Five Years of SkatePal: A Message from Founder Charlie Davis

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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. 

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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

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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. 

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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.

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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

 

Volunteer Interview:
Lorna Brown

If you've bought a copy of our new SkatePal magazine, then no doubt Lorna Brown's illustrations will have caught your eye. 

Lorna came to Palestine in 2016, volunteering as a skate instructor in Asira Al-Shamaliya. In between skating and teaching, she somehow managed to find time to work on loads of paintings. We absolutely love her work and were stoked when she agreed to contribute towards our magazine!

Have a read below to find out where Lorna gets her inspiration from, then go buy our magazine to see more of her work!

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Tell us about your background - how did you get into illustration?

I pretty much went into illustration straight from school. I studied Technical Illustration and then completed my degree in Scientific and Natural History Illustration. It wasn’t about being an artist for me. It was more about the challenge of representing information visually. I came out of University in 2001 and painted anything I could to make a living. Portraits, greetings cards, stuff for magazines, anything that people would pay me for, trying to make a decent living in an industry that was about to fall into recession.

I took a hiatus from illustration that coincided with taking up Roller Derby which sapped all my creative energy for 8 years. I travelled the world coaching Roller Derby and playing at the highest level that I could before retiring in 2014 following my fourth sport related concussion! I supplemented that with working as a photographic retoucher - using my painter’s eye to make images for billboards and magazines look ‘better’. That was when illustration and skateboarding came back into my life and the break away helped me to work out exactly what I wanted and needed from both of those things. 

Vegetable shop in Asira Al-Shamaliya.

Vegetable shop in Asira Al-Shamaliya.

How would you describe your work? 

My work now is weirdly specific. I paint buildings and places in watercolour that I feel have stories to tell. I’m drawn (haha) to the character of spaces, to the rough edges, the lived-in bits. It has now become a bit of an obsession. I can’t go anywhere without spotting things that speak to me, that want to be painted. I can walk past a thousand shiny glass skyscrapers and not bat an eyelid, but give me a crumbling corner shop with a dustbin next to it and I have to capture it.

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

I had this vague notion that I would like my paintings to be more than just ‘stuff I see around London’. I wanted to tell a bigger story. Illustrator-journalist style. That idea really took hold of my imagination. I have a journalist friend that I was going to travel to Beirut to see and base a project on there but that fell through. She then sent me SkatePal’s call out through Huck Magazine saying they were looking for female skateboarders to volunteer and something about the timing just felt right. The combination of skateboarding, coaching kids, adventure and the ability to tell a story through my paintings was the perfect mix. In the end I came out to Palestine for five weeks from the end of August to the beginning of October 2016.

Skating & Painting: Video by Ben Grubb

What were your preconceptions of Palestine before arriving? How much did you know about the region beforehand?

I must admit that I didn’t know very much. I had this idea that there was a wall and everyone on the Palestinian side were left to their own devices. Then, before coming out I contacted a charity that does peace work in Palestine and talked to the Director about the kinds of places I should visit on my trip to tell the story of the place through the buildings. We talked for a long time because it turns out that there is a huge amount to say, so by the end of the call I had a big list of places that I wanted to visit on my trip.

However, at the same time, I didn’t want to read blogs or watch videos on the place before I went out. I wanted to have that magic of seeing somewhere for the first time with my own eyes, to be inspired by that. To not let preconceptions colour my experiences. There was also a little bit of burying my head in the sand for a couple of months beforehand because I was nervous about the whole trip and found myself ignoring it on the horizon.  

Mount of Temptation, Jericho

Mount of Temptation, Jericho

You were extremely productive during your time in Asira, I feel like you were painting pretty much every moment outside of skating. How did Asira and the West Bank in general inspire your work?

I’d given up a lot of work to come on this trip so I made a deal with myself before I came out that it wasn’t a five week holiday, that I needed to work hard whilst I was there to make up for the time away. However, once I got started it turned out that the environment was so inspiring that it was a pleasure to sit down every day to paint. It almost became a meditation and a way to help me process the things that I was seeing and the emotions that were being stirred by the place. 

The dichotomy of the everyday village life in Asira with the military occupation became an important part of the work I produced. I’d heard so little about what life is like in Palestine that I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like. It was the same with the friends and family that I told about my trip. The preconception that it is a dangerous place - everyone I spoke to was basing their mental image on an idea from some news reports in the 90s.

I felt like perhaps my paintings could add some more colour to those mental images, and maybe some humanity. I aimed to be either skating, collecting references, or painting the whole time when I wasn’t at the skatepark with the kids. By the end of the five weeks I’d managed to visit every city on my list so I was really pleased with that, as travelling within Palestine was something that had been concerning me before I arrived.

The separation wall, Qalqilya

The separation wall, Qalqilya

The majority of your work is themed around buildings and architecture. What do you look for in a illustration subject? 

Like the deep lines in an old person’s face, I love to see some sort of history etched on a building. I love the idea we have that buildings are so permanent but actually when you pay attention they are changing all the time. I like small businesses that represent the vision that someone once had. Living in London, buildings are my landscape. Perhaps if I lived in forest I would paint the trees.

One of my favourite quotes is by Winston Churchill “We shape buildings, thereafter, our buildings shape us.” You really get a sense of that when standing next to the Separation Wall in Qalqilya. This huge grey structure, casting a shadow across the land, it’s a symbol. Then when you go and look at the same wall in Bethlehem and it is covered in brightly coloured graffiti you can feel the resistance of the people. 

What's your process for working on a piece?

My paintings take too long to complete outdoors so I start by taking reference photos. I get as many angles as I can of the subject, because I like to be free to construct my composition. I then sketch the proportions and different angles in my sketchbook to work out which kind of perspective will suit the subject best. The most time consuming element is the construction process. This involves a ruler, set square, calculator and my technical illustration knowledge.

I draw it all up in pencil on watercolour paper using perspective lines and it takes hours. I guess that’s where all the decision making is happening but I often get frustrated with how it can take 6 hours to put a few hundred lines on a piece of paper. I then ink all the linework on top without using rulers to keep the natural feel. Painting is my favourite part and the most meditative. Aside from having references open on my laptop, I try not to touch a computer in the whole process. 

Tyre shop, Asira Al-Shamaliya

Tyre shop, Asira Al-Shamaliya

Skating the tyre shop. Photo: Paula Viidu

Skating the tyre shop. Photo: Paula Viidu

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

In all honesty, before going I wasn’t sure how ’skate lessons’ would work. Having been self taught and used to skating on my own most of the time in London, I didn’t really know what teaching skateboarding would look like. The realities of it were much more organic and natural. The kids were great at asking for help when they needed it, and we quickly tuned in to spotting new comers that might be too nervous to get started. The language barrier was definitely the most difficult aspect, I’d spent some time learning Arabic before heading over but it was just basic conversation rather than the intricacies of where your weight should be to do an ollie. Yet we got by. We relied on body language, demonstrations and more often than not, a helping hand and a smile of encouragement.

The thing that extends beyond language though, is seeing someone actively overcome their fear. I never got bored of being a witness to that. It felt like the greatest privilege to be the hand that reached out and helped someone drop-in for the first time. To believe in someone else’s ability more than they believe in themselves and then witness them achieve it. Even to see the frustration when the kids were practicing a new trick, it was all so familiar. These commonalities taught me so much. Despite the places we were from being so different, our past and our future, our cultures and habits, within the skatepark everything felt exactly the same the world over.

Hitching a lift in a tractor with local skater Abdullah

Hitching a lift in a tractor with local skater Abdullah

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

The hospitality and warmth of the people we encountered changed me as a person. Coming from a place with so much privilege yet simultaneously so much dissatisfaction, to a place with so little and the people were generous and loving, I couldn’t help but be changed by that. I just kept thinking about stupid things that make people angry or despair back at home and how silly they seemed. I guess it put a few things in perspective.

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

I know that skateboarding isn’t the answer for everyone, but for a few people it can change their whole world. For the kids in Asira, it seemed to give a lot of them a place to just be kids. I suppose anything creative has the capacity to help people to feel free. Whether it be music, art, dance or skateboarding. I think that feeling of freedom can help you cope with the other aspects of your life that smother your heart. Skateboarding teaches you control and discipline but can also become a form of expression and hope. In my opinion, people without hope are dangerous to those around them. When all you have in your life is the feeling of being trapped, with nothing under your control it can lead to dark places.

Yet this kind of volunteer-run skatepark is as much about the growth of the volunteers as it is about the kids. It gives the volunteers the chance to hear the stories that don’t normally get heard and to feel the warmth of the people. We really felt like part of the community and grew so attached to the people we met. That’s something we will carry with us through our lives as well.

Vegetable shop in Asira Al-Shamaliya, as seen in the new SkatePal magazine. Photo: Christian Nilsen

Vegetable shop in Asira Al-Shamaliya, as seen in the new SkatePal magazine. Photo: Christian Nilsen

Does design work pay the bills? How do you balance between work, life and skating? 

Between retouching and illustrating my bills get paid. Coming back to skateboarding after having competed on a team sport at international level however means that I have zero desire to let skateboarding take over in the same way, and being older means that skating a couple of times a week is about all my body can handle. At the same time, I can definitely feel that itch of withdrawal rising if I don’t get to skate for a few days in a row. Maybe it’s just taking over slowly so that I only notice when it’s too late.

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

I hope to for sure. Whether it is for a full month or just a visit to see all the great people I met we’ll have to see what happens. Plus I don’t think that Basma will forgive me if I don’t come back! We became such good friends.

What are you up to at the moment?

I’ve just finished making a book of my paintings following Street Art in eleven cities around the world and how the work on the walls reflects something of the unique sociological environment of each place. The idea was inspired by my time in Bethlehem .

Right now I'm working in New Zealand but I have a base in Malmö that I’ll return to in the Spring because the skate culture there is so welcoming. I really love Malmö, after so much travelling in 2017 it was the perfect place to hole up for a few months at the end of the year, paint and write by day and then skate in the evenings.

The book, ‘Painted Cities’ will be out in May 2018 printed by Head of Zeus.

Sofa drop, Asira Al-Shamaliya. Photo: Noah Hella

Sofa drop, Asira Al-Shamaliya. Photo: Noah Hella

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

It wasn’t nearly as scary as I had built up in my head. There are so many friendly ex-volunteers happy to chat about the practicalities of getting around that it actually makes it easier to see this part of the world than if you were doing a just a regular tour. Being settled in one place for a long time, one of the things I found most surprising was spending time with female groups within the town. We went to a couple of wedding parties and a dinner where we (the female volunteers) were welcomed into a world that men don’t get to see. In fact that was a really special part of the trip and something I had not seen spoken about much before. 

Anything else you'd like to add?

I think I’ve probably said enough….

Thanks Lorna! 

Follow Lorna on Instagram - www.instagram.com/lornastration

Buy the new SkatePal Magazine here.

 

 

 

Isle x SkatePal:
Jacob Harris Interview

A while ago, we sat down for a pizza and pint with Jacob Harris to chat about his Pieces of Palestine edit, Atlantic Drift and his ongoing work with Isle Skateboards. Interview by Chris Jones and Theo Krish.

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T: Let’s start at the beginning - what got you into filming skateboarding?

I don’t know, I think I just wanted to copy skate videos that already existed, but I would alway envision more skits and stuff and I was always excited about that. The first skate video that I ever made was when I was 12 and it was all like kung fu fights and I was editing little lightening bolts coming from everyones faces and stuff.

TK: What were you influenced by at the time? In my head I’m thinking videos like Mouse or Goldfish.

At the time I hadn’t seen anything like that. It was just influenced by shit films, just wanting to create narratives with your friends.

TK: Who was in that first video?

Josh Cox was in that video but no one else that anyone would know the name of.

TK: What about these days, where does your current inspiration come from?

It's kind of hard to say because sometimes when you put sound, music and footage together you just know that it works and that it's probably referencing something you’ve picked up from somewhere else, but you couldn’t necessarily say what that is.

TK: Would you say the stuff you’ve done since Vase has been more 'you being you' rather than you doing things for Isle?

Yeah totally. Not having to worry about selling boards or keeping within the consistency of an image means that you basically have complete freedom and I try to take advantage of that. But Pieces of Palestine is still meant to be in line with Isle output.

CJ: So whilst it fitted in with the aesthetic of Isle, did Pieces of Palestine feel more like an independent project, like the Atlantic Drift series?

I wouldn’t say that I borrowed from Atlantic Drift at all apart from using a lot of 16mm but that's kind of my set up normally now anyway. It was skewed slightly anyway because it’s a video that's in collaboration with you guys (SkatePal), so it had to be useful in different ways compared to a normal Isle edit. I would say that there are more audiences to address.

CJ: What was your process for fitting it in with SkatePal?

I wanted to give slightly more of a voice to the people of Palestine. I didn’t want to give too much of a voice to anyone in particular because I didn’t want to create too much of a narrative, but I just wanted to show the place. Obviously we are making something non-political, so the tack I took was to show a little bit of the place and the easiest way to do that is to have somebody from there talk about it.

Palestine is a place where it’s much more about the people that are living there than rather than the space itself. It's a place that doesn't exist in the global imagination of skateboarding that much. So it’s about showing that skating does exist there, just in a different way to what we're used to.

TK: I find it interesting that you say it doesn’t have any link to the Atlantic Drift because for me the aesthetic sits perfectly in-between Vase, Atlantic Drift and the Nicaragua edit.

It’s definitely going to be similar in a lot of ways because anyone who creates things has their language. I don’t think that I’m a craftsman in that I can choose to work in a lot of different ways, it’s more like I have a territory that I patrol. For me they are all very separate but I can see that to someone whose not inside my brain they’re definitely similar, but that's just because they come from me. 

CJ: One thing that I’ve always liked about your edits and maybe this is me reading too much into it, but there's perhaps intentional hidden references or messages in your videos. Were there any hidden messages in POP?

I totally get what you’re saying and I agree. I think that ‘messages’ is the wrong word because when you make something you can try and explain it using other examples or a similar feeling or idea. I figured out that I try and make things feel a lot like a memory and feel like you’re watching something that has happened before or maybe happened to you. So I try to create these kinds of archetypal images but that's perhaps over analysis, it’s probably a bit more instinctive than that.

I know Palestine is a very complex place and region politically and socially and I didn’t want to try and put my own narrative over the place. I was only there for 10 days and I knew that any attempt to do that would be offensive and would probably fall short of the complexities of the place, so instead I just tried to let the place speak for itself.

CJ: Did you have any idea what things you wanted to try and focus on before you went to Palestine?

I watched some other videos and looked at photos of Palestine but I didn’t really know what I wanted to represent beforehand. I’m always interested in places that are less visited and where global capitalism has crept in in strange ways and I enjoy looking out of for that.

CJ: That cultural cross over is something that's interesting in the very nature of skateboarding existing in somewhere like Palestine.

Yeah it’s something that's a bit surreal at times. It's really fun doing what we're doing but at times it's easy to take skateboarding too seriously and for some guy in the street it may seem absurd - and it is absurd! You obviously question 'what are we doing here?'.

Throughout the edit I would continually ask myself ‘what is the purpose of this film?’ And I guess it was to encourage people to visit Palestine.

TK: Do you feel happy with the outcome of the film, do you think it does that?

I don’t know because I don’t really think one of my skills is to make a place look attractive. That’s not what I naturally lean towards when I look at things, but I hope so! It’s a beautiful place so it kind of speaks for itself.

Jake takes a break from filming to 180 switch nosegrind at Asira Al-Shamaliya skatepark.

Jake takes a break from filming to 180 switch nosegrind at Asira Al-Shamaliya skatepark.

TK: We chatted the other day about how you don’t read the YouTube comments about Atlantic Drift and stuff, but how do you think people will respond to this edit and do you care?

I did imagine an audience quite a few times whilst I was editing but I don't know. It’s way less skating and it’s a bit more indulgent in a lot of ways but I hope that it’s enjoyable to watch.

CJ: How did the edit change over the period of time you were making it?

To start with I didn’t try to structure it. One night I just went through the footage whilst listening to a Roy Orbison song and thought that it was sick. Whenever I get 16mm back I usually watch it whilst listening to Roy Orbison just because it goes really well. I didn’t edit it for a long time because I was busy and we were waiting for an opportunity to bring it out, and then when I came back to it I found it really difficult to structure.

I didn’t really know how to structure it because I was editing it almost a year later and I couldn’t really remember what had really happened, so I thought it would be good to structure it around people's memories of the trip. So that was a turning point really, I got everyone in and asked them questions about what they remembered and I was like, 'okay this now makes it easier for me to understand the edit'. Even if it still doesn’t make that much sense it makes a hell of a lot more sense than it did before!

Filming session at Qadura park, Ramallah. 

Filming session at Qadura park, Ramallah. 

TK: Your recent films delve more into sound, which is still quite unusual within the format of a skate video. Is that a direction you're looking to keep exploring?

For me it comes from shooting film and most of the time when you shoot film you don’t record sound simultaneously. So that’s where it came from. Basically when you first try and do that you do it badly and that sounds really interesting and amazing because when things don’t quite match up it creates this interesting effect. And that interests me as I’m always trying to explore ways in which that can work and that's fun.

TK: Is there anyone else who influences you in that respect?

I don’t think so. I know Pontus (Alv) has done stuff with sound before but I don’t think it came from there. I think he was one of the only people doing it really, he didn’t take it too far but I remember really liking what he did. 

TK: Yeah I remember watching Strongest of the Strange and it felt very different to everything else at the time (2005).

Yeah I loved that video.

TK: It created another world that you don’t usually get from a skate video and I’m personally really interested in seeing how people take this direction.

I would hope that if there’s ever a time where you could do something different it would be now. Like obviously we are over saturated with content that's all quite similar, but I feel like people should really enjoy someone taking things to another dimension.

I mean 50% of video is sound really when it comes down to it and if somebody is trying to engage you in a way that is relatively unexplored I feel like there should be a lot of mileage in that. A skateboard video is about bringing people into this sort of world and if a part of that world is lacking then it's going to be less powerful.

TK: Did you feel more pressure with Pieces of Palestine as a result of the popularity of Atlantic Drift? 

I made a decision to do what I want to do as it seems to work better that way and I don’t really feel the pressure. I feel that if I like something then I’m happy and there will always be people who are like ‘what the fuck are these jelly fish?’ And then there are always going to people that are into it. But if everyone started slating it then I’d probably hide in my shell.

I’d be lying if I said that when I made Atlantic Drift I didn’t imagine an audience because there are still certain things that are kind of my duty to do, which is make a video that's as entertaining and dynamic as possible so that people who spend time skating in front of my camera get the shine they deserve. If I went on a complete flight of fancy then people would probably switch off and wouldn’t see people like Casper (Brooker) and Tom (Knox) skating. So I have to keep within certain boundaries and sometimes I work on edits and I’m like 'this is too much' so I have to reign it in.

Getting gnarly with Chris Jones in Asira Al-Shamaliya.

Getting gnarly with Chris Jones in Asira Al-Shamaliya.

TK: Do you think Palestine fits the aesthetic of the Isle guys skating?

I would say yes because no one was forcing themselves to skate things outside of their element. There were plenty of spots we didn’t skate and the ones we did skate reflect the things the guys usually skate.

CJ: How was your experience with 16mm film going through Ben Gurion Airport?

I mean usually airports are fine with it. They’ll put it through the scanner and fob it all or whatever they do but in this case they were like 'no we're going to open your camera up to see what's inside'. And I still had half a roll of film inside, and I was like ‘please could you not expose it because it’ll destroy the film’ and they said ‘you can either finish the film or its going to be destroyed’ so I said ‘great what can I film?’ and they were like ‘this rainbow wall over here’.

So I pointed my camera and filmed about a £100 worth of rainbow wall and I was like ‘is there anything else I can film’? And surprisingly they let me film the air field which I actually used at the end of the New York Atlantic Drift episode. The security woman next to me thought it was very funny and said ‘is that what you use to film instead of your iPhone?’ I was so fuming at the time so I didn’t really respond (laughter).

CJ: Haha. Is there any connection between the Isle x SkatePal board and Pieces of Palestine?

I had nothing to with the board so not intentionally, but I’m sure Nick (Jensen) took a similar approach in making the board. The film is called ‘Pieces of Palestine’ because I didn’t want to cast my narrative over the place and I couldn’t make an edit make that much sense if I did. I’m sure the same applies to Nick in that he wouldn’t want to try and represent a place in just one or two images, it’s better to take archetypal objects and just have them be there. 

TK: OK last question - what keeps you filming?

I don’t know, I would like to say that it's to push my friends but I'm not sure. I guess I get some sort of  validation and gratification from it. It’s fun! I’m lucky to be able to make things how I want to. But if I really wanted to make my own things then it probably wouldn’t be skateboarding (laughter). But within a certain framework I’m very lucky and I still love skateboarding.

Thanks Jake!

SkatePal Magazine:
Now Available

The first official SkatePal Magazine, looking back on where we've come over the last five years.

Created by Christian Nilsen

Art direction & layout: Jenne Grabowski & Karsten Middeldorf

Photography: Sam AshleyEmil AgerskovChristian Nilsen & Sam Dearden

Illustrations: Lorna Brown

Supported by: JB. Institute, Berlin.

82 pages

Published December 2017.

£10. 

100% of proceeds go directly to supporting SkatePal's work in Palestine.