We got to have a talk with Joe about his first skateboarding tour of Europe, freeriding with a paralysed hand and killer cups of tea.
Hey Joe! (in my Jimi Hendrix voice).
Hey Gbemi! It’s been a while!
How are you buddy?
I’m alright dude, been working hard but I’ve come home to a cooked dinner (inc. garlic bread) so I can’t complain.
HA! I’m more health conscious than that.
You only eat your bacon with salad?
Bacon for breakfast on toasted bread and ketchup.
Getting any skating done this weekend?
Unfortunately not… I’m working but I have a day off on Thursday. Skating has been thin on the ground lately. I played too much in summer.
What did you get to in the summer?
A lot! It was my first mission out to Europe. I took a longboard of course! I also went to a lot of sessions around the UK in general, one of the best was the few days I spent up in the Welsh skatehouse. I forget how much skating was actually done now I think about it.
Is a Welsh skatehouse just a house full of sheep?
I guess so, if you mean that the beings inside it spend their life following others. Especially in races! lol. Seriously though, Sion (he is the resident of said skatehouse) is killing it lately, a real charger.
Had you skated in Welsh land before this summer?
Yeah buddy, its where I was born and bred! I miss it like a hole in the head.
Is there a big skate scene in Wales?
Cumulatively, yes. But each scene has undergone boom phases and dry spells. There have always been a small number of solid skaters in Cardiff and Aberystwyth though.
When did you start skating?
February 2009, I remember it well. It was a real turning point in my life.
Who was Mr Baldwin before that point?
A kickboxer/street skater with a £10 ‘Active Pro’ pintail board that was used to get around.
How did you get into skateboarding?
When my parents were doing a house conversion up in Coalville back in 1996 or something they found a beat-up oldschool, single kick board in a cupboard. My grandad fixed it up, painted it and gave it to me as a present. I’ve never stopped. I cant.
What is it about skating that has you hooked?
Gosh, everything man. In no particular order; Travel, People, Adrenaline, Creativity, Vasular Shunt, Flowing and last but not least… going fast, as fast as I can.
Where would you be now if the stoke hadn’t chose you?
I’d be kickboxing or doing some sort of MMA. 100%. In all fairness, Longboarding has beaten me up more than any fighter or rugby player ever has.
What’s the biggest bite longboarding has taken out of you?
It paralysed my arm for about a year in September 2010, I was bombing a new road in the Beacons and I was wearing leathers that I wasn’t comfortable coleman sliding in. I tried footbraking, but I was pretty new to the whole ‘slowing down’ concept and I fell off, dislocating my shoulder and crushing my brachial plexus nerve(s). Once I started skating again after the injury I high-sided and broke my wrist.
How come you got leathers months after starting longboarding?
I thought it was a requirement of going fast / all the other kids had them.
You fell in love with the speed as soon as you started skating?
Well, no actually. I was a hardcore cruiser/dancer, i grew up on the Whirling Dervish/Trick tips with Adam & Adam wave. I nearly bought an Original Malakai or something for my first board. After months of persistence, Alex Parfitt finally got me going fast. I still remember the first time I saw him bomb a 30mph hill, I lost my mind, I thought it was insane.
How many of the loaded challenge series did you complete?
Gosh, I don’t even know. I think I was just getting into freeride & downhill at that point so I only got involved with the first one, maybe two.
Who is Alex Parfitt?
The man who stuck a ‘Prime Deluxe’ sticker on my car, I thought for months it was a sort of luxury bed company sticker. He ultimately taught me how to skate longboards, he pushed me to skate faster and would make killer cups of tea at 2am when we stopped for a mid-skate lurk. He is also a genuinely great guy and he skates fast these days too!
What did you enjoy about going fast?
Well, 19mph used to be fast on our ‘Great Barrier Run’ back then it was about pack riding and draft training. I can’t really articulate it, I just had a lot of fun riding with people and learning new things.
Who was in your skate gang?
The West Coast Downhill Crew and the Leicestershire Longboarders. Mostly it was Alex Parfitt, Ali, Gary and Chris back in the day but by the end it was Me, Alex, Sion, Egg, James and the occasional extra local keeping it alive in West Wales.
Did it take you long to recover?
A year, maybe 15 months to get to a Rugby 7’s league level of fitness.
How did you cope with 15 months of no skating?
Who said I stopped skating? No arm to coleman with meant I learned how to stand-up freeride very quickly.
Did the accident slow down your learning?
Yes and no. No because, I learned how to freeride quickly. Yes, because I didn’t get to skate all the crazy downhill roads on my doorstep every day. Most of all though it allowed me to ‘mature’ as a skate very quickly, despite my injury I knew I would never stop and it drove me forward as a more careful, respectful skater with a greater sense of my own mortality.
How does a mature skater approach the sport?
Rule #1 – Know that you are vulnerable, skate to skate another day.
Rule #2 – Respect the local environment, physical and social.
Rule #3 – ALWAYS Scout out / Spot your hills & don’t drop in on anything you can’t stop on.
Are there any opportunities to freeride in Wales?
There aren’t that many events in Wales, mainly because there are very small and isolated scenes and not everyone knows the locals well enough to set up an event on a hill there. That, and Powys council are horrific to deal with, its like they never turn up to work.
When you came back in 2011, were you a different skater?
I never really ‘went away’ if you get me. I skated through the injury and when I got full arm use back, I was a lot more focused on becoming a competent skater and having the skills needed to safely tackle any hill I found.
What sort of events did you get up to with your one good hand?
I did Bath to Bristol, arm in sling. I even skated at the slide jam. It was hard work on all my painkillers, but I made it thanks to some guy who towed me on his bike for the last mile lol.
Are there many events in the UK?
Not that many internationally acclaimed ones, no. But there is so much vitality in the UK scene these days, it’s really refreshing to see events of all kinds popping up around the place.
What’s the spirit of a UK event?
Depends, the SFOL lot are very ‘go get-em’, but are very organised. The push events draw people out of the Longboarding ‘dark matter’ which is really cool to see. In general it is mainly about getting people involved and watching people develop out of the primordial stinkbugging slime at downhill events.
Is there a lot of stinkbugging over there?
There always is in a developing scene. But there are more people skating than ever, and even a strange phenomena where the groms are ripping it up in the freeride department but they seem to have no clue about downhill. Some can’t even coleman but they would shut down at 30mph standing up. I think it’s because so many of the hills in the UK are short and steep. Maybe because the groms can’t drive to the big hills so they session the residential slopes.
What has led to the recent growth in the community?
No idea dude. Maybe its some rebellious scootering counter culture.
What’s been your favourite UK event?
Tough one… Each has been great in it’s own way. I don’t know if i could answer that one. VANDEM was pretty epic this year.
What would it take to get more freerides in the UK?
More people with time and money. Also, a lot of passion and willingness to put one on. I’m aware of a few in the pipeline for 2014. You have to deal with a lot of negativity and hate in the lead-up to an event here. As though your skating skills must be directly proportionate to your event organisation skills. But I’m not really in the Facebook loop. I gave up on event organisation a long time ago and it is only just becoming possible for me to consider doing another one.
Why do people hate?
I really don’t know. I think its part and parcel of the impersonal, hedonistic and capitalist society we live in. I’ve seen a lot of online abuse for people setting up events, it is tough to organise people and it is difficult to execute and there is no ‘how-to’ manual for events organisation. I think once you have tried, you can then empathise with the stuggle first-timers and veterans alike encounter.
Where did you start off your skating this year?
Man, I can’t even remember. I skate all over the place. I think the first major trip was down to Falmouth to skate with Mark, George and Will for a Thrill Magazine article.
Not a fan of hard wheels?
I would be if I actually owned any.
What is Thrill Magazine?
The only published UK Longboarding magazine. Available from www.thrillmagazine.com, all good online longboarding shops and WHSmiths if you win the postcode lottery. You can also set up a free deal with your local newsagent who can get it in for you. We cover all things longboarding in the UK and source all our content from skaters. Skater owned, skater written, skater photography, skater everything.
Why did it take so long for the UK to get a longboard mag?
Online magazines already existed but a twist of fate made it happen. I can’t explain how coincidental and seemingly manufactured the whole process was when it began. It was meant to be.
What’s your role in the team?
All-round grunt. I skate, promote, write articles, deal with organising people, manage the rider team, test gear, and a hundred other things I cant think of right now. I just do whatever is needed. I love doing it.
Who else helps out?
Jack Pattinson, he is now the bossman of it all. Also Sam Holding and Connor Finch, our two team riders.
Why do communities need magazines?
In short, from a Thrill perspective I just hope it gives other people with longboards an insight into what a beautiful community we have here. The opportunities for travel and friendship that longboarding have given me are irreplaceable. I just hope we can spread the stoke to people who otherwise would have never known what longboarding is all about, just like what happened to me when I met Alex.
Where have you got to travel to for skating?
I’ll just list a few places/events.
Europe – Calais to Slovenia(KNK), then over to the Pyrenees(Peyragudes) and home again.
Wales – Road trips with epic wild campings.
What was it like racing in Europe?
Really good fun, I was so nervous beforehand. But then I did alright. I got to race Kevin Reimer, that was probably one of the best ‘tick-off-the-list’ things that happened. I was very shy when I met everyone you see in the videos. But now I have Adam Perrson on snapchat which is quite surreal.
How did you do in Peyragudes?
I think I did pretty well for my first race. I’d heard it was super fast so it was quite intimidating on my first drop. I was sat in 40th place at one point and I thought I was sitting pretty, but then everyone gained a second on the last qualifier so I entered the repecharge zone and raced on both Saturday and Sunday which was great because I gained so much racing experience. I think my overall place was 64th, one place behind Yvon Labarthe, my legs were so tired at the end of it though and in hindsight I wish I’d packed better wheels. I can’t actually remember my qualification time now but I know that I was surprised how close all of the times were. I think 10 seconds separated me from 1st place. I had a lot of fun and I learned a lot. I’d go back next year if I could.
Will you do more races next year?
Maybe, I’d like to have a go at Kozakov but I’m looking to get more sponsorship to help me get there. Freerides are #1 priority though for me next year.
How was KnK?
Besides skating 18 or something hairpins each day for a week with uplifts… it was fun. Seeing the Lush van on some back road border crossing with Croatia and then driving into a field full of skaters partying away was surreal. I wasn’t quite mentally prepared for my dreams coming true.
What were you riding on your Euro adventures?
Rayne Fortune, Sabre CF-38’s 93a/90a split. 4 Prez wheels. (Shouldda taken Biggie Hawgz)
Are any of those your sponsors?
Nope, I’m 100% Thrill Magazine.
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
Save money for next year, skating and climbing whenever I can.
Pick 3 numbers between 1-39.
9 – What song would you like played at your funeral?
These are hard.. Maybe Bop – Enjoy the Moment (Thinnen Remix) it was a song that I liked at a very marked point in my life.
12 – What’s your least favourite movie?
Any Woody Allen film…
22 – Do you have any hidden talents?
I can do one visually impressive card trick and make my shoulder blades stick out like a stegasaurus.
It’s been really fun talking to you again buddy, hope we get to hang again soon. See your white teeth somewhere this summer?
Yeah dude! Its been a while! Speak again soon on the interwebs! Summer sessions in LDN for sure.
Any last words?
Big thanks to everyone who I have skated with over the years, every session is a learning experience. Thank you to Thrill Magazine for giving me the opportunities it has and a big thanks to Robyn as well, for being such a sick partner, allowing me to skate and throwing herself in the deep end of longboarding from the off. Also, to AAS for having me!
http://www.sandspiderhandiwork.tumblr.com/ – Robyn who follows me with a camera and her heart.