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SYDNEY SKATEBOARDING | ARTICLE

12pm // 07.06.2017

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Sammy Winter, wallie, Martin Place. Photo: Thomas Robinson.

SYDNEY SKATEBOARDING

Written and curated by Cameron Sparkes.

A few years ago, I was legitimately worried about Sydney skateboarding’s future. For some, that may be confusing to digest, but from where I was standing it appeared the Sydney scene was slowly ‘going down the gurgler’, and there wasn’t a plug big enough to prevent all the proverbial ‘sucking’ that would ultimately pull a once dominant domestic scene straight into oblivion.

OK, it wasn’t actually that bad. To be honest, I’m probably going a little too far using such a strongly worded analogy, but being the staunch Sydney enthusiast that I am, it was hard for me to see the charm of my beloved hometown slowly dissolve. Once filled to the brim with such character and charisma, I watched it turn into a monotonous, dispiriting city whose name would always be uttered with negative connotations and equally disgruntled facial expressions. This gradual demise wasn’t anyone’s fault, nor was it something completely unheard of. From time to time certain skateboarding Meccas just lose their mojo.

In my opinion, Sydney’s skateboarding scene was like a puzzle pieced together with an invaluable combination of skaters, filmers, photographers and the like, who ended up either relocating interstate and overseas, or worst of all, bowing out of the game for good. This all seemed to unfortunately coincide with, what appeared to be, Sydney City Council’s final crackdown on our spirited existence. It began with the refurbishment of some of our oldest and most cherished plazas, by incorporating copious amounts of non-skatefriendly materials such as cobblestone, blind bumps and extremely rough or uneven tiles; thus rendering the spots un-skateable. They also removed entire obstacles, replacing them with everyone’s favourite – bark/mulch ‘fun zone’ pits, or mundane garden beds that even deterred little old ladies from nearing them. And last, but not least, their final kick to the groin came in the form of mass cappings. Every single ledge and handrail in sight was turned into a non-functional, metal finned monstrosity. Apart from spiking our water supply with heavy doses of Prozac, I couldn’t really see an easy way out of the ‘Great Sydney skateboarding depression’.

However, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. While a positive change didn’t occur overnight, the past few years have seen Sydney gradually reshape itself into the big, colourful, beautiful beast she once was. With the help of some affectionately welcomed new recruits from Queensland; a few lovely gents who crossed a ditch from the east; an assortment of extremely distinguished native legends; and a batch of youthful, locally raised trailblazers, Sydney was officially back.

We will continue to deliver our adaptation of Australian skateboarding as it thrives on a celebrated union of individualism, while maintaining to be one of the most inclusive communities recognised on a global scale. Guests always receive a warm embrace, so drop in sometime and give us an audit. I love you, Sydney. You will always be able to charm the pants off me (literally).

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Jake Hayes, backside 180. Photo: Andrew Peters.

There’s no better way to start this article off than by having this year’s SOTY, Jake Hayes, score the opener. It has been a satisfying experience watching Jake grow as a skateboarder and a human over the past eight years that I’ve know him. I always enjoy seeing good people rewarded for their industrious skateboarding efforts – especially when everything they have achieved is carried out with a humble disposition and a firm handshake. Jake’s coming of age couldn’t have been more aptly timed. As the occasion not only drew the spotlight on Sydney’s next crop, it was also a reminder that a breath of fresh air was clear in our midst.

This gargantuan wheelchair ramp is inconveniently nestled in the depths of a highly regarded Sydney hotel’s carpark, and is (among many other things) extremely difficult to skate and a complete bust. I would even go as far as saying that only a handful of people, worldwide, would step up to this thing, let alone toss a backside 180 over it.

There is no doubt Jake is already sending shock waves through the skateboarding world. When Arto Saari hand picks you to ride for the same shoe company as him you must be doing something right. I’d say we have only seen the beginning of what Jake is capable of. Wheelchair ramps of the world, take note – you’re fucked!

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Chima Ferguson, switch frontside blunt. Photo: Thomas Robinson.

Out of everyone, Chima’s the person I’ve skated in Sydney with the longest. He’s the pride and joy of this town’s skateboarding scene. He’s done things on his skateboard that defy logic and force you to rethink what’s physically possible on a skateboard.

Chima is by far one of the most outspoken and passionate Sydney icons this city has ever raised. In fact, I regularly hear him sell this place to people overseas better than Paul Hogan did in the ’80s. His descriptions of Sydney make the place sound like some kind of promised land to those who have never visited: the tales of crystal clear beaches, the relaxed street drinking policies, the ‘intimidating crew’ and all of the amazing spots are enough to make even the most foreign foreigner extremely aroused. I think Tourism Australia might need to break him off a piece of their pie. Only recently moving home from a good few years living in the US, it’s great to have him back in the mix.

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Josh Pall, ollie. Photo: Thomas Robinson.

Undoubtedly one of the hardest working people within skateboarding, Josh Pall continues to deliver some of the best and rawest skateboarding that Sydney – and the world – has ever seen. He became a permanent resident back in 2008 and relocated from Brisbane with his long-time friend, and fellow Sunshine Coast expat, Juan Onekawa. They moved straight into a three-bedroom house in the heart of Bondi Junction.

Knowing both Josh and Juan quite well from my frequent visits to Queensland, I ended up becoming the third housemate. During this time I was lucky enough to receive (unbeknown to Josh) some free Josh Pall ‘life coaching’ lessons, which made me take a good, hard look at myself. I soon began to realise I was a much bigger loser than I initially thought. However, on a serious note, Josh is someone I will always have the upmost respect for. He is well mannered, humble, organised, polite, and great with money – everything that I inherently lack.

While he may hate me for saying this, Josh really reignited the fire under a lot of Sydney skateboarders’ feet, and encouraged many to get out there and get things done by any means possible. In classic Josh Pall form, his actions continue to speak louder than words; keeping Sydney skateboarding on the global radar.

Josh was lucky enough to stumble across this inappropriately parked 1950s-style UFO in Sydney’s inner west. Being someone who isn’t exactly fond of a swift alien probing, Josh hightailed it out of there before the unearthly owners returned. But, being the cheeky bugger he occasionally is, Josh made sure to crack this whopper of an ollie to the road on his exit.

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JP. Photo: Andrew Peters.

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Michael Mieruszynski, kickflip. Photo: Sam Coady.

Mike Mieruszynski and Corey Young are two of the promising younger generation who have suddenly come of age. To see them at your local watering hole is to be reminded that you’re now extremely old and should probably just go home to bed. It feels like only yesterday I would see these young gents skating around town (of course, I was always talking about how good they were going to be when they were older). It’s been somewhat amusing watching them undergo rapid socialisation over the past two years. Being heavily groomed by Sydney luminaries Rhys Grogan and Dean Palmer, the two young lads have definitely had an exciting ride into adulthood.

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Corey Young, feeble grind. Photo: Sam Stephenson.

I don’t think Corey will ever forget his trip down to Canberra to attend the legendary Australian skateboarding competition Kambah Palooza. Young Corey thought it might be a good idea to drink with the older guys and, somewhat unfortunately, had all his clothing forcibly removed and tossed into a bonfire. It gets cold in Canberra. Really cold. Mike still hasn’t slipped up too hard, but I’m hoping to collect some dirt on him soon. Alas, the duo have turned out just fine and are a solid representation of what the future of Sydney skateboarding holds. Good on you, lads. We are all very proud.

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Chopper, frontside noseslide. Photo: Andrew Peters.

Around eight years ago, Steven Carter, aka: Chopper, made the move from Auckland to Sydney, with a few other Kiwi lads who helped inject a fresh perspective and attitude into our scene. It was refreshing taking them to spots that we had been skating for years, but not hearing one of them complain about minor imperfections, or the time it took to get from one destination to the next. Sydney was new and exciting for them. Their high levels of enthusiasm reminded me that we still did have something special right in front of us.

Chopper, in particular, instantly stood out as being one of the more talented skateboarders that we were inevitably going to inherit. However, I strongly feel that he has not been awarded the credit he sorely deserves when it comes to being featured in our local publications. I have always held Chopper’s skateboarding in the highest regard, so when I saw this photo of him, shot right in the heart of the CBD, I knew I had to include it in this article. What would a true Sydney article be without a perfectly executed frontside noseslide on a red Coates barrier? Hopefully we see more of Chopper gracing these pages soon.

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Squishdog, noseblunt to fakie. Photo: Andrew Peters.

Young Jack O’Grady, commonly referred to as ‘Squishdog’, is probably the youngest up-and-coming Sydneysider we currently have creeping through the ranks. Although young in appearance, he is more manly and street smart than some of the 30-plusyear- old men I associate with on a regular basis. Young Jack truly is gifted when it comes to handling situations where he needs to conduct himself in a manner far beyond his teenage years.

The kid had a login and password for the legendary ‘Brazzers.com’ pornography website when he was about 14 years old. I still remember him proudly showing it to me, as he said, “There’s some pretty good shit on there, mate,” and then held out his knuckles awaiting me to bump his fist. I couldn’t believe this little kid had himself a Brazzers login before I did! I was impressed. What a legend. Squish absolutely rips and is a fine example of Sydney’s next generation about to burst through the doors.

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Squish. Photo: Thomas Robinson.

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Ben James, fakie front shove-it. Sequence: Thomas Robinson.

I know there may be some Sydney-heads who might disagree with me, but I still enjoy going to Martin Place, even after skating there the past 20 years of my life. For me, the spot holds unforgettable memories that have spanned well over half my lifetime and it’s a place of immense cultural importance for Sydney skateboarding.

She’s survived a few facelifts over the decades and has (thankfully) remained a skateboarding hot spot each time. Sadly, plans that outline another major overhaul for Martin Place, set to be conducted around mid-2016, have begun circulating, once again. With an unknown certainty surrounding her future, a few of the local lads have begun turning up the heat and attempting to knock out some of those ‘Never- Been-Done’s’ that are now extremely few and far between.

‘The backwards man’ – Ben James – has steadily dished out his own series of NBD’s at Martin Place, with this fakie front shove into The Pit adding one more to that list. You won’t find many – if any – skaters other than Benny and Chima who boast such long lists of NBD’s successfully executed within the confines of Martin Place.

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Billy Lukins, ollie. Photo: Sam Coady.

I remember my ex-girlfriend once coming home and telling me she met this skateboarder who knew me at the pub. She couldn’t remember his name, but described him as being “the poster child for Australian tradesmen”. I pondered briefly before tentatively replying: “Billy? Billy Lukins?” I was correct.

Billy is one of those guys who suddenly became extremely talented in what appeared to be a short period of time. When I heard he had varial heelflipped the steps outside Sydney’s Town Hall (on a snapped board) at 6.30 on Saturday morning, I almost passed out. In my eyes, that’s one of the best tricks that has ever gone down in Sydney. And let’s not forget the laserflip he lobbed over the 10-stair rail at Martin Place. I never thought anyone could make that trick look even remotely socially acceptable, but Billy certainly showed me. Lately, Billy has been on a continuing rampage. This long ollie is no exception to the high calibre of skating Billy has been dispensing around town lately. I haven’t seen this pond drained in a long time, and there’s nothing better than seeing people take advantage of temporary spots like this. Billy got in there before they turned the tap back on.

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Hayden Jones, switch fron crooks. Photo: Sam Stephenson.

Hands down, Hayden has always been one of my favourite skateboarders. His skateboarding is straight to the point: strong, intense, acute, unrefined, unsophisticated, powerful, but – most importantly – it’s realistic. It’s a realistic reflection of the person Hayden Jones is. There is no bullshit when you watch him skate and that’s something pretty hard to find these days.

For me, he’s a huge piece of the proverbial Sydney puzzle, and not having him featured in this article would feel wrong. He’s been around since the beginning, but has sadly never been given much of an opportunity to show the country just how good he actually is. If you were to flip through some of our more dominant domestic publications you’d be hard pressed to find any evidence of Hayden, and that’s a damn shame. I suggest you go and watch some of the amazing video parts he’s put out over the years, because he embodies raw Sydney skateboarding. No stranger to some of the more difficult situations life can throw at you, Hayden hasn’t been around much lately. Wherever he is, I hope he’s doing OK, and I know he will come back soon and bless us with some of that ‘no bullshit skateboarding’ we all love so much.

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Pete Solvyns, kickflip. Photo: Sam Stephenson.

Pete’s another guy who has been slightly under the radar when it comes to coverage outside of a few underground Sydney videos. Originally from Tamworth in country NSW, Pete’s been frequenting the city since he was in his teenage years and became a permanent resident about eight years ago.

He resembles everyone I saw skating at Martin Place Pit the first time I ever set foot in the city. His fashion sense, style and trick selection have a very distinct ’90s vibe, which has seen him instantly held in high regard by Sydney greats Michael Davidson, Dean Armour and Connal Lo. Pete has always been extremely motivated when it comes to finding new spots, and often discovers things hidden in the heart of the city that other people have simply been cruising past for 20-odd years. I wanted to include Pete in this article because I’ve always respected the level and type of skateboarding he has brought to the Sydney streets. The very presence of Pete adds to the diversity of our scene.

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Chris Smyth, pole jam five-o. Photo: Cameron Markin.

As far as I know, there are three ‘Smyths’ in total who all skate and absolutely fucking rip. Sydney’s Northern Beaches have been renowned for producing some of the country’s best talent, and I feel this article wouldn’t represent us as a whole if we didn’t feature something, or someone, shot on their side of the bridge (this is literally just over the bridge, which pays homage to their overall skateboarding dexterity). Chris Smyth is a perfect representative to demonstrate how those dudes get it done. Maybe it’s that cheese grater known as Manly Bowl, or the healthy ocean breeze stimulating their minds, but every kid from that corner of the city can skate any terrain or obstacle you put in front of them.

Although I’m not too familiar with young Chris on a personal level, I do know he has been on the ‘come up’ program for quite some time. When Cam sent this photo to me I instantly lost my mind. Anyone who has been to this spot knows that the fence pictured was installed to render this spot completely un-skateable, and has been successful in doing so for the past six years. I have no idea how doing a pole jam five-o on that heedless fence manifested itself into becoming an idea in Chris’ mind, but he really showed the fuckwits who installed the thing what’s up. I thought it was very cool of you, young man. Well done!

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Rhino, ollie in. Photo: Sam Caody.

Jesus H… I don’t even know where to start with my good mate, Ryan Wilson. In the 14 years Ryan and I have been friends he continues to surprise me every single day. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to figure out what the hell is going on in that head of his.

Rhino is someone I feel embodies everything about the word ‘individualism’. He truly is a unique person who is fascinating to the outside world. He’s an Auckland expat that has been in Sydney longer than most. His extraordinary approach to skateboarding combined with his distinctive outfit choices have always captivated and entertained Sydney locals. Even the younger generation absolutely idolise him and simply refer to him as ‘the best’ whenever his name is mentioned. If you were to caption this trick as though Ryan had just texted you the photo, it would read: “Chup 2. Jst did ths ole in b4 werk 2day. Suk me orf. Rhino.”

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Dogshit park. Photo: Andrew Peters.                                                                        Rhino. Photo: Andrew Peters.

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Dean Palmer, tailslide kickflip out. Photo: Sam Coady.

By far one of the most gifted skateboarders to ever live, Dean Palmer has been doing laps (and not missing a trick) around Sydney for an eternity. Aptly referred to as ‘the world’s best skater’ by many across the globe, Dean has obtained international illustriousness from a handful of video parts (which seem to keep appearing on the internet) and by just being a bloody nice guy.

Only recently picking up a video camera myself, I quickly learned Dean is a filmer’s dream. With his pleasant disposition and ability to land the unthinkable repeatedly, Dean has saved my inexperienced ass countless times over the past year-and-a-half. This might sound strange, but Dean’s raw talent is nearly impossible to capture and summarise with a photograph or video.Most of the stories you hear about someone having their first ‘Palmer experience’ occur when they get the chance to see Dean skate in real life. His capacity to be profoundly consistent while remaining entertaining, aesthetically pleasing and completely fluid is incredibly hard to find.

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Rhys Grogan, backside tailslide. Photo: Sam Coady.

I feel sorry for anyone who has never met Rhys before. I generally get depressed knowing there are people out there being deprived of such a joyful and pleasurable experience by having Rhys in their lives. I have been lucky enough to enjoy Rhys Grogan’s companionship since my early teenage years.

Having first met when we were both confused kids rolling around the city, I instantly took a shining to Rhys because he was so unorthodox. His skateboarding and personality both (now more than ever) leave you screaming out loud: “How the fuck did he just do that!”, all the while trying to control the fits of laughter.

There isn’t a human being on this planet who could find it in their heart to dislike Rhys. It’s actually impossible. He can get away with anything. In fact, I’d like to give the readers some factual insight into Rhys Grogan by providing some bullet points.

The following is all true and can be confirmed by questioning the man himself:
• Rhys is one of Jamie Thomas’s favourite skateboarders.
• Rhys is a renowned bed wetter. Even at the age of 31. Rhys regularly urinates on anyone who shares a bed with him. This process is referred to as ‘being taken to splash mountain’.
• Rhys once wet the bed on an Insight tour, while Paul Shier was sleeping on the bunk below and saturated him. On that same trip, everyone urinated in their beds as a tribute to Rhys on the last night.
• Rhys was once a rising star in the Australian modelling circuit. You could say he set the bar damn high for others attempting to walk that path in the future.
• Rhys works for the government as an environmental researcher and has a university degree. He obtained his degree by doing his final presentation blackout drunk in front of his peers and university professor. He passed.
• Rhys has the best switch flip in skateboarding.

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Beau Reid, fakie heelflip. Sequence: Andrew Peters.

Ah yes, everyone’s favourite little ‘snuggie’ who aged about 20 years as soon as he moved from Newcastle to Sydney. I swear I always see photos of Beau from only a few years ago where he still looks like a fresh-faced infant. The diamond stud ear piercing, New Era cap, shaggy hair and hazy ‘ciggy voice’ kid from ‘Mayfe’ who used to crash at everyone’s houses to skate in the city all weekend will never be forgotten.

Obviously, Beau has grown up a lot since then, and so has his skateboarding. He’s definitely achieved some remarkable feats over the years and this ‘backwards man’ heelflip is no exception. Fakie heelflips are not the easiest trick on flat, let alone into this stupid thing. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve always appreciated this spot, but when you go there you’ll notice it’s a bit of a stinker. You have to pop off the corner of a stair set, land into a short bank, and then roll out blindly onto a busy street where you’ll most likely be met by a bunch of stoned white people with dreadlocks. Luckily for Beau, this fakie heel incident was hippie-free and he rolled away victorious.

Article posted from Slam issue 210. Buy your copy here.