Sidewalk Skateboarding Reiss Johnson - First Light - Sidewalk Skateboarding

To start things off for those of us who maybe don’t know already, how old are you and where are you from?

I’m 22 years old and from Stockport, which is just outside of Manchester.

Being known primarily as your affinity with vert, can you tell us how you first discovered skateboarding and why you honed in on large-scale transition rather than street?

I’m the old cliché of my parents buying me an Argos jump ramp for my 9th birthday. I wasn’t any good on my BMX so I turned to an old fishtail I had bought at a car boot a few years earlier and have never stopped since!
From there my parents would take me to The Bones Skatepark on a Sunday where I started to get hooked. I had seen people like Ali Cairns, Andy Scott, Wingy and Dave Allen skating at the Red Bull Vert Sessions around this time so as I started to go more often and go on my own I took a liking to the vert ramp and bowl that were at Bones. The kids I hung around with preferred to skate transition so I guess I just got into that too. Shortly after this, the vert got cut down and so I had a hiatus from vert until Ramp City in Blackpool opened a while later.

Despite there being a reasonable living to be made from competition on an international stage for vert skaters, you chosen a path outside of skateboarding in order to earn your crust. Can you tell us about you recent employment, outline what it is you do day to day and what it took to get to that point?

Obviously I’d love to be able to ride a skateboard for a living and I agree that going down the vert path is probably one of the easier ones to take. But to do that you have to be a super-talented skateboarder, which I’d argue I’m not. Also I don’t think I could hack the uncertainty of it all really. I’ve done the whole ‘working in skateboarding’ thing, sales, skate shop and when you’ve had a rough day in the office all you want to do is go for a skate. I’ve always found this hard to do when you’ve been talking about and hanging around skateboards all day.

I’ve just started a new job as a Software Developer; I’ve always been interested in tech and my Dad’s worked in it all his life so I guess it was only a matter of time. I read an article about web development boot camps in America and how people were going into jobs as Junior Developers in Silicon Valley. I found an online boot camp here in England that promised to take you from little to no knowledge of Software Engineering to helping you get your first job role in 4 months. So I spent four months in my basement coding and got a job within six weeks of graduating. Absolutely stoked! I work for a small software house here in Manchester, and spend my days writing code for a massive corporate platform we look after. It’s funny because it’s a lot like skateboarding in the sense that you never really feel like you’re any good at it. I’ll spend all day coding not being able to get a test to pass, getting the same red error message all day and then I’ll finally fix the problem and get a green passing test. It’s just like landing a trick you’ve been trying all day – only then to get it done and move onto the next thing.

With work now taking up so much of your time do you still not bat an eyelid at an eight hour round trip to skate a ramp or are you trying to keep things more local as things now fit in around work?

To be honest the company I work for is dope, we have offices in town, there are only four of us at the moment and usually it’s a pretty chilling 9-5 day, meaning I can walk outside my office and go for a skate straight away! But, I am always down for an eight-hour mission too! I went to NASS a few weeks ago and as harrowing as that festival can be it was rad to catch up with everyone. I think the whole eight-hour mission is part of the vert parcel really. There are so few available ramps that you’ll easily find yourself spending all day Sunday driving to where the session is.

Proper concrete deserves a proper backside boneless - Photo Chris Johnson

Proper concrete deserves a proper backside boneless - Photo Chris Johnson

How much of an influence and guiding hand has Wingy been over the years?

Ah the Wingman! Yeah he’s a right knob! Nah he’s a legend! I first met him at Blackpool around 2010. Yeah his influence has definitely been a massive thing for me in skating. He’s always sorted me out with pads, helmets and shoes… He gave me a job for a year working for his agency, he’s pretty much the sole reason I ride for Pro-Tec and most of the people I’ve ever met in Skateboarding, I’ve met through him. He’s told me what to do and what not to do. He lives 2 minutes from my house, we hang out or skate around 4 times a week. He’s just an awesome human, has an amazing wife and kids, he’s one of my closest friends. He’s also taught me the art of moaning which I’ll be ever grateful for… I know he wouldn’t expect me to thank him for everything but I’m going to anyway. Thank you Wingy!

Tell us about sponsorship. What does sponsorship mean to a UK vert skater who’s living in the UK and to some extent living a normal life alongside it all? Are there obligations or like most things within the UK vert scene it’s a case of being super motivated anyway as that’s realistically what it takes to get a skate in with the lack of terrain.

There are far too many kids that worry about getting sponsored rather than standing on their skateboard and having fun. When someone is good enough to get sponsored it just happens. There is nothing worse than people chasing after some crap clothing brand because they feel the need to be sponsored. I see ultra-talented kids with like 10 different sponsors all for awful companies that I’ve never even heard of. I know sometimes the parents are at fault, but honestly kids need to slow down. Go to your local skate shop and support them. Buy boards and shoes from them and after a few years once they see you’re dedicated to skateboarding and the local scene they’re more than likely to look after you with discount or boards or whatever. Or keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll get noticed or an older skateboarder will put a good word in. In terms of obligation I guess it goes without saying. If someone is willing to give you free stuff then you should do your upmost best to repay that favour with footage or going to comps or whatever. Just try and get coverage I guess.

Looking at Dave Allen’s Insta and a few photos that have been doing the rounds elsewhere, St Neots vert ramp has a new Skatelite surface. How is it to be able to escape the dark corners of an ex-factory building and get the summer vibes flowing in the fresh air? It must be a rarity for the UK scene?

Yeah so for those that don’t know, the Ardwick Beast Ramps vert ramp is back in use as the park recently re-opened too. It’s an amazing ramp and we have really good sessions there, but yep, it’s ace to be able to ride an outdoor ramp for sure. St Neots is perfect for it when the weather is good. It’s pretty much the same as Pete King’s ramp, it’s ultra fast due to the new Skatelite and it’s in a really nice picturesque place! The UK rarely gets an outdoor ramp so it’s dope to have St Neots; it’s worth the drive! Southsea has just gotten Pete’s ramp full time too, which will be well worth a trip.

So where is vert skating going in Britain and who should we be looking out for as far as up and coming riders go?

I’m not really sure about this one… Vert Skating at the moment in the UK is good but the contests don’t seem to have the same feel anymore. It used to be you’d see everyone throughout the series and at Nass, Boardmasters etc, but the turnout hasn’t been that great of late. It doesn’t help that Boardmasters no longer have the Vert there. It seems to be a bit more about the sessions now really, which is probably a good thing actually. I spent a lot of the winter at Corby skating with everyone. It’s been the same this summer with St Neots. It’s been great skating with Dave Allen since he’s been back from the US. We have some really good up and comers like Finley Kirkby and Alex Griffiths. They’re really sound lads and do their own thing without following the trends; they kill it too!

With Sam Beckett coming up through the UK Vert ranks over the past decade and seeing the international success is having (a Pro board on Blind and Winning X-Games Vert this year) do you think the ‘youth on the up’ have these kind of goals in their sights? 

Oh man Beckett winning the X games, how fucking rad was that? Amazing. I mean we can produce individuals like that, yet the nation is more bothered about some footy tournament that we lose in the second round? It’s embarrassing.  Hopefully that will change with skating going in the Olympics, other people need to realise that we can actually good at something. I wouldn’t just say it stops there either. It’s the same with BMX with Jamie Bestwick, Simon Tabron etc. Those guys are still at the top of their game all these years on. Local council’s need to help get kids involved with these alternatives. Although we have kids like Finley and Alex who will more than likely be Olympic contenders, there’s thousands of kids out there that probably have the capacity to be just as good, yet they’ll never get any exposure to skateboarding because they don’t know it’s a thing. I mean Beckett winning the most prestigious action sports competition in the world. Why isn’t that front-page news?

What does the future of skateboarding hold for you personally? Are you planning to be the 40-50 year old dude still doing the eight-hour mission on a Sunday?

For me, I owe skateboarding my life. I hope I can be as old as Wingy and Dave (subtle old-age reference yet they’ll see it and get annoyed ha ha) and still be ripping as hard as they are, for sure I’ll still be there travelling to get to the session even if it’s just to see everyone. I hope to keep skating until my body can’t take it anymore; if I go a few days or a week even without skating I start to lose my mind. Grosso is right when he says it’s like a drug. I need that feeling; I need to be able to forget about the day’s bullshit and just skate. I hope to keep going to events that the UK and beyond has to offer and I hope to keep meeting as many amazing people as I already have!

Finally, is there anyone you’d like to give thanks to?

My Mum and Dad for buying me that first ramp and driving me around skating for years! As well as my little sis Millie and big sis Mel. Wingy for everything. Tez and Harry at the Black Sheep for looking after me, as well as fellow sheep Stu Reynolds, Nick Stannerz, Sexual Stu and the rest of the team! Daz and Mike for putting me on Heathen. Lewis Threadgold. Carl and Woody for hooking me up with Dickies and being all round stellar dudes. Alan Glass at Shiner. Doug Nelson, Matt Leese, Andy Scott, Jon Nixon, Dave Allen, Jimmy Langran. Sam Parker, Woolfie, all the OG Bones crew and the LKIG boys. All you guys at Sidewalk! Manchester, Stockport and anyone else I forgot!