The 1980s skate scene in the UK was a blast, fueled by countless comps, parties and shredding going down weekly all over the country. These raucous gatherings formed lifelong friendships and pushed skateboarding forwards from each session, all leaving a trail of destruction, smeared graphics on the coping, and many memories in their wake that paved the way for what we have today.
The influx of American riders throughout those times played a big influence in how quickly the scene progressed, which has been covered extensively in the new Sk8 80’s book just released. It’s been a long time coming but Trawler and Paul Duffy, the duo behind the 212 page coffee table must-have, have delved into the archives to bring us what makes up this rad new book looking back on the entire era with unseen photos and plenty of stories from their travels. It would have been rude of us not to find out how it all came together and who made the cut, so we asked Mark ‘Trawler’ Lawer to fill us in.
Easy Trawler, it looks like you’ve been busy mate, care to tell us about how this book came to fruition?
Well it was an idea we had back in 2005, but we sat on it for another ten years while the photos matured. Between 1987 to 1991 I worked with Paul Duffy on articles for Skateboard! Magazine, (the exclamation mark in the title is important!) together we covered mainly Southern England and sometimes further afield, driving everywhere together in my Vauxhall Nova to cover mad weekends at contests and doing interviews and scene reports for the mag.
How did you and Paul meet originally?
Paul came to Plymouth to study photography at our art college. We’d met a few times earlier when I’d visited Liverpool and Warrington to skate but he was a bit of a fish out of water at first in Plymouth, a scally in a strange town. So I helped him out and we became good friends and travel companions. I reckoned I could write for a publication if asked and the magazine was looking for skate correspondents at the time. I jumped at the chance and soon we were off on many a wild ride.
Ph: Bod Boyle gets straight legged in a Morfa sesh.
Tell us about the 1980’s skate scene and your memories of Southsea, as that park was definitely a mecca in that era.
I don’t remember too much, it was a bit like our version of what they say about the sixties. If you remember it, you weren’t there! There was a lot of pot smoking about and most of the skaters I knew were burning through tons of the stuff. The skatehouse in Southsea was owned by Mr Tracy Weller, it was a small terrace in Liss Road and every weekend there would be skaters turning up from all over the UK, and then Europe, and then the world. It was carnage most of the time, stumbling back from the countless drinking sessions in Southsea’s pubs. Some of us went on to Peggy Sues, a sticky dive nightclub on the seafront for more debauchery, then it was usually all back to Liss Road for more drinking and smoking. People lying around in all corners. Parties, skate videos on loop, skaters being sick in the sink and on the dishes, carpet skating, stair diving contests, Butthole Surfers blaring out at 2am, huffing on poppers just for a laugh: “here try this!” Generally we all acted the asshole! Tracy’s neighbours must of hated him. Looking back it surprises me how anybody rode skateboards the next day, especially the Sunday afternoon sessions at the skatepark, they were hard going!
There were a few other hotspots with vert ramps and parks that were just as popular for a roadtrip back then too, right?
Yeah. When we travelled to other places it was just as bad. Morfa in Wales with the big red vert ramp and the other ramps they had before the huge one, was always an epic trip too. Getting drunk in Langland and Mumbles – I barely recollect getting on the helter skelter ride on the seafront late at night and going up and back down about twenty times!
Brighton and the Pig City Level ramp was just as mental, we would always get invited back to someone’s flat for a pow-wow. One time we shared the room with a massive cage and a huge python. I remember some random Brighton skater sat in the pen with it, blowing smoke in the snakes face! Throughout these times we had to try and come away with some rad, non-blurry skate photos and enough memories to write a clean story on the events of the weekend!
Ph: Danny Webster’s crail slides traveled round the world.
There are quite a few pages of American visitors in the book from that period…
Yeah, we have about 80 pages of American riders in there, mostly anyone who was anyone came through the Southsea park because it was the place to skate back then. They all loved Harrow and Rom too, those parks have that quaint old English feel about them, even more so now. To an American skater, I guess Rom is like a cobbled street or Stonehenge or something!
When we first took Craig Johnson out for a beer in Southsea he had just got off the plane from Texas. We handed him his first English pint and he thought it was a pitcher of beer to share! By the end of the night the six foot four, dreadlocked Texan was slurring and stumbling back to the skatehouse shouting AGUA -AQUA! at the top of his voice, I guess he needed some water to dilute it down! I Interviewed him for the magazine and he was cool and had a lot to say.
I interviewed Rob Mertz too, he was cool but different to most I met back then. Mertz is a straightedge East coast punk with a ‘sober till I die” outlook with X’s drawn on the back of his hands. I had never heard of the straightedge lifestyle before and I was in awe of the guy and his skating was off the hook, he is still amazing now. I also sat down with Allen Losi for an interview, he won the Shut Up and Skate vert contest here and he did the same at the same contest in Houston. He could go for trick filled rides of about 25 walls, a minute and a half of sick skateboarding per ride, so much stamina and so underrated before he got here.
Southsea always reminds me of the late Steve Schneer (RIP) from a comp I went down there to watch once, his stamina was next levs..
He said he surprised himself at how well he skated over here. He was such an entertainer with the Ho-Ho plant and he dropped in a big makeshift plywood extension twenty feet off the ground at that Southsea contest that went down in history. He became legend and folklore that day! Sadly Steve is no longer with us and our book ends with a RIP section to the ‘fallen heroes’ if you like – those skaters who we met and photographed and got to know but are sadly now gone.
Ph: Steve Douglas’ lip tricks were far classier than his choice of football team.
It must have been a trip going through so much nostalgia, remembering so many stories on the road and discovering old photos…
Yes it was a pleasure for me to do and rekindle my friendship with Duffy over last winter. We went through boxes of slides, hundreds of them. We both shared constant neck ache from holding them up to the light. Some had aged and were damaged, some had caught damp and were irretrievable. Luckily our local photo lab had a process called ICE which cleaned the back spots and mould off the final J-Pegs so we went from super anxious to super stoked when we saw the discs full of our 220 cleaned up shots. When it came to writing the captions I was just honest and matter-of-fact about the skaters on the page, to try to give the reader an insight into what the subject is up to now in their lives. I seem to be in touch with everyone who was a British “Pro” through social media, so that helped a lot. There are some pretty cool people in skateboarding then and now, most of us go on to have great lives with lots of achievement despite being the mad idiots we were back then.
Ph: Scott Stanton brings hench Zorlac plant steez to Southsea’s infamous blue vert.
How many books did you get printed?
We are on our second print run of the book now this year, the first 330 sold out in two weeks so we have another 20 dozen made for now up until Christmas. A bunch of those are on pre-order and sold now too.
It must be a buzz knowing that people have supported it after all the hard work.
It has been an amazing experience and the feedback we get is very gratifying. People send us photos of themselves reading it and holding it up from all over the world.
Would you do it all again?
Hell yes! We are already planning a follow up book called REBATE! – The black and whites and more. That one should be out by mid 2016 if all goes well.
Sk8-80’s Book is available now whilst stocks last from sk880s.bigcartel.com.
Jeff Hedges – 360 Varial Handplant.