Matthew 'Dykie' Ryan - the Open That Door interview
Updated: Apr 14, 2022
In the modern age, the term 'legend' (or 'chwedl', as it apparently is in Welsh...) gets thrown around far too easily, but Welsh skateboarding advocate Matthew 'Dykie' Ryan is certainly worthy of that moniker. Through his expansive video exploits, Dykie has shone a light on no shortage of Welsh talent over the years, helping several household names gain their first national exposure, something which he built on further in 2007 with the formation of his own brand, Crayon Skateboards.
Dykie might have been a bit quiet on the skateboard front of late, but on Saturday evening he returns to the fold with his first project of recent years, Open That Door, which is all set to be unveiled at Cardiff's mighty Spit and Sawdust. Open That Door is a multimedia project, comprising of a book and a short film, and follows Dykie on a colossal run around Wales, focusing on using skateboarding and running as tools to combat mental health issues. Naturally, Open That Door has brought about a return of Dykie's love for filming, and is set to include a grip of fresh footage from familiar faces both old and new.
Anyway, ahead of Saturday's gathering at Spit, we've sat down with Dykie to talk about all things Open That Door related, naturally injecting some history into the chat as a matter of course.
Photography by Leo Sharp, Open That Door poster and art by Philip Morgan.
Mr Ryan! Ok for the sake of those who may not be aware, can you kindly introduce yourself please?
Hi, my name is Matthew Ryan aka 'Dykie', I am pretty old (laughs) and I live in Barry Island, near Cardiff.
You’ve got a long history in skateboarding stretching back decades; when and how did your skateboarding journey start? What was it about skating that originally drew you in?
I started skateboarding in 1988. I think it was a different way - other than the traditional team sports that I tried but did not feel comfortable in. Skateboarding was the first time I had a real passion, and everything about it was exciting; all that was worth being outcasts in school for.
So when did filming enter the picture for you? Do you remember first picking up a camera? And how quickly did filming surpass skateboarding to become the thing that you dedicated most of your time to?
It was 1997 when I started filming skateboarding. I knew I wanted to make a video before I filmed my first clip. I don't think I was getting as much out of skateboarding as I did before, but I still loved it. I was in the middle of applying for university, but knew I didn't really want that, so I needed a substitute, so I picked making a skateboard video instead. Not that I was thinking of it as a career path or anything, but at least I was busy doing something instead of going to university, and at the time I was living Mathew Pritchard - who was one of the best street skateboarders in the UK at that point - so I was on to a good start.
You’re well known for your vast body of video work that helped showcase no shortage of Welsh (and West Country) talent over the years. Can you give us a quick rundown of the videos you’ve produced or been heavily involved into date? Starting at the very beginning…
So, my first video was out at the end of 1997, called Enter the Dragon, then Four Wheel Dragons was next in 1999; both are predominantly South Wales scene videos. Then Pritchard verses Dainton in 2001 with Lee Dainton, which I guess helped launch the Dirty Sanchez shows, then after that I went back to making Welsh scene videos with Underexposed 1 and Underexposed 2 between 2002 and 2004. Then the East Skateboards Vapors video with (Dave) Mackey, which came out in 2006. I did four Big Push edits - two with East, one with Death and one with DC. Then I started Crayon Skateboards in 2007 with a Crayon promo and the Dragon Eye video which was half new footage and half a ‘best of’ the old stuff. The next five and half years - with the help of Nick Richards and few others - were then taken up filming Crayon edits, and a Crayon DVD called Five Years. I also contributed a little bit to Panic, Blueprint and Death videos, to name a few.
Dave Mackey, gap to nosegrind, Dundee 2003.
You were heavily involved in the legendary East Skateboards back in the early years of the 2000s; how did your involvement in East come about, and what are some of your best memories from the missions surrounding the creation of Vapors?
My best times filming would have been the East era for sure, making Vapors and the two Big Pushes, and various other stuff. I met up with Mackey on a Barcelona trip in around 2002; I think I knew him a bit before then, but that trip we were hanging out and getting on really well. After that trip, Mackey said about his new company he was about to start, and he wanted me as the main filmer; I was really excited for the opportunity.
I think the best thing about East for me was the crew, the team. I really felt comfortable with everyone, which was something that might have held me back before that. I got on really well with everyone, we had such a laugh and there was definitely no negative vibes at all.
When I look back at a high moment, it might have been a trip to Cornwall, and even though we hardly got any footage, it still stands out as an amazing trip. Everyone was laughing the whole time, possibly at me (laughs). I guess we all want a productive trip of course, but if you don’t end up with loads of footage and great times still happen, that says a lot of what you are doing, and maybe that came across in the Vapors video, I would like to think.
How did things progress from helping out at East, to launching your own company Crayon?
After the second Big Push, I wasn't really filming for East anymore. It was possibly just a break, but in that time behind the scenes they were not great, and unfortunately the company ended. I guess that is what fuelled my energy for my new company, and also I had just started filming a young Chris Jones and got him on East flow, but then the company ended! I loved filming Chris and was excited for his future and wanted to be by his side at least for next few years. With that energy I made a new home for Chris and few others. Chris even came up with the name ‘Crayon'.
Out of everything you achieved with Crayon, what is the one thing that you would you say you are the most proud of?
That is a hard one…this answer is possibly mixed with East, but I think it is seeing where Korahn (Gayle) and Chris Jones are today. I feel very proud of them; I met them both when they were both 15 and possibly, I gave them a little head start. When I watched Chris having the last part in the Isle video (Vase), and Korahn have a part in an international Nike SB video (Constant), I was close to shedding a tear. I am still very good friends with them both and can't think of anyone that is more suited to kickstarting the skating in my new video.
Chris Jones, nosegrind, Sweden 2007.
Mackey asks: You’ve filmed a lot of U.K. heavy hitters over the years; any notable moments spring to mind, or tricks caught on film?
One of my favourite ever skateboarders is Danny Wainwright. I was lucky to film him a little over the years; I was always in awe while filming him, and possibly a little nervous. A particular trick I filmed is from Heath Kirchart - I was just a fan at a demo, filming - at Bedminster. I saw him get out of the car at the top and roll down the park, possibly just checking out what he wanted to skate…but no! He literally went straight for a kickflip over the big box in the middle. I could not believe what I was seeing! He made it about 10 goes later and then sat down for the rest of the day; a true legend.
What stands out to you as your all time favourite Mackey clip?
Possibly a clip we filmed in Scotland, and then a few weeks later I was posing for a photo for my Silverscreen interview in Sidewalk, Jerome (Loughran) who took the photo had the idea of wrapping a broken tape round me, as I guess that sums up my personality. I later realised that that Scotland trick was on the mangled tape and never saw the light of day as a result.
But on a positive note, for my favourite Mackey footage, I would have to say his part in Vapors in its entirety, It was not working out for him at all, he was stressing and only had about a third of his part done when everyone else was almost finished. I decided to book the premiere for a few weeks' time and put the pressure on, and it worked out; I am so pleased it did. We have gone through a lot and he still is one of my very best friends.
Similarly, what’s your all time favourite Korahn anecdote?
Ah there are so many, like doing one of the best tricks on UK soil and then walking away leaving his skateboard. Just being in his presence you can't help soak up his positivity. The main one though must be when me and him both missed out on a Crayon trip to Helsinki because he spilt Coke on his passport.
Korahn Gayle, frontside 180, Bristol 2007.
Moving onto your running exploits – when did running first enter the Dykie equation? Was this something coexisted alongside skating, or was it something that you discovered once you’d stepped back trying to run a company, or make videos?
The running came just after the East video. I don't really know why, it's not like that video was stressful or anything, I think I just needed something else in my life. It definitely was not as exciting as skateboarding or filming, but it was something that had very little variables - you just put your running shoes on and leave the door. There’s no waiting for skaters, dealing with security or bad weather or any of that. So when I started Crayon I was already running, and I seemed to push and work on the two together; maybe they helped each other out.
What have been some of the more memorable runs you’ve undertaken? You’ve done some serious miles over recent years…
I ran John O’Groats to Land's End, running about 30 miles a day for 30 days. I ran a continuous 180 mile run (with just a few hours sleep) on the Offa’s Dyke Path, which is the path that separates England and Wales. I ran a sub-3 hour marathon in London, which was something I was working on for a good few years. Also, I did a very expensive run in America where I was running across the dessert and through canyons, with helicopters following me in case I got lost.
So Open That Door – can you talk us through your latest running challenge please? What did it entail, and where did the idea come from?
Guess I had the idea from the start of lockdown, it was just my way of getting through all those evenings living alone in my flat. I knew I had to have something big to aim for and train for; I tried to run round Wales about five years ago but failed, so I decided to give it another shot. I had the book and video idea right at the start too; it was all my big plan. I had the song for the skate part picked out about 18 months before I even filmed a single trick… As long as I had this big plan I could take on lockdown, I was able to run and train outside and then have ideas for this new skate edit when I got home, even though I had no idea when the first clip would be filmed.
Leo asks: how do you manage to mentally keep going on the long distances that you undertake?
Good question Leo. It is hard but not as hard as you think. When I run, I only have positive thoughts, but when the bad times do come and I possibly want to give up I know it is not as bad as those low points I have had on my sofa. Running gives me some sort of superpowers I feel. I am more confident, I can talk to anyone, and the more I get out of it the more I want to keep going. It's the challenge of going further than before that drives me.
And a few more from Mackey: what was the strangest place you slept on your run around Wales?
I was lucky as there was a lot of hospitality along the way; sometimes I was more looked after than when I was at home. But I did spend two nights in a graveyard during the nights I had to wild camp. It was not that bad, they are normally nice and flat, they have a tap round the back of the church usually, and no one goes to graveyards at night to bother you. I was actually looking for them when I was wild camping.
Any crazy encounters to report, either with animals or otherwise?
Bloody cows; I don't like going past them in their fields. One Cow just ran straight for me; I just froze, and it skidded just before it got to me.
On your travels you must have seen some beautiful sights. Are there any personal highlights you’d like to share, or destinations we should all see?
Wow, my country is amazing, and there are loads of places I want to go back to. The whole of the Pembrokeshire coast is something special. The best bit about running the entire country is finding those hidden gems, the places that are hard to get to by car so are not so much a tourist spot. A place called Abercastle near St Davids springs to mind, but there are so many.
What are your everlasting memories from the Open That Door run?
Just the people that I met and the support I got. I saw friends and family pretty much every day, and if I was alone and not feeling great, I would soon be picked up by turning my internet on and hearing everyone's support online.
What started out as a run has grown to encompass a book and now a short film, which has also seen you get back into filming skateboarding. How did Open That Door grow? Was it always the intention for it to become a multimedia project that meshed running, skating, filming, and mental health, or was that just something that happened over time?
I guess - as I said earlier - it was always intended to be more than just the run, but it was just for me at that point, to help with my mental health and my times in lockdown, but it seems like it's getting more than that now. I have found quite a few people reach out to me - before the video and book are even out - saying, "I like what you're doing and I have been suffering too", and I have been trying my best to reach out to them back and helping them if I can, which helps me in return also. We are all looking our for each other, especially being skateboarders or runners.
I found that I already succeeded before the project ended; I am in a good place right now. The writing gave me so much, I have already achieved what I wanted from it. Also, with the filming, it has been great hanging out with so many old faces, and new ones too. I wouldn't exactly call myself a filmer by todays standards, I don't really know about the new lenses or the latest HD equipment, but I have used it as tool to work on this project, and have been loving it.
How have you found going out filming skating again? How long was it between you last being involved with filming, to logging your first skate clip for this new project? In fact…what was the last trick you filmed prior to starting work on Open That Door?
It has been great. I have not given myself any pressure; if I meet someone, have a good catch up and roll about, but then we don't film anything, it doesn't even matter as I have still accomplished what I was after. Also, it seems there is more acceptance of skating now from the public - possibly because of the Olympics. The other day I had a member of the public trying to persuade security to not kick us off of a spot as he was enjoying watching us skate; that seems like a new thing to me.
The book will be on sale at Spit and Sawdust on Saturday night at the launch party. What can people expect from the book, and the accompanying video?
Well it is a story of me running round Wales, but that is just a tool in the story; it could be any run really. I have set out a challenge for myself and it just so happens to be that one, and why I want to do it, I guess. Mental health and lockdown has a big part to play in that. It is a story of acceptance of who I am, good or bad. You may laugh, cry, or possibly get inspired to run or pick up a skateboard for the first time. But if it can do what it has done for my mental health to someone else as well, then that will be the biggest accomplishment.
Any final words on the project (for now)? Anything you’d like to add?
I want to thank you Rye, for this. All of this is about connecting with people, the run, the skating, the filming, all of it. Working with you with Crayon and Sidewalk was really good, and this is just another part of that puzzle I am creating, so cheers mate! Now that whole puzzle will be coming together next Saturday, after all this time.
Open That Door will be available to purchase for £10 on Dykie's Bigcartel soon...