Portrait: James Griffiths
The Isle video is now finished and has premiered all around the globe. How do you feel now it’s all done? Are you happy with your section and the video as a whole? Did you know you were getting the curtains?
Yeah, I think the video as a whole is sick! Jake and everyone involved did an amazing job and it’s great to see the video getting global recognition. As far as my part is concerned, there’s the obvious “I didn’t manage to get everything I wanted to” and “I could have done that better”, but I’m pretty happy with it overall and I’m stoked to have been a part of the project. I didn’t know for sure I had the last part but had an idea from various slip-ups. I only really found out when someone came out of the first showing of the video and congratulated me on having last part as I was waiting to go in and watch it for the first time.
I’ve always been a big fan of your skating and thought you had so much potential to go places with it but you never really had that ultimate Chris Jones section. I think this new one could be it. Are you ready for your new found fame or are you going to do a Tom Penny and shy away from the limelight? I know you’re currently in Burma right now. Is that it… Are you done with skating?
What you on about mate? You obviously haven’t seen my section from the Welsh scene video ‘Who?’. I’d say I had my ultimate part at the ripe age of 17 and that things have been down hill since. You should be calling this part a come back instead.
No I’m not done with skating, I’m enjoying it too much at the moment. I’m in Burma building a skate park for the Pushing Myanmar project, which only supports that point. And thanks for being a fan, I can sign the dvd for you if you like?
You came straight off the back of filming a section for Jakes last video ‘Eleventh Hour’ to filming again with him for ‘Vase’. Did you think much about how you were going to make this new section stand out from the last one at all?
I filmed Eleventh Hour during a bit of a confusing time. I had just finished University, moved to London and was considering doing an MA. I couldn’t afford it at the time so started working with the intention of doing it the following year. Throughout University skateboarding really took a back seat, during my final year I hardly even skated. When I moved to London I wasn’t really thinking much about skating so I wasn’t necessarily prioritising skating and filming for Eleventh Hour over other things, I suppose I just wasn’t very motivated at the time. Over that period of filming and towards the end of Eleventh Hour I started to really enjoy it again, which led to me skating more and making more of an effort to skate.
This timed in quite well with the start of Vase and although during the project I’ve had various existential crisis’, I’ve definitely ended up focusing more on this project over other things. So I guess with this new found motivation and my thoughts being more concentrated on the video I imagined it would turn out slightly different to my Eleventh Hour part.
How do you find the filming process, is it exciting to put a section together or a right ball ache?
Filming in general for me can vary. Most of the time I love it. Filming for a video can be so much fun and really exciting which has always made me lean towards favouring that outlet of presenting skating. Saying that, I definitely feel my skating can struggle at times which can knock my confidence to film. During these periods I can find it difficult to feel motivated to go filming as I’ll feel I’m actually not good enough to film something worth while and don’t really want to waste someone else’s time or film something and put it out there for the sake of it.
As far as the Isle video is concerned, I was so excited about being a part of the project and really enjoyed the whole process. Being good friends Jake also helped. Jake definitely knows me well from being friends for a good few years now which meant there was good communication throughout the whole video and we could work on ideas together. His approach definitely had a positive effect on me and made it an enjoyable experience.
You hit your head pretty bad whilst filming for Vase. What happened there and why weren’t you wearing a helmet?
I left it at home unfortunately. We were in Barcelona on our annual Isle trip. In celebration of the New Year I decided to jump off the side of a bank on to the back of my head. I didn’t knock myself out and thought I was okay, I just had a small wound on my head so went to the hospital to get some stitches. The only strange thing at that point was that the doctor attached some cotton cylinder to stop any excess blood which I’m convinced was a tampon. Over the next few days I started to feel pretty sick so I got an earlier flight home. As soon I got back to London I started throwing up which continued over about 4 days. This left me bed bound with nothing but a box set for the ‘Peaky Blinders’. During this grim period, I went to hospital and got a CAT scan. They said there was a slight fracture that wasn’t serious and that I had been experiencing a delayed concussion which should pass over the next week. The symptoms eventually stopped and I started to return back my normal self after a few weeks.
Switch 5050, Athens. Photo: Sam Ashley
What do you think Isle brings to the table that other brands don’t?
It’s probably one of the only company’s in which everyone involved has some form of neurosis. So guess it brings that to the table. I think the next video is going to be called “One that Ollied over the Cuckoo’s Nest”.
Why are your trousers so short these days? Is that a new fashion trend i don’t know about?
Haha lets just say its a combination of trouser OCD and high fashion.
Do you think it’s important to have other interests and focuses outside of skating? I mean you can’t ride this wave forever.
I think naturally everyone will have other interests and focuses outside of skating, even if they’re not aware of it. It would be weird if you didn’t. As far as riding the skateboard wave forever, there are so many opportunities within skating nowadays which means that despite your sponsored days maybe being numbered, being involved or working within skating is not. So if thats something you wish to do the opportunities are there. Skating involves and helps develop a host of amazing skills such as film, photography, graphic design, building, teaching, alongside many others which maybe are not so obvious, for example event, team and project management. There’s nothing preventing people from applying these skills they have ascertained within skating outside of it once that wave has plateaued.
You have been out to Palestine a couple of times now to work with the SkatePAL organisation. Could you talk a little bit about what you were up to when over there, apart from getting a sweet tan.
Yeah I’ve been out twice with SkatePAL to help build some skateparks in the West Bank and to run skate classes, once in 2014 in Ramallah and Zebabdeh, the other in 2015 based in Asira Al-Shamaliya. The general principle behind the community based projects have been to provide a self sustaining space in which kids and young adults can play because in some areas in the West Bank there is not a lot for kids to do. Both projects have worked alongside local municipalities and charities, for example this years project was a collaboration between SkatePAL and The Palestinian House of Friendship, so we know there is already an interest from the locals. Alongside this, the projects in Zebabdeh and Asira Al-Shamaliya have been incorporated into larger projects, there are plans to build swimming pools, play parks etc in the area surrounding the skate park to help create a larger space with a range of things children and young adults can use. Both times there has also been a lot of effort to set in place a system in which boards can be hired out by the kids and to create a situation where there can be an older local skater to oversee the children skating and to help teach as much as possible. During the building process, local skaters have also been incorporated as much as possible to help them learn the process so if they wanted to build something themselves or fix a part of the park, the skills are in place to do so.
I actually have an interview with SkatePAL that just came out which will help provide more information about this as there is so much to say, so instead of rambling on I’ll say go over and check that. You can also read a nice article my two friends Dani and Josh wrote here. There is also a rad video of skating in the West Bank here – www.epiclypalestined.com.
Some local articles that came out during the build worth looking at are:
For last years projects it’s worth checking out this interview with Charlie.
Also when your on www.skatepal.co.uk any donations for future projects would not go a miss.
Do you plan on staying in London for a while? Is there anywhere else you would like to live?
Yeah I think I’ll be based in London for sometime. I like it too much and so many of my friends are here. I would like to live somewhere abroad at some point but I’m not sure where or for how long.
Whats next for you? Do you have any other projects in the works? How about a new Highbrow section, wink wink.
After this build in Myanmar I’m going to try spend some time in the states, hopefully. I’d like to try get out to New York to film some more stuff with Colin Read for his next video. After that, there are some talks about a few skatepark builds throughout 2016 so I’ll try get involved in those as they’re so much fun, maybe Ethiopia in April with Make Life Skate Life. I would also like to try get back out to Palestine at some point, I’m trying to organise a skate trip there at the moment. As far as a Highbrow part goes, I guess we will have to wait and see.
How you want to end this interview? Any last words?
I would just like to say a big thanks to Jake for the time and patience he has put into me over the last few years. Also thanks to Shier, Nick, Chris and everyone at Isle, Colin, Vaughan and Nike SB, Mackey for being the best and Lost Art for being the sickest! Wes at Rock Solid, Aaron and SML wheels, Ashes grip, Alan for sending me Thunders from Shiner and Jugga and the crew at Post hats.