Citizen Ticket Partnership

We've recently partnered with Citizen Ticket, a UK based ethical ticketing company who donate proceeds from event sales to different charities, including SkatePal! 

Citizen Ticket transforms booking fees into a force for good, by donating 50% of their fees to charities chosen by the event organisers they work with.

If you're an event organiser and would like to support our work, simply select SkatePal as your chosen charity, and half of Citizen Ticket’s booking fees from each ticket sold will be donated to us!

Hit the image below to learn more:

Ryan Lay - Welcome to the Team

We are extremely happy to announce Ryan Lay as the newest ambassador to SkatePal.

Ryan is a professional skateboarder from Arizona, USA. He first visited Palestine in the  summer of 2018, during which time he met local skaters Aram Sabbah, Adham Tamimi and Maen Hammad.

When Ryan isn’t travelling around the globe, he’s fulfilling his duties as ambassador to the College Skate Education Fund and working on his own non-profit organisation Skate After School.

Welcome to the family Ryan!

Wallie in Morocco. Photo: Sam McGuire

Wallie in Morocco. Photo: Sam McGuire

re:deckorate Charity Auction

We're kicking off 2019 with an exciting exhibition in collaboration with re:ply Skateboards:

re:deckorate is an exhibition of recycled skateboards redesigned by talented artists from around the world to raise money for SkatePal.

Over 50 artists from 10 different countries have contributed to the exhibition, which is hosted at Jam in Jar and open to the public until 17th March.

Bids start at £150 are being taken via the re:deckorate Instagram account. All proceeds going towards our work in Palestine.

Hit the button below, choose your favourite board and enter your bid in the comments section to grab yourself a one-off piece of artwork from loads of talented artists!


Five Years of SkatePal: A Message from Founder Charlie Davis

Charlie_3.jpg

First and foremost, I would like to express my gratitude to everyone who has supported SkatePal over the past five years. There is not enough space here to mention everyone individually who has helped us along the way, but you all know who you are, and that we would not be here without you all!

Over the past five years, we have had over 200 volunteers from 25 countries who have travelled out to Palestine to get involved with our projects. None of this would have been possible without the time, money and effort that they have put in, not to mention the countless others who have fundraised for us and spread the word of what we do.

I did not imagine, five years ago, that I would be here writing this message, and it is an honour to have met and worked with such dedicated individuals who have inspired me to keep going. A special thank you goes to Theo Krish, who became the second Director in 2015 and has shared the responsibility of running the charity since then.

Charlie with some of the first skateboarders in Palestine, including Aram Sabbah, Adham Tamimi and Mai Alem.

Charlie with some of the first skateboarders in Palestine, including Aram Sabbah, Adham Tamimi and Mai Alem.

From figuring out how to build a 3ft wooden mini-ramp in 2013 with my brother and a couple of friends, to co-organising the first ever international skateboard conference - Pushing Boarders - in 2018, and planning our fourth concrete skatepark in Palestine, we have come a long way and have learnt a lot!

There have been a couple of stand-out moments in the past five years which have inspired me to keep going and reaffirmed my belief in what SkatePal is doing:

After completing our first concrete skatepark in Zebabdeh, I remember chatting to some of the parents who said it was the first time they had seen the Muslim and Christian children playing together. They attend different schools and had usually played separately but skateboarding managed to break through those barriers and bring them all together. 

Zebabdeh, 2014.

Zebabdeh, 2014.

Later on in 2016, during the first year of year-round classes at the Asira Al-Shamalyia skatepark, I was sitting watching skaters from around the country skating the park together, whilst I drank tea with local parents and others who had just come up to relax at the park. For the first time it struck me that these skateparks represented much more than just a place to play, but they had become community hang-out spots with such an inclusive atmosphere that you didn’t have to skate to enjoy yourself. 

Asira Al-Shamaliya Skatepark. Photo: Sam Ashley

Asira Al-Shamaliya Skatepark. Photo: Sam Ashley

It had also became a cultural melting pot where volunteers from all over the world came to meet the local residents and you could see first hand how much everyone benefited - not only the local children. The family vibe at these parks was also exemplified by the fact that girls and boys were skating together, and mixed sports sessions are very uncommon in the more conservative areas of Palestine. 

It has been inspiring to witness the growth of skateboard charities during the past few years - particularly those that have been established by past SkatePal volunteers. The Concrete Jungle Foundation working in Peru and Angola, Free Movement Skateboarding working with refugees in Athens, and Women Skate the World working internationally, were all set up by ex-SkatePal volunteers.

Aram Sabbah. Photo: Emil Agerskov

Aram Sabbah. Photo: Emil Agerskov

From the beginning, the ultimate goal of SkatePal in Palestine was to create a self-sustaining skateboard scene that would continue with local skaters at the helm. We are delighted to announce that Aram Sabbah, one of the first skaters in the country, who has been with us since day one, will be taking on the role of local manager in Palestine in 2019. 

It has been wonderful to see SkatePal grow into a close-knit, international family, with whom it is a privilege to work.

Charlie Davis,

Founder & Executive Director

Free Movement Skateboarding Interview

One of the most rewarding aspects of the past five years has been watching former SkatePal volunteers set up their own organisations in different parts of the world. Will Ascott and Ruby Mateja visited Palestine in 2016 and now run the amazing Free Movement Skateboarding, working with refugee communities in Athens. We caught up with them to find out how it all began…

Will & Ruby. Photo: Alexis De Tarade

Will & Ruby. Photo: Alexis De Tarade

Hey guys, so you’d never actually met before volunteering with SkatePal right? How did you get involved in the first place? 

Ruby: I first heard about SkatePal in 2016 through a friend, Sirus Gahan, who had been out to Palestine earlier that year and made a short film about his time there. At that point, I’d been skating for about 8 months and had seen only a couple of other girl skaters about. The film struck me, not only because it gave a glimpse of a place I’d always wanted to visit, but mainly because it was so incredible to see so many girl skaters fearlessly ripping around.

Will: I was sent in the direction of SkatePal by my pal Harriet Alana who runs Brash Skate & Create. We joined forces and put on a little fundraising skate jam, then I got out there in October 2016 and met Ruby, we immediately clicked! 

Ruby teaches Esinat to drop in. Asira Al-Shamaliya, 2016.

Ruby teaches Esinat to drop in. Asira Al-Shamaliya, 2016.

Cool! At what point did you start discussing the idea of Free Movement Skateboarding?

Ruby: I suppose it was around half-way into our month-long trip there. We were both inspired by the atmosphere in the Asira skatepark - hearing stories and seeing first-hand the positive impact skateboarding has had for the local kids was really incredible. 

Will: We had some vague ideas about the other billion contexts in which a skate project could support a disadvantaged community. In fact, there’s a certain olive tree where we sat and discussed all this stuff really early on, which Ruby subsequently drew on a birthday card and then I recently got tattooed (cute right!)

I flew from Palestine directly to Athens and found myself volunteering in a community kitchen for displaced people. I started formulating ideas for a project there, knowing it needed to be mobile to reach the remote refugee camps. A chance encounter with UK Charity Help Refugees founder Josie Naughton in the kitchen gave me the chance to pitch my idea and she was into it. I can’t tell you how surreal that was - I remember calling Ruby and having this realisation that we were both at a point in our lives where we could drop everything and move out here and do this. Things just started happening after that!

Will lends a hand whilst volunteering with SkatePal in 2016

Will lends a hand whilst volunteering with SkatePal in 2016

How did you find that transition from Palestine to Athens? 

Ruby: To be honest we didn’t really have much time to think about it! So I think that made it easier. It was only a few weeks after Palestine that Will called me from Athens and said we had to set up a project there. We spent the next few months planning, fundraising, securing funding from Help Refugees, and gathering as many second-hand skateboards as we could. It wasn’t until we’d packed up everything into the van and started to drive out there that I had a moment to sit and think - ‘right, what’s this going to be like then?.’ Obviously I’d thought about things in terms of the project, but as regards to myself living and working in Athens, not much. 

It was great though, Athens is such a fascinating place. We spent the first week there checking in with other projects, the local skate shop Ministry of Concrete, and just skating around exploring the whole city. I guess it was about four months into living there that we both suddenly felt super burnt-out. We’d gone into it full force, and although things were going really well, we’d taken on a lot and hadn’t stopped to think about giving ourselves a rest. This was a really important point though, and with the support from some wicked friends, we started to see things in a different light - to pace ourselves and gather the support around us that we needed. 

One of the locations where Free Movement hold clasess. Latraac bowl & cafe. Athens. Photo: Demetrios Ioannou

One of the locations where Free Movement hold clasess. Latraac bowl & cafe. Athens. Photo: Demetrios Ioannou

How did things actually take shape once you’d arrived then?

Will: We spent about a month getting ourselves accommodation and checking out potential partner projects. We just wanted to make sure our delivery was what was needed and we were working with people, not treading on their toes. 

Ruby: We were really lucky to secure funding from Help Refugees, who fund all sorts of humanitarian, solidarity and emergency-relief projects throughout Europe. Things would definitely have taken a lot longer without their support. But with their backing, we managed to turn the idea into an established project in just four months. Really the key to all of our operations has been partnering with existing projects / NGOs as well as gaining support and advice from them. 

By partnering with other projects already established in refugee camps, we were able to gain access by essentially becoming part of their program. This cuts out the long and bureaucratic middle man and meant that we could start teaching sessions almost immediately. These partnerships also gave us a crucial insight into the context we were to begin working in, and essential training on understanding the effects that experiencing long-term trauma and stress can have, especially for young people. 

Ruby and Malak. Asira Al-Shamaliya, 2016.

Ruby and Malak. Asira Al-Shamaliya, 2016.

What are the similarities and differences you guys face working in Athens compared to Palestine? 

Will: The kids we work with in Athens have often experienced significant trauma in the recent past, aren’t in formal education and have no experience of skateboarding. Whereas in Palestine, the kids had relatively stable day to day lives and most young people are in school. The impact on behaviour this gives the kids in Athens is pretty significant. Our role is a lot closer to youth work than I think people realise. We are trained behavioural specialists and understand how to support kids who have been through trauma, it’s a lot more than skateboarding. Learning when to stick on the teacher voice, giving an ear to problems and being a regular, reliable person in their turbulent lives took some stepping up, but I’m honoured to do so, ‘cos these kids are sick!

Ruby: The main similarity would be that the young people we teach predominantly come from a Middle Eastern background. So that little bit of Arabic tailored to the skatepark we learnt in Palestine certainly comes in useful! Although the outcomes and intended goals of our projects are very entwined, the actual operations and day-to-day sessions are quite different. We have to keep most of our sessions really structured - especially those in the camps - because we set up our skatepark in an open area where hundreds of kids live. This means that we have to establish clear boundaries and rules - so that the people participating in the session can concentrate and get the most our of it, whilst trying to make sure we keep things as safe and calm as possible! This is why we arrange regular trips to local skateparks and hold weekly sessions at our small DIY park - because then the kids get to experience more of a natural and relaxed skate session.

In the most simple terms, the experience in Palestine gave us the confidence to go ahead with FMS, having seen that such a charity can thrive and progress. Greece is the first port-of-call for many displaced people heading West from countries such as Afghanistan, Syria, and Iran. So most of the kids we teach are also from a Middle Eastern background. Volunteering in Palestine gave us a good understanding of the culture there, which was very enlightening in the way that it broke down a lot of the preconceptions you might hear about Muslim communities. We were welcomed, despite our differences, by all the locals in Asira. 

Will leads a stretching session before skating begins. Athens, 2017.

Will leads a stretching session before skating begins. Athens, 2017.

Will told me about the difficulty of taking photos in the camps, which obviously makes social media updates quite tricky. How do you get around stuff like this?

Will: We can’t take photos in camps due to government restrictions. We also can’t take photos of any individual’s face without their parents permission, but the consequences for this are higher than many think. There was a case of an NGO’s promotional material being used as evidence to prove that a family had safely travelled to Europe via Greece, resulting in their deportation. These are the most vulnerable kids in Europe, they are stateless and have next-to-no protection as such, especially if they are paperless.

This really effects the kind of media we can put out – any photos with kids faces have been carefully worked out, we go with a translator to their parents and carefully talk through the consequences of participating. Although the parents are often enthusiastic to have their child represented in a positive way that breaks the standard narrative of the refugee crisis, this proactive approach to safeguarding their identity is crucial for both us as an organisation and them as individuals.

Will and the Free Movement mobile ramps.

Will and the Free Movement mobile ramps.

What's an average day for FMS? Aside from scrambled eggs & dill of course : ) 

Ruby: Well that’s an essential part of course! Due to school hours and the climate, most of our sessions take place in the afternoon and evening. Which means the mornings are strictly for long breakfasts. But yeah, generally we have pretty chilled mornings, then get any meetings, admin-y stuff out the way before jumping in the van and driving to one of the locations we teach in. 

Will: We’re up to 9 sessions a week now, so most days we offer 2 sessions, moving between public basketball courts, parks, refugee camps and skateparks. We pad up the kids, give them a yoga warm-up, teach them to skate, catering to mixed abilities, we pack up all the ramps and do it again somewhere else. With a falafel wrap in between (some things never change!).

Ruby: There’s a family in the camp that make the best falafel wraps and we have their number so we can pre-order whilst we’re driving over. It’s a pretty good set up.

You guys hosted the Globally Stoked panel at Pushing Boarders this year - how did you find that experience? Where do you think / hope the ‘skate-charity-sector’ is heading?

Will: Pushing Boarders was truly one of the best weekends of my life. It really meant a lot to be acknowledged on that platform amongst our heroes. Me and Ruby worked super hard on creating a narrative for our talk, culminating in a call to others to push skateboarding away from corporate, over-competitive, energy drink crap and towards diversity, community and slappys. I really hope to see others open up their skate scenes to those that need it most. Skateboarding’s rich culture must embrace those it has excluded and allow them to push in their own direction. The only bit of skate culture that truly matters is pissing about with mates and I like that more when my mates are mixed genders and aren’t from exactly the same background. 

That considered, there are a million contexts where this works and a million different angles to take on it. There’s a lot of people that would benefit from the community, mental calm and sense of freedom skateboarding brings. People should feel empowered to start at the most basic level by giving a kid a board, or building a kicker or helping someone drop in and seeing where it goes. Chances are, there’s a lot of people who need skating more than you.

Ruby: It was great to have a proper sit down with other skate charities and discuss important topics which effect all of the work we each do. We already had a pretty clear idea of how things run at SkatePal, and have been in conversation with you guys since starting Free Movement, but it was good to discuss things in person and gain more understanding of what goes on behind the scenes.

Having us host the panel with four longer-established charities created a nice dynamic, where we could learn from the achievements / mistakes made and in turn have a discussion that was enlightening and constructive for the audience. I think our main ‘agenda’ going into it was to highlight the positive impact skateboarding can have for young people living in areas of war and conflict, show how gender parity and diversity within skateboarding can be achieved, to create more of a network between our charities and inspire other people to do something similar. I hope that skate charities all over the world will continue to support and encourage each other - this is happening already so I’m sure it will carry on. Events like Pushing Boarders are important for keeping this connection and conversation going. 

Glad you enjoyed it! What’s happening next, how do you plan to make it sustainable? 

Will: Next year, we are looking at getting a second vehicle so we can reach more camps. Thousands of refugees are being relocated to Athens as the overcrowded refugee camps of the Greek islands have failed to provide dignified accommodation. So with this great demand for further outreach, we will use a second vehicle to split our team and cover more places, using a greater number of volunteers to maintain quality. That’s where the reader can come in – we need more volunteers out here! 

Ruby: For me personally the plan is just to get back out there! I’ve been in the UK for a while now recovering from a knee injury, so I can’t wait to rejoin the team properly and get stuck in. We’ve got the Women’s Program running now and I’m really excited to be there as it develops and get back in touch with the local skate scene as well. 

Will_1.jpg

Whose involved in FMS at the moment? 

Ruby: We’ve got a sick little team at the moment - as well as Will and I, we’ve got Joe and Amber who joined us in August. Joe’s been out in Athens working with solidarity projects for a few years now, and Amber runs Women Skate the World - which was formed with Nanja (also during their time volunteering in Palestine). Another ex-SkatePal volunteer, Zelia  has been working with us on and off this year, but is joining the team officially in January. We also have three local instructors - Spiros, who’s been working with us for over a year now, and Lydia and Olympia who joined the team last spring. That’s the core team, but we also receive a lot of support from volunteers and people who work with partnering projects in Athens. 

Sounds like a great team. Anything else you’d like to add? 

Ruby: We’re still on the look-out for some land to build a permanent skatepark in central Athens, so if anyone has the hook-up let us know!

Thanks guys! Keep shredding : )

Stick the kettle on and check out this great documentary about the work Free Movement Skateboarding do:

freemovementskateboarding.com

instagram.com/freemovement__sb

SkatePal Volunteers 2019

We are currently accepting applications for male and female volunteers to teach skateboarding in Palestine between March and October 2019. 

Placements are offered for either one or two months. Volunteers will be working with our local partners, the Palestinian House of Friendship in Asira and the Sareyyet Youth Club in Ramallah. 

For more information or to receive your application form please email: info@skatepal.co.uk

SkatePal_Volunteer_Promo_2019_Credit_Emil_Agerskov.jpg

SkatePal Summer Jam 2018

Sunday 19th August // 11am - 7pm // Gillett Square, Dalston N16 8JN.

Join us for the annual SkatePal Summer Jam in association with local legends Kaffa Coffee.

This year we're celebrating SkatePal's five year anniversary and we've teamed up with The Ramp Supply to bring a load of new obstacles down to the square! 

What to expect:

- Delicious Palestinian / Vegan pop-up food from our friends at What the Fattoush?

- DJ sets from Suma Sound plus NTS Radio regulars SkateMuzik & The Gaza Strip.

- Soundsystem provided by Tangy Events (formerly Pig&Rig).

- Game of S.K.A.T.E - £2 entry with prizes for winners.

- Raffle - win prizes from: The PalominoRock Solid Dist. Long Live SouthbankNinja TuneNTS RadioSkateismPushing BoardersFree Skateboard Magazine and more! 

- Free beginners skate lessons!

- Merch & information stalls

**This is a free event, but don't forget - all the money we raise goes directly towards supporting our ongoing projects in Palestine**

If you can't make it to the event, fear not! You can make a donation at www.skatepal.co.uk/donate
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Schedule

11am - 12pm: Beginners skate lessons

12pm: Skate jam opens

2pm - 4pm: Game of S.K.A.T.E

4pm - 7pm: Skate Jam continues. 
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Facebook event here.

Many thanks to Gillett Square for supporting this event.

NASS x SkatePal

We're pleased to announce that SkatePal is the official charity partner for this year's NASS festival!

NASS is a music and action sports festival that takes place over the 5th - 8th July near Bristol, UK. The festival will be donating cash raised from their tickets sales to SkatePal and we'll be on site over the weekend watching the skate-competitions and selling SkatePal merchandise. So if you're planning on attending, come and say hey!

For more information and to buy tickets head to: www.nassfestival.com

Photo: Emil Agerskov

Photo: Emil Agerskov

Isle x SkatePal:
Nick Jensen Interview

To conclude last year's collaboration with Isle Skateboards, we caught up with Nick Jensen to talk about painting, skating and his work as Isle's Creative Director. Interview by Theo Krish.

Nick and Jacob Harris in Palestine. Photo: Sam Ashley

Nick and Jacob Harris in Palestine. Photo: Sam Ashley

How did the Isle Palestine trip come about in the first place? Was it easy to persuade you to go?

Thats a good point actually. Chris (Jones) was always saying on the Isle WhatsApp group 'let’s go to Palestine!' I kept ignoring it because it was exciting but I’m a bit of a pussy when it comes to travelling. I get really anxious and I felt like it was going to be really intense and stressful leading up to it. Then I realised stop being a fucking pussy it's going to be amazing!

And was it less stressful than you imagined?

Absolutely! It was one of the most fun trips I’ve ever been on, it wasn’t at all stressful for me, just really thoroughly enjoyable. In my head Palestine was a twelve hour flight away but then I realised it was an Easy Jet flight four hours away. It’s just because so much crazy shit has gone on there that you compartmentalise it and put it in this place in your mind where you think that it's miles away because somewhere so close can’t have that much trauma.

Isle were the first official team to tour the country. So that trip and the way Jake’s portrayed it is the way that other professional skaters...

...will receive the first ever skateboarding on that landscape.

Exactly. People who have never heard of Palestine before are going to discover it through Pieces of Palestine.

Yeah and it looks thoroughly different. It’s got a touch of the Mediterranean, it’s got the Middle Eastern quality, it looks like a bewildering, magical place and I don’t know many other places that look like that in footage.

Nosegrind revert on the Palestinian version of St Paul's chalky walls, Nablus. Photo: Sam Ashley.

Nosegrind revert on the Palestinian version of St Paul's chalky walls, Nablus. Photo: Sam Ashley.

Do you think the way Jake's put the video together is going to alienate some people? 

In a way I think Pieces of Palestine challenges the idea of what a skate video actually is. It's really different - it sits in a space halfway between journalism and a skate video. It doesn't lead up to a heroic moment with a 'well done they saved Palestine' or an amazing tre flip down twenty stairs. It's just an intimate portrait of some lads going around Palestine. It's not that straight forward, you don’t go from A to B and get to understand the role of the piece.

I think it's going to cause people confusion on both sides; the skate side and the non-skate side because they won’t necessarily understand what the value of the piece is or what it's designed to achieve. I think that's the whole point of Jake's film, but it will definitely cause a lot of confusion I think.

Since working with Jake on Vase have you left him to do his own thing?

It hasn’t been my place to step in. When we do Isle projects like Transworld (Cinematographer Project) we kind of conceptualise and brainstorm together, but with the Atlantic Drift series it's been one of those things where it’s not an Isle production. So he’s kind of delivering his own vision. 

With Pieces of Palestine, although it was made with Isle, I think we had this understanding that it wasn't a branded piece. So it was more just Jake feeling confident in his style and pushing it in a new direction as a filmmaker in his own right, working alongside but not with Isle. He’s getting stronger in his own vision so he feels more confident in his decision making right now.

Visiting the Samaritan village, Nablus. Photo: Sam Ashley

Visiting the Samaritan village, Nablus. Photo: Sam Ashley

Tell us about the history of Isle...

Let me work this out... Isle is about four years old. It started when Paul Shier came up to me, we were skating in Kings Cross and Blueprint was kind of going under due to the recession and loads of things like that. It was getting managed by someone else in the States and it just wasn't working out. Paul quietly said to me ‘would you be interested in starting up a company with me and doing the design work?’ I was obviously excited and said yeah!

Then Sylvain (Tognelli) and I went to LA on a Lakai trip and we’d always stay at Paul's house. Me, Paul and Sylvain sat down and properly discussed it because at that point it was still a bit of a hypothetical option. We worked out a mass quit from Blueprint and orchestrated it that way so everyone could quit at once, so everyone was in the loop. People didn’t know that Isle was going to start but that's a different story. Everyone on the team was over it and it was a known factor that people were going to jump ship. The way it was being run wasn’t the Blueprint it used to be.

But in essence Isle started out of the love of skateboarding, wanting to do something that was different to what was already out there. We felt that we already had that option, trying to show skating in a different way and the design of skateboards in a different way. We had a really strong crew and vibe and it was born out of that connection.

Other than you three had you already chosen the rest of the Isle team before leaving Blueprint?

No, after we quit Blueprint we kind of worked out the team, it happened quite organically and quite slowly even though some people don’t think it did. 

isle_1.jpg

Were you involved in any of the art work in Blueprint before this happened?

No.

So the aesthetic of Isle has no crossover?

Only in that I skated for Blueprint and (Dan) Magee who was the mastermind behind the graphics and all the editing, he was the kind of director and creative for Blueprint and I had a strong connection with him. We used to skate together all the time. So there was definitely a crossover in terms of understanding the value in Britishness. There is a crossover in some ways but for me with Isle it was a case of 'right ok Nick time to do a set of designs'.

I come from a painting background, I generally make oil paintings on canvas. So when it came to doing the designs, I wasn’t very sure on how to use Photoshop. So I just decided to make objects in the same way I make paintings, things that physically exist on the wall and photograph them and use that photograph to turn it into a screen-printed graphic. The first series we did felt really scary to me because I didn’t know if it was good or not. But it got really well received.

Which was the first series?

The studio series, with frames and one had a palm tree with sand on. 

And that was the first time you'd ever designed a board?

Yeah.

Had you ever thought about designing boards for Blueprint?

Not really, I’d never engaged with it. I was into painting and I'd never really thought that painting would physically translate onto a board.

isle_studio_1_Series.jpg

Do you feel differently about that now?

Well I don’t feel that differently about it now, because I still don’t put my paintings on the boards (Editor's note: since this interview was recorded Nick used one of his paintings for Casper Brooker's pro board). 

There have been times where people have said 'oh put that on a board it looks really cool', but I don’t see a link at this stage. For me it was for more just about really engaging with what it means to make a skateboard and I’d never had to think about it in that intense way. I mean it took me a while, about two months, to figure out how to do that for the first Isle series.

So you basically hadn’t considered designing boards full stop…

No, because it takes quite a lot mental energy to consider a concept for a board and I’d never even fantasised or imagined that. It wasn’t in my mind. Until someone said you should do it, it forced me to fully engage with it and think 'ok these are the parameters I have to deal with, these are the problems I need to solve'.

And did Shier fully back your ideas from the beginning?

Yeah he was very trusting, he had no idea what to expect really. We had a chat about it. It was still really very sketchy, it was very like 'what the fuck, what are we going to do for our first series?'. We didn’t really do that much of a brand exercise at the start like ‘this is what we are going to be or this is what it represents’. We tried, but we're skaters, we're not that professional, we don’t know how to work like that. If we did work like that then maybe it would feel more wooden and constructed.

Did the reception of the first series help you to have confidence in your work?

Yeah it spurred me on and actually I’ve just realised that a major point is that I used to run a gallery in my flat and show contemporary art. So I knew what it was like to show work on white walls and organise the work of different artists. I have a massive interest in that world so I think that crossed over into the way I treat the boards, almost like the white wall in my gallery.

That make sense as to why there is a lot of white in Isle’s imagery.

Yeah. That white is supposed to be like a gallery wall. 

Tranquilize, 190 x 140 cm

Tranquilize, 190 x 140 cm

Where does your inspiration come from for art and skating? Is there an overlap between the two?

Yeah definitely. When you see a skater interacting with a space in a way that feels original, that's exciting and it's the same with art really. You see a painting and it has a certain energy to it that you maybe haven’t experienced before. It's a really innate feeling that's difficult to articulate, it's just a drive that makes you think 'I want to be involved in that'.

That's something I get from Isle videos and British skating in general, things feel achievable and that inspires you to go out and skate...

Yeah I think there is definitely that. With Vase I think it came down to the way we made the installations for the video. We were quite happy to reveal the scrappy nature in which they were designed. So you might see the masking tape holding up an object or you might see a finger holding it. It wasn’t about being super slick and professional. It's about the process of an idea just as much as the idea itself. 

For example in art, Picasso doesn't just make a masterpiece. If you go to an exhibition you see all these amazing etchings where he goes through a thousand options before he gets to where he wants to be. There's a lot of working it out and that's what skating is, you don’t just wake up one day and smith grind a twenty stair hand rail. 

Something that really shows this creativity I think is Mike Arnold’s Lloyds part; you can take one area and use your brain and skill and really do some inventive stuff. It doesn’t mean you have to do something super impressive like flying down loads of stairs. You can use the space and do something simple. I think there's a materiality to Isle, bringing things back to basics, nothing is too slick.

Nick & Jake pulling strings behind the scenes in  Vase.

Nick & Jake pulling strings behind the scenes in Vase.

How do you see the work you do for Isle vs your solo work? 

It's just different, tapping into different a world. In skateboarding I’m thinking much more about graphic design. When I’m making a painting I’m not thinking about design at all. So my mindset is in a different space. It's not that one is better than the other, it's just a different mind space, a different channel of thinking. The people I’m inspired by are slightly outside of those graphic-y things or they work well because I love the way they look on canvas which you don't get on a wooden screen-printed board. They're a different medium so I don't try and pretend that they're not.

I guess with skateboards you always have a constant - the shape stays the same whereas a painting can be any shape...

Exactly. You can’t crop a painting to be really narrow and weird unless it's been designed in that way. Also there is the reproducibility of skateboards to consider, you need to make six in every series and quite a lot of them are different designs.

With paintings I don’t think of them like a product. It's a bit more like poetry, you think of ideas and you get it out there and it has a moment in time. It's not reproducible. With boards you're working towards a market of people and what they like. You have to think slightly differently, like is this is going to really ‘pop’ off the board.

In the art world, Ad Reinhardt (abstract painter) could make an all black painting as a declaration of the end of painting, this final black space. The idea is beautifully poetic but that's not going to work on a skateboard. It'd just be black and people aren't interested in that sort of revolutionary concept he was dealing with in the 1960s, people would say 'fuck off'! I want to look at a picture that's going to function on a skateboard that's going to make me want to ride it.

You're thinking about the end user whereas in painting it's more about yourself.

Yes absolutely. Like your theory on your existence. It's a bit more existential, a bit more personal.

Curiosities shelves in Nick's studio.

Curiosities shelves in Nick's studio.

You mentioned before that the Curiosities series was the best selling Isle series? 

Yeah I think they were the best selling because they do a few things really successfully. They allow you to represent different characteristics of the skaters, they play on different shapes, shadows, colours and tones. They're really enjoyable on the eye and as a series they look great together. They interconnect like a jigsaw puzzle.

Yeah they bring a very touchable 3D element. If there's any deck you're going to put on your wall it's one that looks like it was already there.

Yeah. Like Trompe-l'œil, it's an illusion of space.

How'd you come up with that? 

Chris Aylen, Shier and I were thinking about those cabinets of curiosities and we were looking at these old dusty ones in museums. I thought we should do that but in more of a gallery vibe, keeping with the white aesthetic and we made it to scale. We made the shelves. So if you look at the shelves in my studio at the moment they're the same height and width as a skateboard. There's something nice about that relationship between one-to-one ratios. It keeps it real and not about being too illusionistic and show-off-y.

Do you usually design those on your own?

With that series Chris Aylen was very involved with me. We’d spend quite long periods of time at my studio arranging objects on the shelves for that series. As it's gone on our roles have slightly shifted and I'm doing a bit more graphic work. 

How did the Isle x SkatePal Curiosities board differ, did you approach it in the same way?

With this one there was more of a dialogue. Normally it's me and Chris thinking about a skater. With this one it was about speaking directly with you, someone who goes to Palestine all the time and has a working relationship with those memories and ideas, combined with my own experience of what makes a board look cool in terms of colour.

How do you think the board stands up against the others?

Yeah I think it looks like it's just part of series. It doesn't have any thing overtly different in any way. It hasn't got a political agency with it. It's just about objects that remind us of either a person or a place. It serves the same function.

That fits nicely with Pieces of Palestine. What you see on the board is what we brought back from that trip...

Yeah memories as well like, the the Taybeh beer. I have really fond memories of talking with Ala (Hilo) and learning so much about Palestine over a beer in Singer Cafe (Bethlehem). 

Ok moving on. What are the difficulties of being a board company in 2018?

The main difficulty is that the market is over saturated. There are so many companies now that it’s quite hard to compete. It's harder to stand out because everyone can kind of move around a bit and that's acceptable, whereas before it was like companies stuck with one style.

But that's a challenge I enjoy because it means it's a bit more engaging and pressurising to think ‘alright how are we actually going to do something different’. That can be achieved through the skaters, through video editing, it can be through any way in which you represent yourself. 

At the moment you balance your work between running Isle, skating and painting - would you eventually like to be doing Isle full time?

Well I do love doing Isle because it's a bit like letting off steam in a way, but I guess I wouldn't want to do it full time. I wouldn’t want it to overtake painting and skating and become a pure job because it’s just not who I am. I like the fact that it's a bit like a mini family - we enjoy feeding off each others ideas and that way it grows naturally and stays quite organic. It’s exciting and feels flexible in that way. It feels like we can do anything we want. 

And you don’t have the pressure of having to fulfil shareholders wishes or this sort of thing?

Yeah exactly, I think that just wouldn’t feel real anymore.

So on the flip side, would you ever want to do painting full time?

Yeah I would actually. I would like to do painting full time.

Searching for my Shadow, 170 x 130 cm

Searching for my Shadow, 170 x 130 cm

Is that something you’d like to do when you are 'done' being a pro skater?

Well I mean it's just not my choice, because it depends on how successful you are. If I was represented by a really big gallery and people really wanted to buy my work and I could make a living out of it I’d love to, but I can’t choose that. At the moment I don’t make enough of a living out of it to support myself.

What's next for Isle?

What I like about it is that it’s not that planned. It’s up to the team and how we all decide what our next trip is or what our next project is. For me it's about things like the guest series, growing relationships with interesting artists and asking them to design a board.

I think it's really interesting to take people who aren’t necessarily inside the world of skateboarding and get them to think about how their work could fit in that format. It's less insular. Being less tribal about it and getting more people involved helps to break down those barriers down, which for me is quite exciting.

Last Question. How has becoming a father impacted your art and skating?

(Laughs). Well I think it's too early to say ‘cause he’s only a few months old. Not as much as I thought to be honest - it’s been a joy and I’ve still managed to do everything else so I recommend it.

What about the next one?

I think one is enough for now!

Thanks Nick!

Keep up to date with Nick's painting and skating:

nickjensen.co.uk

instagram.com/nick__jensen