Did you watch the game last night?
I fell asleep. I switched it on, saw one goal and then woke up again at about midnight and Googled the score.
So how long have you been a Man City fan?
Haha! Since the Euros, so literally just a few months.
You grew up playing football a lot right?
I was super into football when I was a kid. I remember when my dad got me my first pair of boots, the classic red and black predators, we were all sat watching TV and I had them sat on the arm of the chair next to me all evening. I’ve still got them now! Another time my dad surprised me with some new boots and shin-pads but they were gold and I just ran upstairs crying. Haha! You can’t be the dude with gold boots!
Growing up you were a Leeds fan, right?
A little bit yeah. I went to a couple of games with family but watching football never grabbed me until quite recently.
You say “a little bit” but when Leeds got promoted to the Premier League you were adamant that you were a massive Leeds supporter…
I can confirm that was all fake gas! Since watching England at the Euros last summer I just found the City players cooler. Haha! Foden, Grealish and De Bruyne are my faves. I always loved football and then skateboarding just took over when I was about thirteen. I’d go to play matches on a Sunday knowing you guys were out skating and I would be bummed out. So I just stopped playing.
Yeah I had exactly the same thing but I played until I was about sixteen. When we met you were known as ‘Inward heelflip kid’.
I’m bringing that back in this next part! We definitely started to film together in Harrogate when I was fourteen so we must have met about a year earlier I think.
That was all around the time when our old friend Jonty Brown would come out skating in shin-pads. Did you ever do that?
No. I don’t think I did. He might have coerced me into it, but I don’t think so.
Dale - I’ve worn shin-pads to skate in and so has Jake Mitchell.
Tell us a bit about the Exit days and how you were a bit of a golden boy back then…
I loved that era! The crew was Charlie Comrie, James Gorman, Dario Cooper, Jack Day and occasionally Douglas Tolkin (RIP) dude would be around to shoot with us. Jase Brown would be around a lot too. Charlie had the mad keen energy and everyone knew him, so we would stay at his a lot and just go out skating over the weekends. We weren’t even that bothered about filming and I don’t really remember a filmer being about that much back then.
Was Rye Gray not filming you guys?
If Rye filmed us back then, it was like “Oh my god Rye has linked us!” and we’d be gassed but I never felt like I was in Rye’s crew. It was more of a random scenario where we would end up on the same session as him. That’s what it felt like to me.
Fifteen years later Rye is a mate and his partner Zeta is one of our best friends and also rides for Welcome. Mad that isn’t it?
So mad. Actually insane!
Where did your crew skate in those days?
I guess we just skated around Leeds mainly. Gorman was on his heavy handrail shit, Charlie was the energy and we would just mission around the city. We skated Hyde a lot for sure as well as Lloyds 7, Playhouse and the Works. One of the best things about those days and something I hadn’t really experienced at that age, was that Charlie’s parents were super mellow and weren’t actually around that much so we had a lot of freedom. His parents were in the house but just kept themselves to what felt like a different wing of the house so everywhere else was fair game. Haha!
Any heavy tricks you remember from those days?
I wish I’d seen more of the Gorman hammers. I think I was really unlucky and happened to miss quite a lot of the sessions where he would put gnarly stuff down. I would hang out with him a lot though and he definitely had an OCD vibe with his skating, which seemed to really help him. I connected with him recently actually and he’s out in Dubai now doing really well.
During that time you were also filming a lot in Harrogate with one of our old friends Dave North. There were always murmurings of Dave and Will’s secret missions, but nobody ever saw the footage…
Yeah that was all really gutting to be honest. I put a load of effort into filming with Dave and then it felt like overnight he just disappeared and stopped answering my calls. I was that annoying guy who would ring the house phone ten times assuming nobody could hear the phone when in reality he probably didn’t want the call. Maybe me ringing and pestering so much was too much for him.
He just went AWOL and so did all those clips.
The homie dipped out which meant that footage was RIP. A good two years of filming and the footage was gone. I’d love to see it all now. I would pay good money to be able to watch it all for the nostalgia. I had real G fits back then!
Dale - What was the best thing you filmed that you never saw?
I’d say the nollie frontside 180 down the Saltergate double set.
I was hyped on that one! I was really stoked on the tre flip over the big gap at Gas Works because I knew Tom Harrison had done it. I remember you showing me that clip of TH doing that at your house and I was blown away by it. Then somehow I managed to do it not long after. Back then, especially at that young age, I didn’t think snaking people was a thing but it probably was.
Gas Works was the hot spot wasn’t it?
The best place! We would skate there everyday after school and all weekend. Sometimes older dudes like Tom Brown and Dave Walker would come along and the kicker setup we had would get pulled further back and we knew to sit back and watch.
You did backside heel it when the gap was massive.
I think I uploaded that clip of myself to YouTube at the time. I need to dig that out! Gas Works was just the perfect place to skate because it was a bit difficult to get in, there was no kick out there and you had people there like Tim Humberstone who would teach you how to care for a skate spot. He was very meticulous about brushing up the stones and keeping the spot clean. You don’t really know about that stuff when you’re young. It was good to have people like him around.
Remember when the Chocolate team went there?
They came through and skated that stinking quarter pipe. Fuck that quarter! Why did they come to Harrogate? Haha!
Dale - Anything gnarly happen down there?
Not really to be honest. It was mainly good vibes! Considering how often we used to skate in there, nobody really seemed to get injured which was pretty lucky because there was definitely no access for an ambulance. Some travellers moved in one time and we went into their weird tarpaulin area and they had posters up and shit which was just a bit strange. The kids were like eight years old and would try and start on us. Apart from that we would just skate and film every single day.
Frontside 180 Fakie Nosegrind
Do you think that because nobody ever saw that footage that you filmed with Dave, you lost the love for skateboarding a bit?
I was so bummed out about it. When you’re young you can take things to heart much more and it was just a shit situation. I’d put in so much effort between the ages of sixteen and seventeen to film stuff I was really proud of. So when I was eighteen it felt like took a massive L and I was leaving the crew to go to uni. It was a shit time for sure.
Did that contribute to the switch from baggy jeans and XL tees to slim chinos and shirts?
That was a crend for sure! I got sucked into that lifestyle of going out in town and dressing the right way to get into the clubs. I was and still am into house and techno music so it wasn’t all bad but I think a lot of people crend when they turn eighteen because you’re suddenly legally allowed to get absolutely shit faced out of nowhere. Peer pressure is a real thing.
Did you choose Newcastle uni because of the partying?
It was just full on party mode up there. Absolutely no skating and no working. Just partying. I was skating so little that when you would come to stay we didn’t even go out skating. I don’t think you guys even brought your boards with you which is so weird to think about now. Very rarely I would go for a roll at Exhibition Park which had a fat bowl and a ledge at the top which was the only thing I was able to skate.
That was your first year in Newcastle and then it was basically radio silence until the end of your third year.
Yeah that was a strange time. I was getting lost in the party and when you’re in it you don’t think too deeply about why you are. When you’re going through something it’s quite a good way to mask your issues but probably not the most healthy.
When did know you were gay then?
Probably at around age seventeen I was sure. When I was younger maybe my thinking was “Oh I’m not an adult yet but when I am things might click into place”. Then when I hit adulthood I was like “Fuck it, I am”.
Did you find it difficult to come out?
One thing that might have made it easier was if people already had an inkling that I might be gay. That would have been like a starting point or a slightly open door I could open even further.
I had no idea.
Yeah, in my head I thought that it was going to be so weird for people to hear. Unfortunately there are stereotypes and I was in XL Lakai hoodies and massive Dickies so it didn’t feel like I fit the mould. Fuck stereotypes though and the older you get the more you realise not fitting them is a good thing. Another pressure for me was that my older brother is gay. At a young age, stupidly I thought that was a negative thing but I should have seen it as a positive. I would think “Oh no mum and dad have got to go through all that again”. As time went on though, there were more girls about at uni and the pressure builds to hook up with them as all your friends are doing that. There was a girl that was into me and I just felt like I was lying to her, so one night in a club I took her outside and told her I was gay. She was the first person I told. Shout out to Rosie!
Dale - Was there any instant relief after telling her?
It was more like the very beginning of a hard journey. I’m not going to sugar-coat it because it was tough. I think it’s always going to be tough. I came out nine years ago and I think it’s still hard to do, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t getting a little easier year by year. Personally, I feel lucky to have never ever had a bad experience from being gay. I never had any problems with friends that I told or family or anyone at all really.
Skateboarding is extremely open minded now and anything goes but that wasn’t really the case just nine years ago when you came out. How did you find that?
Honestly, it was absolutely fine. I had my crew then and you’re still with me now. We’ve been mates for like seventeen years and that’s all I give a shit about. When you’ve got a solid core of friends like that nothing else really matters.
How about outside of our friendship group?
I’ve heard the f-bomb a few times which I really don’t like. Not aimed at me but just in general conversation. However, in the last few years I haven’t really heard it at all, but these days if I did then I’m more inclined to call people out for that shit. I’ve never had any altercation with anyone and everything has been really chill. Skateboarding is a bit of a paradox in the sense that it is very open and liberal but also things like sexuality have been difficult to talk about in the past. Gay skateboarders have only really been talked about properly in the last six or seven years, something like that. Based on my experience though, coming out in the UK skate scene has been fine and I don’t think other people should find it tough.
If you’ve got a solid crew of friends you just shouldn’t have any issues with that.
You just shouldn’t at all. Maybe if your scene is really closed off and in some tiny village somewhere then some issues might arise, but if you’re part of a wider scene then I think it will be fine. You know what I mean.
Through all this time you still weren’t really skating right?
Towards the end of my time in Newcastle I kind of got the flame back actually. A friend that I used to party with a lot, Scott Doherty, used to skate as well but we didn’t know that about each other because we were just going out. I started skating again, filmed a few bits with Adam Todhunter and Bish and then the fire was back for sure.
You came back down here straight after uni then?
After I graduated from uni, I spent an extra year in Newcastle living with one of my friend’s Oli. I worked in Levi’s and then a burrito bar for a bit just to keep the party life going. After that year I questioned what I was doing and moved back home. It was around this time that my back started playing up. I went to India for a couple of months and remember trying to buy pain killers with my mate Stu.
So the back pain started in India?
Oh no, way before that. I would walk for a bit and then red hot pain would start and it would get more and more intense until I had to stop. Sciatica is the fucking worst. At the time though I thought it was just muscle problems or just a bit of an injury from skating. Skaters are used to the body hurting but when it became a daily hinderance I knew I needed to address the problem. So once I was back and settled in Harrogate, the fire to skate was back but I need to sort that shit out as a priority really.
How long did you stay in Harrogate before coming over to Leeds?
I saved up for three years living at my parents and then essentially bought the cheapest house I could as close to Hyde Park as possible. I moved in when I was twenty-five and then had the back surgery at twenty-six.
That first year of you having the house you would always be doing weird stretching in front of the fire.
Yeah the homies would come around to chill and I’d spend all the time on the floor stretching out my back. Long story short though, after going through all the normal processes and trying everything like acupuncture and other treatments, I sent a letter to this surgeon begging him to do the operation on me.
What was the op?
It was a microdiscectomy. I essentially had a permanent slipped disc so I had to have two discs shaved down. Sometimes you will hear of somebody slipping a disc and then being alright in a week or two but this was more of a gradual slipped disc which got worse over time and it was a lot harder to get back into place. I saw a scan of my back and the bottom two discs were black which meant they had no water getting to them. Even a year or two after the surgery I wasn’t completely sure that it had worked, but now I’m sat here and I can say it really has.
You gotta feel lucky now to have that sorted. I’ve had back pain but nothing like that!
Oh I know for sure how lucky I am to get it all sorted. There are millions of people out there living with long term pain and what sucks about it is that people don’t really know that you’re in pain if you don’t show it and they definitely can’t empathise with it. You don’t want to be that negative dude bringing the session down by moaning about your pain.
Nollie Inward Heelflip
Like Dale with his little bruise on his leg this week?
Yep, he was moaning about a tiny bruise for a whole week! Being in pain all the time though sucks and I’m glad I’m not in that place anymore. Shout out Mr Loughenbury at the LGI in Leeds for that!
Is there anything you do now before skating that you didn’t before the surgery?
You know what I’m like these days. I try to look after myself as much as I can. I go swimming everyday, hit the spa afterwards, make sure I stretch before skating and I’m really conscious about not sitting in a chair for too long. That’s why I hate driving because it forces you to sit down for ages. It takes work to fully recover from things like back surgery. What’s that saying again….prevention is cheaper than the cure. The two discs that were operated on have potential to go downhill again one day, so I need to look after myself and strengthen my back muscles so that the discs aren’t having to work as hard.
You always had the talent but maybe not all of the luck which might have been a reason why you were a bit of a latecomer to the sponsored skateboarder life. Thoughts?
I’ve always had Welcome backing me but yeah between the ages of twenty-one to twenty-six I felt like I was operating at about 20% health and that gentle breeze would snap me in two. It was the absolute worst and because of the pain I couldn’t focus on productivity of any sort. My head was just a shed.
Since you’ve been healthy though you’re on it.
In a weird way, even though I had the back issues and had the surgery and the recovery to deal with, through my early twenties the rest body was kind of being preserved so now I’m ready to go. The hunger is there!
Being in the ‘sponsored UK skater’ bracket means that you need to be down for shooting interviews like this one. Talk us through the process…
I absolutely hate the pressure. I really do but I still want to get shit done.
Here is a list of things you can often heard shouting before trying a trick….
“Slam or land!”
…and then you roll up and do nothing. Why?
Haha! What is my answer? I don’t know! I lie to myself to try and convince me to do something that I actually don’t want to do. As I said, I really don’t like the pressure! If we are talking about shooting for this interview, I don’t like skating in front of Baines for starts. Baines is someone I respect highly and I don’t like skating in front of him.
He was a bit of a hero when I was growing up.
Yeah and now he’s just stood there and watching me skate…badly. I love being mates with him and he’s a great dude but he’ll always be Baines!
Graham came down to Yorkshire three times to shoot this whole interview with you. How did it go?
First of all I’d like to say fuck the wet weather and fuck covid. Those two things made this interview really difficult to shoot. Also personally, I don’t think that a lot of my skating translates well to photographs.
Why do you think that?
Well for example, the bump to bench in Barnsley is not really a photogenic spot is it? I like to skate it, I know I can get a clip or two at it but shooting a photo there may not be that exciting.
But you did shoot a photo there?
I’m just assuming it looks crap because it’s just a bench.
Haha! Kinda throwing shade at Graham.
No it’s a diss at myself! I took him to that spot and it is awkward to skate but will that translate to a photo?
That’s Graham’s job though and he’s good at it. I’ve also seen that photo and it looks really good!
Oh sick. Hyped!
Switch Backside Heelflip
Let’s hear more about your process in the streets.
There’s no denying that I prang out on the imperfections of street skate spots and a small crack will definitely make me freak out.
You and Dale are like that. Where has that come from because you grew up skating in the streets, so why is that such a big deal to you now?
Dale - For me, I don’t really care about cracks in the floor, it’s more a crack at the spot right before you pop. People skated L-ledge for years but nobody really went into it nollie or fakie until I sorted out that crack.
Yeah that one crack can wipe out half of my trick list. In reality though, it all comes down to being quite wimpy and pathetic. I am a pathetic skateboarder.
When I’m filming with you I often think that.
Sometimes in my head I think that I can’t afford to be off work because I might be injured. Normal people don’t really have dangerous hobbies.
How the hell do people like Bushy deal with that?
It’s insane. People who just send…. hats off to them!
Speaking of people who ‘send’, which UK skaters are you backing?
Definitely Korahn Gayle. I’m a huge fan of his skating but also the way he looks after himself so that he can skate for as long as he can. I’ve no idea how old he is but he skates like his in his early twenties. For the last year, Kyle Wilson has been the stand out I’d say and he’s got superhuman vibes for sure. That’s the only way I can describe him! Also Dom Henry is the goat! I’d say that’s a solid top three.
So we are wrapping up a Welcome video. The last time we did it we had no real plan and just went out filming and captured anything. This time it has felt more organised and that we are working towards a common goal. You looking forward to it?
Well first of all I want to end the meme that I have never had a full part. I’ve been rinsed my whole life for that and rightfully so. I’ve got my excuses but woe me right! I just want to be a part of something that I can be proud of and I’m doing it with my actual best mates for Welcome.
Everyone in it skates so differently.
We all skate completely differently yeah. For example the worst part of my skating is what Dale is best at.
Dale - And the worst part of my skating is what you’re best at!
There we go! I’m just looking forward to it. Should be good.
Anything you want to finish with?
Yeah, you asked me earlier about if there was anything in particular that made me get the spark back for skating and the answer is you guys. I wouldn’t be keen without my mates. Also, a massive thanks to Graham obviously for all of his work, Baines, everyone at Welcome, Keen Dist and you two.
Switch Backside Flip
Published in North 32
Check the raw footage from his interview below