epicly palestine'd

Isle x SkatePal Launch

In September 2016, Isle Skateboards became the first ever professional skate team to tour the West Bank.

We had a great time showing the guys around and are to proud to collaborate with them on a limited edition Isle x SkatePal 'Curiosities' deck, available in all good skateshops now!

Head over to Free Skate Mag to read an interview with the team about their experience, and check out the film about their trip Pieces of Palestine by Jacob Harris below.

Casper Brooker, Impossible, Bethlehem. Photo: Sam Ashley.

Casper Brooker, Impossible, Bethlehem. Photo: Sam Ashley.

Isle x SkatePal - Curiosities Series - special edition.jpg

Jayyous Skatepark - Week 1

Our new project in partnership with SkateQilya is starting to take shape and the stoke is high within Jayyous Skatepark team! Our volunteers have been working from noon 'till night to get the job done. Check out the video to see what went down in week 1.

We've reached 94% of our fundraising target of £10,000 but there's still time to help out.

Donate at www.jayyouspark.com and follow @jayyouspark on Facebook and Instagram for daily updates! 

Interview:
Abdullah Milhem &
Majd Ramadan

We caught up with Abdullah Milhem and Majd Ramadan, two of the best skaters in Palestine - to ask them about how they got into skateboarding and the impact it has had on their lives.

Abdullah. Photo: Sam Ashley

Abdullah. Photo: Sam Ashley

Ok let's start from the beginning - how did you start skating? What was your first skateboard?

Abdullah: I started skating three years ago, I found a fake skateboard in a second-hand shop in Qalqilya, then I joined a local crew called the X-games team, which were a group of rappers, beatboxers, graffiti artists, free-runners and skateboarders. In 2013 an organisation called Tashkeel donated money for us to build the mini-ramp in Qalqilya. Kenny Reed came to help with the building and he gave me my first real board: a Real deck, Thunder trucks and Spitfire wheels. That year I also met Charlie when he came to visit our ramp in Qalqilya, just when he was starting SkatePal. He was really nice and told me about his projects.

Majd: The first time I saw someone skating in real life I think was in 2012. It was Charlie with his team skating at the plaza (in Ramallah). I was walking by, saw them skating and stopped for a bit to watch them. Charlie was doing a fakie 360 flip or something, but at the time I didn't know what the trick was - I just thought 'wow!'. So I talked to him and now we're friends. My first skateboard was from a toy shop in Ramallah, which now I know was a rubbish board, but at that time it was the best skateboard I could get!

Majd takes the unconventional route at the Plaza, Ramallah. Photo: Emil Agerskov

Majd takes the unconventional route at the Plaza, Ramallah. Photo: Emil Agerskov

You're both from different towns (Qalqilya & Ramallah), what's the difference between skating in these towns? What do your parents think?

Abdullah: I live in Qalqilya, which is one of the most conservative cities in the West Bank. People here (until recently) did not accept anything new, including skate boarding. They used to kick us out of every spot - they hated our guts just for being different. But as years went by they got used to us. Ramallah, however, is considered to be more liberal because of the interaction with the outside world, unlike Qalqilya which is completely surrounded by a wall. So skateboarding in Ramallah grew much faster because people were more welcoming to the sport. My family didn’t like it at first but they got used to it eventually.

Majd: Some people like it but most people think that it's just a toy for the kids. My family don't really like it, they always tell me I should grow up and stuff like that. 

Abdullah - Frontside 180 at the SkateQilya mini ramp, Qalqilya. Photo: Emil Agerskov

Abdullah - Frontside 180 at the SkateQilya mini ramp, Qalqilya. Photo: Emil Agerskov

How did you guys meet each other? Do you think you would have met each other if you didn't skateboard?

Majd: The first time I met Abdullah it was at the SOS skatepark in Bethlehem with SkatePal volunteer Maen Hammad. I don’t think that we would know each other if we weren’t skating! 

Abdullah: I don’t think I would've met Majd if one of us didn’t skate. After meeting at SOS, we had a session in the plaza in Ramallah. Majd had only just started skating by then, but I enjoyed watching him landing new tricks. He is always excited to skate, even though his father doesn’t like it. He is one hell of a skater and I'm glad that I’ve met him!

What impact has skateboarding had on your life?

Abdullah: Skateboarding changed my life. It gave me that sense of freedom that I was dying to have, it changed the way I saw my surroundings: everything turned into a playground. Even the wall around the city is just a sick spot for wall rides! SkatePal also made a huge change as they managed to create a skate scene that we were desperate for. They united all the skaters in Palestine, gave them boards and built skateparks, spreading the freedom and joy of skateboarding.

Majd: To be honest, I wouldn't be skating without SkatePal, especially Charlie and Theo. We don’t have a skate shop here, so my shop is SkatePal haha! They always get me a board when mine breaks, so without them I wouldn't be able to skate! 

What impact do you think Asira skatepark has had on the skate-scene in Palestine? 

Abdullah: It had a huge impact. It created a chance for kids to have a place where they can have fun. It gave them something to do instead of wasting their time just hanging around in the streets doing nothing.

Majd: Yeah I agree. People in Asira love skateboarding so much now! 

Abdullah, you recently helped out teaching with the SkateQilya summer camp with Kenny Reed - how was that? 

Abdullah: It was an amazing experience, seeing Kenny back in Palestine shredding and teaching kids with him was really fun. We had 23 boys and girls skating at the camp every day, which was great. I used to be the only skater in the city, but now thanks to SkateQilya there are a lot of kids skating. It was like a dream come true as I saw girls starting to skate through the streets of a conservative city. We're hoping to create a better future for the kids who are trapped inside the walls of the Israeli occupation.

Photo: Emil Agerskov

Photo: Emil Agerskov

How has SkatePal evolved since you got involved?

Abdullah: It has been an amazing experience working with SkatePal. I've met so many people from around the world who came to teach kids here. It's been great introducing them to our culture, and telling them stories about the people of this country. I’ve made a lot of great friends, and I was able to see how skateboarding brings people together and brings joy to oppressed people.

You both came skating with the Isle team when they were in Palestine. What was it like skating with them? Would you like to see more pro teams visiting the West Bank?

Abdullah: It was mind blowing! I couldn’t believe it at first - watching them land one banger after the other. It was good for the skate scene because people were able to see that skating is not just a game but rather a way of life, something that adults do as well as kids. We hope to see more pro teams in the West Bank, because it would inspire and motivate us Palestinian skaters, knowing that we are not alone. Also when pro teams come it brings more attention to the skate scene in Palestine and the Palestinian issue in general.

Majd: It was awesome to have a pro team like the Isle crew in Palestine. It meant a lot to me, but to be honest I didn’t skate much during the sessions, I just sat down and watched them do crazy stuff that I’ve never seen before except in videos haha! I would like to see more teams like that in Palestine for sure!

Chiling with the Isle team in Ramallah. 

Chiling with the Isle team in Ramallah. 

Majd & Chris Jones

Majd & Chris Jones

Why do you think skateboarding is important for boys and girls in the West Bank?

Abdullah: It is important because it’s self-liberating and is a peaceful way of resistance. It sends a message to the world that no matter what happens, we will live our lives like normal people. We are human beings who deserve to live.

Majd: I think the most important thing is the feeling of freedom. Even if I was feeling sad, I just pick up my board and go skating and have fun. I don't know what else to say!

What are your hopes for the future of skateboarding in Palestine? 

Abdullah: I hope to see more people skating, more skate parks and maybe a skate shop. It might be hard but hard isn’t impossible.

Majd: I hope that skateboarding get much bigger and better in the future here in Palestine! 

What are you doing now / planning next? 

Abdullah: Next year I'm hoping to study Film in the US. I dream of travelling the world, sharing the stories of Palestine through film.

Majd: Right now I’m studying in Birzeit university.

What trick are you learning right now? 

Abdullah: Lazer flips and they are a pain in the ass!

Majd: I'm working on inward heel flips and nollie bigspins.

Almost done, how would you describe Charlie?

Abdullah: A great friend who dedicated himself to spreading the freedom of skateboarding.

Majd: I will describe Charlie later hahah. I love him.

Anything else you'd like to say?

Majd: I would say thanks for everyone that makes this happen. So much love from Palestine! 

A few quick ones with @majdramadan3 at the Plaza #ramallah #skatepal

A post shared by SkatePal (@skate_pal) on

It counts! More stunts from @majdramadan3 at the Plaza #ramallah #skatepal

A post shared by SkatePal (@skate_pal) on

Thanks guys! 

Keep up to date with Abdullah and Majd on instagram:

www.instagram.com/majdramadan3

www.instagram.com/a_milhem40

Volunteer Interview:
Kristi Sanders &
Bella Warley

A few months back we chatted to SkatePal volunteers Kristi Sanders from California and Bella Warley from Leeds, to find out how they got on teaching the girls in Asira Al-Shamaliya during the month of Ramadan. 

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What made you want to volunteer with SkatePal? How did you find out about the charity?

Kristi: I discovered SkatePal though a friend who randomly tagged me on a SkatePal Instagram post. For maybe 20 seconds I stared at the image of a SkatePal volunteer holding the hands of a young Palestinian child learning to skate.

Something about that photo, the feeling I got when I looked at it would supersede any apprehension or anything else going on in my life. It was an intense reaction. Obviously I applied. Three reasons the trip appealed to me were; Palestine is a fascinating country, one month seemed like a reasonable amount of time, and there is no greater feeling than sharing the stoke. Plus it was written in the coffee grounds. 

Bella: I was at a gig which was raising money for SkatePal – I think Charlie’s brother is in the band which was playing so I found out more about the charity through him, emailed Charlie and got accepted as a volunteer!

Teamwork is the dreamwork! Bella & Kristi help Lydia on the quarterpipe. 

Teamwork is the dreamwork! Bella & Kristi help Lydia on the quarterpipe. 

What were your preconceptions of Palestine before arriving? How much did you know about Israel / Palestine before arriving? 

Kristi: With the exception of a few Ilian Pappe books and Joe Sacco’s Palestine, I really didn’t have a grasp. 

Bella: A lot of people’s reactions were ‘ooh do be careful!’, so I was a little nervous to begin with since a lot of media only refers to or talks about Palestine in the context of conflict and war, thus forming many people’s opinions of the place for them.

I tried to do as much research as I could about the history of the two places before I went out, but it is hard to get a real grasp on the situation without experiencing it first hand, and more importantly talking to people whose lives are affected by present situation – so before I went out I truthfully had what turned out to be a tiny grasp on the state of the political climate, and what the wall means to both Palestinians and Israelis.

Kristi & Basma

Kristi & Basma

What was it like being the only female volunteers on the trip?

Kristi: It was my good fortune that Bella volunteered the same month as me. We definitely bonded. Even if a thousand females volunteered, Bella and I would have become fast friends. She’s just that kind of person. At the park however, more female volunteers would have been helpful. It could be a bit hectic with so many girls needing our help. It wasn’t that the boys (volunteers) weren’t assisting. They were! But the girls naturally gravitated to the female volunteers. 

Bella: It was absolutely incredible being the only girls on the trip. I was prepared for it to be different, as in what it means to be a young woman in the Middle East compared to in England. Kristi and I certainly had some new and interesting experiences while being shown how to act appropriately (as a woman) in public by our friend Batool.

However it was amazing to connect with the other girls out in Palestine, whether they were skateboarding or not, and finding common interests and similarities and differences in our respective cultures. It was pretty awesome as well since we also had some great male volunteers to hang out with in the evenings, since it was rare for women to go out unaccompanied by men to play pool at night time, so we fortunately had people we could go with. 

Bella & Batool

Bella & Batool

How was it teaching the girls in Asira? What were the difficulties and successes?

Kristi: Difficulties…I remember one day so many girls showed up that there were simply not enough boards to distribute. That was a bummer. The successes! There were so many, everything from encouraging the most timid of girls to step on the board, to witnessing the most surefooted and advanced skaters progressing at light speed. 

Bella: Well, since we were out there during Ramadan, we were prepared for fewer girls to be turning up to lessons, for obvious reasons. Although it was not overrun with girls, there were certainly a good amount of committed female shredders who were there almost every day without fail!

One of the most obvious struggles, which I’m sure, only applied during Ramadan, was that the girls (although doing very well to hide it) were thirsty and hungry and tired. Despite all this, their resilience was admirable, they never lost energy or interest and with regular sit downs they still progressed at lightening speed. 

Anas & Lydia prepare to drop-in

Anas & Lydia prepare to drop-in

One of the most incredible things was watching the slightly older girls, who could see that Kristi and I were struggling along in broken Arabic, would interpret our movements, and translate what we were trying to say to the younger girls – and from that they were more than happy to take the reigns and begin coaching and helping each other. It’s one of the best things to know that this is a sustainable project and does not wholly rely on the help of the volunteers to keep running!

Another obvious success in my eyes was seeing how skateboarding builds up the girl’s confidence, they command their own space in the skatepark and will let a boy know if he has cut in front of her! One of the nicest memories I have was watching Kristi and 11 year old Basma in the line-up and Basma having her turn amongst a crowd of young men, and finishing to a sea of cheers from them all. 

Bella & Jawad

Bella & Jawad

How did your ideas about Palestine change throughout the trip? What have you learnt?

Kristi: Before my visit my ideas on Palestine were pretty vague, but when you invest mutual time and experiences in a community your perspective inevitably forms. As for the people of Palestine, I felt nothing but hospitality and love. Generosity is a cornerstone of life in Asira and I suspect all of Palestine. We were offered car rides everywhere we needed to go, hosted for Iftar meals (evening meal during Ramadan) by several families, provided left-overs of food. Bella and I were even gifted clothes, jewellery and cheese (thank you Batool, Abu and San, and Doha!). 

Bella: Before I came out I was talking to a friend of mine who had been to the village where we stayed and he had said what an amazing friendly and welcoming place it was, and in truth, he couldn’t have been praising enough. I have never visited a more peaceful, welcoming, inclusive place, with an amazing sense of community and an even more amazing attitude to strange foreigners dawning on them!

This of course is not always the case and geographically, there are cities, which are much more heavily affected by the wall like Qalqiliya – where there are more obvious indications of conflict. Even in those places though which we visited at weekends the general attitudes of most people were friendly and welcoming, and not to mention these young people had so much zest for life, something I think skateboarding fits so well with. People we met were so proud of their country, and for good reason. It is a beautiful, interesting, cultural and vibrant place. 

Why do you think skateboarding is important for people in places like the West Bank? 

Kristi: The West Bank is an agitated area. Occupation has bred a feeling of powerlessness for Palestinians. Skateboarding offers an opportunity to redirect some of the frustration into a different energy, one that is creative and cathartic in nature. This is where skateboarding rules. 

Culture, language, land and resources can be taken away. The visceral feeling of skateboarding, of learning something new, of expressing your unique self CANNOT. Skateboarding nurtures a sense of belonging, binding people from different backgrounds together. It can be collaborative in spirit and typically thrives under this community synergy.

While there is nothing more glorious than sharing the stoke of skateboarding with others, skateboarding is not reliant on that community to survive. This is an important distinction because the happiness that derives from skateboarding is not dependent on others but within the individual skater. It is a powerful tool for both connection and self-empowerment. Ownership of one’s capabilities and potential, is something that no one can take away. 

Kristi lends a helping hand to Lydia's rock-fakie.

Kristi lends a helping hand to Lydia's rock-fakie.

Bella: Skateboarding is important for people in the West Bank, and people the world over because it is a feasible and practical hobby to acquire - requiring very little other than you and your board. It teaches young people to care for something, to develop a skill, and to spend time outside.

The kids in the West Bank are growing up in an oppressed environment, where their resources and opportunities are fettered and so what they need are ways to express themselves and show the world what they are capable of! Skateboarding also plays such a key part in developing kids confidence. In the month we were there, the ones that started out a little shy or nervous on the board became louder and more outgoing as the days went on, and I hope that translates into all other aspects of their lives!

Fundamentally, skateboarding is some of the best times I have ever had, and you can tell with the kids who eventually start to feel more comfortable on the boards, how much they love it when their huge grins are staring up at you. 

What stood out for you on the trip?

Kristi: The spirit of generosity was off-the-charts. Between the numerous car rides, Iftar dinners, and parting gifts, the people in Asira were so giving! There was one moment in particular. While I was helping this one girl, Meenas learn to rock-fakie, another less experienced girl was saying something to me in Arabic. I couldn’t understand what the girl was saying, but Meenas did. Tail on coping, ready to drop in Meenas withdrew her board and said to me. “She needs your help more.”

Without waiting for my response Meenas pulled her board away from the coping and said. “Could you please help her drop in.” It was subtle, but moving. Meenas forfeited her own desires for someone else! The crazy thing is that Meenas was not the only one to give way to someone who needed it more. On more than one occasion the kids offered up their “skate-time” for another skater. 

Bella: The thing that stood out for me was the kindness of everyone we met. It was so ingrained in their nature to share with us everything they had, food, drink, stories, experiences, plans for the future, their homes!

Their attitudes towards each other was amazing, friends, brothers and sisters at the skate park would all share boards, and stick together and encourage each other, teach each other and shout for each other wanting praise for landing a new trick. It is important to me to have someone to enjoy skateboarding with and that is something these kids will always have due to the nature of their community. 

Basma: rock-fakie

Basma: rock-fakie

Do you have any plans to come back with SkatePal in the future?

Kristi: I would welcome a return visit!

Bella: I most definitely want to come out with SkatePal in the future, to see what the first generation of Palestinian female skateboarders grow up to be like! I’m still at University so still have the long summer holidays, so if I can find the money, the time shouldn’t be a problem. 

What’s your local skate-scene like? 

Kristi: Skateboarding is so prevalent in Southern California that you could randomly show up at a skate spot or park and it’s likely you’ll know someone there. I skate with an amazing crew that enjoys the more DIY-backyard style of round-wall, so in that sense the scene is a fraction smaller.

Skating is so interconnected I feel like my core crew has grown, extending from Southern California to Northern California …from California to Portland to Colorado, from the United States to Canada to Spain and now… Palestine. Connection is a key component to skateboarding. It’s part of the beauty of skateboarding. 

Bella: Even though it is still heavily male dominated, the scene in Leeds is so prominent - the park is always rammed and you can always hear a skateboard around the streets of the city. There are regular girls only nights too at our local indoor park where the scene is insane, so many young girls come along and absolutely kill it. 

What would you say to other female skaters considering volunteering with SkatePal?

Kristi: DO IT!!! 

Chilling with Fahmi and Abu Ali. 

Chilling with Fahmi and Abu Ali. 

Anything else you'd like to add?

Kristi: Many thanks to the people and families that hosted our dinners; The Jawabreh family, the Sawalmeh family, Jarara’a, family, Abu Khalid (the Mayor), Mohammed Sawalha, Mohammad Othman, Maad Abu-Ghazaleh.

Thanks to all the friends and family that supported the funding. Jacks Garage for sponsoring a large portion of my campaign and gifting the children with goodies. Thanks to the incredible group of SkatePal volunteers that kept it haram. I love every single one of you! And SkatePal, for offering this amazing opportunity. 

Bella: Don’t hesitate for a second!! Try and find the time because it was one of the best things I’ve ever done - working with kids is always going to be a wicked experience but getting to do it and skate at the same time is something special. Seeing the young girls skating is amazing and knowing that your work is helping globalise the sport and also break down gender barriers in the Middle East is pretty cool.

Finally, Palestine is somewhere worth visiting either way, just err on the side of caution as you would in all foreign countries and you’ll be fine! 

Thanks Kristi & Bella! 

If you're interested in volunteering with SkatePal in 2017, drop us an email at info@skatepal.co.uk or head to our volunteer page for more info.

Volunteer Placements 2017

We're currently accepting applications for male and female volunteers to teach skateboarding in Palestine between March and October 2017.

Volunteer placements are for either one or two months. For more information and to receive your volunteer application form, please email: info@skatepal.co.uk.

Isle Skateboards visit Palestine

This month we welcomed the Isle Skateboards team to Palestine for a week long tour of the sites, sounds and skate-spots of the West Bank! 

The guys skated with the kids at our skatepark in Asira Al-Shamaliya, as well as visiting spots in Ramallah, Nablus and Bethlehem. Special thanks to Chris Jones for making the trip happen (and congratulations on turning pro!). 

Check out some behind-the-scenes pictures from the trip, and look out for an article and video about their experience dropping in Free Skate Mag soon!

West Bank Shred Wagon

We're very lucky to have a lot of creative people involved with SkatePAL.

Recent volunteer Tom Bird came up with a very creative way to raise money for his trip to Palestine - he spent a day delivering Palestinian mezze around Amsterdam on his skateboard!

Through food sales and donations, Tom raised a total of €1354.00, which his employer WE ARE Pi then kindly offered to double - making a grand total of €2708.00!

Great work Tom! Come back to Palestine soon!

Watch the West Bank Shred Wagon video (above) and check out some of Tom's photos from his trip to Palestine - http://abirdseyeview.tumblr.com/

Esinat, Asira-Al Shamaliya 2016. Photo: Tom Bird

Esinat, Asira-Al Shamaliya 2016. Photo: Tom Bird

SkatePAL Summer Jam
Gillet Square 2016

We're combining forces with Parlour Skate Store to bring you this year's Summer Jam! All proceeds go towards our ongoing work supporting skateboarding and youth development in Palestine. Read on to find out what's in store...

Sunday 14th August // 11am - 7pm // Gillett Square, Dalston N16 8JN.

What to expect:

- Wizard Sleeve and NTS DJs serving up a summer soundtrack of reggae, funk, soul & hip hop. (Sound System courtesy of Pig & Rig).

- Deliciously juicy burgers courtesy of RAD Burger.

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

- Raffle - win prizes from: Keen Distribution, Quasi, Polar, The National Skate Company, SML Wheels, Ninja Tune, NTS Radio and Hiba Restaurant. 

- Beginners skate lessons available 

- Merch & information stalls 

**This is a free event, but don't forget - all the money we raise is going directly to help build more skateparks for children in Palestine** 

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

Got any spare skate equipment lying around? Bring it to the jam and donate it to the next generation of Palestinian skaters! 

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Schedule:

11am - 12pm: Beginners skate lessons

12pm: Skate jam opens

1pm - 3pm: Game of S.K.A.T.E

3pm - 7pm: Skate Jam continues.  

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Please check out our sponsors and supporters, we couldn't do this without them!

Parlour Skate Store - www.parlourskatestore.co.uk

Keen Distribution - www.keendist.co.uk

Rad Burger - www.radburger.co

Pig & Rig - www.pigandrig.co.uk

Gillet Square - www.gillettsquare.org.uk

Facebook event - https://www.facebook.com/events/1186330931385207/

Check out the video from last year's jam, filmed by Rowan from Shade Media

SML Wheels Interview
Aaron & Ariel Wilson

To celebrate the launch of our new collaboration with SML Wheels, we chatted to Aaron Brown (SML) and artist Ariel Wilson, to find out what drives their work and what inspired them to get involved with SkatePAL. 

Aaron Brown Interview

Tell us about the history of SML, when did you guys start out and what was the idea behind it? 

I feel like the history of SML is kinda long so I'll keep it short. I've always had random companies since I was in Jr High. Once I got into High School I started working at Liberty Boardshop and saw a whole new world of skateboarding. I was so fresh haha. Liberty is where I met everyone. At one point James, Austyn, Rob, and myself have all worked there.

Once I got a job at Liberty I started hanging and filming a bunch with James Craig, Gershon Mosley, Danny Garcia, and Ronnie Creager.  Once Austyn was old enough (13) we let him start cruising with us. too We would make these crew videos called "Razor Sharp" and have a party for the premiere when somebody's parents went out of town. After hanging/ filming with James long enough I turned into the Blind filmer, James and I would pretty much skate every day all day together. 

Fast forward a couple years, James and I are skating/ filming and are having a really good day. He gets some tricks and we decide to call it and give our friends a call to play poker. We all meet up at James house. This is before your emails went straight to your phone and I remember James would check his email everyday as soon as we walked in the door from skating. So we're all in a good mood starting to get the cards out, grabbing beers and stuff and I just see James' face changing as he's reading an email. He let's us all read it and its this super generic office space-type email thanking him for his services at Bones wheels and saying that he wasn't needed anymore. It was straight copy and paste style.

We later got to the bottom of it and there was a certain Bones rider who didn't think James was "Elite" enough. A couple days later one of our friends that rode for Bones told them he was going to quit because they kicked off James, Bones called James and asked him back on the team but it was too late we already started brewing up SML. I think James still has that email haha. 

Chris Jones, Hippie Jump in Athens. Photo: Sam Ashley

Chris Jones, Hippie Jump in Athens. Photo: Sam Ashley

You've got a pretty diverse and heavy hitting team, with Chris Jones and Tom Knox holding down the London connection - how did you guys all meet and get involved together? 

Yea its pretty much my dream team of skateboarding minus a few. I love all these dudes styles, tricks, spots they do the tricks at, and just the overall way they look at skateboarding. As for the London crew, Chris Jones was the first London dude we got on the team. That happened through Wes at Rock Solid. Wes shares a similar perspective on skateboarding as us and knows what we like. He showed us some footy and I passed it around to the team and they were down. Tom came on after Chris, to be honest I'm not sure if Chris or Wes talked to him or if he reached out but I'm super stoked that he's on.

Mike Arnold is the latest guy on the team and is from the London area [Bristol - ed.] as well. All these dudes are so fun to watch. I trip out everyday when I see the people that ride for SML.

What made you want to do the SkatePAL wheel? Did you know much about Palestine or the charity before getting involved?

We're always down to give back to skateboarding any way we can. Us being a small company its hard for us to do that sometimes. Chris brought SkatePAL to our attention and let us know what you guys do and that he's a part of it. He thought it could be cool to do something together. Any time a team rider brings something to my attention that is important to them I'm always down to try and make it happen. We all got copied on an email and it just went from there. Now we got a rad wheel collaboration and some new friends! 

Is this a full time job for you? What are you up to when you're not working on SML?

SML is a full time job but we have yet to pay ourselves haha. It takes up a considerable amount of time and everything just goes back into the back account for the next season or whatever comes up in between. I'm really lucky that I'm able find work in the skate industry. When I'm not working on SML I'm usually filming or editing, thats how I pay my bills.

I mostly film and edit skateboarding stuff for different companies, but I've done a bunch of random stuff. I do behind the scenes stuff for Snoop, a lot of videos for Rastaclat, some stuff of models, I did this 13 day time lapse for this artist DFACE which was pretty fun. I was doing some stuff for this headphones company for a bit so we'd shoot a lot of NBA players. Went to Eddie Murphy's house to shoot a little Christmas video of him and his family. It's all random and fun. 

What is the importance of 'play' to you? Both in your work and the world in general… 

It's kinda hard for me to put into words. I'm fortunate enough that my work is my play and play is my work. I'd go crazy if there wasn't an element of fun to everything I do, that's what keeps me going. New, fun, and exciting. I guess you could say everyday is a Monday or everyday is a Saturday depending on how you look at it haha.

What's next for SML?

Next for SML is just trying to put more work and energy into it. I feel like we could do so much more that this is only the beginning. Everyone in the SML family is stoked and ready.

Anything else you'd like to add?

Have fun, be happy.

Ariel and Olive in the studio

Ariel Wilson Interview

Tell us about your background - how did you end up getting involved with designing skate wheels and what's your link to SML?

I’m a freelance illustrator/designer based out of Long Beach, California. Working freelance has been great because I get to work in a lot of different modes, and with a lot of different people. I got involved with SML after Aaron saw my work on Instagram and reached out to me. The brand seemed like a natural fit for my work and they are all really great guys so I was grateful and excited to work with them. When I’m not working from home I teach art to residents of a treatment centre for at-risk and special needs youth. I also try to squeeze in time for personal projects and painting. I’m never bored and get to live off of my favourite hobby so I’m thrilled.

You obviously do a lot of pretty varied work, including wheels, board designs but lots of stuff outside skateboarding too. Where does your inspiration come from for your designs? 

I’m really drawn to work that has a story or a unique point of view, and most of my stuff has an underlying narrative quality. I love storytellers. In keeping with that I’m really inspired by folklore, personal or communal histories, and memories. Most of the work I do outside of the skate industry is for non-profits or small businesses. 

What's different or difficult about designing for a skate wheel over doing something for print etc?

So much! Any time you are designing something you have an allotted amount of design “real estate” to work with, and the real estate for wheels can be tricky for me. For one thing they are small, or in this case SML (sorry couldn’t resist) which means you can’t get crazy with tiny detail that won’t translate well in printing, and on top of that there’s a hole in the middle of the design. Most of my work tends to fit in a perfect square so designing in a circle is a fun challenge.

What made you want to get involved with the SkatePAL wheel. Did you know much about Palestine or the charity before getting involved?

I do a lot of illustration work based on different cities/cultures, primarily because it creates a situation where I have to do mini research projects on different places around the world. It’s like a fun homework assignment for me to learn about stuff I might not otherwise. I try to take all that research and translate it into simplified icons that are easily recognised by people that know the place well, while also easily understood by people who don’t know the place. I didn’t know about SkatePAL prior to working on the wheel. When asked to design something for you guys it seemed like a fun opportunity to do a little research, but this time for a great cause rather than for my own amusement. Win Win.

What are you up to next?

I’ve spent the last 6 months working on making an art book that explores the relationship between skateboarding and art. In the first half of the book I Interviewed some of my favourite artists who skate, and included images of their work. The second half of the book is a collection of collaborations between me and a few skate photographers. I made gouache paintings from their photographs and then fused painting/photo together. Right now I’m working on finalising edits on the first proof, and trying to organise an art show/book release somewhere in Long Beach by the end of summer. Aside from that, lots of fishing and camping.

Anything else you'd like to add?

I think kids having an outlet/mode of expression is one of the most important things in helping them grow into well rounded and thoughtful adults. So I admire and respect the work that you guys are doing and am grateful to be involved! Cheers, Ariel.

Thanks Aaron & Ariel! 

Join us for the SkatePAL x SML Wheels launch event at Brixton's Baddest Skateshop, this Thursday 6th July, 7pm.

The SkatePAL x SML wheel will be available in the UK via Rock Solid Distribution. A portion of sales from the wheel will go towards helping us build more skateparks in Palestine.

Look out for the SkatePAL x SML Wheels edit coming soon!

www.instagram.com/smlwheels

www.instagram.com/arielnwilson