Sidewalk Skateboarding Neil Smith - Debuts - Sidewalk Skateboarding

Trick: Ollie, St Pauls, London.

Magazine: Document issue 24, July 2002.

Photographer: Sam Ashley.

So then Neil, there it is – your first printed photo in a magazine.

Yes, it is.

What do you remember about the particular day that this photo was shot?

That day was part of my Blueprint trial weekend in London, the first time I’d met Dan Magee, John Fisher, Chewy Cannon and Sam Ashley, who shot the photo. I went up on the Saturday and met them all, and then on the Sunday we skated around this area (St Pauls).

It says it in the write up here somewhere that there were rollerbladers shouting at me; I can’t remember what it was they were saying or doing but I remember once I ollied the stairs Magee squared up to them and they had a full on skateboarders verses rollerbladers argument. Nothing kicked off or anything but they were bitching at each other in a way, I guess.

There was a rumour at the time that Tom Penny had kickflipped the stairs back in the day, so I thought “there’s no way I’m going to kickflip them, and Tom Penny is Tom Penny, so at least I’ll ollie them and that might help me on my trial weekend”, help me get sponsored sort of thing. So I ollied them first go, then it turned out no one had even skated them before anyway.

You’ve already said that this was part of your try out weekend for Blueprint, but how did you first catch Magee’s attention? Wasn’t it to do with (Adam) Mondon?

This story’s probably been told before, but there was a competition at the old metal skatepark in Chelmsford which me and my mate Rob had come 1st and 2nd in the kids contest the year before, but then we got put into the adult contest and I ended up winning that. There was a guy there – Russell Cowling – who told me they were about to open a Hoax shop in Chelmsford and asked me if I wanted to be sponsored by them, which obviously I said ‘yes’ to.

Every weekend I’d go into the shop and show Russell my footage that I’d been filming with my mates. He said, “we know this geezer at Blueprint”, who turned out to be Adam. He gave my footage to Adam, Adam then gave the footage to Magee and Magee was like “right, lets get this guy up to London for the weekend and give him a trial”.

John Fisher had his Omens in the same issue of Document as well. Did he shoot that during this trial weekend?

Yeah, he frontside flipped the (Moorgate) stairs at the same time as I did the tre flip, but his other two photos were shot in Birmingham or somewhere.

I had no idea who John Fisher was at the time, and I guess he obviously had no idea who I was. We were told to get to Shell Centre to meet Mondon who I’d never met before either, and I remember seeing Fisher and he was head to toe in Blueprint gear so I went up to him and asked him “are you sponsored by Blueprint, by any chance?”. I feel like he thought I was some random kid just asking “are you sponsored? Are you on Blueprint?” and he was like “yeah, I am sponsored by Blueprint” so I was like “ok cool, I’m here to meet Mondon as well then”, and we just had to wait for Mondon there together.

Me and Fisher spent the weekend skating with Chewy, but it wasn’t Chewy’s trial, he was on anyway, it was just more like his first time meeting the guys.

So this Omens interview came out in the same month as your New Blood in Sidewalk – July 2002 – though you think that the New Blood came out slightly after…

I can’t remember the exact difference but I think Document came out a week or so before Sidewalk, because this is definitely my first printed photo. The magazine got so tatty and wrecked because I was so hyped and I looked through it so much. When you’re a kid, that’s the dream isn’t it? To be in a skateboard magazine, to get sponsored, and this first photo is obviously the start of it all.

Do you remember the first time you actually saw the photo in the magazine?

I don’t, no. I remember waiting for it to come out and going down to the Spa every day. You know, for us when we were kids, not so much kids now, they won’t really understand, but for us you knew Document would be out between, say, the 3rd and the 7th of every month so you’d go to the shop every day and check if it was there, and if it wasn’t then you’d be like “ahh…I’ve got to come back again tomorrow”.

I remember doing that, but I don’t remember actually getting the mag, opening it and being like “oh, there it is!”

You’ve got the tre flip (at Moorgate) in the same issue as well, but that’s a little later in the mag so technically this is your first printed photo I guess.

Yep, and that was shot on the same day (as the ollie), but the ollie is my first printed photo because you came to this first in the mag, the tre flip was after (laughs), my second printed photo.

After this and your New Blood, do you remember what your next printed photo was?

I think it might have been a switch heel down London Bridge for a Hoax advert, and at the point when it came out I was already on Blueprint but in the photo I was skating a Reaction board, and the board was the wrong way around so you could fully see the graphic. Magee was super pissed off.

That switch heel was the first photo that I’d shot with a published photographer actually, and that was just pure luck. I was skating the stairs and he turned up with some other guys and asked “can I shoot that?”. I’m sure that might have been Starky, but he was with this guy who used to skate London back in the day…Rich Hardy I think it was.

What do you think about the print of this particular photo in the mag? Sam (Ashley) mentioned earlier that he remembers it being pretty bad.

It’s pretty dark isn’t it? I can’t imagine Sam was particularly happy about that one. If you look at the one that Sam put on Instagram the other year compared to this photo in the mag, there’s a lot of difference. You can see my jeans, my face, the board graphic…the one in the mag it’s all just a bit…black (laughs). I never even realised that until you just said about it; because it was my first photo it could’ve been the grainiest or blurriest photo ever and I would’ve still been hyped.

Did you not re-film this ollie a few years later? You said you landed this one first try but then there’s footage in ‘Lost and Found’ of you slamming and both your shoes fly off, and you look older in the footage too.

Magee fucked up the filming of this first one so he made me re-film it and that’s when I slam and both my shoes come off. I ollied it again then tried to nollie them straight after, which obviously didn’t work out (laughs). That didn’t go too well.

Lastly, do you still own a copy of this mag?

I do still have a copy of the mag, yeah. I think it’s probably in my dad’s loft. I used to have it in my flat in London but I gave everything that I don’t need in London to my dad to chuck in the loft at home, so it’s probably stashed away up there with all the other magazines, and rare Dunks (laughs).

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