It’s a bit of a “video game” theme this time: The two people contributing in this entry are video game developers Alex Darby and John Ribbins.
Alex Darby (also known as Darbotron) is a long time member of the games industry within the UK’s game dev capital, Leamington Spa. He was the co-creator of the DJ Hero series, and is a BAFTA member! He is also a lifelong skateboarder, with an intricate knowledge of ramp construction and skatepark design. As a long standing member of Warwickshire’s skate scene and games industry, I was curious to see who influenced him.
John Ribbins is the creator of the OlliOlli series of skateboarding games, and is Creative Director at London-based studio Roll7. As well as developing games, he runs DownRiverSpotGuide – an Instagram account about London’s most obscure and interesting places to ride the magical stunt wood. As a skateboarder who has worked on a game about skateboarding, I was curious to hear who influenced him early on in life.
Alex Darby – The New Deal team in “Useless Wooden Toys"
For me it wasn’t one skater, it was a video. Available for the bargain price of £9.99 – less than half the price of other skate videos in shops at the time – it embodied everything that the company which made it did: skaters doing it for themselves, shoving it to the corporate man without any of the rockstar nonsense that Powell were trading on at the time.
Every single day after school, rain or shine, I’d shove Useless Wooden Toys into the video player and watch it end to end (including the super-long bonus section after the main thing) whilst messing with my fingerboard.
At weekends I’d hook up with my friends, watch it again, and then go skate around the local spots (a 30 foot long waxed curb, a two-step-set, a disused knee-high railway platform at the back of a train station carpark, and a janky decomposing 7 foot mini with coping that stuck out like 4 inches from the transition in the middle) all day until we literally couldn’t even ollie anymore.
One of the highlights of my skate pilgrimmage to California in 1996 was skating Fort Miley where some of the tricks from the video were filmed. And there’s a clip of Justin roughly at the 6 minute mark that was a Birmingham skater meme before the internet!
If I had to pick out someone from the team it would be a tie between Ed Templeton (making the ollie impossible cool!) and Justin Girard (b/s tailslides of the gods).
I delammed more boards than I’d like to admit nailing impossibles, but it was totally, totally worth it; sadly I doubt I’ll ever do a b/s tailslide as good as the ones Justin Girard did in Useless Wooden Toys…
John Ribbins – Daewon Song
I thought I would be able to bash this out in no time, but thinking back to skateboarding as a kid I realised it’s really hard to figure out if there was a central person or persons that influenced me as a skater. I’ve never really been that good. Skating is just something I really really loved. In my early teens I was encouraged into football and hockey, but I wasn’t great at those and never really made the cut to be on a team. The nice thing about skating was that you could suck at it, as much as you wanted and it didn’t really matter because it was just you.
I grew up in Plymouth, which at the time had no skatepark of any sort. For the first 5 or so years of owning a board I just went in the road outside my house and tried to manual as far as I could down the hill, or roll up a curb cut to slappy 5050. I didn’t really even know what an Ollie was. I think the person who really got me into the scene properly was Martyn Orme. He went to the same youth group as me, could kickflip and ollie and hung out at the civic centre, which was the hub of the Plymouth scene in the 90s. I started going there with him every Saturday and Sunday and just hanging out.
There were so many rad people there at that point: Derek Beer, Simon Kay, Gaz etc were all older guys with great style and tricks. The people I’d spend my weekends with were the people that pushed me to be better and try new stuff – Alex, Jono, Ryan, Colm, Josh. Everyone was into different stuff. It was before we all had mobile phones, so you’d just show up and hang out. Those were the people that made skating fun, made it a community and something that I wanted to keep doing, every week.
In terms of Pros, I remember getting Rodney Vs Daewon 1 somewhere around 1998, and just being enthralled. Manuals were my thing, and that video was just next level for that stuff. Outside of the weekends, I spent a lot of time skating the industrial estate down the road from my house in the evenings on my own. I remember going there and setting up stacks of packing palettes and bits of wood into manual pads and just trying to do the stuff I’d seen in that video.
Obviously Rodney is amazing, but for me Daewon was the inspiration. That phase where he’d just make his own spots out of benches and manny pads really spoke to me, because it was what I was doing on a smaller (and way less proficient) scale at the factory near my house.
While my other favourite skaters have come and gone over the years, Daewon remains a constant inspiration. Now that I’m an older skater, it’s awesome that he’s still out there being creative and learning new stuff. It’s like, when I was 14 I was watching him in Rodney VS Daewon and getting inspired to learn Nose wheelies and now, 21 years later he’s still out there doing crazy new shit on Instagram and letting me know that despite being older, there’s still years left to keep doing and loving this thing.
I think it’s fair to say too, that I always feel like Daewon has had fun with what he’s doing. Whether it’s making crazy Picnic bench combos, or Cheese and Crackers with Haslam, or even now making weird Adidas adverts on Insta, he’s always done his own thing. As someone too scared to jump down big stuff or do rails, it’s nice to be inspired to go have fun, do what you want and push yourself the way you want to, regardless of what others think.