Joe Habgood ‘Cover Stories’ interview from Sidewalk 200

From Sidewalk 200 – May 2013


Joe Habgood
Sidewalk issue 103 : April 2005
Cover photo : Leo Sharp 



Okay Joe – the cover in question here (your second of two Sidewalk ones) is from Issue 103, April 2005 – what was going on in your life at this point?
– Bloody hell 2005! Only seems like yesterday. I think I was working at Projects Distribution and was team manager/team rider for the U.K. Osiris shoe team. At that time I was riding for Santa Cruz skateboards, (through Shiner).

This is such a classic representation of your approach to skateboarding – so simple, yet so many different ways to f*cking cane yourself. What do you remember about shooting this photo?
– Well I had already been there and done it like a week or so before without a photographer. Then Leo was in town, I think at Fifty Fifty, and said he’d heard about it and asked would I like to go take a photo of it.
If I’m honest I didn’t really want to go back again as I’d already slammed pretty hard twice doing it before and my back was pretty screwed up at the time. But as ever, I never like to let Leo down so I agreed to go back and give it a try.
I remember it being a damp day and being pretty mossy, slippery and pretty short on the top. I also remember slamming another two times before making it.
On the make a police car was driving past, they slowed down and were just starting to shout “Oi get off there” as I dropped in ollied off the roof, landed and rolled away. Tidy Mike has footage off it somewhere.
Then Leo asked me in his, “would you like to do it again” voice about getting a black and white picture from another angle and of course I slammed again, but the original shot was better.
I never thought it would get used for a cover though as I was like, “it’s just an ollie, they don’t put just ollies on the cover”.

What was the first photo you ever had in a skate mag? What’s been your favourite photo of yourself that’s been run over the years and why?
– The craziest thing is that my first ever photo in a skate mag was the front cover of RAD.
I couldn’t f*cking believe it. I think it was Syd that rang me up all excited saying I had the front cover but I thought he was just winding me up ‘til I saw it. Me, Danny Wainwright, Jotham Greenstreet and some other Stroud heads all had pictures in the same issue in an article about Stroud/Gloucestershire. We were so hyped! But I was so shocked and stoked to get the cover. Dream come true shit!
I wonder how many other people have had a cover shot by TLB, Wig Worland and Leo Sharp? (Skate Photography Royalty).

What would be your Sidewalk favourite cover from over the years and why?
– My favourite Sidewalk cover would have to be mine on issue 7. I was shocked once again when that came out. Wig Worland working his magic with the camera as ever.
It also holds really good memories of skating with Mat Fowler and Nic Taylor in Norwich and coming back from a Raggy tour in France to find out I’d got the cover.
Other favourites are Mike Manzoori’s front board at South Bank. Shier’s K-grind on the block of Ice, and more recently I really liked Tom Knox’s back smith cover: Dave Allen’s rock fakie of the sharp metal point too. Pretty much all Tom Penny’s, and Wainwright’s covers are always awesome. Howard Cookes’ frontside grind on that massive sketchy metal quarter is f*cking epic though!

Sidewalk has been going since 1995 so obviously skateboarding as a culture has changed massively over that time – if I were to ask you to point out the 5 most important/culturally significant events or developments that have occurred over that time, what would you pick and why?

1: The Tony Hawks computer game: It introduced so many new kids to skateboarding and got people buying skateboards and companies backing skateboarding again.

2: The Internet: it has changed how coverage for sponsored riders works. Some people can be pro/sponsored and not even enter a contest or have any magazine presence these days.
Just the amount of skateboarding that is available online is crazy compared to just having magazines and companies releasing videos when I was a kid.

3: Bigger wheels and boards: Stupidly small boards and wheels were total dog shit.

4: Fashion: Skateboarders all used to pretty much look the same, now there’s no one way that a skateboarder looks.

5: BEAR starting to do the letters page in Sidewalk: That guy is amazing!



So you currently work for the biggest skate distributor in the UK and have worked for various other brands in the past – given that, and your long personal history as a skateboarder: what’s your perspective on the state of the UK scene/industry at the moment?
– The UK scene at the moment is the strongest it’s ever been. There are so many more legit UK board companies and distributors than ever before.
It’s funny to think back that at one point there wasn’t really a market for UK board companies at all. Everyone wanted to ride US companies, boards, wheels, etc. UK stuff was seen as being a cheap and poorer quality option. But these days there are loads of people backing UK brands just as much as any other brands from anywhere else in the world.

What about globally? Does skateboarding seem like it’s headed in a positive direction?
– The US will always be the most popular as that’s where the heart of the skateboard industry is and produces/finds the best skateboarders in the world: even the best UK riders end up over in the US if they want to make a proper living from it.
Skateboarding seems to be heading in a good general direction on the surface of things. It seems at the moment it’s cool to have fun again on your board, which is exactly what it’s all about.

Does traditional skate culture still matter at a point in history where Social Media and the Internet can grant everyone their 15 minutes of fame with minimal effort?
– Skateboarding is full of older skaters with a fondness for tradition. I guess for some people there’s a way of doing things that is the traditional way and doing the old way is seen as a more legit way of being recognised or turning pro etc.

What was the last skate clip or skate video that made you excited and why?
– The last clip that got me excited was the Royal Trucks United Nations on the Berrics site. Everyone might think that all I ever watch is park and pool skating but I love skateboarding in pretty much all its shapes and forms: street, bowls, ramps, vert, mega ramp shit, the whole lot. How could you not? I’m constantly watching new stuff on the Internet and having my mind blown seeing just how amazing skateboarding is becoming right now. I’ll watch a new DVD once or twice when they drop but I mostly watch skate stuff online these days.

You’ve had a variety of sponsors over the years and have been on a fair few tours and skate trips – which destinations or particular places stand out?
– Yeah I’ve been lucky enough to go on quite a few tours and trips but the ones that stand out would have to be: All the tours I did with Projects Distribution (Osiris/Circa/I-Path etc.) These were some of the craziest and biggest tours that have ever been done in the UK.
Australia was an amazing time although I wish I’d done a bit more skateboarding but I did get to meet up with Greg Nowik and Charlie out there, which was obviously awesome.
I think the greatest one has to be the Vans trip to Goa in India. I had the best time ever with the best crew in the most insane setting for a skate comp I think I’ve ever been to.
I mean how often do you see a troop of monkeys swing by when you’re out skating?

You’ve been talking shit on our forum from the very beginning – what do enjoy about SHOUTING online and has there ever been any real life consequences?
– I pretty much enjoy just annoying people that get wound up by my capitals and stupid comments. The amount of people that have asked me why I always write in capitals is probably in the thousands by now. You (Ben) even got the forum to make it so if I wrote everything in capitals that it would change it to lower case, but I found a way around it, (laughing)! The only thing in real life that happens is that I get asked if I’m me by forumers and then they introduce themselves with their forum name. Some people I know from the forum I don’t even call by their real names.

You’re from Stroud originally but have lived in Bristol, (apart from a stint in Norwich) for as long as I can remember – what is it about that city that has kept you there for so long?
– I guess it’s the people, the skateboarding and work really. Plus it’s so easy to get around the city. You can walk, skate, ride or bus pretty much everywhere pretty quickly. It’s a really chilled easy-going city most of the time. I’m not really a fan of loads of people and busy hectic cities so Bristol is the right balance of chill and city for me I guess.

Is it true that you were the first person to do a flip trick down Lloyds?
– Apparently so, yes. I was skating the Deaner with Danny, and Cardiel showed up with I think Rick Ibaseta and Salman Agah. We skated at the Deaner then went over to Lloyds with them and started to throw ourselves down the stairs. Cardiel was killing it and I guess I got all caught up in the moment and heelflipped down them. I didn’t even realise till Sidewalk did that timeline thing and it turned out I was the first person to do a flip trick down them.
It’s pretty ironic really as everyone thinks I can’t do any flip tricks whatsoever.

Despite being a cuddly human you have one of the most recognizable murder-faces whilst skating: is skateboarding a way for you to release the inner Sutcliffe or something? What makes you angry?
– It’s just my face. I pretty much get angry with myself when I can’t land a trick. I’m really smiling on the inside whilst I’m punching myself in the face.

Your body has taken a serious kicking over the years – what’s been the worst of your many skateboarding mishaps and what effect has all the pain/hospital time had on your life/skating?
– I’ve absolutely kicked the shit out of myself pretty much since I stepped on a skateboard. I’ve broken loads of stuff and fully ruined the rest of my body. I have had to wear an ankle brace for over 10 years now as my ankle is so screwed it just folds over without it. I’ve got serious arthritis and I’m in constant pain all the time. My worst injury would have to be snapping my leg off (it’s on the Raggy video). I broke both bones in a few places and my leg was only being held on by the skin and muscles. I got pretty bummed when this happened as things were just starting to happen for me, I was just starting to pick up some sponsors but then I was out for over a year as it was so f*cked.
I’m 39 now but I have no intention of trying to stop kicking the shit out of myself every single time I go skateboarding.

What are your favourite UK videos and favourite UK parts and why?
– All of Andy Evans videos: I just laugh all the way through any of them. The D-3 spaceship with Munson was too funny.
And also Playing Fields, as that video had some serious heavy hitters on it. My favourite part would have to be my boy Danny Wainwright’s part in Jus Foolin. This part can still hold up to video parts filmed today.

If I were to ask you which skaters have been the most influential in your own life/skating who would you pick and why?
– In the earliest of days it was all the Powell and Santa Cruz guys but hands down my biggest influences have been all my friends, especially Danny Wainwright, Marc Churchill, Greg Nowik and Alex Moul.
Obviously growing up skating with Danny we went everywhere together and experienced so many crazy times and pushed each other’s skating massively. I can’t actually remember not knowing Marc. I’ve been teammates with him for probably over 15 years on different companies and have been on thousands of trips with him and he’s made me do all manner of crazy wood planking stunts just through the sheer power of him shouting and swearing at me. I used to see Greg and Alex in RAD way before I ever got to know them and would stare for hours at their sequences and pictures. I still want to do throw on boardslides in a pair of Ratbones sweatpants and I would kill to skate a ramp like Greg. (Also I was riding an Alex Moul Deathbox board on my cover of RAD)

What’s the pinnacle moment of UK skateboarding in your opinion and why?
– O.G. Blueprint videos! Game changing shit from Magee. It let everyone else that didn’t already know that UK riders could be as good as the US.

How do you see skateboarding evolving from this point? Have we exhausted the possibilities yet?
– F*ck knows. When you see Jake Brown do a 720 ollie on a mega ramp then anything is going to be possible.

Can you imagine a life without skateboarding?
– F*ck no!

Anything else?
– Thanks to Shiner Distribution and all my other sponsors present and past. Without their support I’d never have done half the things I’ve done in my life. Drink Unicorn Juice and ride Witchcraft Skateboards!!!


Ollie. Photo: Leo

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