Issue 2: Inauguration - Karim Bakhtaoui

Karim Bakhtaoui’s first published skate photo.

Kingpin Magazine – Issue 48 – December 2007

Photography by Dominic Marley (2007) & Matt Law (2021)

So Karim, what was going on in your life 14 years ago?

I first started getting shoes from adidas in 2007; I know that. It wasn’t anything concrete, but Chewy (Cannon) was giving me a couple of pairs of shoes here and there. If I remember correctly, that’s also when we’d just started filming for Hold Tight London: Volume 1.

Oh yeah, the original monthly video series, when it was Morph (Dane Crook) and Henry (Edwards-Wood) both making the edits.

That’s right. Henry had a plan for the footage, but it was never said, “we’re filming for this video project”; we’d just go out and get some clips, and whatever happened happened. I was filming a lot with Morph; we’d be meeting up at Southbank and he’d always be trying to get me out of there, which was a big deal for me, because I had that label; I was a ‘Southbank skater’.

I guess that was your home at the time, as far as skating went.

It’s where I grew up skating. Southbank was a bit like a vortex, but I’d be quite content skating there all day, unless Morph, Henry, or (Jack) Brooks were trying to get me to leave.

As the Hold Tight project went on, did you get more and more accustomed to skating other areas of London?

Yeah, which was sick for me because I’d still start and end my day at Southbank, but I’d more focused on leaving there to get clips, which is what everybody was telling me to do anyway. When I did leave Southbank, it was crazy how much more of a world there was out there to skate (laughs).

I did always want to have a photo at Southbank. Even to this day, it’s never happened.

Do you remember your first time skating Southbank?

I do, yeah. Lev (Tanju) was the person who brought me to Southbank. We used to skate at Hyde Park, outside the Royal Albert Hall. That’s where I met (Nick) Jensen and a lot of other people too. There was only a bunch of kerbs there, but on Saturdays this one guy would bring some ramps out. One day Lev was like, “we’re going to Southbank, it’s in Waterloo. You should come”. We went, and I was blown away, man. It was this dark, dingy place, the lights didn’t work; even in the daytime, it was quite dark in there. That was the late 90s, so it was towards the end of the older crew being there. Clive (Daley), Tariq (Alatas), Malik (N’Gome), Femi (Bukunola); those were the people that I ended up skating with, and looking up to. After that, I never went back to Hyde Park.

That was when I started realising that skateboarding was ‘a thing’. When you’re young, all you really know is the spot that you skate, and at Southbank I was seeing people who had sponsors, who were mad good. People like Andres Holguin, and some days you’d see Paul Shier. I’d just watch them and think, “f*ck…” (laughs).

So this photo clearly isn’t at Southbank; where was it shot?

The photo was shot only a stones throw away from Southbank, but at least it was out of there (laughs). Morph was the one who said, “you should do a trick over this bollard”. I was down to leave Southbank and check it out, and things progressed from there. Dom (Marley) shot the photo, and that was like a milestone for me. I remember thinking, “dude, I’m shooting with Dom Marley! This is amazing”. I don’t think I saw the value in my own skating until I started shooting photos with Dom. It makes you feel proud to shoot photos with guys like Dom, Mike O’Meally, Atiba (Jefferson), Leo (Sharp). A lot of people are good at photography, but they’re in a different league.

Was it a shock to you that your first photo in a mag wasn’t at Southbank?

I was disappointed more than anything, because Southbank gave so much to me, and I’d have loved for my first photo to have been shot there. Southbank at that time wasn’t considered a skate spot. People’s mentality towards Southbank was that it was more of a training facility. If people were shooting photos there, it would be on the stair side ledge, the wooden beam. If you were skating over something, or skating the banks, it wouldn’t have really been considered good enough to shoot. It’s a shame; I did always want to have a photo at Southbank. Even to this day, it’s never happened.

Karim ollies long, high, and not at Southbank. Photo: Marley.

There’s still time.

There is still time, yeah (laughs). There are things that I want to do there, still.

Do you remember when this issue of Kingpin came out?

Yeah. I showed my mum and she cried; she was super stoked. She was like, “you’re going to make millions!” (laughing) “No Mum, I’m not”.

How is your mag collection looking these days? From the picture you showed me earlier, it’s seems pretty healthy.

I’ve got a copy of every magazine that I’ve had a photo in. When I look back at those photos now, it makes me realise that through skating, I’ve actually accomplished quite a lot. It’s something to be proud of. When you asked to me to find my first photo, I was looking through all of the magazines, and I was shocked; I’ve got a little catalogue of skateboarding from over the years. The photos transport you back to those times, and it’s wicked to have them to look back on. I did read my First Light again though; some of the sh*t I was saying…I don’t know what I’d been smoking that day (laughs).

I’ve said it before, but your Sidewalk cover – the front shove over the bench – is an all time favourite of mine. What can you tell us about shooting that one?

Well, there’s no footage (laughs).

Did it not bother you that there was no footage of it? That could’ve easily been your last trick in Albion.

I kind of like that, though. It captures what skateboarding is; it’s that split second, you know? If you were there, you saw it. But Kev (Parrott) and Morph were filming Harry Lintell skating a different spot down the street somewhere. I’d been to this spot countless times with Smasher (Sam Ashley) already to get the trick. I kind of feel bad for Smasher; he must have been fed up of me calling him to go to Angel to jump over that bench (laughs), but he’s just a dedicated dude. So I started trying it, then one go, out of nowhere, I just did it. Two minutes later Morph and Kev show up, like, ‘”what’s happening?”. I told them, “I just did it. And I’m not f*cking doing it again” (laughs).

Follow Karim - @karimboslice