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Interview: Joe Hinson

Photo: Kurt Hodge.

Interview by Ben Powell

Photography by Various Artists


What have you been doing today?

Working. Well, I was doing my mate a favour that lives in Nottingham. He asked if I could help with some fencing, so I went and did it, then skated for the rest of the day before driving home.


And home is Cambridge?

Near Cambridge, yeah.


How often do you drive really far and do hard manual labour? I guess fencing is hard manual labour, right?

Yeah, it’s pretty hard digging holes, lifting fence panels (laughs). I work for myself so I do a lot of it on my own, unless I have a really big job on. It’s easier that way.


Well hype it up here. If you know a good handrail and your fence is fucked, I think you all need to call Joe Hinson (laughs). The day before you shot the 5050 that ended up on the cover, you were working on a windmill. What were you doing there?

I was helping my friend who’s a carpenter. He was replacing all of the wood on the windmill because it had gone rotten, and I was helping him get stuff up there, basically. That was a bit gnarly, I’m not going to lie.


Are you a generally handy guy, who can build stuff and make things? To someone like me, that’s like being able to make lightening come out of your eyes, because I can’t do anything like that. Where’s this come from?

I was never any good at school. I got kicked out of three schools and I never got much, qualifications wise, but I was good with my hands, and good at building stuff and manual labour I guess, so when I left school, I ended up doing that.


So nobody has really taught you how to do it? You’ve not been to college or anything?

I’ve been taught. My friend who is a carpenter has helped me out, and I’ve worked for people in the past who have taught me things, but then I went off to do it on my own, because I find it easier if I’m not answering to someone else.


Do you work full time doing gardens, putting fences up and all of that?

It depends on when you ask me and how skint I am. I will work solidly for a while, and then I won’t have to work for a month because I’ll win a contest, or get paid for a demo or something like that, then I can focus on skateboarding. Then I’ll have to work full time again. I have regular people who I do grass cutting for, and I try keep on top of that. The actual fencing work I can take or leave, just take jobs on when I want, or I can subcontract for other people if they need me.

Having been the subject of many ‘what if?’ debate over the years, The Hinse finally steps to the plate. 5050, Southampton. Photo: Danny Bulmer.

Would it be an unusual situation for you to be doing five days of gnarly graft, digging holes and putting fences up, then ringing Charlie (Bach), and being like, “yo, Charlie, let’s go 5050 a double kinked handrail”?

That’s pretty much how it works (laughs). We go out every week; if he’s free and I’m not at a contest, then we’re out. No matter how many days I’ve worked, or how hard the week has been, we’re always out and getting stuff done.


What’s the connection with Charlie, then? How do you know him, and how come he has ended up being your ‘personal filmer’, I guess?

I went to a skatepark on Christmas Day four or five years ago, and he was the only other person there. I started speaking to him and he was really keen, he filmed me do some stuff for Instagram or whatever, then I hit him up after and was like, “would you come film me do this trick?” and with no experience he was like, “yeah, I’m down”. Ever since, I’ve only filmed with him, really. He wasn’t a filmer, he was just another dude who skated, but he was forced into filming, at this point, but he’s progressed a lot. There’s a danger aspect to the way I skate, and I know Charlie has it; there won’t ever be a problem with the clip or anything like that. He’s always been down to put the work in.


Does he get anything out of it? He doesn’t get paid for filming, does he?

Nah, but I hook him up.


What with? Fences? I bet he’s got a sick garden.

(Laughing) I do give him stuff for helping me out. I do the driving, I pay for all the fuel, I bought the fisheye camera and Charlie bought his HPX. We’ll decide on somewhere to go, I’ll pick him up at 8am from his house, drive three hours, skate the skatepark for an hour or two, he’ll skate, I’ll skate, we’ll film a little clip, then we’ll go to the biggest spot first. I’ll usually have a few spots in mind, but the first spot will be the biggest spot of the day, because I’d rather just get it done.


So that’s how you operate? You skate the biggest thing first?

Yep. Warm up, straight to the biggest thing. If I do that, then it’s done and out of the way. If I go to a smaller spot and get a clip, that’s great, but the bigger thing is going to be the highlight of the day, so I like to get that done, then move onto the smaller stuff.

I’m not about to drive three hours then spend half the day chilling out, getting food… we’re driving three hours for a reason.

I’ve been told that when you and Charlie are on a mission, you’ve got your sandwiches, you’ve got your drinks, and if anyone else is like, “yo, I need to go and get a sandwich”, you’re like, “fuck you, go and get a sandwich and you’ll miss the trick” (laughs). Having that dedicated mind-set is how you can do this shit, right?

Yeah, well we take food with us because we’re going to warm up at the park, then once I’m warm I don’t want to have to then go to the shop, get food, or go to a café, or get a coffee or any of this shit… if I’m off to skate a handrail, I’m scared, so I just want to go and get it done. After it’s done, I do not care, we can do whatever; we can go to a shop, unless I’ve got back-to-back spots in mind where I want to get something. Me and Charlie always come prepared


That’s sick, man. If you’re on the session and there’s a big rail in your scopes, fuck your coffee shop, fuck your baguette, you’re there for business.

I’m not about to drive three hours then spend half the day chilling out, getting food… we’re driving three hours for a reason. We’re never going somewhere to see what happens, we go somewhere with spots and tricks in mind.


No wonder Jamie Thomas likes you, man. Jesus Christ (laughs). You’re not driving to these spots and skating them with someone else either, you’re literally driving hundreds of miles sometimes to skate on your own. You fucking lunatic (laughs).

I don’t like skating big shit with people, though. I have my process. If I’m skating with other people on big, big stuff, then it can mess with my head a bit. I’d rather skate the bigger stuff on my own, you know?

Surrey Quays frontside nosegrind just prior to a bout of south east London redevelopment. Photo: Matt Law.

Is it true that Jamie Thomas told you not to have the wood run ups and run outs anymore?

Jamie told me to not show them as much in my footage because they were very ‘there’, but if I need wood for the spot, I need wood for the spot. I don’t live in America where everything is perfect, I have to deal with rough ground, or rails that are up to my shoulder in height. I’m not going to find a perfect kinked rail in England that’s skateable, so I have to make the rails I find skateable.


People have talked shit on that, though; you know that, don’t you? “Oh yeah, the skating is amazing but the run up is whatever”, which is such a stupid comment to make.

Yeah, but I don’t care. If people hate on it then that’s up to them. The run up is still hard to skate. It’s usually plywood laid on the floor with duct tape on it, and maybe a metal sign. It doesn’t make the rail any easier to skate, it just makes it possible to skate. My cover for the mag, we had to make wooden run up for that one because the ground was too rough. I couldn’t roll on that ground. There was no way that I could have done it without putting wood down to give me a run up.

I have my process. If I’m skating with other people on big, big stuff, then it can mess with my head a bit. I’d rather skate the bigger stuff on my own.

So what happens when you get taken to a perfect rail in a schoolyard in California with a perfect run up and a perfect run out? Is it less scary?

It’s still terrifying, but it’s just perfect. 5050s I’m comfortable with on the kinked rails, but before I went to America, I never really skated anything over a 15, because there isn’t anything bigger than that here, really. Then when I went to America, I’d go to 18s, 22s, and stuff like that. They’re perfect, but they’re low.


So are you trying to tell us that skating massive kinked rails is less scary than skating lower rails that don’t have kinks in them?

It depends on the kink. So the cover for the mag, or the Southampton 5050 they’re going to use in the interview, they have grass on one side, so I can ollie on, jump off and run down the grass, or run down the stairs; I don’t have to fully commit. But when you’re skating a 22 that’s straight down the middle of a stair set, you have to commit. With the feeble that’s in the interview, I had to commit to every try.

The rail ending halfway down the stairs does little to deter The Hinse. Frontside 5-0, London. Photo: Matt Law.

Fear is a big factor here, obviously, but what’s the payoff? Obviously you buzz off landing the trick, and you’re stoked that you got the footage, but is there more to it than that? What motivates you to skate the way you do?

The first video I ever watched was Stay Gold, and that was all big handrails and gnarly skating, so I just thought that’s what skateboarding was. Being ‘good’ was doing stuff that was scary. I’m not very good at the whole ledge thing. I can skate a bit of ledge and a bit of quarterpipe, but rails have clicked… they just work for me. I definitely get a buzz from skating big rails, from trying it and rolling away, knowing that you could have died on it, but you didn’t. But then you get the clip, and you can create this video part that you can always look back on. I enjoy filming, but if I’m going to do it, I may as well do it to the full extent that I can, rather than half arse it.


Do you think it makes it easier or harder to get recognition with your style of skating now that not many people in this country skate like you?

For me, it’s definitely helped me stand out to people in America maybe, because there aren’t many people over here skating rails, but also I feel like it has hindered me because people can dismiss what I’m doing, like, “ahh, he just skates big rails, and that’s boring and all looks the same. We saw loads of handrail clips in the early 2000s”. There are a lot of people out there who can do creative wallrides, or prefer the more technical side of skating, and people are more impressed by that because it’s more accessible, maybe.  


I think people sometimes bypass the reality of what it must be like for you.

On a Monday morning when I’ve worked all week then skated street on Saturday and Sunday and can barely walk, it does suck. I’m self-employed, so if I get hurt, then I don’t get paid. I don’t get sick pay. So when I tore my MCL at the start of 2020, I couldn’t skate for nine months, and I also couldn’t work. I couldn’t do anything.


When did you start making any money out of skating? You don’t make a living out of it, do you?

I make a little bit now I have a few sponsors that are helping me, but it’s been very up and down for me, money-wise. Right now I’m not working a crazy amount because I have four or five sponsors that are paying me, which really helps. It takes the pressure off knowing that if I injure myself, I can still live. Then if I do well at some contests I can end up not working for a while.

360 flip lipslide underneath the A38, Brum. Photo: Whiston.

I’m just going to get a beer.

Look at him; he’s not even prepared. He’s never coming on a session (laughs).


You say that, Joe, but you don’t mind Facebook messaging me at 2am asking me what’s ABD on some rail in Peterborough (laughs).

Yeah, because you know what’s been done. I don’t want to do something that someone else has already done, if I can help it.


See, that’s sick, because so many people don’t give a fuck about that any more.

If someone has already gone to a spot and done a trick, then it’s their trick, and it’s not my trick to do. I want to push my skating, not do the same tricks as someone else.


That’s honourable. Which brings us nicely round to this: you’ve clearly got pretty severe ADHD.



Have you got a diagnosis? Were you given medication or have you been left to deal with it yourself?

Yeah, I’ve got a diagnosis for ADHD. I was given medication when I was young, but I hated it. It made me really ill, I didn’t want to eat and it made me feel like crap, so I wouldn’t take it. Now I just deal with it myself. I don’t want to take medication for it because it makes me really tired and not myself. I’d rather have that energy and go and do stuff with it.

Can you imagine what it’s like having Jamie Thomas phone you? I was at Costa Mesa skatepark when he called me, and I was trying to speak to him, but just kept thinking, ‘damn, I’m talking to Jamie Thomas’.

So you said earlier you got kicked out of three schools. Was that to do with your ADHD?

I was a nightmare, and I’d end up fighting, being a stupid kid. I’d get into fights, get in trouble, but I’d keep doing it, then they’d get so sick of me that they’d kick me out. I got kicked out of mainstream schools, and I got sent to a school for kids that were on their last chance. I’d still get into fights and be naughty, but they wouldn’t kick me out, they said they’d keep me in no matter how naughty I was. If you behaved in your morning lessons, then in the afternoon they’d take you out for an activity. They did fishing, football, all of this kind of stuff that I didn’t want to do. I asked if I could go skateboarding, and they said I could, so they would take me to the skatepark, which is pretty sick. They properly encouraged it, and they’re still doing it now, taking kids skateboarding as an activity, which I think is a cool thing.


Did skating help with your ADHD, or did it just make you behave in school because you wanted to go to the skatepark?

Nah, it definitely helped; it gave me something to focus on. Skating gets you outside, it keeps you fit, and you’re around people. I think it’s good for people with ADHD, and people who are little shits in general (laughs).


When you’ve got ADHD, your brain is constantly moving really fast, you’re thinking about stuff all of the time, so when you’re rolling up to a handrail, does all of that stop?

My brain is empty. I’m focused on the handrail and the trick; I’m not even thinking about what I’m doing… my brain kind of goes quiet. When I’m not skating, when I’m at home, sitting around, I’m fidgeting, moving around a lot, or I’ll decide to build some shelves at 4am or something, but when I’m skating, my brain is just quiet. I skate every day that I can, too. It definitely helps to have the quiet time every day.

14 stairs of pure Midlands grimness find themselves treated to a classic Hinson crooked grind. Photo: Tom Quigley.

You need to tell us some stuff about Jamie Thomas and how riding for Zero came about. That’s got to be the ultimate dream for someone who likes the type of skating that you do, right?

That was nuts, I’m not going to lie. I was riding for Darkstar, it was all going great, they got a new brand manager called Lando (Visionz) who really backed me and wanted to get me to the States. I won the UK Champs and that got me a ticket to the Jackalope contest in Montreal, so I thought, “I’ll ask the guys from the contest if instead of flying me home, they could fly me to California”. They paid for that, so I hit up Lando and asked if I could stay on his sofa for a month, before going to Brazil with SkateboardGB. I ended up staying at Lando’s, but he was a self employed filmer so he needed to go film stuff with other people, and I’d find myself sitting round his house on my own, without a car and unable to do anything. I hit up my homie Mike Berdis, who’s pro for Darkstar now, and asked if I could stay with him so we could skate together, and he came and picked me up. I was only meant to stay with Mike for a few days, but the Olympic contest in Brazil got cancelled, so Daz (Pearcy) at SkateboardGB said he’d buy me a flight back home in another month, so I could stay in California and skate.

With Darkstar, it was all going a bit weird, because Dwindle were at the start of all of their changes. There were rumours going around that people weren’t getting paid, stuff was getting harder to do, and I didn’t want to be on a sinking ship. I spoke to Chet (Thomas) about it, and asked him what my plan was with Darkstar. I’d filmed four parts for them at this point, all off my own back, so I asked if they had any sort of plan for me, were there things they wanted me to be involved in, any chance of a pro board further down the line… and Chet told me there was no plan for me, basically.

So after that, there’s a ramp company called OC Ramps in California, Mike Berdis rides for them, and they held a best trick contest there. We went along and I met a guy called Kanaan Dern, who’s am for Zero. We got talking, then afterwards I hit him up, knowing that Darkstar wasn’t in a good place, and asked if there was any way he could show my footage to Jamie to see what he thought. He said he’d send it over, but I didn’t think I’d ever hear anything back from that, I thought Jamie wouldn’t care. But then Jamie Thomas hit me up out of the blue on Instagram and said, “I’d like to talk to you”. Jamie called me, and that was probably the scariest phone call I’ve ever had. Can you imagine what it’s like having Jamie Thomas phone you? (Laughs) I was at Costa Mesa skatepark when he called me, and I was trying to speak to him, but just kept thinking, “damn, I’m talking to Jamie Thomas”. He said, “I’d love to give you boards and see what happens”. He was going to LA, and to get there he had to drive past where I was staying, so he hand delivered me my first box, which is also trippy. Jamie Thomas hand delivered me my first Zero box. I was so stoked. Zero has been my favourite company since I was a little kid. It wasn’t even like, “you’re getting on Zero”, it was more, “here’s some boards, get in the van, let’s go skate and see how it goes”.


Well, you’ve been putting the graft in, filming parts, and someone like Jamie Thomas evidently respects that and can see that you have a work ethic.

Jamie did his research, too. He’d watched some of my parts. So at the start I wasn’t even on flow, I was just given some boards, then I got in the van with the team, and the first day I skated with the Zero guys, it was a heatwave, and I got so smoked trying the kickflip crook that’s in the mag. I couldn’t walk the next day, but I was like, “I have to do this”. Chris Cole was there, Dane Burman was there… all of these big name pros that ride for Zero were there; I had to land it (laughs).


Did you speak, or were you quiet? Did you have to try switch the ADHD off?

I knew I had to be a bit careful because I didn’t want to put them off. I was just some random guy to them, they had no idea who I was, but as I got to know people better, I’d talk. But it wasn’t like I didn’t speak to anyone; I’d just try to speak to them like… normal people (laughs).


Don’t try to downplay it though, man; that’s some heavy shit. It’s not like you’ve gone to Scarborough for a weekend with, I don’t know, Chocolate Éclair Skateboards, is it? You’re in the Zero van, getting taken to gnarly as fuck handrails.

It was nuts. The first session, the whole team was there. We were on a mission, which is my thing, but I’m so used to skating on my own that I found it hard being around so many people when trying to do something gnarly. But as time went on, I got used to being around more people. In America, they all go out in big crews, but they’re all there for the same reason, they’re all there to skate. There are no people sitting around at the spot, which is what I don’t like. That’s why me and Charlie go out on our own, so you don’t have five or six people sat at the spot, waiting for you to land something. Then you have the Zero guys who are all sending it at every spot, every weekend.

Trial by fire kickflip crook during Joe’s first Zero mission. Photo: Hodge.

What’s your process for finding spots? When you bring out a part, there are always comments along the lines of, ‘Joe Hinson is skating the rails in the industrial estates and schoolyards we all used to look at as kids’. Are you on Street View for days on end, or are people sending you spots to go to?

Sometimes I do the whole Google Maps thing, and I’ll spend hours looking around for spots, especially in Milton Keynes; there are so many rails in Milton Keynes, outside of the centre. People will hit me up and say, “I’ve got this spot for you, what do you think?” And if it looks good, I’m down. I’ll have a look on Google Maps, then snoop around and see what else I can find near there.


People are hyped, man, because they want to see stuff in their town get fucked up, and you’re the speed dial guy for handrails (laughs).

If people have spots, they can hit me up. I’m down. I love to find new spots. There are some spots that are repeated throughout my video parts, because they’re within a two, three-hour drive from me. I’m conscious of it because I know that I’m skating a lot of the same spots, but every time I’m trying to push the tricks that I’m doing, trying to do something harder than I did before.


In America, it’s not that unusual to see somebody 5050 a fucking massive handrail, but in somewhere like Coventry, what’s the reaction of some security guard when you’re trying to do shit like that.

People get just as mad as they do at any other spot. They don’t want me doing it there because I’m ‘damaging property’, and they’re always worried that I’m going to sue someone if I get hurt.

I want to be able to look back on [my video parts] when I can’t skate any more and think, ‘I did this. I made the most of what I had, and this is what I created’.

Is there never an element of, “whoa, that’s mental, please carry on”?

It does happen. I’ve had the police turn up, and I thought I was going to get kicked out, then they said they were driving past, saw me skating and came back to watch. They were like, “carry on, we want to see you do it” (laughs). I will repaint a rail as well, if someone complains that I’m taking the paint off.


And have you done?

I have, yeah. If someone is letting me skate a rail and they want it painted again when I’m done, I’ll go and buy paint, then repaint it.


What’s the story with the janky skatepark you’re always skating? Is that in your garden?

It’s not so janky anymore; I actually spent some money on it. Basically, with that, I live in the middle of nowhere; the closest good skatepark is 25 minutes away. There’s nothing within walking distance of my house, just fields and a main road. I started skating with one of my friends that lives in Witcham, my village. He was skating on the kerb out the front of his house, and that’s how I got introduced to skateboarding. The ground sucked on that road, too; it was not good. My mum owns a horse-riding school, and she had this slab of concrete that was unused, so I asked Mum if I could build some stuff there to skate, and she let me. To start off with, it was pallets and plywood with angle iron, and a flat bar from Argos, then as I got older and was able to do a bit myself, my dad helped me build a mini ramp. Then there was a ramp building company that’s now gone out of business, The Ramp Supply Co, and they did me a good deal on some ramps. After that, the guys Four One Four Skateparks had some wood left over from NASS, and Terminal One skatepark had shut down in Melton Mowbray, so I went and bought loads of cheap wood from them, and built what I have now. I have a full on bump to bar, down rail and a six-foot quarter; it’s pretty cool. Occasionally people come through and skate, but I live quite out of the way in a tiny village, so it’s more for if I hit people up and no one is skating, then I’ll just go into the garden and skate my park.


Can you ride horses then?

I used to when I was younger, but I don’t any more.


Can you jump over shit, cowboy style?

Nah, I never got that into it. I’d ride around for quarter of an hour then get bored.


You never tried to take a horse down a 20 set or anything then?

(Laughing) Definitely not.

Frontside bluntslide, definitely not in rural Cambridgeshire. Photo: Hodge.

Were you pissed off that people kind of ignored your skating? It seems like you’ve been cool guy’d by a lot of people, especially considering the level that your skating’s been at for the last decade.

There was a time when I 5050’d the County Hall rail in Nottingham, and Tom (Quigley) sent the photo to loads of different mags, and every one of them turned it down. That was the biggest rail I’d done back then, so that sucked, but I just had to be like, “alright”. It felt like people thought, “this guy is not our friend, so we’re not going to include him”, but that’s understandable if no one knows who you are. With Sidewalk, I knew you guys, and I’d hit up CJ (Chris Johnson) and Horse (Andrew Horsley) to go shoot, but when you don’t know the guys at the mags personally, you’re not hitting them up to go shoot, you’re just sending in photos from someone else. I get it, and I’m not salty about it, because it is what it is, but it wasn’t going to stop me from going and doing it; I was going to do it whether they wanted to see it or not.


That’s kind of sicker that no one was interested, and you were like, “fuck you, I’m going to carry on doing it anyway”.

Pretty much, that’s what I was like (laughs). I wasn’t going to stop finding and skating these spots, and it’s not like the photos never got ran anywhere, because Dogpiss used to run lots of my photos, which I was always stoked on.


Did anyone ever tell you why they weren’t running your photos?

No, nobody would respond. I was shooting with Tom quite a lot and I don’t know if it was a problem that it wasn’t shot by the guys from the mags or their usual photographers, or maybe they just didn’t want to see handrails. I’ve never cared. I loved getting the coverage, like when I had my First Light in Sidewalk; that was sick. But when Sidewalk went, I was like, “well, there’s no mag anymore that wants to run me, but at least I’ve got my Instagram, and I’ve got sponsors who are helping me”.


Why is it that you’re still very much dedicated to spending years working on section after section, when a lot of people seem fairly happy just posting video content straight to Instagram?

I want to do everything. Instagram gets the park footage, or the warm up street footage, but I don’t really want to spend £100 and four hours getting a clip, for it to go on Instagram and be completely forgotten about two days later. I don’t care if nobody else watches my video parts; I do those for me. I want to be able to look back on them when I can’t skate any more and think, “I did this. I made the most of what I had, and this is what I created”. That’s my motivation. I’m doing this whilst I can, then when I can’t, I have it all to look back on.


You remind me a little bit of Vincent Milou. He got cool guy’d super hard by everybody because he came from the middle of nowhere and didn’t know you weren’t meant to go out skating in hotpants and shit, then everyone realised that he was just some skate obsessed kid and they’d fucked up by not including him. Maybe that’s normal now, where people grow up skating on their own, like you, like Vincent, without anyone saying, “you should do this, do that, this is cool, this isn’t cool”. You create your own way of doing things.

We’re skateboarders, we’re not meant to be cool. It’s meant to be individual. Skateboarding is something that I really care about and I’m going to go and do it regardless of what anyone thinks. I don’t care if someone doesn’t like me, or doesn’t like what I do. I get comments on Instagram, like, “you suck”. You can think I suck, that’s fine, and I’m going to go skate and not worry about it. If someone comments and really likes my stuff, then I appreciate it, but if someone is commenting just to tell me I suck… why bother? Why use that time and energy to tell me I suck? Go skateboarding. Even to this day people probably think I’m a dick because I’ll go to the skatepark and just skate, and not talk to anybody. That’s something to do with my ADHD as well, because that’s my time where I switch off from everything, and I want to be on my own and just skate, especially if I’ve been at work all day. The last thing that I want to do is have a four-hour conversation. But then there are some days where I can’t stop talking, and I really want a four-hour conversation (laughs). Some people have opinions of me that I don’t necessarily like, but also, why do I care? That’s their problem.

Earn your stripes! Bruised, battered and muck covered 22 stair feeble. Photo: Hodge.


Alright Joe, let’s wrap this up. Is there anyone you’d like to thank?

Zero Skateboards, Jamie Thomas, Form Distribution, Lakai UK, Ian Deacon, Jessup Griptape. Charlie Bach for being in the streets with me and filming. Vitor Collective, Derby Daz, Mike Berdis, Krux Trucks, Wraith, Sketti Butta for keeping those rails sliding, Deez Nuts for stopping my trucks falling off, and every other sponsor that has helped me out, past or present. Thank you to anyone who has supported me; I appreciate you.


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