Despite all the videos, web sites, magazines and other mediums that cover skateboarding, one discipline is missing: Vert. Despite being some of the hardest working pros on the circuit who fly endlessly around the globe in the goal of promoting what we love, they still get no real love from us.
Well, Crossfire wants to buck this bizarre trend and pass the mic to a man who has sessioned with the best, and beat the rest- Pete King. He is known for his vert skills but can skate anything you put in front of him. Say hello to one of the the UK’s skate ambassadors and appreciate the lovely photography courtesy of Richie Hopson.
Hey Pete! I’ve been trying to get a hold of you but it’s very hard. Last time I tried, you were off in Estonia- What was going on over there?
Yeah, sorry. There was a street comp over there, and it was the last trip for the Vans Team manager Pete Derichs, so we went out there for a bit of a party weekend and a skate.
Did you get to skate much?
Yeah, I skated a fair bit of street, but the day of the comp it was looking pretty grey and I was suffering irregular chronic bowel movements… But I had a good little skate before then, but I guess I was suffering my slight over indulgence of the night before!
Who is Gerald? And did you find him at a bus stop?
(Laughs) Ah! Gerald and Neil Kirby are the British mascots at Marseille! Legends- proper piss heads, always up for it. Neil, if he isn’t smoking one, he’s rolling one… They are sort of like a bickering old couple, but it’s worth going to Marseille, just to see them! (Laughs)
Did you see Brewce Martin skate naked at Marseille?
Nah… I had a mad night out with him there, though. After the comp, I had to catch a flight early the next day to Austria. Everyone was at the pub, but ended up going to bed around half eleven. I didn’t want to sleep for fear of missing such an early flight, so I hooked up with Brewce and some dodgy birds he was chasing after, and we went clubbing in Marseille. It was mad! He’s such a hillbilly, but so good. I mean, he’ll let anyone sleep on his property if they are down for skating. He’s got that massive Skatopia ranch, and he keeps telling me to get out there.
If you went, would you drop in naked out of respect?
To be honest, I don’t think I’d dare! (Laughs) He sent me footage of a comp or jam thing at Skatopia, and while guys are skating the bowl, there are people pissing in the bowl, fgalling in the bowl naked, chairs being thrown at the skaters while they ride it! It looks absolutely gnarly! I think I’d stick to the background for safety… (Laughs)
Why did you have to be carried home from Marseille?
(Laughs) Oh! Suffering from over indulgence again! That was messy weekend. Apparently, I was a little worse for wear and needed a shoulder to lean on. But, I did wake up with cuts and scratches all over my body, shit on my clothes, sprinklers were going off… I think I threw a bit of a wobbly due to the mix of sitting in the sun all day and skating, filling myself up with beer and whisky…
Tired and emotional..?
Not emotionally disturbed, just physical! (Laughs) The night after, I had a whitey so I went to sit down on the beach and the next thing I knew it was the following morning! Freezing cold, alone, board still there-luckily!
What do you think about all the drama that went down last year with the Anti-Hero team?
Actually, I missed most of it because of a Quiksilver tour, but people told me a bit about it. Apparently someone burnt a park, which is disgusting in my opinion! Tomi Tomminnen, the Quiksilver team manager sparked one of them… I don’t know. I’ve only ever met a couple of people in skateboarding who are real dicks. You get the odd bitter person who is acting a bit devious, but other wise I really only meet good people through skating on my travels. In the magazines, they should quit the corporate blackouts and just ban someone’s coverage if everyone knows that they are a cock!
When did you first catch a glimpse of a skateboard?
First time I ever saw live skating was in a friend’s garden, his older brother had a mini ramp round the back of his house. It was only 2 foot high with no coping, but there were loads of kids sessioning it. I went down there and watched them skate it, but before long I borrowed someone’s board, and that was when I got into it. This was about 15 or 16 years ago.
It’s a weird assumption, but do you think riding a ramp to start has led you to become the ramp rider you are today?
No, not really. We had the mini ramp in that kids garden, and we kind of helped build it because his dad would take us around building sites and we’d nick the wood and stuff. We had a spine ramp with a vert bit to it that ran up the wall. Then, the kid also had a quarter pipe in his garage and an adjustable flat bar on the floor… He even had bits of plywood lent up against his kitchen windows! It was amazing, like a little skatepark. Pikey as hell, but amazing! Then that kid stopped skating and his dad just tore it all down, so I couldn’t skate ramps again for years… Strictly carparks.
Do you think some kids get it a bit easy with all the parks at their disposition? Don’t you think they need to get out there and build some ghetto ramps themselves?
I wouldn’t say it’s too easy, but some kids don’t realise how good they’ve got it. A lot of the kids live near skateparks, but don’t actually bother to visit them. They’d rather go to town and skate some set of stairs and a bit of flat with a ledge or something. If I think back to the time when I used to street skate all the time, it’s because that was all there was to skate! If we had had a park back then, we’d have been there everyday. It’s good to see that there are a lot of great skateparks that have been built in the UK, but it depends where the kids live, I guess? We’re definitely starting to catch up with Europe which is great.
You’re an avid supporter of skateparks aren’t you?
Yes for sure. That way the parks get some good designs with everyone’s input. Everyone in England complains about how shit skatepark designs are, so if you can get involved and make something good, why not?
Should skaters be more supportive of their parks?
Definitely! I like that Sidewalk Magazine have started doing these park reviews; that’s really positive. Some kids don’t realise what they are missing with the parks because you can skate all day without getting the boot, hang out with your mates, and they are ours. They were made for skating!
Aren’t you getting your own ramp built at the moment?
Yeah, I’m getting a vert ramp built which Vauxhall are funding. I’ve been working on it for the last year, and it’s been complicated to accomplish, but we’re there now and the ramp’s getting built. Hopefully it’ll be at the Urban Games and NASS. It’s just a big fuck off vert ramp basically! Probably the biggest in the country…
I heard you copied the exact measurements from Tony Hawk’s ramp..?
Yeah! My mate skates that ramp all the time, so I phoned him up and got the details.
Have you skated Tony’s ramp?
Yeah, I have- It’s amazing. That’s why I specified on getting the duplicate done because it’s the best ramp I ever skated. Tony Hawk’s ramp is in this building that looks like the headquarters of HSBC or something because it’s on the premises of the Tony Hawk Federation- a charity organisation that does all these fundraisers and stuff. It’s a good thing, but it’s pretty glitzy! The ramps round the back. You know, the one he uses on his Boom Boom Huck Jam tours? It’s got a loop and a 10 foot channel, big fuck off roll-ins… Insane!
You mentioned Vauxhall- this isn’t the first time you work with them, is it? What was that Vauxhall Skate City thing about?
I just got a phone call out of the blue! I think they had been asking around, and I was lucky that the people they asked had suggested me. They came up with a project they wanted me to do with a designer, Sam Buxton, where they wanted something unusual to skate. It had to be 50% skateable and 50% design project. Sam was a good dude who had a good laugh making it, but the photos that came out of Skate City didn’t do it justice because there was a lot more of it. You could move it all about, and there were proper ledges and kickers but it was all adjustable so you could make the gaps bigger and stuff. When it was up and done loads of people came to skate it and it was good fun.
Do you think we could see another Skate City thing in the future..?
Uhh… No, I think that’s done now, and I will try and shift some of the units into my shed for later use, I mean you could put them on top of a vert ramp and skate them like that. Vauxhall’s project at the moment that I’ve been working on is this vert ramp. I’ll try and get the ramp to various events which is good because like that the guys won’t have to skate dodgy set ups anymore!
You didn’t manage to blag a free car out of Vauxhall?
(Laughs) Nah, but they did lend us a nice one!
Now, street skating dominates the media- what do you think it would take to bring vert riding back into the spotlight and regain the reigns of popularity?
Well, it’s sad but true, but I honestly think that if Girl, DVS, Chocolate, Lakai and other big companies like that started sponsoring vert riders and putting coverage of them out there, then the kids might start to skate vert again. I mean, the British skate scene does follow America quite a bit in regards trends. Actually, some of the most talented kids I’ve seen ride skateboards recently have been the ones on vert! In England we’ve got some amazing little rippers! Ben Raemers is rad, Paul Luke, Sam Beckett… They’re both throwing down rodeos and flipping their boards about, and they have only been skating for like 2 or 3 years! I think vert skating definitely going to have a big comeback and with all the little kids coming up, the takeover bid is on.
Would you agree with me when I say those X-Games events killed vert in the eyes of skateboarding?
Yeah, and the other thing is vert skating attracts weird people. I mean, I have friends who ride vert and rip it to bits, but they aren’t interested in any other areas of the sport. They couldn’t name one person that rides for Girl, for example. They don’t care about any of that malarkey, they just care about riding their boards which to me is really refreshing because there are too many people looking the other way. Vert does tend to attract the people who just like to ride their boards. I mean, I’ve been to loads of competitions and there are those riders who you can tell have planned their runs perfectly, and take it so seriously because all they want to do is win.
Well, how do you feel in those comps, like Marseille for instance, where dudes like Omar Hassan put down the same tricks everytime and pocket the cash, just because he does a heelflip or something? Surely it must be annoying…
No, not really. When I watch Andy Scott riding a comp, I can physically feel myself wanting him to go off because some people like him are the embodiment of what skating should be for me. Andy Scott is one of the best vert riders in the world! He skates everything, and I really respect that. Even if he loses to someone else at a comp, I look at Andy and know that he is in a different league of ability to everyone else. Of course, he might miss a trick because he hasn’t practised as hard as the next guy, and that’s a disappointment, but really I’m still one hundred percent behind him. He’ll never win the X-Games, but ability wise Andy is there!
I must say that you are a bit of a British skate ambassador what with all these tours and demos you do- How and when did you get into that line of work?
The first time I did a demo was at this event called ‘Live 95’ through Andy Peerless funnily enough. But I guess I’ve just been lucky really… A lot of the reason why I started doing these tours was because of the vert ramps. Vert was completely dead, but I kept at it with a couple of mates because it was still fun to skate. A couple of guys invested in these portable ramps because it was easier to travel with than a whole street course, and the general publics could relate to it a bit better. They put these ramps at all sorts of events: fashion shows, trade shows, art shows and all that kind of malarkey… Honestly, I think it’s good for skateboarding. I know the ‘cool’ kids diss it and look at it as commercial, but the fact of the matter is this is how a lot of kids see skateboarding for the first time! They might not end up skating a vert ramp but they’ll see skating and think, “That looks fun!” Plus it gets skating out there, and it’s a chance to skate with your mates, having a laugh. I never went out of my way to do these tours and demos, but I just got the chance. If you do one event one year and people are happy with you, not being a dick, then they’ll invite you to the following one next year and so forth… A lot of the random trips I have done are usually through friends who hooked me up and blagged me in on it with them.
At one of the big demo/comps you’ve been to, have you ever swapped suits with other athletes, like don some rollerblades or something..?
(Laughs) I’ve never put rollerblades on! I’ve had a go on someone’s bike before but only for a couple of minutes. I went to Woodward Skate camp with a couple of mates, me Dave Allen and a couple of bikers, and the bikers were trying to get us to land backflips into the foam pit! So I jumped on his bike, but stacked it just going up the quarter pipe! (Laughs) But Dave was nearly doing backflips!
Have you ever been star-struck when you’ve been skating?
I did one demo in London that was pretty full-on: It was at London Arena and I knew Tony Hawk would be there, but I just thought it would be a demo style thing, no pressure… Inside it was just a vert ramp because it had been sold as a Tony hawk demo. There were people outside, packed inside, people couldn’t get tickets… Danny Way was there, Bucky Lasek, Jason Ellis… That was one time when I thought, “What the fuck am I doing on the ramp with these lunatics???” Danny Way was always my favourite as a kid, so that demo was a bit of a trip! It’s a bit surreal, you know?
You must have a fair few stories. What were some of the craziest places or things you’ve had to skate?
I’ve done a few weird ones… One time, Jocke Olson from Sweden was staying with me over at my mum’s place, and he got this call from Taiwan where they wanted two skaters to go join a circus for 6 months. Jocke blagged me in on it, and we had a week to decide if we wanted to go and sign these amazing contracts. I mean, it was meant to be loads of money, but remember that me and Jocke were both dead broke back then! (Laughs)
So off we go and when we get there it’s fully run by the mafia, and they hadn’t even begun building a ramp! (Laughs) So we were just stuck in Taiwan with nothing to do except tag along with this circus and hang out with all these Mongolian acrobats, Russian bear trainers… Full on circus family, you know! Me and Jocke just had a mad party and met all the local skaters and went street skating every day. Jocke had brought all his records with him, so I went around all the clubs saying Jocke was a DJ. Nobody spoke much English out there, and in those days there weren’t many visitors, so I’d go there and say, “Yeah, I work at Ministry of Sound…”- because that was the only British club they had heard of.!- “…and we’re really happy to have top DJ Jocke Olson with us who’s prepared to play at your club!” (Laughs)
Yeah! So Jocke had these life-size posters of him outside the clubs and he’d be playing three clubs a week getting paid cash! Plus, Jocke owed me money, so I got paid back sweet… It was street skating by day, and mad benders at night! We never ended up skating in the circus, but after seven weeks the bloke who sent us out there started to sue the guy who wouldn’t pay us. Like something out of a film, at 2 in the morning there was a knock on the door. Me and Jocke had just got back from another night out, pissed up, and I open the door to these two big fuckers in suits with a lady. The two gorillas didn’t say a word, and the women kept telling us, “Here are your plane tickets- You’ve got to leave tomorrow!” Naturally, we’re having fun so we’re like, “No, we don’t want to!” at which point she insists and basically threatened us that if we didn’t leave they’d break out legs! So, basically we took the tickets like we were going to leave the next day, but she hadn’t actually threatened us, it was more implied, if you know what I mean..? “You must go! You have no choice! You must go… Very serious if you stay. Very serious.” But we had met a few people by now, so we left the hotel and started hanging out at theirs for another couple of weeks… But yeah, that was one of the weirder ones! (Laughs)
What was the worst course you’ve ever had to ride?
One time, a friend called me up and said they wanted some skaters to do a demo at some event up in Nottingham. I get there really early in the morning, security lets me in no problem, and there in the hall is this massive vert ramp. So, I’m like, “Rad! But I haven’t got my pads…” I jump on it anyway to cruise about, and this guy comes running up like, “Fucking get off the ramp! That’s not for you, it’s for the BMXers! Your ramp’s upstairs…” So, I walk upstairs and all I see is two little fly-offs lying on some carpet! The ramps weren’t even attached to the floor… Otherwise, I had to do a demo at Donnatella Versace’s house and they had put these weird plastic sheets all over the ramps…
Eh? How does that work??
Well, it didn’t! (Laughs) You might be able to skate it, but you could bail because it would rip your jeans, bite your kneepads and spit you to your face! The reason they used it was because it looked nice behind this catwalk with all these precious models???
Zac mentioned a deal with Al-Jazeera TV- what was that about?
Oh! Some guy had been organising it for ages; he wanted us to travel all across the Middle East doing demos with Al-Jazeera filming and stuff. Some of it sounded ok, like Dubai and Saudi Arabia, but that wsas the diluted version because initially it was supposed to take us through the gnarlier places over there and show skating to the kids. The guy had been busting his balls organising it, but in the end the plug got pulled, so hopefully we can have another go next year.
Do you ever put limits as to where these tours could go?
Well, I did have my reservations about going to Iraq! Sure it would good to get some footage of us going into Iraq, but we’d be prime targets for kidnappers with the film crew and all that…The plug go pulled for whatever reason, but I would have gone because I wouldn’t want to miss out on an opportunity like that.
What would be your words of advice to a skater who wants to travel the world like that?
I think who you go with is really important. Pick your travel buddies wisely because it can be more important than where you choose to go!
Do you think skaters need to organise themselves a bit better when approached for one of those kind of trips?
I don’t know… I mean, the whole corporate side of things don’t really like skaters and vice versa but it got us out there. The big corporations are making millions off various pro shoes and stuff, so you shouldn’t be fooled by clever advertising. Especially Nike! Look how many kids are running around with Nikes on their feet? Nike is an old Chav brand that have never done anything for skateboarding, and they just dived in at the Eleventh hour because they know they can make money off of skateboarding. And that’s cool??? A company like Red Bull have been working with skaters for ages and done tours and stuff promoting it, like funding comps so we can skate and get together, but they still don’t seem to get the same type of Kudos as Nike who have done nothing!
It might come down to the way you sell your stuff because I know Nike has some pretty harsh tactics…
Yeah, but I was talking about this with a friend who runs a skateshop, and he said in Nike’s defence that they do give exclusive rights to skateshops with all their sneaker-mugs limited edition stuff… I don’t know the ins and outs of that, but at least that sounds like a good thing.
I don’t know if the kids are aware, but skateboarding is going through a bit of a slump at the moment. Has it affected you at all?
The slump that’s affecting shops doesn’t have to do with less kids skating now. I’m certainly not seeing that from going to the parks and stuff, but shops are probably suffering because there’s a slight recession at the moment. I mean, all the local kids at my skatepark buy their shit off E-Bay now, so the slump is probably more due to that than kids not skating.
What did you feel when Reaction bowed out of the game?
To be honest, I couldn’t really give a monkey’s arse because I didn’t really ride Reaction boards anyway! They didn’t make a board that was wide enough for me. But it was a shame because all the people on the team were friends. At the end of the day, where you get your skateboard from isn’t on the end of my list of worries, in so far as at that period of time I had no input over at Reaction. It’s alright; their demise didn’t stop me skating. I’d be more gutted if I twisted my ankle! (Laughs)
So how is it now riding for Karma Skateboards?
I’m really stoked with Karma because if you ride for an American company through a distributor then you have nothing to do with that company, you’re not part of it and the people on the team in America probably don’t even know you exist. Adam, who runs Karma, phoned me up to explain the whole Ethos of the company, and it was clear to me from his first words that he wasn’t in this to make money and he does actually care about what he’s doing. Adam’s supportive of his riders, and just his whole attitude towards running the company really suits what I think. Even the guy who they’ve got doing the graphics, Mick Foster, he’s a long time ripper himself, so I can see him out skating every weekend and that’s the kind of person I’d like to work with, you know? Karma aren’t bothered about being cool, they are just down for skating. I’m stoked.
How does a Karma trip compare to a huge demo circuit deal?
It’s all pretty much the same because I’m skating with mates. Obviously with a Karma trip there is less pressure, but lately I haven’t been skating vert too much so if I get the call to go ride a ramp with maniacs who ride perfect ones all the time, it can get me a bit stressed.
Karma have a well-rounded team, haven’t they?
Yeah, it’s great! Dave Snaddon is on and he has got massive pop- fucking spring loaded legs! (Laughs) You can learn tricks, but you can’t learn what he’s got.
What has skateboarding taught you?
Skating taught me that people come from all walks of life, be it pikey or pilot. I also appreciate the travelling because I’ve seen there is so much more to the world than just my local area.
What do you do in your down time off the board? How do you switch off and unplug from the plank?
I live with my girlfriend and she couldn’t be further away from skating which is good because I wouldn’t like to skate all day, come home, talk about skating, have dinner, watch a skate video… Just general living, I suppose; take the dog for a walk, go out weekends and get drunk, dance like a dad at a wedding… (Laughs)
What are your plans for the future?
Get busy helping with these parks down Monaco way. I’ve just been finishing off a section for Andy Evan’s new video, This ‘n’ that. With Karma, we’re looking to do a tour in the Baltic region, but the country isn’t decided yet.
Ok, Pete. Run off your sponsors and thanks.
Karma Skateboards, Quiksilver Clothing, Vans… Cheers to the Extreme Sport Channel, Screwed Hardware run by a friend of mine, Type S wheels and Independent Trucks. Thanks to everyone that has helped me out and put me up on my travels!