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Mapstone Portrait DR extended flat

We induct our longest serving senior photographer into the Slam Hall of Fame.

Over the past two decades, Andrew Mapstone has immersed himself in supporting skateboarders and our industry. He is also widely regarded as the most prolific skateboarding photographers in Australia. The votes are in, and Australian skateboarding thanks Mapstone for his loyal service and influence on so many skaters.

Read on through Andrew’s 'Where Are They Now' article from Slam Issue 208.

As told to Trent Fahey.

I was born in Sydney on July 31, 1972. My parents and the rest of the Mapstones and my mother’s family, the Sheilds, are all from Sydney. We lived there until I was five years old, when we were transferred to Melbourne with my father’s work. My mum thought it would be a temporary move, but we never made it back to Sydney. We travelled all over the place following my dad’s work with DuPont. We lived in the States and in New Zealand. The US was rad, but NZ sucked. It’s cool to visit, but not to live.

From prep to grade six I went to Waverley Meadows, and then moved on to Wheelers Hill High. School was fine for me. I was bigger than everyone else. I was tough, so no one could mess with me. When I went to high school, the older kids would punish the year sevens, but I wouldn’t take any shit. I fought back, so they left me alone. The other kids would get locked in lockers, wedgies, and if you were really unlucky, royal flushes. You know, held upside down and dipped head first in the toilet bowl and then flushed. The hope was that there was no shit or piss in there. They got away with that stuff back then.

My parents had one girl and four boys. My sister had it so good growing up being the first child and the only girl. She is a rad sister and was a bit naughty, so she taught me a trick or two. Her girlfriends used to mess with me a lot. My brothers and I were all really close, and we went through life working as a team. Anthony and I really got into skating, full on. While my other brothers David and Aaron loved it, they got over it after a few years. As for Anthony, anyone reading this should know what he is up to.

My dad introduced me to skateboarding originally. He was a surfer, and he gave Anthony and I wooden boards with no nose or tail. Full surf style. We surfed the sidewalks when we were kids staying with my grandparents up the New South Wales coast. But those boards didn’t function too well, so when the original Penny style of board came out we each got one of those. In the summer rain, we would ride the boards barefoot through the water flooding the streets, surfing in and out of the gutter. A can of WD-40 was all we needed to prepare for the next dump of rain.

Years later, our new neighbour happened to be a sports distributor that sold skateboards, along with tennis racquets and golf clubs. It was that Christmas Anthony and I first got our real skateboards. Mine was a Reflex: a big fat pig with a big tailbone on it. Anthony got a Dominator board. They both had no nose and were built like tanks with rails, nose bones and tail blocks. The tail blocks were so good for fishtails. We’d bomb hills, stamping on the tail, fishtailing our way down. We would change the tail block rather than a board. From there on Anthony and I skated every day, and we have ever since.

High school was about being cool. When we were kids, skateboarding wasn’t regarded as being cool like it is now. These days the world has skateboarding to thank for a lot of trends: the shoes, the clothes, the slang. So many other sports all took moves from skateboarding. I guess skateboarding is more accepted now. I am still skating, even at my age, which I believe keeps me young. I see people that I went to school with, and they haven’t been so lucky when it comes to the ticking age clock.

Both Anthony and I kicked arse in school footy, and then we skated the school as soon as the afternoon bell had rung. My high school had heaps of rad stuff in it. Many of the spots in the school have featured in Slam’s pages throughout the years. There is a kinker there that I am still waiting for someone to grind, cough, cough, Reece Warren. When it came to class, I always liked woodwork. I used to make ramps and grind boxes, while other kids made junk they had no use for. I took my creations home and skated them on our driveway.

If I could go back to the days of skating in the city of Melbourne, the best times were the days of the original City Square and St Kilda Road. This was well before blind bumps and skate-stoppers. The city had so much rad stuff and St Kilda Road was like a skatepark that went for miles. Prahran skatepark was the meeting point every Saturday and Sunday. We would watch the madness in the bowl and then hit the streets, taking a tram ride down Commercial Road, hopping off at St Kilda Road and then getting started at Tiles. From there we’d move on, hitting all of the spots from one side of the street to the other.

Pros would come out to Melbourne and just skate St Kilda Road. That was the demo. There would be so many skaters up and down the road skating the buildings. If one spot was too busy you could just move onto the next. Some kids started going there during the weekdays and blew it for everyone. Then skate-stoppers were invented and the best spots started getting capped.

Andrew Mapstone Wallride Nollie 2
Wallride nollie out, Burwood. Photo: Bryce Golder.

The city has changed now. Most people lived in the ’burbs back then, so the city was a ghost town on the weekends. It was perfect for skating. Nowadays everyone wants to live in the city, which makes it a mess 24/7.

I can’t remember when I first started shooting photos. It was too long ago, but I do remember the first time I actually went out to try and shoot a proper skate pic. It was a photo of Anthony at the Dandy 11, doing a backside nosegrind on a tall ledge for a Boom ad here in Oz. I’m pretty sure it was shot on my dad’s camera, set on auto, shooting colour instant film, which I took to Kmart for processing. I decided to keep shooting when I got the pics back and they had actually turned out.

My first real camera was a Nikon FM2. I bought it from Ollie Bobbit, a Prahran local. He and Jesse Featherstone shot photos and dealt in cameras. Who knows where they got them from, but they always had the gear. From there I bought photography books and cheap film. I read up on photography and snapped my mates, AJ Muller, Darren Kirby, and of course Anthony. They were my models.

Filming was my real passion before photography. I still love filming today, but these days I just do it with my iPhone and a Death Lens for that skate feel. Anthony and I have been filming since we could first kickflip. We made videos when it was all VHS. To edit our footage we would hook the camera up to the VCR and use the pause, record, pause method. Tape to tape. We even sold our first videos edited like that and they would sell out every time.

Then I got hurt, and couldn’t skate for a year. That’s when I immersed myself into filming, because I needed something to keep me around skateboarding. It was just as rewarding to record a trick as it was to do a trick. That kept my love of skateboarding true.

I can still feel the pain when I think about the injury that took me out for a year. I was at The Shed in Cranbourne doing a back lip pop out. My front foot came off the board, and when my foot hit the ground the nose of the board pushed it even further. I thought it was just a gnarly rolled ankle, but months passed and it didn’t heal. I had X-rays taken and the docs found nothing, so I went to a specialist for a second opinion. It was bad news. I had snapped the ligaments and they had begun to repair on their own. I needed surgery back when the first docs got it wrong and screwed me. It took almost a year before I could ollie, and there was no chance of being able to kickflip. I could tré flip and impossible, because you don’t really use the front foot. That’s how I got good at impossibles, and they were my go-to tricks in games of SKATE. This injury ruined me. My skate days seemed done. I got fat and my kickflips were never the same again. If you don’t have a good kickflip, you’ve got nothing.

I started drinking when I was a kid. Before I was old enough to buy booze it was fun to sneak around and drink. When I turned 18 it was too easy to get drunk and be stupid. The last time I was drunk I got into a big brawl and I went overboard. I used to love fighting, but that was wrong. I woke up to myself the day after that fight and quit drinking. I’ve been sober for over 25 years.

I also stopped eating meat much later. I guess there is something wrong with my gut, and I seem to get food poisoning super easy. I have had it so often and I get completely wiped out. My wife and kids can eat anything and nothing happens to them, but I get struck all the time. I first went vego when the food poisoning was so bad from meat I couldn’t eat it anymore. I was vego for over 10 years, but with all of my travels and with my wife’s cooking I went back to meat. I am still a pussy when it comes to food, though. I’m super selective when it comes to what I eat.

Back when Anthony and I were in our teens we skated Melbourne City and St Kilda Road with all the top guys. Garret Felt was a king back in the day. He had heaps of pop and was way ahead of everyone else. Skating with guys like him, and our obsession with watching skate videos, helped us get good at skateboarding.

In 1991 my dad’s work transferred our family to New Zealand for a few years, which ended up being five years, before I moved back to Melbourne. When we arrived in NZ all the skaters there were either vert skaters or mini ramp skaters. No one skated street. Anthony and I sucked at tranny because we only skated street at that point. So while most of the kids were at the mini, Anthony and I were waxing up the ledges and skating at Aotea Square. Word got out and Morri [Andrew Morrison] from Cheapskates ended up putting us on his team. Our tranny skills improved and Auckland skaters started skating street. From there, sponsorship started and the list went on.

Andrew Mapstone heelflip
Heelflip, Preston. Photo: Bryce Golder.

When I started to become more serious about shooting photos, I had no idea of what I was doing. I turned to books and learnt about how a camera works; the process of the image to be burnt to film. There were no forums, no YouTube. Man, there was no internet back then. It was from reading photography books and shooting a lot that I learnt photography. Shooting skateboarding is way different to any other type of photography. Back in those days there was Mike O’Meally and all the US guys, and no one gave up their tricks.

Melbourne didn’t really have a skate photographer in the early to mid-’90s, so somehow I became the photographer by around 1997. Andrew Currie was editing Slam at the time and he encouraged me to shoot photos. He gave me film and printed my stuff. Of course, Melbourne’s skaters wanted to get into the mags, so they would hit me up to shoot pics. It was cool, because Melbourne has always had rad skaters, but most of the action was coming from Sydney and Queensland, where the mags were based. It’s changed a lot now. Melbourne is definitely where it happens these days, even with our crappy weather. So I guess my commitment to photography evolved. I acquired more gear and became better at shooting photos. It’s really all thanks to the skaters in the pictures. They were the ones that did the tricks. O’Meally was always the guy I looked up to as a skate photographer. His pictures are rad, and he pulled off the dream first, going to the US and working for a mag, Slap.

We started Boom skateboards in NZ. We had something that was so rad, but because of some greedy businessmen, the whole thing went to shit. It was huge in Australia, and then two guys saw how popular it became from the hard work of the team, and they pretty much killed the brand. I saw it coming before it happened, and took the riders I was good friends with and started XEN. I didn’t want to let those guys down, so Rocky [Ng] and I created a new board brand they could get behind. We produced US boards at Aussie prices. It gave the riders the chance to do what was going on over in the US with a brand and a team. We put out videos, photos, and created a strong bond between blokes. The shops got behind us, and so did the skaters.

The name XEN was just three letters that worked. I loved kung fu and was always reading up on it, and one word that always came across my eyes was ‘zen’. From there I created XEN. It’s pronounced “ex” “ee” “n”, with an x not a z. Rocky was a computer nerd before anyone even owned a computer, and he was good at art so he created the four-point star logo and did the graphics. I wish I still had him working for the brand, but he is off making his first million somewhere.

The XEN team was Anthony Mapstone, Tristan Walker, Shane Azar, Chey Ataria, Tom Cuthbertson, Ben McLachlan, Nick Collerson, Aaron Jenkin, Davo [Michael Davidson], Todd Johnstone, Richie Stewart, Mike Denovan and Rocky. Azar was our last one on, and he made a huge impact on our lives. I could talk forever about each of those guys. The XEN videos will go down in Aussie skate history. One day I will find the masters and make a trilogy, or something, with some new footage of all the guys, our new teammates and XEN friends. When I meet new skaters they will often bring up the old videos, be it XEN or Play or even Tweakage.

In the late ’90s and early to mid-2000s, my home became a place for many of Melbourne’s skaters and interstate travellers to crash. Azar, Richie, Tom, Tim Dunn, girls, dogs, Ben Gauci, the list goes on. It was never a party place, but it was a home I had for the team and friends. We would have interstate guests all of the time, as well as a few international pros. In one of the houses we had a small granny flat type room out the back. We used to call it the ‘Jack Shack’, because Tim Dunn posted up there and made it into an edit suite. He was like a vampire in there, sleeping all day and coming out at night after the sun went down. Some of the best years were when Azar moved from Sydney. He was new on the team and came to Melbourne for a visit, and never went back until years later. He and Tristan became best mates.

Everything we made from XEN always went back into the brand. It was my photography that kept me and the boys living. I became addicted to shooting tricks. It was like a drug. There was nothing better than shooting a pic, or many rolls of film over the weekend, and then dropping off the film to be developed on Monday morning. I’d wait a few eager hours and then hit the light box with the loupe to see the end result. Viewing 120 film direct from the lab was the best. I always had an extra loupe stashed in the car for my fix.

I started working as a photographer for Volcom around the turn of the century. Working there was some of the best years of my life. I met so many rad people and travelled to so many amazing places. It was my dream job, and I was living it. Dustin [Dollin] was a big help in getting me over to the US and working for Volcom. I’m thankful to him and Volcom for giving me that opportunity. They gave me the Californian dream to live and work in the States and further abroad.

While I was living in the US I tried to keep XEN afloat with the help of long-time friends Mel and Scott. I grew up skating with Scott. He loved his jump ramps and The Cure. His partner, Mel, helped me out when I was going through some nightmare times in my life. She loved the brand and could handle my ways. Mel was a saviour. But without me there it became too hard to manage. It was just easier to get on with our lives.

In my early days of working for Volcom I spent most of my time being a babysitter for the team riders, Jake [Duncombe], Shane [Cross], Joe Pease, Chima [Ferguson] and Lewis [Marnell]. All of those guys made an impact in the States.

Andrew mapstone badlady DR
Losi, Melbourne City. Photo: Bryce Golder.

Chima and Joe were super easy to deal with, but Shane, Jake and Lewis were a real handful. They got up to a lot of shit. I was always getting calls from the Volcom boss to control them. So I did. That would last for five minutes and they would be back up to some naughty shit again. It would get to a stage where the boss would have had enough, and then the boys would do some amazing tricks and all would be forgiven.

Having all those guys with me took away any homesick feelings while we were away for extended periods of time. We had a blast in Cali. Ewan Bowman was our filmer and main man. He did a lot of the driving and we went on some great missions. Ewan was there when Shane passed away in Melbourne. We both knew Shane really well, and we saw the changes he went through in life. After we lost Shane, nothing would be the same again. The crew split and went separate ways. Years later, Lewis passed away. Death is a reality we can’t believe until it happens. And it happened to the best. Both Shane and Lewis were some of my favourite skaters of all time. Shane had this unbelievable flow, and Lewis’s flip-trick pop was unbelievable. I’ll never forget them and the good times we shared.

When I started a family, living in the States became too tough. Life was better back here in Australia where it’s safe and close to extended family. I moved back to Oz and landed a job working for Vans. I am stoked to work for the brand. I love the shoes. When you think skate, Vans is the first shoe brand that comes to mind. When you think basketball, other brands come to mind. It’s the same for soccer. They can have basketball and soccer. We have skate at Vans.

A couple of years ago, Anthony said he wanted to get XEN up and running. My dad never wanted it to stop, so we decided to kick it off again as a family-owned company. It still has the same ethos we started with: a passion for skateboarding; the best wood at the best price. We are still in the early stages of the reboot, so please bear with us. Our team of friends consists of Azar, Anthony, Bibi [Bradbury], Ben [Currie], Tristan, Ricky [Davidson] and myself. I should mention that when I was living in the US I fully got into the gym and a healthy diet. It was easy there. I had a 24-hour gym in walking distance from my house. I spent most of my mornings waiting for the skaters to wake up, so hitting the gym in the morning killed the boredom. My body started to change right away. I remember the guys thought I was on steroids. Seeing the changes in my body kept me motivated to do more and go harder. I got big. I went overboard. I was messing up my body lifting the heaviest weights in the gym. I had already screwed my joints from skateboarding and I was just making them worse. Being buff wrecked my skating, too. I went down super hard when I slammed. I got up to 126kgs, and I was lean, eating heaps of clean food all day long. I lost my timing on the board, which took all my pop. When I got tendinitis in my elbows I had to stop. I couldn’t hold the camera without pain at that stage. So I got a racing bike to keep the weight off and I discovered a new sense of freedom.

I recently got into mountain biking, and I love it. It’s just like skateboarding on a bike. There’s no rules, an unlimited amount of spots, and you can go fucking big. It’s so gnarly what you can do on these bikes. Whatever the weather, you can get out there and hit rocks, roots, drops, jumps, trees, banks or berms. I went in hot at first and had a heap of crashes. I was a bloody mess for the first few weeks. I have much more control now and I can go where I want to go instead of where the bike takes me. It’s a huge sense of freedom out there on the bike.

Before I found mountain biking I was riding road. You know, shaving my legs and getting up at 4am to get k’s in before work, racing on the weekend and stacking up the wins. For some reason, all of that pushing on a skateboard for so many years made me a fast sprinter, and I kicked arse. I went from D grade right up to A grade in less than a season. A lot of serious riders will never make it to A grade. I got on a few teams, but it all became too serious. I have backed off the road bike for now and I am enjoying the mountain bike. I just got my son Maxwell a bike and he loves it. I don’t need to shave my legs so much now, either.

Family life is hard, but it’s what keeps me doing what I do. If I was on my own, who knows where I would be right now. I love my family, and having my kids has been the best thing in my life. Both of my boys are a bloody handful. Maxwell loves skateboarding and anything that I am into. He has become my best friend. Mason is a mumma’s boy, and he and his mum love to shop, which kills me.

I want to be active, and so does Maxwell. I take him skating with me all the time. All of the team riders love him, and he is getting better at skating every day. Having him skating has given me a new love for the board. Although, he won’t listen to me when I try and teach him how to skate. However, he’ll listen and learn from the other guys. Maxwell won’t leave Bibi alone every time he comes to town. Bibi is a rad skate coach for him. Anthony and Maxwell get along really well, too. Maxwell looks up to Anthony so much. I guess you could say Anthony is Maxwell’s sponsor, because he films him and flows him boards. Luckily I have Vans hook ups, because Maxwell goes through shoes faster than anyone on the team, and he goes through two boards before I am even close to going through one. I can’t wait for him to learn kickflips.

Being that this is for Slam’s Photo Edition, I suppose I should conclude our conversation by talking about photography. Nowadays everyone is an artist or some type of label. Me, I am just an average Joe trying to get by in life. I skate. I have lived and learnt many of life’s lessons from my world of experiences. A few years ago everyone was a filmer, and then that died. Now everyone is a photographer. The cameras and the computers have made it easier and more accessible for most. You can fix anything in Photoshop. I think it’s wrong when someone shoots a picture and completely alters the lighting, the skater, his board placement, the spot … that’s cheating. I shoot the photo the way you see it printed in the mag. 

Previous Hall of Fame Inductees:

2012 – Dustin Dollin
2013 – Matt Mumford
2014 – Andrew Currie
2015 – Tas Pappas
2016 – Anthony Mapstone
2017 – Morgan Campbell
2018 – Tim ‘Dorfus’ McDougall