Interview: Henry Kingsford
Photography: Zander Taketomo
Are you still living in central Oslo?
Yes, I’m in the same place. I bought my apartment. It’s small. Just me and my dog live there.
This winter has been really tough in London. How was it in Oslo?
To be honest I don’t really know because I’ve been away so much. I was only back one week here, one week there – and for a while over Christmas – but I know it’s been like -10C or -15C, which isn’t any worse than usual.
Can you street skate there at all in the winter?
There is no street skating from late October to now (late March). There is snow everywhere, it’s really, really cold and it’s dark. Everyone just stays inside watching movies.
Are you ever tempted to live anywhere else?
I was thinking about this last night actually, when I went to bed. I’ve been considering it for quite a while, but it’s a big decision. Oslo is so small when it comes to spots. I’ve skated here my whole life and we just end up at the same spots. It gets a little repetitive sometimes. I’ve been talking to Marcus Shaw about trying to move somewhere. We went to Berlin for a month last year. Berlin would be… at least it’s a little better than Norway in winter. Or London, or Paris… somewhere a little better.
You’re a big fan of Berlin, right?
Yes. The people or the… somehow it’s similar to Oslo. It may sound weird but Berlin is somewhere I can actually tell what a random person in the street does in life just by looking at them. If I go to Tokyo, the random guy in the street could either be an estate agent or an assassin. I would have no idea. In Berlin I feel I can understand people just by looking at them way easier then
in a lot of other places. It just feels more like home.
Where do you skate when you’re home during the winter?
When I was younger we just used to skate the car parks. There are actually a couple of good car park spots here. We used to have only one indoor park, which is half an hour away from the city. Now we have this new one in the middle of the city (Oslo Skatehall) and also the X Games park. Both of those get really crowded but the older one is totally empty, so I usually go there with a couple of friends and we have the whole place to ourselves.
In spite of the long winters, your crew is really productive – Tigerstaden and Firetre were both really good videos. How do you explain this productivity?
Everyone is used to skating maybe twice a week during the winter and they drink a little bit more. They get everything like that out of the way then in the summer everyone just goes for it. It’s probably the same in England to an extent, but you guys can kind of skate all year, right?
Yes, people are out filming all year round, for sure.
We actually can’t skate for months. It’s probably good and bad in terms of motivation.
Do you try to stay in Oslo as much as possible during the summer to take advantage of the street spots there?
I would like to, but I wasn’t there much last summer. I think this summer I’ll be home a little more.
I think the city looks really good in photos and video.
Me too. I kind of think it looks the best, but everybody probably likes the way their hometown looks.
But you said it gets repetitive.
Yes, it’s small compared to London and everywhere else. I know what every corner of the city looks like. There are no surprises. It’s not like I’m going to find a new spot.
I spent some time in the Adidas apartment in Barcelona last January and the most common language spoken there was Norwegian. You were there with Pekka (Løvås, filmer), Gustav (Tønnesen) and Hermann (Stene). Now Heitor (Da Silva)
is also in the mix.
Yes he’s Norwegian too. He’s been travelling with us a lot.
Can you talk a little about the crew, and how you all ended up riding / working for Adidas and travelling the world together?
It kind of started with Pekka and me. He made two videos (Tigerstaden and Firetre) and everybody tried to do their best. We spent a lot of time together working on those videos, but last year I was home so little I didn’t skate with the same crew as much. But Pekka, Markus and Jonatan Drab – he gets flowed Adidas in Norway – they live like 20m from my house, and I live alone, so when I’m home I usually go down there and hang out with those guys.
Did you and Gustav hang out much when he lived in Oslo?
When he lived here I hung out with him a lot. He used to live with a good friend of mine who I grew up skating with, so I used to hang out a lot with both of them. Since Gustav moved to Barcelona, I visit him at least once a year. I don’t think he’s actually been back to Oslo once in seven years. Heitor never lived in Oslo. He moved to Malmö to go to that school (Bryggeriet) when he was 15 or 16.
I heard lots of Norwegian kids go to Bryggeriet.
Yes. It’s pretty crazy that when you’re 15 you have that opportunity now, to just go and skate.
What do you like / dislike about travelling with Norwegians?
I don’t know if there is much I dislike about it. It’s way easier to convey what you are actually trying to say in Norwegian. I like to speak my own language, so of course I like travelling with Norwegians, but I guess maybe it makes us stick together a bit. If there’s a new person on a trip, perhaps being around other Norwegians makes me talk to that person less. You feel more at home if you are with your boys, with people you have known for a while. At the same time it’s more of an exciting experience to travel with new people. I like that a lot as well.
You have a new Adidas part out soon. Can you tell us about this?
It was (Chris) Mulhern’s idea. He wanted to do something new that looked totally different from previous Adidas clips. Initially Mulhern proposed a VX part with 16mm mixed in, but after we filmed a few VX clips, he realised that the 16mm was too high quality to sit next to the VX footage, so we ended up filming everything HD 4:3. There are going to be lots of lines, good vibes and friends. It will be me, Heitor, Hermann, maybe Gustav, but he’s filming a part too, so maybe they’re saving footage.
So it’s your video part, but with some cameos from friends?
Yes. It’s my part, but with a couple more friends’ tricks than usual.
It seems like you guys have been travelling a lot for this project.
Yes. Well there haven’t been that many trips actually. Since Mulhern is filming the whole part, we can only film for this project on the trips he goes on. Let me see. We started at Copenhagen Open last year, but there was a lot of drinking going on there so I think we only got one clip. From there we went to Norway for a week. Then we had Skate Copa trips in Tokyo and Korea – we saved some clips from those. Then we went to Philly, but my knee was kind of hurt, so I didn’t get much done. Then Mallorca, Valencia and Taiwan. That’s it. Not that many trips, but enough to get the part done.
It seems like there is a different crew on each of these trips.
Yes, I like that. Some of the same boys go on all of them – I’ve been away with Dennis (Busenitz) and Nestor (Judkins) a lot – but they switch it up as well.
Who do you usually room with?
Diego (Najera) a little bit, Gustav quite often… I have roomed with a lot of the people actually and there was never anyone where I thought: “Oh fuck, it’s this guy”. I like everyone on the team.
I’m guessing it was your first time visiting a lot of those places.
Yes, a lot of them. I hadn’t travelled much before.
Which was your favourite?
For skating I would say Taiwan… for the spots and also how easy it is to skate there. It’s easy to get footage in Taiwan.
Has it been a big adjustment being away from home so much? It seems like your career took off pretty quickly the last year or so.
Yes. Of course it has been a big transition. I’m used to skating with my dog for example. I’m used to always having her with me when I’m filming or whatever. It was a big change in the beginning, but now it has become normal.
Who looks after your dog when you travel?
It depends, but I have this friend who had a dog for a while and right before I started travelling a lot, her dog died. So she’s been eager to look after my dog while I’ve been away. It’s actually been no problem at all finding someone for any of the trips. I’ve been really lucky with that actually.
What’s your dog’s name?
Last year you left Sour to join Numbers. Talk us through that decision. Did you find it difficult leaving Sour?
It was difficult because even though I hadn’t actually been riding for Sour too long, I have known those guys for a while. It was really hard to quit, but Numbers was such a big opportunity for me. It was kind of crazy: it was my first proper trip with Adidas and suddenly I’m staying on in LA with (Eric) Koston and (Rodrigo) TX has been my favourite skater since I was a kid… It was a crazy situation, you know? So it was definitely a hard decision, but I knew I would regret not making the switch.
I heard there was a cool story behind you getting asked to ride for Numbers.
It was really like something out of a movie. I had been skating with the guys in LA for a few days, having extended my ticket after the Adidas trip. I felt like it went well, but I hadn’t heard anything about whether they wanted me on the team or not. I was at the airport about to fly home and as I was checking in my bag – I had already got my boarding pass – my phone buzzed. It was a message from Koston: “I’ll fix an Uber for you, just stay a few more days”. So I got my bag and the Uber picked me up. I skated a few more days with them and we had this team dinner and they said: “If you want to ride for Numbers, you can do it!” (laughs). That was a crazy moment in my life.
What’s your relationship with Koston and (Guy) Mariano? Are you in touch regularly?
We have recently got this group chat going so the whole team can stay in touch a little more easily.
In the beginning I was definitely a little nervous and uncomfortable around them, like anyone would be, but then I started to realise that every skater is just a skater. It sounds like a cliché, but skaters all lead the same lives, do the same things and generally are pretty similar people. Now I really enjoy hanging out with those guys. And Miles (Silvas) and TX are on Adidas too of course. I haven’t been on too many trips with them, but I really like hanging out with those guys. I was in LA with them recently.
And is Numbers working on anything bigger?
Yes. I don’t know how much I can say, but after I’m done with this part, it’s going to be Numbers stuff.
I read that you used to work at a New Era shop.
Yes, kind of. The guy who distributes New Era in Norway opened a shop, but it’s not only
New Era hats in there. He has an embroidery machine, so he does custom embroideries. They were
so nice when I worked there. If I said: “I want to go skate today”, they would be like: “Yes OK, you
can do that”. It was pretty chill.
Does this explain your interest in hats?
(Laughs). Yes, maybe. A lot of my hats are from that shop actually, so I would say that place has something to do with it. I always stop by there. It’s pretty close to where I live.
I noticed you were wearing a Kangol recently.
It’s nice to switch it up a bit and even though I kind of knew some people were going to hate on this white guy wearing a Kangol,
I wanted to wear it. Maybe I just wanted to offend people a bit. I think it’s a dope hat.
Did you film any tricks wearing it?
Yes, I got a couple of tricks.
There are a lot of girls skateboarding in London at the moment. The scene here feels really strong.
I’ve noticed. I really like Savannah (Stacey Keenan). She’s dope.
How is it over there?
It’s quite small, but maybe I’m not paying enough attention. From my point of view the scene here is not that big. There are some female skaters in the skatepark, but there isn’t really anyone doing it, like really, really doing it, if you know what I mean: girls so into it that they are trying to make parts or even film for Insta. There isn’t really anyone I can think of who sticks out like that.
Have you been on any trips with Nora (Vasconcellos)?
Yes I’ve been on a bunch of trips with Nora.
I think it’s important that companies are bringing girls along on proper skate trips to film rather than just sending them to competitions and events.
I agree for sure. Maybe people see her (Nora) as mainly a transition skater, but she can skate proper street, you know? You probably know already, but she’s really good all round.
It seems that at the moment a lot of brands have just one or two girls riding for them.
On the main team you mean? Yes, that’s true.
It feels a little like that’s a box that needs to be ticked. Do you see this changing?
Of course it would be a good thing, but from a business perspective the market is still a lot bigger for males than females. I would assume so anyway. So it makes sense that females don’t make up half the teams yet, but it would definitely be a good thing if that did happen. It would be a good thing if females were just as interested in skate-boarding as males.
Norway is outside the EU. The UK is leaving the EU. What are your thoughts on this?
The thing is, we’re not totally outside Europe. I think you guys are way more fucked in that way than Norway. We still have some benefits even though we’re not in the EU.
Do you experience any noticeable benefits / problems from being separate from the EU?
One bad thing is that we don’t have any skateboard magazines in Oslo and I think that is partly related. It’s too expensive to ship stuff here. It’s probably the same with anything skate-related, because people who make magazines and other things probably don’t see the point… We don’t have Grey in Norway, we only get Free once in a while, and that’s probably because shipping is so expensive. It doesn’t make sense to spend that much money to get that stuff here.
Interesting. OK moving on, you are known for your distinctive ’90s style, both your skating and your gear.
Everything I grew up with gets me most stoked to skate. I think it’s like that for everybody though: the videos you watched as a kid still get you most hyped. But I don’t just want to be a ’90s skater though, you know? Just living off that…
I don’t think it’s like that. I think it’s more that people can see some cool references in what you do and what you wear.
What are some of your favourite videos and skaters you were into as a kid?
It’s going to sound quite clichéd, but the Girl videos, The Chocolate Tour, Eastern Exposure and all the Static videos… I had some phases. When I was young I watched a lot of the bigger videos, then I found out about the Static videos through a friend. We went around Oslo looking for cellar doors and stuff. I still really like those videos. I also watched a lot of Norwegian videos by Jørgen Johannessen growing up – they still get me really hyped to go skating – and They Don’t Give a Fuck About Us (Lordz) is the best European skate video ever made,
in my opinion.
This is a question I ask everyone: do you have any career plans after skateboarding?
I don’t really like to think about that. It would be good if skate-boarding could at least last for a while.
It definitely seems like skate-boarders are having longer careers these days.
Yes it does. It’s like anything: as long as you’re not a douchebag and you’re part of a good community… Fuck it’s hard to say what you mean in English!
You’re doing well.
I think it can last a long time. But at some point it’s got to end. I don’t know, maybe I will do something totally different, like get a quick education and start selling cars, something random like that.
It’s quite easy to study later in life in Norway, right? You get support from the government.
Yes. It’s pretty easy and you get pretty much full backing from the government. We’re lucky that way. I could also end up just sliding into the skateboard industry of course. That could be good as well. You get to know so many people and you get to know the industry better than anyone else. I think it will work out fine, either if I choose to work in the skateboard industry or choose to do something completely different.