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Rewind: Hastings skateboard scene 1979-2014

May 16th, 2014 by Zac

Mark Richards’ methods are made legendary for White Rock Park locals. Hastings Observer, 1988.

mark_richards_method_air_whiterockpark

“Hastings has always been an odd place to skate. With so much history attached to the scene, it never really feels like its on any map with the rest of the UK scene. There’s no real reason why, as it seems to consistently breed generations of rippers, but the shitty transport connections and a reputation of sketchiness will happily put off traveling photographers, pros and filmers which cement its place on the fringes. Thankfully, not everything over the years has slipped by without any coverage. The Bones Brigade visited in the 80s when the vert ramp was a major landmark in UK skating, the Vans team took a trip here in the early 2000s with Ben Grove ollieing the massive rail on the seafront. It’s also had a few mentions in RAD, Crossfire and Sidewalk over the years too.

There have also been multiple Hastings scene videos released which is where Mark Richards comes in. He was just about still skating when I started in 1997/98 and I remember his crew rolling heavy at Safeway car park every Sunday after 4. However, most settled down, got married etc and slowly but surely their scene, that was built over at least a decade, had come to an end. Their scene was legendary in town following the release of Mark’s video ‘Snakeskin Jacket’. That flick graced our VHS decks until the tracking no longer did much to improve the quality of the worn-out magnetic strip! But even then, there were bootleg versions floating about. It was what we all aspired to as teenagers, involved in an activity that at the time wasn’t seen as the trendy/fashionable thing it is today. You still got a kick-in for wearing Airwalk’s instead of Reebok classics (now ironically released in partnership with a skate co), and street skating was well and truly confined to after dark or underground car parks.

Seeing these older guys drinking, partying and then absolutely tearing these spots (that we could barely skate) to pieces set them in our mind as being what we wanted to be. We quoted lines from the video (which were all lines from other things in the first place) and stared in wonder at a nipple height barrier that Marcus Levere ollied!

With that scene’s passing, another one grew. Ours. And we did the same sort of thing for another 10 years, until inevitably everyone either gave up or moved away. We left some videos in our wake courtesy of Tom Pickard, and I only hope we’ve in some way made an impression on the next generation who can take on the Olympic flame of the Hastings scene, putting their own spin on things and paving the way for the future.

I’m so glad Mark’s video has come together as I didn’t really see it happening, being such an undertaking – but I think it’s a testament to the generations of skaters who’ve come through Hastings. Enjoy it!” – Sam Roberts

Hi Mark, you’ve managed to squeeze in 13 minutes of skateboarding history over 35 years of sessions, how long did it take to find all of the footage and get the edit done?

I think it was about a year ago this idea popped into my head. I was trying to think of something different to do with a skate edit and I wanted to do something with some of the old footage in my archive and wondered if I could feature every Hastings skater possible in one edit.

I knew I had the 1979 Super8 film of Colin White in the long gone “Concrete Cave” Hastings skate park as a starting point as Colin had tracked this down from a relative overseas some time ago, so we asked them to send it over so that we could convert it. I also had loads of footage from the 80s to early 2000s. Luckily Tom Pickard continued documenting the scene after me, so I had his DVDs from the mid-2000s, Sam Roberts, Jono Coote, Toby Shaw and Asher Thornton gave me loads more footage and info too. Most of the newer skaters featured in this were tracked down via Facebook and they also sent me phone footage and YouTube links that I could rip. That was the hardest part, as I didn’t know a lot of these guys. Thankfully they all rallied round and sent footage over. I think everyone liked the idea of what I was trying to do. It’s probably taken me about 4-6 months to sort all the footage.

It must have been difficult choosing what went into this with years of footage lying about on tapes.

Haha! You can imagine how much footage there is over 35 years. I’ve made 6 full length Hastings skate videos over the years, so there’s quite a lot! My original plan was to have one trick per skater and blast through it, but when I started looking through the footage, I realised you can’t really sum up a skater like Joe Sandland (who’s been skating since the 80s and still killing it now) in one trick, so where I could, I went through the years with each skater and tried to pick their best/classic moments. It was hard not using certain tricks, but I think I got it right.

Ph: Bod Boyle liens into the opening of the Hastings ramp in 1989. Photographer unknown.

Bod Boyle at hastings ramp opening 1989

Hastings has sometimes had a gnarly reputation over the years, what has made it one of those special places aside from its obvious battle history? The music scene there has always had energy too.

It’s funny, Hastings does get a bad rep sometimes, but to be honest, we hardly ever saw that side of it. We always stuck to our scene, and when we were not skating, time was usually spent at the Crypt nightclub – aka the Hastings CBGB’s. The skate and music scene was, and is, still thriving. I’m not sure why that is, maybe there’s nothing else to do. Haha! A lot of the music in this edit has come from Hastings bands, or bands with strong ties to Hastings. Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell and Maid Of Ace are killing it right now, and they are all Hastings through and though. At the end of the day I love Hastings and its quirky goings-on. If you scratch the surface you will find amazing people and cultures, I couldn’t have asked for a better bunch of guys to have hanging round with for this long. I love the banter skaters have with each other; I think it’s exactly the same worldwide.

Ph: John Holdcroft floats a frontside air on the Hastings ramp in 1989 shot by Joe Sandland.

john Holdcroft 1989 photo by Joe sandlandExplain growing up down there on the coast in the 70’s and 80s, how skateboarding was probably frowned upon, the glue sniffing, the punks, the small coastal town attitude etc…

I actually grew up in Bexhill, 5 miles from Hastings. I think i started skating 85/86 and riding BMX before that. It was always fun being by the sea in the summertime. Myself and my friend Jason were the only skaters in town at the time. Back then, we didn’t get much grief, but that soon changed as more people started skating. The ‘olds’ used to tell us to “go PLAY somewhere else!”

It’s funny how punks were real punks back then. I always remember the Bexhill/Hastings punks when I was little, and by the late 80s, I guess I was one myself. I think a lot of the old brigade were like “wot you doing on a skateboard?” type of thing. I must admit, I didn’t give a shit. That’s what punk is about though isn’t it? I loved skating back in the late 80s with the the whole skate-punk thing. The Dead Kennedys and skating went hand in hand back then. I was talking to the Maid Of Ace girls in the car about glue sniffing recently and we wondered when those people actually stop doing it. You never hear about that any more. Probably a good thing though, as I remember seeing used glue bags everywhere in the mid-80s!

Brighton’s skate scene was always very territorial and had a ‘locals only’ vibe when I used to travel to skate there in the mid 80’s, did Hastings have some of that attitude too?

I was talking about the Brighton 80s scene the other day with Alex from Wonk Unit, telling him how OTT it was with the ‘locals only’ thing. He was quite surprised! When they built their vert ramp, (about 1987 I think) we used to go there all the time and that vibe was quite apparent. We just wanted to skate that ramp so the attitude wasn’t gonna stop us. Some of the old 70s crew were great though. Nice guys. I always liked skating there.

Usually it was just a bit of piss-taking and a vibe you could sense, but one time Colin White went for a skate there and was actually kicked off his board mid-run and told he couldn’t skate because he wasn’t from Brighton! We just all want to skate right?! Why the bullshit?! I think they just thought they were Dogtown. Haha!

As far as I remember Hastings always had a great vibe. The skaters and BMX riders all sessioned together, there was always a good bit of piss-taking and banter but that’s always a laugh! I never got that vibe from Brighton street skaters in the 90s though so hopefully that’s a thing of the past now and we can all just get on and be friends!

Was their rivalry between the two scenes over the years?

You know what, if there was I can’t say I noticed, so I’ll say no. We just wanted to skate and if some other crew was in town, the more the merrier! Unless they were dicks of course.

Hastings vert Ramp 1991

What characters from the 80s. 90’s and 00’s scenes stood out and made their mark within the Hastings scene?

Well, the original OG skaters are Colin White, his bro John and John Holdcroft. These guys were the Hastings 70s skaters who didn’t stop! You can imagine how much we looked up to these guys. They were that little but older and were all 16 or younger. They could also ride vert, and that made them LEGENDS! Haha!

As we started cutting our teeth in the 80s, certain individuals started standing out. Marcus Levere had (and still does) possess the biggest ollies ever! Dan Brown was an amazing all round skater. Check out his car ollie in the edit. Gary Comber had the mad tech tricks and mastered switch stuff before any of us, and then there was Kronus Taylor, who sadly died last year. He was best vert skater this town ever produced! Joe Sandland is the star of Hastings as he never stopped skating. When we all started drifting apart in the early 2000’s he had hooked up with the next generation and is still an amazing skater now.

Skaters like Tom Pickard, Sam Roberts Jono Coote, Luke Dench and many more really stand out from the 2000s scene. Tom had a bash at the massive double stairs and got so close, (check the edit). I think he thought someone had already done it, but when I told him he would have been the first if he’d made it, I could see it in his eyes. NOOOOOOOOOOO! There are too many to mention!

Ph: Marcus Levere grabs a crail off the wall for RAD mag back in 1988. Photo by TLB.

Marcus Levere in RAD mag 1988

Any locals skaters go on to be a ‘name’ as such in the UK scene?

I’m not sure any of us really got major acclaim. I think Marcus probably achieved the most as he managed to get photos in magazines and did very well at the Southsea street comp in 1988 (came 6th maybe?). About that time we would turn up places to skate and kids would start whispering to each other: “It’s him from Rad Mag!” He loved his 15 minutes of fame! Joe Sandland and some of the others had a fair bit of coverage too.

What about trick folklore?

Definitely Toms double stair attempt, Dan Brown’s car ollie, pretty much anything Marcus did. I think his frontside ollie nosepick on the top ledge at Southcliff still blows me away. That’s a big-ass ollie! (see edit) All of Gary’s bottle alley trickery and Dan’s gnarly nose blunt slides on the old bottle alley bench. That was 22 years back now – jeez!

Ph: Julian Wallinger, Jude Thwaites and Mark Richards chilling at Bottle Alley, 1995. Photo By Ben Davies.

Julian Wallinger , Jude Thwaites, Mark Richards Bottle Alley 1995 Photo By Ben Davies

Bottle Alley is a legendary spot with a million stories right?

Yeah. It’s an absolutely legendary Hastings spot. It is still there to this very day and just had its 100th birthday I believe. So many good sessions have gone down there.

Probably best to bring Sam Roberts in for a gnarly story at this point…

“Bottle Alley has countless stories of crazy people chasing us, skag addicts hurling abuse, dogs attacking us, tramp piss to fall into, etc. There are two massive estates in Hastings and they’ve had an unspoken feud for as long as I can remember. One time this feud accumulated into a running street battle that was pre-arranged in Hastings town centre. I recall being caught in the middle of this battle, back when you weren’t considered ‘cool’ to be a skateboarder, and the attentions of the skin-head in the leather trench-coat leading one of the factions, turned to my friend and I. Thankfully we took shelter in the local skate-shop at the time, but not before being chased the length of the seafront by at least 300 ‘townies’ – as we used to call them – putting their Reebok classics to good use!”

Ph: Jude Thwaites is filmed by Mark Richards at Bottle Alley, 1995. Photo By Ben Davies.

 Hide Me filming Jude Thwaites in Bottle Alley 1995. Photo By Ben

Mark, what other legendary spots would you bring back if you had your wish?

It would be cool to remove the railing on the banked fountain. They render it impossible to do anything on! It would also be so cool to have another skate on the legendary vert ramp and the midi that used to sit behind it. It was a beast! They were removed 22 years ago. Mike McGuinness told me that all the new kids believed a kid had fallen off the vert ramp and died and that was why the council had knocked it down. That did make me laugh! Nothing like a good rumour – it’s not true though.

Ph: Hastings Beach posse back in 2001. Photo by Marcus Levere.

group shot 2001 photo by Marcus Levere

How has the scene changed from yesteryear compared to today’s local rippers?

Well the one thing I will say is that they are not short of places to skate. The Boyley Forever Park at White Rock Gardens where the vert ramp was in the late 80s, is amazing. There’s also the Source bowl and the private 4Down park and also another little bowl in Hollington. Looking back, we would have nearly wet ourselves if we’d found a bit of 8×4 plywood that we could make into something to skate!

I love seeing the progression now. It’s a pleasure to watch kids do all the technical stuff and hitting stairs with incredible tricks. They are so good. I’m glad we are holding our own with what we did back then. The thing that really gives me a bit of a head fuck from the edit is that when we were skating in the 90s, the kids at the end of the edit had not even been born yet!

Ph: Mike McGuinness flies the flag for Hastings all the way back in 2012.

Mike McGuinness 2 2012

Who in the scene today leads the way for the Hastings crew?

From what I’ve seen lately, I would say Toby Shaw and Mike McGuinness are amazing. Very different styles as well. Mike’s got that Frankie Hill thing going on (which I love) and Toby’s style is so damn smooth, it’s insane. These guys are ones to watch. Tom Pickard has new full-length Hastings skate video coming out in October for the Source skate shop that will feature all the current players, keep an eye out for it. I haven’t seen this footage but I know it’s gonna be mad!

What I’ve really enjoyed lately is seeing the new guys and what’s happening now. They are so good. Standouts for me are people like Kieran Brooks, Lewis Wadham, Zane Strong and that crew, Malachia and Glenn – they are progressing fast! Oh, and Joe Wood has skills! I’m looking forward to seeing what legacy they all leave in years to come!

Jono Coote gets handy in Wheelscape’s concrete playground, 2012. Photo by Mark Richards.

Jono Coote hastings park 2011

If you were too change anything from your many days of skateboarding over the years in Hastings, Bexhill and beyond, what would it be?

When I was skating I loved it. I don’t think I would change any of it. The guys I skated with are friends for life and that’s one amazing part of life that skateboarding offers. Top blokes! If anything, I would maybe want some of these skate parks that are everywhere now. I would have loved to have skated them in my prime. A few months back I had a skate at a park, wedged on a stone and broke my arm – getting old sucks!

Last shouts outs. Who could you have not done this edit without?

Tom Pickard has been a legend with his knowledge of dates and footage. I get a bit lost once I get past 2002! Sam, Joe, Jono and Asher for some great footage and info, plus all the others who took time to send me footage. Thanks so much guys for helping me with this massive task!

Ph: Toby Shaw on the rise shot by Mark Richards.

toby shaw

New Zealand legend Lee Ralph ripped Hastings and ended up on the cover of RAD.

rad_lee_ralph

Ph: Kronus Tayler ruled Hastings vert ramp. RIP. Photo TLB (RAD).

Ph: Mark Richards brings the punk to Hastings’ vert scene in 1989.

Backyard skate shop in 1989.

RIP Hastings vert ramp.

An advert for Hastings’ Concrete Cave from 1979.

Hastings Concrete cave Ad 1979

Sam Roberts’ from Florecast Magazine.

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