Saturday, 5 June 2021

SURF KNOTS


Surfing has revealed my Achilles heel* - or more accurately, my Achilles toe!

After a long winter of having to wear boots as a necessity, it is always a welcome turning point in the year when Easter arrives and the temperatures rise enough to ditch the kook boots**! I absolutely love those first few surfs back in the summer suit at the start of Spring when I can feel the wax beneath my toes again.

Here in Cornwall, the tail end of May saw an unbelievably good run of swell paired with balmy weather and a high pressure system that puffed offshore breezes across the peninsula non-stop for over a week. It was nuts!

Okay, it also meant the crowds were off the hook. But, by some magical meteorological coincidence those perfect conditions just stayed the same all day long everyday.

It was great, meant I could check the cams a couple of times during the day whilst at work to get a sense of where it was looking good, wait until almost dusk for the crowds to thin out and then go enjoy some sunset glass to satisfy my soul.

I did it again the following evening, and the next and the next... A total of 7 surfs in 7 days! Bliss.

Until I looked at my feet. Bliss had turned into blister and what I can only describe as a small pot-hole had been ground into the side of my big toe. Caused it seems by what my son laughingly refers to as 'foot dragger style'. Every night there was blood on the sand, then during the following day it would form a thin scab only to get knocked off again by the end of that night after yet another surf. Making that hole a little deeper, a little more gnarly every time. Can there be too much of a good thing?

Needless to say, it's now gone pear-shaped. Couple of nights ago, my whole foot was on fire and I could barely walk the next day. The evening spent in A&E confirmed an infection and the result is the next 7 days on antibiotics and probably spent out of the water too.

Maybe I should have kept those kook boots on after all...

- - - 

* If you don't know the origin of the term Achilles' Heel, click the link, it's a cool Greek myth. 

** I wear Solite boots in the Winter, they are the best boots I've ever owned - truly game-changers!

Sunday, 23 May 2021

A TOWN CALLED PRIVILEGE


There was an incident many years ago, not back in the Dark Age (70s-80s), more like in the Middle Ages (90s-early00s), that I clearly remember.

It was a beautiful Spring day, and miraculously I found myself with a couple of child-free spare hours on a weekend. There was a slim chance of a small wave at Aggie and I really fancied a splash as I had recently become enthused by Mal riding and wanted to try and get in as much as I possibly could.

As with most surf spots in Cornwall the first clue as to the state of the swell was revealed by the car park - it was sparse. But I parked up and wandered down to have a look anyway. It was serene and lovely but barely surf-able, with just a tiny little wave nudging across the bay every few minutes or so. There was one guy sitting forlornly on his board, seemingly with the same idea as me.

Armed with the fresh revelation of how easy it was to catch waves on a longboard and determined to make use of my precious free time I decided to go for it.

There was only really one peak where the little ankle slappers were breaking, so I paddled over to join the other guy in the water. Aware of the etiquette of barging in on a solo session, I breezily asked if he minded if I shared a few. Thinking to myself that it was laughable at best to even be trying to surf on a virtually flat day and this fellow surfer would see the irony in this... 

His back was to me and he half turned his head and scowled a warning at me.

"Don't take my wave."

Not quite sure I'd heard him correctly, I asked..

"Sorry mate, didn't quite catch what you said there?"

This time without even turning to make eye contact he repeated loudly.

"Just don't take my wave!"

Ah, okay obviously a local then.

I was initially shocked by the aggression and then annoyed by the arrogance. Firstly, nobody owns these waves even if you have the good fortune to grow up next to them, and secondly there was nothing at stake here apart from an occasional dribble that might just about carry enough momentum to make it to shore, maybe.

Either the guy was totally wound-up and determined to enforce some kind of locals-only priority (which St Agnes is renowned for) or he was just a dickhead. Either way I wasn't interested and carried on doing my own thing and caught as many waves as I wanted within reason, allowing plenty to pass me by as I always would when surfing with other people around me anyway.

Eventually the tide shifted and what little swell there had been fizzled away to nothing. I left the beach satisfied to have got wet, but miffed by the weird exchange with the other surfer. It left a bad taste although I have to admit it did sadly reinforce an opinion that St Agnes locals do tend to love themselves a little bit too much.

- - 

Now twenty years later I believe I may have some understanding of what was going on with my friend in the sea on that flat, calm day.

The sense of privilege that let him behave in such a way must be even more bitter today. Maybe he did grow up in sleepy little St Agnes. An idyllic childhood in a charming coastal valley. Maybe he had surfed there all his life, run down to the beach after school with his mates, known everyone else in the water. And maybe he had seen the small terraced cottages get sold off to wealthy second-home owners. Now effectively no longer affordable for his own children. Maybe he was appalled by the influx of very rich, very privileged incomers who now made up most of the population and were smugly claiming the village as their own little enclave. 

Maybe he'd had an inkling of what was to come all those years ago when he'd seen me paddling out to try and surf 'his wave'. Maybe he'd known all along that his privileged little village would become a victim of privilege itself.



Saturday, 15 May 2021

BINARY, NON-BINARY


I've known B for over thirty years. 

I can clearly recall seeing B for the first time; a teenager riding a skateboard, blondey brown hair swept back in an Alice band. Smooth androgynous features and a slight slender frame. The common question most people asked when first seeing B was; 'Is that a boy or girl?'

Skateboarding drew us together as friends and B became a solid buddy, we spent hours and hours skating, surfing, listening to music... Just generally hanging out back when time seemed to be abundant and responsibilities were out of sight, way off beyond a distant horizon.

B was always just B to me, a good friend. But I was also very aware that he was different to most anyone else I'd ever met. He is uncompromising in many ways, and has no interest in conforming. He has a brilliant, enquiring, inquisitive mind and an astute view of himself, society and the world we live in. An incredibly talented musician, artist and maker. He has spent the last few decades continuing to follow the beat of a drum only he can clearly hear. 

We met up for a chat and a cuppa recently. In a rambling discussion that covered Christ Airs, biscuits, horseboxes and sexual politics B claimed that maybe he was non-binary.

Suddenly an imaginary lightbulb went on above my head as I poised, mid-slurp, and considered what B had just told me. For the first time in our long friendship I suddenly saw him in this new light. Why not? It made perfect sense, he's just a human, a really good human. If gender had to be described as a scale with extreme testosterone-fuelled machismo on one end and utter feminine oestrogen at the other. B would be somewhere in the middle... Just like the rest of us.

Insert second lightbulb moment here: Maybe we're all non-binary!

Think about it, what purpose does it serve to be labelled a man or a woman aside from sexual reproduction? Can't think of a single job that can't be done by either sex (apart from sperm donor or wet nurse admittedly). Parenting and marriage are based on the equal division of labour & responsibility between two people (gender not essential). Sport has definitely fallen into the stereotype of segregating the sexes - why? (Ok, we're culturally and traditionally used to seeing separate all-male and all-female teams and events, but there's actually no real reason why this has to be.) Business, industry, education, organised religion, politics, arts and culture - none of it needs to be specifically gender biased. And, this is the real clincher for me, I'm 100% convinced the world would be a better place if men hadn't predominantly been in charge.

We give no significance to the colour of our eyes or hair (although for some reason the colour of our skin matters a great deal to some people). Labels such as 'Bachelor' and 'Spinster' no longer have any relevance. We're reassigning titles such as Headmaster/Headmistress to Head Teacher and so on. In the future what real purpose will being defined as male or female really serve?

Thursday, 22 April 2021

THIS IS NOT MY BEAUTIFUL HOUSE



I had always imagined that somehow in my autumn years, the natural manifestation of all life's experience and knowledge would magically deliver me to a beautiful state of mind and a comfortable place where I would be 'Healthy, Wealthy & Wise.'

Of-course the reality is much more like 'Fucked Up, Hard Up & None the Wiser Why...'

And this is absolutely fine, I'm ok with it, in fact it's a perfect life lesson. 

I'm learning how to come to terms with the truth whilst still believing in the dream.

- - - 

"And you may find yourself 
Living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself 
In another part of the world
And you may find yourself 
Behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house
With a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, well
How did I get here?

Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
Into the blue again after the money's gone
Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground

And you may ask yourself
How do I work this?
And you may ask yourself
Where is that large automobile?
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful house!
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful wife!

Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
Into the blue again after the money's gone
Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground

Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was

Water dissolving and water removing
There is water at the bottom of the ocean
Under the water, carry the water
Remove the water at the bottom of the ocean!
Water dissolving and water removing

Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
Into the blue again into silent water
Under the rocks and stones, there is water underground

Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
Into the blue again after the money's gone
Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground

You may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house?
You may ask yourself
Where does that highway go to?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right? Am I wrong?
And you may say to yourself
"My God! What have I done?"

Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
Into the blue again into the silent water
Under the rocks and stones, there is water underground

Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
Into the blue again after the money's gone
Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground

Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was
Look where my hand was
Time isn't holding up
Time isn't after us
Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was
Letting the days go by
Same as it ever was
And here the twister comes
Here comes the twister

Letting the days go by (same as it ever was)
Same as it ever was (same as it ever was)
Letting the days go by (same as it ever was)
Same as it ever was
Once in a lifetime
Let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by.."

- - - 

Once in a lifetime - lyrics by David Byrne

Sunday, 28 February 2021

SOUL OR SOLE


I've been reading a lot recently about how surfing has many health benefits, both physical and mental. This struck a chord with me. 

Albeit a discordant one. Because I've also read about surfing being a spiritual, soulful pursuit. I've read about surfers being 'at one with nature' and finding deeper meaning within the act of surfing. Recently I listened to a podcast where some surfers were claiming that they remained childlike and curious purely because they were surfers.

To me this is all bullshit! Yes, surfing is fantastic and fun and physically satisfying. But to claim it somehow also rewards with elevated consciousness and superior awareness is bonkers. Why can't riding a bike or playing a round of golf* make us appreciate nature and our place in it? Why would surfing be exclusively the only activity to exercise both mind and body?

I surf because it's fun. I live near the coast and I've done it since I was a teenager. Yes, it often helps me switch off from work and reduce the daily noise & I enjoy the challenge and exhilaration of being in the sea. But I honestly doubt that it makes me a better person. In fact it probably does the opposite. Surfing involves way too much ego and selfishness to encourage spiritual development.

If I really want to do something that helps my physical and mental health I go for a run. It's incredibly simple - the only essential equipment is a pair of trainers (don't even have to be expensive). Some shorts and a t-shirt will complete the set-up. Step out of the house, and head off. 

Very soon I strike a rhythm, one foot in front of the other. A regular pace and quite quickly my mind quietens. I'm not competing with anybody for this space. I'm certainly not trying to impress anyone with my steady plodding. 

During a year of semi-regular runs I noticed that random thoughts would click into place and ideas form and solidify with ease. This was a revelation to me. Somehow the act of tuning out and following the repetitive pattern of my feet on the ground actually cleared my head. 

To me this is meditation. And I'll go so far as to say that a quiet run can be a lot more soulful than trying to catch a wave.

*I personally have no interest or desire to play golf, but can easily imagine that it has massive benefits for those that enjoy it.

Friday, 5 February 2021

MY KARMIC LEATHER JACKET


 

This photo of me taken by Paul 'Milo' Milsom is from the early 90s maybe some time around 1991ish.
 

Milo was staying with me in Falmouth, we spent the weekend skating Crantock, St Newlyn East and almost definitely Playing Place too. In the evening we did a little curb scratching and ended up at a party with ‘lots of garlic’ according to Milo. I actually don’t remember the garlic part. 

I do remember that leather jacket though. 

I had worked previously at Skateboard! magazine in London. The publisher also produced a couple of motorcycle titles from the same offices. They were a cool bunch and the mix of skateboarders and bikers actually worked just fine. 

I would cycle to and from work across London and one night when I went to leave it was pissing rain and freezing cold. One of the biker journos, guy called Rick lent me a leather jacket he had lying around in his office as I only had a hoody over my tshirt for protection. 

Fuck, that thing felt so good! Fitted perfectly, was hefty but sort of loose in a cool way. The leather had a beautiful authentic patina that only comes with true wear and tear. The weight of it alone was enough to let you know you were shouldering something substantial… I don’t think I even owned a coat at the time, maybe just a sketchy charity-shop anorak. So this was a revelation to me, I was hooked - that jacket was awesome.

The next day I left it at home to dry as it had got soaked on the previous night’s ride home. Back in the office I asked Rick if I could keep it as I knew he didn’t wear it often, in fact I’d never seen him wearing it at all. In the same way that we got freebies on the skate mag, the biker journos always had fresh gear; jackets, gloves, helmets, boots etc. Perks of the job. And I knew that he was particularly taken with a new Italian leather jacket he’d been swanning around in for the last month or so. He didn’t exactly say no. Mainly cuz I was pestering him so hard to let me keep it by guilt-tripping him into passing it on to me, knowing for a fact he got it as a freebie himself and didn’t wear it. I think he would have preferred me to shut up about it and take the hint that he would rather keep it than give it to some annoying skater. I let it pass, but importantly the jacket was in my possession.

I took to wearing it all the time as if it was in fact my jacket, and whenever I passed Rick in the hall he would jokily threaten that he wanted it back. And I would equally jokily respond ‘Yeah, yeah - one of these days..” Like I said, those biker guys were cool. 

I was not cool though, because I basically re-assigned ownership of that jacket from Rick to me right in front of his face. What a shit move.

After a year or so, it just became mine... I figured it was like squatters rights - if you live in it long enough then it becomes yours.

Eventually the magazine gig came to an end and I moved on. Which is around exactly the time that the above photo was taken of me wearing ‘my leather jacket’ back in Cornwall. Well needless to say Karma caught up with me because also not too long after the pic was taken, so was the jacket.

Stolen. Out one night somewhere, placed it on the back of a chair, closing time comes around and with it the realisation that the jacket has gone. I was gutted but I also knew justice had been served. I’d been sneaky taking that jacket from Rick and it was inevitable that it would be taken from me in the same manner. Full circle karma baby!

Monday, 1 February 2021

VIRUS

A small blue planet spinning through space. 

Whether by devine plan or random chance, this particular planet has exactly the right atmosphere and environment to sustain life. It has well-established lunar and seasonal cycles. A sturdy ecosystem combined with steady climate and temperatures. Plentiful water and a balance of natural resources and a thriving population with the intelligence & potential to maintain peaceful existence. 

At times the dominant occupants (humans) have displayed both extreme courage and creativity as well as staggering selfishness and stupidity. But overall they have achieved a universal balancing act designed to preserve harmony. 

Then a virus emerges that attacks all the humans on the small blue planet regardless of racial, social or economic background. It is indiscriminate, highly infectious and incredibly deadly. Very quickly it threatens the continuing existence of the entire human population of the small blue planet. 

The situation is blindingly clear - the virus must be eliminated or suppressed globally. To try and protect only a percentage of the total population will be a waste of time and effort. The virus is too infectious, too easily spread, too efficiently lethal for scattered piecemeal solutions. In simple terms the entire planet must work together for its own survival. 

But this particular world has survived countless wars, conflicts and natural disasters so it has plenty of experience in how to overcome and manage such catastrophes surely? Faced with such a threat it could easily unify to ensure its own safety and future. 

Although there are huge discrepancies between the wealth of the various countries, the rich nations could comfortably support those from poorer continents. Luckily the small blue planet has learnt some important lessons from its shared history and has gone some way towards planning for widespread danger. It has agreed on international treaties, created worldwide authorities and global coalitions precisely to try and eliminate such a threat. 

In fact, for example just a handful of staggeringly rich individuals from one part of the planet (America) could fund enough vaccines for millions of impoverished people across the whole of the planet. 

The situation is dire and extremely urgent, possibly the most important threat the small blue planet has ever faced. 

We watch as this virus slowly spreads, mutates and continues its steady, deadly assault on the people of the small blue planet. Shockingly they are stagnant. Unable to muster a shared purpose, instead they bicker amongst themselves. Waste time prevaricating, endlessly arguing and making excuses. Waiting, waiting..

The question is not when will they come up with a cohesive, unified plan to help every single global citizen and therefore ensure their future. 

But why haven’t they?

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

ESSJAY INTERVIEW

essjay williams interview
Essjay Williams is a bona fide OG Cornish legend. A first generation Truro skate grom, a pioneer 70s park rider, an original Westcountry Skateboards team rider and Tris team member, an independent skate shop owner and all-around good guy.

Well respected across the board by the industry and skaters alike, Essjay has seen it all from the very early days, through the various booms and busts of over 5 different decades - that's right, dude's been heavily into it for nearly 50 years and is still hovering around the Cornish skate scene today. Take some time to dig into a little bit of skate history..

All pics courtesy of Essjay's collection.

- - -

Hi Essjay, thanks for taking the time, first off, what made you start skateboarding?
I have a memory of seeing a surfer skateboarding on the Killacourt in Newquay when I was a toddler and after that I always wanted a skateboard but never got one until a surfing mate of mine “Nelly” turned up one day with a homemade deck and Chicago trucks with Cadillac wheels - an awesome set up! That was the start.

When was this?
Early 1975.

What was the scene like back then?
I don’t think that there was one, but they started to include a bit of skateboarding in the American surf films so we used to go to see them as often as possible.

Where did you skate?
At first it was Redannick garages & Dobbs Lane, (anywhere with a slope!) then we used to cobble up ramps outside of our houses and once made a ramp on a building site opposite the library in Truro. Skateboarders started to meet at the Council offices car park below the viaduct in Truro, that is where I used to sell stuff from the boot of my car! That was the beginning of the Truro scene.

Essjay on a makeshift ramp opposite the library on Pydar Street in the centre of Truro.


Chuds and Essjay catamaran at the Council offices car park in Truro.

Which parks did you skate and did you travel to skate?
There were no parks until they built Watergate Bay and that opened officially on 29th May 1977 and that was our home for a while, Nelly and myself once got there at 6.30am for a sneaky skate before the emmets turned up and to our surprise the old chap that used to run it came down and took our money! Then Holywell Bay opened up followed by Playing Place and later the Flamingo indoor park. I visited Millendreath and Portland, Torquay, Barnstaple and others that I cannot remember when I was doing my delivering job! The Plymouth “zoo” park was amazing, loved the full pipe and the snake run, I have a photo of my wife Irene skating the pipe!


Uk's first skatepark at Watergate Bay.

Banking off the high wall into the bowl at Watergate Bay.


Irene pumping it in the full pipe at Plymouth Zoo park.

We also went to the first Skateboarding exhibition at the Royal Horticultural Hall in London on the 12th-15th Feb 1978 quite a few Americans were in attendance such as Bobby Piercy and Steve Cathey. We hung around with the rest of the Westcountry Skateboards crew who had a stand there.


Westcountry Skateboards Team. Left to right back row; Spike Harvey (Si's dad), unknown, Shaun McIlroy, Jed Stone, Essjay. Bottom row left to right; Ian Boyce, unknown.

In Nov 1978 I borrowed Steve Crewes dads VW van and took the Tris team to the British Open Championships which were held at Billy Smarts Skatewave in Windsor, an amazing indoor park, I think we just skated the rest of the park, away from the comp and had a great time!

I guess I did quite a bit of travelling in 1978!  

Was there a local shop? 

When I started skateboarding in 1975 there were no local shops, you had to search out surf shops to find anything and that was rare!

Luckily for me I was a delivery driver for a Truro biscuit company and I travelled across the UK spreading Cornish bakery love! And I bought my first (British) set up from Tiki Surf in Braunton which I promptly took back as the plastic bearing races melted on my first ride and the bearings simply rolled down the road! So I forked out double the money and bought a Grentec Cuda, a vast improvement, I eventually replaced the trucks with Chicagos and the wheels with Metaflex. That board travelled with me all of the time.

Were you on a team?
Somehow I blagged my way onto the Westcountry Skateboards team which was owned by Rob Ward and Dave Thomas, the top skater was Jed Stone followed by Shaun McIlroy. We used to do demos at various Cornish schools which ended with us autographing the flyers, cheesy or what? But fun!


Repping Westcountry Skateboards (big gloves were mandatory in the seventies).

Then a bit later on I ended up on the Tris team as most of my skateboarding was done at the Flamingo near Redruth which was run by Johnny Manetta & Pete Frost who owned the Tris surf shop in Porthtowan. Pete had a skate shop in the Truro Pannier Market for a while (the first Truro skateshop).


Essjay right up there above the stickers in the Flamingo half-pipe. That thing was savage - 4ft of vert, no flat-bottom and only 12ft wide. Commitment!


Looking after the Tris shop at the Flamingo, thinking "Yeah, maybe I'll open a shop one day, so that when kids break their boards..."

Who were the other local hotshots?
The first local skater who seriously impressed me was Steve McNicholls, top surfer and an amazing skateboarder. He was the first person that I saw doing a handstand on a skateboard, Jed Stone was impressive and got photos in every magazine! Steve Crewes from Camborne also ripped at every aspect of the sport – top man!

Who were your influences? 

Probably Gregg Weaver, Stacey Peralta then later on Tony “Mad Dog” Alva! Along with Jeremy Henderson & John Sablosky. 

Did you do other stuff, like surfing etc? 

I did a very small amount of surfing but I didn’t really get on with it, in fact the last time that I went surfing was with Steve Crewes at Watergate Bay around Nov 1978, I remember coming out shivering & chattering and decided there and then to only surf on concrete! Apart from that no other sport just went to see bands and have a few beers! 


Always livin' life to the full.

What year did you start the shop and why? 

Well in the late seventies I used to sell stuff from the boot of my car for Westcountry Skateboards and later on bought stuff from a mate of mine Dick Willoughby who had the Surf Spot in Bude but unfortunately I broke my Tib & Fib in Dec 1978 on the Flamingo half pipe then again in the same place four months later at Knuckey’s back yard ramp in Redruth so that put a dampener on things and I didn’t skate again until around 1984ish when I worked at Holywell Bay.


Flamingo halfpipe 1978. Ouch!.

I remember not being able to buy decks, trucks, wheels etc without visiting loads of different surf shops. I went to Slam City’s shop in Talbot Rd in 1988 and I think that’s what gave me the idea for a shop where you could get everything in one hit. 

I started up Essjays/SJ’z Skateboard shop in September 1989 after getting a pay-out from an endowment thingy which I had taken out whilst drunk in 1975! I think it was 5 grand so I bought a lease on a shop and went off to see Dick with £2500.00 to fill the shop! Unfortunately it didn’t even fill the back of a pickup so I borrowed another two and a half grand off a mate and away we went.

After that I managed to get accounts with all of the skateboard wholesalers. My wife Irene initially ran the shop as I was working and eventually Matt Price came to work for us along with Teddy & Si (the Saturday boys). 

Did you sponsor riders? 

Yes, I think that Si Annear and Matt Price were the first although the sponsorship was simply a free tee-shirt and a bit of discount, the real deal for sponsorhip was with a skate manufacturer if you were lucky! I think we shop-sponsored a few others but I cannot remember them all (apologies feel free to beat me) other sponsored riders were – Leo & Jody Smith and the staff! 

Were there many girl skaters in those days? 

Not really, in the seventies I can only remember about four including my wife! Then when I had the shop maybe a dozen or so, it’s now come a long way, there’s some amazing girl skateboarders now such as Elissa Steamer, Leticia Bufoni & Sky Brown amongst others. 


Classic SJ'z 90s skate shop wall.

Have you any tales from the shop days? 

Oh yes! One I remember very clearly, I was walking through the mews about 9.55am to open the shop and I noticed a bit of a to do in the Barbers opposite. What had happened was a client had sadly died whilst having his hair cut, so I quietly crept past and unlocked the shop door when all of a sudden the alarm went off and Teddy & Si jumped out and ambushed me shattering the silence, I could have curled up and died. 

I used to love our Christmas staff do’s which were held in various establishments usually because we had outstayed our welcome somewhere the year before! One time we were in a meadery which had just opened and they sat us upstairs on an open balcony and gave us a load of free wine after which Si decided to throw his chicken bones at the peasants below, then we had a carbolic soap eating contest (we found it in the toilets) Si had to go home to clean his teeth - wuss! But for some reason we never got chucked out of that one. 

Every Christmas Eve, I’d stock a “few” beers and friends & customers would have one or two, then we would hit the pubs which usually ended up in a mess!


With Danny Way.

We used to get asked for some strange things in the shop such as; “Do you sell cotton?” or “Have you got walking stick badges?” or “Have you got a bit of you know what”. We used to keep a book with all of the strange requests but I think Stu ate it! Talking about Stu, he wrote in the accident book once after hitting his finger with a hammer - where it said “Any action taken” he wrote “Yes I shouted F**k as loud as possible” made me chuckle. 

And I once got talked into buying a thousand Tech decks in one go! ...too many tales to tell! 


Don't even think about it.

Also – I used to go to various meetings in Truro about skateboarding, as usual when the council were asked about facilities for skateboarders they wrongly assumed that it was a fad and would die out hence putting it off to the next meeting and so forth but I remember attending one meeting (early 1977) with my mate Nelly and for some reason we were a bit late and the room was crammed with kids and their parents so we entered and unexpectedly got a big round of applause from everyone apart from the councillors! Just because we were adults and on the kids side I guess!

Sometime around 2006/7 Truro town clerk Russell Holden came into the shop and asked if we were willing to do a petition for a skate park in Truro? No problem! In fact it was refreshing to have someone from the council on our side! So a petition was done and with Russell on our side, planning and funding was sorted, designed by Leo, Jody, Stu along with Terrain Designs and on the 11th April 2009 Truro’s skate plaza at Hendra was officially opened.

Why close the shop? When was that? 

Things had been getting tighter from about 2003, pressure from rent and business rate rises along with increased competition were beginning to tell. I kept fooling myself that things would get better, and they did now and then but the debts were increasing and in 2010 I took a job erecting spiral staircases and left Stu to run the shop with Irene covering his day off. I jokingly asked one of my suppliers if he wanted a shop for nothing and he said yes! So he bought the stock and I walked away in August 2010. It was very strange after 21 years but we had had some great times! 

The shop went on for another two years, but unfortunately the doors finally closed in 2012. Strangely enough in 2010 we sold more decks and hardware than we had for a long time but unfortunately the profits were in clothing and shoes and they were not selling, I should have moved on a few years earlier, but hey...! 

I know you love music – fave band? 

Music is great! Favourite band? Wow there’s so many, probably the Beatles, they have been with me since about 1963, also King Crimson, Zep, Edgar Broughton Band, Floyd, Band Of Horses, Sabbath, All them Witches, Drive By Truckers, Kurt Vile, Stones, Saint Agnes, The War On Drugs, Joe Pocketknife, and many many more – by the way, at the moment my earworm is Morning Dew by the National. 

Favourite gig? 

There are so many, so I’ll just name two – Rolling Stones/Lynyrd Skynyrd at Knebworth Park 21st Aug 1976 and the Sex Pistols at the Garden Penzance 1st Sept 1977. 

No way! A legendary gig that one. How did you even hear about it?

I cannot exactly remember how I knew that the Sex Pistols were playing at the Garden. I used to read Sounds and other music mags a lot, maybe it was from there but also all the ads gave it away as they were billed as Acne Rabble, The SPOTS (Sex Pistols On Tour Secretly) and in the case of the Garden – “A mystery band of international repute”. We queued for quite a while and only just got in, it was packed but a great gig! I liked punk but always thought that I was a bit too old but it turns out Johnny Lydon is only 18 months younger than me!


Hog life.

Have you always been into motorcycles? 

Yes, my first was a Lambretta LI 150 which I bought for £40 in June 1970 unfortunately I smashed it up six weeks later. Then I bought a 198cc Francis Barnett for £14 which had been leaning against a wall in a garage for a few years, after that a nice 250cc Villiers Captain America Chopper! 

From then on it was a mixture of Japanese bikes, one of them a Suzuki B120 which I rode to the Watergate Bay Open Skateboard Championships and hit my foot whilst going around a corner leaving it badly sprained, somehow I still managed to enter the slalom and came 4th. 

I bought a 1964 650cc Triumph in 1980 and used to ride it all of the time to go to Trevornick (Holywell Bay) where I used to work (I still have it). And in 1993 I bought a 1340cc Harley Davidson which has now done over 140.000 miles - still going strong! 

I am also the regional rep for the Harley Davidson Riders Club of Great Britain. 

Do you skate at all nowadays? 

Only the occasional flat ground pushing and carving, I keep thinking of visiting Newlyn East or somewhere quiet but then I chicken out, but my brain seems to skate ok! 

Do you keep up with the skate scene nowadays – what do you think of it? 

I try not to but I keep getting dragged back (laughs), a former customer and friend “Benny” started up a Facebook page called the Cornish Shredders and it’s a great way to catch up with people and watch videos and so forth, also the scene seems to be getting better and better, and Mount Hawke Skatepark is brilliant. My Grandkids go there now & then, what a facility! A big shout out to Ciaran, Sarah and the team for all their hard work!


Cheers Essjay!

Thanks Essjay - it's been great catching up and hearing some of your stories. Any honourable mentions you wanna throw in?  

Thanks go to “Nelly” - Irene - Westcountry Skateboards - Tris Surf – All of the SJ’s staff – The Truro crew (you know who you are) - Dick Willoughby R.I.P. and all who supported and supplied us. And don’t forget it’s not about how you skate as long as you skate! A big thanks to Sqeez for getting me to speak!

Saturday, 12 January 2019

LOOK BACK

I discovered an old interview that Craig 'Questions' Scott did with me back in 2011. It was never used and has never been published anywhere else.

- - - -

Craig had contacted me because he was doing a series of old school articles for one of the UK mags (may have been Sidewalk..) and he wanted to talk to Spex about the Bristol scene. I passed his details on and I know Craig was trying to put together an article with him.

During our correspondence, Craig and I talked a lot and he eventually asked me to also do an interview. I was reluctant because didn't feel I warranted one but he insisted. In the end I think the whole thing fizzled out anyway and Craig only did a couple of articles and never got around to doing one on Spex and Bristol, which is a shame. But I thought I'd post this up here for posterity...

- - - -

QUESTIONS QUESTIONS ME...

What was it like growing up and skateboarding in Bristol?

I grew up in Cornwall (didn't move to Bristol until much later). Got hooked on skateboarding first in the 70s, rolled around Watergate Bay when it first opened. Watched the Benji team at a wooden park called 'The Flamingo' (cuz it used to be a dance hall originally). Skated Playing Place and Holywell Bay every weekend. Loads of old spots, too many to mention, Cornwall was very surf influenced and in those early days skateboarding was a natural fit with surfing. But it was skateboarding that really knocked me out and what I soon found myself spending all my time doing.

Watergate Bay, 1977. Pic: Unknown


I know there is a lot of spots and a massive scene in Bristol, tell us about some of the history and who skated what?

I moved to Bristol in the 80s I knew nothing about the skate scene there. I went into Rollermania (the only shop at the time) and they were telling me about Dean Lane skate park in Bedminster and a guy called Spex who ruled it. So I went down there and all the crew were really friendly and welcoming to me. They all skated really well too. Down in Cornwall we had mainly old style concrete bowls so I was used to skating in a style that suited carving. Dean Lane had banks, ramps, inter-connecting bowls, the rhythm run and all sorts of stuff that the Bristol boys had wired. I'd been there every day for about a week and not seen Spex once, but I was quietly impressed by all the other locals.

Dean Lane was built on a steep slope and I remember one night this blur of speed came bombing down through the park, banging massive ollies through the rhythm run before launching a mighty backside bodyjar off the junky metal quarter pipe. That was Spex, and it was instantly obvious why he had such a rep.

Spex f-side ollie Dean Lane
Spex boosting Planet Rock, Dean Lane (great excuse to run this pic). Pic: Pete Litchfield


Ashton Court was long gone by the time I got there, so as far as Bristol skate history goes I only know from the 80s on. But there were still a couple of concrete spots as well as Dean Lane. One of the gnarlier spots was Lockleaze which had a really deep old school pool that was a buzz to ride. St Georges is a mellow carvey sort of spot. There were loads of other little banks and curb setups around the city such as the Nat West banks which had a little handrail at the top.

Can you remember skating with Spex, Die, Yan and all those guys, what was it like?

There was a really excellent crew of skaters that all hung around Dean Lane. Even though Bristol is a fairly large city, at that time Dean Lane was the hub. With Rollermania and Shiners providing the support. Spex was amazing, he never failed to impress. Barney was very stylish, and all the crew had their different styles and strengths.

Yan was classic; one day he came hurtling down the rhythm run, every single turn was sketchy, his feet all over the place and on the edge of slamming every inch of the way down. When he got to the bottom all he said was "Wrong shoes". Along with the Dean Lane regulars there was also the SM5D skate punks who we used to go street skating with, they always had excellent parties.

Die was one of the younger guys who seemed to go from just being average to suddenly being real fugging good overnight! I remember being in the Pink Palace (a great indoor mini-ramp just off Park St mainly built by Vern) and I was standing on the platform chatting to Spex while Die dropped in from the other platform and he blasted a frontside stalefish right in my face and I'm 6'2"!

Who were the most influential skateboarders at that time to you?

I dug a few of the 'name' skaters particularly Chris Miller and I always really liked Lucero for some reason. But actually it was the people around me that made an impression. I know I keep rattling on about him, but Spex was probably the biggest influence. He's not only a good skateboarder, he's a great person with a really good outlook on life, we shared a flat for a while and we still see each other regularly. Also there was a skater in Cornwall called Paddy Best, who really pushed me to skate vert mainly at Crantock cuz the one thing Bristol lacked at that time was a vert ramp.

When the rebirth of Skateboard! magazine came around you scored the cover of the first issue! How did it feel seeing it? Can you remember that session when the photo was taken?

80s Skateboard! first issue
Skateboard! magazine, Session 1 July 1988. Pic: Paul Duffy


Yeah that was fairly ace! Of course I loved getting the cover pic as it was really my one and only 15 minutes of fame moment. Skane had recently relaunched Skateboard! and had got together a load of really good skaters for a weekend of skating in Bristol. There was Dan-z, Gary Lee, Dave Davies, plus all the Bristol crew along with photographer Paul Duffy, so basically lots of skaters who were all much better than me. We had a blast skating all over Bristol. The shot they used was taken when we were just mucking about in a little bowl section at the bottom of the snake run at Bedminster, we had all our pads on cuz we'd been sessioning the metal pipe. I was doing a kicked out sweeper and Duffy was snapping away. It was a total surprise to me when Skane told me just before the mag came out that I was on the cover. I'm sure there were lots of shots from that weekend that were a lot more rad, but thinking about it now, I guess that was Skane's thing, he was always looking for a slightly different angle.

What was working for Skateboard! like, tell us what it involved doing?

Skateboard! had already been going for a few issues and frankly I wasn't that impressed with it. I think they were still finding their feet and trying to work out their position in comparison to RAD which had undergone a total revamp.

Skane lived in  Bristol, one day I was chatting with him and out of the blue he asked me what I'd ideally like to be doing. Without any hesitation I said my dream job would be Art Director for a skate mag (in my mind I had a secret fantasy about working at Transworld or Poweredge in California). Skane practically offered me the job right there, which I wasn't expecting at all, but it suddenly made perfect sense, I was a skater and a designer so why not combine the two.

I moved up to London and started working on the mag - it was great fun. Sifting through thousands of slides, working with Skane and Meany and loads of cool photographers like Duffy, Frankie Shea, Pete Litchfield etc. Dreaming up cover designs and laying out articles. I was the 'Art Dept' so I designed and produced layouts for the whole magazine and often it was hectic cuz we were relying on skaters most of the time for copy, images and ads etc and they weren't the most reliable or efficient when it came to deadlines. But I loved it and I got to meet a lot of London skaters and skate all the spots. Crouch End ramp, Latymer Rd, Chingford, I liked going fast through the corners at Kennington, Meanwhile 2 and my fave which was Gladstone Park Pool in Neasden. I remember skating that at midnight on Midsummers Day in 1989 on my own under a full moon.

Skane was a bit of an eccentric character and had a particular way of looking at things, but his heart was in the right place and he'd been a skateboarder himself back in the 70s. He had a tendency toward the technical side but I think his main strength was his ability to look beyond the status quo. He really liked to mix things up, and he made a point about doing stories from all over the UK. He also went beyond that with features about different scenes across Europe and he did a whole issue about Brazil.

I know you were part of the test team, explain a bit about it.

Skaney was big on 'product testing'. Often mags will do that stuff to encourage advertising, ie: "we'll run editorial on your proddy - in exchange you buy ad space in our mag". But in his case I think Skane genuinely enjoyed doing all that analyst shit. I think it was Sketchy zine that did a brilliant piss-take of a Skane type product test on a Bic biro, right down to detailed measurements of the little hole in the plastic at the top of the pen.

Anyway Skane ended up with a lot of skateboard goodies at his disposal. He was quite discerning about it and gave some to the skaters who hung around the office in London, such as Morbid etc. But as he was based in Bristol he ended up handing out decks, wheels and trucks at Dean Lane and all we had to do in return was give him some critical feedback. I don't remember there ever being an official 'test team' but I do know that I got enough gear to keep me rolling for a few years. I think there were a few pics of me in the mag 'testing' gear.

Over the years many people have passed through Bristol. Jesse Martinez, Eric Dressen, the Gonz and a whole host of others. What’s been the most memorable?

Yeah, there was a period when it seemed like there were quite a few visiting pros. Tony Coffey from Rollermania, played a big part in the Bristol scene in those days and had some connections and bought them over. They were all rad in their own ways, but I remember Natas made quite an impression because he was at the top of his game at the time and probably because the terrain at Dean Lane suited his style. He went big everywhere and he was very smooth and hardly ever bailed. The Gonz was the Gonz, very unique, very individual.

The Venice boys were gnarlier, more hell-for-leather type characters, they ripped on Planet Rock - which was more like a mutant shore dump wave than a skatepark bank. There was a good session with them up at Lockleaze where Skane got a classic shot of JT, Hartsell and Danforth doing simultaneous front rocks on a sketchy quarterpipe. Cardiel was a maniac too, he did a huge ollie across the bowls that I'd never seen anyone even attempt before. I also remember that guy Ged Wells from Insane coming to Bedminster and skating really well down in the halfpipe, which was incredibly tight and steep and not at all easy to ride.

I know all the Venice guys passed through in '88. What was that like? I heard it got out of hand!

That was interesting. I'd come from Cornwall where the skate style was surfy and cruisey, then in Bristol I had my eyes opened by the more street and park style skating that the Bristol boys did. The Venice guys took that to another level, they had a much harder edge to their style, there was a definite hardcore vibe about them. For instance we were street skating one night with Dressen, charging down a hill, doing ollies and slides etc when a car came around the corner and Dressen actually collided with it. Our default reaction would have been to skate off in the other direction (skating in the city at night you learnt to avoid confrontation as some of the 'towners' could turn nasty). But Dressen immediately picked up his board and started swinging it at the car, putting a nice dent in the side before we legged it down a side street. That told me something about where he was at.

Jesse Martinez was also larger than life, a great character. We were drinking in The Lion in Clifton Wood and he was full of stories about the scrapes he got into back in Venice. After closing time we went to a club in town and carried on necking beers while Jesse held court. I'm not sure what started it, but next thing I knew there was a bit of argy-bargy with somebody at the bar and Jesse leapt into action. He grabbed a pool cue out of somebody's hand, snapped it in two and started swinging the ends around as if they were nunchucks and he was trying to take on the whole club! Bedlam ruled until the bouncers got involved and we all ended up being booted out into the street. Jesse Martinez just took it all in his stride, one minute he was chatting and laughing, the next he was a raging psycho and then in the blink of an eye he was calm again and looking for another bar to carry on the session.

Tell us about the Bedminster scene and locals.

That park was 'home' to me for quite a few years, wasted way too much time there. Because no matter what time of day or night there was always someone to session with. Too many names to mention and I'd hate to leave anyone out, but there were all sorts of people; punks, crustys, surfers, layabouts, kids still in school, students, other guys working manual jobs etc, etc. But it was never an issue, everyone just skated together it was a cool little scene.

We'd skate all over Bristol, not just Bedminster. St Georges was always fun. Night time NCP curb sessions. Mini-ramp gatherings at the squats. One Sunday morning Spex took us to Nugent Hill, which is a seriously steep hill. It was the sort of hill where you just step onto your board and immediately start accelerating, it was like a ski-jump! The rest of us were doing wide zig-zag slides to try and burn off the speed. But Spex runs from the brow of the hill, throws down his board and adds some giant pushes just to really get himself motoring. He was absolutely tearing down this hill for about 50 metres and then he threw himself into a full four wheel backside drifter. I'd never seen anyone do that before, frontside, yes, backside never. And certainly not at that speed on that incline. He was going so fast that he was literally gliding down the hill sideways, the rest of us were doing these farty little slides and stopping in our tracks, whilst Spex was a mile away at the bottom of the hill going backwards at warp speed!

What was your favourite era of skateboarding and why?

That's a really hard question. Talking about Dean Lane in the 80s reminds me how much I loved those times. I made a lot of great friends, I was probably skating every single day and getting paid to look at skate pictures for my job!

But despite that I'm gonna show my age here and opt for the era when I first discovered skateboarding back in the late 70s. Why? Because it struck me like a lightning bolt, it got deep into my soul, it shaped me, and it made me feel fuckin rad! And if something makes you feel like that you never forget it.

Is there anything you miss about the old days?

Apart from my hair. Not really, cuz once you get the bug you're hooked and even though I don't skate as much these days and as cheesy as it sounds I can't change being a sk8r-4-life.

I know now you run a really good blog (kernowkalling.blogspot.com) and surf a lot. What else takes your days up?

Well I'm still a graphic designer which is what I do to pay the bills. I'm surfing as much as I can and I've got a family that I love to spend time with. I guess ultimately I do all sorts of things to try and grow old disgracefully.

Can you finish us off with one last memory?

Davey Philip, indy to nosepicker across the channel at Mon's ramp. He picked his nose but he didn't eat it!

Thanks Sqeez, it's been rad.

Interview by Craig 'Questions' Scott, December 2011

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

RIP GINCHY - Saturday 21st July 2018


..

I met Milky that morning as I was going out for a surf at Godrevy. He told me Paul had died in the early hours. It was a hammer blow. I was shocked, stunned and instantly conflicted - I really didn't feel like surfing but after to-ing and fro-ing on the shoreline for five minutes, I decided to paddle out anyway..

It was the worst surf I've ever had.

The worst because I was upset and distracted and overcome by grief. My mind was spinning with thoughts of Ginch. I swore, I sobbed, I shouted in frustration that he'd drawn his last breath while the rest of us could carry on living life. I was sad for Jenny and his daughters, all his family.

Maybe being in the surf was the best place for me to process this. On dry land I'd be a mess, pacing up and down, agitated and confused, not knowing what to do with myself. Being in the sea at Godrevy, on my board, was probably the best place I could have been. Every wave, every ride, every splash, every paddle-stroke was with Paul by my side.

I certainly couldn't call it a good session but it was the best I could do that day.

Monday, 30 July 2018

MID-TIDE CRISIS

I need some positivity.

It feels like there are too many people happily losing the plot. Too many people gleefully embracing fear and hatred.

It's official - ignorance is bliss.

And personally, there's way too much pain & sadness happening... Friends losing their minds, friends ending their relationships, friends sinking into depression, friends dying! Friends of mine actually fucking dying!

Light and shade, good and bad, up and down. Can't have one without the other, as simple as night and day.

I know that.

I also know it's facile to draw an analogy between the harsh realities of life & death with something as pointless and selfish as surfing. But it helps me process this stuff.

At the moment I'm fed up with being caught inside, continually hammered by the sets, tumbled in the whitewater, not knowing which way is up or down. I can't wait to be out the back again, catching the wave of the day, gliding and sliding with a big smile on my face.

And getting through all this shit is just another mid-tide crisis.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

FIN

Having ridden the same 9" squirrel tail fin in my longboard for over 10 years I felt it was about time for a change.

Lately I've been surfing a lot with my 17yr old son, who has a very clear idea of the kind of surfing he wants to do. He is all about the trad style with a mix of old school colouring and a layer of youthful flair.

Watching him surf has inspired me to start thinking again about what I do on a wave. The squirrel tail is a very good allrounder - quick to turn, decent drive and enough rudder to hold a noseride if you're nimble and the wave is 'just right'. But it felt like my surfing was a little stagnant and this in turn pushed me to pop out the old squirrel tail and slot in a 10" Josh Farberow Flex by Trueames.

Wow, everything changed instantly. It feels like my 13 year old log is brand new. It rides so differently. Grippy and solid for cross-steps, yet still enough flex to squirt some drive when the wave jacks up and a quick redirect is required.

It's all about the fin!

Sunday, 4 March 2018

WHY I'M NOT A 'SURFER'

I started skating in '76, surfing in '79. And even though the two were supposed to be closely related, it was crystal clear to me where the real style was...

80s surfers Japan (Don't ever call me a surfer.)
80s pro surfers, Niijima island, Japan. Pic: Tom Carroll

Click pic for way too much detail...

Monday, 8 January 2018

NEW SCRIBBLINGS

Buzzing with ideas this year..

penhale - chapel porth
Retro-ish typography for your local spot - why not?

porthtowan to the bluff

You can see some similar stuff here.

Monday, 1 January 2018

COMING THIS YEAR...

Gonna be revealing some nice stuff this year..

Coming soon...

Sunday, 3 December 2017

DIGITAL SCRAPBOOK

A bluey-green theme with this batch..

Cealan in the Blue Room - ready to start shaping...

Number 81 (but that '8' looks upsidedown to me ...)

chipshopmisty
Early-morning Chip Shop mist

Clifton Lido
The amazing Clifton Lido

Northcliffs cornwall
Beloved North Cliffs

Modernist Stepset

BlueVans
New blue Treads

Sunday, 1 October 2017

OCTOBER 2017 RANDUMBS

How can we tell what is true? - According to information theorists if there is more than one person involved in an event then certainty can no longer be guaranteed. That's right, anything that involves two or more humans can be interpreted, remembered and recorded in totally different ways. There truly are two sides to every story. But what happens when one person persists in re-telling every story with themselves cast as the central character, maintaining that only their viewpoint can be the truth?

Easy to be a fool - choose either to believe what isn't true or refuse to believe what is true. (Kierkegaard)

It is the peculiar quality of a fool - to perceive the faults of others and forget his own. (Cicero)

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

CIAO ITALIA!


posta
Posta

no bugles!
No bugling!

steel pines
Piney stars

road sign
Significa

junky
Rusty junk door

mountain path
Mountain path

long way down
Long way down

tiny trees
Tiny piney trees

mountain meadow
Mountain meadow

woody envy
Woodpile envy

plaza local
La Plaza

blue green mountain lake
Mountain lake