Harrogate was once voted the ‘happiest town’ to live in, in the UK. Is everyone walking around with huge grins on their faces and overdosing on Betty’s tea and finger sandwiches?
To be honest, that’s pretty much exactly what people do there. It’s a simple place. I hate that question.
I still have to go there to work in a cafe in Valley Gardens and actually serve tea and finger sandwiches: very little good vibes in Harrogate. When there was a big skate scene it was awesome. There are still loads of younger guys ripping, but everyone I grew up skating with has now left.
Let’s get some of the essential info from you – age, when you started skating and why, where you live now and why the move etc.
I’m 21. I was never sure when I properly started skating, but there is a photo of me on a skateboard on my drive from 2002. I didn’t really get into it until 2005/6. That’s when I started trying to skate street and the weekend trips to the skatepark with my parents stopped. I remember getting really angry as a kid over the fact that I was too young to skate street.
How old did you have to be before you could hit the streets?
I wanted to skate street when I was 11 but I was only allowed to do it near my house. So I started to sneak down to Gas Works (abandoned factory spot/DIY spot in Harrogate) at about 10am with this guy called Ed. I’d stay there all day until I had to be home and as Gas Works was pretty hidden away, I thought that once I was there, nobody was able to see me.
What was the scene in Harrogate like when you started? The glory days of ‘Gas Works’ seem so long ago to me now.
The step up days! The summers when there were 20 people skating there everyday…they were the best! I totally agree that they were the glory days. I feel like that place was better for the Harrogate scene than the skatepark is. Those were the days when I would try and copy Liam Hobson, (laughing).
For such a large town, it took a while for Harrogate to get a skatepark. Do you think it’s helped the local scene?
It’s a weird one for me. Obviously a skatepark is a good thing for the town, but everyone went from skating Gas Works and then heading out to other street spots, to staying at the skatepark all day, everyday. It became a challenge to get people to be productive.
I know everyone park has their own ‘scooter kids’ problem, but it feels like it is a lot worse at in Harrogate. You get kids using the ramps as slides while the parents watch on from a distance and smile. It’s often hard to get a good session in, especially on a weekend.
Yeah it’s horrible. I had the worse injury I’ve ever had due to a scooter kid getting in the way. All I did was frontside half cab over the hip.
So you’ve just moved into a house in Leeds a few weeks ago. Stoked to have you just down the road now! What brought on the move?
I was just over it. I was coming to Leeds to skate as much as I could for the last two years and I talked about moving a lot. I scraped some money together and luckily found some friends to live with. I’m yet to find work in Leeds and unsure where I’ll be living in 6 months, but I’m sure that I’ll blag it, (laughs).
It feels like you’ve been shooting photos with ‘Ice Man’ Reece Leung for longer than I can remember. I can’t imagine that process being stressful at all considering how laid back he is. Or are the vicious “one more” rumours as bad as they say?
(Laughs), it’s not at all true! I remember the time when I tried to skate that handrail near your old place in town. It had this shitty ninety-degree run up and Reece took such a dope photo. He was really good at persuading me to try it and even though I didn’t get that one, it’s rad to know that he’s hyped on the trick!
He’s a good motivator, plus his photos are banging.
That’s the thing, if you get close to landing the trick and Reece gets a good photo, he definitely gets you hyped to land it. This one time, I was trying a front rock on a bank to rail in Sheffield for ages. Ice Man got the photo pretty quickly, but then he kept me hyped and filmed me for what felt like hours!
I’ll never forget that slam you took on the Tech College handrails. I think it’s the only time I’ve been out filming and someone has slammed and literally everyone in the street has stopped still and gone quiet. You’ve always seemed like you enjoy the odd slam or two, but that one didn’t look like too much fun…
It fucking sucked so badly. I remember doing the back board pretty comfortably so I was hyped to try the bluntslide. The first one I went for I managed to slam straight to flat. I’m pretty sure I landed on a kerb or my board or something because my side was fucked. Hitting the ground that hard is crazy. I lacerated my kidney that day, (laughing).
You went for a beer and some food after the slam and it seemed like you were fine. Then I got a text from you at like 1am saying that you were pissing blood.
Yeah I fully chilled out that night too. Then I woke up the morning after and was still pissing blood, so I walked to hospital shortly after that.
A different time, I managed to ruin my ACL and damage some cartilage. That was the worst one. I didn’t skate for a year due to repeatedly hurting it again and again. I had surgery and then should have rested, but didn’t. So eventually I totally ruined it and when they replaced my ACL I had to do a year of physio before I could get back to skateboarding. Every morning I was doing squats. I’d never really done anything but skate, so it was a weird couple of years for me.
Skateboarding doesn’t pay the bills or keep you busy on a rainy Yorkshire evening. So away from it, what do you get up to?
I pretty much sit about listening to a lot of music. I’ve been in a band with my mates Lloyd and Tom for a few years now and it’s really made me get back into finding new music. The band is called ‘Bad Manifest’ and it all started out as jamming with some skater mates when it was raining. Four years later, here we are! Those dudes are the best and I’m really stoked on the record that we’ve nearly finished. If you like weird punk music, give us a listen! Apart from that, I’m always keen to try and skate a car park or two if other people are keen!
These days I’d say you definitely prefer the wallie/polejam/no comply style of skateboarding, but it wasn’t always like that was it? Tell us about your YouTube videos filmed in your garage. Chris Parsons and I always enjoyed watching those. Are they still online?
(Laughing). Yes! Stoked that you brought this up! It’s so funny to look back on. I’ve never taken them down so I reckon they can be found somewhere. When I was younger I didn’t have any obstacles to skate, so I just skated flat land in the garage. Practicing varial double flips for hours in there!
Do you therefore think that makes you the original, but far less talented, Joe Moore?
(Laughs), I guess it does. Joe Moore kills it! I always blew the filming and would always ride straight in to the garage door after landing a trick.
Nowadays, whose name are you typing into YouTube before you head out skating?
Recently I’ve just been rinsing my DVDs. Obviously ‘Vase’ has been on repeat and I thoroughly enjoy, ‘It’s a Secret’ or Jerry Hsu and Louie Barletta’s shared ‘Subject to Change’ part. However, if I’m skating all day, I’ll wake up and watch the 88 Footwear video ‘Destroy Everything Now’ – that video was one of the first full skate videos I watched and everything about it gets me so stoked!
Obviously you’re just settling down properly in Leeds, but what are your plans for the next year or so?
Just to get the Welcome Skate Store video done! I’ve got to figure out how to survive in Leeds and then find a steady crew of people to live with for a few years. I’ll probably just piss about some more if I’m being honest about it.