Photography by Chris Johnson - Interview by Danielle Gallacher
First up, how old are you, where are you from and how did you come into contact with skateboarding?
I’ve just turned 24 and just hit that ten years of skating point. I’m originally from Bournemouth and grew up skating the local there (Kings Park Skatepark). I actually first went down there on rollerblades with my brother but all of his friends skated and as soon as I saw them doing tricks on the mini ramp I was like “Shit, this is what I want to do". I asked my Mum if I could have my Birthday present a few months early. I got a set up and spent every day of the summer holidays down the park.
You moved to Brighton for University just over three years ago and have recently graduated. What did you study and how did you find it?
When choosing where to study I think I researched the skateparks in the area more than the actual Uni itself and I’m so glad I did because The Level is such an amazing place. I studied Earth & Ocean Science which was a mix of geology, ecology, marine biology, conservation and environmental science. I don’t really know what I’m going to do with it but I’ve just always enjoyed learning how the world around us works and how we can reduce the degradation of our planet.
Did you find struggle trying to find the time to skate?
The first two years of Uni I skated quite a bit, probably more than I should have as I was leaving myself a day or two for every piece of work. However my last year of Uni was mental. I skated once a month at times because I was so overwhelmed with my dissertation and reports. I knew it all came down to the last year and I would have been really disappointed if I didn’t come out with a 2:1, so unfortunately skating had to take the bench for a little while.
You’ve decided to stay on in Brighton now that you’ve graduated. How come you stayed in Brighton, what are you doing for work and are you planning to use your degree to start a career based job?
After living in Brighton for three years I’ve made a life for myself and I’m not ready to say goodbye to that just yet. Brighton is an amazing city and I’ve sort of fallen in love with it to be honest. The Level is amazing not just for the park itself but the people and the vibe down there. There’s always something going on, honestly there’s not another skate park like it.
At the moment I work at a Tesco Express, the only job I’ve ever had (six years strong). I definitely don’t want to work there forever but it’s an easy way to pay the bills. I really should start thinking about careers and all that grown up stuff but at the moment I like working part time so I can fit skateboarding events around work.
What are the best and worst things about living in Brighton?
Brighton has such an awesome community and it’s probably one of the only places in the UK that has such a strong vote towards the Green Party and Labour, which goes to say something about the people that live here - the majority of people, young or old, are quite like-minded. The city itself is beautiful with its Balamory houses and the long stretch of beach. It’s definitely called ‘Little London’ for a reason; there is always something going on and something to get involved in. The worst thing about Brighton is how expensive it is to live here, rent is becoming crazy.
I met Callun for the first time at the Girl Skate UK birthday jam at Broom Skate Park in Leicester. A few other events have been held up there too and the after parties are always insane. Callun’s been insanely supportive of the UK female skate scene and managed to meet up with a lot of us girls for Get 420. I only met up with him for one day to film for the last video so didn’t really get much, whereas this time we’ve met up three times and managed to get some more tricks filmed.
Are you happy with what you’ve filmed? Any bad slams?
I’m pretty happy with what I’ve filmed, there’s a few tricks in there that I’ve learnt since the last video and I’ve tried to push myself a little more. Although there’s nothing I particularly planned ahead of time, it’s all tricks that just happened to work on the day. No bad slams thankfully, although I’m sure Cal’s a bit disappointed as he loves a good slam.
I’m unbelievably thankful to both companies, without their support I would struggle to fund my own decks and shoes as previously I was wearing a pair of shoes for about a year at a time, basically until they fell off my feet.
I wore a lot of Polar gear before the hook up; they’ve been my favourite company for boards and clothes for quite a few years. Pontus messaged me on Instagram asking if I got my Polar gear through a distributor but at the time I wasn’t; the majority of it was birthday and Christmas presents from my boyfriend, Josh Manderson. When he found out I wasn’t riding for a board company either he suggested the hook up, which I’m obviously insanely stoked about.
Another shoe company contacted me but their communication was quite bad, so I asked for some advice from my mate Stevie Thompson who then contacted Matt Anderson at Lakai and I guess sort of bigged me up to them ha ha. I’m really stoked on Lakai as a brand; they’re not as commercialised as some other big shoe companies and are therefore more raw skateboarding. Tom ‘Smithy’ Smith has been an absolute legend since being hooked up and I can’t wait for a UK team meet up.
Does being sponsored by such credible companies change the way you approach skateboarding and has it added any pressure at all?
I don’t feel particularly pressured but I do want to try my best to give back to these companies in the little ways, like meeting up with Cal the extra few times for the video. I’ve often got bummed about my own skating, constantly thinking I’m shit and I guess having other companies supporting me has given me a bit more confidence in my own abilities and has allowed me to start trying new tricks more often than I used to.
It seems like women are finally getting more recognition in skateboarding. What do you think the reasons for that are?
Female skateboarders have never had much recognition in the skate media, however with Social Media becoming such a big thing in the skate industry it has given us girls a platform to represent ourselves. I think people are just more aware of the amount of girls and the level they’re at since things like www.girlskateuk.com have come about.
What do you think is the best way to give women a bigger platform in skateboarding? Do you think it’s to create female focused companies or is it better to integrate women into existing brands?
I personally think it’s better to integrate female and male skateboarding, I don’t really see the need for the divide just due to gender. However, there is an obvious divide between skill level between pro men and pro women so until the gap closes (which I’m sure it will, give it ten years’ time), separation of men and women in competitions like Street League and X Games is needed. Regarding brands however, not many ‘female only’ brands exist at the moment so it’s difficult to judge. I feel they could do really well though.
For a lot of girls, seeing you on Instagram has encouraged them to give skating a try. Do you think it’s important for girls skating to be regarded in the same light and represented in the mainstream industry? If so, why?
Skateboarding has always been one of those sports that’s open to everyone regardless of their background (culture, religion, ethnicity) so therefore gender shouldn’t be such a big issue. I think it’s important to us girls to be represented in the mainstream industry for obvious reasons - it encourages and inspires other women, both those who already skate and those who want to learn. For the owners of these mainstream industries I doubt it’s that important, however if these industries don’t jump on board they may get left behind seeing as female skateboarding is blowing up at the rate it is. They could be missing out on a large proportion of the market in a few years’ time.
What is it like to be a semi-famous woman in the age of social media?
Ha ha. I wouldn’t say I was semi-famous at all. It’s only Instagram, it’s not a big deal.
How many followers do you think you’ll need before you can quit you job at Tesco?
These questions just get funnier and funnier. I know some people can make a living from Instagram but that’s not me, I don’t have the personality or confidence for it.
Why do you think your Instagram posts have gotten the amount of attention that they have?
I don’t know why my Instagram has blown up as much as it has since finishing Uni, I have been posting a lot more videos since I’ve actually had time to skate. I think it’s one of the those things that’s a bit of a vicious cycle, obviously the more followers you have the more people are going to see your footage and are therefore likely to gain you more followers…it’s all just a bit stupid to be honest.
What’s the funniest DM’s you’ve gotten?
Mostly just "I love you" and "marry me" from twelve year olds in America, ha ha. I did get sent a dick pic once though, I’m glad they’ve decided to blur images that people that you don’t know send now.
Do you think it’s a problem, more than with the guys, that females tend to be marketed in a certain way? Or that sponsors tend to favour girlier or more attractive skaters?
I know that’s a big issue in the surf industry and could easily go the same way in skateboarding. I guess now that female skating is blowing up, skateboard companies need to make the decision of whether they’re going to portray us for our looks or for our skill.
I personally think it seems to be more based on skill than looks at the moment, however I guess the Instagram followers also make a difference as people want you to advertise for them. Obviously the more followers you have, the more advertising that company is going to get. I do sort of feel if it wasn’t for the amount of followers I had, I might not have had any of my hook ups merely based on my skill.
Your outfits are always on point, how does skateboarding inform your own style?
Well I mostly wear Polar clothes day in and day out and when their clothes are that pretty, how could your outfit not look on point, ha ha. My style is definitely inspired by skateboarding - other people in the street probably think what the hell is this girl wearing, especially when I’m on my own without my board. It definitely makes you get ID’d more often. I mean what normal twenty four year old wears caps and long socks with shorts or dickies and a baggy jumper.
You’ve also recently just gotten glasses, when did you realize you couldn’t see properly? Is it harder to skate with them?
Jheeez, what a question. I had my eyes tested when I was eight and then not again until recently. All through school I had to move to the front of the class to make notes but my mum was just super busy when I was younger and I guess never got around to taking me. I even remember a letter coming through from the council recommending I went for one. My prescription isn’t that strong (-1.5) but I have become so dependent on them and I feel blind without them. I definitely wouldn’t be able to skate without them now, well it would take me a while to get used to it again. I think they’ve helped me skate, I can now focus on the coping or whatever obstacle from a distance rather than a metre away. I did manage to faceplant wearing them, giving myself a hench black eye and a completely numb face for a month.
What do you watch to get you hyped for a skate? Who are your favourite skaters?
I don’t usually watch any skating before I go skate, I’m in too much of a rush to get out of work and to the skatepark to even bother. I sometimes end up watching Thrasher and Sidewalk clips in the evening before bed but my favourite thing to watch has to be the Epicly Later’d series. To be honest I’m more inspired by the people skating around me than any of the pros. I find what they’re doing mind blowing, don’t get me wrong but it’s almost incomprehensible to me. It’s not often that I’ll watch a clip and be inspired to try something because it’s so out of my league. My favourite skateboarder has to be Nora Vasconcellos though; she’s an amazing skateboarder with a sick style and personality to match.
What do you do when you’re not skating?
That’s actually quite a difficult one, I think most of my life revolves around skating. I work quite a bit at the moment and before that I was busy doing Uni work a lot of the time, so I don’t get that many days off and when I do I obviously spend them skating. The Level has got such a good scene that even when I go out in the evening now it seems to be straight from the skatepark, so you end up with the inevitable drunken skate. I don’t know, at the moment it seems like I can’t get away from it or I don’t want to.
What are your plans for next year, do you have any trips in the pipeline?
Well at the moment me and Josh are trying to save up some money to be able to move out to Barcelona. I want to get a job out there and stay for six months to a year just to get an idea of what it’s like to live and work abroad. I don’t want to be working everyday out there and not getting a chance to actually enjoy the city, so we’re trying to get as much money together before we go.
Finally, give a shout out here to anyone you want:
My boyfriend Josh Manderson for pushing me to try new tricks, Mumsy (of course), Callun Loomes for always supporting the girls, Bummer and Geordie for believing in me from the first time I dropped in, Girl Skate UK, Pontus and everyone at Polar, Matt Anderson, Tom ‘Smithy’ Smith and everyone over at Lakai UK, Wes from Rock Solid Dist, Mike at Keen, CJ for taking these banging photos, all the homies from Kings Park and the entire Level Army.