Jim The Skin Interview

Jim The Skin is one of Coventry’s longest serving skateboarders, and has been skateboarding for the entire time I have been alive. As co-founder of the city’s skater owned shop Ride, he has been sponsored by Third Foot and Independent Trucks (even getting a double ad with his son Joe), and continues to skate a bowl better than people half his age. He has been influential for so many skateboarders in Coventry, running comps himself, or helping those who put events on in the city. His continued support of the work skaters do; from output like this very blog, to skater owned companies from the local area, and multiple skatepark improvement projects, makes him the godfather of modern skateboarding in Coventry. I interviewed him to get some more insight into the man who’s real name isn’t actually Jim.

Header Photo by Chris Johnson (@cj_photo)

As of 2020, you and your brother Darren have been running Ride for 21 years! When you first opened the shop, did you think the skateshop would still be going this far in?

Of course we did: we’re down for life!! It does seem a bit unreal that it’s been going that long, but we’ve had such good support from people. Having the bike side of the shop has made sure we had some income to pay the bills too.

How has skateboarding in Coventry changed in the 21 years the shop has been open?

I’m not sure it has changed that much –  people are still shredding the town centre, and a few are more into transition skating the same as they always were. I guess the skate fashion has changed a fair bit: most people are on 8.25, 8.5 or even bigger boards now, and wearing slip-on shoes. When we started the shop, if you rode an 8″ deck that was big, and most dudes were wearing silly baggy jeans and massive shoes too.

Photo by Ian Lawton (@mrianlawton)

I think you’ve been skateboarding longer than I’ve been alive! When did you first start and who got you into it?

I’m pretty sure I started somewhere between 8 and 10yrs old back in the seventies, so I’ve been skating for about 45 years. No one single person got me into it, skateboarding was just starting to happen: it was talked about a fair bit and you would see the odd thing on TV. I was always into going fast and doing silly shit on my bike so it looked very appealing. If any one person did help it would have been Steve Spain. When I was 13, I bumped into him at the brickworks in town, and we were still riding little plastic boards or anything we could get our hands on. He was there on this 10″ wide thing that just looked amazing!! I said to him “I need one of those”, and he took me back to his house and showed me a Surrey Skateboards price list. I went home, sold nearly everything I had over the next two weeks, and then went back to Steve’s, and he ordered me a Dog town Jim Muir full setup… then it really started.

What was your first board?

My first board was a made up one, as it was for lots of people: just an old roller skate cut in half and screwed to some wood. After that I had a plastic polly prop rubbish board, even metal and fiberglass boards too, but I will probably say the Dogtown Jim Muir was my first “proper” board.

Your real name is Paul. Where did the name “Jim The Skin” come from? 

Oh man this question haunts me! I was fully into Two-Tone: Cockney Rejects, Sham69 and other Oi music. I always had a shaved head, and used to go on all the scooter rallys, Northern soul all-nighters and that sort of thing. Think one of the first times I got in a mag, they must have asked what my name was, and Mon Barbour of SS20 said it was Jim The Skin and it stuck big time.

Photo by Daniel Soderberg (@fotodanne.se)

You are pretty much vert royalty in this country. Was vert something you always enjoyed skating or did you gravitate toward it later in your skating life?

Personally skateboarding was always about speed, long grinds, airs and definitely not pushing if you could help it. I always skated street because it was great fun, but if you could get to a good park with a pool or snake run or ramp, you could just charge. If you watch someone drop in Vert for the first time, they will tell you it was one of the biggest rushes they’ve ever had on a board just because the speed and the fear you experience, so once you conquer it and can do back to back tricks it rules!

How did Blockless Combat start?

Blockless Combat came around because there were no Vert comps, and hadn’t been for a number of years. I just wanted to get everyone who skated Vert together so we could all go nuts! At the time block skating was massive, and it seemed like that was all a lot of skaters wanted to do. After you’ve grown up watching dudes go 10ft out of a ramps it just seemed a bit weak, hence the name.

I have said on multiple occasions that you have the best smith grinds in the west midlands. Who taught you to smith grind like that?

Haha, I laughed the first time I read that on here – “best smiths in the west… Midlands”. When I first got front smiths, there were only two other people who could do them in the UK: Phil Burgoyne and Mark Abrook. I saw Mark do a few at the Banbury ramp and thought “I’m learning that bad boy!”. It took a while but I got them in the end, and it became a bit of a trade mark.

Photo by Sean Goff (@seangoff_toddtwist)

How do you feel the landscape of new parks has improved over the time you have been skateboarding?

It’s amazing how many parks are out there now! Don’t get me wrong: there’s still plenty of shit ones, but even some of them can still be fun. I think they are slowly getting better, the new one in Newquay is so good.

What’s the best park you’ve ever skated?

That’s a hard one to answer: don’t think I could name just one, because I’ve been to so many all around the world and they all have their own thing that makes them rad. Some of the California parks are so good, but there’s some amazing ones in Europe too. I guess it must be Creation as I go there most.

You’ve got some air miles under you: As a skateboarder who travels a fair bit, what’s the funniest thing to happen to you on a skate trip?

The one funny thing that always stands out for me is when we were at Download Festival, and they had flown the big Vert soul bowl over for a comp. Christian Hosoi was over with Tony Alva to do demos. It got to the last few minutes of the comp, Slayer came on, and I was all ready to drop in and do some mad trick in my last run. I looked across to make sure it was clear and there was Sean Goff taking off his last item of clothing, so I had to let him go. He dropped in and did a full run completely naked. There were about 1500 people watching but I was just watching Hosoi’s face!

Photo by Richard Styles (@styzee)

As someone who stays pretty connected to the Cov scene, who are some of the best up and coming skateboarders in Coventry at the minute?

I don’t go into town now, as I’m far too old to throw myself down stairs and stuff, but local dudes keep me up on who’s ripping. I see a fair bit on Insta: obviously Lucas Healey, Pip, Duffman and Ben Keegan are still killing it but I’ve seen some rad stuff from Lewis Guest, Charlie Kerr and Jack Taylor too… I’m sure I’ve probably forgot a few but that’s just my age!

What do you think will happen in the Coventry scene in the next 21 years?

World domination!! Hopefully the War Memorial Park Campaign will succeed in their efforts to help us get a new park in Coventry, and we will continue to have a really strong scene. There’s been so many people getting back into skating lately and new people starting up, especially girls. I would like to think the future looks good.

Anyone you want to thank?

Thanks to everyone who has ever made the effort to come and see us in the shop, and to all the Coventry skaters and BMXers: you all rule! Thanks to my wife Gayle for letting me disappear all the time to skate, and my children Charlotte, Joe, Izzy and Finn. Thanks to Mr Sean Goff for helping us set Ride up in the first place, and for his continued support. Thanks to all the people I skate with on a regular basis.

Thanks to Gary Taylor, Alex Haywood and Joe Atkins for working at Ride for so many years. And thanks to my brother Darren for making it happen.

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