Darby Gough interview

07.05.2024 Exclusive, Interviews

Photography: Larthe
Interview: Kingsford

Who are your sponsors?
Clown Skateboards, June Store, Etnies, Sabbath Wheels and Royal, through Form Distribution.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Leigh-on-Sea, but I’m currently living in Canvey Island, about 20 minutes away.

Can you describe both places for anyone who might be unfamiliar?
Leigh is very nice. I’d say it’s more upmarket than Canvey. Leigh’s lovely. They’re both next to the sea. I think Canvey’s a little bit forgotten. I like it, but a lot of people don’t. People almost look down on it, but I like that it’s a bit quirky. It’s got a lot of musical history. My dad saw Queen play there back in the day. I don’t know if you know Dr Feelgood? Huge links to Canvey… I think my dad drove them around in a van.

What made you move to Canvey?
I kind of moved back to Canvey actually. I initially lived in Canvey with my parents and my brother. When my parents split up, I moved to Leigh with my mum. My dad stayed in Canvey. So that’s why I’ve got affiliations to both. My dad knocked down the house we lived in to build two on the same plot. He finished the first one and then got quite unwell. We had the foundations laid for the second, and when me and my brother were old enough – I was 18 – we got a mortgage and built the second one, which is where I’m living now. We finished it three years ago. So it’s been a long, long journey.

How did you start skateboarding?
I guess it was… Rampage was the biggest thing.

Rampage was the old skatepark in Leigh, right?
Rampage was the famous big metal ramps, the vert ramp. That feels like what Leigh was famous for in the skate world. I think Tony Hawk went there once and did 12 mctwists in a row or something. It was just so gnarly; there were bits of metal sticking out. It wasn’t perfect in the slightest, but people were just doing crazy stuff there. I never saw cameras or anything, it was just people doing crazy stuff because they wanted to do crazy stuff. As a kid you’re just like: “Wow, that’s mad. He’s just doing that on some 13ft vert for the sake of it,” which I thought was really cool. Having skateboarders, BMXers and inliners of that level around you definitely normalised that sort of stuff, you know?

50-50, St Paul’s

I was skating with my brother and his friends, who were around five years older. I’d watch an 11 or 12-year-old do some stuff, and I guess I just assumed I should be doing the same stuff. So the sort of people I was skating with and the surroundings – like Rampage – definitely made an impact. My dad and mum have both been amazing as well. They used to take me there every day. They were just fully supportive of that side, which was really nice.

Rampage went when I was young – around 2003 – so I didn’t get much time there, but I learned to do rock fakies and whatnot, when I was about seven. After that, it was mainly car parks. I spent a lot of time just skating street in Southend during that period, which I’m super grateful for because that’s my thing now. I think it was almost a good thing for me that the skatepark was taken away. But yeah, that went and then maybe five years later – around 2008 – the new Leigh (skatepark) was built.

Which you were involved in…
I wasn’t involved in the original build, but I was involved in the extension in 2019-20, although I’d give more credit for that to Dave (Watson) at June in all honesty, along with Graham Newton, who was involved in getting Rampage built, and then years on, he was involved in getting the new Leigh back, which is really cool.

Is the new park on the same site as Rampage?
Exactly the same site. So we had a skatepark there, which don’t get me wrong was good, but because it’s on marshland, the land sinks and the blocks of ramps weren’t pinned together, so there were little lips between some of the obstacles. Dave, myself and other people from the community spoke to the council, raised funds and whatnot, and we managed to get the Betong (Park) guys to do an extension, which was completed in 2020. Me and Dave have got a little cafe down there as well, and we did some skate lessons and put some of the profits from the lessons and the shop back into it, as a little community project for Leigh, which has been really good. If you go down there and see the scene, all the kids are so cool and they’re so good. You just see the happiness of the people there; it’s such a good atmosphere. There’s a good scene blooming, for sure. Little Raff Conneely is amazing, Dylan Freeman, Harrison Blomfield, Zain Bokhari, Otis Smith… there are loads of good skateboarders.

How did you get into teaching skating?
I do it because of the older people who taught me when I was a kid. I’m grateful for that every day. I absolutely love skating. It’s a huge part of my life and if I wasn’t introduced to it in a nice way, I wouldn’t have that today, so that’s what I like to give from it. I don’t want to make people the best skateboarders in the world; I just want to introduce a little kid to this thing that could be their favourite thing in the world. Or not, it doesn’t really matter in my eyes, but if I can show someone something that gives them exercise, makes them happy, makes them focus, makes them better at balancing, makes them not scared to fall over… there are so many benefits to it, you know? Just sticking at something until you do it, I think that’s super helpful and can be transferred into so many other areas of life. I mean I’ve got a kid myself, so I just think if I can pass on a little bit of that, I’m doing a good job.

Ollie, undisclosed location, Essex

Is there a lot of interest in your lessons?
I don’t really advertise, because it’s not really a business – I just like to do it – but if I’m short of money and they can give me a bit of money, and I can give them some information and make them happy, that’s a good transaction. It’s weird, because I would do it for free if someone caught me down the skatepark and asked. That’s fine, but if someone really wants to spend an hour with me, for sure I’ll do that. That’s the way I think about it.

Who were some local skaters you looked up to back in the day?
There are so many local legends. Phil Clutton, Paul (Carroll, who built Delside – he’s an absolute legend), Glenn (Steed), Paul (Griffiths)… all of that crew. They were the dudes that taught me to drop in at Oakwood mini-ramp. The encouragement from all those guys was amazing. It’s nice for a little kid to feel that involved.

How is the wider scene in Leigh and Southend these days?
It’s good. I have to mention the Lik Down crew, which is me, my brother George and all my friends: Matty (McDowell), Will (Thomson), Jay (Tate), Jamie (Walker), Joe (Hawkes), Dave (Watson), Warren (Greatrex) and Alex (Robertson). They’re all still going, they’re filming bits. Jay just put some clips out and Matt helped me film my new part, and the part I filmed for Vague. Everyone’s just a bit older now, so we don’t skate together as regularly as we used to, but I think the love’s still there, which is really cool. I look up to all those guys. They’ve definitely been a huge influence on my street skating.

Because I was a bit younger than those guys, I skated with people younger than me too – I was a little bit in between – people like Chilli (Hey), Bill (Emmanouilidis), Levi (Hinkley) and Charlie Nelson. There are so many good guys from our area. Isaac Gale, Kai Etheridge, Bill and Levi are killing it in London right now. I think that’s shining a bit of light on Leigh. I love to see it.

Ben (Larthe) told me that it’s quite important to you to stick around in your area and help develop your local scene, as opposed to moving to London or somewhere else.
Yeah, for sure.

Not to take anything away from anyone who has moved away…
No. I think my circumstances decide that also. For me, it’s about being happy where you are. If you want to be somewhere else, you can’t be content, you know? I love London, I love the quality of skateboarding, all the people up there, I like seeing   spots in person, seeing what people have done, but I’ve got a little boy who I need to be near. That’s my number one priority in life. It’s Eli, then skateboarding. I just want to show him that you can put your priorities first and then do what you want after, you know?

Switch ollie, Canvey Island

That makes sense. Most of the photos in this interview were shot in your local area. Can you talk a little about the spots?
I wanted to show a bit of my area, because no one’s really seen the spots I normally skate; just crusty, forgotten-about things that I can see some sort of trick in.

People love seeing spots they haven’t seen before.
Yeah, exactly. I’ve got tons of them, so if there are any crews that want to come to my area, shout me out.

How do you find spots around your area?
I drive an awful lot. I can’t drive anywhere without turning my head; my brain’s wired like that. I just get super excited about it. That’s my passion. I’m constantly on the lookout for stuff.

What are your top three local spots for a fun skate, not including the skatepark?
Spots are difficult. Odeon in Southend is probably where I’d go if I just wanted to do some flatground tricks, skate a bit of ledge and chill with a pal, but if I’m going to film something or get a photo, often it’s a spot where I’m like: “I want to do this and then I never want to come back here again,” (laughs). Around my area there are just cracks, stones, dirt, soot and whatever… For fun, I think I just like looking for spots. When I find something new, I like trying to skate it without having thought about it beforehand. A lot of the stuff I’m happiest with has been spontaneous. If I think about some-thing too long, I can almost talk myself out of it.

Who inspires your skating?
Tons of people. All my homies inspire me: Matty, my brother, Jay, Will… Gino (Iannucci), Jake Johnson, Tom Penny… Loads of guys are killing it from England at the moment, which I love to see. Kyle Wilson, Tom Knox, Casper Brooker, Charlie Munro, Barney Page… Chris Oliver is always ripping, which is great to see in person. I’ve filmed some really good clips of him recently.

You mentioned earlier that you and your brother built the house you’re now living in. Tell us more about that.
Just giving it a go, I think that was the mentality I got out of it. You focus, do some research and just go for   it, and it will turn out all right. And if it doesn’t, it doesn’t matter, because you’ve found out why. That’s the mentality with skateboarding too. You can try something again and again, and you learn to never get demoralised by not doing it. You’re just constantly focusing on: “How can I make it work?” And as I said before, you can transfer that kind of mentality into anything, which is what I did with the house. I just went for it.

I’m guessing you learned a lot from your dad too.
Yeah. He showed me a lot when building the houses. I’m really grateful for that. My dad is a very wise man. He just knows so much about everything.

I also did engineering at college, and I had a terrible time there. I mean, I didn’t have a terrible time – it was good – but after two years they turned around and said: “We’ve given you the wrong syllabus.” So I spent two years doing the wrong work, and I had to rewrite everything in the last two months. I amended everything and got a merit, and I was just like: “I’m done with education. I’m over this.” But I did learn lots about engineering, which I obviously used for that house, as well as help from my dad and just giving it a go.

I was working at the same time as studying. I was doing college nine ’til three, and then I was working from five ’til nine at night. So when I finished college, I moved my work hours from evening to day, so I was starting at eight and finishing at one or two, and I was like: “I’m just going to skate now. I’m just going to finish my job and go skate because that’s what I want to do.” I was fed up with education. So since then, I’ve just done that job, skated every day and worked on other projects, like the van.

Kickflip, Southend

What do you do for work?
I work for a bank actually. I work in a specialised support team. I deal with vulnerable customers, which is quite nice. It’s kind of an ethical part of the bank, almost.

Tell us about your van conversion.
The van was something I thought about for ages, and then at the beginning of lockdown, I just went for it. I went on (Facebook) Marketplace and bought a beaten-up bricklayer’s van for like three grand and renovated that. I insulated it first, put in a leisure battery, an inverter, a hob and sink, and now I just can’t stop driving places. It’s really cool. It’s just cheap and easy. You can kind of just go where you want.

You mentioned earlier that you did a big trip recently.
I’ve done quite a few, to be honest. Me, my girlfriend Gretel and my son have been going here, there and everywhere. We’ve been to Wales, the Lake District, the Peak District, John o’Groats… Since lockdown and buying that van, I’ve seen so many places in the UK that

I never would have otherwise. There’s no way I would have the money to go and pay for hotels in these places – it just would not be possible – so I feel like I’ve managed to cheat a load of holidays, just by like DIY and a little beaten-up van.

I was pretty blown away by some of the places I visited in the pandemic.
It’s crazy. It was Gretel’s birthday, so we took a week and got to John o’Groats and back. We went to this place in the Lake District that was unbelievable. There was this lake and these three mountains; it was almost like the Evian bottle (laughs). That left a huge mark on us. I had no idea that was in England until we turned up.

How does your son enjoy these camping trips?
He loves it. He’s a proper outdoors boy. That’s what I want for him, really. I just want him outdoors, doing as much as he possibly can.

Do you have any longer-term plans for the future?
I always like to have an open mind, to be honest. I don’t like to pin myself down to anything. You’ve got to adapt to whatever comes, haven’t you? But yeah, just stay happy, that’s my plan. 

Frontside noseblunt slide, Canvey Island