Travis Horsfall: An insightful conversation

Travis pulls no punches in this in depth conversation about the future of downhill, quitting Heelside and sacrificing groms (or as he puts it – Sherradication).self shot back alley slash @ Venice beachTravis bro! Great to speak to you again, how are you?
Doing well thanks!

How was your week?
Pretty good actually, just relaxing in the tropical north, skating.

Where are your usual hunting grounds?
Depends where I am. Back home in Sydney I’m pretty much always on the Hopkin miniramp, at the moment I’m in Cairns and usually at a small skatepark down the road if there aren’t too many scooter kids there.

When did you start skating?
I’ve always had some sort of skateboard for as long as I remember. I didn’t start getting serious about longboarding / downhill until about 4-5 years ago, and back on the street skating bandwagon about a year ago.

What sort of riding were you doing before you started riding longboards?
I was pretty much just cruising around on a street deck for ages, no real tricks or anything just for transportation purposes. Then about 6 years ago I tried a mates longboard and thought it was a lot easier for that purpose. Before hooking up with the Sydney crew, I was just solo cruising the hills and back-streets near my house on the north shore, no idea there was even a scene.

What is the Sydney crew?
Pretty hard to define the Sydney crew as there are so many of us now. I guess the main groups from when I started was the Sydney City Bomb Squad (Blackwood, Alex and Brad-B), the core DH crew (Jacko, Gabe, Benbro, Kam, Robdog etc) and the older ASRA crew which I had my first DH session with.

Hopshop miniramp Photo Shred Sessions

Hopshop miniramp Photo Shred Sessions

Who are the OGs in Sydney?
Shit, depends how far you want to go back. I know Kanufi (aka Tony Hawk lookalike) was there in the beginning along with a few others. He tells a lot of funny stories from then as most of their session were done blind drunk.

How did you discover the scene?
Good ol’ google. ASRA’s site had been running for a few years before I moved to Sydney. Just jumped on the forums and the rest is history.

What is ASRA?
Australian Skateboard Racing Association – a Core crew of super dedicated dudes getting the job done, right. Haggy, “Robtec” Robbo, Bugs, Blackwood, Bra-Pete. Without them there wouldn’t be any large scale races, or any sort of organisation between skaters here in Oz. Australia wouldn’t be on the international racing map without them.

How was your first ever downhill session?
Sketchy as hell, had an omni drop deck with randals and stock randal bushings. Didn’t crash tho. Even ran 2 wheels off the road at one point in a bit of a 50/50 grind but didn’t fall. All I was thinking was that I didn’t want to scratch my new leathers.

You went straight in with leathers?
Yeah it was Mt Keira 4-5 years ago, everyone wore leathers back then there. You didn’t even think of DH until you got a set.

Had you tried any downhill before that?
None other than local hills that were just long cruising around spots rather than “downhill”.

What did you enjoy about speed?
Its was fun? I dunno I’m not much into downhill / longboarding anymore.

How would you define ‘’downhill’’?
I guess anything on a slope could be called downhill. Personally that term would relate to skating anything that includes tucking at some point.

Me @ newtons 2010 Photo Lisa Oxley

Me @ newtons 2010 Photo Lisa Oxley

What is Mt Kiera?
Mt Keira is the spiritual home of Sydney DH (think that’s a Jacko or Robtec quote). Its a fun hill south of Sydney, where last year’s Mt Keira Challenge IGSA race took place. Unfortunately it’s closed due to the road threatening to slip off the side of the mountain, so major roadworks are underway. As a result 2013 Mt Keira Challenge was cancelled.

Is there an annual sacrifice at said spiritual home?
Not that I know of. Probably why what happened, happened with the road. Should start an annual sacrifice at the lookout at the top? Sacrifice a Grom or a scooter kid or something. No particular scooter grom, maybe do a mass roundup of scooter kids… bring the internment camp back into fashion at the top of the mountain.

Do you guys have any trouble with groms down there?
Skate Groms are pretty good as they’re kept in line by the older skaters. Occasionally they’ll ruin a spot but flooding it with sessions and pissing off the local fuzz or resident whoever it may be. You need to keep kids in check. Otherwise look at scooter kids. I was at a skatepark the other day and there were 14 scooter kids just cutting laps, not skating a section and snaking everyone. Can’t do anything about it because they are either way too young or their parents are at the skatepark watching them with a packed lunch. They grow up into older turds that have no sense of skate-park etiquette and no shame of riding a scooter at the age of 19.

What can be done to shreducate them before one of them becomes Prime minister?

Like the bad guy from the ninja turtles.
haha Shredder, wonder what he is up to in his post ninja turtle days?

Flipping burgers or sound engineering?
I could picture him in a burger place, slicing onions with his Shredder gear.

Startline duties @ newtons 2012 photo lisa Oxley

Startline duties @ newtons 2012 photo lisa Oxley

What did you get up to that year after your first taste of Kiera?
I can’t really remember much as it was ages ago. I did DH a fair bit with the ASRA guys from memory. Oh and skated the Pump Station with the BMB (Mountain Mick, Ross, Guff) a bunch. I seem to recall driving up there nearly every weekend.

When did you start racing?
My very brief racing career was around 2010 – Last race i think was Newtons in 2010.

What did you enjoy about competing?
Nothing really. The competitiveness is exciting at the time, but when it comes to willing to crash to win, it wasn’t really my thing so I started organising races.

What was the first event you organised?
The first one I can think of was Master of the Hill outlaw (MOTH)in 2010. I remember it because it was the first year the event didn’t include luge and I wore the brunt of that backlash.

Why did it not include luge?
Didn’t even occur to me to be honest. The grom scene exploded at that time and we sold 80 race spots in 2 days, just from local groms. All I was thinking about was skateboarding and that’s always been my focus.

How bad was the backlash?
Pretty bad, got a lot of angry messages for months. It wasn’t as bad as the backlash Robtec dealt with when he announced that gravity bike wasn’t to be included in 2010 Newtons only a few weeks before MOTH. But the grudge is still there to this day even got me banned from a “gravity” organised race.

Me outside Zurich Photo Alexandra Pauli

Me outside Zurich Photo Alexandra Pauli

What was your role in the community in the early days?
I hung out with the ASRA guys.About 2010 that MOTH (Master of the Hill) race was given to me to organise as the ASRA guys were busy working on Newtons (it was only weeks away) and probably very early stages of Keira.

What’s the most important thing about organising a good race?
Skaters are your customers, keep them happy. Shade, water min, food if you can. Give them enough tracktime and races to feel like they get their money’s worth – even down to the first time racer.
Be organised! Have your format and plan sorted. Have a bad weather plan. Good start line person if there are marshals and the track needs to be shutdown – you need someone that can run it like a dictator to make sure it runs on time.

How close are the skating and ‘’other’’ DH communities over there?
There’s a wedge. There has been for a long time. People deny it or try to close the gap, but the truth is that is it there. Stupidly enough the loudest voices represent the “gravity” crew, which aren’t the guys that actually turn up to events. The ones that do turn up are cool and get along with most people.
The point I always try to make (I’m sure people will misread this and I’ll get some more hate-mail) is that skaters ARE different to gravity sports. Why? Because DH is only a small portion of skating. Even the most avid downhill skater still spends most of his time on his board pushing around day to day and not on a hill. That’s why it really is a lifestyle, we live on our boards almost daily. That’s where the attitude of the 2 groups is different.

How does this fundamental difference affect the relationship between the two?
Just the approach and mindset towards an event or problem is different. The goal is usually the same but the idea to get there is different, much like political parties. Trying to cast skaters into a “gravity family” label just doesn’t work, because its not totally who we are.

Canberra Ditch race Photo joe wells

Canberra Ditch race Photo joe wells

What future do you envision for downhill races?
In general? Downhill races are easily marketable in the “extreme sports” field, but it’s an issue has always been in location (must be on a hill) and its spectator access. ASRA over came this to an extent last year at Newtons by streaming the race onto YouTube. Downhill still has some growing to do, but as far as the ESPN NASCAR extent that IGSA envisioned I don’t see it happening. Bit like Street League for street skating. Yeah its on ESPN and they sell out stadiums, but the average Joe can not  relate. Unless you’re a skater and know how hard the sport is first hand. Otherwise you’re not impressed.

What do you think about the inclusion of other disciplines in races?
It should be up to the race organiser as they are the ones doing all the work and the scene is different in every place. For example if you had 1000 skateboarders in the area and 10 gravity sports guys is it worth it to exclude some of the majority to cater for the 1%? In other areas it’s a different ratio and may be worth it.

Is there a viable commercial future for ‘’longboarding’’?
Longboarding really has an image and identity problem to deal with first. Google longboarding or youtube it and most videos are of some grom doing a slide at 10km with helmet and goofy gloves on or an artistic photo doing a flatland trick with a helmet on. I mean street skating marketability is based on any average person looking at it and going “wow that’s crazy”. Longboarding doesn’t have that effect. Could be on a crazy hill doing a big standup toeside, but to the non skater no-one knows what the hell they are doing and why they are wearing a helmet and gloves.
If a skater can tre-flip down 15 stairs, why is this longboarder padded up to early grab down 5 stairs?
Maybe if longboard identified and marketed more closely to the likes of surfing it would probably have the same success as surfing does. Like a picture at sunset cruising down a hill with long flowing blonde hair for example would resonate some sort of feeling with the average Joe. More than a speed blur shot of a dude in tuck.

What kind of skating gives you jollies?
At the moment I’m into street / transition skating. I used to want to go out and hit a hill everyday, but that stoke just died out for me. Now I can’t wait to go out and destroy my shins and ankles in a painfully slow learning process on a daily basis (if my middle-age body lets me).

How did it die?
I think is was laziness & time. A few months ago I skated Keira for the first DH session in ages. It was rad and everything, but it’s an hour and a half drive each way, you have to take all this gear with you and cost you a bit in fuel and takes most of the day. Or I could take my street deck and go a skatepark around the corner for a few hours and feel wrecked.
I still enjoy the Wednesday night Inner West Face Grinder sessions (it includes beer) but other than that it’s not really my thing anymore.

Will you still be involved with ASRA?
Always! Not officially though, too much commitment for such a thankless job for me personally – dunno how the guys have done it for this long. I’ll always be there behind the scenes helping them out though. Bit like the mafia, once you’re in the family, you’re in for life.
Mythical blue mountains photo me

What other behind the scenes stuff are you up to?
Early last year I got in contact with Lee Cation about starting an independent race tour body. No sanction fees, no rules, just keeping a ranking system for the major non-IGSA races across the world (at the time). Just to show there could be an alternative to the way IGSA operated and hopefully inspire another proper organisation. Luckily that happened soon after we started in the form of the IDF, made my 2013 a lot easier!

What’s your role in the IDF?
Other than doing the new logo, nothing. I lived on Robtec’s couch last year, who played a big role helping them getting set up with a legit organisation, so you could say I was in the loop of what was happening behind the scenes.

Who is Robtec?
Dave Robertson, VP of ASRA and I guess manager of the Hopshop. Has a habit of over-doing / over-engineering everything, hence the nickname Robtec. But because of that same quality we now have video feeds at our events and a Tag timing system for our local slalom events.
Also gave me somewhere to live last year after I came back from overseas and had no plan on what I was doing. Without that I’d probably be living under a bridge somewhere.

Why does the world need an IDF?
I’ll try to explain as to the racers themselves there isn’t much difference initially. To the event and event organiser however there is a massive difference. Lower sanctioning fees so there is more money to put back into the race / prize pool. But other than that open discussions about rule and format changes to keep up with the sports progression – which just wasn’t available with the IGSA. Eventually it will lead to better race formats, better events, larger prize pool and more track time for the riders.

Will there be any perceivable difference at the same races run by the same people, under a different flag?
Yeah for sure. Along with more flexibility in race formats the other major thing with the IDF is a centralised website with forums for event organisers to get help and share information with other organisers. This will help races to be a lot more organised and run a lot smoother. Soon enough races across the world will be running like and ASRA race.

One of my favourite photos from the euro tour of Beks in italy photo me

One of my favourite photos from the euro tour of Beks in italy photo me

How much did you guys have to pay for a race to be sanctioned?
Not sure on the details but to quote from ASRA’s IDF discussion page is was around $11K for the 2 events last year, including flying out IGSA officials (mandatory) to do… not a lot. In return you get a bunch of outdated restrictions applied to your events and ranking points.

What events led to you pooling for an alternative?
The Indi series? The idea came about from the Indi Race pages in the back of SkateSlate magazine. After hearing all the problems with the new rules that were coming in with the IGSA and the fact that the race organisers had zero input I thought I’d show the world there could be an alternative. With a list of indi races already listed in SkateSlate by Lee Cation, I thought why don’t we just apply ranking points to them.

Where do you hope the IDF takes DH skating?
Hopefully they step up the public presence of the sport and bring some outside non-industry sponsors to the game. At the very least I hope they make life easier for the race organisers. I keep saying that, but they are the reason the races are there in the first place, they do all the work and without them you wouldn’t have any sort of world tour.

What difference will new sponsors make?
Outside sponsors would make a huge difference. The longboard industry is growing, but hardly anyone makes any money at any level. And the money they do make is usually given back to races so they can exist. Outside sponsors that already have other markets (a watch company for example) could pour some money into the sport without relying on a good return for investment. Heck could even see a first proper professional Downhill skater out of it.

Can anyone make a living purely through longboarding?
Maybe for a small period of time. I’ll refer back to street skating in the States. There are many pro’s but only a very few get paid enough to live off – and that’s off the back of 14 million skaters supporting their industry in that country. Then again a bunch of surfers make livings from surfing, not just in contest but free surfing too.

What makes a ‘’proper pro DH skater’’?
Like any proper pro athlete. One the can make a living (income) from not only skating but enough of an income to last them afterwards for a period of time.

How will the arrival of this change skating?
Maybe a racer’s approach might be different. Surfing used to be about partying until Kelly Slater came along and brought a bit of professionalism with him to the tour. If their future income depends on it you might see more DH skaters who take it very seriously.
No idea if that’ll work out to be a good thing or not.

What did you get up to in 2011?
2011 I quit my job and did a long overdue Euro backpacking / skating tour. That’s when I met you – at London’s first Broadway Bomb. Sketchiest race I’ve ever done! I remember the hail storm as we started the race, then skating on the wrong side of the road because it was slightly less sketchy than the correct side getting squeezed between buses. Good times. – Is this race happening again?
After that I followed the Euro race tour around doing the magazine thing along with some side backpacking things. Didn’t skate the races, but got to skate a whole heap of awesome places – swiss skate van tour with the fibretec crew and Sammy, the KNK hill with papa Risch, Olivier, Nadim and Mihel, Stutgart, Belgium with the Lush crew (where I met Pommy Josh) and much more. So many good times in a tonne of countries in such a quick time. So many good people I met over there in and out of the skating scene and partying in random places (Bratislava comes to mind). I miss all of them a lot and can’t wait to move / go back there.
Then after that I headed over to NYC then LA then Hawaii and then back home.
Was a pretty good year.

London Broadway Bomb Photo by me

London Broadway Bomb Photo by me

What did you enjoy about skating in Europe?
Euro has some amazing hills, but it’s gotta be the amazing people and places over there.

You want to move over here?
Heck yes. Maybe in a couple of years when my studies are finished. Set up in Ljubljana or Germany somewhere.

How was it different from Oz?
Oz is still rad, but you can drive for 12 hours here and still be in the same state! What I enjoyed most was driving (or by train) between countries that have completely different cultures, history, languages and skate scenes in a relatively small distance.

What was your favourite stop?
My favourite country on the whole that I visited has to be Slovenia. From the KNK hill in the south to the funky Ljubljana city to places like Lake Bled in the north. There were a lot of other great cities by themselves, but on the whole Slovenia.

Did you do much skating in America?
Nope hardly none. At this stage I was pretty sick of carrying my full-face and my huge decent hardware bag around with all my skate gear. So on my 3rd visit to Munich, Andi @ Boneless was nice enough to send my bag home, so all I had left was a small backpack. I had no board when i got to NYC and regretted it straight away. (ever try to walk multiple city blocks when you’re used to skating them?). Wasn’t until I met the loaded guys in LA that I got another deck to cruise around venice beach on.

What magazine thing were you doing back then?
I was the Editor of Heelside Magazine at the time so spread the stoke at the races and doing photos / articles for that Issue I sent you. (Issue 4 or 5 I think).

A grom ate it : (
Fucking groms!

Me @ my new little event - snakerun shakedown photo Mark Gorman

Me @ my new little event – snakerun shakedown photo Mark Gorman

When did the magazine start?
It all came about in 2010 – the first issue came out just before Newtons 2010. The original idea was to be an ASRA online mag to breathe life back into the ASRA website by a slightly more interesting way of presenting the feature story posts. You can see this in Issue01 – most the  stories are from the ASRA’s feature stories. One day I was in the Blue Mountains for a slalom thing and was pitching the idea to the ASRA guys. There I met Kurt Nischel and guess the rest is history.

What role did it play in the community?
It was Australia’s first printed magazine which gave local people a creative outlet to write and report on their local scene. In the beginning it also was an outlet for us to do whatever we want, push the limit in layout design and content.

What was your long term vision for heel side when you started it?
I’ve always been an opinionated person with pretty old fashioned standards. I don’t care what side of the argument you’re on, just stand behind it and stick to it. No fence riding neutrality bullshit. This is probably why I was in so many forum arguments on ASRA back in the day. When I started Heelside, I envisioned it to have a spine and a stand for something, change the longboard world not just report on it.

And did it?
In the beginning it did to a certain extent. We used to print text over photos, whatever we wanted to do design-wise. Published articles comparing wheels side by side – something you would never see in another magazine out of fear of upsetting any prospective advertisers.

What changed?
Money. Yes you need it to keep the magazine running, but my integrity cost was far greater than what was being asked of me to sell it for. Hence me leaving early last year.

What makes a good skate mag?
It depends on what you are going for and which direction. All longboard mags now play it too safe for my liking. Concrete Wave had been doing it for years being pretty neutral across the board which isn’t a bad thing if that’s your thing, but for most / all of them to be following that same direction seems kinda pointless to me. I’d like to see a Longboard mag like Big Brother was to the street skate world.

What was Big Brother to the street skate world?
It was slightly before my time, but it was a big milestone to help change the whole attitude and identity of street skating at the time. You had all these clean cool skate mags then Big Brother came out with articles like “How to kill yourself” – which was a step by step guide to committing suicide. It was on the complete opposite end of an extreme scale, but it had to be to shake loose the tradition idea of a magazine. Steve Rocco was the man behind it. There is a documentary on him online somewhere.

How is heelside different from the others?
It is Australian.

Why did you decide to leave?
I couldn’t get into it anymore. Felt like I was being silenced by my own company. I always feared waking up one day and hating what I did day to day, so I quit. Life’s too short to be doing something that you don’t believe in.

Will you be back in the magazine world?
Definitely not in the print world. I’m back at school studying digital design because the print / traditional graphic design world is slowly dying.
Never say never tho, it hasn’t come to me yet but I’d like to make something that’s completely new in the way we view and absorb media.

Digital is the future bro.
For sure! Its not hard to see billboards and the likes are changing to digital already. Interactive magazines on iPads are pretty cool too, but not quite engaging enough to replace print. Give it time though.

When did you start taking photos?
Guess when the magazine started I started to get really into it. Then probably just as quick I got tired of longboarding photos. I mean there is only so many speed blur, hands in the air stand up heelside or toeside shots one can take. I’ve done some pretty cool urban longboarding shots with Rob McWhinnie since.

What do you enjoy most about photography?
The most fun I’ve had is photoshoots coupled with interviews. I love making them interesting and different. For example I took Tony Graves to play drunken lazer tag and drunk mini golf and getting drunken shots of the shenanigans in between. Also projecting absinthe fairy wings onto Lea Robbo using a projector and taking that photo was a fun photoshoot.

Recent photoshoot with Robdog McWhinnie Photo by me

Recent photoshoot with Robdog McWhinnie Photo by me

What will you be getting up to this year?
Unfortunately nothing interesting beside school work – although that inevitably includes skating somehow. I do want to bring back Master of the Hill race in 2013, just need to find a new hill – it needs a new hill.
Oh and my new years resolution was to quit Facebook.

I heard you may have more luck quitting crack!
Ha, I’d believe that. My page is basically private but I couldn’t bring myself to deleting it yet because its my main point of contact with the my overseas friends. Maybe when the new myspace launches everyone will switch over and I can get rid of FB.

How is MOTH different from other races on the calendar?
It’s weird, it’s always been on a mellow hill, but there is major carnage every year. Last year for trophies we got 2nd hand clothing and printed MOTH 2012 on the back and had Le-Mans starts. Its always been hectic but a casual fun day.

How do your studies impact your skate future?
Not at all. My future whatever I’m doing will have something to do with the skate industry. If not I’ll still be skating wherever, whenever. Is this the longest interview you’ve ever done?

Haha no. It’s above average though. Probably in the top 10.
Fark yeah!

Beautiful South Slovinea photo me

Beautiful South Slovinea photo me

Pick 3 numbers between 1-40!

11, 29, 33

11 – What’s your favourite website?
Besides yours? Haha. have to be my most visited on a daily basis. (after

29 – Is there anyone dead/alive you’d like to skate with?
Roden Mullen – watch his interviews on YouTube he’s an insightful dude besides being a ridiculous skater

33 – Daniel.Hawes asks: What’s the most interesting thing regarding string theory you have recently learnt ?
Haven’t read anything on it for a while. It gets more interesting when you start getting into M theory and its explanation of parallel universes on membranes and the origin of the big bang – it kinda makes sense and I even had a thought of how it could explain ghosts. One thing I fail to understand is the adding of extra dimensions just for the theory to work (both string and m theory).

Bro! It’s been super fun having this super long chat with you. If you’re ever up for skating in traffic on Europe’s busiest shopping road – come down!
Dude awesome chat. I WILL come back for another London Broadway Bomb!

Any thank yous?
Yeah gotta say thanks to the Sydney crew for always being awesome to each other – its the biggest and best scene in OZ because of that reason.
To my extended euro skate family.
Hopkin for pouring cash and blood into our scene for all these years – however this can’t continue if you keep buying your gear overseas! You think Edge and Daddies will keep their cheap shipping prices to Oz once our local competition is gone? – support your local skateshops no matter where you are in the world folks.
ASRA for always getting it done. right. the first time.
And Robtec’s couch.

Best short skate film of recent: