Tuesday, 24 July 2012

A blast from my skateboarding past: My first ever skateboard

After a week of trawling through a box of old photos I finally managed to locate a photo of my very first skateboard, a 'Turbo II'. The photo confirms that it was every bit as cheap and nasty as I remember! Purchased some time around 1990, as far as I can remember it was from the Irish supermarket chain Quinnsworth's (now owned by Tesco) toy department. I don't recall it being bought for my birthday or any other particular occasion, so I must have used enough 'pester power' on my Mum to get it for me.  As you can see from the photo it had plastic trucks (!!) and terrible hard plastic wheels that took some effort to roll on. Even at that young age and without any skater friends I was acutely aware of the limitations of such a board and used to spend hours pouring over fancy 'proper' skateboards in magazines and in my local skateshop in Monkstown Wind & Wave (sadly long since gone, this shop mainly sold windsurfing gear, hence the name. It also stocked some fancy skateboarding gear). My weekly pocket money didn't stretch to buying anything better, so instead I saved up £10 to get some decent bearings put into my wheels. This was under the mistaken believe that it would make my rubbish wheels roll better. I seriously doubt it made much difference. For all it's faults, I still loved that skateboard and kept it for many years after I stopped skating. I think my mother finally threw it out in one of her cleanouts, otherwise I'm sure I'd still have it...

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Girl Skate Jam UK

I spent last weekend in St Albans, England at an all girls skate jam. Lucy Adams had gushed about how wonderful the Jam was when I had my lesson with her. When I mentioned it to my skate buddy Marie, she was really excited about the prospect of seeing and skating with women that could actually skate (instead of having to watch me attempt a kickturn for the twentieth time!). Before I knew it, we had booked our flights to Luton (nearest airport to St Albans) and sorted out some accommodation in the town centre. I skated as much as I could leading up the jam weekend as I wanted to try and get the most out of my time there. I had also discovered that the massive indoor XC Skatepark was only 30 minutes for St Albans by bus, so we penciled in a trip there on the Friday.

On Friday morning we headed of on the bus to Hemel Hempstead. The XC was just as big and impressive as it looked in the photos. Two of the girls taking part in the Jam were already there skating; Emily Russell and Emma Richardson and later on we were joined by Lucy who had decided to come up for part of the afternoon session. As often happens when I visit a new skatepark I was feeling a little nervous. Although all the ramps were wood the floor was concrete, and due to the rainy conditions outside had some very slippy patches (I managed to slip out just pushing off in one spot). I had also lost the ability to kickturn at any sort of speed, something that I have recently been learning and practicing. I did however roll down some fairly large ramps, building up plenty of speed in the process, which gave me a bit more confidence. The most impressive features in the park were the bowl and the pool, the only indoor concrete bowl and pool complex in the UK. However the highly polished concrete and steep drop looked far too slippy for me and I decided instead to watch Lucy show me how it's done!
Me & Marie at the XC Skatepark
After the XC we all headed back to St Albans to skate in the Pioneer skatepark, which was being opened especially for a girls only session. Pioneer is one of the UK's oldest indoor skateparks and it is here that photographer and skateboarder Jenna Selby, has been organising the Girl Skate Jam for a very impressive 11 years! She also runs her own skateboard company Rogue, which has a team of female riders.  Pioneer has a large indoor section with wooden ramps and a concrete floor and an outdoor section with a large mini ramp and a midi ramp. Some of the other riders were there and I was particular impressed by Anita Almonte an Italian rider who was shredding the ramps to bits. Again the concrete floor, this time a little cracked and uneven, made me nervous. I was a bit frustrated with myself as I desperately wanted to get to get as much as possible out of the sessions in the new parks. However with skateboarding, as with most other activities, sometimes you just have off days. Still it was great to have such a large space to skate in and even better that it was full of women ripping the place up.
Pioneer Skatepark
The Skate Jam was the next day and myself and Marie headed over to the park just before 12pm. The jam didn't get going for a couple of hours so this gave me a chance to have a little roll around the ramps. Marie decided to feel the fear and signed up to skate in her first ever skateboard competition, the over 18's jam. I was just happy to watch... The comp was split into an under 18's jam, an over 18's jam,  a sponsored jam, and a mini ramp contest. The day was was really chilled and it great to hang out and watch some fantastic women skateboarders. Lucy Adams cleared up in the sponsored jam and mini ramp contest, while Anita Almonte took the over 18's, and Rogue rider Claire Thompson claimed the under 18's prize. There was also a special Best Newcomer to the GSJ award for 8 year old ripper Tamsin Bunce, who impressed everyone with her skills on the mini ramp. Check out a full break down of the results here. That evening most of us headed to the Beehive pub in St Albans for a few well earned drinks and a good laugh.
Mini ramp at Pioneer skatepark
Girl Skate Jam 2012
The whole weekend was really inspirational and further confirmation that taking up skateboarding is making my life more interesting! The skaters were one of the nicest groups of women I've ever met, everybody was really chilled and genuinely friendly. They made myself and Maire feel very welcome and we are going to keep in touch with some of the skaters we met. I can't wait to get back over to England for some more shredding!