I was shit-talking quite loudly at this year’s Winterclash, trying to hock gear at the almost unbranded Be-Mag Shop booth (a term I use very loosely) , trying to get as many people over to check out the stuff we had there. Even though we haven’t met before, I recognized Dan Collins and tried to get him over, asking him what I could do to take some money off his hands, and he said something along the lines of „There’s nothing you can do to have my money, mate“. I was a fan of his skating even before that little exchange, but now I knew I had to talk to the man and see what he is about. And the opportunity arose sooner than later, as he gave the rollerblading world more things to talk about. His new Loco Skates section, his departure from Adapt and his decision to speak out publicly about his path to sobriety. As this is his first major interview for Be-Mag, we started with the basics to roll things off.
Interview: Josip Jagić
Photography: Gareth Morton
B&W Portrait: Matthew Jasztremski
Busy? What do you do besides skate?
Really busy dude, I am self-employed as a tree surgeon. Climbing trees all day in this heat is killer!
Holy shit, that sounds exhausting in this weather. How did you decide to get into that?
Haha, you’re telling me man! Have to wear a lot of chainsaw protective clothing too which makes it even worse. Got the idea back in 2008 when I was in Australia, I worked with a guy there who had a tree business then came back to England to study for it. I love being outside in nature and staying active it just made sense.
Is it a well paying job?
It can be the best job in the world sometimes. It wasn’t well paid at the start, had to spend a few years getting beasted for really low wages while I was an apprentice. Now that I’m working for myself and contracting the money is much better.
Sounds nice. It’s always gratifying to get paid to do something you like. So, how does rollerblading fit into your professional and personal life? How did you get into it?
I started off with some toy skates when I was about 10, I would always use them to cruise to the corner shop or just up and down my street. Eventually saw some kids doing grinds and it all started from there. Blading is and always will be a huge part of my life in all respects, These days I have a really good blade/work life balance. I became self employed so now I can manage my own time and work just enough to be able to skate as much as possible. It’s working out pretty well.
That’s amazing. Are you originally from London? Who did you grow up skating with and do you still skate with the same people? I see skating as a social activity as much as a ‘sport’ and still enjoy sessioning the most with the people I grew up skating with.
Yes, I Was born and raised in Southwest London. And grew up skating with a crew that goes by the name of the Warriors. Many people have come and gone but there are definitely a few who have always been there and I still skate with all the time. And likewise they are always the best sessions.
So, who did you look up to from the UK when you started skating? How old are you anyway?
I’m 27 now, if we are talking pros, the people I looked up to the most from the UK would have been people such as Oli Short,Albert Hooi, Frazer Watson, Richard Taylor and of course the PlayStation legends. Joey Egan, Blake Bird, Anthony Mackie, Charlie Lockyer. Too many heroes to list.
What a fine list of truly influential skaters. If you had to pick one skater out of those named as a favourite, who would it be?
Damn man, really putting me on the spot there…. I think if it had to be one it would be Oli, his ability to combine creativity and innovation with hammers was always something I aspired to. He is from the same area of London as me too so maybe I am a little biased. (laughs)
His section in Face the Music and both sections in The Rain are groundbreaking, the latter even more. Was he a big influence on your style of skating?
His skating definitely played a part, along with many others. I try to keep my style of skating as true to myself as possible but there is no denying that watching certain skaters like him growing up influenced the type of things I wanted to learn.
I watched both your latest section for Loco and your Adapt pro introduction recently and your skating is quite different in both sections. The one for Loco is as crazy as the first one, but seems as if you didn’t care so much about following the unwritten rules of blading and instead decided to play around the rules a bit? Was it pre-planned or did it happen on location?
In the time between those two sections my outlook has changed somewhat, for blading to have any kind of rules seems ridiculous to me now. Not so much pre-planned, more of a change in perspective. It’s really interesting that you picked up on it. Pretty much all of the tricks themselves develop organically at the time. It always works out better like that.
There are people that study spots and think of the best tricks to do on them. Somehow, I guess it depends on the personality of the skater? Also, I thought so-called powerblading was bullshit until I realised how much it brought to what we call rollerblading. Do you indulge in big wheel blading?
You are definitely not alone there. I was skeptical at first, but as soon as I tried some big wheels I felt like an idiot for missing out for so long. If you go back to before you could ever do grinds or airs, the first thing that hooked most people on blading was simply cruising around. Big wheels are amazing and it really gives new life to that initial enjoyment. And yeah, we are all unique human beings with different perspectives. Some people are very regimented in their approach. For me this approach can suck the fun out of it. Occasionally I will have a trick in mind for a spot but I try to just keep it fun.
Agree completely! And when you see how it made people re-embrace skating flat and made companies produce functional flat frames and skates, making the average blader more fluid and faster, I love it.
Most definitely, it’s the reason I am now completely converted to skating flat after being anti rocker for about 15 years! I’m actually skating the gc megas with flat 65mm go projects. Have been for some time.
So, you recently announced you left Adapt. What happened?
It wasn’t so much that I left, I was dropped. I don’t think it’s necessary to go into too much detail but due to some personal differences which occurred when I was over to visit them in Holland they decided that they no longer wanted to support me. I tried to make amends as best I could but they were very firm on their decision. I had messed up a few times in the past and although there were some other contributing factors ultimately the blame lies with me. I didn’t really read the situation too well and made some bad choices.
Without going into details, I’m sure it’s their loss.
Very kind of you to say so.
Hard work deserves acknowledgment. As well as announcing you’re not skating for Adapt, you recently published that you are on the road to sobriety and asked your friends to support your decision. Was it hard for you to go public with something so personal? Also, what happened, when did you realise you have a problem? That’s very brave.
It wasn’t that hard, it was just a turning point. Putting it out there has actually made it a lot easier and the support and encouragement I have received is amazing. I had known that drinking, amongst other things had been having a seriously negative effect on all aspects of my life for a really long time. It was making me really depressed every time I would do something stupid from drinking too much. It all changed the day I got that email from adapt, to see a dream I have worked so hard for so long to achieve slip through my fingers due to some stupid drunk decisions was really hard. And so that’s when I said enough is enough. If that’s what it took to prompt me to make these much needed lifestyle adjustments then it’s actually turned into a bit of a blessing.
Looking back, how did it start?
I was a reckless youth. It’s part of the culture where I grew up to get wasted all the time. I was always the one that would take it too far. I had a reputation as a party animal and it gets encouraged. I think the main reason was to escape thoughts or feelings, it was easier to just get wasted and stop caring about anything than actually face up to my problems.
I come from a similar background. All youth countercultures, ever since the beatniks in the 1950s, have this substance abuse problem. How widespread do you think it is in rollerblading and do you think it compromises our professionality?
Not necessarily, if you’re the kind of person that can just have a few drinks now and then, it’s fine. And of course if you want to get wasted in your own time that’s fine too. It becomes a problem if you are influencing others especially kids to do the same. That said, all extreme sports by their very nature appeal to the reckless individuals among us. Most people would consider it highly irresponsible not to mention dangerous to jump of a building on skates or grind a rail. Is it really that surprising that the same people that enjoy that like to do other irresponsible things?
I’m not going to be one of those people that stops drinking and then starts calling people out for not doing the same on some kind of self righteous vibe. It’s just not for me right now.
I know you don’t want to call anyone out for drinking, but what kind of advice would you offer to rollerblader kids getting caught up too much in drinking and partying?
Hmm. I would say just focus on the things that make you truly happy, skating, personal relationships, music, whatever it is. if these things are suffering because of partying or drinking too much then maybe re consider your priorities. Everyone is different of course so what works for one person may not for another. I would say don’t be afraid to be different, people will try and justify their own bad decisions by including you. If everyone is doing it then it’s cool right? Wrong. Never be afraid to go against the crowd. You can still enjoy yourself just as much if not more and life is short, maximise your youth. Push your body and be kind to yourself, try not to get caught in negative mindsets and always try to be the best version of yourself. The more sacrifices you make and effort you put in to something the more rewards you will see in return.
So, what do you enjoy the most about rollerblading?
Oh man! Blading is how I reach my nirvana. Mid way through a scary stunt or even just bombing down the street. All the stresses and pressures of every day life just disappear into nothingness. There are no distractions, it’s so hard to describe such a feeling. Then of course there’s the social aspect, just last night we had a pretty special session after work. The whole crew came out and everybody killed it until the sun went down. No camera or agenda. Just a group of best mates pushing each other and cracking jokes. That is the best!
Since going pro, having sponsors etc I find I need to remind myself why I am doing it… If I didn’t have these things I would still be out there shredding. I was before and I will be after. It’s all for the love. I put a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself and it helps to just keep it natural.
Whats up with sponsors now?
My only sponsor right now is Locoskates.com. I can’t say how amazing they are. It was the first sponsor I ever got back when I was 17. Jake and the guys have always supported me so much and done more than most would. I am proud to represent such an incredible part of the blading industry and equally proud to call them all my friends.
Jake’s a really nice guy. Even before you answer this one, heres the next. What do you like about rollerblading the most now? Who do you think are the most influential and hardworking people in blading now? And who do you enjoy watching the most?
I think the hardest working and most influential people in blading right now are most likely people behind the scenes, I have seen first hand how hard Jake works and the scene wouldn’t be what it is without him, people like Jojo Jacobi aswell dedicating so much time and effort not to mention personal sacrifice. It’s absolutely amazing. In terms of skaters, Eugen has been on an absolute mission for a long time, the sheer volume and quality of content he manages to put out is truly something to aspire to. I would include him in my favourites to watch to, along with pretty much every other blader on the planet haha I love watching everyone. Seeing a kid break a barrier and progress or when one of the guys does their first rail, it’s always such a pleasure to watch. If I must name a few. My brother CJ Wellsmore is always a treat to watch wherever it is and Joe Ladkinson never ceases to impress and surpass already high expectations.
Man, I agree. Joe is amazing, I love his style so much. And he’s so quiet and humble. Have you known him for a long time? What do you think is that makes him exceptional?
Haha yea, I have known him a long time. I think a lot of people would like to know that! Must be all those Yorkshire puddings.
You talked about the people behind the scene. The UK still produces top pros every year, like with Sam Crofts too. How do you like competing against those guys? Are you competitive?
I can be, it totally depends on the vibe of a contest. A bit of friendly competition is great. Its a bit jarring when everyone takes it a little too seriously. The best comps are the ones that just feel like a session.
After releasing the latest edit for Loco, what’s next for you?
I’m currently filming for another couple of projects which should be ready in the near future. Trying to reach a couple more events this summer then I am going to travel through Asia to Australia to meet up with some long lost family members.
Planning a VOD?
Hmm, maybe. We have toyed with the idea before. It’s weird trying to put a price on something like that. That and I’m not sure if anyone would buy it. (laughs).
I think the format is the best. How do you feel about the fact that kids get to see so much stuff for free and don’t want to pay for premium content?
Yea, the format is definitely cool and it’s really good for skaters to be able to directly support their favourite pros, filmmakers etc. It’s a great concept. I think it’s important to share great content with everyone, but I also see how reluctant people are to part with money for something they are used to getting for free. We often discuss ideas in and around this subject… Maybe some of them will come to be reality one day.
I remember saving money to order vhs and later dvds.
Yea of course, the hype was so real when a new video would drop. Times have changed so much in both positive and negative ways. It depends what you choose to focus on. Personally I try to find the positives. The internet is an astounding thing.
If you had to pick one tipping point event in the past few years in rollerblading, what would it be?
I think the biggest turning point in the past few years has to be the resurgence of the flat setup, also including the whole big wheels movement. I think it has really changed the way we all look at blading. It has opened up a whole new realm of possibilities. It has brought speed, slalom, Rec, hockey and aggressive sightly closer together and blurred the lines which previously separated them which I think is amazing. Antony Pottier‘s edit on the 80mm flat setup certainly deserves a mention here!! I couldn’t really see a way that whole thing could have turned out better. The fact that it happened at all is awesome. I look forward to seeing how much blading will evolve and diversify in the future.