Hailing from the marble playground of Milton Keynes, Rob Selley is best known for the ‘way too far ahead of his time’ ledge wizardry that was both performed and captured during his tenure on the mid-to-late 90’s incarnation of Blueprint Skateboards. His parts on the first two Blueprint and Panic joint productions ‘A Mixed Media’ (1996) and ‘Anthems’ (1998) are both brought up constantly when classic UK sections are being discussed, and with Leo Sharp on hand to photographically document Rob’s own brand of solid yet tech skateboarding, he scored himself a handful of iconic photos during the early printed years of Sidewalk – then obviously still called ‘The Sidewalk Surfer’.
Anyway, before we delve into Rob’s memory for this here Debuts, here’s a very brief history lesson in the obscure world of early 90’s printed skateboarding media, for the sake of those who may be unaware….
First rearing its head in the summer of 1993, The System was effectively the Rollersnakes backed, Nottingham based forerunner of Sidewalk, which lasted only three issues before the staff – namely Andrew Horsley and Chris Forder, with invaluable photographic input from Wig Worland and Leo Sharp – were offered the chance to take over what turned out to be the final days of the once great, TLB led RAD Magazine.
After a year of working out of an Oxfordian shed and having received little to no encouragement from the then publishers of RAD, the staff were offered another opportunity to split from their employer and join ad salesman turned publisher Jim Peskett on his new Permanent Publishing venture, establishing The Sidewalk Surfer in 1995 and releasing the first issue that winter.
It was during the trilogy of issues released by The System that a 17 year old Rob – sporting the classic rugby top, massive jeans (approximately 42” waist), brown Airwalk combo – first made his way into the world of printed skateboard coverage.
The legendary Radlands Skatepark in Northampton was barely a year old by the time this switch 360 flip sequence appeared, and the small town was obviously frequented by skaters from not only the local area, but from literally all over the country, and beyond.
“We were there (at Radlands) most days of the week actually because I was still living in Milton Keynes. We’d just get the train up all the time; no one drove then.
I don’t think it is the original Radlands layout here, because they had Tim Payne come over for the first one, and they had the concrete thing down the side, but this was much later. You had the completely pointless quarter pipe that you used to see Tom (Penny) kill. He was doing the nollie inward heel about two foot out of the top, then nose slap back in first try…I’ll never forget that shit.
Tom and Carl (Shipman) would be there quite a bit actually, doing ridiculous shit, just killing it.”
The caption accompanying the six-frame film sequence reads – A load of sequences came winging their way to us from Mr Helpful, Leo Sharp. Thanks loads. Mr Selley a long way up the roll in at Radlands sorting out a 360 switch foot flip.
“How many different ways were there to actually say ‘switch’ then? It’s hilarious isn’t it? Opposite foot, switch foot…”
Like a lot of coverage coming out of Milton Keynes and the surrounding areas back in the early 90s, the photographic end of the sequence in question is the handy work of then MK local Leo Sharp, who, on more than one occasion, had singled out Rob to help him test out new equipment, or to trial new shooting techniques.
“The best one was the kickflip off the block. ‘I just want to test this flash out, I’m not going to use it or anything’. Leo wanted to test a new flash out, for a strobe sequence or something. So I did a kickflip off the block, like the worst kickflip you’ve ever seen, and this strobe sequence ended up in RAD (laughs). I picked up the mag somewhere, was flicking through it and saw that, like ‘oh…’. They said it was switch as well (laughs).”
If you flick a few pages more in the same issue of The System, you learn that Rob had just started getting flowed product from STM, the Rollersnakes backed board brand that existed alongside The System magazine, which turned out to be Rob’s first board hook up.
“I used to buy Deathbox boards off Chris (Ince), at Radlands and before then from the shop they had at the bus station in Milton Keynes. That’s where Radlands started actually, the Ince’s had done a couple of events at the station down there, built a some ramps and that, had a couple of comps, then moved to Northampton a couple of years after that. Before that there was just the ledges and the rectangular block in the middle. Everything was super fresh.
I got those boards (STM) for a little while. I remember Jeremy (Fox) being like ‘are you sure they’re alright giving you these boards?’ because they were just blanks weren’t they? That just fizzled out then Blueprint came along after. I was on Panic for a bit first actually, then Blueprint started up.”
The second issue of The System draws to an eventual close with a photo of Carl Shipman switch tailsliding one of Milton Keyne’s famous double kinked hubbas, accompanied by the following caption:
Milton Keynes has featured quite a lot throughout issue 2 and will definitely stay one of our favourite places to visit, look out for a full scene report soon. Here Carl Shipman pulls a halfnab tailslide out of his hat and whacks it down the double kinker at MK.
Followed quickly by this sterling piece of 1993 travel advice:
You should definitely pay MK a visit, even if you live in Iceland.
Thanks to James Bush, Kieran Wilcox and the pool table at MK11 Kiln Farm for the interview assistance.