Dale Starkie, Leeds, 2023. Photo: Reece Leung.
Sidewalk 190 - July 2012 - Photo: Thomas Blackburn
Interview by Josh Hallett.
July 2012, Dale. That’s nearly 11 years since your first photo was published. What on earth would you have been up to back then? Besides running a strong Justin Bieber look…
Classic. It’s a weird one, because I never even thought of it as being the Justin Bieber haircut, but I used to rock the hat so much that it must’ve squashed my hair down into that nice quiff, or whatever you want to call it.
I feel like the hair was more Little Chris than Justin Bieber.
Yeah, it probably was more Little Chris, but I remember you started the rumour that I straightened my hair (laughs).
You did. You straightened it, then you put a cap over it.
I never straightened my hair, never.
So what else were you up to around that time?
I would have been 16 or 17 then, so I was definitely working. I was a labourer on a construction site. I was working quite a bit, and trying to skate as much as possible. There wasn’t much else to it.
Did you go straight from secondary school into full time labour employment?
I did a year of sixth form, but the headteacher died, basically, so all of the teachers started to leave. I went to two or three lessons and my teachers weren’t there. I wasn’t learning anything so I thought I might as well go get a job.
Looking at your First Light, it states that the text and the questions were handled by Leon Walton. Is it fair to say Leon was something of a father figure to you?
Leon’s great. I’d have met him when he worked in the skate shop Exit, and he was always skating at Hyde Park. I would say he was a bit of a father figure; we’d skate together, and being an eager little kid, I’d always show him the latest thing that I’d learnt.
One thing he was good at was, if you were to show him a clip you’d filmed, he wouldn’t gas you up. He’d say, “that’s good, now do better”.
I will say this about Leon, he was there for me. When Welcome first opened, he was working in there, and he was always putting in a good word for me, saying, “there’s this new kid, he’s doing this, he’s doing that”. Obviously he wouldn’t say that to my face, but I know behind the scenes he was speaking to people, which I really appreciate, because that’s how I got on the team.
The nosegrind, I think I did that five, maybe six times. I was unaware that if you filmed a trick for one part, you couldn’t then film it again for another.
Ahh, so Leon got you on Welcome?
He definitely helped, but there was this one time I was out filming, and I tre flipped the Playhouse 10. As soon as I did it, we ran straight to the shop and I showed Leon. After that, I got a phone call from Tom Brown, and he said, “we’d love you to ride for Welcome if you want to”. That’s all I’d ever wanted; I must have been 18 at the time.
Am I right in thinking you first got into skating around 2005? What was the Leeds scene like when you first started coming to skate in the city?
It was around 2005, I’d say. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t know what skateboarding was for so long. I thought the best thing you could do was stand up on a board and go down a hill. The first video that I watched was enjoi Bag of Suck, and I bought that from The Works, the skatepark; some guy was selling DVDs on the counter for a fiver each, so I bought one, and that was the first time I saw what skateboarding was. As for friends, the crew who I skated with the most was Cainan McEwen, Joe Winters and Tom Blackburn. Cainan to me was the one who was the best; he was doing crazy tricks that I’d never seen before.
So your First Light was a frontside nosegrind down the Tech 11 rail. You had something of an obsession with the Tech rails, if memory serves. Why were you so keen to jump on those two rails?
I was young, and I loved to skate handrails. I was consistent on rails, too. For example, the nosegrind, I think I did that five, maybe six times. I was unaware that if you filmed a trick for one part, you couldn’t then film it again for another. So I filmed a Welcome to Welcome clip, and I did the nosegrind in that part, then I filmed another part so did the nosegrind again (laughs). That just shows how clueless I was.
One of the first times we linked up to film, you did front fifty, front smith and front lip on Tech 11, all within a matter of minutes.
That was the point in time where I was just so comfortable on rails; I had no fear, I could jump straight on them.
Also, right after you did those three tricks, you watched the footage back and said, “oh, that was actually filmed alright” (laughs).
Yeah, but you’ve got to remember that before then, I was filming with people like Tom Blackburn, who was more into taking photos and didn’t really film.
One of several possible Tech 11 nosegrinds from a 2011 Mr Starkie. Photo: Blackburn.
Which of your many Tech rail endeavours are you the most hyped on?
The wallie boardslide we filmed for the etnies Turkey video, because I guess it’s a bit different. We cable-tied an old board the side of the rail, then I rode up the board and boardslid down. Plus it was 9am when we did it, and the police came along and gave me one last try before kicking us out.
Excluding your own tricks for a minute, what other memorable Tech rail tricks can you think of? They took a hammering before they got taken out…
The first thing that comes to mind is Manny Lopez’s back noseblunt, because he snapped his board trying it I believe, so he did it on someone else’s board.
It might have been Reece Leung's board.
It could have been, but doing it on someone else’s board is crazy. As for other tricks that have gone down there… switch flip over the 11 by Harry Lintell, apparently he did that in two tries. Conhuir Lynn’s back lip down the 11, Mikey Wright’s flip back lip on the 10, that was also really sick.
What do you remember from the day you shot this nosegrind with Tom? Did you have any idea at the time that it would end up being run in Sidewalk?
I was so keen to get photos in a magazine that I was messaging Sidewalk before we even got the photo. I knew what a First Light was, so I was emailing Sidewalk saying, “I’ve got this trick in mind for a photo, would you be willing to do me a First Light?” Me and Tom went out and shot the nosegrind, but Tom shot it long. It was still a good photo, but we sent it to Ben Powell, and he messaged back saying, “nah, I’m not into that photo, you need to shoot it fish from below”, so that’s what we did.
Do you remember the first time you saw your First Light in print? What did you think of it?
I was so stoked. Sidewalk was a kingpin in skateboarding, and I was so hyped to be a part of it, and to be in a magazine. I don’t think I had many sponsors when I got in there, and I thought you’d have to be the top of the top to get in a magazine, but obviously that’s why First Lights existed.
Photo: Reece Leung.
Have you still got a copy of the issue anywhere?
Yes, 100% I do.
In fact, have you kept much skate paraphernalia from over the years?
Every magazine I’ve been in, I’ve kept. I know that sounds bigheaded or whatever, but it’ll get to a point where I can’t skate, and it’ll be cool to be able to look back on everything.
What are your top three most cherished skate related items that you’ve held on to?
One of them is the cover of Vague that I got, because it links into filming for Welcome 2: Hell. My First Light, because that was my first photo. That’s so old now the pages are turning yellow. And the full page photo that I had in Thrasher. All of the boys were in that article (Ginnels & Snickets), and Thrasher is technically the bible as well.
Any final thoughts on skateboarding in Leeds in 2012, or this period of your life?
Not really, no (laughs). I wouldn’t say it’s a time to forget, but so much has changed since then. I feel my skateboarding personally has developed so much.
You could say that, but your First Light was you nosegrinding an 11 stair, and I haven’t seen you touch a handrail now for a couple of years.
Yeah, that’s very true (laughs). But I feel like my skateboarding has become more varied, and I understand now what skateboarding means to me, and it doesn’t mean that I have to grind the biggest rail; I can skate a manny pad if I want to, and have fun with my friends. I was skateboarding so much back then, but when I first met you, I didn’t really know what skateboarding was. You’d be doing nollie tricks, and I’d be asking, “what is that?”, and you’d say, “well, it’s when you do a trick off the nose. You can skate switch as well”. I thought I was alright at skating, I could grind big rails, then I found out that people could do the same tricks as me but switch, on a similar obstacle…that day when I learnt about nollie and switch skating existing, I was bummed.
Lastly, what was Waffles and Cream?
I’m trying to think about where you even found that; it must have been mentioned in the First Light somewhere. Waffles and Cream was a clothing brand that a friend of a friend started, who knew the rapper Kid Cudi. I thought, “if Kid Cudi is wearing it, It must be fucking amazing”. I got sponsored by them…and it was exactly what it sounded like. Big graphic shirts with ice cream and waffles on them (laughs). I got sent two or three shirts, and that was the end of that.
So you killed Waffles and Cream?
Pretty much. I don’t even know if it’s still a thing. I haven’t thought about Waffles and Cream since 2012.
Follow Dale - @dalestarkie