Shifty Kickflip - North 28 Cover
In very quick succession you injured yourself, had a baby and Covid happened. Can you talk about where you were at the start of the year and where you are now?
Yeah, it’s been the most bittersweet twelve months of my life. From most people's perspective it’s only been a tough bitter year. Towards the end of 2019 our son came along and he’s been our light at the end of the corona-tunnel. He's 14 months now and he’s made everything absolutely amazing, where it would have otherwise been a bit shite.
And your injury was this year?
No, that was 2019, a few months before Lou was born. I was given my notice at work—and I'd worked there for quite a while—and then the day after we found out we were pregnant... I was told over the phone while shopping and then spent sixty minutes contemplating what bread to buy. Then two months after that, dealing with the stress of preparing for the new arrival and trying to find new work, I tore my ACL. That put me off my feet and I was out for the good part of three months on crutches.
How did you do that?
Vanity. I was skating the Kelvingrove Art Gallery stairs, filming an ollie down it, which I’d already done for Kashcam but I missed the make on phone and I wanted a copy for myself. So I ran back up the stairs to do it one more time and I attempted to do the splits at the bottom. Knee buckled though, an Advanced Partial Tear, so not as bad as it could have been but bad enough.
Is that the worst injury you’ve had in your life?
Yeah, everything else had been minor muscle damage or broken bones. I’m pretty used to that because you can and will recover to near normal but tendon or ligament damage is irreversible. I've certainly been in ten times more pain, but I can deal with that. It’s worse feeling nothing and your leg is trying to take you unwillingly in the wrong direction.
What was your day to day then? As an injured, soon-to-be-unemployed dad-to-be?
It was all at the same time I was cutting out beer and cigarettes, my two biggest vices, and went from 100% activity to zero. I also had the unmanageable mental stress of a pregnant partner, and the prospect of having no job, so I absolutely broke down. My mind couldn’t take it and my body completely shut down. And it took me more time to recover from that, than from anything else in my life.
My entire body was wracked with muscle spasms for a whole day, so I had to sit down in a dark room and listen to music until it passed. I never went to the doctors about it and I chalked it up to a panic attack. I’ve lived the majority of my life pretty fucking care-free, and I’ve never really dealt with stress in a big way. I’ve never had masses of responsibility. I think that with the mind, there's a certain period of change management required. With any major changes, your mind needs a few days to restructure itself to deal with them. Having had no major changes in the last decade, to having several at once, it couldn’t deal with it.
Most people in that position would head straight for the booze, and you were trying to cut that out. Did you wobble?
I did wobble yeah, in the earlier stages. A day before I was due to leave my job, I got a new job within the same company so I could kind of carry on as normal at work. I started doing physio and my knee was healing up and I was getting back into exercising slowly. But yeah, I would drink quite a bit as self-medication for a while, up until Rowan's late pregnancy.
I gave myself another deadline to curb it again, which was successful. Before the baby came we would allow ourselves a night here and there to relax a bit, which for me meant a couple of beers and a cig, but once Lou arrived, we were very strict on what we were allowed to do.
Having a child is a good way to get yourself off the booze.
Yeah, in some ways it’s been the best year to have a child. Depending on your friendship and social circles, you can feel a bit alienated when you have a child anyway, never mind when there's a pandemic going on in the background. But nothing was going on anyway so there was nothing to miss out on. You were the same.
Yeah. Mine was born a couple of weeks before lockdown, and in hindsight it was much easier because there were no obligations to socialise.
Exactly, I definitely wasn’t suffering from FOMO, but it took some adjusting, not having your friends calling you. They think they're doing you a favour by letting you do your own thing, but you do still want to talk, even though nine times out of ten the answer would be, "No I can’t come and skate right now", it still makes a big impact to your wellbeing, not having those interactions. What were Nicola Sturgeon's words? "If your life hasn’t been impacted by this, then you’re doing something wrong"? I'd agree with that.
Since Ben Raemers died there’s been more chat about how us men need to talk more, and be more open with our feelings. It's hard to put that on people though, even if they ask directly. Even though people will say you can talk to them anytime, I'm not sure anybody wants their mate calling them up in tears every couple of days.
I think the major barrier is people not reaching out so much because they might feel they’re not doing it in the right way. But even if the person you’re talking to doesn’t give a shit, talking about it helps you to come to terms with your mental state, and actually digest your thoughts. Sitting and not talking about it, that's the killer.
I went through a phase of talking about it to everybody, I’m sure everybody was sick of it. It felt like going to an AA meeting and saying, "Hi my name’s Tom and I’m an alcoholic", but instead, it was going to skate session and saying, "Mate I’ve just a panic attack and broke down for the first time in my life the other day", as a reply to "How you doing?". It’s admitting it to yourself, that you’ve had an issue, instead of tucking it away for a long time.
I think you can frighten people when they ask if you're OK and you answer, "Well, let me tell you…" You can almost feel some people thinking, "Oh shit, I don’t really want to know".
Yeah, exactly, but then it doesn’t matter. That’s the whole point, just getting round that barrier, and actually talking about it, even to someone who doesn’t give a shit, because you might actually be talking to someone that does give a shit, or someone that is in a similar position, which then gets them thinking about how they can speak about it themselves, too.
For sure. So, your pro board came out on Karma before lockdown too. Cool Glasgow graphic.
It was really cool, it was 99.99% designed by a talented artist called Kate Timney. Myself, Lloyd and Ross, who is Kate's partner, each had a board representing Glasgow, Manchester, and Workington. They were all about the industries behind the cities. The 0.01% was a last minute ‘GSS’ [Glasgow Skateboard Society] etched into one of the ship's flags.
That’s a nice touch. Karma is a company based around friends, so it makes sense to have that kind of graphic, that goes into the details of who you people are, rather than just a dope graphic someone found on the internet. What's going on with Karma right now?
I’d love to say a huge thank you to both Adam and Jane Wood who, up until recently, ran iFive distribution, Karma and Supertoxic Urethane together. Karma has now been sold to Far Skate Academy so it’s in somewhat of a transition period.
What does that mean for the company?
It’s a bit strange. Karma was owned by the distribution previously and there wasn’t any massive pushes to travel and to define what we were putting out, in terms of media coverage and footage. It cost them a minimal amount to put graphics on the boards via the distribution themselves, so product was an easy turnover for them. Because that’s now not owned by the distribution, at first the guys had to find a new place to get the boards printed which was tough as it was sold right in the heart of the pandemic, where boards are scarce enough as it is. Far are looking to reinvigorate the brand at the same time as having probably the least amount of product to put on the shelves which is tough but we’re all working towards the same end goal which is nice to have that team mentality back again.
The team has been expanded slightly, and we’ve all been pushing for more footage and getting as much out there as possible. The guys have been travelling up and down, where we can, within the pandemic. There’s been a couple of Scottish road trips up to Glasgow, some of the guys' first times to Livi and a trip to Birmingham too.
You mentioned filming, has there ever been a Karma video? Is there going to be one?
Not since I’ve been on the team. There have been a couple of tour videos, and the ones associated with the board releases. But not a full-scale team video so I guess that's the next step really, if that’s a thing anymore! No premieres during a pandemic, mind.
Not that we ever really had them up here anyway. Do you want to talk about shooting the photos with Graham? Any interesting tales?
When Tait and I were first speaking about this, it was months ago so I had quite a stretch of time before anything was due. But with the pandemic going on, having a child, and the weather just getting worse and worse as we got closer to winter, my time has been whittled down from months, to weeks. So we had to extend the deadline ever so slightly—apologies for that Graham! In the beginning I had a huge list of tricks and spots I wanted to go to, but 90% of what we ended up shooting was just spur of the moment or passing by spots and none of it really being planned.
BS 180 Fakie Nosegrind
That’s quite unlike you, you’re usually quite well organized and have spots in mind. Was it intentional, to not hit regular spots?
Kind of. There’s one spot in there, the electric box, which is pretty generic but in my defence this was one of the unplanned spots where we were passing by and thought that’s pretty perfect, let's give it a go. The only one which I really really wanted to do, which is sentimental, was the ollie over the rail at Glasgow University. It’s just a path that I walk really regularly and I like the look and feel of the place.
I love that photo, I didn’t realize it was up at the uni. You were going to go back and kickflip it, did you change your mind?
That’s in Edinburgh, the one you’re thinking of, and we never got back round to that.
Talking of going through to Edinburgh, no-one's really been travelling much recently. What are some of your favourite places you’ve been?
Copenhagen, especially since a bunch of Glasgow heads have moved over there recently. I just watched the One Week of CPH Open video which brought a tear to my eye. Pretty much anywhere in Spain, Barcelona being an obvious choice but we also went to Alicante a couple of years back, it was lovely. Really nice, classic Spanish town and a lot quieter than Barcelona.
We need to talk about Glasgow. Do you want to talk about Pyramid? Glasgow had a fresh new skate shop, and now it doesn’t, again. Dave and Perry did a rad thing for five years there.
One of the things I noticed recently, is that when you Google 'Glasgow skateboarding', Route One is the first thing that comes up, which really fucking pissed me off.
Yeah, apparently this is the best year skateboarding has ever had, in terms of retail sales, and if Route one wasn’t there, people would be getting better gear and better advice out of Clan. Or Pyramid might still be there.
They have like 50 five-star reviews so unless they pay for their spot which is quite likely, can I ask everyone reading this to go and rate Clan skates five-stars? One of the UK's longest running and Glasgow's last remaining independent skate shops. Fuck Google, the rich get richer.
What do you like about Glasgow? Tell us some good things about Glasgow.
I suppose the best thing about it is the state of mind of the people. You’re always going to get a person who’s pissed off about all the skaters but generally, a fair amount of Glasgow has got a decent sense of mentality about it. It’s nowhere near as dangerous as it used to be when I was wee, being a skateboarder in the city.
Even though it’s got some of the roughest, most shitty spots I’ve ever come across, that you have to lose all your energy even pushing at to be able to do anything on them, it’s just a decent city to roll around in.
It's so vast, and yet untapped. For a long time people didn’t tend to stray too far from the underground or the bus routes, so there’s endless amounts of stuff that’s probably never been skated. What’s your favourite shit that you’ve seen go down in Glasgow?
Anything done by the king—who half the spots in the city are named after—Jamie Bolland. Everybody knows these places as the Jamie Bolland road gap, or the Jamie Bolland banks or whatever. Otherwise just riding around the streets with Andy White and seeing what unfolds; he seems to be able to fluidly and easily skate anything he wants to, when he’s in the mood that is. I actually asked him what’s his favourite trick that’s ever done is and he said, “Frontside grinding anything that’s not grindable”. That’s modest of him.
Who are you getting stuff from? I understand you’re paying for your own shoes right now.
Yeah, Supra was sold not long after I started getting stuff from them so I now ride for Karma Skateboards, Pieute Clothing, Super Toxic Urethane, and Clan Skates.
Clan don’t have a team or anything but Jamie throws me a hat or a t-shirt every few months to model and I’m more than happy representing them wherever and whenever I can because they are such a rad little independent owned shop and they don’t give a fuck about anything else and not bothered about trying to keep up with the times. They just like doing what they do.
Anything else we can talk about?
Yeah, maybe. I don’t know what though. Big shout outs to Sweet Lou.
Published in North 28