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Inauguration: Conhuir Lynn

 

Conhuir and Finn, June 2021. Portrait: Dale Gallagher


Document Skateboard Magazine – Issue 18 – July/August 2001


When this comes out, it will be 21 years ago to the month since your first photo was published. What was going on in your life back in 2001?

Oh my God, 21 years…that’s a whole other life ago, isn’t it? I was 14 I think, so I was pretty focused on school and skating. I had a horrendous time in school; I was the only skateboarder in my school, and I was bullied really, really hard because I skated. I suffered physical bullying, I would get jumped every now and again, but then I got better at skating, brought my skateboard into school one day and they could see what I could do. By doing that, I magically gained everybody’s respect.

 

Was that not a bold move, taking your board into school? Especially if you were being bullied for skateboarding anyway…

I guess so. There were very few skateboarders in Belfast at the time. We all congregated in the centre of town, and when we got together we were in our numbers, but we were scattered all over the place. Because Belfast is such a fragmented city in terms of political and religious leanings, you didn’t really get a chance to mix with everyone in their own areas, so the only place where you would meet was in town. You were really segregated in your own little area, and in the area where I grew up, there was me and Denis (Lynn – Conhuir’s younger brother), and a couple of close friends who started skating because we did…we carved out our own niche eventually, but at the start it was really hard because we were alone, essentially. Obviously it’s a lot easier for kids to start skating today, but I think we should invoice them for all the hard work we put in and the beatings we took so they could enjoy their street cred now (laughs).

 

This article, shot by Kingy (Stephen King) and Sam (Ashley) over five days, basically serves as a whistle-stop tour of Dublin, Derry and Belfast. In the Belfast text there’s mention of checkpoints, the British Army on the streets, Loyalists with Kalashnikovs…from your perspective, how was life in Belfast in 2001?

2001 was three years after the Good Friday Agreement, and regardless of what anyone says, for my generation, the Good Friday Agreement was the best thing that ever happened. It gave us all a chance to grow, live, progress and have a sense of normality. Before the Good Friday Agreement, I do remember soldiers in camouflage uniforms with assault rifles on my street, and armoured vehicles driving around. I remember talking to a soldier on my street when I was probably about 10 or 11, and he asked me, “which house do you live in?” I pointed naively and said, “that one down there”, and he took his gun, pointed it at my house and said, “look through the scope”. I looked through the scope of an assault rifle pointed at my own fucking house.  At the time I was like, “oh, that’s so cool! Wow!” Now, looking back at it, I think, “what the fuck was he playing at?” Why would you let a child look through a live weapon at their own house? I don’t know what the motive was there, whether it was sinister or friendly. There were blockades, there were disruptions to normal life, there were a lot of bomb scares, I remember having to leave school on numerous occasions, the town centre would be shut down…now and again it still happens, but that violence isn’t prevalent as it used to be.

 

"Who is this...?" Now we know. Conhuir Lynn kickflips down nine in 2001. Photo: Stephen King. Scanned by Neil Macdonald - @scienceversuslife


Was this kickflip the first photo you’d shot with a photographer from a mag?

It was, yes. I didn’t even know it had been shot. The kickflip was a warm up; I spent what felt like three hours trying to tre flip them. I didn’t even speak to Kingy or Sam when they were there, I just remember being so overwhelmed, like, “the photographers from England are here! Holy fuck! Go as hard as you can, just try everything. It doesn’t matter if you’re sore, get up and try it again!” I had that mentality as a 14 year old, to do the best I could, because you might never get that opportunity again. It always felt like Northern Ireland was a forgotten part of the U.K., and a forgotten part of Ireland that no one really looked at or came to visit, so when people did, it was a massive deal. Everyone came out in their fucking droves to see the guys from Document, or the guys from Sidewalk.

 

Can you recall the first time you saw this photo in print? How did you feel about your name being absent and the trick being captioned as, “Who is this? Answers on a postcard to…”?

I remember flicking through the magazine and seeing Denis’ photo before mine, and I was like, “that’s so sick”, then I saw mine and was like, “is that me? Hold on. Wait…that is me”, then I read the caption and they had no idea who I was (laughs). I was hyped on it, but at the same time, I was gutted because someone could turn around and say, “that’s not you”, and I couldn’t really prove otherwise, you know what I mean? It was a really good feeling to see something in print for the first time, though. I was still as hyped throughout my entire skate life; any photo I’ve had in print, I’ve always been hyped seeing it.

 

For the next decade after this kickflip was printed, you went on to rack up a whole catalogue of coverage all over the world. Which photo stands out to you as the one you’re the most fond of?

There is one photograph that I absolutely love; it’s a photo I shot in the hills in San Diego in 2010 maybe. I went with J-Hon – I was skating for $lave at the time - and he told me about this spot, this amazing hip with a statue of Jesus with his arms outstretched, but it was in a monastery so we wouldn’t get long to skate it. I remember getting there and thinking, “if I’m not going to get very many tries, I need to do something easy here”, so I did a frontside flip and landed it in two goes, then all the monks started coming out and shouting at us to leave. I don’t care what background you’re from, if you’re in a sacred place and someone who belongs to that religious denomination is asking you to leave, you have to respect them, so we packed up and left. But the photograph itself is absolutely beautiful, the way it’s shot, in black and white…I’m wearing all black and the statue of Jesus is in all white, he’s got his arms out, I’ve got my arms down…we’re just really well juxtaposed against each other, like two opposite worlds meeting. Sidewalk ran it in the mag, but I have been trying to get hold of the high-res for a while now, so put it in print that I’m still looking for it (laughs).

 

Is there anything else you’d like to add? Any final thoughts on 2001, or this specific time in your life?

This was 21 years ago, no wonder I’m in so much pain, that’s 21 years of just wrecking myself (laughs). Nah, it’s been a great ride, I’ve had an amazing experience. I would have done a few things differently, preserve my body a bit better, and maybe have a bit more of a work ethic (laughs), but I’ve treated people with respect, and that’s clear to see in the lasting friendships that I have. Obviously thank you to everybody who ever let me sleep on their sofa, gave me time, or went out of their way to help me. I don’t want anyone to feel like it wasn’t appreciated; I appreciate everything that anybody ever did, and I still do to this day, so thank you all very much.


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