Ben Raemers – Debuts
As 2015 draws to a traditional freezing cold, damp and dreary close, Ben Raemers should be in need of no introduction. Over the course of the last 18 months alone, the Walton-on-the-Naze native has landed himself the cover of Thrasher, (for the second time, it’s worth noting), earned himself the last part in enjoi’s latest full length video offering ‘Oververt’, been elevated to professional status by said San Jose based board company, and destroyed everything that Converse saw fit to put in front of him during their ‘One Star World Tour’.
This effervescent protégé of Mark Munson has steadily worked his way through the ranks to become one of the most recognisable characters in skateboarding today, but the photo that first sent him on his way can be found occupying a double page advert for the footwear company Duffs, which was first run in the June 2004 issue of Sidewalk, over eleven years ago.
Nursing a fresh pint of Guinness in a dimly lit East London drinking establishment, Ben thinks back to his early days skating around Essex with the likes of Munson, Carl ‘Potter’ Wilson and various other Essex locals.
“At this point I’d been skating with Munson for about a year and a half, and this was at the stage where he’d started to convince me to try stuff that made me absolutely petrified.”
Every weekend Munson would take me skating, which was the sickest thing ever. I’d get picked up from my house and get to skate some sick stuff, and at the end of the weekend I’d be completely fucked then have to go to school every day for the next week and be excited for the next weekend.”
This particular handrail has had quite a bit of notable coverage over the years – you might remember Danny Brady ollies over the rail into the bank near the start of his seminal ‘Lost and Found’ section – and it turned out to be in Colchester, the Essex town where Ben was born.
“It’s literally knee high; this rail is the lowest rail in the world. I’d boardslid it prior with my friends just messing around, so that was one of my first handrails. It’s also the steepest rail ever.”
Munson and I were out with the photographer Branny one weekend. We ended up going to the rail and Munson was like “try and front board it”, so I tried. On my first attempt at it, my front truck banged into the rail and I sacked it, then after that I actually started getting into it.”
The photo might have been run as Ben’s ‘welcome to Duffs’ ad, but to this day he’s not convinced he was actually wearing Duffs shoes in the photo.
“To be honest, it was around this time that my feet were so small that a lot of shoes wouldn’t fit me, and it was a mission for people to order shoes in my size. Prior to Duffs I was getting stuff from Airwalk, and Munson went from being the TM of Airwalk to the TM of Duffs…as I said, I had super small feet then and it was a mission for Munson to find shoes that fitted me. I could’ve been wearing Airwalks or god knows what in that photo, but I don’t think they were Duffs (laughs).”
Despite the shoe confusion attached to the photo for Ben, he can remember seeing the advert for the first time.
“It must have been on one of those weekends where Munson came to pick me up and was like “look at that” and showed me the photo, then I was like “oh my God!” I was so hyped (laughs). It’s the same feeling now if you get a photo in a magazine, it’s still the same stoked feeling that you get, except at that point I was 13 years old so I was extra hyped. I was like “look mum, look at this! I’m in a magazine”…it was like a dream come true.”
As the pint gets finished and the interview gets wrapped up, some of the product placement in the advert does get commented on, though.
“Look at the state of it; I’ve got Duffs parcel tape on my board; I think that was a Panic board too. There’s even a Duffs sticker on the rail…”
And one final bit of trivia to end the interview on?
“…this is one of only two handrails I’ve ever front boarded in my life (laughs).”