Dom Henry interview

20.12.2023 Exclusive, Interviews

Portrait: Craven
Interview: Kingsford

I thought a good place to start would be to reference your 2017 Grey interview as a lot has changed in your life since then. I can’t believe that was six years ago.
I guess when you throw in a couple of time-scrambling pandemic years I can believe it.

Back then you had just moved to London from Manchester. In 2020 you made the move to Copenhagen. Talk us through that decision.
It was something I definitely didn’t see coming. It was a perfect storm of a few different factors.

Was Brexit a factor?
Brexit was a huge factor. I’d visited Copenhagen a couple of times that summer and quickly fallen in love with the city. My lease was ending after a pretty bleak few months of lockdown, living with randoms in south London. I started fantasising about just moving, and the ticking clock of the Brexit transition deadline gave me the push to just commit. December 31, 2020 was the end of the transition period, after which it became harder to move to an EU country and be registered as a European citizen there.

How was Copenhagen during the pandemic?
The difference in vibe between London and Copenhagen at that point was staggering and had a huge part to play in my first impressions of Denmark. I came to visit my old friends from Manchester Jim and Pip here in summer 2020. That first visit was the first international trip I took after you were allowed to travel out of the UK again. After wearing a face mask from Brockley to Gatwick, through the airport, through the flight, through the airport on the other side until I got off the train in central Copenhagen, Jim met me at the station and was like: “You could have taken that off on the train, you don’t have to wear that here.” We stepped above ground and it was like I’d travelled back in time to summer 2019. Everything seemed completely like the before times: cafes were open, people were hanging out in groups – it was like there was no pandemic going on. The whole thing was just much better managed, with free walk-in Covid testing centres all around the city. There was no lockdown here at that point and I found myself in this small utopian city where you can manageably cycle everywhere and have the option to jump in the sea whenever you feel like it. I was instantly sold.

Fakie pop shove-it, Sundby, Craven

How have you settled in? Have you found the city and its skate scene welcoming?
The scene is really welcoming. I already had a few friends here and had made a bunch more during those initial summer visits in July and August 2020, before I moved that September. Danes are generally friendly folk and the city is relatively small, so it seems like everyone in the skate scene knows each other and gets along really well. You will often find different crews that have been out and about around the city winding up at the Red Plaza on a summer evening, all hanging out together.

What have you found challenging about adapting to life in a new country?
It hasn’t been too difficult besides initially finding a place to live, which is notoriously hard here,
much like London, where there is very high demand, limited supply and high rents. I lived in four different apartments with all sorts of different people in the first 10 months I was here until I thankfully landed where I am living now.

Where is that?
I live in Nørrebro, just north of the city centre with my boyfriend Mads. By incredible good luck I started dating a wonderful Dane after a few months of living here and eventually I moved into his place. I’ve now lived in the same spot for over two years, something of a personal record.

Congratulations! You and Jim are studying Danish. What prompted that and how is it going?
It’s been a real challenge, but a fun one. I’d never seriously put my back into trying to learn a language before, but as an immigrant the council offers you a certain amount of free language education here. I really just want to be able to get by conversationally, which after two years of language school I can to some extent, but it’s a seriously tough language. The pronunciation is very tricky for a non-native speaker and there are sounds that I simply still cannot make.

Backside flip, Gentofte, Craven

For anyone considering a similar move, would you say you need to speak Danish to live in Copenhagen?
You definitely don’t since 99 per cent of Danes are unbelievably good at English and there is a very international mix of people. It’s more a personal goal to feel more integrated and not get panicked when a stranger asks me something in Danish in the supermarket. The biggest motivation for me is that my other half is Danish and when we visit his family in Jutland there are long family dinners entirely in Danish, so I’m working on getting to a point where it isn’t such hard work to keep up with the conversation. I recently went to his grandma’s 89th birthday with 26 family members in attendance, and 26 people certainly aren’t all trying to speak English just for the benefit of one person in the room, and quite rightly!

I know Jim and Pip have helped you out quite a lot in terms of finding your feet in Copenhagen.
100 per cent. It was those two I first visited here, and it has been invaluable having good friends with lots of local knowledge and experience of some of the hoops you have to jump through when you first get here. I also need to shout out my friends Luca and Petrine – without them I probably wouldn’t have been able to make the leap over at all. All four of the above are solid gold legends.

Are you planning to stay?
I’m definitely planning to stay. I feel at home here now.

How does that work in terms of Brexit, visas and so on?
Because I moved over when I did, I was able to get temporary residency as an EU citizen, so I have a residency card that’s valid for five years. I’m not 100 per cent sure what the next step is in terms of renewing that but I’ve got a few years to figure it out.

In the 2017 interview we spoke about Manchester having more ledge plazas than London. Copenhagen has at least a couple of iconic ones. Is it fair to say you are living in the perfect city for your skating, in terms of terrain?
There are definitely a lot of fun spots here, but even more importantly than that, it’s the set-up of the city itself that suits me. Because it’s so small you can get around easily by bike, so even if you exhaust yourself trying a trick somewhere, you can cruise home in the fresh air rather than being crammed in a sweaty bus or train.

Kickflip, Sundbyøster, Craven

What are your top three spots for a fun skate, in winter and in summer?
In summer I’d say Jarmers, Red Square and Fælledparken. In winter I’d say Jægers, the Nordhavn parking garage with the inexplicable concrete pyramid in the floor, and on a cold dry day, Fælledparken.

Who do you skate with regularly?
It changes so much from day to day as my friends all have different levels of responsibility in regard to things like full-time work, parenting and so on. I’d say currently I most often skate with Julius Rohrberg, especially on a quiet weekday afternoon if no one else is about. I love to get out on the weekends and explore further-out areas with Luca Prestini and Jim Craven. Other times I’ll go out missioning around with Hjalte (Halberg), Tao (Tor Ström), Ville (Wester) and whoever else is in town. Sometimes it’s a power crew of all of the above. Every day is different.

Another big change since your last Grey interview was the switch from Politic to Skateboard Cafe, where you turned pro back in 2019. Talk us through this move and what it meant to you.
It definitely gave me a renewed sense of vigour. After living in London for a year I was skating with Korahn (Gayle) a lot, I’d got to know Rich (Smith) really well and was super stoked when they asked me to ride for Cafe. It was a luxury to be able to film so easily with Rich, directly for my board sponsor, rather than trying to ask favours and cobble together VX footage to contribute to Politic in the States, even though I’ve got nothing but love for those guys for putting me in the mix. Turning pro at the Ensemble premiere at Note in Manchester was the icing on top. It was cool that they did it in the shop where I’d worked for many years and that had done so much for me. Shout out to Splodge (Paul Rogers) and the entire Note family.

Switch nosegrind revert, Emdrup

I noticed Rich and various teammates have been coming to visit you in Copenhagen. Is there a new Cafe video in the works?
I’m thankful Rich came a couple of times when he was making Tenor, the last Cafe video, since no one I knew was filming VX in Copenhagen. I basically had two visits from Rich and the boys to cobble together a little part. Thankfully I managed to get a minute in there, which was better than nothing. I definitely plan to come back to London a bit more often and theoretically it will be a little easier to get extra bits for Cafe now that Rich has made the switch to HD. He came over with his new camera rig recently and we battled a long weekend in between storms during the wettest July in Denmark’s history. Something new from Cafe is brewing…

A couple more referring back to the 2017 interview before I ditch that gimmick… Back then you had just started a part time role at Keen. How is that going and can you describe your various duties?
I’m the marketing manager for Keen Dist in the UK. I was already working remotely from the office in Oxford while living in London, so it wasn’t a huge stretch to jump ship to CPH, especially with the crossover here with Polar and Dancer (both brands are distributed by Keen). It’s still part time and I do a lot of different things. My role is largely UK-focused, but since I joined in 2017 Keen has expanded to have a presence in the EU and the US, with offices in Rotterdam and LA. There’s some variation in the mix of brands we carry in each part of the world, so I keep three Instagram accounts ticking over constantly for the three territories we sell to, which are all linked to one Keen blog where I curate relevant content from across all of our brands worldwide. I also manage advertising for all of our brands in the UK across five different magazines that we work with. Besides this I handle all promotional orders, be that for shops that are holding events or to people that we flow. So in that respect you could say I’m some sort of team manager, but it’s only one part of my responsibilities.

How do you go about finding people to represent specific brands?
I actually don’t have much hands-on input with the EU or US side of promo, but in terms of the UK it’s the classic story: either you become aware of someone through videos, magazines or now Insta, or shops we work with will bring someone to our attention. Then any name that comes up is always discussed with other heads in the office, so it’s not just down to me, but it’s nice when we are able to help someone out who’s ripping and fits one of our brands well.

Switch noseblunt slide, Teglholmen, Craven

Name a particularly satisfying pairing or two.
We give Will Sheerin in Leeds Pass~Port stuff because he rips in that classy, understated way, plus he was already visibly stoked on the brand. Pass~Port has that emphasis on international connections and on top of that Welcome in Leeds has always been really supportive of the brand, so it was a no-brainer. Jasper Pegg gets Hockey through Drug Store in Norwich and likewise I felt like it was a nice match because Jasper’s out there off the beaten path doing his own thing and has been super productive for years.

Which younger, up-and-coming skaters do you enjoy watching?
In Copenhagen, definitely Julius Rohrberg. He’s really loose and stylish with seemingly unlimited board control. Luca Prestini for his explosive pop and powerful flick. Further afield, that guy Akwasí Owusu is pretty interesting because he can do all that wallie and slappy stuff on top of having incredible manual choices and ability.

Who are your all-time top three skateboarders, in terms of inspiration?
It might be tough to limit that to three and it probably changes weekly. Gun to the head, today, I’d probably say Josh Kalis, Keenan Milton and Javier Sarmiento. But in truth I’d love to throw the entire Aesthetics Skateboards team in plus Henry Sanchez, Marcus McBride, Bobby Puleo and Jack Sabback. Then maybe Paul Shier, Richard Angelides and Tony Da Silva for good measure! Fuck it; it’s a spontaneous top 10. Ask me again in a week…

Switch crooked grind, Nørrebro, Craven

Skateboard Cafe aside, whose output do you enjoy?
I like skaters who have some kind of magic about them. The first one that comes to mind is Tyler Surrey. Dougie George and Matlok (Bennett-Jones) are both constantly on fire. Company wise you can always count on Pass~Port and WKND to put out a quality video. Ted Barrow’s new This Old Ledge mini doc series is also an absolute cerebral treat.

In the UK I love all the Serious Adult stuff, Al Hodgson’s OWL stuff and Joe Gavin’s Maybe Hardware out of Manchester. I just buzz off people making it happen their own way, finding spots in their own corners of the world and doing something that’s clearly out of sheer passion. After years of filming the likes of me and many others purely out of dedication, I’m stoked to see Quentin Guthrie working on projects, travelling for different brands and finally getting the recognition he deserves as a supremely gifted filmer and editor. I’ve nicknamed the current time period the ‘Quenaissance.’

Back in 2017 you told me you’d never made a penny from skating. Since then that has changed and I think it’s fair to say, quite late in your career. Has receiving a regular paycheque changed things in terms of how you approach skating / coverage? Did you experience any stress or anxiety in relation to that?
I wouldn’t say it changed my approach as I’ve always enjoyed the satisfaction of working on parts and shooting photos. It’s definitely given me a boost of confidence to have people want to support what I do, so I’m really grateful to both New Balance Numeric and Brixton for that extra fire and for helping me travel. I feel like I’ve got lots left in the tank, so the only anxiety I’ve experienced is the uncertainty around when it could all end, but I guess that’s the game.

You don’t seem to have slowed down at all in terms of ability / output.
I feel the best I’ve ever felt on my board right now. I guess I’ve been really blessed with avoiding any serious recurring injury over the years. I had a couple of years wearing a wrist guard after slamming while getting that switch wallride that was the cover of Grey, but that’s really been the extent of it, touch wood!

Switch frontside flip, Clapham, Kingsford

Your dad sadly passed away in 2021. I know he was a true eccentric and something of a hero to you – he even featured on one of your pro graphics. Do you want to say a few words about him?
He was one of a kind. A maverick in all senses, he’d drive in Crocs, cook up crackpot business plans from novelty coffins to dating websites, could reasonably be accused of being a hoarder and his house ended up being something like an art installation. He spent the last few years of his life slowly renovating a dilapidated house in rural France and every time I visited every single room would be different. You’d open a door into what used to be a functioning spare bedroom and on the floor you’d find nothing but five antique rotary dial telephones. No plans to connect them, he’d just seen them at a market and not been able to resist them. His imperative throughout life was never to work for anyone else if he could avoid it. His fortunes swung constantly from year to year, and I remember a particularly low year of my childhood when he was living in a car on the outskirts of Swindon with a dog that he’d begrudgingly been left in charge of. But the man always bounced back. A hustler to the last, he did everything from starting a dial-up internet provider to owning a franchise of Laser Quests in the mid-’90s.

Tell us your favourite Peter Henry story.
There are simply too many. Buying a pink stretch limo on eBay when he was pissed springs to mind, but the gold standard is probably the day he sank his boat-car and was missing at sea for an entire afternoon. If you catch me at the right time and you’ve got 20 minutes, I might just tell you…