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Greg Conroy Up interview

01.08.2022 Exclusive, Interviews

Portrait: Kembery
Interview & photography: Kingsford

Who are your sponsors?
It’s not applicable (laughs).

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Sydenham in Lewisham. I started skating with Hold Tight Henry (Edwards-Wood) and Faris Hassen. We skated PC World car park for the first few years then we went into town from there. We thought we were the only skaters from south-east London – you never saw anyone around.

For those unfamiliar, what is Serious Adult?
Serious Adult is a creative outlet for me and my mate George Toland. George makes videos and I draw. It’s a vehicle to allow me to watch and draw cartoons and go skating with my friends and feel like I’m being productive and using my brain to think about skating. For the past six or seven years we’ve been making videos and ’zines and supplementing that with a bit of product, which I generally make the artwork for. In recent years we made a bit more of a push with product and it’s morphed into a bedroom company of sorts.

Was the pandemic a factor in the recent push?
Yes. I was working for a cruise travel agents. All the cruise ships were locked down or in port so the industry was on its arse. I was on furlough so I had a lot of time to focus and do what I wanted. So we made a big push, did a proper look book and it was really well-received by shops. Then I was made redundant and I managed to pay my mortgage with the money we made from the first run in shops and got to spend some of it on Serious Adult. It was only for a month or two, but I was like: “Jesus, if I can pay my mortgage with it, that’s pretty good.” But it’s all geared towards the videos really. It’s just a way to generate a bit of freedom to go out and do stuff with your mates. We were able to do a few nice things. I think we were able to pay for Jack (Soden)’s passport. It generates money for trips, which has been really helpful.

Do you have a team?
There isn’t like a formed team but there is a consistent crew of mates that are always involved: Jeremy Jones, Luka Pinto, Tom Delion, Sam Earl, George Toland… and Theo (Hughes), Josh (Mason) and Zeta (Rush) came on the last trip to Sheffield. And little Bert (Brown), I want to get him on a trip, but he’s just turned 17… I think I’d have to ask his mum maybe.

5-0, Crystal Palace

What are your plans with Serious Adult? Would you like it to grow to the point where it’s your living? 
At the moment I have a full time office job. Ideally I would work three days a week in the office, have some proper, dedicated time in the week for Serious Adult and maybe a little studio space.

While shooting for this interview, you said you were probably skating the best you ever have at 35. What do you think explains that?
Before the pandemic I wasn’t skating much. My daughter was just born, you’re exhausted, time’s a rare commodity, so I wasn’t skating as much and I wasn’t thinking about it as much that first year. During that first lockdown my daughter was still sleeping for an hour in the daytime and I’d cane it down to the car park in Sydenham and skate by myself for an hour each day. When you skate on your own and all you’re doing is laps on a curb, your body just gets a lot healthier. I was skating a lot, not drinking at all at that point and I just had a lot more energy and felt way more confident and comfortable on a board.

What made you stop drinking?
I really am quite a bag of nerves. I hate being in a room with a lot of people and I find it really hard to converse with people. When I started working in an office at 18 I found it quite overwhelming, so at lunchtime I’d go and have a beer to take the edge off and centre myself a bit. Then I’d end up trying to squeeze a few more beers in to take the edge off even more and it just snowballed. From 19-23 I’d say I was a functioning alcoholic. It got to a point where it went beyond trying to take the edge off and it was just addiction. By my mid-20s I recognised it was a problem and tried to stop but I couldn’t. I was a bit too deep into it then, really going for it every day. I was trying to break out of it and it was really tough. I had a few gaps. I had enough wherewithal to taper it and kind of get it under – well not under control, but you know, not drinking in the morning and stuff.

I quit in my early 30s. You don’t sleep the first year you have a kid – it’s exhausting. I was in the office all day, staying up until midnight in bed on my laptop trying to get more work done and Teddie wasn’t sleeping through the night yet. I was trying to work out what I could do to retain some energy and the most obvious thing was to quit drinking. Alcohol stays in your system for ages. If you have a hangover on a Saturday, you’re still going to be processing that days after. My body was using up energy to recover from drinking constantly when it could have been expending energy enjoying my family life, so I knocked it on the head.

Kickflip backside tailslide, Southbank

And how did you find stopping?
It was fine. I made a conscious decision and stopped drinking the weekend before the Long Live Southbank boat party, the reopening, so three years ago. I feel bad saying this but it’s been really easy. For years I told myself I would slow down or take breaks, but I couldn’t shake it until I made a firm decision to stop entirely. Once I did, I haven’t had a strong desire to drink since.

I noticed you drink lots of non-alcoholic beers when out skating.
Yeah I’m definitely still an alcoholic, there’s no doubt in my mind. I don’t really drink non-alcoholic beers unless I’m going skating or we have a barbecue or something, but I still fucking love the taste of lager (laughs).

Do you think drinking, especially during the day, is too normalised in skateboarding?
I’m not a big advocate of not drinking because it is nice to have a beer with your mates when you’re out skating. It’s just not something I can do responsibly, so I don’t. Possibly the right answer to your question is: “Everything’s good in moderation.” I do think people should be aware and I think it would be nicer if people talked about it more, because if people talk about it, you can recognise it.

Frontside tailslide to switch crooked grind transfer, Crystal Palace

Who are your favourite skate-boarders to watch in London? 
Kyle Wilson is great. He’s the go-to answer, but he really is the full package. He’s at that top level of street skating. And also the way he carries himself… I know I’m sounding like a dad here now, but he’s always got a grin on his face, he’s always nice to kids, he’ll go out of his way to say hello and goodbye at the session. And it’s nice to see him and his whole crew… that whole Roxo crew, they’re just doing it aren’t they?

Jeremy (Jones) is always really interesting because you never know what you’re going to get. And he’s a nice bloke too. Being nice and being approachable is really good. Adam Delarue is really good at skating the wooden bench at Southbank. I really like Sam (Earl). He’s always at the session and he’ll skate anything. He’ll always give it a go and he can really pull it out of the bag sometimes. I really like watching Ash (Parchment) skate. His skating is great and he’s a bit of a character. Eddie da Rocha has been doing a few trips over to London from Jersey this year and he’s got a great style, is super consistent and is really friendly.

There’s a girl called Mia (Tommasoli) from Italy who skates Southbank in the evenings. She’s got a really good noseslide and a really effortless nollie flip. She’s also always smiling. There’s a really good women’s scene at Southbank at the moment. It’s interesting seeing a scene being created, or a sub-scene, which you don’t get too often in skating. As much as skaters think they are being different, it’s pretty transparent that we’re dictated to by what’s popular in skateboarding and everyone fits that mould and none of the girls there really do.

What about some younger up and coming skaters?
Bert and Justin (Straker). They are best mates from The Grove (DIY). They are really fun to watch skating. They’re both really small but they’re going to have a growth spurt in a year and it’s going to suddenly get good.

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