These days, American skate tours and demos in the UK are rather thin on the ground.
It seems that a lot of brands are happy to forgo the traditional route in 2018, opting instead for the cheaper but decidedly less effective strategy of sending over individual riders to London, and then relying on the ripples of Instagram to disseminate hype, rather than having pro skaters turn up in demo-mode and stoke people out in real time.
Happily, the good people over at Shiner still understand that the kids (and everyone else) want to actually see the people whose boards they buy, skating in the flesh with their own eyeballs, and to be a part of something that physically happens in front of them, regardless of how obsessed everyone is with staring into their phone in 2018.
And so, it is from that perspective that last month's Birdhouse Skateboards European Tour took place.
Five countries (UK, France, Belgium, Holland and Germany), six demo's and a van filled with three US riders (Aaron 'Jaws' Homoki, Shawn Hale and Clive Dixon), plus our very own Ryan 'Clever Ryan' Price and Gav Coughlan. From speaking to the people who were there, a few things became abundantly apparent.
On home turf - an average afternoon at The Deaner for Clev. Nosegrind tailgrab.
2) Being sponsored in itself, and being paid to be sponsored/market skateboarding products even more so, is a massive privilege that demands a work ethic which carries with it more responsibilities than just going on paid-for holidays a few times a year.
99% of skaters pay full price for their shit - if you don't have to, then it's probably wise to be conscious of how lucky you are and to behave accordingly.
3) Jaws is famous. Very, very famous. Whether that's due to the Lyon 25, butt-chugging on KOTR, or just the fact that he is almost his own genre in so far as being 'the guy who jumps down the biggest shit in the world' is open to debate: but he got mobbed by autograph/selfie hunters at every single stop along the way.
Celebrity in skateboarding is clearly still earned through self-sacrifice, and maintained by being pleasant to the kids who are clamouring for autographs. Who would've thunk it?
Jaws, crown prince of the Mosher Drop - kickflip melon through The Level's iPhone tunnel. Photo: Griff
And so, without much further ado about nothing, here's a grip of James Griffiths photos from the Bristol and Brighton legs of the 2018 Birdhouse European Tour.
Additionally, there are a couple of short interviews with UK and Ireland-based Birdhouse flow riders Ryan Price and Gav Coughlan to get an insider's view on the reality of going on a tour like this.
P.S. A full edit from the entire Birdhouse Euro tour is coming. More on that soon.
Any session at The Deaner also means heavy local involvement - this one was no different. Pete Carron AKA 'Posh Pete' backside olle in the mix for the DLH. Photo: Griff
As above, so below. DLH squadron in full effect. Tom Kinman frontside heel block. Photo: Griff
Frontside boneless one - The Level, Brighton. Photo: Griff
A few words with UK Birdhouse flow rider Ryan Price
Skating the Deaner is one thing as you're there all the time, but Brighton and then the Euro demo's are when I guess you're required to justify the free stuff. Did you approach it in a particular way? Or is it still 'just skating' even when there 100s of people that you don't know watching you?
Man, the Deaner sesh was so good - everyone was hyped and getting involved! I didn't really approach doing demo's in a particular way to be honest, other than drinking as many beers as I could in the van and hoping for the best at the demo...
Who was the 'most famous' on the tour and what did that mean when they turned up at each demo?
Jaws was definitely the most famous for sure, when he would get anywhere the crowd would surround him before he could even get into the skatepark. Seeing that was pretty mental. The kids who were after autographs even had his dirty boxers and socks off him after the demo's too. Proper celeb shit.
Which of the stops/demos were the best and why?
Frankfurt was amazing, the bowl there was massive, but everywhere we went was sick really. When we arrived in Holland there was a free bar set up for us and the chap wouldn't stop bringing us trays and trays of beer. I never had a empty beer the entire time I was there. I ended up throwing up on my self that night on the stage, Alan Glass has a video of it too so no doubt that will end up somewhere. There was a lot of drinking throughout the entire tour but everyone managed to smash it skating everyday as well so it was balanced nicely. Play hard, work harder.
Clev yanks one off the end. Photo: Griff
How does somebody like you with a regular job manage to fuck off around Europe like this without it being an issue?
Well I'm really lucky in that both my bosses skate and they understand, so I just work my ass off while I'm there, so that when I do go away they are sound with it, they are both legends!
Alan Glass keeps telling me about how this trip was one of the best he's ever been on - what's your take on that?
I totally agree - it was genuinely the best 10 days of my life. I love all the Birdhouse guys, they are so sound. Big up Alan Glass and Shiner for hooking it up, I'm so grateful for it all.
What was the best trick that you got to witness during the whole thing?
Hard to say as there was a lot of good shit that went down but, in terms of things that I've never seen with my own eyes before, Clive Dixon did boardslide fakie down a double kink handrail - that was pretty crazy to witness firsthand.
From your perspective - explain what 'being sponsored' means Clev. What does it require, what are the responsibilities and is it worth it? Do you think 'being sponsored' has made you a better skater?
I guess one thing about being lucky enough to get sponsored is getting access to see how good some of these people really are, which pushes you to try as hard as they do. Getting to skate different places all the time makes you a better skater as well I reckon. I'm not really sure what being sponsored means beyond that though really - just repping the brands hard that hook you up and not taking shit for granted. It's definitely worth it though, I would've never had the chance to go round Europe if it wasn't for Shiner and Birdhouse! So much love for those guys.
Gav Coughlan - 360 flip - Lloyds. Photo: Griff
A few more words with Dublin-based Birdhouse flow rider Gav Coughlan
You're no stranger to big name tours Gav, having been on quite a few Volcom ones before - how was this Birdhouse trip in comparison to getting bossed around by Kev Parrott?
This trip was a bit different to the ones that I have been on before. We had a couple of set places that we had to do demos at, and then we were kinda free to do what we wanted in between, compared to being on a constant street mission to gather footage as on previous big tours I've been a part of. This was a little bit more laid back because of that, but I do miss having Kev telling me what to do!
I guess you've got enough tour miles under your belt not to get nervous like I'm sure Clev did. Plus you're a bit of a show off when the pressure's on which probably helps. Did you get freaked out by any of it or was it mellow?
I actually got a little freaked out with some of the bigger parks as they had a lot of big transition that I would like to try skate, but didn’t want to due to the amount of people watching, and the very real possibility of me falling on a slash grind. If anything, I think Clev didn’t even notice anything around him and was just throwing down! It pays to be 'clever' in that context, (laughing)...
Shawn Hale - seatbelt slide whilst Dange speed dials the Bookies. Photo: Griff
It seemed like you and Clev were accepted straight away and there was none of that 'US dudes in the front/flow riders in the boot' type of politics going on - was it as good natured as it looked?
Well, I had met Jaws a few years ago when he came to Ireland with Tony Hawk for the web summit and for them to visit a castle in Limerick that Tony ended up getting married at shortly after, so I kinda knew him a little bit. It was my first time meeting Clive, Shawn and Derek though but we all instantly got along. Everyone was on the same level. I don’t think Instagram could show how good-natured it was, but I’ve heard from a lot of people that it looked like we were having a sick time, which we did!
Who got the most attention from the kids? Are autographs still a thing? Or is it more "Yo you're that dude that took a shit on KOTR - can I get a selfie?"
Jaws definitely got the most attention from kids. When we got to Lloyds, he wasn’t able to move due to the sheer amount of kids asking for photos and autographs. He handles it really well though and always has time for everyone, which was sick to see. Some kids actually wanted his used boxers and socks and got him to sign them which was pretty funny, well until they put them on their heads!
Any particular spots or places that you liked?
I’d never been skating in France, Belgium, Breda in the Netherlands or anywhere in Germany before, so that was pretty rad to get them all done in the one trip. It was sick to go to Le Dome and see the hubba and get a real feel for how gnarly anything is on that, especially Eniz’s front blunt, which is just nuts!
You grew up in the time before Insta and all that but are still definitely part of the online generation - were kids more interested in filming what was going on, or just physically watching would you say?
It was a bit of a mixture between the two. You know how it is these days, everyone needs to get a clip or 2 on their story just to prove that they were there. That’s just how it goes, if you didn’t post about it on the Internet, were you really there?
Which of the stops/demos were the best and why?
I reckon the best stop was Pier 15 skatepark in Breda. The skatepark was a bit more to my taste with a lot of rails and ledges and less on the 14ft transition side! But as good as that was, it was the after party there that really made it. I’m sure everyone has seen at least one video of Martin from Bonk Skateshop holding a speaker above his head and blasting everyone with the music. They also filled us with a healthy amount of booze, and when you’d ask for water, they’d just bring you more beer, (laughing). We were really well looked after there and thanks to Martin and everyone that works at that bar/skatepark for a really memorable experience.
Who was demo hero and what was the demo hero tactic?
Of course Jaws was the demo hero, but Shawn was a bit of a dark horse too. Jaws just has everything on lock and can perform on demand, almost always finding some way to hype everyone up too. Shawn could just bang out a fakie 360 shove blunt on anything within 3 tries and that’s a bit of a jaw drop to see on demand!
Not entirely sure what to call this but '360 tailblock transfer' sounds shit, so we'll go with Shawn's name - Mr Hale 'The Nap', Brighton. Photo: Griff
Glass keeps telling me about how this trip was one of the best he's ever been on - what's your take on that?
Yeah this is definitely one of the best trips I’ve been on. Everyone got along really well and there wasn’t a dull moment. Someone always brought the hype. You’d think being stuck in a van for hours would suck, but we always made the most of it. I think every trip I go on in the future has a lot of live up to now!
What was the best trick that you got to witness during the whole thing?
We went to a pretty gnarly ditch in Cologne, where if you fell, you were falling into someone's actual shit that had run down through it at some point. Clive managed to nollie into it somehow, and it was pretty insane to see him rolling into that steep, rough bank at mach 10.
Can you explain what 'being sponsored' means Gav, especially from your perspective of being an Irish skater sponsored by a UK-based distro - what does it require, what are the responsibilities and is it worth it? Do you think 'being sponsored' has made you a better skater?
Being sponsored from my perspective has made it possible for me to avoid buying anything skate-related (unless it was something dope I wanted myself) in the last 10 years.
It’s made it a lot easier to skate having a steady flow of fresh boards and shoes, instead of having to piece together scraps, which I think in turn has made me a better skater.
In terms of responsibilities - you might be required to go on some trips, or to some competitions to rep those people who give you product, which I would never say 'no' to, when someone’s offering to send me somewhere to go on play on a plank of wood.
I find doing those things can be a lot of fun and you meet a lot of different people.
There is no way I'd ever have gone on a trip like this without it, and I’m stoked to have Shiner and Birdhouse back me and give me these opportunities. I’m so grateful for everything that skateboarding and the community has given me and I've met a lot of really good friends thanks to it. Although there isn’t any actual money to made, having sponsorship allows me to use what money I do have for things I want, rather than needing to buy shoes, clothes, boards etc. Obviously I can’t do this forever, but I have to enjoy it and make the most of it while I can. Big thanks to Alan for organising such a sick trip, and to Clive, Aaron, Shawn, Derek, Clev and Mark Byrne for making some very good memories!
Gav - frontside noseslide the length - Shiner TF. Photo: Griff
Jaws - invert at The Deaner. Photo: Griff
Stevie Thompson - backside boneless to fake - The Level. Photo: Griff
Shawn Hale - switch pole jam hang up - Shiner TF. Photo: Griff
Jaws - 360 backside ollie to rock and roll - The Level. Photo: Griff
Unknown soldier - boneless amidst the chaos. Photo: Griff