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Push: Beth Howells

Interview by Alice Smith

Photos by Rob Whiston

Hey Beth! Hope you’re well, could you introduce yourself please?

Hey, I’m Beth and I’m from a small town in Herefordshire.

You refer to your hometown, Ross-on-Wye, as ‘Ross-Vegas’. Do you want to talk about why that is, and what it was like growing up in such a small town?

(Laughs) Yeah, me and my mates have always called it that. I think it stems from the idea that Ross is a super reserved place, and I honestly reckon I’m the youngest person living there (laughs). I joke about it, but I actually love it. I could never imagine living in a city. It’s super quiet, full of grannies and has the cutest walks.

So, being from a more reserved place, how and when did you first interact with skateboarding as a subculture, and what was its appeal to you?

I’ve been asked this question a few times, and it honestly annoys me that I never actually have a distinctive memory of when or why I started skating. I guess as a kid I was always super active and loved anything outdoors. My family always went camping and surfing when I was little, and I always remember bringing my board, so perhaps it came from that. I do have a clip on Ross Vegas’ famous metal park when I was around nine years old in the most horrendous shorts going though (laughs). I think that’s around the age I started skating.

Skateboarding is a really good hobby to channel individual differences into, and you can make of it what you like.

How did you find it going from skating in such a small town, to integrating into the Hereford scene?

I started skating Hereford when I was quite young to be fair, so that’s kind of been my local growing up. I love Hezza. No matter what park I skate, none will ever compare. I think when you skate it for a super long time you find the groove of the park, if that makes sense? It’s so fun to flow around, and you can be really creative with it. It feels super sick to have skated all the phases of that park, too. It’s changed so much, and they’re extending it again, which is going to be dope!

Yeah, Hereford is such a fun park; it’s got a mixture of everything. Great to hear they’re extending it even more! So, from Hereford, how did you then integrate into the even bigger Bristol scene?

The Bristol scene has only recently been on the cards for me, and I love it so much. Pretty much all my mates are based in Bristol and I love the range of skating there. When I’m not working, I spend pretty much all my time there. The Deaner is definitely the best. Everything there is so gnarly, and when I get something new there, or go even faster, it makes me even more stoked because it’s so scary to skate (laughs). I also love the contrast of Warmley, the butteriest park ever! The transition is so mellow and so

fun you can just float around.

Hosepipe brandishing locals & a set of broken ribs can’t stop Beth. Taildrop, Viva Ross Vegas.

Have you found that being a queer woman brought up any difficulties into these integrations?

I’ve thought about this a lot, and I personally don’t think I’ve had any difficulties. I’m not sure whether that’s just been luck or who I am. I think the way I’ve been brought up and how I’m pretty chill about everything is maybe the reason. Like, for me it was no issue coming out to my parents; I was shitting myself telling them of course, but they couldn’t care less. They’ve always said who I like doesn’t affect them, and they’re always happy for me. Besides, they said they kind of knew anyway. I’m telling you, those shorts in that clip I was telling you about gives off major gay vibes (laughs).

It’s really good to hear that you’ve had such positive experiences, and the shorts are iconic! A lot of the queer skaters I interact with in person and on social media consistently have a really creative approach to skateboarding. How do you feel that these two things intertwine?

I just think anyone can be creative. For me, any person - no matter who they are or what they prefer - can be creative. It’s about the person. I sometimes think people need to be more accepting of things. Like, it really makes you think how there are boxes to put yourself in these days. If everyone would simply just appreciate differences and diversity then there would be no issue. I think skateboarding is a really good hobby to channel individual differences into, and you can make of it what you like.

You’re spot on; appreciating differences is so important. Speaking of channeling individual’s differences, you have a really unique, creative approach to skateboarding. What were your main influences growing up skating?

(Laughs) You’re too bladdy kind! Yet again, I’m not entirely sure. I always have fun with skating. I’ve never thought of skating as a sport, I just see it as a hobby where I can fully be myself. Skating is very interpretive and you can skate what you want to skate; there are no rules, which I like a lot. I love anything where you have to be fast footed, I love coping dancing and learning all sorts of swirls and whirls (laughs).

And who tend to be your main influences today?

Ahh, there is no question about this one. It has always been, and always will be, Maité (Steenhoudt)! I love her. I could watch her skate for hours, and trust me, I can barely concentrate for two minutes (laughs). She makes me want to skate more than anyone, and this is purely based off her creativity and that fact that she looks like she is

having so much fun. Her famous black swan smitties and her general spaghetti style! I love it. I met her recently in London and I was so stoked (laughs). Of course, typical clumsy me knocked her bladdy coffee over as soon as I said ‘hello’. Nice one!

Yeah, Maité kills it! You recently got on Sabbath Wheels, how did that come about?

Yeah I did, which is sick! It’s all come from the big man himself, Mr. (Rob) Whiston. He got a few piccies of me in Hezza and at Bournbrook, and one day just threw a set of wheels at me and said, “your wheels are flat-spotted as fuck, try these and see what you think”. I loved them obviously, and now I’m on Sabbath, which is dope! Those wheels were basically square though (laughs).

Putting a tailgrab twist on a Daveside fakie smith during a West Country winter’s night.

Getting on Sabbath was so deserved, and Rob’s doing bits! Rob recently mentioned you had a pretty rough encounter on the streets with an angsty guy when you were skating. What happened there?

Oh yeah, that was fucked! I was trying to get this super steep power ollie off a house into a bank at a spot I’ve looked at for years. Anyway, I climbed up to the top, and this guy in the house opposite literally grabbed me by the neck and tried to get me down. He was running about with a hosepipe as well; don’t know what that was about.

Did you manage to get the trick?

Yeah I did! Which, if anyone asked, “what was the scariest thing you’ve done?”, it would be that for sure. I broke my ribs on the first go but it just spurred me on. I was like, “fuck, I’ve got to do it now”, and got it third go on the lens.

If everyone would simply just appreciate differences and diversity then there would be no issue.

That’s crazy! You’re very open and involved with mental health in the U.K. skate scene, could you tell me more about that?

Yeah yeah, of course! Like I mentioned before, I think the way I was brought up massively contributes to this. I am a super open person, and I think that’s the best way to be. It’s obviously easier said than done. I work in mental health and I have encountered mental health within my family too. My dad attempted to end his life when I was a teenager and he has been a patient in the hospitals I work in. This situation was obviously heartbreaking and terrifying, but you know what? It made us so much stronger as a family. I love my dad to bits and my job allows me to give back and support people just like him. These sorts of situations happen when people feel alone, a burden, lost in their own thoughts. Thoughts and feelings are only passing, but being alone with your own thoughts can be very dangerous. Although the situation I witnessed was awful, it helps us recognise as a family when things are going downhill. I know my dad so much better now, and I can talk to him about anything; nothing is ever too much, nothing is taboo. This is how it should be.

I’m so sorry that happened, but the fact that you guys managed to come out stronger and open up that communication is so powerful.

Yeah exactly, and whoever reads this, I just want you to know, check in on your friends, and tell your family you love them. Some people won’t tell you when they’re not okay, but you’ve asked. Sometimes this is all people want, to know someone is there, someone cares. Sorry to waffle, but mental health is something I am truly passionate about. I also started my own campaign, Keep Pushing, this year, which has been rad! It’s a mental health campaign within skateboarding to help recognise early warning signs of deterioration. I had an event in the summer at Hereford skatepark, where I had a skate jam, DJs and a BBQ to help raise money for Stonebow Psychiatric Unit, the hospital where my dad was unwell. We ended up raising over £500, which has been used to buy new facilities for the patients on the ward. My Instagram page - @keep_pushingggg - also features videos on ADHD and autism, which are two things I’ve got experiences of, and I explore them with the hope that these videos might help another person feel safe, not alone and validated in their experiences.

Boosted boneless in the best barn setup that Gloucestershire has to offer.

You’re doing bits! So, what do you do with your free time, other than skating? I remember seeing a lot of footage of you DJing, or being involved with the DJ scene; could you tell me more about that?

Yeah, I love a boogie, me! I used to mix quite a lot a few years back, I used to play at a few small venues and free parties. I get the same sort of feeling mixing as I do skating; it’s a hobby where you can constantly progress, and you can mix what you like. I enjoy 4x4 and bouncy tunes, music that makes you want to get your groove on (laughs). I also love going on walks with my dog, Mario. I love taking him anywhere off the lead, where he can have a run around, in the middle of nowhere. He’s a proper cutie. I love anything outdoors and trying new things. I’ve recently got into climbing with one of my best mates Lyall (Wood)! He’s smashing it though, proper good. So yeah, anything that’s free and outside I’m always keen to be involved in (laughs).

Sometimes this is all people want, to know someone is there, someone cares.

Thanks for being so open Beth! Is there anyone you want to give an honourable mention to?

I’d have to say my best mate Lyall; he is the sweetest, most genuine person I’ve ever met. I love skating with him and he is such a talented and creative skater.

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