Introduce yourself Roon…
My name’s Robert, I’m 18 and I’m from a little village called Meltham near Huddersfield. I was born in Birmingham though, and at that time my dad worked away a lot – he ended up going to do a job in Huddersfield, decided that he really liked it there and so we ended up moving from Brum to Huddersfield when I was really young…
Can you remember anything about living in Birmingham?
Nah, not really: I just remember it being quite sketchy in Bordesley Green where we were and hearing about people getting stabbed nearly every day. That was the reason that my dad decided that we needed to move to Yorkshire…
I wasn’t even really allowed to leave the house as a kid. My dad would search the garden everyday for needles and stuff because our house was right next to an alleyway where junkies would go to shoot up…
So you went from being a little kid in an inner city area to living in a tiny rural village? Describe Meltham to us…
It’s pretty much the epitome of the ‘middle of nowhere’. I look out of my back windows and there are just farms and fields with cows in them. Traditional ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ type Yorkshire shit really. I’ve always lived in the same house since moving here and started skating because my next door neighbour was into it. I’d just copy whatever he did – he did karate, so I’d do karate. He got a skateboard, so I got one, etc.
You were really young when you started skating though weren’t you?
Sort of, but I was kind of ‘into skating’ before I actually skated. I’d go into Wisdom in Leeds every weekend with my mum and buy skate magazines and that from the age of about 7 but I didn’t actually start physically skating until I was 10. I was one of those kids who’d play Tony Hawk’s all the time and knew who pros were and stuff but didn’t actually have a board. Then as I say, my neighbour Wooley who I used to play football with got a board, so I got one as well so we’d still have something to do together. He still skates as well actually. He still lives next door to me too…
We’ve discussed this before but we probably ought to bring it up again – tell us about “the helmet”.
(Laughing), well I had to wear a helmet when I first started because my dad was scared that I’d hurt myself as I’d already cracked my head open once as a kid falling off a shed. He was proper para about me falling on my head because of that so once I got the board it was basically a case of, ‘you don’t have to wear any pads but you have to wear a helmet when you’re skateboarding’.
I wore it for four years, every single time I went out skating. I was probably just about to turn 14 when I retired the helmet.
Did you have a ‘retiring the helmet’ ceremony?
I used to go out wearing it sometimes and then hide it in a bush because obviously it felt way better skating without it on, (laughing). Then one day, I forgot to get it out of the bush on the way home and when I got in my dad asked, “where’s your helmet?” So I just manned up and came out to him there and then, like, ‘I don’t wear it any more Dad…’ Virtually a week after that I started riding for Endemic… “I can’t sponsor a kid who wears a helmet to skate street.” (Laughing).
So let me get this straight – say you’re 11 and you’re going into Huddersfield on the bus to go skating – were you wearing your helmet?
Yeah, (laughter from everyone), totally – I’d be sat on the bus with it on. I’d never take it off. The helmet that I used to wear had flames on it too, like a bike helmet; I managed to leave that at home one day and so when we got to wherever we were going to I was like, “What am I going to do? I’m not allowed to skate without my helmet…” My mate Ben Bostock said he had one that I could borrow, so we went to his house and got it and it was way sicker than my one. It had Globe stickers all over it. I ‘borrowed it’ for that day and just kinda stole it because it was way cooler than mine.
There’s a fair bit of footage of you on the Internet in the helmet too isn’t there?
(Laughs), yeah – at least one full section, from the first Bangers & Mash video. Ollieing Playhouse stairs in Leeds in a helmet, lines with the helmet: I think there’s only one trick where I’m not wearing it.
How early on did you meet Andy (Wood) who owns Endemic?
Straight away really because he worked in Wisdom before Endemic even existed: Andy remembers me going in there as a really tiny 8-year-old kid in a Quiksilver t-shirt and staring at magazines even though I didn’t skate. The first video I ever saw was probably Extremely Sorry or Stay Gold – so maybe 2009 or something but I was reading magazines and playing skate games for a good few years before that.
Are you still psycho with keeping up on skate stuff these days? Are you a fiend for Internet skateboarding?
Definitely. I went into the shop this morning and the first thing I did was go onto the computer to watch new stuff.
A lot of older skaters complain that the Internet has ruined skating; what does someone of your generation think of that?
I dunno. I think it depends on how you look at it. From an outsider point of view it’s good really because all that video of skating that’s out there brings new people into it. But then, on the other hand from the skater’s point of view, it does blow it out too much. I might only be 18 but I still understand why skaters prefer the whole thing to be more underground and not for the public.
Have you ever known skateboarding to be ‘underground’? You’re not old enough are you?
Nah not really: when I was really young is seemed as if it was still underground as you’d still get shouted at by people in street; or have beers thrown at you. These days I guess skateboarding is ‘cool’ to most people: you get girls from doing it, (laughs)…
When I was a kid, girls that didn’t actually skate couldn’t give a toss about skateboarding but your generation is riding the Cherry wave, right?
(Laughing), yeah it’s banging for us. Straight on Tinder, say you’re a skateboarder – boom! Bare matches. I even say I’m a professional skateboarder on there, just to hype it a bit more. My main pictures on Tinder are me ollieing a big road gap, a steezy push…
Manhead: You don’t push like that!
Yeah well, it looks more arty doesn’t it? There’s a Ralphy photo in there too, with the fingers-in-front-of-face thing, a moody lifestyle one…
Manhead: Did you start smoking purely for Tinder then?
Which photo gets the most attention?
The one of me life-styling with Alan Glass in the background: “Is that your dad?” (Laughing).
Ryan Gray: (Reading from Rooney’s Tinder profile) “I am a professional skateboarder, buy me some alcohol and I’ll consider anything…”
Manhead: (High-fives Rooney) – that’s some powerful Tinder right there. Even if you have lied about your age…
Going back to similar topics – what’s with this shit (mimics that hand-in-front-of-face thing that everyone does in selfies) – what does that mean?
You told you me what it means – it’s a Japanese thing isn’t it? Doesn’t it mean, “I’m a cute girl” or something? (Laughing), that’s pretty funny really as we’re all doing it too look moody and gangster but really it’s some cutesy thing. To be fair, what more could I want? I am a cute Japanese girl.
So talk us through your daily iPhone routine: how much of your life is tied up with staring into your phone?
Honestly, about 80% of each day, (laughs). I’ll wake up, go on Facebook; have a search through the news feed. Then I’ll go on The Basement and see what people are selling…
What’s ‘The Basement’?
It’s a Facebook group where people buy and sell Supreme stuff. After that I’ll have a look at new skate videos, then go on Instagram and scroll through till I get to the last photo I saw last night – lurk on some fit girl’s accounts and that. Get onto Snapchat and look at everyone’s ‘story’ – there’s always that dickhead who’s got like 900 minute’s worth on there. That’s pretty much it. I’ll do that twice every morning before I go to work – once when I wake up, then again when I’m having my breakfast. Usually have a quick Tinder lurk whilst I’m eating my breakfast as well – throw out a load of swipes to keep the engine running, you know?
What’s the ratio between: watching skate videos, trying to buy Supreme gear and trying to have sex?
I’d probably say 80% trying to get laid, 10% skate videos, 10% Supreme lurking.
Tell us about what you do for work.
I’m training to be a plumber. I left school at 15 and went straight into an apprenticeship pretty much. I sorted out my job placement before I left school.
Why did you pick plumbing?
It’s good money, it’s a trade and you get to see inside people’s houses all the time.
It just seemed like a good job to go after – I like hands-on stuff too so it made sense.
What’s an average day at work?
It normally starts about 7.45am – depending on what jobs we’ve got on. Some days we might end up going over to Manchester to do a big job, other times it might be something more local. Boiler swaps, big installations, all kinds of stuff. We occasionally do work for businesses but generally it’s domestic stuff in people’s houses.
Have you got any funny stories from being out working?
The funniest one was probably when we were over in Manchester unblocking a drain in this woman’s kitchen. We went in and she was there with her mate, both in yoga pants, just like the fittest women I’d ever seen. I kinda made it so that my boss was doing the unblocking and I was just handing him the tools but I got so mesmerized with staring at her bum that he’d be repeatedly going “Robert! Robert! Robert!” (Laughing).
What about seeing grim stuff?
Yeah there’s that side to it as well because we do work in a lot of rented properties in areas that aren’t that nice. I’ve been in some pretty grim junkie houses where there have been syringes all over the floor. I went into one recently where the toilet had stopped working and the guy who lived there had just started shitting on the floor. That was dirty as fuck. We were there to fix the bog, it was something and nothing, just that the diaphragm that makes the flush work had torn, like a 5 minute job to replace it – but the guy had just decided to crap all over his bathroom instead.
You enjoy the job though, right?
Yeah absolutely – there is a real sense of accomplishment when you’ve done a good job, or fixed something for someone and they’re all happy. It’s good. In a couple of years I should have all my certificates for solar and for gas so I should be sorted for life. I’d recommend it as a career to anyone who was like me at school and wasn’t really too academic for sure.
It’s probably worth mentioning that all these photos have been shot whilst you’re working 50-hour (or more) weeks, right? Where’s the motivation to throw your self around come from?
I’ve not really had to miss any days off work from hurting myself skating yet, and my boss is pretty understanding about me doing it – he knows skating is important to me so really, I just skate and do what I want. I don’t really think of work as getting in the way to be honest.
What’s the least pleasurable aspect of being a plumber?
Unblocking drains – that’s the worst thing easily: toilets and drains. Changing soil stacks is pretty grim, that’s the pipe that goes from your toilet and takes all the waste to the sewers: I never look forward to that one. I’ve been in a situation before where we’ve taken the soil pipe out and then someone has gone and flushed the toilet after we’ve said not to.
Have you ever got covered in sewage because of that?
Not yet no, my boss has though. I’m pretty scared of it happening so I make sure I’m absolutely nowhere near the flush pipe when we’re doing that job. I’ve seen my boss get covered in shitty water once, I learned from that. He was fuming.
Ryan: Who’s the most famous skater that you’ve shared a cigarette and ‘life-styled’ with? Sean Pablo?
I actually went to the shop for Pablo in Manchester because he was too young to buy any tabs. (Laughing). We bro’d down…
Did you switch your steeze up because of Cherry?
Okay, yeah, maybe a little bit. I was massively into Geoff Rowley when I was just a fetus. I actually met him in Endemic when I was about 11 I think, there’s a funny picture circulating on Instagram of him and me – I look like a proper baby in it. Rowley was the first-ever pro skater that I saw because Extremely Sorry was the first video I watched, plus he was British so I was hyped on him. After that, people like Reynolds I suppose because I was that kid who liked jumping down stairs and all that. Then Cherry came out and I guess it did influence me, but so what? I’m 18, of course I’m going to try and look cool.
Tell us about what we did yesterday.
Well basically, you lot turned up with a tin bath and a costume and I dressed up as Compo from Last of the Summer Wine and then bombed down a load of country roads with a cruiser board duct taped to the bottom of the bath. It’s funny because that idea initially came up when Andy (Wood – owner of Endemic), Ben and me were in the pub the other week. It started as a joke, we were discussing ideas for a portrait and it was either me dressing up as a Hobbit, or as Compo. It just kinda developed from there…
It worked out pretty well really I think…
Yeah it was hilarious. Thing is we shot the photo in Holmfirth where Last of the Summer Wine was actually filmed so people would be driving past us as we were setting the photo up and just pissing themselves because they all knew exactly what we were doing. Compo kills it. I’m honoured to rep him. It was pretty 9-club going down the hill. I jumped out of the bath going about 20mph and I was wearing your wellies that are 5 sizes too big – got speed wobble, jumped out and slipped on a load of horse manure. Well rural, (laughing).
What’s the scene like in Huddersfield these days? It’s pretty active isn’t it?
Yeah people are well keen: Kieran always smashes it, Frank – he’s someone to watch out for. He skates so fast, he used to rinse Dougy’s sections when he was a kid so he’s got that Dougy thing – going as fast as possible and concentrating on style. Then you’ve got Rory, he works in Endemic now – he’s getting really good.
Who’s your favourite Huddersfield skate legend?
Probably Man (Paul Silvester). The king of switch – the real #switchgod
Then there’s Felix (Owusu-Kwarteng) as well obviously. He’s just the best guy to go skating with, he’s probably been skating 30 years longer than I’ve been alive: still repping the yellow Endemic hoody, still missioning to every event in the UK. When you go skating with Felix, you know you’re going to have a good time because of the energy he gives off.
He’s definitely one of a kind though as it’s not that unusual these days to have people of Felix’s generation still skating, but I can’t think of many other 50 year olds who are still down to jump in a car or on the train and go on a mission regularly.
Yeah totally, he comes out street skating with us as well. We randomly bumped into each other recently – I was on my way to Sheffield to go check out the new bowl at The House and when I changed trains at Leeds Felix was just stood there on his own. “Oh you’re going to check The House bowl as well Rooney?” So sick man, proper solo-mission. He’s a really good poet and musician as well. I went to his 50th birthday and he was reciting all these mad poems in this crazy mask whilst playing the guitar. What a beast.
So you recently went on your first proper ‘skate tour’ for Bones Wheels. Who was the biggest knobhead on it – you, Luke McManus or Charlie (Birch)?
I’d probably put us all on an equal pegging. I think we all drove Alan (Glass) mental really but, having said that, I actually did some tricks, (laughing). We were being nightmares I suppose, especially with it being straight after NASS so we’d just be blasting horrible Drum & Bass in the van 24-7. By the end of it Alan looked like he was dying.
That’s your first experience of the ‘responsibility’ side of being sponsored though, isn’t it?
Yeah, it was cool. I quite like that, “you have to do it now because we’re leaving in 20 minutes” pressure. It’s not that different from my normal experience of skating anyway because of me having a job – as in, I have limited opportunities to do tricks normally.
Had you seen Korahn skate in the flesh much before that tour?
Only at comps really, obviously I’ve watched all his sections before but seeing him in person do like 5 frontside halfcab flips down stairs in a row was pretty mental. Korahn’s that good that he’ll say something like “Oh, I’ll do it again because I want my foot to look like this when I catch the board”. Then he’ll do the trick again and it’ll look exactly like he said in the photo – crazy. It was definitely eye opening to see how good he actually is in real life: board control x a million.
You’re keen for more of that stuff though right? For a young kid you do take being sponsored fairly seriously…
Yeah I’m keen to pursue it. I’ll get my plumbing qualifications done first then see where I can take skating.
Is there anything else that we should talk about? Or anything we’ve missed?
Nah I don’t think so – I’m only young, I don’t have much more to chat about really. Can I say thanks to some people?
Yeah go ahead.
I want to give massive thanks to Jerome Loughran and everyone at Out of Step, Alan Glass and everyone at Shiner, Andy Wood from Endemic and a massive thank you to my mum and dad. Family first!
Also massive thanks to Horsley for trekking like a 100 miles to buy a tin bath off some sketchy guy and then driving into the middle of nowhere to find, “the perfect Compo hill.” Also to all of the people that have helped me get this Haunts done.
Massive big ups to Alan and Jerome for the product – thank you for everything you do for me! And a massive thanks to Andy for always being there and having the best shop in the UK.