We did three orange to one baby blue, some random colour combos. I liked the three white and one pink. That’s something that keeps popping up, Natas [Kaupas] had it, Lance Mountain did it. Red isn’t such a rad colour for wheels, green is a weird one, so is yellow. I don’t like black wheels much though, and I have a theory about that. I’m not sure if this still holds true and someone needs to check me on the science to this.

If you want to make urethane black you need to put a lot of pigment in there. If you’re making a pink wheel, one little bit of pigment makes it turn pink. Making a black wheel requires a lot of pigment or you will just end up with a grey wheel. It always felt to me like black wheels wore out a lot quicker than everything else and I put that down to the amount of pigment that was in those things. These days with the developments of petrochemicals and plastics my theory may be nonsense. But that was my experience, black wheels wore out quicker and made me feel like I was in The Crow or something. That has come around again though, everyone is riding black wheels and it’s sick. It makes me think of GSD, black wheels, and black pulled-up socks.

What bearings do you skate?

I only skate Powell Swiss bearings, there is no point for me in skating anything else. It’s the same way of thinking we always had and promoted at Slam. Your cheapest Abec 3 bearings, NMB’s or whatever, are £1 each and are packed with grease. When you are starting out they will last you. Something like Bones Reds are a faster, better option if you want to spend a bit more money. Then there is a set of Bones Swiss, we would always describe them as the Rolls Royce of skateboard bearings. They’re faster out the box guaranteed. There’s no maintenance. I put a little speed cream in my bearings every 6 months to a year. I worked out the other day that the set I’m skating are 3 1/2 years old. So through lockdown, skating in the rain, and skating a lot that is pretty good.

 

“I only skate Powell Swiss bearings, there is no point for me in skating anything else… Swiss are the best investment, buy those and you don’t have to think about bearings for a good couple of years”

 

They are just engineered differently. There is a whole story and a technical reason why they work better than anything else. They perform well when there is a sideways force operating on them. They keep their speed better on a rougher surface so they are better for street skating, I never really believed this. When I first started at Slam Seth [Curtis] was telling me I had to try Swiss bearings. I think at the time I was happy with whatever Pig bearings I was skating at the time. He told me they were dogshit, made in China bearings, and that I was tripping. I was still all about my Pig bearings. Then I got some Swiss later that year, treated myself at Christmas time. Oh my god, these things were fast, out of the box, straight away.The beauty of that, if you are worrying about the size of your wheels skating a rough surface is that you can run a smaller wheel but the bearings will make up for it.

That is a fact, regular Swiss just are the best. Ceramics are great if you are going 70mph down a hill but for street skating I always found them a little too sensitive to grit. They just won’t last as long. Swiss are the best investment, buy those and you don’t have to think about bearings for a good couple of years. Buy cheap buy twice, with normal bearings to Swiss it’s buy cheap buy five times.

Shields off or on?

I leave the shields on. They have a really good removable shield that comes off or goes on real easy. I run them until they get dry and noisy. When they get really dry and they’re screaming I normally put half a drop of Speed Cream on each one of them. Give them a spin, give the shield a wipe, and put them back in. Then it feels just like you have brand-new bearings again.

 

HARDWARE

 

Some checkerboard flare courtesy of Jessup griptape and the Descent Skateboards equivalent of Shorty's bolts finish the job
Jessup griptape facilitate some checkerboard corner flare and Descent bolts finish the job

 

What griptape do you prefer?

It’s always been Jessup griptape, even back in the day. I don’t know who made Madrid Flypaper, but to me Jessup has always felt like that. It’s thin, it has nice sized grit, and it’s not too aggressive and I obviously always skate in Vans. There are two griptapes out there in my opinion, Mob Griptape or Jessup. They are the two main black griptape brands. Jessup works great with Vans, it’s the right amount of grip, you already have grippy shoes on because you’re wearing waffle. Mob is much grippier, it probably works good if you wear a cupsole. With a Dunk or something like that the sole is nowhere near as grippy as a waffle sole so the tape provides that extra grip. Mob works great but it’s slightly more aggressive, I get griptape thumb like hell and it wears my shoes out In no time. If I do ever skate Mob I give it a light sand over before using it to take the edge off it. With Jessup I put it on, I don’t have to sand it down, there’s no messing about, and it stays on and does the job.

The guys at Jessup recently sent me a box of colours that I can mess about with. I have recently been putting this edge of checkerboard griptape on. It’s a little challenge to myself to have something other than just plain tape. The mental part of skateboarding for me means I want nice, clean, black griptape. To write anything on it, spray anything on it, or have any other colour is llike a challenge. It’s good to challenge yourself with these things and realise it doesn’t matter. With nerdiness it’s good to keep those anxieties in check by challenging them. Whether it’s painted baseplates, a line in the griptape, or right now this checkerboard thing. The checkerboard in skating is weird because it has a double meaning for me. It is tied to a very 80s vibe, with checkerboard Vans, and the whole BMX thing. I like the checkerboard Vans, the canvas works for me, they don’t stretch, and it means there are less animal products involved. It also links back to something else I talk about once in a while.

Skateboarding has become a bit of a sport and there are forces within skateboarding that would love it to become one. They would love there to be a winner. That helps people’s marketing. I love the checkerboard because it signifies a checkered flag, the notion of winning, but the checkerboard design within skateboarding is not related to that. It’s like we have taken the winners flag and reappropriated it just because it’s a cool design. It is cultural reappropriation in a really weird, obscure way. I always say that the checkerboard is the only checkered flag I want to see in skateboarding. It’s purely design and doesn’t signify somebody being better than somebody else. We all know that nobody is the best at skateboarding, nobody ever will be, there’s too much variation. That’s the best part about skateboarding, everyone is differently skilled. That’s coming from a kid who was not very good at skateboarding but kicked his board around an awful lot and just enjoyed it.

Grip jobs have never been a wild time consuming thing for you?

No not really, just plain black tape. I have never saved offcuts and done something crazy. I always see Fos’ boards and I’m envious of that process. He always has a rad grip job, he’s sprayed little lines, put stickers, references, and offcuts in there. I don’t have the courage that I wouldn’t get bored of it after ten minutes. I’ll ride a board for four to six weeks. But when I jump on someone else’s board I don’t even notice that. I went to Barcelona with Fos once and I think I had delammed my board. I just skated his board for an afternoon. Your own skateboard is so personal and specific to you. There is something very freeing about just jumping on someone else’s. All those nuances you worry about don’t help at all, you can fully skate something else. Fos was riding an 8.5” board with massive risers, 60mm wheels, crazy griptape. It was so different to my setup but I ended up doing a nosegrind shuv-it on a ledge, it wasn’t about the board. The more you get yourself out of that comfort zone and try different stuff the better. I’m very specific every time I set up a board, what I should do really is set it up in the dark.

 

“these are our pens and paintbrushes, what we create this crap with. At a point you want that pen to feel nice and balanced, the quality of that paintbrush will affect your painting.”

 

I wish I was so technically able at skateboarding that a millimetre here or there in wheel diameter made a difference to my game. I’m sure Shane O’Neill knows what size wheel messes up certain tricks for him. I don’t have the skill to notice that so it’s more down to aesthetics. It’s another version of passion over skill. But after all of these years of skating, to some degree we still hold products on a pedestal. But these are our pens and paintbrushes, what we create this crap with. At a point you want that pen to feel nice and balanced, the quality of that paintbrush will affect your painting.

I spoke to Brian Anderson recently and he said your skateboard is your guitar. It’s what you put out there into the world, this thing you have been trying to master.

It’s a bit like Trigger in Only Fools and Horses when he says that he’s had the same brush for ten years. It’s had ten different handles, and ten different heads but it’s the same brush, hahaha. The whole thing itself is very transient. It’s the same but you have changed every single thing on it, the thing you are riding is not what you started off with. I have been skating a long time now so essentially what I’ve been riding over the last twenty years has only changed in a factor of millimetres.

What about bolt preferences?

When I had my own brand Descent, I made a ton of bolts, I made thousands. They are the same as Shorty’s bolts. They are a 7/8” bolt with a small head. I like small heads because I feel the bolts don’t sink as far into the board and helps retain more board strength. Bigger heads have to sink way further in to be flush. They are 7/8” because I don’t need any extra bolt sticking out underneath. They are only threaded halfway. I designed them like that because I figure a bolt threaded only halfway is going to be stronger, the more thread you put on there the weaker the bolt gets. Lots of people used to run a small nut on a 7/8” bolt. That helped shave off some weight, the problem is they don’t stay tight because there are half as many threads on them. So I opted for a full size nut. Black bolts with a full size white painted nut. They are essentially Shorty’s bolts, I sourced them from the same place. I have so many of these things, I’m never going to run out.

That’s the whole board covered. Any other tweaks?

When I grip the board I don’t sand the tape down but I use an offcut of grip to sand the tip of the nose and the tip of the tail. That heats the glue and takes off that edge before I set it up. When I put it together the bolts have to be flush with the tape, I don’t like any griptape being twisted up by the head of the bolts so I’m careful doing that. Trucks are set up as loose as I can get them, nut just hanging on. I still put Descent stickers on the hanger of the front truck, that’s my little ghost in the machine.

I’m in a weird spot where I don’t feel officially sponsored. Fos gives me boards and we will put one out together every now and again. I guess I’m on the team for Heroin Skateboards. The guys at Rock Solid will give me a set of ACE trucks when I need them, they’re really kind for doing that. I’ve never had the “you ride for us” email from anybody. I don’t mind because I’m an old man with limited talent here and there is an odd demographic of people who are interested in what I’m doing. It’s quite a broad demographic now with the whole Instagram thing.

Basically what I’m saying is nobody sends you stickers. When you’re sent stickers that’s when you’re on the team. Vans are so kind to keep on sending me shoes but I don’t get stickers from them. I’d happily slap a massive Off The Wall sticker on my board because I think it looks cool but I just don’t get them. I do quite like a sticker job but the other side to that are the environmental factors. That’s a lot of plastic in the long run. If we all try to do a little less harm in our daily lives we are on to something.

 
Chris Pulman takes his new board to Oxhey and shuv its out of front board

Maiden voyage. Pastel De Nata worthy front-board shuv at Oxhey skatepark

 

It’s good to see you back on the board Chris. How long were you out for and how is the process of rehabilitation going?

I had a bit of a pain in the ass this last year to be honest. I didn’t skate much for a couple of years, I had a bit of a meltdown. Then when I started skating again it was really working. Fos was helping me out with boards and that whole Instagram thing went nuts, so it was all systems go, let’s do this. Then I started skating a lot more and putting pressure on myself but I got hurt. I started pulling muscles and things like that. That’s when I started noticing arthritis in my toes. So the whole time I was trying to come back and do the job of skateboarding I have been stifled. I needed to relax more, skate when I can, and enjoy it when I do. Im still skating three or four times a week which a lot more than most people my age manage.

The problems are linked to the arthritis, my toe doesn’t bend properly on my pushing foot. Because of that I pulled a muscle in my foot and it put me out for about 8 months, I couldn’t skate because I was unable to push. It got misdiagnosed by a physio as plantar fasciitis. That’s when you wake up in the morning and can’t put any weight on your foot, like a heel bruise. First thing in the morning is the worst pain, then it slowly goes away over the course of the day. It’s like a heel bruise that never goes away. Get a heel bruise, you stay off your foot for two or three weeks and it will heal. But this I had for two months and knew something was wrong. The physiotherapist had it wrong, I did what I always do and tried to find the science. I read a load of research papers and figured where I had torn a muscle. That was putting pressure on a nerve to make it feel like heel pain.

I self diagnosed that as the problem and decided to stay off it completely. As much as that sucked for me I kept it up for two weeks. I sat on the sofa and watched Star Trek – The Next Generation from start to end, hahaha. I did nothing for two weeks, didn’t even go for a walk and I like to walk every day. After two weeks it was definitely getting better and I realised that could have been the case months ago. The advice from the physio had been to keep moving, do light exercise on it, ice it, and rest it. After three weeks of doing nothing I went and rolled around, came home and put some ice on it, and the next day it didn’t hurt so much. So I started skating again. Then straight away I pulled my calf muscle, healed that in two weeks. Then I pulled my Achilles Tendon which was another couple of weeks. Now for the last month I’ve been back to skating like I want to.

Now when you’re this age after that amount of time off your board, you put on a little weight, and lose stamina. I’m 48 years old. I think when you’re that age and you skate as much as I do you’re gonna feel tired no matter who you are.

Any plans for the coming months or projects you are excited about?

I’m just excited to be skating at the moment. We have been filming for an ACE video, I’ve hopefully got a couple of tricks in that, a video for the UK team. I filmed with Lucien Parsons who is really cool, we had a nice day at Stockwell. Obviously Stockwell is a dream to skate now. I’m so glad to still be skating, to get to witness Stockwell being fixed. We had a good day filming, did a lot of grinds. Obviously it’s a truck video so you want to be using them. There’s no point advertising trucks with a handplant, I always thought that. I filmed a bit for Baghead Crew a while back but I got injured and we haven’t connected back but I have a couple of tricks filmed for them.

Most of the stuff I do is at the skatepark these days or skating around. People seem to like watching me ride around, the in-between stuff, they find it more interesting than the tricks. For me that feels much more authentic, that’s what real skateboarding looks like. It’s not follow filming and prescribed lines of tricks which is obviously sick. But it’s the dad-cam footage from the side of the skatepark, that’s real. That’s you falling off, laughing, smiling, weaving in and out of the kids. It’s authentic and that’s a lot of what has been missing in skating. It’s packaged and presented as this thing. A lot of people started skating again through lockdown, or for their mental health, or just want to ride a skateboard and aren’t bothered about brands or who is perceived as the best. They appreciate the authenticity of it, that’s what it looks like when an old man goes to the skatepark.

 

“the best part of it for me is when I go skateboarding and have a good time. How do you show that to somebody else?”

 

The other part of skating, the filming lines, shooting photos, filming video parts, and high production. That is all part of the art of skateboarding, how we produce those canvases. That’s for posterity, you are producing a piece of art you can pull up on Youtube. Whereas for me, skateboarding has always been about me and my skateboard. The skateboarding is what I get home and remember. It’s very hard to translate that to everybody else, the best part of it for me is when I go skateboarding and have a good time. How do you show that to somebody else?

What would you recommend to kids reading this who want to make a more informed decision about what equipment would be right for them?

I would say if you have cool people around you at the skatepark ask to have a go on their board. Stand on lots of peoples boards and see what feels good. I’ll still do it. If I see someone at the skatepark with something that interests me I’ll ask them what their wheels are like for instance and ask to try them out. I’m still on the lookout for someone who has got those Bones Dragon Formula wheels. Pity the fool I see with them, hahaha. Being at the skatepark is the best place to test stuff, I tried someone’s Flight Construction board recently, and had a roll on an old school board I wouldn’t have skated otherwise.

Also, at the end of the day, the guys at the skate shop know best. They are all nerds, they know about the product in and out. At a good skate shop you can trust those guys to sell you the best product at the best price. They understand that you will come back to spend money with them again over the years. A skate shop employee is a nerd, and hopefully someone you can trust for the best advice. There is a beauty to buying something in a physical shop over shopping online. Lots of shopping is done online though. Good shops are coming through with informative product descriptions, or what Slam are doing with the blog and product guides. Talking about the product is a respect for the customer. Good shops care about the customer, want them to make educated choices, and are offering up the details.

Anyone you want to thank?

Mark ‘Fos’ Foster at Heroin Skateboards has had my back since day one. When I started skating again after having a bit of a wobble and canning my own company he was the first person I went to for boards. Straight away he was like “yep, what do you want?”. Fos has always had my back and appreciated my angle on skating, he was kind enough to give me another pro model again. He has supported me even when I looked a bit hopeless from the outside. I want to thank the guys at Rock Solid Distribution. Wes Morgan was kind enough to hook me up with ACE trucks when I needed them so I’m super appreciative of that. Leo at Rock Solid always hits me up if anything new comes in, so thanks to him.

I’d like to thank Nic and Alan Glass at Shiner Distribution for sending me some Spitfire’s recently which I’m really grateful for. I’d like to thank my local skate shop Decade in Guildford too. I didn’t need much from Greg there but he would always give me a sheet of griptape if I needed it, he has sorted me out wheels when I needed them too. He does a lot for his scene. I’d like to thank Jessup for sending me a box of tape from the states so I have it to hand. Mike at Keen Distribution has also sorted me out tape from Jessup so thanks to him.

We’re not talking about shoes here but I’d also like to thank Vans Skate Shoes for the support. Amanda Perez at Vans has been really kind and always keeps me in shoes. I’m not super heavy on product, I look after my things and if I have canvas shoes I Shoe Goo them, but she has been cool enough to always send me the shoes I like. Dave Atkinson who now works for Vans in America has also been one to help me out with shoes when something interesting comes out.

 

Chris Pulman takes his twister grind to the quarter at the newly revamped Stockwell skateparkStockwell
Non-Hurricane twister grind at Stockwell on the new whip for Grey Skate Mag. PH: Rafal Wojnowski

 


 

We would like to thank Chris Pulman for taking the time out for this one and for delving in to what makes up his skateboard. We would like to offer up a placeholder for deeper conversations in the future. Thanks to Keith Pulman for shooting photos. Thanks also to Henry Kingsford at Grey Skate Mag and Rafal Wojnowski for the Stockwell photo.

Be sure to follow Chris Pulman on Instagram. Watch his SMiLe Interview for the Ben Raemers Foundation. Listen to more from Chris on the Fancy Lad Podcast.

Read our previous My Board: Dougie George interview for more product musings and advice. If you desire more information about what hardware will be right for you we are confident our Product Guides will offer the answers to your questions. If you still need help don’t hesitate to Contact Us and one of our team will be happy to help you.