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SAM BECKETT – INTERVIEW

Norfolk’s most bio son and the man whose name isn’t really his name was recently granted pro status by long-time sponsors Blind Skateboards. Stephen Cox caught up with Sam Beckett recently to chat about his first response to being handed a board with his name emblazoned upon it, travelling and getting lost trying to find Mount Baldy.

“From the grey skies of Norwich comes a skater who puts a lashing on anything in his path. Pools, street, vert, curbs or ditches are all fair game to one of the most versatile rippers around. With a deep respect for the history of skateboarding mixed with a fierce desire to push skating into the future, Sam Beckett blends old and new in a way that lays anything he rolls his wheel on in ruins. Speed, power, and style best sum up this ripper. Be on the lookout for Sam all over the world on his constant quest to find new terrain. It was with great pride that I was able to work with Skeleton Key and my old friend Darren Navarette to collaborate on Sam’s well-deserved debut pro model. Cheers to you, Sam!” – Bill Weiss

How are things Sam?

Really good, thanks. I just got back from South Africa, which was brilliant but it’s been nice to have a few days of not doing anything and just hanging out at home.

What were you out in SA for?

I was out for the Kimberly Diamond Cup – I’ve been to it the last two or three years. I managed to get a chance to check out Cape Town this year though.

I deliberately booked this one as a solo mission with a mind to do something a little bit different from the usual ‘turn up at the contest – skate the contest – fly home’ thing. I skated some guy’s backyard bowl and the Transworld guys were out there too so I went and skated with them as well. It was cool to just do a bit of chilling out, sightseeing and meeting people for once.

How did you get on in the competition?

Ah, that didn’t go so well.

Mr Beckett takes a backtail to the max level before disappearing into the dank. Photo Horse.

There’s always the next time. Do you always stick to a plan with your runs?

With those competitions you kind of have to have an idea of what you’re going to do really. Occasionally you will do something and surprise yourself, but it’s hard to make it up as you go along when you only have twelve walls.

Congratulations on going pro by the way.

Cheers mate.

I saw the House of Vans clip when you found out. If I were giving someone their first pro board I wouldn’t expect to be told to f*ck off, (laughs).

Yeah, f*ck, (laughs), I felt bad about that afterwards – seemed a bit rude didn’t it?

It was funny!

(Laughs), I just honestly had no idea; it was a complete surprise, genuinely.

I was seriously shocked. I didn’t know that was going to happen at all. I thought that it was a stitch up at first. I didn’t know what was going on, hence the reaction – that was genuine.

It’s settled in now though, surely?

Kind of…

You’ve been with Blind for a while now though.

I’ve been on Blind for maybe six or seven years. I started getting flowed stuff through the Blind Europe team. I stayed on from that point really. It was weird though, the European team kind of disappeared and it didn’t seem like there was much going on for a bit but then I started doing stuff with Bill Weiss in the States and the momentum picked up again. That’s been the case for the last year or so.

It’s definitely an achievement to become pro for the company that brought us Video Days.

Yeah, that’s pretty mental to think about. There’s a lot of history there.

How do you think things have changed or will change now that you’re pro?

It’s pretty much the same thing. I was always working towards doing this part that is coming out in November. It’ll be a new Blind video on The Berrics. I’ve been so focused towards that and now that I’m pro I almost wish I had a bit longer to work on it. But it is what it is. Now I just really want to film some more stuff and do some shit to really feel like I deserve this status.

A big old vert ramp is the fisheye's friend. Sam stales high in Vista. Photo CJ.

Is that a full team video?

It’s the majority of the team apart from those who have had stuff come out individually recently.

In terms of being a vert skater on a board company, is there a sense of detachment from the rest of the team who skate street?

I think the team as a whole is a real diverse group of people and we all have different crews that we skate with anyway. That makes it sick. The trips are cool though because we all get on so well and we get to skate together which doesn’t usually happen. It brings everyone together.

I know you were out in The States with CJ and Ryan [Gray] a while back too. I heard that trip was pretty intense.

Yeah it was from the go, I think it was because it was just the three of us.

Ryan said to ask about the mission to find Mount Baldy.

(Laughs), oh yeah. We had no idea where it was. We had an address but it turned out we just had an address of the mountain. It’s not that hard to find but we were kind of running out of daylight and had no idea where we were going. We were wandering around aimlessly. It was cool to eventually find it because it became a mission instead of someone just giving us the pin, which is kind of standard procedure these days – an actual ‘mission’ is pretty rare over in California.

What was it like to skate?

It was fun. It’s actually a lot smaller and tighter than it looks and it’s kind of crusty. There were some people skating it when we got there too. That’s actually how we found it in the end because we could hear them.

You were skating Bob Burnquist’s ramp on that trip too right?

Yeah, I’ve known Bob for a little bit through skating competitions but I hadn’t skated his ramp before then. It’s concrete vert bowl. It’s pretty amazing. I’d like a bit more time with that one as it gets easier the more you skate it and get the lines going.

I’ve always thought concrete would be much dodgier when it comes to slams.

I’ve seen some pretty horrible head smacks skating concrete but I like it as much as wood. Wood can sometimes be sketchier when it’s slippy. I always seem to hurt my wrists and ankles on wooden ramps. I’ve actually just done my knee quite badly so I’ll have to rest up for a bit.

What’s the worst slam you’ve ever seen?

Has to be Danny Way’s mega ramp slams at the X-Games.

A heavy application of wax and Sam finds himself grinding up and out (not in Norwich) Photo CJ.

I know you hold Rune Glifberg as a big influence. What skaters influence you and your trick selection?

They’re all people that I’ve looked up to or skated with a lot.  Alex Perelson, Juergen Horrwarth, Rune, Andy Scott, Dave Allen, Pete King.

I know you’re close with Alex Perelson.

I usually stay with him when I go out to the States.

I’m sure there are some crazy stories to tell about him.

He’s actually been doing really good and has been sober for the last eleven months now. His skating definitely reflects his personality too. He’s all or nothing. He’s full throttle. Living with him has been interesting because he’s had his ups and downs but there’s been a massive difference in him this last ten months. It’s been really nice living with him because he’s being really positive and upbeat about everything and is really keen to skate all the time. I can’t keep up with him.

So how do both of you push each other when you skate? Is there some healthy competition going on there?

I don’t know if I have much of an impact on him but he definitely pushes me. He’s so bloody good. I guess there’s a bit of competition but it’s more us just messing with each other. It’s always fun.

How do you change things up with your skating? Is there a more gradual progression with vert skating than street do you think?

I guess there’s a natural way that things go. You’ll add a flip into something and things sort of go up a level in steps. Sometimes it happens quickly. The thing I like about skating vert is that it just feels comfortable for me. If I want to learn something it feels quite easy sometimes but it depends how much you’re skating. When I’m out in America and I’m skating vert all the time it definitely changes my skating. Things tend to come more slowly when I’m back in the UK and I’m only skating vert once or twice a week.

Framed from within a Californian cess pit Sam hits new deal in a ditch you wanna skate. Photo Horse.

Are there any trends in vert skating that you don’t like at the minute?

There are definitely tricks that will trend. I don’t know if I don’t like any though. Inverts are back in a big way and to me that’s sick. Air to disaster variations are pretty big at the minute too.

There’s a lot of debate about skateboarding going to the Olympics at the minute. You’ve said previously that it would be great for vert skating, as it’s already somewhat alienated.

It’s all come out pretty recently. Before I think I was just looking at the positive. I’m pretty sure it has been accepted. It’s not like I want it in there but if it is then I’m not going to sit around and complain about it. Street League came around and that has prepared skateboarding to be in the Olympics. If people get to enjoy skating that way then fair enough. Skateboarding is always going to be skateboarding whether there’s a corporate side or not.

I think the problem is that sometimes it seems there’s no concrete logic to the scoring.

There are definitely biases that go on.

I don’t understand gymnastics events in the Olympics but I get the impression that there is a more rigid technical structure to how it is scored.

It’s just very subjective with skating. If it was down to me I think I would be too biased. Maybe watching someone executing ten tricks in a row perfectly isn’t going to make you feel anything. Then someone just does the craziest looking ollie and it just appeals to you. That’s what gets me stoked on watching skating. When it makes you feel something or you get excited. The way people do things in skateboarding is really important to me. It’s not necessarily about what you do but how you do it. I don’t think there is a way to judge that and be completely objective. There needs a fairer way.  But then, if you don’t want to be judged then don’t enter. You’ll always be stitched up one way or another. Thankfully it’s not up to me, I’m not trying to be a judge or be in the Olympics.

Going back to your roots in Norfolk there wasn’t much to skate vert-wise.

Yeah, no ramps out here – we had to travel further out to Birmingham and Peterborough.

Lein air with perfect form in a Californian back garden. Photo CJ.

When did the interest in vert spark up for you?

I don’t really know because all I skated was flat at first, as daft as that may sound from today’s perspective. Then I started skating with Paul-Luc (Ronchetti) a lot and he skated a lot of tranny. Then he got into vert and so I got into it too. It wasn’t a conscious decision of, “this is what I’m going to do”. It was what was really fun and what we were doing. I didn’t just decide to be “a vert skater”. I did always like watching the tranny video parts more when I was younger so I guess you could say I was definitely always more drawn to transition.

You’re only 23 years old. Have you found yourself skating with older people over the years?

I definitely think I’ve always skated with people who are a lot older than me for the majority of the time. Other than Paul, the crew that got me into it were all older. But now there’s a real good mix and there’s a lot of younger kids really coming up.

Aside from access to vert ramps, why is there less interest in it than street in the UK?

I feel like there’s going to be another wave of kids skating vert in the UK in the next five years or so. I can see these kids getting better and they’re keen. There’s so much potential.

Egg plant in the backyard of Bob. An epic landscape of concrete and sunsets. Photo CJ.

Do you watch street as well or is it just vert for you?

I watch everything. That’s what’s kind of weird. I don’t know if it’s habitual but I’m a bit of a geek and don’t limit myself to what would just usually appeal to me. I’ll watch all kinds of skating.

So Sam, what’s next? Is a move to the States on the cards now?

After the Blind video comes out I’m hoping to get back over to the States and get some more filming done. I’m going to go over for a bit and see what happens. I’m headed to South America for Christmas too. I’m always keen to travel.

What would be your advice for the youngsters out there who want to get into vert skating?

Definitely just to do whatever is fun and if you can find a buddy to do it with then you’ve made it. It’s never going to be as much fun doing by your self.

Last question: have you seen Bill Weiss do a naked 540?

I haven’t no! I’ve seen clips of it though. I’m not sure when his last naked one was (laughs).

 

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