Gabrielle Murray-Roberts Interview

Gabrielle from South Africa tells us about the scene in Cape Town, organising races for SAGRA – including the famous IGSA world cup race – Hot Heels

Hello Gabi, where are you from?
Hey whatsup, I’m from South Africas’ mother city, Cape Town.

When did you start skating?
I’ve been skating for about a year and half, but the bug hit me a while before that. I used to be the shuttle driver for friends of mine who were getting into skating. I pretty much started off buttboarding on some of the guys boards, and probably down some of the gnarliest hills in Cape Town actually. I was soon told to harden the fuck up and STAND UP!

Who were your usual passengers?
2 friends of mine, Nic and Nick and often random stragglers who, after a few ales, thought it would be a good idea to blast down a hill in the middle of the night.

Do you still buttboard?
Nah, that lying down business seems a lot more scary now.

How long did it take you to man up and stand up?
Haha , fairly quickly, being friends with a bunch of guys, there wasn’t much mercy for me, plus I’ve always been one to push myself when it comes to sports, not one to back down from a challenge.

Are you the only girl in CT who skates?
There are actually quite a few girls that skate now, there’s about 3 girls that race and I’m constantly hearing of girls who are getting into it and getting good. Theres also loads of chicks who really dig the push culture, we often have push events and the girls are always eager to join and the guys make sure their girlfriends come along and try it out.

Do you skate together?
I mainly skate with the guys, but there are 2 girls, Amy Murgatroyd and Cheri Morris in particular that I skate with fairly often,  who also race with me. Cheri has actually gone to Europe now to live, work, travel and skate! She’s one tough cookie, I’ve watched her eat a lot of shit and she never fails to get up again, with even more stoke to get back on her board.Amy digs her bombing – she’s got some serious balls, shes been skating with her bro for ages, she was bombing before she knew how to slide or footbrake, much respect to her.

Who is her bro?
Amy’s bro is Sam Murgatroyd, he has been skating and making boards with another dude, Dean Engela for years

What sort of riding do you enjoy?
Hmmm a bit of everything hey. Sliding is big in SA, and it’s what we do mainly on a day to day basis, which is rad, you can never get bored of sliding, I’m still learning and perfecting different slides, so there’s never a dull moment and often a nice arse roasty to remind me of the skate for the next week and what NOT to do!
But you also can’t beat the feeling of blasting down a hill with your heart in your throat wondering if this is actually such a good idea and that feeling of insane AWE-someness when you get to the bottom. That feeling can’t be beaten!

How long after you started skating did you get into bombing hills?
Er, immediately, thats all we knew at the time. Find a hill jump on a board and “gooi” as we say. And for some reason we didn’t start on the more chilled hills, it was always the heaviest hill around that the boys would want to attempt, so it was either skate and learn or sit on the side of the road and smoke entjies, or drive shuttle. I learnt how to footbrake really quickly!

What do you ride? 
BOARDYARD! A local guy makes foam core Carbon Fibre boards and goes under the name Boardyard. He’s also started making aero lids and sold quite a few to some dudes in America. His boards are super popular in CT, one of our top riders, Richard Dweza is riding a boardyard, and obviously everyone in CT is frothing to get their hands on one of his new aero lids.
My freeride set up is a boardyard drop-through, sabre trucks, otang-nipples, Abec 11 grippins.

Are those your sponsors?
I’m sponsored by Boardyard yes. Nobody else YET!

Are there many local board builders?
Ye there’s lank actually. There’s Kent Lingeveldt Alpha Longboards who I think (hope no one gets angry with me) was the first guy to start making longboards, there’s Justin BoastProject Skateboards, John Upham – Boardyard, Dean and Sam – Chapman‘s Peak Long boards and Michael MciverSapphire Longboards. I think those are the main guys, but there are loads of other guys making their own boards.
There’s also Russel Naude who is making all the luge boards, I think for the all the luge riders in South Africa.

Haha, SA slang, been trying to hold back on our many words that probably mean absolutely nothing to anyone who is NOT from SA, the skaters even have slang that other South Africans can’t understand, like fizzing, dancing, bathing, frothing, and louda powda.

What does it mean in this case?
Lank means ”a lot”.

What’s the community in CT like?
The community in SA is one of many reasons why I got into the sport, I’ve met so many sick people who are just genuinely stoked on everything that is skating and genuine people themselves. I think skaters worldwide consider themselves a family, it’s a passion that ties us all together.

Do you have a local crew?
Cape Town is separated into 2 general areas, the Northern Suburbs and the Southern Suburbs. In the Northern Burbs there’s a student town called Stellenbosch and if you look on Facebook you will find “Longboard Stellenbosch” where people announce skates daily and sell their shit etc. All those dudes skate together on that side mainly, but in the southern burbs there are a few more groups. There is the Noordhoek Bombers which are mainly groms, we often pop over the mountain to go skate with them, there’s the Hout Bay Bombers and there’s Baboon Boards, who are a few guys who started selling skate gear , the Baboons are always up for a skate. There are a few more groups but the main Southern Suburbs group was started by myself, Mike Upham and Reece Pyro Trout. The Cape Town Fizzers were originally a small group of guys (and gal) who would meet up late in the evenings to “ prowl the streets at night searching for untamed roads to conquer. Beware old tanies we will scratch and scratch till early hours of the morning”. The group got heavily popular and loads of people joined and it soon became more of a market place for skaters to sell their used gear, until it was saved by the one and only JIMMY B by starting a proper “skater traders” group. AWE Jimmy. But basically the local crew is anyone who is up for a skate.

Many gnar groms?
Too many! In a good way though. The groms are taking over in SA, from ultra grom Tom (Tom Jakins),13,to the Nano Grom ( Joseph Fine) who was ripping at one of most difficult races about a month ago, hes 11! These kids are seriously ripping. It’s like the first thing they learn to do when getting on a board is how to stand up slide. It’s mad.

Who do you skate with most often?
Its hard to say now cos its winter here so most people seem to be hibernating but otherwise Mike Upham, Reece, The Baboons, quite often the Noordhoek guys on weekends and many a grom.

What is the difficult race you were referring?
High Rising is one of more difficult races, its a fairly short, pretty damn fast hill which ends in super tight left hand corner aptly named Carnage Corner.

What’s your role in the family?
I am part of SAGRA, which is the South African Gravity Racing Association. We orgainse all the main downhill event across the year. I’m also in the process of organising an annual slide jam, and for a while, I was organising Outlaw races for the guys.

When was SAGRA born?
I haven’t actually been with SAGRA from the beginning, but this year is the 10th year anniversary of the World Cup Race, Hot Heels Africa, which is the longest running downhill competition in the world, so more than 10 years!

Who set SAGRA up?
As far as I know – skaters! And skaters still run it today. It’s a none profit organisation so our payment is to get to ride the hill and see the stoked faces of the guys on the hill.
We also have 2 other very hard working amazing ladies who are members, Candice Bouwer and Iona Zietsman.

Do you have to wear stilettos for that race?
Haha, I would love to see the look on Anton Pratt’s face at tech inspection if you pitched up with a pair of hot stilettos.

Who is Anton Pratt?
Anton is a SAGRA member and oversees Tech Inspection at Races. He also owns Fat Ant Bushings, I’m sure you have noticed that a lot of the international guys are riding his bushings these days. And hes got some exciting new treats in the pipeline.

How many other SAGRA members are there?
There are 8 members:
Candice Bouwer
Iona Zietsman
Gerhard Nel
Eebin Van den Berg
Justin Boast
Anton Pratt
Andreas Burgers

When did you join the SAGRA team?
I joined SAGRA at the beginning of 2011, at the time, there was only about 3 members. Now there are 8 of us, myself and Candice Bouwer were 2 of the new members, and you just have to ask the riders how much the races have improved haha! Although I still have no idea how Anton Pratt, Justin Boast and Iona Zietsman managed to organise the races with such a small team, much love and respect, it’s not an easy task, but it is very rewarding to give back to such a deserving community of people.

Where would the community in SA be without SAGRA?
The longboarding scene is growing at a crazy rate here. Every other day, a new grom pops out of the woodwork. But I think with having SAGRA, its grown the racing scene a lot which is great, as it brings the international skaters down more each year and shows the rest of the world what us in Africa are capable of. It also brings the community together and that not only grows the sport but creates awareness about the sport. SAGRA have a very good reputation for safety at our races as well as good organisation of races, I think this also helps show the public that we are not just a bunch of reckless kids causing havoc on the roads and it also gives us the opportunity to promote safety among the riders.

How much better have the racers in SA gotten since SAGRA?
Although I haven’t been in the scene as long as some of the other guys, I hear people talking about the progression of the sport in SA and how the South African guys are really surprising the international guys.
SA skaters have always ripped, but most of them just haven’t had the opportunity to compete internationally due to our kak exchange rate.

How are skaters perceived there?
To be honest, lately we’ve been getting a bit of bad press, we have had 2 very unfortunate accidents. One caused quite a big stir. But the problem is, as I’m sure it is all over the world, is that there are always going to be those old farts who are too closed minded to actually find out more about the sport before going on radio and making us out to be “criminals”. I mean really? CRIMINALS!!!  There are enough problems in South Africa and they want to call some kid who is pursuing his passion, utilising his free time in a healthy and constructive way a flipping CRIMINAL. It makes me quite angry.
There are plenty of people who are backing the skaters, including parents who take it on themselves to write into the newspapers to attempt to break misconceptions of the skaters and promote the sport.

How about law enforcement?
Well law enforcement are just the daily headache and pain in the arse, it’s more the general public with nothing better to do in their time that are making the noise. The government has actually been really accommodating. There is a newly formed group here in Cape Town called the National Skate Collective who are trying to work with the government to change by-laws and as I said, accommodate the skaters and their sport. Our goal at the moment is to get the government to tar a road: JUST FOR US! Yay.

What made them all rally against you so strongly?
Well all it takes is for some bored-with-life individual to call into the local radio talk show and throw a fit. This is also not an on- going thing, theres just been a few of these old bags who have kicked up a fuss from time to time.
Again it boils down to close minded people who are uneducated about the sport and the people who partake in it, for the most part the guys are pretty good, the older guys drill it into the younger guys about skating safely and the younger guys are also pretty good, you are basically shunned and sniggered about if you don’t wear a helmet. But as a grom I guess they also don’t always understand the rules of the road, having not driven. But we all do our best to teach the groms (and some older guys for that matter) on what NOT to do, and when you’re being an ass.

What events do you organise?
Well other than the SAGRA races, I used to organise Outlaw races which were held in residential areas, I’m not too keen on it anymore due to safety issues and the huge popularity of outlaw races and the risks that come with that. I’m currently in the process of organising a Slide Jam and starting organisation with Candice of a fundraisering party for skating and for Hot Heels.

When is this slide jam?
I wanted to do it in August, but ran into a bit of difficulty trying to get a permit. I thought I would do it the RIGHT/LEGAL way, but got raped by requirements and expenses. Now I’m exploring some other options for a venue and hoping to still make it happen in the next few months. Also plotting an event for Decemeber in between the races while the international guys are down.

How was last season?
Well our races are pretty spaced out over the year. We’ve got 2 races early in the year, High Rising DHX and Faircape DHX which is our fastest race, with speeds up to 118kms p/h and a third which is sanctioned by SAGRA in Mossel bay. Then we have a race mid year up in Pretoria (near Johannesburg) which is coming up now in August – King of the Fort. The last two races of the year which are just a week apart in December which are Houwteq and Hot Heels Africa.

Who organises the races?
There are certain other groups or individuals that organise races in Mossel Bay and in Pretoria and there’s been interest from other guys to do more races around South Africa.

Another race for internationals to attend?
Possibly, it all depends on when the races would be, the guys usually come down at the end of the year for Hot Heels as it is a World Cup race. So it would be great to have a third race at the end of the year that the guys could attend.

Is there anywhere else in Africa where people longboard?
I can’t say that I know of anyone personally, but hey! Africa is a pretty big place.

Where would they be?
Fok knows… Somalia? Pirates on skateboards?

What do you do when you’re not skating?
Organising races or trying to organise the next skate. And if I’m not skating, I like to take photos of the guys skating.

Where would you like to see longboarding in SA in 5 years?
I would like to see the government being more involved and providing a safer way for riders to practice a sport that is ever growing in South Africa. I would like to see the race scene reach the maximum level of professionalism where riders have proper sponsors and are getting the opportunity to travel abroad to compete in the overseas races series and representing South Africa. And I would love some more ladies to race with.

Choose 3 numbers between 1-35.
2, 10, 27

2 – Would you rather have a hook for a hand or a wheel for a foot?
Haha, a wheel

10 – What’s your favourite band?
oooh that’s difficult. Music is another great passion of mine, its what gets me through the day. I guess my favorite depends on what mood I wake up in in the morning.
Everything from beats like Amon Tobin, Tokimonsta, Mount Kimbie, love all the Mary-Anne Hobbs experimental mixes, Rob Booth does amazing mixes aswell. Drum and Bass is still one of my all time favorite genres of music, not the gay commercial crap, the dark grungy hard stuff, there is a local duo called Counterstike, one guy lives here in SA and the other guy is over in europe, still my favorite! I dig Dubstep as well, I manage a monthly Dubstep party here in Cape Town. I like electronic music in general really, but I also love the oldies, a bit of Jimmy and Rodriguez always goes down well. I grew up on groups like Dire straits and I think the first cassette tape my bro and I owned was by Guns & Roses. Old school underground Hip hop is still the business, they don’t make music like that anymore and I do enjoy a bit of metal and rock here and there. Bring me the Horizon and Killswitch Engage always helps with those angry Mondays. Anything and everything, not much for the commercial radio type stuff though.

27- What did you do last weekend?
It pissed with rain the entire weekend, fed my face mostly, but managed to get a few runs down a chilled hill in our area, got to start strengthening the legs for the upcoming race in Pretoria, King of the Fort.

It’s been awesome talking to you Gabi, all the best in the events you’re planning. Looking forward to reading reports!
Thank YOU, for helping spreading the stoke. I will definitely keep you posted!

Any other thank yous?
Thanks to skaters everywhere!!

Cape Town Fizzers


(website under construction)

Hot Heels Africa

Hot Heels Africa 2011 video

some of my pics from a beautiful day in CT: