I first met Alex a couple of years back in an abandoned mill at the arse end of a Nottingham industrial estate. He was busy clearing the run up to a sketchy wall ride, sweeping twenty year’s worth of rancid pigeon shit and decay from the floor of the unventilated room directly into his unprotected lungs. It was clear I was in the presence of someone special. Alex has a loose approach to health and safety. Maybe this comes from spending his formative years shredding vert with some of the gnarliest skaters on the British scene or maybe he inherited some kind of danger gene from his folks.
Whatever, he’s developed a casual, carefree style of his own and hits the big ramps with a degree of nonchalance more suitable to a Sunday evening kerb session down Lidl. Many a weird and wonderful trick has been spawned from his unwillingness to kick away when things go tits-up (he is the king of the ankle-breaker and all its variations) and many terrifying and spectacular slams could have been averted if not for his obsessive need to keep the board under his feet at all costs. He is a crowd pleaser and his constant energy, enthusiasm and positivity both on and off the board is infectious. This and his massive bag of tricks have made him a popular fixture at contests both at home and around Europe over recent years. Only last month he came back from a Vans comp in Italy with second prize, an oversized cheque for X amount of Euros and a raging pizza hangover. Well done Alex!
Try not to spend it all on space cakes and novelty hats.
From Sidewalk 213 – June 2014 – Intro & interview by Neil Turner.
How did you originally get into skating vert?
I always enjoyed mini ramp, I got into skating vert through my father and Derby Storm skatepark. I always wanted to skate the biggest ramp I could find and the nearest was at Storm. We didn’t have an indoor park in Notts. It blew me away when I first saw it, ended up dropping in on it and loved it from then on.
First vert ramp I dropped in on I was about 11 years old. I ate shit doing a frontside air on it and didn’t try them again for another 4 years or so. Ha!
First vert ramp I dropped in on I was about 11 years old. I ate shit doing a frontside air on it and didn’t try them again for another 4 years
I heard your dad forced you to get gnarly and kicked you into the ramp, is that correct?
Ha! Yeah that video has only just surfaced now but it was me 15 years ago. He called me a pussy every now and then but sometimes you need a kick up the arse. He was cool, he knows I like to slam hard and get f*cked up so I appreciated the encouragement! He skated a bit and he’s a kite surfer so he understands the culture of getting gnarly. Obviously he doesn’t like to see me get hurt and smash my head without a helmet and all that stuff though. He’s not one of those dads that would push you so hard that it makes you hate skateboarding, he knows I love it and I’m grateful for his support.
You must have met a lot of rad dads over the years and seen some dodgy parenting techniques on the vert circuit though, right?
All the dudes I used to skate with had amazing parents, Sam Beckett and those bods. Some of the younger kids had some weird parents, overly keen, putting the pressure on and not understanding skateboarding. Taking the fun out of it. I won’t name any names though.
Who did you skate with growing up? Did it isolate you being a ramp dog?
No, I would skate the rad local mini ramp at Lady Bay (r.i.p) everyone was into skating it. I’d skate with guys the same age and some of the slightly older guys like Nathan and Jim and the crew who’d get f*cked up and take the piss out of me. As I got slightly older my dad’s friend Ken who skates used to drive me and my mate Nick to Corby and Birmingham and we’d have big vert sessions. In Birmingham the sessions are still going on a Monday and a Wednesday night, I still go when I can and skate Corby with Pete King, Beckett, Nick, Ken and a load of others.
How did you get so good so quick? Who were you learning from?
Just watching everyone at the sessions. My main influence was probably Nick Hanson, skating with him from a young age and just pushing each other. We are on a level. I met him when he was 10 and I was 12. We’d skate vert twice a week, until I got a van when I was 17 then we’d rinse it and go all the time. Spend tons of cash going on missions.
Tell people why they should get some pads and start skating vert.
I’ll tell you what, nothing, and I mean NOTHING is better than learning to air on a vert ramp! The feeling of weightlessness is amazing. I promise you, the minute you learn airs on vert you’ll be hooked. Get some pads and explore it. I think it’s good for your skating generally. After you’ve fallen to flat on a twelve foot vert ramp nothing looks quite as big.
Why aren’t you on the vert scene so much any more?
I haven’t got a car and there is no vert ramp in Nottingham, that and being busy with work so I have less time to travel. I still love it. I wish I could skate vert more. If there was one down the road I’d skate it everyday. We’ve got an amazing bowl locally in Clifton now so I’ve been hitting that up more than anything else.
I want to skate some bigger rails and get gnarly
You seem to skate street a lot these days too though…
It’s just a different way of skating. All my mates skate street as well so I have to skate street if I want to stay in the loop! But it does make you a better skater if you try and skate everything. I want to skate some bigger rails and get gnarly.
Notts has a deep skateboard history, what are your earliest memories of skating there?
At the age of 7 or 8 walking through the old Market Square seeing all the craziness happening, so many skaters and mayhem. I didn’t know what was going on but I wanted to get involved. I never got to skate the old Market Square.
What are your favourite OG Notts spots?
Got to be Broady banks: amazing spot, oh and the red brick banks at Trent Uni.
All bank spots. They were my transition to street skating.
What about the best tricks to happen in Notts that you’ve witnessed?
So much! I don’t know. Everything. My mate Tom constantly skates hard. He shifty ollied the big 3 at Sneinton first go for laughs when it was first being built. That was a good one. I obviously always get stoked on Nick’s skating. The ollie he did off the electric box that was in Sidewalk. He’d been talking about it since birth because it’s right next to his house. Big drop, zero run up, having to avoid lamp posts, blind bumps and tram tracks on the landing.
You’ve been ripping for a while now, why haven’t I seen much footage or many photos of you until recently?
Dunno. I had no reason to really. Now I’ve got more friends that film and take photos and I’ve been motivated to promote the shop. Meeting Andy Evans and him being stoked on my skating encouraged me as well. I love skating whether there’s a camera pointed in my direction or not.
Do filming/photos influence your skating?
Watching videos definitely influences my skating. When I’m being filmed I just tend to do what I want to, I didn’t grow up with it being a part of my life so I’m not bothered. I guess it’s good to document some gnarly stuff before you die.
How was it working at Flo skatepark?
Good times, unfortunately it’s closed down now, which is a shame because I loved skating it and Nottingham really needs an indoor park. I had access to loads of perfect transitions whatever the weather so that was amazing.
It was rad having the UKSA Champs there too, everyone was down and killing it. Good for the scene. It was fun while it lasted.
Did you have to deal with any gnarly injuries or anything?
A few knocked out heads and a broken arm. I didn’t have to deal with anything too serious fortunately. There were some serious ones but not on my shift. There was the classic ‘dad picking up a skateboard and trucking someone in the head’ situation…
What? That’s not normal…
I wasn’t there, saw the CCTV footage though and it wasn’t pretty. There was an altercation next to the jump box. The dad saw his kid having an argument with someone and understandably wanted to see what was going on. He crossed the line when he picked up a board and trucked a kid in the head though. Madman. The police dealt with it.
When you say you weren’t there, do you mean you were baked?
I can’t remember.
What came first the psychedelics or the conspiracy theories?
I’d probably say the psychedelics. It’s all a magical blur.
Have you got a favourite conspiracy theory?
David Icke – the moon’s nothing but a hollow shell with aliens inside watching us. To be fair I have seen a video on YouTube of 17 or so UFO’S flying out of the moon.
He could be right.
Have you opened your third eye?
It was never closed.
I know you’ve had some trippy experiences, are they just for fun or are you searching for enlightenment?
Just for fun but it’s nice to alter your mind state from time to time if only for
a little while. Mushrooms are good. I’ll never forget spending hours laughing at the fact that laughter is an expression of something being funny. That was deep. (Laughing). There’s nothing better than delving deep into the mysteries of the cosmos with a dear friend; or having your whole body eaten by a snake woman.
I worked at Glastonbury last year, slept about two hours a night working whilst tripping out. I like it there. The vibe is very open. It’s like another world. There’s a time and a place for that kind of thing though, and that seriously effects the outcome. Mostly I’ve done it in the safety of my own home.
How and why do you bless your drinking water?
Oh water. You’ve gotta love water. Water is sad when it comes out of the tap. It’s dead, it’s been pressurised, right angled, it’s lost its natural flow. When you bless the water with your good intention and the magnetic field your heart radiates, it’s enough to heal your water, if only slightly. You have to meditate with it and send out good energy when you drink it. I dunno… We’re all crazy in our own way.
Do you get your fashion advice from Nick and his tailoring background? The waistcoats? The hats?
What! Definitely not. My stuff is full of holes. Nick’s not a hat man. Actually he did give me the waistcoat, I wouldn’t say he advised me to wear it though. I guess he wanted me to wear it otherwise he wouldn’t have bought me it. I do enjoy that waistcoat. The hat was my mum’s. I nicked her sun hat too.
Where have you had the most bricks thrown at you, Clifton or Maple Street?
I’ve had beef at Clifton but it’s a thing of the past now. When it was first built there was a bit of trouble, things kicked off on the opening day, a few scuffles and people getting robbed. At one point oil was tipped on the flat bank. That was annoying. Territorial shit. It’s chilled out now. At Maple Street Nick won a mini ramp contest at a very young age, he was standing on the podium just about to receive his prize, surrounded by people clapping, when a hooded youth walked up to him and smacked him clean in the face, (laughs). I guess he was jealous or something. That’s probably the worst thing I’ve seen there.
Any other sketchy happenings in Nottingham: it’s had a bit of a bad reputation in the past, hasn’t it?
I seemed to get in worse situations when I was a kid. The usual stuff – gangs of kids at each other’s throats. I got kicked in the head by a rudeboy because I was telling him about himself. It came out of nowhere. The worst gang we’ve got to look out for now are the police and their constant harassment at Sneinton and in the city centre.
You seem to like to take a slam or two, what’s the deal? Have you had some bad injuries?
Yeah, you learn to enjoy a good slam. You can’t avoid it really if you want to progress. There are certain levels of skating and if you want to step it up you’ve got to be prepared to slam. Skateboarding needs that mentality for progression and inevitably you’re gonna hurt yourself at some point so you better get used to it.
It seems like you ask for it quite often. What possesses you to try and hold on to a trick that anyone else would have just kicked away?
Errrrm…. I’m gonna give that credit to Satan, maybe. I dunno. You’ve just got to get creative and try and put shit down. It feels good to be on the edge and hang on. Sometimes it can go the other way but what you gonna do?
What’s your favourite slam?
Probably the one where I f*cked my shoulder airing into a back boneless, slamming to flat head-first. I blew every ligament in my shoulder. I was completely upside down going headfirst into the flat bottom, I genuinely thought I was gonna die. Another fond memory was when I flew out the side of a nine-foot ramp at a demo recently. That was fun. Got flipped upside down trying to grab the safety netting, landed flat on my back, winded.
You seem to make quick recoveries from fairly serious injuries, how long did it take to recover from the shoulder?
I was skating properly again after two months but I was skating a bit before that in my sling. It’s feeling good now.
What’s going on with the Nottingham skate scene at the mo?
The Notts scene is strong right now, we still don’t have an inner city park
but we have Sneinton market which has been a great central meeting point
for people, not to mention an amazing place to session. There are plenty of street spots and more skaters here than ever. Fortytwo skate shop has had a very positive influence on the scene too. Since they opened they’ve provided sponsorship and support to many local skaters and have been very proactive in getting the younger skaters and beginners involved and enthusiastic about the scene. They’ve also been putting on monthly competitions at various parks around Nottingham over the summer, which is a good way of getting people together and having a laugh. There’ve been a lot of new parks popping up too so that’s been great for the scene as well.
Any tips for healing quickly?
Medicate and pray to the water gods. They will heal your mind and body if you ask nicely. That and some basic exercises: doing push-ups in my mind.
When did you start taking part in contests?
When I was a kid my dad took me to Austria as a surprise birthday present to skate a park called ‘The Cradle’. It’s an amazing park with huge transitions. Through that I found out about the etnies Bowlmasters competition and went there the following year to compete in the open qualifiers. That was my first proper gnarly comp experience. Then I got involved in the vert series in England and did those Red Bull sessions and through that I got the chance to skate Ali Cairns ramp. I’ll never forget that, at his farm, thanks for that Ali. Respect.
I’ve been to Vert Attack and Ultrabowl in Malmo and this year I’ve been to a few comps in different countries. I love going to comps abroad, the vibe, meeting loads of new people, experiencing a different culture and all new spots. You can go to any country in the world and high five a skateboarder and chill with them.
It’s a big family!
What’s been your favourite comp?
Probably Ultrabowl because J Mag is a rad dude and the bowl is one of the best flow bowls I’ve skated. Also I love Malmo and Copenhagen, they’re my fave places to go on a skate trip: lovely people, lovely everything.
Any comps coming up?
Shop riot, heading there with 42. There’s a comp at the bowl in Marseille in June, that bowl is amazing.
Do you get any help with paying for these trips?
When I was younger my dad used to take me to some of the comps. Now it’s all self funded. If I win a bit of cash here and there it all goes back to another trip. Although this year Muckefuck paid for me to go to Switzerland, which was rad – cheers.
You’ve had a busy year of comps this year, where have you been?
This year I’ve been getting on it, I’ve been to ISPO in Munich, a mini ramp comp where I finished 5th. Super stoked. I couldn’t believe I made the final – I was tripping. I stayed in a mansion with these German dudes that I found on the couch-surfing website for five days.
Hanging out in this massive house, they had a Jacuzzi, naked snowball fights, everything! I went to Laax; a town in Switzerland up in the mountains, there’s a snowboarding resort that ran a team mini ramp comp as part of a festival. I skated in it with my fellow team riders from Muckefuck wheels. We came second and won a load of beer. I got to swim in a beautiful glacial lake; it was bloody freezing. I’ve just come back from the Vans Spring Classic in Naples too. It was gnarly craziness: everybody skated insane.
I did a load of spinny things and flippy things and I managed to finish second. I didn’t expect to do so well. After a ten minute jam session it’s hard to remember what you’ve done so it came as a surprise. I couldn’t believe it.
Do you plan your comp lines? It seems to me that you don’t decide on what trick you’re gonna do until you’re already in the air or on the coping sometimes…
(Laughing), I like to surprise you! It’s important for me
to flow. I don’t really think about it, some things you can’t explain! At comps I normally have a few bangers in mind that I’ll go for then the rest I’ll just make it up as I go along. Land a trick, get hyped, and then see what happens next.
How are you going to spend your Naples winner’s cheque?
I told my housemate Scotty that if I managed to win any cash then I would put the money towards building a mini ramp in the garage so that’s what I’ve done. The wood has been delivered already. Vans haven’t paid me yet so I’m f*cking broke right now. I got ahead of myself. Ha! Don’t mention that. Anyway its gonna be chill zone of epic proportion, it’s gonna be called Area 42. Big up 42 skate shop.
You just bought a motorbike too, is it just another way of trying to wreck yourself?
Yeah I bought that before the comp. It’s really good that I won that cash actually, (laughing). I needed a motorised vehicle to get around on. I don’t intend on hurting myself on it but it’s a possibility! I’m having lessons at the moment, trying to minimise the risk! I love it. It’s freedom.
Do you have a biker gang?
Yes, it’s called ‘The hesh angels’.
I heard you just switched board companies?
Yeah, I was riding for Unabomber for a while, they’ve been really supportive and hooked me up in a big way, much love to them. I’ve started riding for Lovenskate now. I’ve been skating with Ewan Bower a bit and got hooked up through him.
I really like how they do things so I’m excited about getting involved.
Thanks: My family, Nick and his family. Neil. Thanks to fortytwo skateshop for the support and being rad. Rob, Scotty, Forder, Holly. All the team. Big up skater-owned shops! Nonstop and that bunch. Ken. Unabomber and the crew. Lovenskate for everything to come. Footprint insoles for saving my feet. All the people giving me product past and present. Pete King for sorting me out with vert demos when I was younger. Euro guys, Muckefuck urethane – the best wheels in the world. All skaters everywhere!