Very few people live up to their name as well as Don. Whether he’s effortlessly landing a trick you’ve never seen him try, or rocking up to the spot sporting his characteristic grin, Don’s presence is always guaranteed to get you hyped. Despite his compact build (I like to think of him as ‘fun-sized’), Don’s skating is anything but small, with a bag of tricks deep enough to make even Mary Poppins feel inadequate. Even members of the public fall victim to his style, with his skating always drawing a crowd of cheering spectators who often rush over to watch the footage, or pose for a photo. As well as impressing everyone on the board, Don has always baffled me with his unparalleled willpower. Whilst most of us sat and complained our way through the summer heatwave, Don carried on laying down hammer after hammer, despite the fact he was fasting for Ramadan. A true don on and off the board, he’s living proof that great things come in small packages.
Let’s start with something easy - how old are you and where are you from?
I’m 21, and I’m from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
How did you get into skating?
From what I remember, it was through videogames like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.
A little birdie told me you started learning to skate outside your house because you were too shy to go to the park…
Who told you that? How did you get that info? (Laughs). Some part of it is true because my house was quite far from the skatepark, so to get there you have to drive, or get on a motorcycle. I started skating when I was 13, then when I was 17 I started going to the skatepark regularly, because by then I had my motorcycle license. But yeah, it’s true, I was a bit shy (laughs).
What was the scene like in Kuala Lumper when you were young?
I’m not actually too sure. When I first started skating I wasn’t really aware of the scene back home in Malaysia because there wasn’t much footage of spots, or videos from anyone major. But as soon as I joined the community at the skatepark, I started learning more about the scene.
So there was a lot of local videos, but you just didn’t know about them?
Making videos wasn’t really the normal thing to do back home. The only videos there were ones that came out a long time ago, so there wasn’t many people putting out videos at the time. But I think right now it’s starting to grow; more people are keen to film.
What are the spots in Kuala Lumper like?
There’s a lot of good spots, there’s a lot of rough spots too, but it’s better than here (laughs).
Is there ever any trouble with the police?
Not at all. Not many people in authority are aware of skating because most people just skate parks, and aren’t keen for street. The city isn’t really built for you to walk or cycle around; most people have a car and just drive around to different skateparks. I think more people are skating street now though, which is cool.
Pebble Dashing with Don Irfan could almost be the name of a Channel 4 series. Frontside noseslide, Cardiff.
So you came to Cardiff to study Computer Science about three years ago now, right?
Yeah, it’s been three years; I only graduated recently.
What made you choose Cardiff?
I was looking at different cities when I was applying. I did my research and Cardiff was relatively cheap compared to London, which is what I wanted, and it's a big city too. I got a scholarship from the uni as well, so they gave me discounts and stuff, which definitely helped me decide (laughs).
Did you know anything about the Cardiff scene before you came?
Not really to be fair. I was quite last minute deciding whether I wanted to study abroad or just stay at home. I did my foundation in Kuala Lumper, and I got an offer to do my degree at the same uni, so I wasn’t sure if I was going to go abroad, but then I got the scholarship offer from Cardiff which made it easier to decide.
Have you got any plans for the future?
I’ve already started applying for jobs because I’ve got a Visa that lets me stay another two years. I’m not ready to go back yet; I want to stay here a bit longer. I’m just going to keep applying for jobs, that’s the plan for the time being, and hopefully I’ll get an interview soon.
The Don finds himself trapped inside an angular wallride nollie situation, Cardiff.
So I’ve heard you always used to rock a pretty iconic ‘fit when you first started skating - a football jersey, trackie bottoms, and headphones. Was this the start of your journey to becoming the drip god you are today?
(Laughing) How did you get that info? Sh*t (laughs). Yeah, all of my family are huge football fans, I am as well, I used to play at academies and that, so I think that’s where the influence came from. I’ve just got bare jerseys at home, so I wore them every day (laughs). I still rock the headphones sometimes, if I’m skating alone. It’s definitely better to skate with the homies without headphones on though, and just talk and socialise. I think that’s maybe what kids need to do, rather than just skating on their own.
Yeah definitely. So you said your family are really into football; were they hyped when you started skating?
I don’t know if I could say ‘hyped’ (laughs). They’re definitely really supportive; they never told me not to skate, which is nice (laughs)
So who do you skate for at the moment?
I skate for Cardiff Skateboard Club, Fountain, Quit, Gazed, Cute Asian Boys Hardware, The National Skateboard Co., and for myself (laughs).
Is there anyone you want to shout out?
Shout out to CSC and Companion for getting me this opportunity, shoutout to you Dan (laughs), to all the boys in Cardiff and back home in Malaysia, AU5 homies - which is my local skatepark - and shoutout to all the people and sponsors who’ve been supporting me.
One last question: I’ve always been impressed by how you can hold it down being sober while everyone around you is getting hammered. What’s the key to putting up with a load of steaming Welshmen?
Damn that’s hard…I don’t know (laughs). Nobody ever pressures me to drink or anything, which is rad; everyone’s really supportive. I think the key is just to know yourself better, and stay true to yourself and your principles.
Follow Don - @don.1rfan