Sidewalk Skateboarding Lucian Hendricks - Made Of Stone - Sidewalk Skateboarding

Lucian Hendricks – Made Of Stone Lucian Hendricks – Made Of Stone

This summer saw the raising of the first vert ramp in London since Bay 66’s much loved vert was torn down. Hidden in the depths of South London, it wasn’t part of a council initiative or lottery funded project but rather a labour of love from two Brixton skaters – James ‘Stuntman’ Brann and Lucian Hendricks. Built in the communal garden behind their house, with materials scavenged from wherever they could, it only survived a few months before one moaning neighbourhood killjoy complained to the council and bought the ramp sessions to an end somewhere around Halloween.

During its short-lived tenure, it saw many a session from Lucian and his two kids Caire and Akin. For those who don’t know, Lucian was one of the leading lights of UK vert skating in the 80s - before the vert crash came and he moved into the worlds of capoeira and club night promotion. Returning to skateboarding in recent years when his kids picked up boards, it was the lack of vert ramps in the Greater London area which prompted the guerrilla build which stood in all its rickety glory for this past summer and autumn. While DIY spots are a major part of skateboarding culture, not many have been motivated enough to build their own vert ramp from scratch.

We decided to sit down with Lucian to talk about the ramp, its inception and build, alongside many other subjects and ended up delving deep into the history of UK skateboarding. Mike McGill at Crystal Palace vert ramp, living on a boat with the Gonz, Sam Beckett and the future of vert skating in London are all covered amongst other things; enjoy…

Lets start from the beginning – when did you start skating? It was slalom before vert right?

Yeah – Crystal Palace has a lot of hills and had a strong slalom scene, so I was a slalom rider and that got me into competitions. That was the beginning, I won vert boards through slalom competitions. Crystal Palace eventually got ramps of various descriptions – all completely shit – and that’s where we learnt to skate. Then through the skateparks like Rolling Thunder I got introduced to vert skating with Phil Burgoyne. We’d skive school, head down there and it was a totally different energy that I really liked. I rode there a few times, then after that Crystal Palace got better ramps and we eventually got the vert ramp.

So when did Rolling Thunder get knocked down?

Really early, I was a grommet, I wasn’t a good rider. I was one of the complete grommets, we just did backside kickturns. But seeing the riders, it was (Jeremy) Henderson and all the riders of that epoch. Henderson, (Mark) Sinclair, Paul Price was there, so many riders. I didn’t know anybody, but that was my first time seeing what skatepark skating or vert skating was like. That’s where I got the bug for riding vert. At Crystal Palace we had fibreglass ramps, they were rubbish but at least we had something to skate.

Then Crystal Palace got its vert ramp, and Latimer Road right?

Latimer Road was a long time after Crystal Palace; that was after that period. We got the proper vert ramp, the blue one, when it wasn’t under the bridge. I guess when the Bones Brigade tour came there, everyone already knew Crystal Palace as a place because it had a vert ramp but only the locals really rode there. But then when the Bones Brigade came there everyone saw…we got introduced to the standard of real skating. After they left we started getting better quickly, because we realised we were shit [laughs]. A lot of current industry players were Crystal Palace locals. You’ve got Steve Douglas, Bod Boyle, Phil Burgoyne, Deaf Aid (Rob), Shithead (Colin Taylor). Lots of people came through; Dave Allen came there, lots of people were touched by Crystal Palace. It was a skatepark for all the London skaters who came from different parts.

We weren’t one gang of people – it was, you know, Harrow boys with Steve Douglas, Bod with the North London lot, but everyone came there and they became Crystal Palace locals. And you could ride it when it was wet because it was under the bridge. So that was where the sessions happened, it really was such a good place and you don’t get that now. Everyone rode, it didn’t matter if you were good or not really because everyone was at different levels of ability – they were all equally respected, or equally disrespected. That was the main spot, because at the time it was the only vert ramp. Everyone wanted to turn pro and a lot of people did – Bod became pro, I did, Phil did, a lot of others. It depended on what happened in your journey through skating…mine was a random journey.

Did it ever get gnarly with gangs coming through? I’ve heard some stories, and obviously London was a lot different back then.

I think a lot of people did get robbed at Crystal Palace, a lot of people got beaten up quite severely. But I’m from the area, so I never even saw that. I’m a Crystal Palace person so I knew everybody, but people did get hurt. I only discovered that people got beaten up after I stopped skating. I lived in the chaos, so I didn’t even realise. It happened, there were stories. I remember Buz got beaten up really badly, I think that hurt him personally, it was really lame. It was another thing though, that non-locals got. Me and Phil and the other locals wouldn’t get trouble from anybody, I guess just because we’re from Crystal Palace. It was a lot of confused kids, there were the skinheads, all these different confused factions warring and it did hurt some people. People got their boards stolen, Douglas got his stolen…you’ve got to know when to back down and know when to not.

So how did the Gullwing and Dogtown sponsorships come about?

I was on Vision for ages, you know. I went to the States and was like, “Yea, I’m into it – with an A-grade company, gunna make some money and gunna be killing it.” But really I was working in the factory, sorting packages to supplement the money I didn’t have [laughs]. Then I had a fight with Sean Goff. I was on angel dust, in the moment. We were in a place in the middle of nowhere, on a beach. Me and all the London boys were doing crazy things, I had an altercation with Sean, then I got thrown off Vision. Everything I worked for disappeared. I mean it wasn’t like he was stabbed, it was more scratched. It didn’t matter, but at the same time it did, because it was quite a wrong thing to do. You know, you shouldn’t really do that kind of thing and I paid the price, got thrown off all my companies, lost all my sponsorships. It was really lame on my behalf.

But that’s in the past now, I got thrown off, I went back to England. Then I was at the Wind and Surf show and Eric Dressen was also there. That ramp suited how I skated so it was a good day and through that I got picked up by Dogtown. I mean Dogtown is small, it’s basically run by Jim Muir who isn’t a big industry player, but it’s played such a part in the history of skating. Even when I got on Dogtown, I got to the airport and there was a VW Bus to put the gear in, and everyone turned up on Harley Davidsons. So I got a lift into LA on the back of a Harley which was great, one of those moments. Its rad, you can’t really imagine those moments. I mean I’m not a part of the Dogtown movement, but to get a pro board from them was great and it got me back into skating.

Back in the 80s everything was more innocent. Skateboard magazines sell an image…if you search my name on the internet, the first thing it will say is ‘Lucian Hendricks stabbed Sean Goff’. From a business point of view you could set up companies and you could make an image from that, but that’s a bit lame really. Because that’s not really what I did in skateboarding – what I did in skateboarding is ride a skateboard. If it said skateboard rider that would be great…but it’s cool, because it creates publicity. I’m just a skateboarder like everyone else. Back then, I was maybe a bit arrogant in thinking that skateboarding is about pros and what they think. But they’re not really the people that make skateboarding. Skateboarding is made by the people who ride their local parks, if they’re lucky there’ll be good riders to push their levels so it really is a grass roots thing.

I see so many young people who are going to be used by the skate industry; whether that’s Mark Gonzales, or Gator, there’s a history of skateboarders going through total sufferation, getting fucked up, sent to jail. But there’s joy stories too, look at the Gonz…

He’s still the best…

The Gonz is great! I lived on a boat with him for a bit, through the Vision connection, when I was in the US because I didn’t have anywhere to live. And he’s a heavyweight vert rider, a better vert rider than I was ever. So many rad things, he’s such a prolific rider in any scenario. I’m lucky, because I’ve seen skateboarding change over different generations into many things. Skateboarding’s got much better, I mean the riders now – Jimmy Wilkins, Sam Beckett etc…

So you reckon things have changed a lot, between the era when you started and now?

It’s totally different! If you wore Vans you were scorned, we were so uncool and dorky and rejected by everybody. That was great, because we didn’t care about anything; we were such a small group, internationally even. Everyone hated us and that was the best, because it kept us separate from everyone else and let skateboarding become rebellion. When we became decent the scene was small enough for everyone to know each other so you’d see people in magazines but you’d also meet them, you might ride with them, lose to them or win. That’s how you progress. Even now, if you’re not in America or Brazil you’re going to be lagging because those guys are killing it and that’s really what it’s about – pushing the levels.

Say people do 540 ollies. I remember when McGill did the first 540, he came to Crystal Palace and we saw that, that was the change and the beginning of the new style of riding. Now that’s basics – if you can’t do a 540 you’re fucked, you’re not gunna win anything.

Unless you were Jeff Phillips…

Yea but he was special. He could have done 540s, or anything really, but he was more radical. A good lander – landing high. When you do that layback air, tweaked out to the side and bring it back in, then an invert fakie, a Phillips 66? Oof. I’ve got a rad Jeff Phillips signed poster. Some people are just so rad.

I gave up skating because, you know, you can have a shit time and suffer when it’s your job and that’s no good if you’re not making any money. People were making McDonalds wages you know? Skateboarding’s hard, and unless you’re in America you’re not making any money. It’s not a job here, unless England gets an industry of its own. I know some companies are trying to do that, but it’s all disjointed. You need one company to unite and become a big thing, but it’s so political. Anyway, skateboarding is something that you should definitely not do for money.

After that, you started doing capoeira right?

Yea, I did capoeira after I stopped skating, and I promoted rave nights in Brixton. When I stopped skating I didn’t want to skate at all, I didn’t care about anything and I just stopped; phoned up Dogtown, all my sponsors to say “I’m stopping, goodbye”. And I’m glad I did, because I didn’t get hooked on crystal meth, I didn’t get sent to jail, I didn’t kill anybody – I didn’t get caught up in the frustration of being somebody you’re not and presenting an image that you can never fully be. So I just went to live my life which was great. It was a bit confusing when you don’t get free socks any more [laughs] but free socks aren’t that good.

So yea, I got married, had kids, and my kids got some free boards from Bod. The kids rode them, I didn’t because I didn’t really want to. When the kids got good enough to go to Stockwell they did, and I started again just because they were riding a lot. Now I’m riding more and it’s good. My kids didn’t know I was a pro skateboarder, I didn’t tell them because it doesn’t really mean anything. Now they know, one of the kids is impressed by that, one of them doesn’t give a toss [laughs]. I don’t give a toss either, it doesn’t really mean anything. The real good riders are just skateboarders, not big characters or anything, just themselves. Most of the best riders I know are so laid back and mellow. If I’d made a load of money we could have some wonderful story for this, but I didn’t and it’s great. Now they know I’m a skateboarder, it’s challenging for them in some ways – it’s lame, because they’ll have expectations on their shoulders, but it doesn’t matter. Their journey is their own. They do music a lot, they do skateboarding a lot, and they do well at school.

I never went to school because in the 80s you never had to go, that wasn’t a thing. I don’t think any 80s skateboarders went to school, while nowadays it’s a different thing. You can’t miss school, but you can be good at both worlds. You have to know the business, and be a skater, you know – I couldn’t be all those things. I don’t want to be either, but it’s good for the next generation, you finish your skate career and you’ve got something else. Which you need, with so many kids who want to be pro then so many kids are going to be disappointed and will need something else to make their money. The better things in life you know…skating’s good, but having kids is better. I skate with my kids, when I think my kids can skate vert and we can have a session, that’s so…it’s unbelievable really. I’m old, I’m 48, so you can still skate as long as you’re fit. As long as you can grind, you don’t have to be good. I’m obsessed, I have to push the boundaries. But it’s great, my kids know everybody – they’re their own selves, they don’t have to trade off the back of my name. They might be lawyers, bankers, happy people.

You mentioned skating vert – what bought around building the ramp in your garden?

I can only skate vert [laughs], I’m rubbish on anything else. Nah, I can skate a bit of street, I did some handrails when I was younger, but…I’m really shit at skating other things.

Stuntman: Seriously, when he said to me “Come out here”, then he pointed, “Right, we’re going to put it there”.  He walked out there, paced it out, and I just fucking laughed my head off. The next day I was like “Actually, yea! Yes he’s mad, but we can manage that!”

Lucian: Because me and Stuntman built the ramp on our own, it was only two people who built this vert ramp. I only know how to skate vert, so to get back into skateboarding I need a language I know. I also want my kids to ride everything. We got wood for free, the right things happened at the right time. I’d just dislocated my shoulder so I couldn’t do much, so I got all this wood and decided to start building the vert ramp. It was actually good physiotherapy for my shoulder as well. We got it together, didn’t spend money on it…

Stuntman: We went to skips, knocked on people’s doors…

Lucian: Got stuff from builders…

Stuntman: Some ‘acquired’ stuff here and there.

Lucian: I like vert skating and vert skating and pool skating are the roots of skateboarding – with slalom, and downhill, and carving. Surfers like to carve…I think I just contradicted myself totally [laughs]. The point is to get people in to vert riding – and we have kids coming through and sessioning, girls coming through and sessioning. More and more people are realising that you don’t have to be really smashing it as long as you’re enjoying your level of riding. Everyone who likes skating will notice your progressions, your small steps and that’s what it’s about. That was the idea, so we got the vert ramp together and just started skating it in the summer. It’s a shame that not a lot of people came to ride it over the summer, and because of my big mouth a lot of arguments happened between skatepark groups. I talked shit about people, so… Anyway, I got the ramp to show people that it’s a valid form of skateboarding. I knew people would get into it and enjoy it, and towards the end a lot of people – Stockwell locals, everybody – would be turning up. That’s the main thing, to get people into the language of vert skating and improve all the aspects of skating. The ramp will go somewhere else and it will reincarnate into something else because it’s about kick-starting something to happen. I think it’s done that so for me, I’m really happy; I’m happy my kids can ride vert, I’m happy everyone’s had that opportunity and we’re going to make the opportunity become a permanent fixture. You build a vert ramp and you get the people who were here today, Sam Beckett and people riding it, and that will stoke the younger people. Like today, so many people turned up because they want to ride with Sam and see his skills – which he’s got loads of.

Stuntman: Did he smash it?

Lucian: Yeah he did, but you’ve got to see it’s a dangerous ramp – you can get hurt instantly, it’s got holes in it. If you’re earning your money from skating you can’t take risks, you can’t end your career skating a shitty backyard ramp. You’ve got to keep yourself in check. This is the beginning of something else though, there’ll be a good vert ramp in London, maybe a few. All the different riders will ride strongly. Look at Danny Way for example, he’s a really strong street skater and a really strong vert skater. The summer’s been mostly me and the kids, but it’s good to have different people come through, make you try some new stuff and push your levels. I’ve seen everyone develop on the vert ramp from the first session. You can see in the first session that feeling, “I’m shitting myself, it’s fucking high up there”. When you stand on the platform it is scary, but everybody’s pushed their levels and that’s what it’s about. You can see the buzz on people’s faces when they make their handplants or whatever. A lot of people try and ride the ramp like a mini/bowl, try and kick off early, but you’ve got to wait. Let it happen late, pump slow. But yea, it’s brilliant. I really feel like mission accomplished…well no, mission unaccomplished really, but the beginning of the interest is there and that’s the important thing. That’s it I guess…riding vert is good.