From Sidewalk 209 - February 2014
Photography by Chris Johnson
Interview by Tom Gillespie & CJ
Many years ago, I was asked to be one of the judges at my local skatepark in Worcester. It was there that I first saw this crusty, surfy-looking thirteen-year-old metal head doing early-grab airs and super fast grinds the length of the coping on a massive Creature board. I thought he was on his hols from the US or something.
I think we gave him first place. I remember talking to Tom Gillespie afterwards and finding out that he was from the local area and was just finding his feet. My initial thoughts were that if he stopped early-grabbing and started popping into those airs that he was going to be amazing!
A few years later, Tom was working for us and comes out with, “remember that kid Ryan who got first place at the Worcester comp? Well he’s stopped early-grabbing."
For about twelve months Tom showed us footage of what Ryan did at the weekend with the Gnargore lot. The team was full but we just had to put him on. He had such a rad and distinctive style that I’m not going to try and put into words. He skates everything and he’s all you need from a team member. His hunger for skating is off the charts, we don’t have to tell him to do anything either, he’s already there off his own back. He’s a solid member of the family!
- Ken, A Third Foot.
TG: Where are you from and how did you discover skateboarding?
I’m from Stourport-on-Severn in Worcestershire, which is about half an hour south of Birmingham. There was a ramp in a field at the back of my house when I was a kid and I’d occasionally see people skating it when we were playing football on the pitch next to it.
At first, my mates and I would just f*ck about on it with a board and one time; regrettably, we chucked a load of paint all over it. A couple of years later, a skatepark opened in the town centre and we all headed down there, as it was the new hang out spot. I soon got bored of just hanging around and wanted to start skating there with my friends. A few weeks later, my Mom bought me a secondhand set up from a local car boot sale.
It was a Karma board with some random trucks and wheels.
TG: For those who have no idea, tell us about Stourport and all that it’s known for.
It’s a pretty sleepy town for most of the year but it’s part of the busy Canal network and is a Bank Holiday hotspot for dickheads who want to get pissed and play mini golf. I guess its main attraction is the year round fair ground/carnival on the river Severn and it’s pretty over run with gypsies and travellers.
TG: What was the scene like in Stourport growing up, how has it changed and what attempts do you make to escape and skate new terrain?
There was a solid scene when I was younger. I used to hear about older skaters from the town like Luke Kindon and Dodge. When the skatepark had been there for a while and us younger kids were starting to learn tricks, we’d end up hanging out with the older lot when they’d come down.
After a while, Kindon asked me if I wanted to mission to Stoke Plaza with him and his mate, I was so stoked.
CJ: When you were a kid, your boards were as wide as you were tall. How come you skated pool boards from such an early age? Who and what were your influences?
The first video I saw was Creature Hesh Law that was free with Sidewalk so I was naturally influenced by watching that on repeat. Also Chris (Bourke) who ran Spine Skate Shop in Worcester at the time, used to stock all the hesh stuff so I got into it from there too.
Tom Carr used shred at Perdiswell (Worcester skatepark) and when I used to go there and watch him skate, I naturally wanted to skate like he did and he had massive Dave Allen or Zarosh Death boards.
All the Creature dudes on that DVD were a massive influence too.
TG: When did you cut the Cali surfer boy golden locks off and become a full on scruff? Why the hell did you used to bleach your hair?
I used to love watching Lords of Dogtown, so I did it to look like Jay Adams. We used to look for pools around Stourport and the surrounding areas by all of them were either full or had no transition in them. I guess after a while I started watching other videos and getting influenced by the growing crew of mates that I was skating with so it just kind of faded out.
CJ: Can you tell us about local crew ‘Gnargore’ and how you found yourself in association with those guys early on?
Joel Taylor who I used to skate with put together a Facebook petition to get me on Gnargore. I actually only got a Facebook account so I could look at it. We started skating together when they used to come to the skatepark and from there we went street skating and I filmed a part with them for ‘Wizard Council’.
I used to wear Guns n Roses band tees with trackie bottoms but they still gave me the first part in the video. I can’t remember much about the premiere but I somehow managed to skate the Ideal ramp afterward.
CJ: Going on from that, you got a board sponsor right? Who do you ride for and how did that come about?
I ride for A Third Foot with some help from Ideal skateshop. Tom (Gillespie) used to work at ATF and was filming with me at the time so he showed Ken and Joel (ATF owners) my footage.
(Luke) Kindon was already on at this point so he put in a word for me so I jumped in the car one time when he went to the factory to get some boards in hope of me blaggin’ a board at cost. Ken gave me a free board and asked if I wanted to ride for them as flow and just see how things go from there.
After a while, they bumped me up to the full team.
CJ: What’s it like to be representing something so local to you and the fact that you can actually go into the factory where the boards are made and be involved first hand?
It’s good to be involved with Ken and Joel and get to see the boards made as it’s a real craft and those dudes are so passionate about new mixes of glue, they’re like a couple of mad scientists. It’s rad!
Riding for them is rad as everyone one on the team is sound and I skate pretty much every weekend with Kindon and (Andy) Coleman and there’s usually some kind of local road trip going on.One time we went to Wales and went swimming in reservoirs. There’s no stress, it’s just mates having a laugh and we always end up in some mad situation.
TG: Back in 2012, A Third Foot did a Summer Vacation, this was your first ‘proper’ tour right? How was it and what are the standout memories from the week?
It was so rad and I was so stoked to be going away to a bunch of spots I’d never even seen before. I remember it being pretty gnarly as far as skating for hours on end everyday and feeling pretty rinsed by the end of it but it was so rad!
When we were at this Velodrome spot, I ended up nearly writing myself off whilst trying to power round one of the corners of this old woman’s bike when the chain came off. I thought I’d tried my first vegetable with Andy during that tour as well but it turned out to be a grape. He was trying to eat healthy for the trip and they were all always on at me for eating sweets and shit from the services so I ended up giving it ago. About an hour in, I f*cked it off and went to the first chippy that we drove past.
A few days into the trip, we picked Dougy (McLaughlan) up. Tom Carr (the then ATF Team Manager) gave Dougy his twenty quid rations for the week from Ken for food, which he spent on booze and fags at the first shop we went to. When he got back in the car he asked how long we were away for, Tom replied, “One week". Dougy was like, “Shit, I only thought we were going away for the night! I’ve only got one pair of pants!" Later in the week he ended up having to wash his kegs in (then ATF team rider) Adam Key’s parent’s bath whilst we were staying then and left them on the side of the bath to dry whilst we went out skating for the day. I don’t think Adam’s parents were ready for that! Ha.
In an attempt to get us up early and make sure we didn’t get wrecked, Tom Carr imposed a strict nine pm curfew on us when we stayed at his bird’s house in Manchester. We ignored this and went to TGI’s for food and ended up being only twenty minutes late to the cut off point. When we got in he came down from the bedroom in his boxer shorts and confiscated the telly off us! When I went upstairs to the toilet a few hours later, he was asleep with the Friends box set DVD menu playing the theme tune on repeat.
CJ: Brewer was telling me that you were constantly getting kicked out of school for being a truant. How many times did you have to find a new school and what were the reasons for the truancy?
I used to get bollocked all the time for skipping school but it all came to a head when I flicked a condom at this girl halfway through an assembly. They weren’t that stoked. I couldn’t concentrate and all I wanted to do was skate so I used to go skate at Stourport skatepark all day instead.
The truancy officers never caught me at the park - but they knew I was there. I got expelled from Middle School in the last week for slamming a door (accidently) on the deputy head’s fingers!
CJ: I’m guessing this is where the nickname ‘Clev’ (Clever Ryan) came from then?
I think Dan (Jordan) first called me that and then the others all jumped on it as they were saying that I didn’t speak properly. I’m not that thick really I just don’t think they understand the slang we use in Stourport.
CJ: With so much time away from school, the world in an economic spiral and the youth of today supposedly all being out of work, you still manage to have a job working five or six days a week as a carpenter: How did that come about and can you give us an insight into an average day at work?
When I had to move schools, I didn’t know anyone so I knuckled down and got my GCSE’s. From there I went to Kidderminster College and got an apprentice in carpentry and joinery. I’m not good at writing, I’m more of a practical, hands-on person and it kind of just works.
I get up at 5:30am every day and walk to the bus stop in Stourport, get a bus to Kidderminster, then a train to Cradley and walk the rest of the way. It takes forever so I need to get a car. I start at 8am and we do all sorts of jobs from shop fitting, building bespoke counters and cabinets, kitchens, doors and windows to cabinet making.
When I first started I had to start at the bottom and pretty much just swept up and made the tea but and now I’m a fully qualified bench joiner.
Once we fitted out the gift shop for Buckingham Palace, which was pretty random.
CJ: When you’re not in work and not skating, going by your Instagram updates, you seem to be getting seemingly random tattoos. Tell us about them and what the motivation behind each one was.
When I was younger I wanted a tattoo but I wasn’t old enough and couldn’t afford them so I did a satanic cross on my ankle with biro ink and a badge pin in the bath one night.
The first proper one I got was a “YOLO" tattoo on my leg, which was obviously as a joke, but I just thought f*ck it. That was after the ATF Tour because we were all taking the piss saying it every third seconds.
I got the “Walshes" tattoo on my other leg after that. My mate Adam Hudson did the “Dordy Eagle" for me. Again just for a laugh more than anything else. Then I got a massive ATF one on my arm off Andy’s housemate Jimmy (James Mathews) when I hurt myself and was bored because I couldn’t skate.
TG: I heard your girlfriend begged you not to get tattoos on your arms but you got them anyway and that you always wear a long sleeve in front of her parents so they don’t see them; is that true?
She begged me not to get it, but James is a rad tattooist and it was a spur of the moment thing. Her parents haven’t seen it yet! I had to hold my sleeve down when I was helping putting up the Christmas lights round at theirs so they didn’t catch a glimpse. Ha.
TG: You mentioned the Walshes tattoo, what’s ‘The Walshes’?
The Walshes is a council estate that I live on in Stourport. It’s the roughest estate in the area where there’s a local drug dealer who rides around on a horse doing “business". A lot of travellers live on the fields around the estate.
TG: ‘A Walshes’ Tattoo in the style of a Wu Tang logo yet Andy Coleman said you couldn’t even name a single Wu song...
It went well with the Walshes, I like the colour: I listened to them in mate’s car a few weeks after getting the tattoo, so I’m into them now.
CJ: Whilst on the subject of the estate, tell us about the horses tied up outside your house and what’s this I heard about some dudes off the estate ram raiding Blockbusters?
It’s nothing really. There’s a family who live near me that tie their horses on a patch of grass outside my house every now and again and for some reason always leave them right outside our house.
Recently our local Blockbuster got ram raided by a transit van full of dudes off the estate. They ended up nicking all of the display DVD’s from the store but later that night they realized the cases were all empty so they just dumped the empty cases in the dustbins in the neighborhood.
CJ: With that kind of shit going on around you, do you get any hassle of the locals for skating and have they ever tried to drag you down that path?
I went to middle school with most of them so they’re all sound with me. When I got into skating and started traveling out of Stourport I never really saw them much so I went my way and I guess they went theirs. I used to hang out with them when I was younger and play stone wars in an abandoned slaughterhouse down the road.
TG: Go on then, what’s ‘Stone Wars’?
As the name suggests, the aim was to just lob stones at people and
if you got him, you were out. Some of had slingshots and I got smacked in the face a few times by some pretty big stones. Pretty stupid looking back, but it was a laugh at the time.
TG: You mentioned earlier about the local Stourport slang, could you tell us what Dordy means? What’s a chavy? And, by Pukkas, are you talking about the pies?
Dordy is an old gypsy word that can be substituted for anything. I guess it means “Oh my God" or when they’re surprised. “Oh my dordy!" I’ve got it tattooed on the back of my leg surrounded by an eagle.
Chavvies are people that rob things. It was meant as an insult, but they took it as a compliment. Now it kind of means ‘mate’ – as in, “Alright chavy?"
Pukkas is ‘good’. Anything can good be pukkas. “That Jager bomb was pukkas chavy!"
TG: So moving back to the subject of skating and how things have changed and progressed over the past few years. Shooting for this Haunts hasn’t all been a walk in the park has it, tell us about when things took a turn for the worse when trying to get another handrail photo.
CJ and I were out shooting photos at some spots that he’d not shot anything at before in Birmingham and Halesowen (the lien tail and frontside boneless) and we were both super hyped. As the sun was going down, we headed back to Stourport so I could get dropped off at home but we ended up checking out one last spot at the Civic Centre in town. We pulled up at the spot and after the success we’d had earlier, I was keen to jump on the double rail (two rails side by side with a ten inch gap in between). I went for it first go and stuck. I shot off and landed awkwardly on my arm, back and smacking my head. I snapped my elbow clean through.
CJ: To be honest, it’s the most guilty I’ve felt in a while (shooting photos at least).
How long did it take to get on your board again and were you stoked to find yourself skating a railing above a freezing cold canal with a right angled cast on or kind of getting over the whole ‘you need to do this’ mentality that being pushed for an interview can often take on?
I was back skating soon afterwards but with a right-angled cast on. I couldn’t stay off my board! I was off work on the sick, watching skate videos all-day and gagging to skate again. I was only off my board for a week.
I was glad I could skate with my cast on, and even more stoked to get a photo with it on. That spot was so horrible and it was in late December so the air was filled with a freezing mist so the floor never dried up. When I was on the rail it was about ten feet above the canal and I can’t really swim normally, let alone with a cast from my wrist to my armpit. We ended up getting Kindon to stand just out of shot and made sure he was ready to be a lifeguard if things ended up going wrong. There were a few close calls!
Being hurt made me appreciate the time I do get to skate even more. God knows what I’d do if I didn’t skate.
CJ: My main concern when you slammed was that you mentioned your back straight away. You’ve got a history of back problems; tell us the full story behind that.
When I was about fifteen, I fractured my back skating at Epic (now Creation skatepark in Birmingham) and I ended up flipping out on the Vert Wall, landing with my legs behind me in a scorpion position kind of upside down.
The doctors didn’t know I’d broken it at first but if getting worse and a bit of nagging they did some MRI and CT scans and they told me it was broken. They put me on Tramadol and it stopped the pain so I could skate again but I was out for about six months with the process.
I ended up taking Tramadol for a few years, which was pretty addictive, but I needed it to take the pain away enough to skate. When I was finally forced to come off it, my toes would go numb and I felt like shit for a few weeks. Now I’m pukkas like.
CJ: With your arm in a cast for several weeks and rehabbing/physio to do after that, I assume you were off work for a while. How were they about that and are you kind of chasing your tail now to make up for it?
They were pretty good with me to be fair. They made a joke of it and threatened to cut my skateboard in half with a band saw if I got hurt again!
I have to work hard harder to make up for lost time and do the odd Saturday here and there to make sure I’m up to speed.
CJ: So favouring transitions over street for the most part and with the pressure on, how has fellow Stourport local and kinked-rail enthusiast Luke Kindon helped mentor you at some of the street spots in this interview?
Kindon and Coleman skate street pretty much all the time and because I don’t drive, I just go along with them to where they’re skating. The way Kindon skates gets me amped. He just goes for it, so I try it too!
Luke gives me good trick tips and suggestions when I’m trying something, like how fast to go or where to have my feet but he’s also a super tech engineer so he’s always got some mad theory relating to the angle of the rail verses some crazy scientific formula.
One time he was using a compass at the top of a set of stairs to help him work out how best to skate them. When I was learning to skate rails Luke took me to a good rail to build my confidence on first, which was a building block to go and try bigger things.
CJ: I remember when you were trying the lipslide, out of nowhere and without any warm up; Luke came hurtling down the rail in a crooked grind just to get you hyped up. What was going through you mind as ‘the loon’ attempted to get you going?
I thought it was slack if he landed his trick first try, and then I was left there trying mine for ages so I guess it made me even more determined to try it. One attempt I slipped out and nearly broke both my ankles though.
TG: Drawing on some the dirt sent over by your mates via Facebook (Andy Coleman, Dan Jordan, Peon and James Brewer): can you give us an insight to ‘the pigeon incident’ in Bristol?
Oh shit. I went down to the Churchdown comp with Tom Carr and ended up winning seventy-five quid but Tom f*cked his ankle so I headed to Bristol for the night. I ended up rinsing the winnings on booze.
We were staying at Andy’s apartment on the top floor of a block where a pigeon ended up getting in. The others attempted to get it out by chasing it towards the door but it ended up flying at me and my knee jerk reaction was to just swing at it. I ended up catching it right in the beak and it was killed instantly. It was kind of freak reaction/accident type thing but I felt like for shit for ages about it.
TG: It was the first time you’d met (Andy) Coleman right? Did you worry you’d given the wrong impression?
Yeah, wasn’t the best introduction but it was kind of a freak accident. If that wasn’t a bad enough first impression, Kindon and me had been drinking Tequila at the comp and not long after, the shock of the pigeon kicked in and I ended up throwing up off the top floor balcony just outside Andy’s flat.
CJ: So things have mellowed since ‘Pigeon Gate’ right? You’ve gotten a full time job and a girlfriend and again by looking at Instagram, it’s all Spa weekends away rather than dropping the Jager Bomb all over the West Midlands. Or is that a smoke screen?
I’m still on the Jagers every now and again, but I’m trying to tone it down and save it for special occasions.
TG: You’ve entered Concrete Carnival a couple times. How did you find the experience? Weren’t you in a heat with Rune Glifberg?
Ken had put my name down and Tom Carr ended up driving us to Hemel but he spent the entry money on fags. I ended up paying for everyone to get in. It was pretty mad skating in a comp alongside Rune and Raemers, so hyped to get involved and just be around that shit firsthand. They’re on another level!
CJ: So with in the absence of the phone companies and energy drinks companies kicking down your door, I guess a full time living is more likely to be made through your joinery work. As it’s an ever-increasing trend for young up and comers in Britain to have a skilled work under their belt alongside their skating, what does sponsorship mean to you?
It’s more about having fun on the weekend with the team to me. I’m not in it to make money. I just like hanging out with the people, entering events are fun, filming and shooting photos: Being sponsored is simple - it’s just loads of fun.
TG: You’ve got an edit coming out alongside this interview right? How would you compare the process of filming vs. shooting for something like a Haunts? And, what’s your preference?
Filming is easier sometimes when you just skate a spot normally and someone films the whole session. Photos are things that push me more to go somewhere that I wouldn’t normally skate. I wouldn’t normally skate handrails for definite! But for photos they look sick so it pushes me to do things that I wouldn’t normally. I want stuff in the mag that I like, not just for the sake of things. I’d rather get one photo I like than ten photos I’m not really feeling. Footage is f*cking rad too and I get to film a lot of the session stuff or lines around a bowl that can’t be summed up in one photo.
TG: With two fairly big things kind of out of the way now, what are you plans for 2014 as far as travelling around, skating and work/life commitments?
Carry on! I’m trying to get a passport at the moment, as I’ve never been abroad. Does Wales count? I want to get to more events this summer and carry on skating, filming and shooting photos.
CJ: Right, that’s about it. It’s customary to give your shout outs at this point, so let’s hear them.
A big thank you to Ken and Joel at A Third Foot, my girlfriend Charlotte, Bob, Zippy and Kris at ideal, CJ and everyone at Sidewalk for the opportunity to do this, Dan Jordan and Tom Gillespie for all the hours of filming, Peon, Andy Coleman, Luke Kindon, Sam Roberts, Thekla and the Gnargore lads.