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Dave Allen 'Cover Stories' interview from Sidewalk 200

12:00 2nd December 2013 by Ayumi Powell
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From Sidewalk 200 – May 2013

 

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Dave Allen
Sidewalk issue 25 : April 1998
Cover photo : Wig

 

 

Right then Dave – the cover in question (the first of your 2 Sidewalk ones) is from issue 25 – April 1998: what was going on in your life at that point?
- I think I had just moved from St Albans back to Ware. Skating everyday, carefree. Travelling all over the place. On the Flip flow program.

What can you remember about that trick/that spot etc?
- Previously we had gone there to ride some full pipes. They were originally massive capsule shaped containers and they had been cut up into pipes. We found these end sections shaped like Turkish slippers! They were about 5’ high: I think the footage is on Viewfinder (it is, VF 2 – Ed). When we went back to shoot the photo all the full pipes had gone and the only ‘slipper’ that was rideable was that one. 7’ tall and 20’ long with a sketchy run up on broken bricks. Wig and I spent about half an hour making stepping stone platforms so I could run and jump on. The edges of the metal were all sharp like razors and like an idiot I cut my hand ‘testing’ how sharp they were. The small ones were easy but this was out of my comfort zone. I remember thinking this would be nasty if it went wrong, the point was like a dagger and it made holes in my board through a couple of laminates. We shot it a few times until Wig was satisfied. It was only a rock to fakie so it wasn’t too bad; the sketchiest thing though was running out backwards over the rubble, trying to jump from makeshift platform to platform.

So Dave, you’re one of a few people featured in this issue whose visibility as ‘sponsored skaters’ predates Sidewalk so, given that you’ve been around forever: how much do you think skateboarding has changed over your time doing it?
- So much has changed; vert skating was at the top when I started and everyone rode it, no matter how good or shit you were. We all street skated too but it wasn’t classified as such, it was just skating. Finding things to do when the ramp or park was dark or wet. I used to bomb hills on my route to the ramp we had and then skate through town centres hitting up spots on the way. Living through the little wheels big trousers era was challenging if you wanted to ride bigger stuff too. Then the influx of new parks brought new blood and street skating went ballistic. If you can’t flip a 12 stair these days you’re not gonna make it! (Laughing). Modern skaters have to be adaptable again, don’t limit yourself, ride it all before you’re too old and it hurts.

What was your first published photo in a skate mag? What about your first cover?
- My first pic was actually a sequence of a fakie madonna in RAD mag. Issue 68, October 88. Shot by TLB at the long gone Hertford Ramp in the woods. Sidewalk issue 25 was my first cover.

What’s your favourite Sidewalk cover(s) from over the years and why?
- My favourite is the Paul Shier one with the ice block. It’s so good: Great picture, worthy of a cover.

When the founder members of this mag all met you for the first time we were, (with the exception of Wig) a bunch of drugged up retards if we’re honest – did you ever worry that we might f*ck things up?
- To be honest, I didn’t think it would last. Skateboarding was so dead I didn’t think any mag could survive. Let alone one run by (with the exception of Wig) a bunch of drugged up f*cking retards!

You’re recognised as a vert or ‘big tranny’ skater but I know that you don’t class yourself as that – can you give us a few London street skating stories from back in the day? Was the City really as free and/or scary as it was presented back in the 80’s?
- Skating in London was always an adventure: So many good spots. Does anyone remember those banks at the Gas offices? Just behind Oxford Street in that courtyard? They were epic, bust free. The 80’s were so good for skating, if there was security they were looking for terrorists, not skaters. After the bomb at Bishops Gate it started to change. They put up the ring of steel or whatever it was called around the financial area. There used to be a road gap just along from the white wall at St Paul’s. It was just inside the checkpoint, (Jason Lee ollies it in Video Days). We were there and I had tried it twice and jumped off twice. The run up started within 20’ from where the policeman stood at his post. As I walked back to try it again he said that he was supposed to stop me but he couldn’t leave his post but if I didn’t make it this time, not to come back this way. Pressure was on. As I landed and rolled away, I looked back and he gave me two thumbs up. Top copper. My street days are definitely over now though. Just to do an ollie on the flat makes the metalwork in my ankle hurt: I couldn’t jump down stairs now – it would kill me.

Over the years you’ve travelled to many places: which destinations hold the best memories and why?
- It’s hard to say, they have all been good. I just like going to different places and meeting new people and skating different spots. Marseille is still my favourite skatepark and I’ve had some good times there. But going to Florida from here and skating the snake run at Kona is one of the funnest things I’ve ever done on a board. I went to the Protec Pool Party last year too, (I skated in the qualifier but never made it through) and just watching that poolside was incredible. Rumble in Ramona was another good one. And then there were always the trips to Malmo and Copenhagen. They are always good and filled with laughter. I think really it’s more about who you go with and meet, than the spot you are at.

Who have been the most influential skaters to you personally and why?
- For me it has to be Sean Goff. I’ve looked up to him for so long, I even bought his Brand X board in 80’s. A true skateboarder, dogged by serious injuries and comes back chomping at the bit harder than before. He will always try and give a good account and skate anything and everything: Always at the top with an endless bag of tricks. Terrible hair style these days but a great inspiration nonetheless.

 

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Given that the Internet can now make anyone a ‘celebrity’ with the absolute minimum of effort – why does traditional skate culture still matter?
- It must be a nightmare to make a mag these days. It’s hard enough getting footage without someone poaching it and sticking it on YouTube within 30 seconds. I still love picking a magazine up and reading it. There are only so many pages in a magazine and there are a lot of skateboarders. If you’re lucky enough to make it into one then you’ve got to be stoked. Magazines are our bibles.

You’ve relocated over to Atlanta and now live full time in the States – how quickly did you integrate into the way of life and the skate scene over there?
- Way easier than I thought I would. The weather is the main advantage. I never get tired of blue skies in the morning. In July and August it’s way too hot though, oppressively hot: humid as f*ck and hotter than hell. There are a lot of good skaters here and tons of parks to keep it interesting. There’s a park right near my house too that I can walk to in 9 minutes.

What’s the pinnacle moment of UK skateboarding from your perspective and why?
- There are a lot of them: Don Brown getting his pro model – Danny Webster, Bod Boyle, Steve Douglas and Sean Goff getting theirs. All these guys turned pro for US companies. The Flip team: Geoff, Tom, Rune and Andy moving to the US and everyone sitting up and taking notice.
The World Cup comps at Radlands in the 90’s. And Danny Wainwright’s monster ollie of 44.5”: All of these have their own place in the UK skate- boarding hall of fame. There’s so many.

As somebody who has been involved in all aspects of skateboarding for nearly 3 decades Dave, how does it look to you at the moment? What do you like/not like etc and why?
- I think skateboarding here (in the States) is pretty healthy right now. The parks have everything. Pools, vert sections, flow bowls, street sections. Skateboarders are more rounded these days. Like Grant Taylor for instance, he can dominate any session on any terrain. Everyone who’s my age likes to tell you it was better back in the day. The reality is that it wasn’t really; it was just more innocent. Skateboarding was in its troublesome infancy. We were hated, you didn’t tell your parents you skated and it was not a career path. Equipment is better now; pads are definitely better now, parks are better now. Acceptance is better now. Pushy parents suck. Rappers filming videos at parks suck. Come on really! I hate seeing kids throwing their boards too, especially if they didn’t pay for it. The whole ABD mindset drives me crazy too: So what if someone’s already done it? It hasn’t ‘been done’ by me! But my ultimate hate is headphones. F*cking take them off you unsociable prick. “I need my music to pump me up” “F*ck off”

What about the British scene/industry?
- The British scene has always been good. I think we do get carried away though with our own importance a bit, but overall we produce some banging skaters. Death is also 15 years old now and as pure today as it was when Nick told me his reasons for starting it back then. Stoked that Shiner is still serving the needs of the sport too.

Are there any particular skateboarders that you feel have contributed more than others to this sprawling multi-million dollar culture and if so, which ones, and what’s the substance of their contribution?
-Tony Hawk. Love him or hate him the 900 changed everything. (Personally I think he’s amazing). Skateboarding grew up at that point and then the parks came back. Mark Gonzales and Rodney Mullen deserve a mention too. But everyone who has skated has played some part in shaping it, regardless of level.

You suffered some of the worst skateboard related injuries that I can think of: what gives you the will to carry on after destroying every bit of yourself?
- I just love it. It defines who I am, makes me, me. Without it I get edgy after a few days. I might not have the drive I had 100% of the time but I can still have my moments.

Are you able to imagine a life without skateboarding?
- It would be a sad time and would probably mean that I can no longer stand the pain. I’d like to still be able to roll all the way to the grave. Maybe with four trucks on my coffin! (Laughing)…

How do you see skateboarding evolving from this point? Have we exhausted the possibilities yet?
- Not even close: Look how consistent the top street guys have gotten. And the mega ramp stuff is pushing life-threatening boundaries. The bowl skaters of tomorrow are incredible too, no pads and no holding back. They’ll start going higher soon for sure and then there’s no stopping them. It will constantly evolve. Younger up and comers will always push the boundaries.

Give us the benefit of your wisdom Dave – why is skateboarding worth it?
- It’s a self-indulgent time-wasting pastime. You’re only going to get out of it what you put into it. Enjoy it for what it is. It’s a piece of wood with crude metal turning things and four wheels. It definitely isn’t rocket science. And because you’re going to get arthritis anyway, you might as well have a reason and memories for having it.

 

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Backside smithgrind. Photo – CJ

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