Beth Howells Up interview05.02.2024
Who are your sponsors?
I’m currently hooked up with Blast, Ace, Sabbath, Route One and Converse.
How did you become part of Blast?
Blast has always been my favourite and I’ve been riding their boards for years. I remember looking up to people like Amanda (Pérez) and Ben (Broyd) and now to think I’m on their team is crazy to me (laughs). I met (Matt) Bromley (Blast owner) at House of Vans to just have a chit-chat and I guess for him to know a bit more about me and yeah, it all kinda went from there. It seemed super natural and not forced, which I really liked.
How did you start skating?
I started skating when I was around 10 years old. Me and my family used to go to the beach a lot and I think I just picked it up from there. I’ve always been a tomboy (laughs) and enjoy anything outdoors and skateboarding was one of those for me, I guess.
For anyone unfamiliar, tell us a little about your home town, Ross-on-Wye.
Ross Vegas (laughs). It’s a tiny town in Herefordshire. There’s not much to do unless you’re over 60, but it’s very pretty. I’ve lived there my whole life and it’s very quiet and remote. I enjoy it though. I’m quite an introverted person and I like the peace and cute walks there.
I read in your Skateboarder’s Companion interview that you started skating Hereford skatepark at a young age. Tell us a little about the scene there and the draw of that place.
It’s my favourite park ever. Most of my pals are from Hereford and I still skate with them to this day. It’s actually undergoing a huge extension right now, which is so exciting, although none of us can skate until December, which sucks!
You’re in the process of moving to Bristol. What made you choose that particular city?
I love Bristol. I think it’s such a sick city and has a good balance of people. Most of my mates are from there and I love the rave scene. I’ve been going there since I was like 18 to have a boogie and a skate for the weekend. More recently I’ve been living there and I’ve loved it – being able to skate every day somewhere with a bit more life is sick.
Where are your go-to spots for a fun skate in Bristol?
Warmley is just buttery goodness and Daveside mini is so fun to learn weird tricks on. I love Deaner when I’m feeling brave and can expect a few slammers – it makes me feel like I can skate anywhere once I’ve been there (laughs).
Who are some of your favourite skaters to watch in the city?
Ah, definitely Bear (Myles)! He is just so fun. I think he is one of the most humble dudes I’ve met and is so rad at skating. I love watching people smile and be silly with skating and his skating really defines that for me.
Which skaters have inspired you most?
100 per cent Maité (Steenhoudt)! She is just the best, my favourite skater since day one. Similar to Bear, she just looks like she is having so much fun and there isn’t a competitive, serious aspect to it, if that makes sense.
Tell us about Keep Pushing.
Keep Pushing is my mental health organisation, which looks at helping to raise awareness of mental health and help recognise early signs of deterioration. I’ve tried to use my hobby – skateboarding – to incorporate something I’m super passionate about – mental health – as they go hand in hand, with the hope that maybe just one person speaks up and expresses how they feel to a friend or loved one.
I should give a shout out to the other Keep Pushing here – run by Rae – that has been doing important work in London for years in the field of creating spaces for queer, neurodivergent & beginner skaters. What got you interested in increasing awareness of mental health within skateboarding?
I work in mental health and I’ve experienced a lot of mental health within my family. I guess these experiences have allowed me to always be open and express how I truly feel. This trait is quite lucky to have and I guess I want to try to help people who find it more difficult to open up and talk. Because sometimes when people feel low and a burden, their reality – the people who actually really love and care about them – is blurred and distorted by their self image. I just want to help people by highlighting that they are important and loved and there is always a safe space to talk.
Was The Ben Raemers Foundation an inspiration?
Oh yeah, for sure. My dad suffers with his mental health and attempted to take his life in 2019. Luckily emergency services were there in time, which I could not be more grateful for. I think that’s why my charity means a lot to me and why I’m trying to raise awareness of mental health and suicide, as it’s still taboo. I think normalising opening up about your feelings really helps to fight the strong stigma associated with mental health. I guess that’s what I love about The Ben Raemers Foundation: I’ve been in a similar situation myself.
Would you say there are specific mental health issues that are more prevalent in skateboarding?
I guess mental health is everywhere and anyone can experience it, but sometimes with skating come drink and drugs too. Not in all cases, but it’s very acceptable and I feel in another hobby it would be frowned upon. I guess this normality of drug and drink use could increase mental health issues people experience.
Could you talk a little about your personal experiences with mental health?
Yeah for sure. I’ve struggled with mental health a lot and being autistic can sometimes amplify my anxiety and feelings. I guess working in mental health and then struggling with your own mental health can be super hard sometimes, but you just have to do what you do to help patients. Because there isn’t a hierarchy, everyone experiences mental health, whether it’s yourself directly or someone you know. So just try and be as open as you can and always express what’s on your mind.
Tell us more about your work in mental health.
I work as an occupational therapy technician in a mental health hospital. So I basically help people in hospital return back to their lives in the community by helping incorporate their occupation and what they do in their day-to-day life.
Can you talk a little about how skateboarding helps with your autism?
Skating definitely helps me truly be myself and be as silly as I like with no judgement. I think it helps me focus, as it’s a special interest that I’m constantly in love with.
What are your future plans with Keep Pushing?
I’d love to carry on doing my little events and raising money for mental health hospitals across the UK. But I would also love to start a talking group once a week. I haven’t figured it all out yet, but perhaps an open session where people can come and talk and have a safe space to express themselves.
What are your longer-term plans for the future?
I haven’t really thought that far ahead to be fair (laughs). I would love to do some more travelling. I’ve been all round Europe but I’d love to visit Australia and New Zealand. Canada looks beautiful too. I guess just going with the flow and keep working, skating and looking after myself for now.