Sidewalk Skateboarding Debuts - Matt Pritchard - Sidewalk Skateboarding

Debuts – Matt Pritchard Debuts – Matt Pritchard

Back when we came up with the concept for Debuts - which was, kind of ironically, just in time for the last regular printed issue of the mag - the thinking behind the new single page article was to take some of those individuals who have helped shape the course of modern UK skateboarding and rewind you right back to what used to be the very start of every skater’s coverage journey, to their very first published photo.

It didn’t matter which of the countless publications that photo first appeared in – be it Skateboard!, R.A.D., Sidewalk, Document, Kingpin or elsewhere – all that mattered was the subject needed to have influenced skateboarding on our little island in the time since, and obviously had a story of interest to tell.

I doubt anybody could dare argue that since his initial appearance on the national media radar leaping down a rugged South Wales gap in the now almost sacred pages of R.A.D., Matthew Pritchard can safely tick all of those required boxes whilst simultaneously beating a limitless number of other boxes to death with anecdotes, comedy and the brutal truth.

It goes without saying that we’re both honoured and stoked to take this opportunity to welcome our good mate Pritch back to the Sidewalk fold, for the first time since our monthly output went digital, in order for him to divulge for you exactly how his crazy seven ply journey began.

Read on - chances are you might just learn something…
Photo originally published in R.A.D. Magazine Issue 97 - June 1991

So then Matthew – set the scene for us please. What was going on in your life when this photo was taken? How old were you, where were you living, were you still studying and so on?

Right, before we go any further, I’ve just looked through all the questions and it looks like I’m going to have to jog my memory here a bit. Ever since this photo was taken I’ve completely and utterly ruined a lot of my brain cells, (laughing).

They were the days of complete freedom and no stresses of life, like they are when you get older. Every day was this – wake up and skate until your body said “no more”, then wake up and repeat.

As for age, I think I must have been around 18/19 years old and I was actually studying to be a chef in college at the time. In school and then college I was the ‘weird one’ like all skateboarders were back then, as we didn’t follow the sheep and we were interested in something that was way un-cool, but that’s just the way it was.

By the way, I was living with my parents at the time and I was cleaning windows to pay for my addiction to skateboarding.

Had you picked up any sponsors by this point?

Nah, this was way before sponsorship. Sponsorship came for me around my early 20’s, when I came first at a Radlands competition. I could be wrong there; one of my mates will probably know more, (laughs).

Alvin (Singfield) sent Alan Rushbrooke down to tell me that he wanted to sponsor me through Faze 7 Distribution, and that he’d phone me in the week to discuss what he could sort me out with. Literally half an hour later, Carl Shipman came and told me Jeremy Fox wanted to sponsor me through Deathbox – kids today won’t understand any of this stuff, (laughs).

One minute I’m buzzing to be asked by Alvin, then I’m buzzing to be asked by Foxy, then I’m pissed off because I didn’t want to let either of them down.

No word of a lie, it played on my mind for a few nights and I couldn’t sleep, but in the end I went for Alvin and got on Consolidated, Etnies and 8 Ball Clothing, and got my first package in the post.

It felt like Xmas; I could not believe it, I was honestly tripping out but felt really bad that I let Jeremy Fox down, (laughs).

Looking back things could have been very different if I chose the other way around, hey?

Tell us a bit about the day this photo was taken – I know it’s going back a handful of years now, but what can you remember from this specific day? How did the opportunity to shoot this photo come about?

At lunchtime in college I used to go skate outside whilst the rest went to the pub. That’s where I was at then; my life was skateboarding and I did lots of it in between studying. Night times were spent outside Magnets (the kitchen supermarket) car park, and in the summer Chris Fowler and Kwam were the only ones with cars so we’d go look for places to skate. How we found this grass gap – the one in the photo – I do not know, but I think it was Fowler who mentioned it, so we went to check it out.

All I can remember was it being super gnarly and one of those things ‘you only do once’ due to the fact there was fuck all run up and the run up you did have was gravel, along with the landing. The gap was really big then you had the drop after it to cruise down.

Looking back, the only reason I can think of as to why I did it is that you have less fear when you’re younger I suppose, so I gave it a go and landed it; I was stoked.

I think City Surf Skateshop in Cardiff – which is still supporting the scene 30 years later – got a call from R.A.D. to say Sam Scott Hunter was coming to Cardiff to do an article on our scene. There was none of this Twitter/Facetwat/Instacunt back then, all we had was a good old fashion landline, (laughs).

Sam Scott Hunter came down and we just went cruising round Cardiff taking photos with a load of the usual crew. For my pic I decided to go back to that gap and do it again so I could get a decent pic for the article, and luckily for me I did it first go and got away without sandpapering my skin off for the second time, thank fuck.

Just below my pic if I remember rightly there was a photo of my brother Adam doing a tre flip, and a photo of Craig Sullivan with the caption “Craig flips one”, about which we still wind him up today.

Craig is actually the head games designer for EA Sports now with a massive number of awards under his belt; fair play to him.

Tell us about the spot please – where was it, what was it called, was it somewhere you used to skate quite a lot? I’m sure it featured in the classic 1995 Welsh scene video ‘Thugs’ quite heavily…

It was Rhymney Junior School, hence why we had to go there at night. We never skated there at all, only for that gap. The school that featured in ‘Thugs’ heavily was Rhymney High School, rather than the Junior School. Fowler, Evo, Elliot and Malcom all lived on the same street as it, which was why we skated there so often. Not only that, but they had a few good things to skate in that school, which was the reason there was so much footage there in ‘Thugs’, thanks to the legendary filmer Denny.

If it wasn’t for Denny, the South Wales scene back then wouldn’t have been documented like it was.

Do people still skate there now or is the spot long gone?

I doubt it very much, unless the caretaker’s a skateboarder and fancies a leap every now and again, (laughs).

Can you remember the first time you saw the photo in print? Where were you/how stoked were you/etc? And what did you make of the caption – were you hyped on the Frankie Hill mention?

Of course I was stoked; I was fucking buzzing. I was a kid and I had my pic in a magazine that was pretty much a big deal back then. I remember buying it and running home to show my mam and dad, as you do.

I still get stoked if I get a photo in anything these days, whether it’s skateboarding, triathlon or acting a dick. I’m not the cool fucker who hides the fact he’s stoked. If you’re stoked then show it – who gives a fuck?

As for the Frankie Hill mention, that stoked me out even more, as at the time he was my hero, hence always looking for ridiculous sized stairs and gaps. It’s those same stairs and gaps that are knocking on my joints today, (laughs), but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Also, you shot quite a lot in your younger years with Skin Phillips – what are some of your memories from the times you spent with Skin?

It’s thanks to Skin that I had my first photo in Transworld mag, as one of those ‘up and coming’ skater things. I remember the day and the pic as if it was yesterday because, to be honest, I couldn’t believe I was taking a pic for Transworld so I went all out.

There was this gap that then had a pointy fence, and you had to ollie over the fence before dropping a fair distance down into the car park below. There was plenty of run up but the hardest thing about it was the fence was high, so I really had to pop over the gap first and make sure I was still high enough to get over the fence before travelling down to ride away.

I was shitting myself as if I hung up on a stone before taking off to ollie, my face would have gone through the metal spikes on the fence, so if I cleaned the run up once I cleaned it twenty times just to make sure, (laughs). In the end I made it, Skin got a wicked pic and a few months later it made it into Transworld.

The fact you’ve still got the page from the mag after all these years is quite mental – where has it been stored these last few decades?

I’m weird like that; I try and keep anything and everything from magazines, and still do today.

I think it’s because I got told so many times at a young age that I was thick as fuck and that I’d never make anything of myself, so once I got these photos in magazines I’d keep them, maybe to remind me or those doubters that I was at least doing something, and I was actually good at something.

I know it might sound a bit full on but I honestly think it plays a big part in why I kept such things.

It’s always great to look back and see what you’ve done over the years. When Horsley asked me to look for the pic, I went through all my clippings that are kept tidily in plastic booklets, and it took me back a bit; there are some great pics from some great times.

I’ve kept all the Dirty Sanchez clippings too, so I have quite a few books full of memories.

Out of all the countless photos you’ve had printed over the years, which one stands out to you as your ‘favourite’ and for what reasons?

Great question, fuck me. It has to be the double set at Milton Keynes that Wig took a sequence of. That day and that photo will stick with me forever, for many reasons.

Those weekends in Milton Keynes with the Panic and Blueprint lot were the best, and were one of my favourite times in skateboarding.

We were there the weekend before and I’d just finished having a massive session on that cobbled skate-stopped steps/gap combo at The Beige, and we happened to walk past this double set. I remember Dan Magee saying to me, “there you go Pritchard, ollie them fuckers” to which I and everyone else laughed, and we carried on not thinking anything else of it.

The following weekend for some reason I said, “lets go check out that double set again” as I knew Wig was with us so if there was ever a time to give it a go, it was then. I looked at them over and over again and pushed up to them with the shit short run up many times, and just couldn’t get myself to ollie them. Then, all of a sudden, I gave it a go and I realised it was on.

I think I went for it about four times, each time just about clearing the steps but stopping dead and hitting the floor so fucking hard…it was agony. I was in bits and I remember telling myself that it was my last go and if I wasn’t gonna do it I’d give up. Anyway, that last go I landed and rode away, hence why in the sequence you can see me clench my fists in air from how stoked I was.

I was pretty much screwed for a good week after that day, but I was happy I landed it and stoked on the sequence…thanks Wig and thanks Magee for giving me the hint.