I’m not quite sure how to describe Rainbow Swag Lord. I think he perfectly encapsulates the creativity and fun of skateboarding. He comes from the same school of skating that gave us the amazing Beez videos and Fancy Lad Skateboards – bravely challenging what is considered “real” skateboarding and denouncing it in favour of just having a laugh. His approach has gained him a huge Instagram following and some unsavoury comments from skateboarding’s biggest names. I guess you either love him or hate him, which is funny considering he is a local of Burton Upon Trent, the home of Marmite. I posed him some questions about what classes as skateboarding, his multi-coloured uniform and bottle flips.
What’s your real name, and where did Rainbow Swag Lord come from?
My actual name is Todd Reddyhoff. “Rainbow Swag Lord” came from a random scooter kid at the skatepark. He asked if he could film me land some tricks so he could put me on his Instagram. I popped a few tricks and asked him what he was going to hashtag me as, and with no thinking time at all he replied “RAINBOW SWAG LORD!”. I didn’t have Instagram at the time, but he sowed the seed. Shout out to that little guy, I have no idea who he is.
Do you have any sponsors?
I never dreamt it was possible for me to get sponsored but it actually happened! It was an absolutely incredible experience, and I’m eternally grateful for those who believed in me.
It was literally a dream come true, but because of my severe lack of skill, I felt a bit out of my depth. I started to become self-conscious of what I was uploading, and I was trying to only post bangers. I almost couldn’t be myself even though my sponsors wouldn’t have cared. I cared.
I had experienced the dream and it was time for someone new to live that dream. I was putting so much pressure on myself to skate well, but that’s not why I skate. Nobody ever said I should skate a certain way, I just felt I should. I upped and left my sponsors, and now I just enjoy skateboarding for skateboarding. That is until Nike comes knocking, and then obviously I’m going to sell out and play golf with Froston.
Where do you shop for all of your rainbow clothing?
Lots of charity shops, and also my local vintage shop. They’re always well equipped with wavy garms. Shout out to Ahoy Sailor for the dench swag. I go to car boot sales and also shop on eBay too, but all my favourite stuff are gifts from kind hearted people. When you dress like this it makes you pretty easy to buy for.
Do random kids recognise you from Instagram?
Yeah, I get no end of people shouting “RAINBOW” when I’m out and about. It’s so humbling after years of suffering abuse for being a skateboarder and for the way I dress. It happens all over the place and it blows my mind. If it’s someone I don’t know I normally just chuck them a dab and they dab back.
How did you first get into skateboarding?
I think my first encounter would have been a Police Academy 4 VHS tape I found at home. I used to watch the skateboarding parts on repeat. Rewinding them over and over again trying to work out how they were keeping the board underneath them. I had no idea who the skaters were at the time, but looking back, that movie had quite an impressive lineup actually. It definitely inspired my fashion choices. Also, Bart Simpson has been a great ambassador for skateboarding, he is my hero. He made me want to skate before I knew what skateboarding was.
What made me want to go full time was Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2… That game cemented my love for skateboarding. I hadn’t witnessed modern skateboarding at that point, so it just melted my mind. Got my Grandad to take me down Argos the next day to get a new setup. I’d always had an 80s fish shaped board with a Sonic The Hedgehog graphic, which was super hard to learn on. I hadn’t seen modern boards until THPS2. Thanks Tony.
Who influenced your style of skateboarding?
I always did weird stuff because I wasn’t very good at the difficult stuff. Rodney Mullen captured my imagination the most at the beginning. He was like a magician who did tricks that were actual tricks. Working out how he was doing that stuff was like dismantling a complex puzzle. Also, seeing Mike V skate brought me a lot of inspiration early on. Through Sidewalk and Document magazines I found the Death Skateboards team. Watching those videos, I found my identity and taste in tricks. Mixing bangers with weird stuff. Most importantly, be yourself, no matter how weird. Express yourself however you want.
The real game changer was YouTube. I found Joe Moore (aka anyskate), and finally, I had found someone who skated exactly like me but 100 times better. At the same time three YouTube viral videos became regular watching. Richie Jackson, William Spencer, and Gou Miyagi. They all combined and steered my imagination towards becoming “Rainbow Swag Lord”. Seeing them put parts out like that made it OK for everyone else to skate like that.
Do you ever think of your skateboarding as fitting into any particular style or do you prefer to not label the tricks you do?
I always thought I was a freestyler but freestyle has lots of flatland which is really difficult for me, so I didn’t really feel like I belonged there, because I was too crap. Then William Spencer pioneered the term “Circus Skateboarding”, and I kind of associated with that for a while. Loads of people have said I skate “old school”, which I like a lot. Vintage skateboarding, darling! But, fate has spoken, and recently I just call it “Swag”.
I do like “no limits” or “unprofessional skateboarding” as official terms. I like labels. Being labeled feels like acceptance by people that it’s a real thing. Plus it provides the “creative skater” with a title for us to unite behind and say “Yeah that’s us. We’re official, and we’re not going anywhere: Our skateboarding is still skateboarding, duh!”
What is Eric Koston’s beef with you?
It came from one of my clips where I was skating on a Barbie skateboard/scooter (one of those scootskate things). If somebody had said “Hey Todd, remember Eric Koston might see this…”, I would have chucked some bangers in there. You know, to show him I’m an actual skateboarder who loves skateboarding with all my heart. I would have turned to the camera and said “Hey Eric, I love your work. You’re always smiling and having fun when you skate, and that rules. Thanks for the years of happiness you have brought to me and skateboarding in general. Love you, Eric: you’re the MVP, and I always choose you on THPS2!”.
I didn’t know Eric was going to see it. Then he did, and he commented on the clip saying how he “wanted to run me over with his truck”, then “run me over a second time”. I’m guessing he meant to make sure I’m dead? Or just to rub it in? Yes, I was wearing all pink. Yes, I skated to a metal cover of “Barbie Girl”. Yes, my skateboard was also a scooter, and you could fold the handle bars out. But, no, it wasn’t real. It was all done for a joke. That isn’t me… Eric, you’ve seen this out of context! I was just having fun… Like skaters like him taught me to.
Have you had any other negative interactions with skateboarders other than Koston?
Sadly, yeah. It’s been brutal since about a year after I started my Instagram. My clips started getting shared and for every 10 cool people, I would get 3 bad. People hated that I was being shared, but I was crap, and they were way better than me. But I was doing dumb stuff that’s not even hard and getting loads of clout.
For the first couple of years, every video I put up would have around 10 troll comments. At first, I laughed about it, but eventually that turned into 100 comments, so I started engaging with them. Some would just get worse, and say insanely horrible things about me, and to me. On one day I had 6 different people call me cancer and I should be cut out of skateboarding because I’m just doing this stuff for likes. Just constant people saying I should die, and calling me lots of disgusting things.
Bullying and trolling was just a normal occurrence. Eventually I rose up and blocked and muted accounts, and I even ended up making friends with some of them. Some of my biggest haters turned into good friends over Instagram after a long conversation. Plus, we have formed a community around the journey.
How do you feel about other skateboarders putting restrictions on what is and isn’t skateboarding?
They’re just projecting. Maybe because of how they have been treated in the past? Maybe when they were younger, they did a boneless and somebody said “Oi you, that’s not a real trick, you suck!”, so they didn’t do those tricks again? And then in turn they decided to make other people feel bad for doing them.
Skateboarders, as a united entity, have all suffered persecution from the public, security and police just for being skateboarders. Being ripped on by people is a part of being a skateboarder. Those who are persecuted end up persecuting others because they think it’s the done thing? I don’t know. I always just tell them nobody owns skateboarding, so nobody has the right to make the rules.
How would you define skateboarding?
A toy? I’ve pondered this question for 20 years. I think it started as something to have fun with. So, I guess that makes it a toy. My first skateboard was sold to me as a kid’s toy. But then it became a tool. A vehicle? I’ve never driven anything but my skateboard. But a vehicle is a tool. An art? The skateboard has art on. We are quite literally skateboarding on art. Doing art with art. But then for others, it’s a discipline like martial arts. Which is an art.
I guess I believe skateboarding is a mobile art tool. The culture is what makes it so great. Skateboarding might exist for another million years and we got to witness it’s birth. One small push for man. One giant ollie for skateboard kind.
You are probably the only skater I know to incorporate Bottle Flips into their skating. What inspired you to combine skateboarding and bottle flips?
I always did them as a kid at school with my friends on the table, and thought nothing of it. Then later on in life it went viral, and became a trend or a challenge. Everyone was doing crazy bottle flips on social media and it reminded me of that feeling you get when you land a new trick. Bottle flips and kickflips… They are both flips right?
I started bringing a bottle with me that had just the right amount of water and a wide base. I tried to do some at street spots, but actually the skatepark just so happens to be a great bottle flip park too. Then they just merged. Thanks Volvic.
What is the best Bottle Flip skate trick you have done?
I have a Top 3 because they all the best:
- Board in rail. Bottle flip on wheel/edge of board.
- On the top of a Hop King can.
- Air fakie on the biggest ramp at my local. With a 540 spin out. No photoshop 100% NBD.
Most of your clips come from Burton-Upon-Trent skatepark. How long have you been a Burton local?
I have been here for 20 years. I’ve moved away a few times, but always come home. We make crap beer and it stinks out the town hard.
How has the Burton scene changed since you have been skating?
When I started skateboarding full time in 2000, it was absolute boom time. There were skateboarders everywhere. Young and old, the burton scene was heaving. It’s never rekindled its former glory, but we’ve had a solid number of skaters for the last 20 years, sometimes less and sometimes more. Skateparks are truly magnificent places for any scene. Remembering life without one, it was dire!
Is that wild transition wallride spot under the bypass still there?
Yeah, it’s still there but it’s damn sketchy. It’s a last ditch spot, like an “I’m desperate for a skate” kind of spot. It is for me anyway – I suck at skating whippy transitions.
Do you like Marmite?
I love Marmite! And it’s vegan, too! Put it in your mashed potato: it’s amazing!
Do you think Instagram has helped make skateboarding a more diverse and open place?
I think skateboarding has always been a diverse and open place. Goths, gangsters, punks and chavs, all chilling together and getting along. No age barriers, or skill divides: skateboarding accepts all comers. Instagram has united skateboarding internationally, but emphasized the divisions within skateboarding culturally. Skate life attracts polar opposite kinds of people wanting to do completely different things. We all need a lesson in unity and diversity. I think we are all guilty of judging other skaters in some way.
Do you think Instagram has changed how skateboarders watch skate videos?
Oh my god, it’s so much better nowadays. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice reminiscing sometimes, but I much prefer watching normal skaters doing normal stuff. Or weird skaters doing weird stuff. Watching pro skaters break their bodies doing insane stunts is great occasionally, but eventually it makes me depressed because I’m not that good. I don’t really enjoy watching it anymore.
What would be your advice to any young skateboarders who are stoked on your clips?
Skateboarding is a blank canvas just waiting for your art. Don’t worry about anyone else’s art: just do what comes naturally. Find your strong points and build on them. Ask for help! Or send me a video of the trick you’re learning, and I’ll tell you what you’re doing wrong. Don’t think of tricks as hard, or they will be hard. Think of them as easy, and they will be easy. Your imagination is your skatepark and you never get hurt! Most important piece of advice: Know your limits and build up gradually. Don’t run before you can walk, or rather don’t kickflip before you can ollie.
Anyone you want to thank?
Thanks for interviewing me, and thanks to anyone read the whole thing! Thank you, skateboarding!