When you have skated as long as I have, you find that you cycle through various groups of skaters and find yourself rolling with different crews over the course of your life. Outside of skateboarding, people always grow apart or closer, so it’s only natural that this happens within skateboarding. 2020 was one hell of a shit storm and I honestly don’t think I would have got through it without the tight crew I ended up skating with throughout the year – this is my humble ode to the “Craplads“.
Nearing the end of 2019 I was keeping myself to myself. I had gradually retreated into a fairly closed off state after becoming a dad and wasn’t really interacting with the larger skate scenes in Coventry or Warwickshire. Getting out for skates was more about skating than really filming anything, and I decided I was happier just skating alone mostly.
I had kept in close contact with Joxa, so I mostly met up with him for the odd weekend shralp. During the winter, I had met up with Chris Mander to interview him for the blog – at the time he described himself as a “former” skateboarder, but had told me he missed it and wanted to get back on it. Joxa had been skating with another old friend, Nick Kirwan, and Nick was getting fully back into skating as well.
Each one of these guys had been pretty important to me back in my earlier skateboarding days. Nick was a part of the Swompton crew (which grew out of Henry “Swampy” Moore’s gnarly backyard bowl) and we’d had some rad sessions together over the years. I had lived with Joxa when he first moved to Coventry in 2007, and remained firm friends since. Chris is basically one of my closest friends, and is in many ways a brother to me – I was best man at his wedding a few years ago, so to say we were just skate buddies was an understatement. Knowing these 3 dudes were down to skate and meet up was more than enough motivation to get stoked.
I remember getting pulled into a WhatsApp group called “Yoga” in around Spring last year. This was a group Nick had pulled together with a few people in it to organise getting a skate in. I think the first session we did after I got added to the group was at Leamington – it was probably around the end of April, and the weather was quite pleasant. I had swallowed my anxiety and managed to get a few skates in beforehand whilst not worrying about contracting a virus, so I was looking forward to meeting up with some friends having a good old fashioned skate session.
This session turned into another, then another, and then many more. We would usually arrange to meet on a Sunday morning – trying to meet up before kids on scooters would descend on skateparks. At Leamington this proved difficult, as that place attracts a ton of entitled middle class mums between 8.30 and 11 on most weekends, so frustration got the better of us and we changed our venue. Sometimes we would meet at the always quiet wooden mini ramp in Long Itchington, but we settled on the concrete park in Long Lawford as our spot.
Long Lawford is beautifully equidistant between Leamington (where I live), Coventry (where Joxa and Nick live) and Bulkington (where Chris lives). It was the best place to meet, and even better, it was usually dead first thing on a Sunday. Sometimes you would encounter another crew of skaters who were also after an early session. Sometimes the odd parent would be there with a kid on a scooter, but would soon clear off when we started skating. It had small obstacles, but also some bigger, more tricky things to play on too – it was perfect for a group of Blokes in their 30’s looking to dick around on kid’s toys.
After a few chilled out sessions, I remember one Sunday Nick offered to film a couple of tricks of Chris and myself, and I later threw this together as an Insta clip. Nick had suggested we make a Web edit called “Craplads” and suddenly it became this joke name for our crew. Embracing the silly, relaxed atmosphere of our sessions, it kinds perfectly summed up the self-deprecating, “anything goes” mentality of our Sunday morning sessions.
Nobody here was judging you for doing “uncool” tricks, no one was telling you how to skate, it was all just about doing what you wanted. I learnt more tricks in these sessions than I probably had in the previous 3 years. More than anything, after questioning who I was and how I fit into skateboarding for the last few years, I finally felt like myself again. I was a Craplad.
Our regular meet ups at Long Lawford sometimes grew in size with dudes like Harry Myers, Charlie Kerr and Jack Taylor joining the session. We did a particularly rad trip to Lichfield for my birthday where our partners and kids joined us – an outing that felt decidedly grown up but also very true to who we all were. However, after a short lived summer of radness this was the last session we all shared together for the year.
I met up with Joxa and Chris at Holbrooks bowls for a really awesome skate with a bunch of Cov shredders, but after that we hit a wall of unrelenting wetness, and lockdowns, and worsening Covid cases. Our Sunday morning sessions dried up and I’ve struggled to find much time to meet up with them, or skate at all, since. It’s the curse of Winter, but we all seem pretty keen to get back to it when Spring (and vaccinations) roll round this year.
It can be really easy to focus on the most troubling aspects of life – especially in skateboarding. I had times where skateboarding specifically was not doing great things for my mental health, which was a double edged sword of being not only the cure for what ailed me, but also the symptom. Who you skate with really, really, really matters, and when you find a tight crew who have your back and get where you are coming from it is a joy to skate with them. The Craplads really helped me get through an already difficult year for the entire planet, and I can never thank them enough for their part in keeping me going.
I couldn’t give this story without a thorough thank you list to the long list of people I have closely aligned myself within skateboarding over the last 5 years. If it wasn’t for these people I honestly would have packed in skateboarding a long time ago – and they got me stoked on it enough to keep on truckin’.
So, other than the Craplads, thank you to my wife Emily, Alex Walker, Freddy Hackett, Alexis Mavropoulis, Tom Wildman, Alex Kililis, Lucas Healey, Pip Sangster, Joe Fleming, Pro Marky, Stan Byrne, Tom Sly, Nich Horishny, Harry Myers, Moose, George Hassan, Morbid, Theo, Harry Tomecek and Alfie Morrey. I might have missed some people, but these were the people who encouraged me and got me out to skate, particularly when I was at my lowest point mentally. Skateboarding is a wonderful thing and the sense of community can be a real positive when you are faced with dark thoughts – thank you skateboarding!