Chris Pulman Interview

Photo by Phil Hill

I remember my first exposure to Chris Pulman was 2006’s Heroin video “Live From Antarctica”. His part showed his relaxed style and an eye watering, unique bag of tricks. Seeing guys like Chris on the team contributed toward Heroin becoming one of my favourite board companies – Skaters doing their own thing, crafting their own style and not worrying about what everyone else thinks is cool. He has recently been making waves with some amazing clips coming out of the Baghead Crew insta, and a full part in the works. I posed him some questions about filming with Forde Brookfield, mental health, and where he gets his fabulous outfits. 

I’m sure a lot of skateboarders in the UK know of you, but for the kids who probably don’t know – who is Chris Pulman? 

I guess I’m someone who’s been skating a long time; since 1987. I used to be Pro for Heroin from 2001-2008. I’ve also worked in the skate industry, from shops, to being a rep for some large independent brands. I even had my own brand for a while back there… I’ve gotten older but I still have a passion for skateboarding and I’m not one of those ‘back in the day’ guys. I like to see progression, not vintage reissues.

I think after Fos you are the second skateboarder I associate with Heroin Skateboards in my mind – how did you first meet Fos and get on the team?  

Fos used to help me get boards through Slam City Skates distribution. He was the sales manager there for hardgoods when they had the TumYeto brands, and I was obsessed with Toy Machine. I was flowed Foundation stuff for a while and after Slam lost the rights to distribute that, I was kind of over U.S. brands. So, I talked to Fos about helping him with his deal.

Who are some of your favourite skaters on the current Heroin team? 

Fos is super good at making a collection of interesting and unique dudes. There’s a big team right now and all those guys fit perfectly in their own way. Dead Dave is a favourite right now because his approach is so different to most other skaters. Fos is backing that uniqueness and that is rad. Plus, he’s someone I can actually go shred with and someone who makes me skate outside of my usual trick selection. I’d love to get to skate with all those guys. I mean, look at that team list: Every one of those guys would be sick to hang out with, right?

Back in the early 2010’s I remember you starting up your own board company (Descent) – how did that come about? 

Descent came about through a desire to express myself and through watching skateboarding ‘descend’ into mainstream culture through Nike and SLS and the Olympics. Just watching people selling out something I love for the sake of a couple of bucks really didn’t sit that well with me. Packaging skateboarding into something that could be sold to spectators just to hit a larger sales demographic just seems so basic and exploitative. I think there are better ways to make money if making money is what’s important to you…

180 No Comply at Southbank / Photo by Wig Worland

Who introduced you to skateboarding? 

A friend nearby had a polyprop thing that he used to ride down the hill near my house. I think it belonged to his brother. That was the first skateboard I ever remember holding in my hands.

Your skateboarding has this really spontaneous, flowy feel to it – who influenced your skating early on and led you down that path stylistically?

Early on it would have been Neil Blender, Lance Mountain and Lucero. Those guys were interesting and looked like they were having the most fun, as well as challenging perceptions of what being a skateboarder was. I knew early on that being good at skateboarding was never going to be my thing. That realisation pushed me to do different things. I guess as I’ve got older my style has evolved as I’ve felt more comfortable on my board. It’s aged like fine wine or something… As if… Haha! It’s more like you just feel so comfortable you get looser but can still kind of stay in control. Maybe like surfing. Skateboarding is, at the end of the day, just nerds pretending to surf on land, right? Everything past that is extra steps…  

How did you come up with some of the bonkers no comply variations you are known for? 

You know, I’m not sure they are that bonkers. I guess the one that I like most is the shifty to manual roll because of how it feels and looks. I used to mess with the weird stuff more like FS Bigspin Knee Flip Reverts, but I much prefer the cleaner looking stuff. There are people out there being way more creative with that trick than me I think.

Do you think no complies are more popular (or accepted as a “cool” trick) now than when you first started skating? 

They’ve been through phases. I’d been skating a year or so before they really even existed. Then Ray Barbee and Matt Hensley really brought them to the forefront. Then they became massively uncool from about 1992 until the Berrics generation. I don’t know…none of that stuff ever stopped me doing them. Skateboarding is better now than it has ever been, there’s more variation and people are embracing all aspects more fully. The no-comply is just part of that new acceptance maybe?

No Comply / Photo by Evgeny

You’ve always had some pretty nice outfits – where do you buy your clothes?

I seriously don’t buy anything. Pants are the most important thing to any skater I guess. I used to wear Farah’s because they’re pretty unique and illegal for skaters to wear, and you couldn’t get Dickies over here. I’d just get them from charity shops. Because they’re sta-prest they always keep their crease, and as they’re polyester they dry real quick so they don’t get all sweaty and heavy the way denim or canvas does. They’re essentially smart trackies…

I wanted something tougher and with a better fit, so I found Wrangler Wranchers through my friend John McGuire. Dill and Greco wore them too. They just work, although I’ve lost a bunch of weight recently so I need to re-up… Everything else I wear is just cheap or reappropriated. I can’t really push people buying new clothes, the world is already in a mess as far as the environment goes. I’d suggest people go to thrift stores more.

You are an advocate for mental health awareness in skateboarding – how has mental health impacted your life? 

That is a huge topic. At this point I’d say that it has impacted my life to the maximum degree. To a point where I didn’t even want to have a life at all. I’ve managed to rationalise my way past those thoughts. That’s why I got back on Instagram: to try to help other people get through that existential crisis I guess…

Do you think skateboarders have a hard time opening up about their mental health?

In the past I’d say yes, but recently it’s getting better and better. Skateboarding has definitely had its fair share of toxic masculinity which makes folk feel like they have to behave a certain way and hide any feelings that may be perceived as ‘weak’. We need to evolve past those prehistoric values that no longer serve us. We’re not cavemen any more. We no longer need the alpha-male in its historic form. Skateboarding is more of an art form than a sport, so it lends itself to a more feminine, or emotionally mature, outlook. We’re slowly breaking free of that stuff, despite some people trying to make skateboarding into a sport which tends to reinforce some of those toxic stereotypes. 

Do you find the act of skateboarding is good for our wellbeing, or can it sometimes have negative effects on us? 

It’s amazing. It lets us be creative, free and aerobic. It gets you outside into the sunlight. It teaches you how to fall down and how unscary that is. It teaches you that working very hard, and being disciplined, can reward you in ways outside of the capitalist model of success. It teaches you awareness of personal space, your body, and that of the society we live in. It sets us apart from the civilians in a way… I’m scratching my head here trying to think of something negative but I just can’t…

Is there any advice you would give to any skaters out there who are suffering with their mental health? 

Talk. Talk to your friends or family or anyone you trust. Talk to your GP. Talk to an anonymous helpline. Just talk. If you can’t do any of those things, talk to me (but bear in mind I’m swamped here).

You are not alone, you are not a burden. The people around you would absolutely hate to think that you were unable to reach out to them. Life isn’t fair; Life is absurd. There are no ‘real’ rules. But you only get one life to live or experience. I’d say that it’s best to fill it with experiences: good or bad, large or small.

You’ve been recently in the skateboarding public eye pulling out some classic Pulman tricks on Insta, and filming with the Baghead Crew – how did you meet Forde Brookfield?

I spoke to Fos about getting a board to skate and of course, being me, I wanted to do anything to repay that favour, so I suggested filming some tricks if that was worth something to him. Fos just said I should go meet Forde, as he’s filming a lot of the U.K. stuff I guess, and specifically Dead Dave. We just hit it off straight away. Forde is one of those filmers that knows how to get the most out of a skater, and can deal with all the eccentricities that come with filming guys like me. He’s patient, and thoughtful, and likes Tom Waits. I mean, that’s just perfect, right?

What’s your favourite Baghead video? 

I’m going to say ‘Funeral’ because that’s the one I’ve watched the most. Skating with those guys too, all those Sheffield heads – that sense of real community. I’ve missed that after being in the wilderness for a while. There’s a genuine love there and I think Forde has captured that.

Forde’s been flooding YouTube with some video gold from your illustrious skateboard career – what’s the favourite part you’ve ever filmed? (Not counting the one you’re filming with Forde, obviously) 

Man, I hate watching myself skate. It’s so disappointing to see what it actually looks like compared to how it feels… ‘Everything’s Going to be Alright’ came at a time where I was feeling pretty good on my board and I got to explore London a lot with some good people. I mean, all of my parts are bearable, they all have something in them that I’m stoked on, whether it’s Viewfinder 2, LFA, the LFA Extras section. DITC is like an albatross around my neck to me, but it stoked a lot of people out too so I have to accept that, you know?

Salad Grind / Photo by Gorm Ashurst

There’s a great skit at the start of your part in 1999’s “Pigeon” where you are driving an absolutely battered yellow car. Where did that thing come from? 

It was just sitting there at that spot in Chichester. It had no engine and was in the way, so I just managed to get in it and take off the brake, and we pushed it up the hill a little so I could get my trick. Then it was just too tempting to film something dumb with it. Keith’s laughing his ass off the whole time he’s filming it. I just like doing random shit sometimes I guess…

Your Live From Antarctica part is set to a Smiths song, but I only recently learnt you specifically didn’t want anything Morrissey related, and had a list of songs you wanted Alan Glass and Fos to use – what songs did you originally have on your list for that part? 

Man, there’s a legendary DVD full of mp3 files someplace that I made, completely full of music suggestions that Fos and Alan just found sooooo amusing.

It had stuff by Philip Glass, Brian Eno, The MC5,  Roxy Music, DEVO, The Dead Kennedys, Bert Kaempfert, George Shearing, a spoken word on ‘Style’ by Charles Bukowski. It had some really amazing tracks on it (Pretty much all of which have been used by skaters since, I’d like to add!!!). I guess those guys knew the world was just not ready for my taste in music to appear in a skate video… So they gave me that dickhead Morrissey. The song is just perfect. It’s just a shame that guy turned out to be such a flag-waving, narrow-minded asshole. 

I know Forde has been pretty stoked to skate with and film you – did you think you would be so influential for younger generations when you first got into skateboarding? 

Nah, not at all. I thought I wouldn’t make it past 20 when I was 13, never mind still skating and definitely not being sponsored or any of that stuff. Like, I’ve always had some appreciation of the skating that has come before me but what is truly important is the skating that’s going on right now. I want skateboarding to be about looking forward; Maybe taking aspects of the past and re-appropriating them but mostly about progression. 

So, to be an influence in some way, well, I guess what I would like people to take away from this is my desire for skateboarding to keep moving forward, to be fun and authentic and not driven by the industry and a few people’s desire to make money out of it. If you’ve enjoyed skateboarding, I think you have  a duty to protect it from that stuff, not to be complicit in its exploitation.

When can the internet expect to see your new part drop? 

That’s going to be next year for sure. I don’t think we’re in a rush. Personally, I’d like to film the best and most interesting stuff I can as a 45 year old man trying to stay young. Yeah, it’s harder and I’m tired but I’m not going to use that as an excuse to not really push myself, you know? If everyone can be patient, I’ll try to make something worthwhile…

Anyone you would like to thank? 

My partner Phil for getting me here. Without them there would be no new Pulman footage.

My parents for holding it down when I’m sure they’ve been extremely worried about me.

Fos for bearing with me and for supporting me as I try to rebuild myself. Forde for lighting a fire under me and for being understanding as I get back on the horse. Tim at the Berrics for almost inadvertently increasing my platform from which I can reach many more people suffering with their mental health. Greg at Decade store in Guildford for his help in getting the essential bits that keep me rolling. Jacob, my son for giving me the most authentic reason to stay moving and interesting and weird and well. Anyone who helps me out with the product side of skating, well I thank you in person and the brands through the usual channels.

Photo by David Wren

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