Photography: Rob Whiston
When it comes to home-grown technical ledge skating, you’d be hard pressed to find someone as prolific or progressive as Milton Keynes’ resident modest wizard, James Bush. Since his emergence as a scarecrow haired teenager drowning in oversized Motive Skateboards gear during the late 2000s, James has consistently pushed the boundaries of flip in, flip out style ledge skating in the UK, following in on the Milton Keynes tradition previously laid out by the likes of Rob Selley and Sean Smith. From video parts and interviews, to magazine covers and Instagram shattering manual madness, James has ticked it all off the bucket list, and was even turned pro during his tenure on Fabric Skateboards, becoming the company’s second fully fledged professional alongside Mark Baines.
Now, as 2021 continues to press ahead and restrictions gradually ease, James and his Elder Gate partner in crime/business Kieran Wilcox are readying the release of their first full-length video for Station Grip. Starring James alongside Mark Stern, Josh Gregory, Jamie Staples and Alex Waynforth, Pillars is set to premiere on August 28th at the MK Gallery, and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll snap up a ticket when they become available in the very near future.
Until then, we thought we’d give James the ever-critical Gear Check treatment, to see what combination of hardware is currently enabling his pisstake Buszy antics…
After hanging up his Fabric pro board a few years back, James was quickly added to the UK roster at Chocolate Skateboards, which has since gone on to include Brighton’s Dan Fisher-Eustance and Santa Cruz (the place, not the company) ex-pat Dougie George. In years gone by, it was common for skaters with trick tendencies such as James to prefer more slim line planks. Widths of 7.5” up to 7.75” were generally deemed appropriate for intricate street skating, with the thinking being that the narrow board width helped aid the successful completion of flip tricks. Over the course of the last decade, that school of thought has somewhat been cast aside, as more recent generations have seemingly been able to push the envelope of technical street skating regardless of whether their board is shaped like a popsicle or a piece of hydraulic drilling equipment. In a move that would no doubt have had previous generations of MK street pioneers shaking their heads in utter disbelief, these days James can be found melting onlooker’s grey matter on an 8.5” Raven Tershy deck. The increased width provides James with added stability whilst charging around The Buszy, and he’s evidently been able to adapt his flip trick technique to his chosen board size, as he has absolutely no problems whatsoever making that fella spin about in whatever direction he pleases.
Despite being more known for his fearless assaults of towering transition, the specs of Raven’s Original Chunk board are very much in line with that of a standard all terrain deck. The length is 32” with a 14.25” wheelbase, whilst the concave is mooted as being ‘medium’, meaning whilst it’s not the flattest board in the Chocolate range (flat boards is something that the entire Crailtap family were famed for back in the 90s), the concave is also not the steepest. For someone like James who pretty much skates street exclusively, medium would be the obvious concave to go for.
Despite having one of the most active scenes in the country (and an abundance of world class spots to go with it), Milton Keynes has long since suffered from the lack of a skate shop, and as the town’s residents have long since learnt, no skateshop = no griptape. As such, James and Kieran took matters into their own hands and launched Station Grip in 2018, hereby bringing an end to the town’s on-going griptape crisis. It stands to reason that for the last three years, there’s only been one brand that James has trusted with his essential griptape needs, so if you bump into him on your travels and notice that it hasn’t got the Station logo on his grip somewhere, give him a little dig.
Unlike his skating that is as technical and forward thinking as possible, the underside of James’ board is a simple yet effective affair. His trucks of choice come in the form of Royal’s Standard 5.5s. Also coming out of the Crailtap camp, Royal have been on the market since 1997, and have built themselves a reputation as a gimmick-free, reliable truck for the all terrain skateboarder. The 5.5s that James can be seen brandishing are offered in a slick looking raw silver, and are the perfect fit for board widths between 8.4” and 8.6”. Their height is deemed as standard, the baseplate has a section of excess material removed to make the truck lighter, and they’re guaranteed for life…what more could you want? Other than the ability to fakie 5-0 flip out every try.
What of the bolts that hold his Royal Trucks firmly to his Chocolate plank? It should come as no surprise that Manchester’s Joe Gavin is a huge fan of James’ gifted feet, seeing fit to add him to the prestigious Maybe Hardware squad. Since receiving the feted call from Joe last year, there’s only one bolt brand that James chooses to run with, and that brand is definitely Maybe.
James is currently rolling on a solid set of Bones OG Formula Sidecut wheels, with a cactus heavy graphic that could be a subliminal nod to MK native and Barcelona’s Desert Crew affiliate Sean Smith. Though probably not…I’m sure the graphic is merely a coincidence. Clocking in at 100a on the all important durometer scale, these classic shaped wheels offer more grip than harder wheels, though more slide than softer wheels, allowing James to comfortably navigate his way over uneven Milton Keynes paving slabs whilst not compromising on his beloved ledge antics. Pressed inside his 52mm Bones wheels you can also find some time-honoured Bones Swiss bearings. Since 1981, Swiss has been the ‘go to’ bearing of choice for skateboarders who prefer a cut above the standard price point, ABEC rated offerings. They’re super durable, consistently fast rolling, and really earn their (RRP) £59.95 price tag.
Someone whose skateboarding is as sophisticated as James’ deserves to house his feet in shoes that are technically engineered to last longer and help facilitate technical skateboarding. With that in mind, his emergence as a part of the latter-day éS Footwear UK team is nothing short of perfect. On this chosen day, James opted to venture to The Buszy with his feet wrapped in a predominantly black pair of the Silo shoe. Though not part of éS’ original 1990s range, the Silo is quite clearly influenced by the footwear of the era, coming through with a design that draws on éS’ heritage, and is topped off with a translucent sole paired with a blue and red foam embossed marble design that almost blends in perfectly with some graffiti currently adorning the OG Buszy ledge. The shoe itself is a chunky affair, constructed of suede and synthetic nubuck with mesh upper areas, ensuring the shoe is both breathable and durable. The Silo also comes complete with a STI moulded foam insole, meaning these cup-sole numbers offer plenty of protection should you choose to go fling yourself over Big Brown Bar, as James sometimes does.
So there you have it! If you want to see James and his current kit in action, get yourself to MK Gallery on August 28th and enjoy Pillars alongside the rest of the lively Milton Keynes scene. Until then…
James in éS Terminal 001, by Kevin Parrott.