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Interview: Rasheed Osman

Photography by Rob Whiston.

As far as I’m aware, you’ve never had an interview before. Is that right?

I had a First Light once in Sidewalk, but everyone just wrote little bits about me, then my friend Conrad (Pack) surprised me with it in the shop. I’ve never had someone ask me questions about myself like this, so I’m a bit nervous… but it’s all good (laughs).

Well I reached out to a bunch of people to get questions to ask you, but it seems like you’re something of a man of mystery. I couldn’t really get much of anything out of anyone.

(Laughing) I don’t think I come across as being that mysterious.

People were reluctant to put forward any questions. Forde (Brookfield) said that you wouldn’t enjoy talking about yourself, and he wouldn’t want to put you on the spot.

Forde knows me so well; he knows that I overthink everything.

So, in lieu of set questions, what I decided to do was deconstruct your First Light, look at the quotes from your friends, and discuss those. Hopefully we can work some history in there, as well as bringing things up to date.

That sounds good to me.

No more pencils, no more books... just rooftop hardflips whilst the Midlands students have a day off. Photo: Rob.

So the first quote was from Rich Boy, which read: “It’s always great to see someone progress from a small town like Shrewsbury towards the mainstream”. Is Shrewsbury your hometown?

Yeah, Shrewsbury is my hometown. That’s where I was born and raised, and I lived there until just before turning 20, when I moved to Sheffield for uni. Shrewsbury is quite a big town to be fair, it’s the county town of Shropshire, but as far as skateboarding goes, it’s not really well known; there’s not lots to skate there. When I started skating, around 2008, it didn’t have as much of an established scene as it does now, and there wasn’t as much access to skateboarding.

What year did Sundorne skatepark open?

I think it wasn’t too long before I started, 2006 or 2007 I believe. There were a couple of other metal parks that weren’t really too good. The first park where I started skateboarding was called Shorncliffe, which was close to my home. I was the only skater there, everyone else rode bikes. After about a year of skating there, I found out there was another park a couple of miles away, on the other side of town, and that was Sundorne. It was only after visiting there that I realised there were actually a fair few skateboarders in Shrewsbury.

Claire Alleaume (with input from Rich, Conrad Pack and Jaimie Durnell) said: “Within a week of having our new concrete ramp built in Shrewsbury, he was doing nosepicks off the extension that no one had even dared drop into yet”. Is that the ramp at Sundorne they’re referring to?

Yeah. That mini was built in 2013 by Concreate Skateparks. They came down, camped for the week and built us an awesome mini, after working with the council and sorting the funding and all of that stuff. Shout out to Conrad and Claire and everyone else who went to the meetings.

In Shrewsbury, we never really had proper transition ramps to skate before that. There was an old disused skatepark in Monkmoor though, built in the late 80’s, and it used to have a vert ramp that famous pros would visit. We had a couple of years skating the remains of that park very early on, but once that closed down, we didn’t really have any transition to skate, so the Sundorne mini really added something to the town. You might see quite a bit of coverage of that ramp, actually, because Ben Broyd skates there a lot. There are a few other people who skate there regularly of course, but most stick to the main plaza.

100% committed ollie into unforgiving Barnsley grimness. Photo: Rob.

Do you connect with Broyd much when you go back to Shrewsbury?

I do hit him up sometimes when I go back to Shrewsbury, but most times I’ll just bump into him in the park. It’s a bit of a trip standing on that ramp and watching him shred it. It’s where I grew up skating, before moving to Sheffield years later and meeting him, and now he’s moved there of all places. No one can skate that ramp like Ben does; it’s insane watching him thrash it.

So going back to your First Light, Rich Boy said: “Any session involving him and Telford superstar Nick Binnington is sure to go off”. How did you cross paths with Nick?

Nick Binnington is from Telford, which is only about 10, 15 minutes away from Shrewsbury, so he would regularly visit with his friends. It was super exciting to see him come down and skate. He was – like he still is – just so rad and full of stoke. After a few years of skating with him, he hit me up one day and was like, “you should come skating with the Gnargore lot”, which was Tom Gillespie, Wig Smith, Daniel Jordan, James Denning and several others. I was stoked. I’d never had much experience of skating street outside of the little spots of our hometown. Before then, I would be going out with my friend Conrad and some other local skaters. We'd make little web edits, but it wasn’t really going out, working hard and exploring spots outside of Shrewsbury. It was also my first taste of… how do I say this? Really ‘suffering’ to get a trick (laughs). By that I mean really pushing yourself and getting beaten up try after try to eventually film that one land that makes it all worth it.

At 5am I drove straight to Derby and kipped in my car, until Forde woke up and found me there.

Rich also said: “He’s the kind of guy to travel an hour just because you tell him you’ve got a rad idea for a photo”, which also relates to this recent quote from Forde: “Ask him about the time he drove from Sheffield to the Midlands at 5am and slept in his car before jumping down some mad shit for the Satan video”. I think it’s fair to say you’re pretty dedicated to documenting skateboarding. Where does this drive come from?

(Laughing) I guess, in my early days of skateboarding, video parts were my biggest influences, and of course that led on to wanting to film one myself. That particular day that Forde mentioned, I declined a night out and went home at a reasonable time to get a good night’s sleep and meet him in Derby early the next day. My housemate Timmy (Garbett) brought a bunch of friends back after their night out, and I couldn’t sleep at all, so at 5am I drove straight to Derby and kipped in my car for an hour until Forde woke up and found me there (laughs). I think we filmed something that day, so it was all worth it.

A shrub clearing heelflip performed under glorious springtime skies. Photo: Rob.

So when did you and Forde first meet? I’m guessing that was when you were both living in Sheffield?

I think Forde moved to Sheffield to work in Slugger in early 2019, but it was a couple of years earlier, in 2017, that I met him at the Rollersnakes Snake and Destroy jam.

Oh, I think I was at that one, at the outdoor park in Derby?

Yeah, that’s right. It got rained off. I’m not sure how much of the jam they got to do.

Opening up a new line at the paint brush factory, Rasheed finds a way to nosepick in Bromsgrove. Photo: Rob.

You did a nosepick on an extension, (Joe) Hinson did some tricks on the rail, then it chucked it down and that was the end of the jam.

We were all taking shelter under the trees; I’d come up on my own from Shrewsbury, on the train. I wasn’t really sure what was going on, and Forde came up to me and said, “a few of us are going to Rollersnakes to skate the indoor ramp. If you want to join, there’s a space in the car”. I went with them and I ended up filming a few tricks that day, and having a really good skate. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I got to know Forde properly, when he moved to Sheffield. I’d recently finished a part with Timmy Garbett, one of my closest friends, so when Forde moved up, I was just keen to get out filming again as much as I could.

I’ve got the utmost respect for the more tech skaters out there.

What have been some of the more memorable sessions you’ve been on with the Baghead Crew? Forde seems to really have the knack for pulling together the most varied crews of skaters, but making it all work out.

There are a few people that he skates with on the regular, but Forde meets so many people, he’ll go out film tricks with everyone. He’s just come back from Boston, staying with the Fancy Lad crew, so I’m sure he’ll have stacked plenty of footage with those that will surface at some point. With the missions, he’ll often go out with Will (Sawyer), Tom (Geoghegan), but sometimes we’ll travel quite far and link up with crews from all over. I‘ve met a lot of wonderful skateboarders through those trips.

There were definitely some memorable moments in episode one of the documentary that we filmed with SkateboardGB. We visited this amazing ditch spot by a giant lake; next to a house owned by a lovely guy called Shaun. That was the first time I met Avi (Chris Atherton) and many others as well. Everyone got clips, had a good laugh, it was a really nice day. Other than that, the most memorable times have been when I’ve felt like I just want the trick to be over (laughs). Times when I’ve been tired, frustrated or scared, or felt like the battle will never end. It’s always worth it when you finally roll away from something you’ve been trying for ages though. I think most skateboarders can relate.

A boosted boneless into a recently liberated Brum bank. Photo: Rob.

Following on from that nicely then, Tom Gillespie said: “Sometimes he will step to something so crazy I’ll have to look away whilst he’s trying it”. And Forde backs Tom up by also saying: “I’ve actually been shook a few times at some of the stuff he’s wanted to film”. Do you ever get scared trying some of the tricks you do? What’s your internal risk assessment like when planning something potentially hazardous?

(Laughing) Risk assessment… that’s a very good choice of words. Absolutely, I do get scared. But when you’re scared, that’s the zone where you can really push yourself, when you know that something is doable, it’s within reach, but it’s still scary. Maybe it’s something bigger than you’ve done before, or a little bit harder. Learning how to roll and absorb impact is essential, and good insoles go a long way, too. I’ve been using FP Insoles for eight years now, and I haven’t had a painful primo landing or a heel bruise since. I also double up on them if I’m trying something bigger and need that extra cushioning.

I’ve got the utmost respect and admiration for all of the more tech skaters out there, because that’s always been something that I’ve struggled with myself. I feel like jumping down stuff is scarier, but it’s technically easier; it’s just more of a mental block you have to get past.

What’s the most scared you’ve ever been whilst trying a trick?

One that sticks out to me is the last trick that I filmed with Timmy for my RATZ Recruitment part. We went to this 15 stair in Rotherham College, I think Calvin (Ligono) tried to ollie it years ago with Callun Loomes. I took one slam and rolled out, completely fine, and I was like, “this is doable; it’s on”. I tried it a second time, and I took all of the impact on a sort of one-legged squat on my knee. I bounced off that and hit my back and my head against a door. I fell on the floor and was still for a couple of seconds, in shock, then it hit me and I grabbed my leg, like, “am I ok?”. I waited for a few minutes and walked around. The ollie felt doable, and I didn’t ever want to go back there; I knew I could do it, but I didn’t want to be battling it for a long time. I went back up, and on that third try, I landed it. I was rolling away, it was sunset, it was golden hour, all of the stars seemed to have aligned on that one try. That does stick in my head as both one of the scariest moments trying a trick, but also one of the most relieved I’ve been afterwards, because it wasn’t just rolling away from that trick, it was rolling away from finishing a part I’d been working on with Timmy for a couple of years.

Gap out to classic crook shapes in Barnsley. Photo: Rob.

So there are a couple of quotes here about your trick bag, which still ring true today: ”Not one to take the conventional trick route, he can be found pulling a hippy jump down a double set, then later seen performing a perfect hardflip down a large three block”, and: “He doesn’t give a fuck if 360 bonelesses down sets aren’t the in trick this season, he’ll do that shit anyway in between a bunch of gnarly flip tricks”. So, I guess I want to ask, who or what has influenced your varied repertoire of tricks?

I guess it’s the people that I was skating with growing up, and also the videos I was watching. And I think as well, growing up in Shrewsbury, nothing was really whack; there weren’t enough people back then for things to be cliquey, or for someone to say, “that trick sucks”, or whatever. The hippy jump thing, that is one trick I can directly attribute to Nick Binnington. Skating the two block at home, he was doing this trick, which was a bit like a hippy jump, but he called it a ‘jollie’, like a ‘jump ollie’, because it’s a bit like a hippy jump, but you don’t have anything to jump over. You do it down things instead. The boneless 360, that’s one I actually learnt from watching videos of Mike Vallely. Bonelesses and those kinds of tricks are kind of frowned upon sometimes, but if they’re done well, or done on the right spot, then they can look good, like any trick. Skating with Nick as well, he’s got an interesting bag of tricks… it’s like skating with Dead Dave (Addlington), for example. He does tricks that I’ve never seen before; my mind just boggles every time I go skating with him. I do equally love more conventional skating as well. I was just watching Bryan Herman in Stay Gold, and obviously he’s a big hardflip inspiration.

When you’re scared, that’s the zone where you can really push yourself.

Here is possibly the most random quote from your First Light: ”I’ve heard stories of him turning up on a skate trip with a flask of gravy”. Is there any truth to this wild claim?

Yeah, I did turn up on a skate trip to Stoke with a flask of gravy. It was from some random, extended joke when we were kids. We used to say, “it’s all gravy”, and somehow that led to bringing a flask of it on the skate trip. I do quite like gravy… but I don’t think the flask got drank. Maybe it got skated (laughs).

Putting his insoles (and knees) to the test, Rasheed frontside wallies in South Yorkshire.

Photo: Rob.

So despite having your First Light way back in 2014, and killing it constantly since then, you’ve only recently picked up some sponsors. How did riding for Heathen and Etnies come about?

I started getting boards from Heathen after the Black Mass jam last November, but things with Heathen actually go back a little further. After I finished filming my Black Altar Apparel part with Dan Jordan - that would have been early 2014 - I sent the footage to Rollersnakes, because people were saying, “you should send some footage out, you should try and get sponsored”. Getting sponsored hadn’t really been on my mind, but I had three minutes of raw footage from this part I filmed. So I sent it to Rollersnakes, and Darren Pearcy, who now works at SkateboardGB, he hit me up, and over the next year or so, he sent me a couple of packages from Heathen. This was around the time when Heathen had to close down, along with Unabomber. Since then, I’ve not been too fussed about sponsorship. I’ve been lucky that since moving to Sheffield, I’ve can get cheap boards from Martin (Kennelly) and Louis (Slater). Louis runs Sex Skateboards out of Slugger Distribution, and I was always able to go over there and they’d sort me out, so I’m very, very grateful for that. Occasionally I’d win a board at a jam too to tide me over. So Heathen started again last year out of Rollersnakes, and Forde had kind of been hinting to me about getting on, but I was a little bit hesitant because I’ve always been quite in my head about sponsorship. I tend to overthink things a lot, I put a bit pressure on myself, I might not know what’s expected of me, et cetera, et cetera. In late 2022, I was speaking to Moggins about all of this, we had a good chat, and afterwards I kind of realised that I was probably more in my head about things than I needed to be. It was a week later at the first Black Mass jam that James ‘OG’ Hewett came up to me and asked, “do you want to ride for Heathen?” I already had my answer; I said, “yeah, for sure”. Toby (Batchelor) hit me up, he sent me a package; I was hyped. All of the gear’s rad, Mike (Wright) is a really talented artist, I love the graphics and they’ve built a really sick team that I’m stoked to be a part of!

With Etnies, I got my first pair of The Marana in 2013, and it lasted twice as long as any other shoe I’d skated. I’m a creature of habit; when I find something I like, I stick by it, so I’ve only been skating The Marana since then… and it’s been almost 10 years (laughs). I guess Forde is in touch with Kevin Parrott through Rollersnakes, and he’d been sending him footage, then one day I got a couple of pairs of The Marana sent to my home in Shrewsbury, and I was so stoked. Just to have a couple of pairs for free was amazing, and since then I’ve had a couple more packages. I’m super, super grateful to Kevin for that. So yeah, I’ve got boards, I’ve got shoes, and that’s only happened in the last year. Stoked!

So now you’re living and working Sheffield, and you live over the road from the NSD Support Network DIY, aka Staples. Can you tell us a little about that? The DIY seems to be quite a focus of the Sheffield scene at the minute.

The DIY started last year in the car park of an old Staples, led by my good friend and top grafter John. One of the barriers got concreted up first, then the next thing we did was jack up a Jersey barrier, tilt it a little bit, and build a quarter. From there, we just continued building things, and bit-by-bit, it’s become an entire DIY skatepark. They raise money and sell NSD t-shirts, and all the Sheffield skaters chip in money for concrete. It’s in a car park right in the middle of Sheffield city centre, but the retail park that it’s a part of, all of the buildings there are disused. There are currently planning applications to build a Lidl over there, but I think that will take a few years because there’s opposition, as they want to deculvert part of the River Porter running underneath it. Like any DIY, you’ve got to skate it whilst you’ve got it, because one day they’ll come and knock it down in two seconds, but for now, it’s become quite a hub. Before Staples we would mostly be at Devonshire Green, but these days it’s not really so fun to be around, and Staples offers more of a chill environment.

Rasheed interrupts a mundane Midlands red brick scene with a hefty noseblunt pull in. Photo: Rob.

And the crew at the DIY are also responsible for the downhill chaos that is The Gauntlet, correct?

Yeah, that’s right. The first Gauntlet was at the end of 2021. That wasn’t hosted by NSD, but it was such chaos and fun that day that we had to bring it back again for round two at a new location.

I did turn up on a day trip to Stoke with a flask of gravy.

Have you left skin at each of the Gauntlet locations so far?

To be honest, I layered up quite well for the first one, so no skin was lost there. The second one, I definitely lost some skin; I think everyone did. It was held on a thin, recently re-tarmacked path winding down a grass hill, but the sketchy thing was there was this cycle gate at the end, it had two metal plates with a narrow gap between. At the end of the hill bomb, you had to choose between jumping off into the grass, or committing to going through the barrier, otherwise you’ll smash into the walls either side. I wiped myself out twice in a row, got a pretty bad swellbow and wrote myself off for the day, but everyone else just absolutely smashed it. Hasan Media, he was definitely the MVP. He was going down the hill Mach-10, going down it switch… shout out to Hasan, you are insane!

And that concludes my questioning, Rasheed. Have you got anyone you’d like to say thanks to?

Nick Binnington, legendary homie since day one. Nick Ellis, Dan Jordan, all of Gnargore, Chris Johnson for when we shot my First Light, Reece Leung, Rob Whiston, Martin and Louis at Slugger, Mike and Toby at Heathen, Kevin Parrott, Forde, and Timmy Garbett. And of course yourself, Rye. Shout out to you (laughs).

Follow Rasheed - @rasheed.osman

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