A Real Life Sitcom – Pass~Port in the North

12.12.2022 Exclusive, Features
Jack O’Grady, ollie, Heeley. I noticed on this trip that Jack likes to skate off and look around when we arrive at a spot, a tactic that often pays off. This spot was just down the road from Matlok’s frontside bluntslide and we had no plans to check it.

Words: Bennett-Jones
Photography: Kingsford

Thankfully the carvery was still on
I had been talking about doing a trip up north for a while. I’m working on a video part with Will Miles and I wanted to try to get some bits in Sheffield, where I am originally from. We actually tried a filming mission there a few weeks before this trip you see here, but that was ruined by the heatwave (cancelled trains), rain and getting trapped in the vortex of Devonshire Green skatepark. This time was different though. My Australian Pass~Port teammates Jack O’ Grady and Sam Sutton were coming and I was so excited to show them Sheffield, Leeds and wherever else we could manage to visit during our five days in the North.

We arrived in Sheffield, picked up our van and Will drove us straight to Dev. I was eager to see Squish skate the park and also skate there myself. I think it is one of the coolest-looking skateparks ever. It’s so outdated in the best possible way and it holds so much history. I’ve been going there since I was 10 or 11 and I spent so much time there up until I moved to London four years ago. As expected, Squish skated Dev like a local.

Being back in Sheffield felt like being in a real life sitcom. You bump into characters everywhere! If you walk for five minutes anywhere in the city centre you’re likely to bump into some skaters, your old neighbour and even a few school friends. We walked from Dev to Slugger and no joke, in those few minutes I met three or four people I had not seen for years. I said hi to (Tom) Fisher, who works at Slugger and then heard someone say: “Oreyt Lads?” It was Joe 90, Rotherham legend and House alumnus, who was working on a site next to the shop.

One of my favourite parts of this trip was taking everyone to my mum’s house. She made us all tea, generously brought out a variety of biscuits and we sat in the garden chatting and playing with the dog. It was nice to show everyone where I grew up and also for my mum to put faces to the names of friends I’ve mentioned over the years. Also everyone got to admire my old framed Sidewalk cover that still hangs in the kitchen.

Rob Daykin and his housemate Matt (Aspinall) very kindly put us all up in Sheffield. Rob was an all-round legend on this trip, driving the van, helping fix spots and generally hyping everyone up. For example I wanted to try a manual at a spot I’d never seen before but a rusty, 30-year-old fence blocked the run-up. Me and Rob borrowed adjustable spanners from Slugger but no dice. The adjustables (or Me and Rob) were not strong enough and the ancient nuts wouldn’t budge. Rob saved the day by offering to drive home to get his tools. He returned with a brush and three toolboxes. The bolts came off  easily, we swept the spot and I managed to get the trick just as it started to chuck it down. Thank you Rob!

Matlok Bennett-Jones, frontside bluntslide fakie, Heeley. This spot affords great views over Sheffield.

Taking two Aussie kids to a carvery was funny. I took everyone to a classic spot I used to go to for big family occasions: birthdays etc. We rocked up at 9pm and I was surprised to see the new owners pushing stone-baked pizzas, but thankfully the carvery was still on. I felt bad for the poor woman at the meat station about to pack up for the night as six of us wandered over while I tried to explain to Sam and Squish about Yorkshire puddings.

We found time to visit Leeds and went straight to Hyde Park. Classic. Surprisingly we did not get trapped there for long and drove out of the city to check a handrail where we met an all-star cast of Leeds legends: Josh Hallet, Reece Leung, Dale Starkie, Chris Parsons and non-Leeds legend Quentin Guthrie (again sitcom vibes), before heading back to the city to skate L Ledge. I had not met Sam before this trip and it was lovely to hang out with him and see him skate. Two lanes of the busy road after the landing were closed for roadworks, which made spotting easy (unless you were Henry) and Sam landed a flip backside nosegrind with ease, a joy to watch.

As pretend team manager on this trip I made the decision to spend the last day swimming. There are so many beautiful swimming spots around Sheffield and most of them are a short drive from the city centre. I got the pin for one of my favourites, we all had hot roast pork sandwiches from Woody’s, then left. Now as I said these swimming spots are usually 30 minutes from the city centre. The problem was I hadn’t been to this particular spot in five years, so I forgot where to park and told Will to leave the van in a car park a three-hour walk from the swim spot. We walked for an hour and a half before I realised I didn’t recognise any of the scenery. Poor Sam was wearing sliders! We were about to make the call to turn back (it was already 3pm and we had to return our hire van before five) when suddenly like a knight in a shining Lexus, Kyle Platts (who we had arranged to meet at the swimming spot) pulled over next to us. We hopped in and went swimming. Driving back to the van with my head poking out of Kyle’s sunroof (we were one too many so I had to sit on Will’s lap), I felt so stoked on how the week had gone.

I felt a certain pride showing everyone my home town that I hadn’t really experienced before. I felt so energised to show them everything, even the mundane stuff, from the places I’d worked to where I’d get food after a night out. We saw and did more in five days than I could have hoped for. I think it was a real experience, especially for two lads from the opposite side of the world. 

Jack O’Grady, switch crooked grind, Ponds Forge. Jack reeled off some ‘basics’ (each first try) much to Moggins’ delight before tackling this iconic rail switch.
Matlok Bennett-Jones, crooked grind, Leeds. A large audience of children gathered to watch Matlok leap to crooked grind as dusk fell in Harehills.
Matlok Bennett-Jones, manual, Netherthorpe. Outside a shop close to this spot Matlok observed: “You can tell a lot about a person by what they choose from Budgens at 2pm.” 
Sam Sutton, kickflip backside nosegrind, University of Leeds. At 41, I am not as agile as I used to be. While spotting Sam, his board shot through my legs out into the road then I nearly got hit by a doubledecker bus running to save it.