Bubba Jones layback rom pool LR

If the recent news about the Heritage listing of Rom skatepark didn’t put a smile on your face, its more than likely that you are cold and dead inside. This recognition of our culture from the most unlikely of corners - whether or not you are in to skating big, crusty transitions – is a small sign of a wider change in how ‘the authorities’ view us. Just look at the current crop of good quality concrete parks which are becoming the norm in skatepark building, compared to the Skatelite wank regularly commissioned to cowboy builders ten or fifteen years ago (the former of which all owe some kind of debt to Rom, and can’t match it for sheer white knuckle fear as you fly around).

While the argument about skate parks being used to cattle us off of the streets and justify street skating fines is still very much valid, I reckon that this path can be avoided by aggressively calling out any council attempt at such bullshit and nipping it in the bud. In the meantime use the opportunity to try and skate everything, then get yerselves down to Essex and soak in the good vibes oozing out of Rom’s rough-as-arseholes concrete. If it could tell stories, you’d hear about Lance Mountain flapping inverts in the pool, about Mattias Nylen doing a front blunt in the halfpipe, about Cardiel and TNT and the Gonz, about Munson, Raemers, Carl Wilson and Lee Blackwell tearing it a new one at various times over the years. Then it would try and tear your skin off, because Rom is basically the Buffalo Bill of UK skateparks and it doesn’t care if your man or woman, it just wants your flesh.

36 years of weathering do not make for the smoothest of parks, and part of the adrenalin rush as you try a trick is knowing how much slamming is going to ruin you. The park is an old, gnarled beast, a massive piece of the puzzle which makes up our skate history, and best of all it’s a guaranteed fun session. While you start checking train times and prices, here are a few of the gnarliest moments which have been captured at the park along with some words from long-time local ripper Dion Penman.

Paul Jones layback destruction courtesy of Monkeyglove

Dion rom

Above Photo: Dion grinds through the crust. Photo: Monkeyglove Matt

You’ve been at Rom ever since I started visiting in the mid-2000s; how long have you been skating the place?

I skated the place when it very first opened in 1978, stopped after a couple of years, went back for a few years in the late 80’s, then have been skating there non stop since 1999.

Over those years, what changes have you seen in the park (other than occasional switch ups in the miniramp layout)?

The park hasn’t really changed that much, the shop has. Originally there was a canteen, games arcade, pool table, marshalls, managers and a full time nurse! All of that wasn’t sustainable so it was whittled down to what you have now, John the owner and a few “chosen ones" who help out in return for skate miles. Of course there’s been changes in trends i.e. fashions, equipment etc. as well as styles of skating.

There has always been mad shit going down at the park – I’ve witnessed plenty of things go down just going to the yearly jams, so as a local you must have seen plenty of rippers coming through. Who are some of the best skaters you’ve seen hit the park and, following on from that, what are some of the best things you’ve seen go down in person?

A lot of touring pro’s have always asked to be taken to Rom. I saw Shogo Kubo in about 1978, John Cardiel, Tony Trujillo, Gonz, Bob Burnquist, Dennis Busenitz, Jason Adams. Chet Childress, Dan Drehobl, the whole Creature team, Lance Mountain, Greyson Fletcher, Curren Caples as well as countless English skaters - I wouldn’t even attempt to name them for the fear of leaving anyone out!

I’d pick the following for “standouts" in no particular order:

Locals Simon Skipp and Nigel Davies, style for miles and lines, lines, lines. When I first ventured back to Rom they were the first two I met, to be honest I felt a bit of a wally, but they were both welcoming and encouraging and never took the piss (as far as I knew!!)

Cardiel skating the pool, I remember holding my breath watching his runs and thinking "I’d give anything to be able to do that". Really nice friendly guy as well.

Mattias Nylen’s craziness.

Martin Herrick’s inverts.

Anything Ben Raemers does.

Mark Munson is always a pleasure to watch and skate with - him, Carl Wilson and Lee Blackwell always make it a good session.

There’s a young local by the name of Fleabag DaRosa, remember that name, he’s going off in all directions!

The Zombie crew, they always throw down.

Graham Taft style man style.

Paul Jones barking grinds.

Andy Hulbert always trying to up the ante shouting and heckling!

The Monkeyglove boys, good local lads.

Oh, and you don’t do so bad Jono, just need to see a bit more of ya, don’t wanna hear that “I’ve been travelling dude" bollocks - Rom is where it all happens, that’s as far as you need to go!

Rom is obviously kept in much better condition than Harrow - its only real comparison when it comes to parks with that much history - and it must be awesome to have the heritage listing come through as confirmation that it will survive. Were there many dark times when the park’s future was in doubt?

As for the park’s future, the whole listing thing is amazing, but in the cold light of day after all the fuss has died down, it still has to survive as a business. Numbers have been dwindling a bit for various reasons, but hat’s off to the Greenwoods who’ve kept it going. We hear about parks closing all the time because of soaring rent and insurance etc

There’s been rumours galore over the years, but at the eleventh hours the skate gods kick in and save the day!

I think it’s getting harder what with all these new free parks opening, only time will tell.

How come the shop outside the park hasn’t started hooking you all up with beer sponsorship deals yet?

That shop in the petrol station would close if it wasn’t for us, I’m convinced! Bout time they started spreading the love!

Rom’s sponsor’s ought to be Stella and Pot Noodle, we’ve kept them on the map! (other beverages are available).

Essex isn’t doing too badly when it comes to good concrete parks, where do you normally venture too when not in the pool? Want to give us a list of top 5 Essex ‘crete?

Rom

Central Park

Saffron Walden

Brentwood

Thames View

On the other end of the spectrum, are you ever secretly tempted to skate the janky miniramp just down the road?

Do you mean that stupid metal piece of shit in the park across the road? Waste of time, our local council wasted £28k putting that there. That little concrete mini a mile or so up the road isn’t actually that bad if you’re passing.

Now the park’s survival is looking more solid are there any plans i.e. new obstacles or a celebration skate jam?

As you say the park’s future does look more rosy, it’ll be interesting to see what funding it might qualify for. There are some repairs that desperately need doing, but concrete work is quite expensive.

As for a celebration jam, it happens every Sunday bout 2pm, anyone who reads this, come down and get yourself involved!

Before we wrap things up, do you have any last words?

Anyone who genuinely cares about skateboarding and it’s roots should come to Rom, it’s an education and an inspiration.

Is this the bit I say hello/thanks?

Well a big, big thankyou to my wife Jane and all our kids, for putting up with all the madness, I couldn’t have done it without you!

To all the Sunday Crew-keep it going.

To all the people I’ve met and skated with, it’d be good to see you all.

If the invisible man turns up, tell him I won’t be able to see him!

The Duffs Concrete Carnage events were my first introduction to Rom and Monkeyglove Matt's edit from the 2007 event captures the chaos nicely. Carl Wilson's back noseblunt in the performance bowl, Rob Smith's halfpipe heelblock and Raemer's kickflip melon in the snake run are all high points from one of the most mind blowing years for the event - shit went off!

Mattias Nylen leaves a trail of concrete destruction in his wake wherever he goes,with Rom getting a seeing to from 18 seconds into this footage for Krooked. The front blunt is fucking unreal!

Why DVD's are better than releasing videos online, Exhibit A - Raemers' unexpected extras section from the Death Skateboards video 'Escape from Boredom'. There's not much better than a good DVD extra and this is up there with the best, with Ben nonchalantly sailing the concrete seas and laying down some savageness in Rom Pool.

Caples and Fletcher clearly take to the pool in this clip from 2012 but it is Lance Mountain who comes through with a classically trained pool style; seeing such a legend in such a legendary spot is basically enough hype to make your brain explode internally and then leak out of your ears.

Any Mark Munson footage is a good thing, especially when it kicks off with a clip in the performance bowl. However it is later in the section when the park really gets a seeing too, the sal flip to tail is boss!

In a departure from the general theme of throwing yourself into massive pits that this article takes, here's Rodney Mullen putting on a freestyle demo at the bottom of the slalom course during a late 80s Bones Brigade tour. Roddeeeerrrsss!

A clip from the UK tour section of Creature's 'Black Metal', this is Stu using a part of the park that doesn't get much action because A) its near impossible to get speed to hit it and B) its gnarly. Not a problem when your legs are Livi trained though, Stu comes through with a back boneless.

A later Rom Jam, post-Duffs and after the helmet rule was instated, but live bands and a good crew made sure that shit still went off! Check the Cheese and Crackers techness on the miniramp alongside the usual pool and bowl radness, mental.

It's a shame that Youtube saw fit to take the sound off of this clip but Carl Wilson's front blunt in the pool is still well worth posting as it is legitimately insane.

Halloween jams at Rom always look like they go off, Monkeyglove coming through again with a gnar injection straight through the eyeball and into the brain. The locals absolutely smash it here, dress up not mandatory because the transitions are fucking scary enough.

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