The last issue of the UK’s longboard magazine, Thrill Magazine, featured an interview with Darren Rathbone, who is the man responsible for many of our deck shapes here at Lush. Read on for a view into his mind…
Darren Rathbone, is a veteran UK skater who resides in Bristol and carries the official title of ‘Lush Longboards Product and Brand Director’. He has been longboarding for 17 years and skateboarding for 28, so its fair to say he knows what is what in the socially weirding way of riding a plank of wood.
It’s hard to know where to begin when interviewing someone as experienced as yourself. So lets just start at the beginning, when did you first pick up a skateboard and what was it?
I first stood on a friends skateboard when I was about 8 or 9. It was a Surf Flyer, which were a super cheap budget board from the 70’s that had black rubber wheels, but that was tick tacking down a dirt road in Halestown. I guess the first board I rode on the road was a yellow California Free former Poly prop board. I was riding 70’s shaped boards in the early 80’s I had never seen a “Wide” board. The first board I owned was a West Country Skateboards fibre flex with ACS651’s and OJ’s who I got off Rob Whitehouse as he owned a “Kanoa Tribeam” Which was the first “Wide” board I had seen! But this was like 83/84 so I had a kinda retarded retro behind the times start to Skateboarding. All my influences early on were 1970’s skateboard mags and hand-me-down out of date equipment. I was a 70’s skater in the 80’s. I first started skating with Marcus Hayward, Phil Shackleton and Dave Bolton we used to butt board down Phillack hill in Hayle most nights and go and skate the drained swimming pool up at local holiday park out of season, not transitioned Swimming pool but it had flat banked deep end.. We used to surf a lot and this was like an extension of that as it was always flat surf in the summer in Cornwall.
What made you pick up a skateboard and who would you say that your biggest influence was?
I started Skateboarding through growing up in Cornwall surfing, BMXing, being into punk rock and also at the time B-boy/Breakdance scene. I also saw the movie “Big Wednesday” I used to watch the 2 mins of skating on that over and over again. I also saw “Magic Rolling boards” on TV one morning and was pretty blown away. I saw friends riding skateboards and it just made more sense to me to ride something that you could take around rather than riding a bike and having to lock it up and stuff. My biggest influences growing up skateboarding were Dave Rowe, Gis Harris and Jason Bassett with out a doubt, we were the only 4 skaters in Hayle for ages it seemed. Some older Surf /skate dudes like Harry Gillard occasionally would show up and do some cutbacks at the local slope we used to skate. But as I got older and more people started skating I started to travel meet new skaters, reading Thrasher, Transworld, Travel all the way to Truro to hire a Betamax copy of “Future Primitive” then I got a more up to date view of what skateboarding was actually about. The first time I went to skate Holywell bay Skate Park pretty much hooked me on skateboarding for life. That place was amazing in a crap Cornish 1970’s badly made kinda way but it had so much Juju.
The list of skaters that influenced me is LONG! UK Riders who I actually skated with… Trawler, Paddy Best, Squeeze D’Souza, Dave Eastlake, Davie Phillp, Jamie Blair, Chimp, Clive Jones, Sean Goff, Danny Webster, Lucien Hendricks, Gary Lee, Mike Pardon, Paul Shillings, Mike Nyland, Mike Martins, Jimmy Boyes, Adam Gibbard, Mark Lapham, Tucky, Andy Crayton, Pin, Ben Bodily, Mike Martins, Oli Aylmer, Jon Warburton, Flembo, Sponge, Andy Shohara, Rodga Harvey. Mark Whitehead, Dave Monaghan, Oz, James Polglaze to name a few.
US Riders in the mags/videos Chris Miller, Neil Blender, Lance, Tony Hawk, Grosso, Tommy G, Hosoi, Gonz, Natas etc etc
How far did you progress your skateboarding, did you ever compete?
You say that like I have finished skateboarding! I am still progressing my skateboarding, just at a much slower rate now, sometimes regressing technically but still having fun in different ways on different sized boards. I entered Southsea Street comp in the 90’s once. Never really thought about competing. There were no competitions, doing it to be better than someone or win something wasn’t the point. When I was growing up skateboarding was about just skateboarding. There was the E.S.A Vert comp series but I never entered them, Gis used to but I didn’t have the money to travel back then.
What was your favourite skateboarding trick – did it get the ladies?
If you wanted to get the ladies, skateboarding wasn’t the thing to do at all when I was growing up! Favourite Trick? That’s kinda a hard one to define, but seeing as we are talking in a past tense my favourite tricks I used to do before I got old, scared and broken was probably kick flip indys, jumping off stairs, handrails were fun, jump ramps… I used to love going big off a jump ramp, probably why my knees are screwed now. “Lien to tails” on vert, in fact any vert skating was and is super rad and one of the best feelings to be had on a skateboard. I would wholly encourage anyone to take up vertical skating. Mini Ramps were just becoming the standard terrain back in the day so learning all the tricks possible on mini ramp was super fun.
Favourite trick you’ve seen on a skateboard or longboard?
Skateboarding was probably seeing Danny Way trying a 900 in Munster in 1990.
Long boarding? Probably watching Sergio Skate or Cliff Coleman just totally having it down ferryboat hill looking totally casual. The first time I saw Cliff Coleman skate was pretty inspiring, Manu Antuna also, just making long boarding look effortless with no footy braking and a crazy style.
Favourite trick to do?
Any trick I can land nowadays to be honest! I still love to do a kick flip, it’s one of those things that you have to do to make sure you can still do it. Frontside grinds, power slides, the ollie… can’t go wrong with just a nice clean high popped ollie to make you feel good!
Did you ever land a Natas spin?
Actually I did land a few, a long time ago… It was in Safeway car park in Pool near Camborne, I was with my brother, I think we were listening to Public Enemy at the time.
Tell us about Pineal Skateboards, who are they, and how did you get involved?
Pineal is something that Mike River, Jules Boucher and I were going do a few years ago, but it never even got past concept stage really. I took the job at Lush beforehand so trying to do another brand alongside was not really an option.
How and when did you get introduced to longboarding?
So I blew my ACL ligaments in my knee out in 95/96 and after being told by Treliske Hospital that I just “twisted it” and it will be fine. I spent the next few years going through a rotation of my knee getting better then it popping out, swelling up, getting better over and over again until I just was hardly skating at all. I was working part-time at SJ’s Skateshop in Truro and SJ had a second hand 36” Powell Dagger and Roses board for sale for £25 so I set that up and with a set softer wheels (G&S yoyo’s) and the longer board sort of reigned me in a bit from getting carried away if you know what I mean? At that time I had just had a son and I was working down the dockyard with a knackered knee, street skating was just becoming depressing I couldn’t run out of anything without my knee folding. I also got a 44-inch Powell long board and some Kryptonics and started to get a feel for going fast. I took everything back to basics with skateboarding on a long board and just being thankful I could still ride. We used to go out bombing hills around Falmouth and St Ives on normal boards and Longboards at night in various states of intoxication. There is that “Golden hour” between 3 and 4am when there are virtually no cars and the town opens up as far as roads you couldn’t normally skate on are then an option.
Skating or longboarding?
I haven’t switched to anything, it’s all skateboarding, I used to bomb hills on a normal skateboard and later, on a bigger board with bigger softer wheels. What’s the difference? I still try to skate everything, I get as much enjoyment from grinding a curb as I do sliding a hairpin.
What do you like most about the sport?
Is it a sport? I mean as far as riding a long skateboard goes, I thought for something to be a sport it needs to have a track, court or pitch? As soon as we get a track to ride long boards on then we can call it a sport. I don’t consider skateboarding a sport… Sport has such “Jock” connotations to it, Olympics and who is the best and all that. Skateboarding just is what it is. What I like about it is that you are free to enjoy it to your own interpretation, you can do it on your own, it’s cheap, and you don’t need a team or sponsors or anything to do it. It annoys people who don’t understand, it makes you look cool, rebellious and edgy…oh and the smell of new wheels. That is what I like about most about skateboarding!
What is your preferred riding style?
Standing up?! I like to crouch down as well sometimes. I don’t really have a preferred “riding style” it changes regularly.
You started racing after only 2 years of riding longboards, when and where was your first race?
I guess it was a couple of years before I entered a race. The first race I entered was the Bude Downhill Classic in errr 98?? No gloves, leathers or helmets, I was racing in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. Bude became a yearly thing where I placed in the top 3 most times apart from when it rained. Jon Warburton was ruling the first few years. Then I got my speed on and won a few years in a row also.
Who else was racing and what position did you finish?
The first Bude race was a pretty small affair maybe 25 riders? Single timed runs with a stopwatch and a radio. Jon was the only guy who had leathers and he won it. I came 3rd I think, but I got a full-page picture in Sidewalk. It was a subscription page with the tag line saying “Is your life going downhill?” Wig Worland took that photo I believe, I would like to see that pic again actually. My first international race was the Blue Window event in Zurich where I didn’t make the cut but met the racers from the US and European scene. Cliff Coleman, Lee Dansie, Gary Hardwick, Cavey, Biker, Sean Mallard, Manu Antuna, Roli Hafner etc. It was also where I met Jonathan Reese who started Comet skateboards and we (Jon and I) got on the team.
Best moment in skating so far?
Probably spending a day in London with Mark Gonzales after driving the Krooked tour around in 2004. We skated Kennington and hooked up with Jethro Haynes (Lush Artist) went to Jethro’s Art exhibition and just goofed around for a few hours before his flight. The Gonz can do nothing on a skateboard and still look amazing doing it.
So many times and things have gone on as well that deserve a mention.
• Skating Holywell Bay and Playing Place.
• The first time I learned to speed check into hairpins was pretty epic.
• Ollie-ing the Southbank 7 for the first time felt pretty good.
• Skating in San Francisco was one of those things to tick off the “Life list”.
• Doing over 50 mph on Indy’s.
• Learning new tricks even now after all this time.
• Bombing hills in St Ives and Falmouth at 4am. Inebriated.
• DHX in Cape town was pretty epic.
• Skating Gurston after double ACL Surgery (about 18 months out).
Scariest/worst moment in skating so far?
Errrr dunno really, worst things are injury and coping with the fact that you are never gonna be as good as you used to be. Learning to cope with that and staying stoked on skating can be a tough thing to deal with.
So you have had a fair few injuries over the years, how have you coped with having time out?
Yeah… I have had 5 knee surgeries over the years, 2 of which were ACL reconstruction. In 2011 had my knee joint drilled with loads of small holes in it to generate new outer bone growth but it still feels pretty crappy. Reconstruction is likely again I think. I have been pretty lucky otherwise, dislocated shoulder, ripped my thumbnail off once. The usual arms of road rash but yeah apart from having crap knees I have got off quite lightly. I have cracked open 3 helmets over my down hilling career and walked away without even whiplash.
Do you actually get much time to go out riding?
Yeah quite a bit. Since I had my last knee surgery I haven’t been skating as much as I would like as it feels pretty unstable and it kinda knocks your Juju out when you don’t feel like you can do what you want. We have the little hill in the yard and part of my job is assessing shapes, Urethanes, truck geometry so I am riding. I am pretty much done with racing really. Until the formats are in place and are working for riders to get more runs for their inscription cost then its free ride all the way for me. I don’t feel any need to compete in downhill any more, I will leave that to the kids although a masters division could be a good laugh.
What motivates you?
What motivates me the most at my current time of life is being in a job where I am not just another number and that it’s only up to Rich, Mark, Adam and myself to make it work. Obviously it has a whole set of different stresses and strains associated with it but I have worked many rubbish factory jobs, manual labour, industrial cleaning, service industry etc. which now I am glad I have done because it makes me appreciate the position I am in now and to make it work. Having a son motivates me a lot as well. As for skateboarding my main motivation is to still feel comfortable and in control of a skateboard, still being able to ollie up a curb, do a kickflip, pull a big power slide depends on the day. I would say that is one of the downsides to being in the skate industry, sometime you get home and the last thing you want to do is go skateboarding after a day of living breathing and eating it but I am pretty used to it now.
The People that motivate me in in the longboard scene currently are Stephan Risch, Dom Kowalski, Seb Hertler, Rebekka Gemperle, Alex Dehmel Jo Coles, Mark Penman, Mikey Johnson, Pete Connolly, Cliff, Sergio, Mark Short, Will Edgecombe, Matt Bates. There are more but lists of names are a bit dull. Big up to those people, you are an inspiration.
When you aren’t skating what else do you like to do in your free time?
I like to hang out with my dog, watch TV, listen to music, Ebay stuff, DJ Strange and wonderful music that people can’t dance to, occasionally ride bicycles without brakes and fixed gears to try and keep myself fit, write romantic poetry and saucy novels for Mills and Boon… I am really interested in cars and vehicles but I am a useless mechanic would love to take up go-karting, drifting or track days if I could afford it.
What has been your greatest skate trip/adventure?
Oooh that’s a tough one. Risch Tisch tour was pretty epic even though I wasn’t skating my best. The trips to the Pyrenees 2008/2009 were good apart from the waiting around bit in the middle (The Races). Both Flip tours were mental in fact any trip in a van of good skaters is pretty epic. Going to DHX in South Africa was a bloody good trip also.
Have you got any skate trips planned for 2013?
Ahh I am gonna see how it goes. I might have to get my knee fixed again but we will see. There is KnK on the cards so that will be pretty good, more Risch tours hopefully and I want to go back to Taiwan and China and skate there.
Tell us about your life journey in longboarding before you joined Lush. I heard that you’ve been involved with some pretty reputable longboarding board and wheel companies.
Ok Since I left Cornwall I moved to Bath and started working at Air Circus (Route one) and managed the Bath shop for a 5 years, during that time I got on Sector 9 flow team through the guys at Hunter board wear and we held a small race in Victoria park during that time. Then after going to Zurich I got on Comet and then shortly after I left Route One and started working at Shiner LTD where I helped secure the UK distribution of Comet in the UK through Shiner, which was great. Comet made me a custom race board and we got the ball rolling with sales over here in the UK. Through Shiner I also got some really great help from Kryptonics and Bones Bearings. I also used to ride Vision shoes through Shiner. Chris and Charlie Allen have been amazing at supporting my skating and my career in skating through my whole time working at Shiner and still are supporting my career with being our UK distributor. Essence Clothing was another sponsor at the time which was a UK brand done by Pete Connolly Crafty Dan, Jon Russell and the St Albans lot.
How did you get involved with Lush? Was it decided over a beer down the pub?
I worked at Shiner and they took on the distribution of Lush in 2008/9. I was the main dude for longboard sales at Shiner and was brand managing for Lush. After 10 years of working at Shiner I had the urge to move on and it just so happened that Lush were looking for someone to take things forward and I guess I fitted the bill. So I took the plunge and went to the small company to see where it would take me.
What does your job entail?
My Job title is Production Director and I shape the boards, decide on the art direction, which artists to do it, design the wheels, decide on the colours, think up the names of the products, do some of the artwork myself, decide on truck geometry, manufacturing processes etc. keep in touch with factories and design the catalogues. I also manage the web shop and do some other office stuff but you don’t want to hear about that.
What’s it like seeing your creations end up on the market and being ridden down the street?
It’s pretty freaky. There is certainly a warm feeling inside seeing people riding and enjoying something that you thought up.
It must be pretty cool to have a part in the direction of the industry. What are your expectations of the UK longboarding industry/scene in the next 5 years?
I dunno if I have part in the direction as such. I think it has its own organic path as riding styles change and evolve. Natural progression is unavoidable, it reminds me of skateboarding in the 80’s all these freaky shapes and concaves, band wagon jumping brands springing up, wacky trucks, silly wheels etc. I see Longboard design becoming much more like trick skateboards – symmetrical, the death of freaky shapes and the “money bump” concave. People will realise that less is more when it comes to skateboard design. Over the next 5 years I see it becoming less trendy, hopefully not being seen as a pastime for posing wankers who can’t ollie! There are a lot of facets to riding a long skateboard and because of that I think it will cement itself as a legit thing to do within the skateboard community. Hopefully all the hangers on type brands looking to make a quick buck will disappear Long boarders are kinda looked at like a bunch of posing freaks but I think it’s image is improving as people realise how gnarly it is.
I would like to see Long board events becoming not just a race or a freeride but a mixture of the 2. I would also like to see a downhill track finished within the next 3 years, if not in the UK then the French are on the case already with the Alsace Downhill track project. It’s the only logical direction to make gravity sports legit I think.
What Lush products should we look out for in 2013?
I am pretty pleased with the ‘Steezestoker’ because I can see that is where freeride boards are heading. I love the ‘Spacebyrds Day’ a slightly bigger than normal skateboard. Cult TFR (Tech Free Ride) also is a wheel concept I am pretty hyped on. Harder faster wheels!! Got some good stuff cooking with Sabre also.
Parting shot – tell us something funny about yourself or your best joke.
My best Joke is way too ‘blue’ to repeat! Funny thing about myself? So whenever I open a cutlery draw I have to have the cutlery in knives, forks and spoons in that order left to right. If I am in somebody else’s house and their cutlery draw is in a different order I have to re-arrange it, I dunno why… some weird OCD thing!
Quick fire questions.
- Best Truck Angle? 38 degrees.
- Top-mount or drop-through? Top Mount
- Hard or soft wheels? 90a (Mid hardness)
- Wet skating, yes or no? No (unless drunk… then yes if needed)
- Custard Crèmes or Bourbons? Jammy Dodgers
Thanks for taking time out to chat with us we look forward to seeing more from you in the year to come