First up - the king of showmanship himself - Ben Grove.
So Grove, you're a NASS veteran these days - how many years have you been in a row now?
I am indeed mate, proper veteran. I don’t think I’ve missed a NASS in the last decade. The first time I went was a bit Lord of Flies, (laughing) and it just got better from there. I’d say I’ve definitely been to the last ten in a row at the least.
Can you remember your first time?
I went there the first time with the dudes from Oakley, Stu Morgan and all those guys. They had one of the very first VIP hospitality sections set up but everybody was that thirsty that it ended up closing down at about 9.30pm or something mental. It was a perfect NASS baptism; all these free loaders gutted that there was no free beer to blag by pretending to be Tony Hawk, (laughing). It ended up like The Walking Dead that night with everyone wandering around like zombies looking for the next party, holding onto the fences and begging to be let into the VIP area. (Laughing)…
As far as I can remember, you've entered every single NASS you've been to - what sets NASS apart from other skate contests?
You get to skate with loads of your friends, you’re in the countryside, there are loads of good bands playing – I mean, what is there to not like about that? Basically, if the sun’s shining then you’re guaranteed a good time man.
Backside ollie - Photo: CJ
What's your highest placing so far and what was the secret to your success that year do you think?
I came second that year that Chris Oliver supposedly beat me, (laughing). That’s the best I’ve done so far. Chris won the jam, but I had the higher scoring run if I remember it right. To be fair, we both smashed it. In terms of the secret of my success – I didn’t do anything differently, I never do – you know me, I only have one tactic. No sleep, no t-shirt, no plan. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but I like to think it’s entertaining for the crowds.
What's the best trick that you can remember seeing over all your years of NASS attendance?
That’s easy – Andy Scott’s kickflip 360 melon over the Goliath mini-mega. That was absolutely mental. Oh and Stu Graham’s slam where his head hit the floor so hard that the entire cowshed shook. That was nasty but as it was Stu, he was back the next day skating in the finals with his skull stapled back together. I did quite well that year as well actually: I think I came third – a proper podium athlete, (laughing). My performance has consistently gone downhill from that point onward.
What about your favourite obstacle or set up from over the years?
You know what I’m going to say here…the big flat bank to crowd barrier thing, the one I did a nosepick on back in 2012. Tops off, glory move for the crowds…standard Grove.
That was some BMX level stuff and it wasn't even in your run. What was going on there?
(Laughing), you were on the mic going “Ben Grove! Grove! Where are you? It’s your run!" and I was still outside having a cig with no shoes on. I ran into the skatepark, putting my shoes on as I was running, dropped in and did my run with no warm up whatsoever so I think I did that nosepick during practice to kind of make up for fluffing my run. What an entrance though - you have to give the crowds something to remember. I did the best trick of the weekend, not even in my run and then just walked out of the arena. Pure showmanship.
What's your funniest memory of NASS from over the years?
That’s a hard one mate as the whole weekend is a highlight – constant shenanigans, isn’t it? If I had to pick one, probably the year that Doug McLaughlan and I shared a caravan and we stayed up drinking till the sun came up. I’d broken my ankle that year so I wasn’t skating and Doug was recovering from surgery so we both spent most of the weekend drinking chilled Buckfast by the caravan. We stayed up so late one evening that Doug passed out on the grass and I left him there because I couldn’t pick him up with my foot in plaster. A few hours later there’s all this commotion outside with St John’s Ambulance people surrounding Doug who’s managed to get really badly sun burned on one side from sleeping on the grass. I think they thought he was dead, (laughing). I just shouted “Dougy!" and he sat bolt upright and looked at all these people fussing over him really confused. “I’m not dead! I’m hungover!" (Laughing).
Backside kickflip - Photo: CJ
You like a contest Ben - do you ever go into them with a plan or do you just drop in and see what happens?
Don’t make plans – when you make plans they go wrong. Just go with the flow.
Do you have any go-to tricks for contests?
What about music-wise - who've you seen play there who have impressed you?
I saw Zed Bias play last time, that was mint. A lot of my friends who make dance music play there too, which is obviously a guaranteed good time. I’m struggling to think of others…Nass was amazing when he played. I’m looking forward to Method Man this year – who would’ve thought that? Wu Tang heads in Shepton Mallet? That’s reason enough to go really.
Finally - sum up NASS in three words.
ABD. (Laughing)… But in a good way.
Here's a throwback clip from 2009 when Grove claimed third. Look at that screw-face on the podium!
More info on riders in attendance at this year's NASS here.