Push: Dennis Roberts
Interview by Robert Delaney
Photography by Leo Sharp
Yes Dennis! Just to start off with, could you tell us a little bit about who you are, where you’re from, and where you grew up skating?
I’m from northwest London and I started skating at a place called Stonebridge skatepark, which is also known as St Raph’s, over in Wembley. It’s a pretty rough park; all the ramps are metal. I found it hard to learn much there, so I started skating over at Wembley arena. If you’ve ever been to the arena to skate, you’ll have seen that there are loads of three sets in a row, and then it goes to three, six, nine and twelve sets, with all the sets lined up next to each other. I would always go there after school with my friends who lived just up the road from me. They’re the ones who got me into skateboarding. From there, I met some other friends - Leon Wright, Nile Quartney, and Ashley Baldwin - and a little crew formed. We used to call ourselves ‘Wass Gucci’. It was me, Ashley, Leon, Alex Hatfield, James Kelly and Daryon Morgan-Impey. We’d go around to loads of skateparks, filming little edits, or we’d go street every weekend and try to get clips; we’d make little montages of each month. From there, I guess because we were all different ages, the group started to fall apart a bit; everyone started to do their own thing. I then started to skate on my own a fair bit; I’d go to Royal Oak or Gurnell and see who turned up.
So going from skating up in Wembley in west London, to skating at Mile End in east, did you notice a difference in the skate culture of each side of the city?
I’d definitely say that there’s a difference. I see east as the hotspot for skating. Nowadays, east is where it’s poppin’; it’s where everyone is. Everyone skates east or south, or mingles between the two. West London hasn’t got many skaters who stick around at the moment. I always found it hard to find skaters my age around west and northwest, especially when I was younger. Trying to keep a consistent group was tricky.
Dennis improves the least Dreamland looking part of Margate with a golden hour nollie backside flip.
Carrying on with the theme of east London, as that’s where their only shop now is, how did you end up on the Slam City team?
That was really random, actually. I’d met Harry Wilson a few times before, he was the Slam TM at the time, and it all came about on a quiet day where I was going out to meet Adam and Zach Delarue, Josh Smith and some others to film some street. I got to the spot in the afternoon, sat down to have a smoke, and then Harry came over to have a word with me. In my head I was thinking, “oh shit, I’m about to get told off”, and then Harry brought me to the side and went to me, “I’ve been watching your skating for a while and I like it. How would you like to skate for Slam?” It completely caught me off guard! Because I’m from northwest London and I grew up around here, I’d never actually been to Slam’s physical shop before. I never really had a reason to go in and pick up stuff there, so to be on the team all of a sudden was mad (laughs)! I was stoked to be put on, because to me, Slam is the most iconic skate shop in London, so I’m really proud to represent them.
I’ve heard the way you got onto Vans was a bit unexpected as well.
That came through Conor (Charleson). Conor does skate lessons at BaySixty6 sometimes, so because of that I started speaking to him more, and skating with him more, too. One day he asked me if I would be interested in riding for Vans. It was a no-brainer for me; of course I said ‘yes’. Conor spoke to Manhead (Josh Young) who said he was interested in flowing me some stuff. It was really mad for me because I’d been skating for eight years at that stage, and never expected something like that to happen. I also got on Primitive around the same time. I really went from having no sponsors, to getting stuff from Vans and Primitive in such a short space of time…it was pretty surreal for me.
Switch backside 5-0 backside 180 out. Trained in west London, performed in Westgate-on-Sea.
Seeing as you just mentioned Primitive, how did that hook up come about?
Conor was telling me to get out of the skatepark because I spent too much time there (laughs), so I started skating street with him. He was filming with Dan Magee at the time, so I would tag along, trying to film bits and bobs with them. Through filming with Dan and skating with Conor, I met Charlie (Munro), who sent me a big Whatsapp message the day after my birthday asking me if I wanted to ride for Primitive. I had to look at my phone twice; I was so gassed.
You were in the Grant Dawson’s And Again video recently. How did you first start skating and filming with Grant?
I guess that was through Alex (Hatfield) and Kelvinas (Litvinas). Grant used to film with Yardsale, but I’m not sure if he still does. Alex and Kelvinas were both on Yardsale and we were all living in the same house at the time; that was definitely one of the best years of my life, living with them. We were all on the same vibe for skating; we’d wake up, have breakfast, then just skate, skate, skate! Those two were filming with Grant, and sometimes I’d tag along; through doing that I got to know Grant quite well. Filming with Grant reminds me of the old days, where you’d wake up, hit everyone up, and there would be a huge crew of us skating. With Grant, we’d go from spot to spot around the city, and whoever got a clip, got a clip. We were really just exploring the city whilst getting clips along the way, which was really nice. It was refreshing for me, especially because I’d get taken to so many unique spots that I had never skated before. It was sick being a part of Grant’s projects as it helped me come out of my shell in terms of filming street clips.
Could you tell us a bit about your recent injuries, and how the recovery has been?
My recent injuries have been the toughest part of my skating life. My first proper injury was a really bad hotpocket. I’d always hear about hotpockets but never really knew what they were until I got one myself (laughs). That took ages to heal, and as soon as I got over that, I pinched a nerve in my back…that was rough. I came back from that, and not too long after I had recovered, I was at the Skate the Strand event, having a good session, then I slipped out of a backside 180 nosegrind on a ledge and I pinched my leg upwards; that killed. I thought it’d take a few weeks to heal but it ended up taking months. Three months of no skating was tough; I was going to the doctor, physio, having ultrasounds, but not finding out what the actual problem was. I found that really tough going, especially the physio part. When you get a physio that doesn’t really have the time to go fully into what the issue is, you’ll never find out what’s actually wrong with you; sometimes they’re just ticking boxes and doing their job in a general sense. A year later, my hip is still messed up a bit, but next week I’ve got another ultrasound. We’ll just have to see how that goes.
Just to round things off, what’s in store for you in the coming weeks and months?
Trip wise, I’ve got nothing planned, but if anything comes my way I’ll take it (laughs). I love going on skate trips; I had a recent one with Ryan (Gray) and Leo (Sharp) on behalf of Vans. We went down to Margate and had a really fun time; I enjoyed that. Other than that, because I’ve been injured for a while, the main thing for me is getting footage out there and getting properly recovered. I still don’t have much to my name in terms of street footage, so I’d love to get a part out soon, or something to look back on when I’m older.
Follow Dennis - @dennisrobertss