Nat is one of the dons of distance skateboarding, and he has a great philosophy to skating – ”it’s all skateboarding”. Read on to learn more about this fellow’s adventures.
Hi Nat! Where are you from?
I’m from Portsmouth, a south coaster. I now live in Lyttelton, just over the hill from Christchurch on the South Island of New Zealand.
Portsmouth in the UK?
Well Gosport to be precise. But yeah, Pompey, UK.
When did you start skating?
7th birthday. I got a yellow fibreglass banana board with open bearings and clear wheels. I’m 36 now.
Have you been skating ever since?
Even in the down period of skating history, I still skated. I went away to school and it was something to do in the evenings and weekends. I’ve still got a great ollie because of all the practice. There was nothing else.
What was it like skating in Pompey?
Well we had the legendary Southsea Skatepark. I used to get up and skate to the ferry, then skate an hour or so to the park, skate from 9 till close, then skate home again.
Do you still skate street?
Haha, I still skate ‘on’ the streets. I skate everything really. But street skating has died off as I’ve got older. I’m really into slalom, downhill, bowl skating and distance when the time allows.
When did you start moving away from street skating?
When I moved for work I started snowboarding regularly at Hemel Hempstead. There was a crew of us who used to just hit up Radlands (R.I.P.) in Northampton every week. Transition became more fun. This led to bowls. Then, to cut a long story short, slalom and then distance.
How did you get into slalom?
I had moved back down south and was working in a shop called ‘Bluetile Boardstore’ and we had built a huge underground ramp complex in Portsmouth called ‘The Basement’ (R.I.P.) and me and a few of the boys from there just thought it was a good idea. We had one board to share to begin with and beer cans for cones. Basically it was just a reason to hang out, skate and drink beer in the sun. Good times.
How serious did it get for you?
It was always, and still is, about fun. I used to drive to Hove every Friday to skate with the Pig City crew. Those evenings were the very best time for me. Just hanging out, skating hard and testing your abilities. I made friends for life there and got quick too! I got 2nd in the British Championships in 2009. The slalom scene in the UK is huge!
That’s pretty awesome! Do you still compete?
There really isn’t a scene here in NZ for slalom. Yet. A lot of the downhillers are realising that many of the techniques and setup knowledge (‘tweaking’) is very useful. We have been putting on GS races here in Christchurch and the slalom is still king!
What doors did slalom open for you?
Meeting a good bunch of mates, expanding my quiver! Slalomers are hoarders. Wheels and bushings are like candy to them. My knowledge around equipment has improved too.
What about slalom has helped you in the other types of skating you’ve done?
Knowing and looking after your kit, knowing the fine line between grip and slide. Someone pointed out that I corner heelside like a slalomer. I guess it’s my stance.
So after street you started slalom, what was the next flavour of poison?
Distance. That took over everything for a while in 2007.
At that time were there many people doing distance?
Not exclusively. Every skater skates distance, just getting from A to B on a board is ‘distance’. But no, not many who set out just to skate a long way.
My good friend Bam had just skated across Europe and he came to stay with me on the way back, and brought with him Adam Colton. That’s where the idea for New Zealand got cemented. I had the idea but things kept falling through. Adam was like ‘I’m in’. That was the beginning of it all.
About distance skating?
Everything really. But the idea of skating across New Zealand was in there.
What was the original idea for New Zealand?
Wales vs New Zealand at the millennium stadium in Cardiff. I was there with my neighbours and they said we should visit NZ together. They were really into cycling and I said if they cycled, I’d skate it. Things being the way they are, they pulled out. So it was just me. Then me and Adam.
How did it go?
By that time, we had been joined by Sheldon Lessard and Kari Grebe from the US. We met in Auckland, got a car, drove up to Cape Reinga and then skated South. 3 days in, I met up for a beer with a girl called Julia from Canada and she joined the team. I’m married to Julia now, with 2 kids! She cycled the South Island as support.
Skate babies! Congratulations.
Thanks. Yeah life is perfect. : )
Had you visited NZ before your trip?
Yeah 3 times. I loved the place. Seeing it at skateboard pace is a great way to get to know a country better.
How did you plan such an epic adventure?
Looked at a few maps, saved money, took time off work and got on a plane. Skateboarding distance is easy. You get there and then just skate. Every day.
What sorts of distance events had you done in the UK prior to this?
None really. I’d skated a few weekends with Dave Cornthwaite on his UK trip, that and Bath to Bristol. I’d been skating lots by myself.
Who is Dave Cornthwaite?
A guy who decided to skate across Australia. As you do. He used the UK for a warm up. I joined him at the weekends. His trip in Oz was epic. 10 support crew, 3 vehicles. Huge effort into fundraising and media. Insane.
You guys are all nuts.
How did you find other people to do crazy things with?
After I had finished NZ I got a phonecall from Bam about starting a UK distance webpage. Skatefurther was born. Pretty soon we realised it was getting big worldwide. Skatefurther went international.
What is Skatefurther?
A website dedicated to skating distance and everything associated with it. Equipment, races, journeys, fitness and events from around the Globe.
What was the vision you and Bam had when you started it?
Just to push the awareness of skateboarding as a form of transport and as a way to explore. We knew there were races going on all over, and people who were choosing to pick up a board and go on adventures. We wanted to document all that was going on.
How was the initial reception in the UK?
I know a lot of skaters think skating distance is pretty stupid, or don’t really understand why. It’s all skateboarding. Just a different form. Its the same for any sport though, you get DH mountain bike and you get sprint races and you also get people who cycle across countries. You get 100m specialists, fell runners and people who want to run for hundreds of miles.
You got abuse from none distance skaters?
Me personally? Not to my face. I’m sure people say things, but they probably only skate one way. Same with slalom, same with LDP. I think a proper skater needs to try, and push themselves in everything. As we talked about earlier, skills are transferable.
What impact has the website had on the distance community?
Pretty massive really. I could give you info on all the trips we’ve been involved in but you only really need one.
Rob Thomson – ‘Community is the most essential factor in any successful endeavour. Without the Skatefurther.com community, I wouldn’t have made it across China and to my goal at Shanghai. Period.’
That says it all.
Who is Rob Thomson and why oh why has he skated so far?
I’m glad to call Rob a good friend. He was cycling back from Japan and in Europe decided to switch to a board. He skated across Europe, The US, then across China and finally home to New Zealand. 2 and a bit years over 12,000km. Solo.
He had never skated before and just went from 2 wheels to 4?
He’s skated as a kid. But essentially, yeah.
Has anyone skated more miles than he has?
Currently a guy called Marcelo from Rio De Janeiro is skating on an epic trip. I think he has got further. But he’s hard to track down!
Aside from New Zealand, what trips have you undertaken?
Nothing major. I did quite a few ultraskates in the UK, organised a few events. Now I am living in NZ I try to get away when I can. I have a family now so its usually at the weekends. I started a blog called The Weekend Distance Skater to keep track of the places I go. It’s taken a back seat really though, I’ve been heavily into organising events here in Christchurch and more recently been working on getting an online shop up and running, that and skating downhill more. The quakes have made it harder though!
What’s an UltraSkate?
24 hours. See how far you can go.
How far have you gone?
150 miles. The record is well over 200.
What events have you organised down there?
When I first arrived here, I saw skaters everywhere. But nobody was organising anything. I started Garden City Sessions in order to bring us all together. We have over 400 members now. We run beginner sessions, downhill races, garage races (there are no multi-storey carparks left now though!) slalom, skate hockey, slide clinics, bowl sessions and push races. There were at least 60 skaters at our last session. Crazy.
How close is the shop to completion?
It’s an online shop. The stock arrives in a few weeks. We’ll see where it goes from there.
Is this the first longboard shop in NZ?
Nope, there are a few others. Ours will be the best. We are only stocking products we believe in and use. We are also the only shop that will be run by active skaters. Between us we have over 60 years skating. And there are only 2 of us! Watch this space. Terrabang Supply Co.
How has the skate community responded to the earthquakes?
We have a saying here. Kia Kaha. It means ‘stand strong’. We are still getting aftershocks now. We had a 4.8 yesterday and there was a rumble about 5 minutes ago. I’ll let you know how big it was when the info comes through! Most of our big DH routes have been destroyed by rockfall. All of our carparks have gone and the Central City is still in shutdown mode. We’ve been doing GS on the hills we have and stuff like skate hockey has kicked off. We’re still skating. (it was only a 3.3 aftershock!).
Are the multistory garages coming back?
We hope so. Over 900 buildings have been pulled down since the February quake, with about the same still to go. We’ll see what comes out of the rubble.
How do you skate through all this?
Christchurch is a flat city surrounded by the remnants of an ancient volcano. Hills a’ plenty. Plus NZ is a small country with big mountains. We like to road trip.
You sound like you’re really into downhill
It’s fun. Going fast is fun. There is a huge DH scene here in NZ. Lyttelton is a tiny village, but we have amazing skaters here. Banks Longboarding build their boards here and I’m stoked to get to skate with them. The Banks Family.
Who are the Banks family?
Banks Longboards are built by a tight knit crew in Lyttelton. They make the best boards for the most insane hills. I’m stoked to be able to skate with such a rad crew. They are balls out fast and I’m happy to be part of their family. REP 328.
What do you ride?
For DH, I’m riding my Banks Longboarding custom topmount. Sabre trucks and one of the varieties of Cult wheels.
For long pushing I ride a Rayne Demonseed Deelite that has been customed, Sabre trucks and Atobe Bonnerville wheels. If its a sprint I use my Loaded Fathom with the same undercarriage.
For slalom I’m riding an Early Slalom Child, Virage LDP trucks front and rear with Cult Dominators up front and Gammarays in the rear.
For pool I’m rocking a Deathbox with Indys and Bones SPF 60mm.
For fun cruising I have my Holesom Street Sweeper on Holeys.
Are these all your sponsors?
No, just people who have helped me out or given me stuff. I suppose Holesom sponsored me, my name was on the 1st Street sweepers. I’d like to say that I’m sponsored by Banks Longboarding. Even if it’s not true.
Choose 3 numbers between 1-26
3, 15 and 16.
3 – What impact has longboarding had on your life?
Without it I would not have the friends I do, not been to the places I’ve been to. I would not be in New Zealand now and I wouldn’t be married to Julia and have 2 rad kids. It has influenced every major decision I have taken and without it I don’t think I would be the person I have become. Sounds corny, but It’s true.
15 – What was the last book you read?
I’m currently reading A Song Of Stone by Ian Banks, just finished one called The Last Place On Earth, about Scott and the race to the South Pole. Scott had a beer in my local pub before setting off from Lyttelton.
16 – Do you have a blog?
Yeah A few!
My personal Blog – allmyshoeshavewafflesoles.wordpress.com
Weekend distance skater – skatenewzealand.wordpress.com
Terrabang Supply Co. – terrabang.wordpress.com
Then there is Skatefurther.com
It has been awesome speaking to you Nat. Wish you all the best down there!
Same! Glad we got the time difference sorted.
Any thank yous?
The Banks Longboarding family. Unit 19, Pig City Slalom, Garden City Sessions and the many friends I have made through skating. Skatefurther.