Do you remember the very first skate spot you saw as a kid? That very moment where life just instantly stops around you and the session you have discovered makes your eyes bulge. Close your eyes right now and recall that moment…
Now think yourself lucky that it happened and changed your life forever.
Back in the 1980’s, I was at school preparing to go on a sports trip to Crystal Palace sports centre. We went there to swim, play 5-a-side football and watch basketball at the time, so we had the freedom to spend a few hours every month just doing what we wanted there. On that first trip, I remember sneaking out to find somewhere to smoke the very first doobie of my life. It was so badly rolled that it resembled a banana but left me and my friends in a stooped haze that led to discovery of the Crystal Palace ramp.
A session was in full swing as we arrived. I will never forget the sound of the coping being slashed as it drew us all closer and closer until we were encapsulated by the energy of people pulling handplants and slashing the coping in front of us.
This experience blew my mind. I had a blue polyprop skateboard that I used to ride in the streets outside my house at the time. I had no idea you could ride them on ramps, so this was where it all started. It was this spot that led to being addicted to what skateboarding offers us all and what essentially has led to your daily dose of skate news and more on this mag 26 years later.
Last year, photographer and long time skateboarder David Hopkins posted a bunch of vintage, black and white skateboard photographs online. Seeing the history that he’d captured from yesteryear brought back instant memories of that very first session and led to various skaters being tracked down all over the world to get this feature together.
Discover some UK skate history with stories of this cherished vert ramp from all involved.
Crystal Palace vert ramp had 5 incarnations:
1 = Where the 2 original quarter pipes where, facing each other across the tracks.
2 = 1st ramp location. No coping then steel coping on one side.
3 = By the side of the bridge.
4 = On the other side of the bridge.
5 = Finally under the bridge. It had real coping.
Ph: Barry Abrook in full flight by David Hopkins
“The first time I ever went to Crystal Palace was in the early 80’s, I think it was 1982, to see the Bones Brigade tour with Mike McGill and Steve Caballero, the first US pro skaters I had ever seen in action. Being a wholly Harrow skater at this point it was the first time I had ever seen a wooden halfpipe with flat bottom and it looked HUGE! This was before the halfpipe was moved under flyover and the demo attracted large crowds of people who were sat on the grassy bank to get a view of the action. I think that demo cemented the idea of wooden pipes in this country as before it was mainly the concrete leftovers from the 70’s boom.
It’s a shame, but I only ever visited Palace 4 or 5 times. Most of those occasions were to take pictures as I was getting into skate photography at the time, but Crystal Palace was also a bit of a bugger to get to, involving lengthy underground train journeys and bus rides. The area could be a bit shady at that time too. I can recall a couple of incidents where people either got the crap kicked out of them or had all their skate gear stolen on the way to the ramp.
My main recollections of Crystal Palace though were the rad sessions with the cream of UK ramp skaters like Danny Webster, Sean Goff, Rodga Harvey, Lucian Hendricks, Phil Burgoyne, the Abrook brothers, Gary Lee and Bod Boyle amongst others.
The Palace ramp was incredibly influential and played a major role in improving standards of UK vert skating at a time when the remaining skateparks were disappearing. RIP Crystal Palace.”
Ph: Philip Burgoyne, Gymnast Plant by David Hopkins.
“I first skated Palace in 1977/1978. Downhill mostly. There were no ramps then. The first time I saw ramps was around Late 1979. I skated the 2 quarter-pipes before the main ramp was built, mainly with Phil Burgoyne and Lucian Hendricks. When the ramp was built it started to attract a whole heap of skaters I’d never seen on the scene for the previous 4 years. I knew Danny Adams and I think Andy Peerless was behind building Palace as they were the one’s hassling me for membership. I was a cock though and never paid, and hardly ever helped to maintain the ramp. All I wanted to do was skate. Sorry Danny.
There were so many sessions. Too many and too manic! Locals were myself, Danny Adams, Phil Burgoyne, Dorkman (bless him) Lucian Hendricks, Robbie Newell (Deaf Aid), Dean Bennett, Floyd Reid (when he could be bothered) John “Bricky” Embry, Farnborough mob- Danny Webster, Mark & Barry Abrook, Doug Cameron, Ian Cocking, Ian “Davros” Scuds, Joe & H Evans, Harrow mob- Steve Douglas, Andy Vost, Mick Foster, Dave Hopkins, Beaker, Buz. Countless people. Too many I’ve missed here too. Snaking was big. Shoulder barges on the flat bottom were standard!
My favorite skate session that wasn’t, was when a panty-less MILF sat open-legged opposite the ramp. It was one of those days where I stopped skating and became a spectator!”
Ph: Neil Blender dropped in for some Palace action by Don Brider.
“I was first to skate the ramp because Ray Bailey decided it. We all worked on the ramp for ages and he named me. I must have done a few kick turns, then off I went to let the real skaters on.
There was a home crew down there, made up of just friends together. We were grateful when we were visited from the better skaters so we could learn from them. Forgive me if I don’t remember every name – Danny, Robbie, Dean, Dave, Lucian, Shane were all locals. I think we welcomed any one on four wheels. Euroskate was fun. I had so many people stay at my house and the sessions were amazing! It all came down to Claus Grabke and Danny Webster fighting it out and look where they both went afterwards!
There were so many memorable sessions. Danny Webster visited on a weekday and he and I skated for hours on our own and I was so star struck! Mark Abrook visited one Sunday and it was very boring. We got fish and chips from the Kam Chen fish bar and sank Holsten Pils. It was a poor idea at the time but the session afterwards was hilarious! We decided to travel to a contest at the Wheels project in Birmingham.
I have no idea how we used to do this, but we just jumped on a train and hoped that we found the ramp. We saw it from the train, then got a train back out of Birmingham, walked down the tracks to try to find the ramp…and did. I skated for 20 mins and kept clipping in everything whilst a rampant Sean Goff was keeping everyone entertained. Eventually I figured I had ridden my luck enough and headed back to Palace. It was a flying ant day and at 4pm on a hot Saturday I made it back to home and wondered why I had ever left. I couldn’t put a wheel wrong for two glorious hours…with the usual home crew.
As for tricks, if you had to put money on someone making the impossible it would be Colin Taylor of Harrow. He did a frontside boneless. I think the picture was in Steve’s mag and he didn’t put his foot down, just a frontside air, front foot off and extended straight down.
I don’t doubt, but if that ramp needs remembering for anything it should be the undying love and attention given to it by everyone and most of all to Danny Adams with whom I spent many an hour keeping it dry, smooth and happy. The good times were great but one Christmas time and I took a board up there on Boxing Day for a session. On the way home I was attacked and had my throat cut. I was saved by magnificent work from Frank Wheeler.”
Ph: The Head Man – Colin Taylor. Lien Air by David Hopkins.
“We were there when the ramp was built so we knew everyone involved down there. This was when the ramp was outside. Caballero and McGill did demo’s there and even Billy Smith skated Palace after coming back from Florida. So many great sessions went down on that ramp but I would have to say the contest in 1985 before I left for the States with Lucian Hendricks, Danny Webster, Bod Boyle, The Abrook’s, Sean Goff, Phil Burgoyne and others was the best.
Lucian ruled that ramp when he was on. My goodness! I did a big interview with loads of pics in my zine ‘Go For It’ at the time, and my intent was to take the mag to the States and get him properly hooked up. It worked.
If there was one story to pull from the memory banks it would be watching Phil Burgoyne skate a board that was 2 boards put together. One had no nose but a good tail the other had a good nose but no tail, he bolted them together and ripped!
The park had its downside though. I remember getting mugged on the way home and these lads took my bag from the bus. I ran after them down some dodgy place, but the lads were way too fast. I thought I was going to get a hiding. I called 999 and a police car raced up. We took off at an incredible speed and had to wait for back up. We found a lad holding my helmet on the street, 5 cop cars are now in the street and the whole area was full of police. I thought a riot could start up. I was gutted. My life and everything I cared about was in that bag, but by next week everyone had chipped in and I had pads, shoes and a board. Great sessions, good times.”
Ph: Dan Adams cracks his tail on Palace’s legendary coping by David Hopkins.
“For a while it was the only credible vert venue in London- when progressive vert ramp skating was ALL that mattered. 1981-1986 RIP. The ramp was smashed up without consent by a Bromley Council bulldozer on Christmas eve 1986. A life of only five years that felt/feels more like 10.
I basically ran that ramp for most of its life, taking over where Andy Peerless left off. He looked after it for a year or so after the original instigators of the ‘project’ wound up in Jail for pretty sordid reasons and not worth elaborating on.
I first skated it when we had finished building it. It had 16ft wide walls, 16ft of flat bottom, 1ft of vert. Concrete coping (which lasted maybe two days) and birch ply. It was revolutionary (for the time), smooth, fast and SWEET. A loose group of London regulars (mostly South bankers and Palace locals) teamed up to build the thing. Myself, Lucian Hendricks, Dobie, Robbie ‘Deaf Aid’ Newell, Phil Burgoyne, Andy Peerless and John ‘Brixton’ Embury were involved. Others dropped in and out of the project. It had been a long time coming.
As Crystal Palace had been a Slalom racing spot for many a year and the Southbankers of the day where big Slalom guys as well as bank/street riders, the two spots where kind of linked before the ramp came along.
Sessions where always great and with no mobile phones, always a surprise. Standouts for me where the various pre-contest Jams where there was always a lot of tight energy. A relatively small ramp with only 3ft wide decks under a bridge, focussed the action. A lot of good natured but heavy snaking.”
Ph: The Palace ruler. Lucian Hendricks caught planting some history by David Hopkins.
“I believe it was 1981? There was a European Championship or a European Cup at the Crystal Palace ramp. I had bought myself a ticket to fly to London without telling my parents! It was kind of crazy because I stayed for like five days and never actually called my parents once because I hadn’t even changed any currency. We were given food at the contest site and I never really had to buy anything, so I didn’t have any change on me to call home! Needless to say they were really worried about my whereabouts and by the time I came back, I was in for quite an argument!
The contest itself was very typical for the time- a 15 foot wide ramp, head-to-head format, a handful of people that had kind of known each other through magazines or through letters, so all in all, very private. This was my very first international contest and my first time that met pretty much everyone out of Europe and the first time they ever got to see me skate. I had skated with one or two friends of mine at my local ramp for a year straight without attending any contests or demo’s then. I was the new kid! The contest went very well. I made it to the finals and basically lost the contest because I stepped off a lien air. It didn’t matter though because the whole thing was just fantastic and the beginning of my love for England! I returned many times and loved every single time!”
Ph: Mike Mcgill – Andrecht to Fakie (first one we’d ever seen) Cab signing shirt on deck by Darryl James.
“Highlights from that place include Lucian slamming four wheels on the 8 foot roof before re-entering a backside air. Visits from McGill and Caballero in ’82. Night sessions with Billy Ruff, Neil Blender, Danny Webster and more. Night sessions with Tony ‘Dobie’ Cambell and his special double flash get-up. Euro Skate ’82 contest with Neil Danz sessioning with Claus Grabke and pushing his backside airs to heights not seen in the UK until then.
Any time an out of town crew dropped in it always turned up the dial. The ramp was ‘on the tour’. With limited skate spots to session we always got a visit from whoever was in town – Lance Mountain, Mofo, Keith Stephenson, The Swedes, The Scots the Liverpool crew, The Farnborough crew, H Boyz. Once Bod Boyle and Steve D had started spending most of their time in the US it was always killer when they came back to session.
I was always stoked when Danny Webster came by. When the rain dripped in we (usually Phil B and I) rigged up tarps and gutters to make sure the sessions could go on all day and lights for the night times. Setting fire to cardboard to burn off surface moisture so a session could get under way. With nowhere else to go we had to make it happen for us there and then whatever the weather.”
Ph: Sean Goff in the rafters by David Hopkins.
I remember skating that place for the first time in 1981-’82’ish. It was a comp. The vibe was good, I was shit! Phil Burgoyne and Lucian were the Palace locals who ruled that ramp. The famous wrestler Big Daddy once stood by the ramp and watched a session for 5 mins. That was cool! For me though, Farnborough was better.
Ph: Sean Goff plants the seeds and is still bloody at it. Photo by David Hopkins.
“The first time I skated Palace was sometime in ’85. Two of the OG H-Boyz Rodga Harvey and Buz dragged me there from Harrow (where I learnt to skate transitions). I totally remember looking up at it in disbelief. It was up on a curb and the flat bottom was about a foot or two above that and I’m thinking ‘you want me to try and skate that?! It didn’t help that there were 5 or 6 guys ripping the shit out of it at the time. I can’t even remember who it was, I was too busy trying to control my turtle head!
Anyway, after a day of Bottom Dwelling (with the locals being very patient and encouraging) I managed back to back backside grinds and I was hooked! Pretty much every Saturday and Sunday from then on was a Palace day.
The Crystal Palace locals would host rad sessions with Phil Burgoyne, Dan Adams, Dean Bennett, Neil Brighton, Robbie (Deaf Aid), Darryl James, Colin Taylor, Rodga and Buz most weekends. Lucian (Hendricks) used to rule on that ramp but for some reason he didn’t like me too much.(?) Billy Smith and Gary Lee were there a lot too. We used to turn up and nearly everyone would be just sitting round chilling until Neil turned up in his camper van. They’d all jump in, smoke a ton of weed then the session was on!
Another thing I remember, the CP Sports Centre must a got pissed at us’ bunking in’ across the 5 a side pitch to get our little red Typhoo pots of tea. They actually put a security gate in to stop us. I have no idea who figured it out but the key pad code was 540EZ!
There was also some kind of Zoo type thing there, on the right hand side as you rolled down the hill from the station. I had one of the best sessions there. Bod (Boyle) had just come back from America and tore Crystal Palace a new arsehole! I’d never seen Egg Plants like he did ’em.! Not to mention all the other shit he was laying down! I was blown away how good he was! I think all the animals in the Zoo (type place) must of been watching him too. As we walked back up the hill, all we could see in the little compound/coups were all these animals fucking! It was like a full on ‘Animal Orgy’!”
Ph: Darryl James. Axle stall with (L-R) Bod Boyle, Billy Smith and Colin “shithead” Taylor in 1982. location 5.
“I can’t remember exactly what year I first skated Palace but it was towards the end of it being in the open though and not under the walkway. I skated it until ’85 I guess. It was always pretty busy there. The ramp was well built and pretty easy to ride if a little narrow for the height. I lived way up in North London and sometimes it would take three hours plus to get there.
Session wise there were so many that I couldn’t really single one out. Quite a few visiting US skaters turned up, Ruff, Lucero etc which was always a treat. It was always cool when the Farnborough/Andover guys showed up too. Any session involving Billy Smith was going to get rowdy!
Phil Burgoyne ruled that ramp as did Lucian Hendricks and Bod Boyle. Danny Webster also ripped the place up. He was the King of UK ramp for a long time.
I once got a tow on the back of Dave Hopkins’ motorbike round the race track once. It was a Z400 I think. He thought I had let go and opened it up. I hadn’t! I let go around 35mph and stacked it taking half the skin of my back! Great days!”
Ph: Paul ‘Buz’ Robertson hucks out a slob by David Hopkins.
Ph: Steve Caballero takes a Backside air at location 1 in 1980 by Darryl James. Derry Thompson & Andy Peerless in background.
“Memorable tricks that I remember down there included Steve Cab’s ‘Caballero’. It took Steve Douglas 1 or 2 years later to suss it. Colin Taylor’s Bastard plant after 3 goes. Billy Ruff’s blunt! I was told he did a six foot b/s air to fakie, hung up on his back truck and popped back in. Imagine my disappointment when I saw him do it! Mike McGill’s McTwist, which I fucking missed! Arghhh! Most of the tricks that Danny Webster or Lucian Hendricks did were some of the best because they had so much style and control.
I remember a Harrow skater called Buz got badly beaten up once. Unfortunately it was Robbie ‘Deaf Aid’ Newell that found him and couldn’t tell anyone because he is deaf and dumb. I was asked by the Harrow boys to go to my local hospital and check on him. The thing is, when you go in to A&E and ask for someone called Buz a lot of people will look at you with a blank expression. “What’s his name?” I was asked, “Buz!” I replied. I never got to see him and to this day I don’t know his real name!”
Ph: Billy Smith Lien’s by David Hopkins.
“I got chased once by a security guard called Jock who had a fucking big Alsatian! He didn’t like us, or maybe just me. He would always seem to end our sessions early and kick us out of the park. I once shot his dog with a catapult from the top of the ramp and the dog went loopy and nearly pulled the fat bastard to the ground! It made me laugh!
At that time you would always catch BMX’s on the ramp and they always got a slap. One such BMXer was Jason Lunn or ‘Fat Lunn’ as he was known as back then. I caught him, slapped him and booted him and his bike off the ramp. “How do I get to use the ramp then” was his question. “Get a fucking skateboard!” was my answer. Within 2 years, he had over-taken a lot of the UK skaters and became one of the most stylish and aggressive riders I have ever seen. I saw him slam more times than most and he would still get back up until he mastered the trick. I love Lunny, even though he is goofy footed!”
Ph: Palace chillin’ by David Hopkins.
“I went to Crystal Palace on my BMX and I guess that’s the first vert ramp I rode alongside Farnborough. Darryl never gave me a slap! He wouldn’t dare! He became one of my closest and best friends though and I guess it’s been 26 years now since I first met him, but I met him at Farnborough (and possibly Palace) but I remember we skating with him after the ramp went.
However we were all 15 years old back then. Myself, Tony Mackenzie and Damon Nicholls (BMXer’s) used to go down there in the morning when there were no skaters there, because we had heard a story about a skater called Dean Bennett rubbing his griptape backwards and forwards on BMXers faces if he caught them on the ramp! So we were scared it would happen to us.
We were from Surrey and Crystal Palace was in London, so London was always intimidating as we were still children from the suburbs. We’d previously had some heavy experiences at New Cross Gate Skatepark when we were children, with groups from the estates trying to steal our bikes. Me and Dean actually lived together in Bristol 20 years later and that story about the griptape was most definitely never true, however you wouldn’t want to mess with Dean.
As for the Palace ramp I actually started to go there on a skateboard instead and used to pump the ramp. I think I learned kickturns there. I remember watching Phil Burgoyne hit the roof with pretend method airs and remember wanting to be able to skate it like Lucian and Bod Boyle. I remember them flying around doing airs and handplants and I saw Lucian try a McTwist there too. We heard stories about Lucian stabbing Sean Goff so that ramp always had a gnarly edge to it. I didn’t know who Sean was then.
The ramp was in a sick location, lots of grass everywhere and it was under the bridge, so the rain stayed off it to a point. Also, because I was a beginner, I remember bombing all the surrounding hills really fast and getting speed wobbles which was my first time on hills. The car park at the top had little flat banks and walls around it to skate on. They are good memories now I’m having to recall them. Then it disappeared before I ever got a chance to skate it properly.”
Ph: Steve Douglas blackmail pic of him learning handplants in 1982 by Darryl James. Phil Burgoyne looks on.
“Myself and Steve Wood ended up going down there around ’86. We found the place but had not skated any ramps of that type ever. We could not even fakie up and down. That was new. All I remember is that Phil Burgoyne was there and he was so nasty to us. Really horrible. Dropping in was not something we had ever done (we had always rolled in and up in a bowl/pool set up) and he really made it clear that we were not welcome. That really upset myself and Steve. Phil was a good skater, but the disrespect he gave us was unreal and made me dislike the guy enormously. Bod Boyle was skating the next time I went there and that really blew us away. Bod seemed really young at the time. Lucian Hendricks was there too, amazing. I actually skated Palace more later from a street point of view, way after the ramp had gone as there were these cool 45′ angled bank-to-walls up in the car park!”
“For me it was always about responsibility. I kept it running. Repairing holes smashed through two layers of ply by vandals – just to mess with us. Cleaning up human shit from the storage under the ramp. Buying ply and convincing everyone to stop sessioning to help carry three sheets of 8×4 a mile up the road from the wood yard. Nearly cutting off my finger using a Swiss army knife to try and make a notch in the ply to carry a new 2×4 beam. Everybody wanted a more solid ‘pump zone’ in the transition to get more speed. Nearly castrating myself falling from the platform and straddling a steel fence – trying to climb inside the ramp to get a broom to dry up the rain. Running 4 extension cables to be able work in the pissing rain to get the ramp ready for the weekend. Arriving at eight in the morning with Steve Douglas and Bod so they could practice for a contest before anyone else arrived. Trying to dismantle the ruined carcass and salvage as much of the material as possible with Dean Bennett and Robbie Newell. Some of the ply was re-used when we built the Latimer Road ramp a couple of years later.
In the end it was always about the skating and making the skating happen and not much else. If I had three words on Crystal Palace right now, they would be: “Take Me Back”.”
Thanks to all involved especially David Hopkins, Don Brider and Darryl James for scanning archived photos. If you would like to be involved in a feature similar to this with your own tales/spot, please contact us.
Ph: Palace dead, flat-bottom removed, un-skateable. Paul Rhodes poses on top by Darryl James.