Where are they now? Off Radar with Scott Palmer

We catch up with UK legend Scott Palmer to find out about life after pro skateboarding

Where are they now? Off Radar with Scott Palmer

Who better to start off this new feature looking into what the heads who laid the foundations of today’s UK skateboard scene are up in their post-sponsorship life than Hull’s own Scott Palmer?
Scott is truly one of the most under-stated, modest and genuinely real dudes to ever grace a skateboard.
With breakthrough parts on golden era Blueprint Skateboards videos WFTW and Lost & Found, plus numerous appearances in independent videos such as Neil Chester’s ‘Hating Life’, Big Push edits and a raft of locally-filmed Hull scene videos, Scott’s back catalogue is untouchable. Always full speed, always progressive and, most importantly, always true to his roots and his vision of skateboarding: if you aren’t already a fan of Scott Palmer then you need to do some homework.
Despite retiring from professional skateboarding to pursue a life as a father, Scott still rips and can regularly be seen at Rockcity skatepark in Hull still tearing around at full speed with an alarming level of consistency from a man who, these days, skates purely for the joy of doing it.
With Story Collective dropping their recent Scott Palmer tribute board last week, we headed over to Hull to catch up with him, shoot a few pictures and to sit down and talk about what he’s been up to since dipping out of the pro skateboarding ranks, hear some of his memories of the Blueprint era and basically celebrate one of the UK’s best.

Interview below by Farran Golding, new photos by Horse, archive shots by various artists.

Blindside flip to fakie in Hull earlier this year. Photo: Horse

Where are they now? Off Radar with Scott Palmer

Last Friday, an after hours session took place at Hull’s Rockcity skatepark in honour of Scott Palmer receiving a homage board from The Story Collective. The board in question features a photo of Scott, shot by Andrew Horsley, planting a 360 flip on a bafflingly steep flatbank located near Bristo Square in Edinburgh.

As the night came to a close, Scott, Mark Baines and I sat down to chat about the photo. By this point I was anticipating Scott to regale me with a detailed account of the process that went into capturing this iconic 360 flip, however it turns out that the details surrounding the photo are scarce. None of those present, including Scott, Horsley or Baines can remember much, if anything. A few days after this interview took place I bumped into Colin ‘Cubic’ McInnes and, on the off chance that he had been there when it happened, inquired about the photo to find yet another spectator with no recollection. It was only after Cubic reached out to Colin Kennedy that we could date it at some point in 2004 without much other comment than Colin saying that Scott accomplishing this trick was ‘ridiculous’.

While it might make for somewhat of an anticlimactic introduction, maybe this one incredible trick slipping past the memory of all involved should be a testament to the amazing output of both Blueprint and its riders during the brand’s heyday. A legacy summed up by Scott himself as a consequence of Dan Magee forcing the team to be “as good as your last trick” during the golden years of Blueprint.

Despite stepping away from professional skateboarding in the late 2000s – Scott is still every bit as good as his last trick; immediately (and fittingly) 360 flipping on the steepest flatbank Rock City had to offer upon his arrival and delivering everything else in the same mach-ten manner you would expect throughout the whole evening. Having honourably discharged himself from the professional ranks over nearly a decade ago – let’s hand it over to The Yorkshire Don himself for some insights into one of the best time periods UK skateboarding has seen.

The Palmer 360 flip fakie. Text book. Photo: Horse

“When I was growing up you thought it would be rad to be sponsored but you didn’t physically go searching for it. It was totally different to what it is now. Whereas now there’s almost an expectancy or there’s a route or there’s a career path.”

Nollie inward heel, Rotherham, 2003. Photo: Horse

So Scott, we’re here to celebrate Baines plastering one of your many ridiculous 360 flips onto a Story Collective tribute skateboard. The footage of this particular one was in Edinburgh and the footage is in Lost & Found [2005] – so I’m guessing you were on a Blueprint mission at the time?

I can’t even remember what trip it was, honestly. I’ve just had this conversation with Horsley. Baines probably knows, do you know what trip it was? I wasn’t on the Belong tour for that long, I was only on it for a weekend, and I don’t think we went to Edinburgh…
For some reason in my head, which is absolutely wrong, I thought it was from when we did the premiere for Lost & Found but it can’t be because it’s fucking in the video! (Laughs). Certain things I can remember but that – nope.

Baines: I reckon it was just a random trip to see Colin and skate Bristo Square. A lot of trips I can remember – but that one I literally can’t remember either. It did baffle me because I knew that photo was the one I wanted to use and it took me ages to figure it out. Horsley wasn’t even sure at first! I thought Leo [Sharp] could have shot it for some reason.

Both that 360 flip and your lipslide shot by Oliver Barton spring to mind when your name is mentioned. Personally, how do rank both of those photos? Having stepped away from sponsored skateboarding for so long ago are you much less critical of your output and see it all in a different, probably nostalgic, light these days?

Definitely. When you’re skating all the time you’re engrossed in it so you’re seeing skateboarding every day and you’re very critical of yourself. When you look at photos or certain tricks, when it’s yourself, you notice the imperfection more than the perfection. But the imperfection, when you look back – that is the perfection. That’s what gives it character and puts the stamp on it of that person. So yeah, when I look back now I don’t look at them with a critical eye but at the time you do. But, to be fair, with those two photos I never had any issues. I was stoked on them.

I wasn’t as critical of photos as I was of video parts. Obviously, a photo shows the full picture of that moment in time but it doesn’t show the full picture of that trick as in how you landed it, how you rolled away, etc. When you’re skating it’s a personal thing and it doesn’t matter if somebody says: “That was rad.” You know inside if that meets your expectation and when I skated back then, even when I skate now, that’s what you’re searching for. That what keeps you coming back for more – that you want to do something but it’s got to feel and meet up to your expectation of what you want it to be like when you roll away.

Were you quite picky when it came to footage then?

I didn’t have any say in it and I think that’s why I probably scrutinised myself so much when I was skating because I knew it would get fucking used, (laughs). I’d try to make sure I was happy with it, as far as I could. I’ll be honest, I think filming video parts without – not making it a career choice because it never was – but I learnt a lot from filming Anthems [1997] because I feel like I didn’t put the effort into that which everybody else put in and I was kind of disappointed when that came out. Not that I understood or appreciated what it was we were doing. I think from there and moving forward made me think that I don’t want to sit and watch something and not be totally stoked on it.

Scott’s classic Blueprint Skateboards ‘Lost & Found’ section, featuring the Bristo 360 flip fakie at 0:47

Frontside lipslide, Hull tidal barrier rail, 2002. Photo: Oliver Barton
(This photo was used for a Blueprint ad with the byline ‘Rose on’t heart’ in reference to Scott’s love of Yorkshire. You can see an archive of some of Blueprint Skateboards classic adverts here.)

You and Baines were friends before you got on Blueprint, although Mark was on from the beginning, how did you two first meet?

Baines: I feel like it was at Rehab in Wakefield. That’s where everyone used to meet back then.

Yeah, definitely. We probably skated together for a long time, in the same sessions, but never really spoke. People went down there, you got on and you knew of everyone but didn’t necessarily know everyone.

Mark also claims, and this is in his own words, he got on you Blueprint because he wanted another Northerner on the team. What’s your take on that?

(Laughs), I’d imagine that’s about right. But I’m sure Bainesey had to fight a good one there with Magee. I can imagine his scrutiny: “I don’t want another northern monkey on!”

Baines: I don’t want to claim it – but I feel like Magee knew. But in those Wakefield days it was sick and it was rad to get someone close to you on the team. You got yourself on but… Maybe I am just claiming it, (laughs).

No, I’m sure you had a big part to play in that but Wakey was just a meeting point for everybody. Before that it was Northampton [Radlands]. It wasn’t like now where there’s a skatepark in every city that’s undercover. Back then there was like one in the whole of the UK. It was Northampton, then it was Rehab and it just happened that as one would close down another would open and it would be the same crew going to it.

Ollie at Rehab Skatepark, Wakefield, 1997. Photo: Wig Worland

I imagine that filming with Neil Chester around the same time for Through The Eyes of Ruby [1998] and Hating Life [1999] would have already put you in good standing for getting on Blueprint too.

Did it all come together at the same time? Because I think I was on Blueprint before I was on Sumo.

Baines: I’m pretty sure you were because there wasn’t a shop in Hull.

Obviously, I knew Mark and [Carl] Shipman but I didn’t properly know them. It was just when I got on Blueprint I would come through to Sheffield more often and it was to meet up with Mark – not just going to a skatepark and us being there by chance.

Baines: It was quite natural.

It was. When I was growing up you thought it would be rad to be sponsored but you didn’t physically go searching for it. It was totally different to what it is now. Whereas now there’s almost an expectancy or there’s a route or there’s a ‘career path’.

I remember there was a conscious effort at Blueprint, and there was no deal made of it, but you earned your stripes before you got your dues. That was certainly passed down to the younger generation and you had to prove it. It wasn’t just a one trip wonder thing where one trip makes it and you’re ‘on’. You had to pay your dues but it’s about skating and doing it correctly. Doing it well and for the right reasons. When I say that – I don’t feel as if I had to prove myself too much but we were from that era where it was about doing things and doing things right. There was no quick fix to getting sponsored and becoming pro.

Baines: You can self-promote now whereas Magee was basically in control of our destiny, (laughs).

Double-set kickflip 1999. Photo: Wig Worland

“I remember there was a conscious effort at Blueprint, and there was no deal made of it, but you earned your stripes before you got your dues. That was certainly passed down to the younger generation and you had to prove it. It wasn’t just a one trip wonder thing where one trip makes it and you’re ‘on’. You had to pay your dues but it’s about skating and doing it correctly.”

Neil Chester’s 1999 A4 Distribution video ‘Hating Life’ – Scott’s part begins at 13:27

Did you have any idea of Magee’s reputation before getting on the team – did Baines warn you in advance?

No, nobody warned me… I think I learned the hard way like everybody else. Fuck. Sharpest tongue in the skate scene, hasn’t he? You soon came to terms with it, (laughs).

What are your best and worst memories of Dan?

My worst memories of Magee – fuck!

[The lights automatically switch off and the room goes pitch black. Scott skates off so the sensor picks up some movement and they come back on.]

Baines: Love it. As soon as Magee’s name is mentioned the lights go out.

My worst memory… He was managing Blueprint the way he thought was best and, I don’t know if there’s one instance, but I think it was just his overall menace. It’s his best side as well because he wanted to get the best out of us. It was like anything you did – you couldn’t do enough. It was like you’re only as good as your last trick, basically, and he would let you know. If you went on a filming trip or something – I used to wind him up a bit because when we would go away, we’d go to Mallorca and he’d be like:

“We’re here to skate.”

“I’m out the country – I’m on holiday.”

“No, you’re fucking not. You’re here to skate.”

“I’m not, how can this be work?” (Laughs.)

Switch front board, London, 1999. Photo: Oliver Barton

Did working as a joiner during your early days of being sponsored make you cautious of injuries or a bit hesitant about properly pursuing it?

No, I didn’t have any responsibilities then so it didn’t make any odds to me. I’d grown up skating and I’d gone through my apprenticeship to be a joiner while skating. Now, obviously I’ve got a family and mortgage so you’ve got to think about that but when I was younger if I did my wrist I just went on the sick. I’ve always had a work ethic so I never skated without having a job because I opened the shop in Hull [Four Down]. That was my little plan to keep involved with skating in another way.

So, even though the team were getting a salary, it never felt like there was a point with Blueprint where you thought you could comfortably step away from a having regular job?

No, it never got to that point although when I think back I probably could have done and it would have worked out better. Because if I hadn’t had my shop, and that hadn’t gone through, I could have spent that time focusing on skating. But to be fair, right near the end when the shop closed, I was just skating and it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be anyhow. I think it’s good to have other distractions. You appreciate skateboarding then – whereas if you can do it all the time, for me, it wasn’t as much of a pleasure as when I was having to make time to do it.

Did being slightly older than most of the Blueprint riders ever make you feel distanced in the last few years you skated professionally?

I was moving onto the next phase of my life and skateboarding wasn’t going to fit around what I wanted to do. I wanted to have a family so I just got a job back at the council. It wasn’t distant but there were times when there were certain trips or things I couldn’t go on – but it wasn’t an issue. I was doing what I wanted to do and like I say, when I did have that opportunity to have a bit of time for me it didn’t really work. But I think that’s possibly because it was coming to the end and I’d already made that decision in my head.

When you’re skateboarding all the time and, without realising, putting your body on the line – once you reach a stage in your life where you think, ‘I could hurt myself now’, then it feels time to wrap it up. When I called it a day with skating professionally it was purely because I was just moving on, that’s all it was.

It wasn’t like I wanted to continue with skateboarding in that sense. I tried with the shop, that didn’t happen, and I learnt a lot through that. At the end of the day once you open a shop, no matter what your passions are, it all comes down to commodities and skateboarding means a lot more to me than a commodity so it kind of doesn’t work. Skateboarding now – it’s something that’s special.

I remember going to work on that first day and I was stoked to be back there. It’s funny how it all just worked out right.

Scott’s short First Broadcast part featuring Blueprint friends.

You left before shit hit the fan with Blueprint. How did it feel seeing the company crumble from an outsider’s perspective or were you too busy with family life by that point to pay attention to skateboarding drama?

I was busy, because when Charlie [Scott’s son] was born – for like six years I didn’t skate that much at all. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to skate, I just didn’t have time. I was aware of the way Blueprint was going. After the good times I had and everybody else had and all the friendships that were made – to see it all come to nothing was a real shame. Then the way it broke out, in some ways I think it fractured a few friendships as well and that’s never nice to see.

Backside nollie, Victoria, London. Photo: Wig Worland.

“When you’re skateboarding all the time and, without realising, putting your body on the line – once you reach a stage in your life where you think, ‘I could hurt myself now’, then it feels time to wrap it up. When I called it a day with skating professionally it was purely because I was just moving on, that’s all it was.”

Frontside tailslide, Livi Fun Day, 2000. Photo: Wig

Being a sponsored skateboarder in this country hasn’t really offered the same privileges to current generations as it did when Blueprint and Unabomber were at their peak. How do you feel to have been so predominantly involved in UK skateboarding in what I feel a lot of people would consider a ‘golden age’?

It’s just an honour when I look back. With everything in life there’s a few things; you’ve got to put the work in but then the timing has got to be right and you’ve got to just have that little bit of luck. As it happens I was born within a timespan when Mark was born, [Paul] Shier was born and [John] Rattray was born and we all came together.

Baines: It’s mad how it clicked. There’s been stuff since that’s been good but…

But nothing that unifying in terms of a British skateboard company.

Baines: Yeah, not at all and I think at the time we had to fight quite hard to be taken seriously. It’s crazy – in Liverpool they had a fucking dartboard with Rob Selley’s head on it, (laughs).

Scott: Yeah, people were hated! Thinking back about Blueprint when I first got on it was a bit of a joke company in the north of England. Like with Panic – people just took the piss. The majority of the footage, skating and feel of it was sort of viewed like it only came from London and Milton Keynes I think. When I got on there I appreciated and understood all the work people were putting in to make it legit. Over time, by getting people further past the M25 – Mark and Colin were on from day one – but through growing organically and spreading its wings it brought everybody on board from the UK and Ireland. Everybody just got behind it and it and blew up and then it did become a legitimate company.

It kind of united everyone in the end and during the time I didn’t think much of it because we were just skating. But when I look back now, we would go do demos and it would be absolutely rammed. I remember going on an éS tour that had all the big hitters from the US but people were as stoked to see the English and Blueprint guys. I probably got as much attention as they did, and I wasn’t on their level in terms of skateboarding ability, but the impact and presence from being a part of Blueprint and everything that came off the back of that was all grown from England and doing it within the UK. It wasn’t like we branched out.

Baines: It’s one thing that Magee did right. I think most people in the UK felt quite proud, not just of Blueprint, but all those companies at the time. It was so spread out that it represented everyone in a way.

Frontside melon during the UK leg of the éS footwear tour. Photo: Leo Sharp.

Scott’s section from Blueprint Skateboards ‘WFTW’ released in 2000.

So, getting more up to speed, how have the recent years been treating you?

It’s rad, I can’t complain – work is busy but that’s life. I go through phases – through the summer I don’t skate. It has totally flipped on its head. When I was skating all the time you would skate in the summer because you loved it and then you’d be scratching about for skateparks in the winter. Now when it’s summer I’m busy with my family and in the winter, when it’s dark nights, we’ll get the kids sorted and then I’ll come down here for a couple of hours or so.

Having spent most of your life in Hull what’s your take on the city’s intention to become a skateboarding destination following being named European City of Culture?

Man, that’s rad. Mark English, the owner of Rockcity, has had a massive part to play in that. He was the one who kind of instigated it all because his ward councillor is Daren Hale – who is the deputy councillor for Hull City Council and it’s through Mark’s involvement with Daren Hale that he has pushed it through to make Hull a skateboarding friendly city.

Any new builds that go up in public spaces aren’t going to be built for skateboarding – all they’re going to do is make it so it can withstand skateboarding and actively encourage it. There’s a new venue, called ‘The Venue’, it’s a big concert hall and we were just at a meeting on the site while they’re building the plaza outside of that. They’re going to be working on the plaza now and we were there talking to all the bosses who are running this site explaining to them what they need to do so it can withstand skateboarding. Such as putting metal edges on ledges, getting away from having wooden benches and making them solid, things like that. I’ve just chipped in here and there but I’ve gone to the meetings.

Finally, when was the last time you tried to be dope?

Baines: 1998 on Bridlington Seafront, wasn’t it?

(Laughs), is that when it was? I get reminded of it enough! The last time I tried to be dope? Fucking hell, there would have to be first time I managed it – I’ve never landed a switch hardflip! On the footage does it look like I’ve actually got a clue what I’m doing?

Scott Palmer – "Through The Eyes Of Ruby" (1998) a Skateboarding video by Sidewalk

Backside 5.0 to fakie around the disk at Rockcity, 2017. Photo: Horse
Where are they now? Off Radar with Scott Palmer.

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