An interview with our International Brand Ambassador for the UK - Rob Ashby.
Tell us a bit about where you live.
I live in Cheam, Surrey, just 13 miles from the centre of London so I get the best of both Worlds – far enough out to be reasonably quiet and close to the countryside yet near enough to get into London in half an hour when needed.
When did you start skateboarding?
I first stepped onto a board in 1976. It was a friends’ Roller Derby “Mustang 20” with clay wheels. I remember that on rougher road surfaces you couldn’t keep your feet on the board very long as the vibrations coming through the deck just shook you off!
I then made my own from one of a pair of “Jacoskates” which I think I paid 25p for at a jumble sale? They were fitted with barrel shaped black rubber wheels with shielded loose bearings. I made the deck out of a piece of marine ply liberated from a rubbish skip and stuck some strips of emery cloth on it for grip. I learnt a lot on that first board in the subsequent months.
Did you play other sports as kid?
My father loved his football and had been a formidable centre forward in his youth and during his army days but I definitely hadn’t inherited his skills. I enjoyed fencing at school for a while but general “run of the mill sports” left me cold! I know my dad would have preferred me to play football rather than skate. “You and that bloody skateboard, why don’t you play football instead?” He would often say.
Did you skate street or vert to begin with?
When I first started skating in the 70’s you would skate a bit of everything, freestyle, long jump, high jump a bit of slalom, banks and parks. Street skating back then just meant getting from A to B on your board. I mainly skated parks and vert with a bit of freestyle and slalom thrown in for good measure – all on the one board in the beginning.
What attracted you to slalom?
A lot of that goes back to the days at Southbank which as well as bank riding, leant itself ideally to flatland slalom and freestyle. Slalom was always popular in the UK and appealed too many because, at first glance, it seemed easy and achievable on the street. You could practice slalom with empty tin cans, as there were no cones available at that time, and it was easy to pick up. Slalom also had a fair share of coverage in magazines too and racing is always easy to understand.
When did you start racing?
To be honest I didn’t race competitively at all in the 70’s and 80’s. I went to a few Brands Hatch events and may have had a run or three but I never competed as such. In the early years when equipment was fairly expensive I never had my own slalom set up. A new deck or set of park wheels was normally where my spare change went. If I was at Southbank I would often borrow a board to take a few runs on. The courses were quite tight in those days, a lot of this was attributed to the photos of slalom in magazines showing racers like Bobby Piercy and John Hutson. The logic being “That course must be tight for them to generate speed and get themselves in that position” – well there was no You Tube to watch or website to go to. Another factor then was the limited covered dry area to set a course on at Southbank when it rained; 20 cone, 4 foot straight wasn’t uncommon. Southbank was good breeding ground for many of the UK’s first class slalom racers back then and four of them have gone on to win World Championship Slalom titles and they all still race today!
So it could be said I was more of an armchair racer - a park skater who dabbled in a bit of freestyle and slalom on the side. I only began skating slalom seriously again in 2006 and in 2008 I entered a few European races along with fellow Brits and European Race veterans Paul Price, Sam Gordon, Louis Selby, Mick Reiss and Ella Roggero and I loved every minute and never looked back.
What do enjoy about racing?
There is a tremendous sense of family atmosphere amongst the slalom community. I know that in some circles it is often seen as the more geeky skateboarding discipline. I think that this in part because of the plethora of equipment and ways people set their boards up – different truck angles, wheel formula’s/duro’s etc. I guess it is, as Chris Linford put it, the skate equivalent of Formula 1 – you’re trying to tune your board to get the best possible performance out of it. But essentially anyone can try it – just slacken your trucks off and have a wiggle! At some of our races in the UK we have started seeing a few crossovers from longboarding to slalom as well as a few newbies which is always a good thing. Another bonus is seeing so many legendary skaters from the 70’ and 80’s racing slalom – even better that you can get to race them!
Back in the day what colour wheels/size did you ride?
The first Kryptonics I bought were the 1st generation 70mm Red’s which I purchased from Alpine Sports in Knightsbridge, they came with a free “Kryptonics Krazy” sweatshirt – was so stoked! Riding them for the first time was amazing – like nothing I had ever experienced, such a smooth silent ride. Later I went on to ride 60mm Green’s which I had on a Peralta Warptail with Mid Tracks, then came the 65mm Lime Green versions. I also rode Blue CX double conicals, I remember seeing that amazing photo of Steve Alba riding them – the classic frontside edger shot at Pipeline in Skateboarder - a few days after I had got them, I was really stoked on that!
How much better were they than the competition?
I guess that they were really out there on their own for a while as far as the choice of compounds and sizes went. There weren’t really any serious competitors around offering different durometer’s and sizes for a while. It’s not like now where you can pretty much go and get any duro and size wheels you wish. Back then Kryptonics were one of the few companies producing wheels that offered a resilient compound for different terrains and scenarios; and of course the adverts in the magazines were legendary.
What was your favourite Kryptonics ad from back in the day?
I think that would be “Tired of the Same Old Juice” closely followed by “The Name Game” - but to be honest they are all noteworthy in their own way.
What is your favourite memory in skateboarding from the 70’s and early 80’s?
Ooo that’s a tough one – So many come flooding back. I think it would have to be skating at Portland (Dorset, UK) Skate Escape in the summer ‘78/‘79in with locals James Davies, Steve Narraway, Piggy and Chris and the old Wareham crew Mark Farmer, Alan Bennett and Steve Grounds – some of the best times!
What is your favourite memory in skateboarding?
That would have to be the smell of a 70’s skate shop – failing that the awesome Wednesday night sessions at Southbank in the early 80’s with the best crew in the World – intense, wild, often rowdy but always the best fun ever and I am happy to say that we are all still in contact after all of these years and in most cases still skating!
What type of work do you do?
I work as a Commercial Contracts Manager in the Civil Service. I am also Secretary of the UK Slalom Skateboarding Association and race organiser.
You’ve been riding the new Kryptos for a couple of months now; can you share your thoughts on the wheels?
I have been riding 65mm Green’s on my park board and have used them for a couple of sessions in a little bowl nearby. I have also ridden them on numerous visits to Southbank recently - throwing out Bert’s and 360 slides just like the old days! I have even used them on my slalom board at the European Indoor Slalom Championships in December.
I have been using 70mm Red’s for cruising around and today I rode them From Southbank to Lambeth Town Hall with the Long Live Southbank crew to deliver the planning objections and they just ate up the pavement. This years must have commuting wheel!
How does it feel to be a Kryptonics Wheels International Ambassador?
When I first saw the e-mail from Steve I had to read it over again. I am just so unbelievably honoured and completely STOKED to be involved with one of the most iconic skate brands. SUPER STOKED!
We keep hearing about the efforts to save the Southbank skate spot. Can you tell us how it’s going?
The Southbank Centre have submitted an amended planning application for their ‘Festival Wing’ scheme, as well as a new, separate planning application for their proposed replacement “skateable space” under Hungerford Railway Bridge. Obviously this site is lacking any of the history, character or cultural value of the Undercroft. Not to mention that it has 20 trains an hour thundering overhead!
If these applications are accepted, it will mean the Undercroft is lost forever, to be replaced by commercial floor space. It is vital that we do our upmost to save this unique iconic London landmark and cultural space!
As I already mentioned yesterday I was one of the many that skated from Southbank to Lambeth Town Hall in Brixton to deliver over 26,000 individual planning objections. With this new UK-record-breaking number of planning objections, surely it is time for Lambeth Council to listen to the people, and to save the Undercroft?
How can people help?
Long Live Southbank now has over 100,000 members, with supporters from all over the world. If you wish to help and show your support please visit www.llsb.com where you can become a member, join the supporters, sign the petition and even buy a t-shirt (as worn by Dave Hackett!).
There is a Long Live Southbank Facebook page facebook.com/LongLiveSouthbank Twitter feed - @Long_Live_SB and Instagram feed @savesouthbank.
By becoming a member, you give official support to the campaign. There is no joining fee but by putting your name officially behind the campaign it will help us to show the importance of the Southbank Undercroft to its users.
So please join now folks, fill in the official Southbank Centre Survey too - let them know that you disagree with the direction they’re taking! Your support is very much appreciated.
What’s 2014 look like for you?
Well I think it might have just got a whole lot busier, Ha ha! Hopefully skating more parks and practicing my freestyle! I will shortly be working on the UK slalom racing calendar for 2014 and this year I am hoping to put on another major event at one of the countries favourite motor racing circuits – Oops I have said too much already!
In addition to that I look forward to working with everyone at Kryptonics and along with the other Ambassadors helping to spread “A New Wave of Stoke” through 2014 and beyond!