Sidewalk Magazine – Issue 160 – January 2010.
So your first published skate photo came out in January 2010, as part of an article on Jenna Selby’s all female skate video As If, And What?
Set the scene for us please Helena; what was going on in your life when this photo was taken?
This was shot in 2009, so I was 17. I was still living at home, doing my first year of A-levels, and I was still wearing shin pads (laughs); you can see them through my skinny jeans. I was a 17-year-old girl and I didn’t want my legs to be covered in scabs and bruises, so I started wearing shin pads when I skated.
I went through a phase of wearing kneepads too. I remember skating the Southbank stair set, and if I bailed I’d skid on my knees. People would say, “oh my God, what are you doing?” It’s a dangerous habit to get into, because you don’t want to end up automatically jumping to your knees when you slam.
The style was just awful then, wasn’t it? I mean, I’m sure I’ll look back in another ten years time and think, “what was I wearing?” To be fair, I think I’ve always just taken whatever clothing came my way. I definitely had some hand me down shoes from my cousins when I was younger, I’d wear big logo t-shirts and hoodies, goodie bag prizes from events…but these skinny jeans, they were a choice (laughs).
When did you decide to hang up the shin pads?
Oh, I don’t know. I’d like to say it was earlier than it was, but I don’t think I retired them for a long time because they had really good ankle coverings at the bottom. It was sick; I didn’t have any bruises on my shins for a long time, and my ankles were kept safe (laughs).
Can you remember much about the day you shot this photo? How did the opportunity to shoot this fifty-fifty come about?
Jenna Selby was filming the Rogue Skateboards all girls skate video (As If, And What?). I tried to get a couple of things at this spot; one was this fifty-fifty along, down, and up a bit – I didn’t grind the whole thing (laughs). And then another was ollie up, ride to the end, then do a pop shove-it tailgrab off, which is in the video (laughs). It’s stinking, absolutely stinking. But you live and you learn, although I did try one of those the other day, just for LOLs.
We actually first found this spot because there was a Nike SB, Blueprint Skateboards, and Slam City Skates Go Skateboarding Day, and they put loads of blocks around London. They put one at Pontoon Dock on the DLR line, which was next to this spot.
That was the UK girl scene in its entirety. There was probably about 30 girls max I’d say.
No way, I remember that. Did you get involved in the day?
Yeah. That was the best Go Skateboarding Day I can remember; it was like a little treasure hunt. It was 2007 and I’d just finished my GCSE exams, so it was the start of the summer holidays. We went to Southbank and we had to find someone who had the map to where the new blocks were. Some of the blocks were really central; there was one in St James Park behind Trafalgar Square, then there was another by Holborn. I think a lot of them ended up at Southbank afterwards.
How did you first meet Jenna, and end up riding for her all female board brand Rogue Skateboards?
When I was 15 or 16, after about a year of skating, I bumped into Sam Bruce at Meanwhile Gardens. She was the first girl I’d ever seen skating, not that I was looking for one; I didn’t really think about it. We had a game of SKATE, exchanged phone numbers, then she told me about the All Girl Skate Jam (at Pioneer Skatepark, St Albans). I went to that and entered the under 18s comp, and that’s where I met Jenna. I think she sent me an email, or phoned me. I don’t know what we did back in the day, before DMs (laughs). She asked if I’d be up for riding for Rogue Skateboards. I had no idea what it meant really; I just remember thinking, “sick, I’m getting some boards!”
Starting a lengthy 5050 back in 2009. Can you spot the shin pads? Photo: Jenna Selby
Do you remember when As If, And What? came out? Did you go to the premiere for it?
Yeah. I can’t remember exactly where the premiere was, but I remember thinking it was really fancy, like it was in a hotel. It was really grand, I felt out of place. My grandpa from Australia was in town as well; I somehow managed to convince him to come, which was hilarious. He was just like, “what on earth is she doing? Falling over? Throwing herself down stupid things?” I’m not sure what he was expecting to see (laughs).
It’s impressive that Jenna managed to join the dots of pretty much the entire female skate scene in the UK back in 2009, before social media really made everyone accessible.
That’s the other thing about this era, that’s how few female skaters there were; you could put them all in one room. The All Girl Skate Jam at Pioneer, people would come from far and wide for that, so you really felt like that was it. That was the UK girl scene in its entirety. There was probably about 30 girls max I’d say. And now, in every skatepark there are girls, there are girl crews skating around town; it’s bonkers, but it’s amazing.
Do you still own one of your Rogue Skateboards pro boards?
I think I must; it will be at my mum and dad's house, in the loft.
Can you tell us a bit about the graphic? Didn’t you draw it?
Yeah, I did a linocut of my legs. I can’t remember who gave me that ‘Legs’ nickname; it might’ve been Lovenskate Stu (Smith), or Lucy (Adams) calls me ‘spaghetti legged’ in this article. She says, “she’s got mad spaghetti legged skills.” Thanks Lucy!
I remember seeing that pro board in Rollersnakes at one point, and I was like, “people can actually access these? Oh on…the wide world!” (laughs).
They were different times back then; different times, and different trousers.
Do you remember the first time you saw this photo in print?
I do. There was a big WH Smith in Charlton, and they would always stock Sidewalk. I went down after school, excited to see if the new issue had come out. I actually still have a copy of this. I kept quite a few mags; I did have loads of Sidewalks actually, but my mum always wanted me to not hold onto things, which is totally against the skateboarder ethos. We’re all such hoarders. I culled quite a few, and I really regret it. I kept a select few, where I might have featured, or someone I know was featured.
Out of all of the photos you’ve had printed over the years, which one stands out to you as your ‘favourite’?
That’s a very good question. There is one I really like in my recent Grey interview, that Rich (West) shot, of a caveman nosegrind down a handrail. If anything, I just really liked my trousers and shoes (laughs), and it was a nice blue-sky day, so I was quite hyped on that (laughs). That one, and then obviously the cover that Henry (Kingsford) shot.
Is there anything else you’d like to add? Have you any final thoughts on 2009, or this time in your life?
It was the 2000s, so skateboarding wasn’t that cool, was it? I mean, it was cool, but there was no social media, so there were no crazy followings online or anything like that; there were no trolls (laughs). It was pretty innocent I would say. I guess if you were skating then, you were just really, really into it. Today it’s hard to filter through a lot of people who skate. It’s hard to tell whether they’re doing it for the love of it, or doing it for the 'Gram. They were different times back then; different times, and different trousers (laughs).
Follow Helena: @helenalegslong