Your Lovenskate board is about to come out, marking your 20th year skateboarding. Can you talk about what this means to you?
I’m just overly grateful for the opportunity. I said to Stu (Smith, Lovenskate) at the end of last year: “It will be 20 years next year, so I want to do something good. I’d really like to film something that I’m proud of”, and he was like: “We should definitely do something for it”. I was thinking it would be great to just do a shirt, but Stu suggested doing a board.
So you’re really happy, obviously.
Yes, really happy because I never thought it would happen to me or had any expectation. It was a total shock. It’s nice knowing beforehand because I had some time to get used to it and also to think about how I really wanted my board to be.
Are you the first female professional in the UK?
I guess so, but it struck me that Jenna (Selby) had a little thing called Rogue Skateboards. I think it’s tailed off now, but Helena Long had a board that she did the artwork for and I was never sure if it was
a guest artist board or a pro model. So I don’t know, because I am not sure about that fact.
Do you want to briefly explain your graphic?
I have always had an interest in birds of prey. I’m a massive fan. There’s a bird of prey centre in Horsham where I live and I’ve been there quite often through my life, checking in on them. We went with an owl because of its camouflage. We looked it up, and master of camouflage was a thing, and obviously I’m pretty into camo – I always try to fit some in my outfit. Stu suggested James Callahan of Barf Comics because he has done a few Lovenskate graphics and a few different animals we were really into, so we approached him and it was just so easy but so exciting. Every time he came back with something, it was like: “Wow, yes, spot on”. I used to always like riding white dipped Zoo York boards – well any white dipped boards really – so I said to Stu: “If it really does happen, I’d love it to be a white dipped board”.
Can you talk a little about your experience as a female skateboarder in the late ’90s?
When I started, Crawley skatepark was brand new, which meant more people were suddenly getting into it. So although I was quite clearly different, there were so many beginners, I felt just like one of them. I got taken around. If they were going to another skatepark, I always got an offer. I felt more of an outcast because they were older actually, not necessarily because I was female.
But they looked after you?
Yes, they really helped me along.
You don’t drink, smoke or do drugs. I’m guessing those guys did indulge in one way or another.
It was all going on around me, yes. I think I was a bit nervous to jump right in on that stuff at that stage because I was young and out with older boys, but then I never ever felt forced or pressured or anything. People would offer me a joint all the time, but I would just be like: “No, I don’t do it”. I think with kids these days, it seems to be happening at a younger age.
So your friends treated you as one of them, but what about members of the public? Did you get extra attention for being a girl who skated?
There weren’t really insults or threats or anything scary, but definitely so much attention, especially obviously after the Avril Lavigne thing happened. After that: “Can you kickflip?” and “He was a skater boy” would happen constantly. You couldn’t escape it.
Is it fair to say that skateboarding is a lot more inclusive today than it was when you started?
Yes I think so, but also back then, if you saw someone in DCs, you would usually nod, smile and acknowledge each other. There was a sort of mutual thing between skaters, but vibing also went on.
But what about inclusivity in terms of embracing female and LGBT skateboarding?
It’s not a surprise to see a female any more and I think people are definitely more stoked on it. If I go to a different park nowadays, there will definitely be another girl, maybe more than one, whereas back then there really was just a handful of us. If you went somewhere else, you would get looks and that barrage of questions. It wasn’t necessarily offensive, it was just inquisitive, like: “Oh my God can you do this? Can you do that?” which wouldn’t have been asked of a bloke skater.
Female skateboarding really seems to have blown up in the past two or three years. What explains this, in your opinion?
There are a number of things, but I think that the rise of DIY culture within female skateboarding and projects that have happened from within, without any help from brands necessarily, have definitely helped with the participation side of things. For instance the increase in girls-only sessions and skate camps is really great. I’ve seen it first-hand with the sessions we do in Brighton: the amount of women and girls who have come to take part because they feel like: “That is for me”, rather than being deterred by the barriers of getting a board and going to the skatepark with a million teenage boys.
So you think these girls-only sessions are really important?
Yes I really do. I don’t actively encourage segregation, but I think there’s a time and a place to give woman that opportunity to think: “This is my time”, which is so important to gain the confidence and some skills before going to that place where… like a teenage boy will see a skatepark and think: “That is mine, that is my place”, because it’s full of them. So those things have caused an increase in the actual number of (female) participants. I think it’s exciting and kind of cool. The media tends to churn out the same stuff, the same skateboarding images, butit’s just a bit different.
Are you talking about female skateboarding specifically?
Yes, the images are different. If you really want to get into it, the female body looks good and if it’s caught right within skateboarding, I think it can look really good. I don’t skate in short shorts or whatever, but some girls tend to. I’m not looking at it like: “That’s hot”, I just think it can look really cool.
The was a stereotype back in the late ’90s / early ’00s that most female skaters were gay. Was this actually a phenomenon, or just boys being rude about girls wearing boys’ skate clothes?
I think it was a bit of rudeness. I guess the stereotypical lesbian was a tomboy-like, masculine clothing-wearing person, so it was just a case of: “Oh yes, you must be”. But then what was kind of crazy was that it did sort of become true of a significant amount of the girls at that time, whether or not they realised and were OK with it then. I don’t want to out people, but you’ve got (Elissa) Steamer, who probably wasn’t then, but definitely is. Then you’ve got Vanessa Torres – that one’s OK, I’m allowed to say her – Amy Caron, quite a lot of the girls who were getting exposure back then… Even some of the girls I skated with back then who weren’t, but who still looked like they were, are now.
So it kind of did come true. Back then, I wasn’t… I guess I knew myself, but it wasn’t until 2005 or something that I started being open about it, even though it was obvious to me and obvious to others.
In a Jenkem interview in 2015, Vanessa Torres was critical of Leticia Bufoni’s decision to pose nude for ESPN The Magazine, hinting at some division in female skateboarding in the US. Does this division also exist in the UK, and where do you fit in?
I don’t think that there is that division in the UK. I think we’re lucky and I do think that is because we’re a smaller island. There is still a lot of criticism of Leticia amongst some female skateboarders over here, but I think that we are lucky not to have such a rejection of her like there is over there by some of them.
For various decisions that she has made in recent years.
Yes and I think there are still people over here who think that, but I don’t think that there’s any real tension between the groups over here. I guess I would fit in the more… I want to look like a skateboarder that I saw in the ’90s, so I wear masculine clothes, baggy, whatever, but then I don’t have a problem with all the tight jeans or short short-wearing girl skaters as much as I have a problem with men skating with their tops off. But I do think it’s unnecessary for a girl to skate in just a sports bra. I don’t see any need for that. I think it’s
a bit check-me-out.
What do you think about those shoots Leticia did, for ESPN The Magazine, as mentioned above, and for Men’s Health?
There are other ways to make money if that’s what the goal was, other ways to get exposure. It does seem a little belittling, but I wouldn’t necessarily knock her for it. I change about these things. My first reaction was: “Oh, that’s rubbish”, but then I’m not the audience for that.
No, but do you see it as detracting from what you and a lot of female skateboarders have been working towards?
Yes, it definitely does that, because those images will get a lot more coverage than any of her doing a trick. So that’s not good for her skateboarding or for all of our skateboarding. It just seems a bit of a shame really.
In your Sidewalk interview, you and Ben (Powell) discussed the need for a well-known gay male skateboarder to come out. This has since happened. How do you feel about the amount of publicity around and positive response to Brian Anderson’s decision to come out?
Obviously it made me and a lot of other gay skateboarders really happy, but I think a lot of people knew already, so I don’t think it was a major shock, which added to all the positivity around it. Everyone was like: “Thank God he was able to do it at last”. That’s a good reflection of how skateboarding is a lot more inclusive these days, like you said at the beginning. It’s really great that he was able to feel safe enough to do that.
Brian got a lot more attention for coming out than his friend Elissa Steamer, who discussed being in a relationship with a woman back in 2014 in a Thrasher interview. What are your thoughts on this?
Like I said before, women who skated years ago generally fitted that stereotype anyway. I think that the stereotype of a gay man is still a queen, so I guess it’s harder to… it’s still really out there. Skateboarding is still a macho, masculine world. Female skaters have already stepped into that world, so that’s a massive hurdle already overcome. It’s hard to answer this.
I guess you’re saying that because of this older stereotype of female skaters being gay, it’s less of a surprise when a female skateboarder comes out than when a guy does.
Yes, I guess I am saying that. Even though there was obviously knowledge about Brian, it would still have been a shock to some people. I just think it shows that skateboarding is getting there and hopefully that will make another person feel: “Oh right, I’ve got a place there. This guy has paved the way”.
Being from a sporting family, and, as I understand it, being quite competitive yourself, how do you feel about skateboarding being in the 2020 Olympics?
I am a sporty person and I grew up thinking the Olympics was the best thing. As a child growing up, Atlanta ’96 and Barcelona ’92 were the best things on the tele. I still watch it from start to finish, everything from the archery to the modern pentathlon. I really love it. I don’t necessarily have a problem with skateboarding being in the Olympics, but it doesn’t seem to fit for me. I love skateboarding and what I do with skateboarding and I’m glad that it isn’t just about winning and losing. Before I skated I was a swimmer and I trained for six, seven, eight hours a week in the pool. There was definitely fun in that, but there wasn’t fun in it all the time, whereas every time I go skateboarding, I do have fun. I don’t just think: “Let’s just get this over with”, which is what you think about swimming training and I’m pretty sure what people think about going to the gym and stuff like that. So I’m glad I do the skateboarding I do, but I’m not against any sort of competition, because we do have that too and we always have done. I guess there are some bits about it that I’m learning, some of the politics behind it all…
Are you talking about selection?
Yes, about how boxes have been ticked with the various bodies, that sort of stuff, but it would take a lot of explaining.
Am I right in thinking there will be three males and three females making up team Great Britain?
No. In terms of who actually goes to the Olympics, which skaters, that is yet to have been 100 per cent confirmed. We won’t know until quarter three of this year, so September. The IFs (Inter-national Sports Federations) and FIRS (Fédération Internationale de Roller Sports) have to present the qualification pathway. There will be 20 skateboarders – let’s not call them athletes – in each discipline, so there will be 20 male park skaters, 20 female park skaters, 20 male street and 20 female street. There won’t be more than three skaters,
we think, from any one nation, so there could be three Americans for instance, no more… to give the rest of the world a chance I guess! But the host country has to have one, so Japan will have one in all of those categories. Then I guess we anticipate that there will be caps on continents, but we don’t know that for sure yet. So there could not even be a GB skater who goes, because there could be better ones from France, Germany, Italy or Spain and they could fulfil Europe’s quota. So there aren’t that many people, and I think with women’s skateboarding, there is potential to still see some skaters crossing over, which is pretty exciting. I don’t think you will see that in the men’s.
Between street and park?
Yes, that’s right.
So is park bowl?
Yes, so the Vans Park Series is essentially probably going to be some part of the qualification
for park and Nike Street League I think is going to be some sort of qualification for street. We’re being told that some of the other events, like the X Games and the Dew Tour, will maybe still earn you some points to help get you there. But essentially next year there will be national champion-ships, which will earn you a place in the European championship – or whatever continent you’re in – which will earn you a place to the world championship, which then sees you possibly going to the Olympics. So we’re looking at that more traditional route where everyone gets a chance. It’s good that it’s not just invite-only and all that bollocks.
Who do you think has the best chance from Great Britain?
Sam Beckett. Hopefully we’ll see him in the park.
What about females?
At the moment I don’t think we’re close, but it’s all to play for – we have some potential. In street, there’s a lot of work to do. There’s some secret weapon Japanese girl who they’ve probably got kickflipping on the spot for hours on end each day. But no, in all seriousness, some of those Japanese girls are getting really good and that’s probably because they’re investing. We’re seeing that in a lot of other countries: investment via their government. Team France has already got money, Team Australia has got money for athletes, I think Netherlands has started to have money pumped in…
But not here yet?
Not here yet, because our system, UK Sport, which deals with elite sport in this country and dishes out the lottery money to all the different sports, is all based on medal potential. We need to actually prove to them that we have someone who is already up there with the best in the world. So obviously their eyes are on Sam. He can show that he can compete with a fully inter-national field of the best and do very well, whereas in men’s street and any sort of women’s event, there is no one producing those results. Not to say that they might not, but it’s like a silly paper game. With the girls we’ve got nothing on paper. So they (UK Sport) are saying to us: “You’ve got no one who’s been anywhere or done anything or placed anywhere”, and we’re like: “Well hang on a minute though, look at her jumping down those steps, this girl can do this…”
But that’s not how they look at things.
Not yet, no.
Are you involved in this process?
Yes, a little bit.
Who are your favourite up-and-coming female skateboarders?
There’s a girl from somewhere in the States called Jen Soto. She rides for Primitive and Nike. She’s got a great style and really technical tricks. I enjoy any footage of her. Then obviously Josie (Millard) in this country. Definitely her, because I’ve been skating with her for a few years now and I’ve seen the progression. I can see some creative genius at work there in her mind. It’s really exciting to see that she’s getting some good support. I also very much enjoy watching Beatrice Domond. She’s really good and again, has a different style. She’s tall. You see all different types of male skaters because there are millions of them, but it is still quite unusual to see a tall female skateboarder.
Who were some of your main skate influences when you started, back in the late ’90s?
It’s funny, because they were obviously an influence, but by no means did I think I was going to be like them or anything because they were from a completely different part of the world. (Josh) Kalis was one of my favourites, Ronnie Creagor, Chad Muska and Peter Smolik…
I feel like you dress a bit like Ronnie Creagor did back then.
Cool. I’m happy with that.
I don’t know how he dresses now.
The same. I like the ones who never really change. I mean obviously Muska has gone through bit of a weird stage, but I feel like now he’s really coming back with the three quarter-length pants and hats to the side. I like that.
Did you have any female skateboarding role models back when you started?
It wasn’t pre-internet then, but it was dial-up, so it was videos, really. The only sections I’d seen were Steamer in Welcome to Hell and Jump off a Building and I didn’t have either of those videos – I’d only seen them in the skate shop. It wasn’t as readily available as it is now, you couldn’t just look someone up – it was literallya secret world of trying to find that stuff. So yes, definitely Steamer, then that sister company to Globe happened, Gallaz, and Jaime Reyes and Vanessa Torres started to come up through that. I always thought Jaime was really dope.
What’s your favourite skate video of all time?
Fulfill the Dream.
Tell us about your dog. I know you were keen to have her with you in your portrait.
She is called Penny and we rehomed her nearly three years ago. I always wanted a dog, but as with many full-time working couples, you wonder how you’re going to fit that in. Then, around the time of my 30th birthday, Emily, who is my wife, said: “Let’s do it, if you’re able to work from home a bit”, and my job was quite flexible at that time. I’d always wanted a whippet and we started looking to rescue one because there are loads of dogs out there who need homes, but but we found it was actually quite hard to do that. In the end I found her and we were absolutely over the moon.
Do you have any interests other than skateboarding?
My wife Emily is really into CrossFit and I’ve started to see a benefit in doing some other activity sometimes. It also helps me rehab after some recurring injuries I have had recently.
Are these recurring injuries mainly related to your ankles?
Yes. I’ve never had that before. It makes me nervous and it’s quite discouraging. Maybe it’s just a run of bad luck that’s hopefully going to leave me soon. I still think I’ve been quite lucky in terms of not having had something really, really major. I’m still able to have a good long skate session, obviously when my ankles allow.
How do you see female skateboarding growing and developing in coming years? Right now it feels like some companies, and not all by any means, have a token female rider, almost so they can’t be criticised for not having one. Do you see this changing?
Yes I do actually. I think we’ll start to see women having more decent sponsors, and a decent package from sponsors. Where it’s heading with the competitive side of things, there is more parity. The Olympics is equal. There will be equal coverage, there will obviously be an equal amount of skaters. The viewers are the same, so obviously sponsors are going to want a slice of that pie. Then again, I think they’re looking at the other side of it too, which is really good. With Josie and Nike, she’s not seen as that comp skater. She’s barely had any experience in that area and there’s no expectation of her to have to go to X Games and do well. They’ve seen
a legitimate side to her. She’s already building success by just being sort of a street skater. It’s really good to see that there’s backing there.
I feel like there’s this huge market that these brands could be embracing more.
Exactly. I agree.
I don’t even know if there are skate shoes in women’s sizes yet. Is that a thing?
I think Nike is going to make that a thing soon. There’s a possibility with all sorts of stuff I guess, all sorts of apparel. There’s definitely a market there for different types of products, but even the spending power of women… isn’t that meant to be more than men for apparel? It would be good to see a brand that has links with skateboarding and that uses models – like Vans and Volcom for example – start to use team riders instead. Lizzie (Armanto) is being used more, Stef (Nurding) gets used, so that’s obviously really good for us, for female skateboarding.
Now that you have a pro board coming out, do you have any specific personal goals left within skateboarding?
Yes, I want to film a good part.
What about the part accompanying your board release? Do you not feel happy with that?
Well hopefully I will be, but it will be a little bit rushed. Other things I’ve done in the past, I haven’t necessarily put everything into them. I’ve never had someone to film with consistently like this one with Andy (Evans). When you film with your mates, you’re doing that thing: “You hold the camera for a bit, I’ll hold the camera for a bit”. You just feel sad for you mate who has to put up with 56 attempts. Andy’s patience is really refreshing.