Updated: Dec 14, 2021
My priorities changed when I became a mum, and I didn't want to be out and about any more.
Zeta Rush is a pretty cool name. I first heard it a decade or so ago via pre-Instagram social media platforms, and appearances in Milton Keynes YouTube edits. With the memorable name came a skater with a solid style, a broad trick selection, and basically any no-comply variation that you could dream up. Later in life, Z and I crossed paths, and I quickly realised that behind those three syllables was a great person. She is somebody that I’ve felt comfortable with from the very first day, whether that be filming, or just hanging out and talking sh*t. Always the one with trick or spot ideas, and motivation to film clips, Z can just as easily grab a beer with the crew, or brag about adventures with her son Oscar, and she is always the voice of reason in the Dreamcast group chat. Zeta coverage feels like it has been long overdue. However, now with The National Skateboard Co. wood beneath her Vans Old Skools, and a full part in our upcoming video for Welcome Skate Store looming, it feels like everything is coming round to its rightful place. Good things couldn’t have happened to a better person. Proud of you, Z! - Josh Hallett
Filming board assisted hippy jump at the least Milton Keynes looking spot in Milton Keynes. Photo: Leo Sharp
Are you another James Woodley type? Is this your first proper interview?
I think so, yeah. I had a First Light in Sidewalk with a few quotes from people, and then I had a little feature in the MK Skate book, but I’d say this is my first official interview.
What year was your First Light?
2013, so ages ago now.
How have you successfully avoided being questioned for so long?
I don’t think I’ve ever been in the right place at the right time (laughs). I have shot the odd photo here and there, but nothing ever really happened with them, then my priorities changed when I became a mum and I didn’t want to be constantly out and about any more. I always thought that around the Get Lesta period was when I would have been most likely to shoot an interview, because I was out skating every weekend, but…here we are.
Is it fair to say that you have become more productive with your skating in the years since you became a mum?
Yes, 100%. Obviously I don’t get out as often as I used to, but the days that I do get to skate, I try not to waste. I try to film something every time I go skating because it might be a month until I get to go filming again. The first year after Oscar was born, we would drive to the skatepark every day in time for his morning nap, and he would fall asleep in the car on the way there. We’d put him in his pram at the park and then skate as much as we could until he woke up. That intensive way of skating has kind of stuck with me. Long gone are the days of spending hours on end at the Bus Station, leisurely trying tricks, drinking beers and chatting with mates (laughs). Trying to skate as much as you can in the space of a 45-minute nap has done wonders for my stamina (laughs).
A boardslide at The Beige, and a return to MK aesthetical normality. Photo: Leo
So how soon after giving birth did you start skating again? Did you find things like balance and strength took a while to come back?
My first proper skate was something like three weeks after. I actually learnt some tricks, but it seemed like my balance was off for months. I couldn’t roll fakie or switch for ages, but my strength and general physical health were better than ever. My ankles had never felt as good, probably thanks to spending six months off my board, and maybe carrying around the weight of an extra human made them stronger too.
Similarly, how far into your pregnancy were you when you gave up skating? Was skating something you talked to your midwife about?
I think I was five months pregnant when I decided to stop. I filmed about half of my short Maternity Leave section whilst pregnant; once that was released, I started to wind down doing tricks. I remember trying a no-comply disaster on a quarter, I hung up and went straight to the floor. I fully gave up trying tricks after that, but would still roll around a little. I did speak to my midwife about skating, she recommended carrying on as long as I felt I could, because skating is good exercise. I was obviously worried about slamming, but babies are supposed to be pretty well protected in the womb, so the midwife didn’t seem too concerned. My mum always claimed that she played netball until she was eight months pregnant. A slam on a skateboard probably isn’t as bad as an elbow to the belly; they get pretty violent in netball.
Let’s talk about no-complies for a moment. Have you ever seen Ray Barbee skate? Only after he commented on an Instagram video of me (laughs). That’s bad, isn’t it? I’ve never really followed skating.
I thought from the no-comply obsession, you’d have been familiar with his work. It’s quite shameful, I know. I posted a video of 26 no-comply variations for my 26th birthday, and he left a comment, which everyone was hyped on, so I gave myself a history lesson; I could see why everyone was stoked. Where does the love of intricate no-comply variations come from then?
I literally don’t remember ever learning a no-comply, but they just seem to come easy to me, which is annoying because I’d much rather be able to do flip tricks instead (laughs). It’s a mystery to me where they came from. It’s not like I even skated with anyone who was into no-complies; they certainly weren’t fashionable at the Bus Station, and they probably still aren’t.
I think the scene in the UK was so small at the time that they were surprised to randomly find a female they didn't know skating at the Bus Station.
You were quite closely linked to the Bus Station in Milton Keynes for a long time; do you remember first skating there?
I’m pretty sure it was with my friend Joe, and we were on a three-hour break from college in Northampton, so we got the bus over to check it out. Mark (Stern) had shown me videos of it, but he implied that you needed to be really good to skate there, so we went in the week when it would be quiet, and we hid on the far side of T-Block, doing stationary kickflips. That must have been 2008. Once I knew where it was, I would get my brother to drop me there before he started work on a Sunday, at 8am. The vibe there on a weekend was a lot different; there’d be loads of people skating about really fast. It was pretty intimidating.
Was the intimidation made worse because you were presumably the only female skating in Milton Keynes at the time?
To be honest, it never even came into my head that I might have felt intimidated because I was a girl; I felt intimidated because I couldn’t skate as fast as everyone else, or pop tricks as high as them, but I suppose that’s the same for most people when they start skating. No one that I skated with back then ever used to say anything about me being a girl; it was only when we’d drive to different parks outside of the city that someone there might stare at me. If that happened, Swampy would always stop and shout, “look! It’s a girl!” I guess that was his way of ridiculing them, by pointing out the obvious.
Did it ever feel like you were treated differently because you were a female skateboarding at a time when that wasn’t exceptionally common?
I definitely found people to be more patronising towards me; there was always the assumption that you needed help, or people being surprised when you could do something that they couldn’t. It never used to bother me as much, and I’d laugh it off, but in the past few years I’ve gotten old and grumpy, and now it really annoys me. You always get the guys at the Bus Station who get their boards back out in time for summer, they’ll watch me skate about then will say things like, “whoa, you can kickflip better than me!” Of course I can, I’ve skated all year round since I was 16, and I try really, really hard (laughs). Comments like that are usually made with the best of intentions, but they don’t come across like that.
Also, a couple of times when I went into shops to buy boards, I’d tell exactly them what I wanted, but then the staff would feel the need to talk me through board shapes and sizes, then suggest other boards for me, like I’d never bought one before. I know it’s just people trying to be helpful, but it wasn’t like I was a ten year old kid with my dad; I’d be asking for something very specific, but staff would still feel the need to question what it was I was trying to buy. I skated the same board shape and size for years, just hand it over and let me pay (laughs).
A classic Carl Shipman Nottingham spot gets served a Sunday morning beanplant wallie. Photo: Andy Horsley
I know you said you didn’t really follow skating when you first started, but back towards the end of the 2000s, how aware of the female skate scene in the UK were you? Did you even know a scene existed?
I was totally oblivious. This was before social media, really; I never used Facebook or anything, and I didn’t leave Milton Keynes too often, so I was completely unaware that there was a female skate scene. All I saw was my group of friends, or people who came to skate at the Bus Station. It didn’t even cross my mind that I could seek out other females to skate with, or that female only sessions at skateparks were a thing.
The first time I met other females who skated, I was down at the Bus Station by myself, and Jenna Selby and Laura Goh appeared. I don’t think we spoke, but I went to the shop to get a can of Coke and they both panicked, thinking I was leaving for the day, so they came after me and said they wanted to film some clips for the Rogue Skateboards video As If, and What? I think the scene in the UK was so small at the time that they were surprised to randomly find a female they didn’t know skating at the Bus Station. I’d never considered female skaters before that, then suddenly I learnt there was a whole community of them, and they were working on a video.
Off the back of that day in Milton Keynes, did you have some tricks in As If, and What??
I think I had three. I went to the premiere for the video, in London, with my friend Snoosh (Liam Snusher). I’d have been 17, and my mum said I could go but I had to come straight back, so there was no after party for me. We got lost on the way there too, so I didn’t get to speak to anyone beforehand. I was blown away that the premiere was in a real cinema; I think it held something like 50 people. I know it keeps being said, but it’s pretty mad that you could actually fit the entire UK female skate scene in one room in 2009. These days there are more than 50 female skaters in most major cities.
After traveling to the premiere and seeing the female community first hand, did you feel compelled to try and involve yourself in the wider UK scene more?
I definitely went to a couple of the female only nights at BaySixty6 and Pioneer, but I was still in college and had a job, so it was hard to travel too much. I was quite happy just skating the Bus Station on an evening, and on weekends.
I guess you next emerged as part of the Get Lesta crew. How did that connection come about?
Bushy (James Bush) and Mark were filming with Cal (Callun Loomes), and I think they got me involved because I had a car, so I could spend my weekends driving them to spots (laughs). It was sick traveling to different cities after skating Milton Keynes religiously for so long. Also, having a proper part to work towards was something that was new to me. Filming for Get 420 was good fun; there was a lot of banter, which probably wouldn’t have been for everyone - you had to be thick skinned - but the dynamic seemed to work.
Even as social media has risen in dominance within skateboarding, you still prefer to work on long-term video projects. Why do you value full parts over Instagram hype?
I grew up around Sean (Smith), (Rob) Selley and Browny (Giles Brown), people who were always filming towards, or making, full-length videos. Also, I started skating years before Instagram clout was even a thing, so what else was there for you to do? It was never questioned; we’d leave the Bus Station to go up the city, and everyone would be filming their clips on a VX. There was always some video project on the go. It was before smartphones too, really. No one had them back then, and if they did, the camera was bad, or there was not enough memory to be filming tricks, not like how it is now. It was a nicer time to be growing up…it was much simpler in my day (laughs). A premiere night is a nice thing to work towards too, so you can get a bit drunk and see all of your friends’ hard work. A video is a good time capsule to look back on when you’re older, and it’s something to show Oscar. As for social media, to each their own, but personally speaking, I haven’t got loads of tricks, and I don’t have much free time either, so I wouldn’t want to put effort into learning something only for it to be posted on Instagram.
Front shove the Great Linford hip, coming from the less favourable 'other way'. Photo: Leo
You obviously don’t have to answer this one if you don’t want to, but you’ve spent a lot of years skating in environments where you would have been the only female in the group. Has there ever been a time when you haven’t felt safe? No, I’ve never felt unsafe, but I understand that I’m lucky in that respect. In my experience, I’ve actually felt safer because everyone has always looked out for me, even on nights out when the skating is done. But I know that’s not the same for all females. There has been a lot of horrible stuff coming out recently about people’s behaviour within skating. It’s important for females to feel that they can speak out about their experiences, because the skateboard community is so close knit and abusers can easily be hidden in plain sight. There are so many females skating nowadays, they need to know that their voices are being heard, and that there will be support there for them if they need it. It’s on all of us to help make skateboarding a safe place for everyone.
Well said. Long gone are the days of skateboarding being this gigantic ‘lads club’.
It’s pretty mental. I still get really stoked when I see girls just pushing down the street, but I shouldn’t be surprised really because it seems like skateboarding is almost at a 50/50 split in terms of gender these days.
As someone who seemed quite happy skating the Bus Station, what was it about the Girl Skate UK jams that made you want to head to the indoor parks? When did you start regularly meeting up with Danni (Gallacher) and everyone?
I think I met Danni through going filming with Cal for Get 420; we must’ve gone to Sheffield to skate at one of the DIY spots there. After that, me and Danni stayed in touch. I used to go to the jams that Danni would organise, and then we’d make a weekend of it, so we could all hang out. Everyone used to make the effort to travel and support Girl Skate UK, which was good because we all lived so far apart. The jams were always so good, Danni put so much thought into them; she’d nail every tiny detail, even down to having the right beer sponsor (laughs). There’d usually be a night out afterwards too, so we got to party in different cities. We’ve travelled all over the country together; we went to Malmo for an event there. That was for a Get Set Go! competition. I hate comps, but Bryggeriet Skatepark said they’d pay for my flight and accommodation if I entered, so I went along and got a little holiday (laughs). Me, Danni, (Kirsty) Tonner and Romy (Haynes) all still talk daily, usually about gardening.
Zeta insists she doesn't do transition tricks, but the form on this Coventry backside boneless claims otherwise. Photo: Rob Whiston
Through being part of Get Lesta, and Girl Skate UK, you built up quite the presence in the mid-2010s. Did you ever get many offers for sponsorship?
I skated for The Ledge Skateshop in Leicester for a while, and Derby Daz (Darren Pearcy) would always sort me Heathen or Unabomber boards - he called it ‘Daz flow’ - but that was it. I always thought I wasn’t…marketable. I wasn’t very on it with Instagram, and back then that seemed to be very important to a lot of brands. But I never paid for boards, and I would buy cheap shoes from the kid’s section of TK Maxx, so I couldn’t complain (laughs).
Fast-forward to 2021 and you have a grip of companies backing you. When did that start to change?
It’s only been the last year or so that I’ve found myself with solid sponsors. After The Ledge closed down, I was at the Lost Art reopening in Liverpool, and after a few beers with (Dave) Mackey I think I was riding for the shop. That was 2016, but then a couple of years ago, I started working on a video project with Josh Hallett, and I was skating with the Welcome Skate Store crew a lot, so it made more sense to be riding for the shop alongside those guys. Manhead (Josh Young) started sending me Vans, and I’ve had some Ace Trucks from Rock Solid. I’ve helped out with things at The National Skateboard Co. for a few years, and always felt like part of the family, but now I’m properly on the team. Which is funny, because I’m not getting any younger (laughs).
I don't feel like I've ever actually finished filming for a part before, because life always gets in the way.
You mentioned the video project you’ve been working on with Josh for the last couple of years. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Dreamcast is the name of the WhatsApp group I have with Josh, Dale (Starkie), Will (Sheerin), and Jack (Hackleton). I’ve known Josh for a couple of years, and I was pretty keen to start filming some bits again once Oscar got to an age where I was comfortable leaving him, so Josh invited me on some of their filming missions. It was an independent video when we started, but it has since turned into a Welcome video, as it’s pretty much the Welcome team plus Jack (laughs). We must be two years into filming now, but we didn’t film anything over the lockdowns, so it’s taking a bit longer to come together than we thought. The deadline is now the end of summer, and it should be premiering in October. I’m hyped on my footage so far; I don’t feel like I’ve ever actually finished a part before because life always gets in the way.
Josh said we needed to talk about your approach to filming, and how you won’t stop trying something until it looks exactly as you want it to. Would you say you’ve become something of a perfectionist? I wouldn’t have said so, but when you word it like that, it kind of makes me sound like I am. I guess there’s not much point battling a trick, just to be disappointed with it you watch the video. I think I’ve learnt this the hard way with Josh; I’ll land something and tell myself I’m happy with it, but when I get home, something about it will be eating away at me, then I’ll have to make time to drive back and redo it. If there’s something not right about a trick or a line, you’re better off redoing it at the time, instead of lying to yourself just to have the battle over with. It’s not worth the four hour round trip for me to have to film the same thing again a month later. Josh always jokes that we’re replacing seconds on the timeline instead of adding to it, but sometimes it needs to be done. If you know that you can do a trick better, why wouldn’t you?
I'd say an open day wouldn't be the best time to fifty-fifty a kinked hubba at Birmingham Uni, but what do I know? Photo: Rob
So when you’re not hanging out with Oscar or out trying to film with Josh, what are you typically getting up to?
I’ve just finished my second year of university, studying accounting and finance. After my maternity leave finished, I found myself working in the local pet shop and Post Office. It felt like my brain was slowly disappearing, and I needed to find something to do that was a bit more stimulating. A friend of mine suggested going to university, and when I started to look into it, it made perfect sense. Being able to help skateboarders with their tax is what led me to accounting, as I know a lot of skaters who live off of money from their sponsors can be really bad with their tax. My course is 12 hours a week, so I can still spend loads of time with Oscar, whilst actually challenging myself.
Once this interview and video part are done, what’s next for you? Are you going to vanish off back into Northamptonshire obscurity again for a few years, or are you planning to stay on the radar this time? I’ve not really given much thought to what happens when I finish this video part. Maybe I’ll start another one, or maybe I’ll have another baby…or both (laughs). I don’t want filming for this video to finish, if I’m being honest. It’s been really nice, and it’s quite a daunting thought, having to start again. Maybe I should try and learn some more tricks (laughs).
Follow Zeta - @zetarush