Indy grab

Interview – Paul Russell

Blue skies have been rolling past the windows of the office for the last week, sunburnt skin languishes beneath shirt sleeves serving as an uncomfortable reminder of last weekend’s glories and my media feed has  been full of concrete, wood and steel. The UK has been shaking off the rust that built up over the endless months of ice and rain.  British summer time is finally upon us, and before I know it I’m sat on a train heading towards The English Riviera to catch up with one of UK streetboarding’s fresh faces; Paul Russell. I know I’m there when the sky stretches down to touch the sea on the horizon, and a guy with a board and a huge grin stands waiting on the platform. Paul burst onto the UK scene at the 2012 Open, destroying the competition to take down the UK Amateur Championship Crown. He’s quick to remind me, however, that he’s no newcomer to streetboarding; he’s an old schooler, a follower of a sport he believed to be dead for years who was suddenly confronted with a thriving scene. What’s it like to stare into the eyes of the rolling dead? After thrashing out a session at the local park, I sat down with him to find out.

15 June, 2013

- By Neil Shillabeer

paulrussel

SM: So first up, I know it’s been a while since it happened but congratulations on getting the 2012 UK Amateur Championship. How did it feel? Did you think you had a good shot at taking the title?

PR: No way! Not at all, I completely wasn’t prepared for that to happen. It’s been great, definitely spurred me on to try more, to keep pushing myself to attempt tricks that I’ve never done before. It genuinely was the best day of the last 2 years, not because I won, but because I got to meet so many amazing like minded people who all share the same goal. Quality day, quality jam, quality people.

UK OPEN 2012 – AM Jam

Was it the first streetboarding get together you’ve been to?

I went to a snakeboard comp back in the nineties at Bristol Skate and Ride, which was full of riders. I think it was around 97/98, I remember seeing Gadget, Rick Lowe and a few of the other guys doing flips and 540s and thinking this was the best sport ever. I travelled to a few Boardmasters and NASS events to watch Gadget and Rick skate vert as part of Team Extreme. But after a while things seemed to just stop happening; the videos and magazines (like Trout) dried up and I thought I was the only snakeboarder still around.

I imagine a lot of riders felt like that around that time Snakeboard USA fell apart. How did you come across streetboarding in the end?

Yeah I thought it was dead for years! I didn’t have access to the internet back then, so the first I heard that snakeboarding was still going was from a friend who’d just come back from NASS (2009) and said that they’d seen the World Championships of this sport I was convinced was buried. Kara of Flipside USA was the first streetboarder I got in touch with, and she hooked me up with the UK guys. I saw no videos in between Hellburger and Seldom Scene – the change from punk styles and sounds to slick editing and camera work is kind of representative of the changes that have gone on in the sport since I lost contact with it. Alex Wheeler sold me first streetboard – that’s how I started my journey into the new side of the sport, now I’m addicted.

So how did you first get into it?

I actually used to be a quader, riding roller boots, until I saw one of my mates on a snakeboard and thought it was the best thing I’ve ever seen. I spent months trying to move along on flat ground; every time the guys would go home I’d sneak a quick go on the mini ramp, determined to learn it!

Frontside smithgrind

Frontside smithgrind

How are you finding streetboarding now that you’re back?

The great thing that I have found with this sport is that, because it is underground, all the top streetboarders are much more inclined to talk and interact with people. These are the guys that are kind of your idols in the sport and it’s great that they’re as excited to join in with what you’re skating as you are to jam with them. It’s a fantastic family; everyone enjoys each other’s skating styles and there’s no animosity – just a bunch of guys who want to hang out and skate together.

That feeling of unity and family comes up time and time again with streetboarding; it’s definitely a unique and important component of the sport. 

Yeah, I can see why so many people in streetboarding are so passionate about the sport; for me it’s having watched the people that make it. Knowing that there are other riders sharing their photos and edits online, it just makes it all more worthwhile now then when it was just me. I have purpose to skate now, it’s given me a reason to wake up in the morning and look after myself. I’ve had a few problems in life; streetboarding has been my way of therapy I suppose. I couldn’t handle not being able to get up in the morning and just get on my board and head of skating. The first time I did the big rail here at the skatepark, the rush I got was better than that of any of the drink or drugs I’ve done – it’s that feeling that helps drive me to progress.

Frontside 5.0

Frontside 5.0

Which riders are you watching right now?

Right now it’s Max Anderson, Simon Johns, I love watching Sergi Nicolas and Eric Brun skate –  although sometimes I find myself not wanting to watch the Spanish because they’re so good it makes me sick! Barcelona would definitely be top of my list for a skate trip. It’s good to see the girl riders popping up too, Tricia Dunn, Carmen Zobrist– it can only be good for the sport. But in the beginning I took my inspiration from Rob and Pete Nye, Andy Cass and Kelly Dean. My roots are in mini ramp and I do still love it, but since I started mini seems to be fading in popularity, particularly with the UK guys. Because of that, and through watching all the videos online, I’ve got much more into street recently. Mini ramp doesn’t seem to be as fun on a streetboard as it was on a snakeboard; maybe that’s just the changing times, but there’s definitely a big rush involved in rails and gaps.

paul russell boards

What do you think the future holds for streetboarding?

Personally I think the trick level is going to get ridiculous; Max is already at the fore of the UK front, and I think insane riding like that will spur kids onto do more than has already been achieved. I can see that it could be as big as snowboarding, but I do like the underground feel of the sport at the moment. Maybe that’s what makes it what it is.

Indy grab

Indy grab

Do you think that that underground nature of streetboarding is a limitation? Sometimes I think that the lack of mainstream recognition is detrimental to progression – there’s little stimulus to keep going bigger and harder.

I’ve never seen anyone do a backflip to blunt until Max stepped up in China. I think that in ten years time that’s only going to get magnified by the new kids in the sport. I don’t think you need to be motivated by recognition or money to progress; for me I want to challenge myself – it’s about doing things you never thought you’d be able to do.

Great man, any final words?
Thanks for the interview, I really appreciate the respect, help and support people have given me so far in the streetboarding world-  some of you guys didn’t know me from Adam yet helped me out nonetheless. Thanks and respect to Alex Wheeler, he’s effectively the only reason I’m riding a streetboard.

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