Benbro Hay: OG Skater

Benbro is such a rad OG skater from Australia. He tells us about the last 8 years adventuring around his country, repping for Hopkin and now Basement Skate – and the upcoming VLT!
Hi Ben, bro, how are you?
I’m great man,been very busy lately with preparations for the VLT and my usual life of working and family and skateboarding.

First time skating in Asia?
Yes it is! I can’t function lately because my mind’s just been on this trip. Its a big one for us at basement skate because most of the team is going. I can’t even go to work and do my job because I’ve had heaps on my mind! Never thought I’d get to Asia,  skateboarding.

Why are you so excited for it?
Visiting new places and skating new hills has always excited me and it adds that next element of challenge and the unknown. The people and the scene seem amazing and I can’t wait for their epic hills.

Where are you from?
I’m from Norah, head on the east coast of Australia, just north of Sydney.

Why has it taken so long to visit Asia?
That’s a hard one, I am well travelled in my own large country and have spent most of my time exploring it. I suppose the cultural change of not knowing anyone in Asia has made it harder to commit and I never knew the skate scene was so big there.

Where are your favourite places in Oz?
I really love our tropical north for it’s harshness and crazy wild remoteness with untouched environment; but there’s not much of a skate scene up there. My favourite place for skating is our south eastern states. The north and the west of our country are remote and not highly populated so the roads are rugged. My favourite place apart from being on the hill is on the ocean.

How did you get into skating?
Man, it came from a surfing, board riding lifestyle; when the surf was flat, we skated and it all went from there. I only had bones brigade videos when I was a kid for inspiration; not many crews in my area were serious skaters back then.

What were you riding in the beginning?
My first skateboard was a Powell Peralta lance mountain, then a few other Powell decks. Longboards came much later.

Did longer boards change skating for you?
Yes, entirely changed it. At first it was strange, but it suited how I like to ride boards.

Who was in your early crew?
The very first people that introduced me to the longer board and skateboard racing were Paul Carey; a longtime shredder of all styles, OG as f–k! and Jason Wright, shortly after, I met Dave ‘robbo’ Robertson, Jacko Shapiera ,Robdog McWhinnie and the Sydney crew.

Was there a big community in your neck of the woods?
Not then, it was like ten guys in the whole state. Queensland had a small OG crew, but now it’s blown out, it’s hard to keep track of all the new faces.

What adventures did you have in the beginning?
The first epic adventures were to the snowy mountain Alps of Australia; it was ground breaking stuff back then. Australian legend Steve Daddow flew down to be a part of it with Pete and Leeso from Glyde Boards just to be a part of it because no-one was exploring or skating that stuff then, so the guys that were, hooked up together.

How important were the lessons from the OGs?
Very important. Jacko, Steve and Robbo showed me the gear and basic techniques. Mind you, Jacko already knew a lot for a young tacker back then and it proved you can learn a lot from determined people no matter their age.

What is Glyde boards?
Glyde skateboards is an Australian board builder based in Gold coast/Brisbane area. They’ve been doing it the longest here in Oz! I have a pro model with them and they have been longtime friends of mine.

Are there many Aussies building skate stuff?
There have been a lot come and go, some were making quality boards as well. As the sport grew, so did the amount of board builders worldwide. Naturally, competition is tough and overheads and expenses don’t make it easy. The younger gen likes the latest new thing, so quite a lot of time and money goes into keeping it fresh and in the market. There’s still Daddow skateboards as well but manufacturing here is a dying art due to overseas competition.

What are the popular local gear makers?
Aussies are a loyal bunch and Glyde and Daddow still seem to scrape by and keep doing it,a lot of passion has kept these guys surviving hard times though..We have  local stores that look after the scene but again apart from the few board builders local manufacturing is limited.

When did you get to attend any events?
I never competed in skateboarding until 2008 when I went to my first race in Western Sydney. Jacko won and I came second and after that I got the racing bug. I kept competing in national races and ended up being ranked number 1 just from staying uninjured and being consistent.
Steve Daddow had travelled and competed and Jacko was just starting to travel overseas. Back then, the sport wasn’t so big and the overseas events weren’t documented as well, so not many of us pushed hard to travel and race.

Who was putting on events those days?
ASRA (Australian skateboard racing association) were running slalom races and the very first Newtons nation world cup race was also run at Bathurst in 2008 by ASRA. Other than that a few skaters were putting on the occasional outlaw.

Do you race slalom as well?
Not so much. I love banked slalom or ditch racing and do well at that. I still go to slalom events to get my boy on a board participating. It’s a great introduction to the racing scene and has been a constant. It’s faded a bit with downhill and recently boarder cross taking the limelight.

Is the competition tight down there?
These days it’s very tight. There’re a lot of groms super keen. When it comes to downhill racing, the big boys still hold it down. Freeriding is the big player in our scene and younger guys take a bit longer to actually want to race hard. Admittedly, we have some world class groms; some who have won the world series; namely Connor Ferguson and Merrick Wildash but others have got the skills they just don’t know it yet.

“our groms have had very good role models and a nurturing community where our best riders are accessible… the og’s in every area have helped on the hills… the straight up fact is that this is straya and we go hard in life, groms included!”

If you add Jayden to that list, you’ve got some outstanding groms – why are they so good?
Oh damn! Sorry jaydos. Forgot him temporarily. Yeah we have talent man. Kelly Carter and few others had great success too but gromhood ran out on them. I might cop some shit for this, but I reckon our groms have had very good role models and a nurturing community where our best riders are accessible and the og’s in every area have always helped and got them on the hills. But also, just the straight up fact is that this is straya and we go hard in life, groms included!

Who should the world be looking out for?
It’s so hard to make that call in our sport, the most promising up and comers get ripped down with injury and strange shit happens. At this moment; Connor Ferguson, Tyrone Knight and Zac Italiano are probably going to blow past your ass next time you race them. They are all young and hungry. Simon Duber has the size, weight, strength and hunger to destroy a lot of rivals at racing level. We don’t know what giving up means over here, so people like Rob McWhinnie, Kelly Carter, Cam Kite, Dejan Djukic, Mike English have still got huge careers to live out and of course Jacko Shapiera. He dropped off the grid for a while with injury, but he’s got lots to give in the future. Still working his way back the smart way and like K-Rimes, he’s got the mindset to come back like it never happened.
We have a new member on the Basement team, he is a shortboard park/transition skater named Noah Moon, he’s only 13 but just kills it like a pro, big things are to come from him.

What do you like to do on your board?
The whole reason longboarding and downhill caught me was my appreciation for what I see as the core elements of board riding; what every skater, surfer etc goes to when there’s nowhere else to go is – speed, flow and style. Even trick skating leads to doing it faster, doing it with more flow and doing it stylish. I try to incorporate that in my skating. I like to go fast, I like to flow and of course style is everything. So yeah, technical downhill runs are pretty much what my skating lives for these days.

Which of the 3 elements is most important?
Style first, then flow. Neither can be done without the necessary speed haha.

Who’s style has influenced you over time?
I have a largely surf style that was developed over a long time riding boards in general, so I feel it reflects more in my skating. Probably Kelly Slater haha. It’s hard to change your style, it develops. Groms just learning longboarding only, develop a totally different style to myself. But I idolise the style of James Kelly. He has a fluid surf style about, though I asked him and he doesn’t surf. Must be just solid cali style.

Is there an Ozzie style?
Yes there sort of is. It’s slightly loose and rugged with surf culture amongst it as well. I like Aussie style. I’m not into stick figure perfect standups, I prefer skaters to have flair and look a bit like they’re on edge, like thrash attack style. They’re totally in control but just make it look better.

“I’m not into stick figure perfect standups, I prefer skaters to have flair and look a bit like they’re on edge”

What do you feel when you’re going fast?
Total focus. It’s probably the only time in my life  there are no other distractions. Like most things, the body learns to do and can eventually be done whilst actually thinking about something else, like second nature. Downhill captures you in the moment, it becomes second nature but still requires focus. The minute you push off, the adrenalin kicks in and nothing else matters.

How integral has ASRA been to the skater you are today?
I’m Asra’s biggest fan. I wouldn’t be who I am without them. They pretty much built our scene out of passion for their sport. ASRA board members are skaters doing it because they love skateboard racing. I have huge respect for their efforts and now, I believe they’re leading the way worldwide.

“Downhill captures you in the moment, it becomes second nature but still requires focus. The minute you push off, the adrenalin kicks in and nothing else matters.”

Are you involved?
I like to think so. I don’t sit on the committee or hold any official position, but I like to think I’m a go-to man. At their events, if I’m not competing, I help them with anything I can and get the skaters in line when the officials can’t yell loud enough or they need a man on the inside haha. I’ve held and run outlaws on my own and with ASRA’s help. We’re one big family. I was sort of officially on their build team for the national boarder cross series, that was rad.

Did you compete in the Boarder-X last season?
Yes! I was so stoked by the final 3 events. I missed the first one due to unfortunate circumstances with a mates passing, so I had that on my mind. I threw myself into the last 3, it helped lift me, it was just great to see the unity of our scene again, getting together, travelling, skating and getting it done. We had a lot of rad sessions skating while we were all touring around following 2 containers full of ramps; to assemble and stoke out and ride then disassemble.
I hadn’t raced that style before and wasnt sure how I’d go, but in the end, I was happy with placing in the top 10 and feel I can give the next series a real nudge. Can’t wait!

Hugs. How does skating help in such hard times?
I think the boarder-cross series helped a lot at that stage. It was good to be able to get involved and not think too much. Might sound selfish, but it was better than sitting around depressed.

What setup were you competing on in the B-X series?
Glyde designed a board in anticipation for the series, I feel they got it right. I rode a glyde robustus which is a shorter wheelbase with a healthy kick-tail and a mild nose kick with some epic tub concave. There were various foot positions needed and you needed a kick tail. Orangatang Kilmers I found easier on the transition, but I would have liked to use a bigger wheel for hauling over the camel kickers and gain more roll speed. I found the big square lip wheels heavy and restricting for pumping up the walls.
Are any of those your sponsors?
Glyde were my first spono, like cause they’re my buddies probably, then I got hooked up by hopkin who were the number 1 store in oz. Everyone wanted to be on that team! I owe a lot to James Hopkin and his store manager Robbo (now owner of Basement skate) for dropping the word and further helping me hook up with Orangatang Wheels and Kahalani trucks. That was the gear I wanted to ride and I was stoked to get hooked up with the gear I had been riding for a while.

What other Glyde boards do you ride?
I nearly always ride my pro model, the glyde haymaker. I also jam in parks and down streets on the robustus.

What is the haymaker like?
The haymaker has the most rad micro drop concave with slight W,with a 28.5 wheelbase which some might say is long for this day and age. I get mine cut 10” wide as I’ve got size 11 feet. It’s got a ranga mermaid tattoo style graphic.

What is hopkin?
Hopkin was Australias biggest skate shop founded by James Hopkin but  sold it to Robbo and is now called Basement skate. James still has his blog and newsletter.

Is it the same shop with a paint job?
Not exactly. Robbo has added his own touches, his styling and layout of the store is visually different and he runs things differently. James was a busy man with other commitments such as family. Both James and Robbo are great business men, but not the same. Without discrediting either of them, they have both done it out of passion! They are both skaters! Huge respect.

How important are good shops to the community?
They are of extreme importance, without them, I can’t see how the scene could survive. It would survive to some degree but it would go back to being ten guys outlaw racing twice a year for thrills. Our Australian stores have poured heaps into our events and generously. Not only support the events with prizes, they actually also run events and provide the platform for the sport to grow. The scene here struggled a bit when big online mega stores infiltrated our scene and gave nothing back. Our shops had to dig deep and I think people are getting it now, they thought they were saving money but weren’t really. Your local skate shop does more than just sell you gear.

“Your local skate shop does more than just sell you gear… Ask yourself if any of those proceeds are going to help you and your sport, is it likely to help pay for that event you’re going to, or is it better to save a few dollars on your wheels and have no event to take them to.”

What would you say to groms looking for bargains online?
Ask yourself if any of those proceeds are going to help you and your sport, is it likely to help pay for that event you’re going to, or is it better to save a few dollars on your wheels and have no event to take them to.

Why did you want Otang & Kahalani?
I just found my way to those products after riding and experimenting other brands at the time and liked what I was getting. A lot of other wheel brands and truck companies have come along since then, but they have kept up with the race. Otang have every style of longboard wheel covered with a quality product and since kaha brought out a cast precision so do they. Why change? I’m a loyal person and a smart enough skater to realise if you cant perform on products of that quality, changing brands won’t save you.

Have you done any skating outside Oz?
I went to New Zealand in 2012. That was really good. Did the intense-decents tour, which is a bus that takes you everywhere skating their rad hills. For various reasons, I’ve enjoyed putting my efforts into developing our scene here. Being the OG that finds all the new hills and terrain, and laying the platform to develop things here has driven me. Now I’m looking to continue that, but also being financially secure enough to get my ass out of here more.

Why didn’t you go this last time?
It’s just about the money I suppose. I go for 2 weeks skating and adventuring and find myself struggling for months. I love my lifestyle here. I can afford short trips to closer destinations without falling behind, and oz is so freaking rad and so far from everywhere you don’t just go for a few days to the US or Europe.

How has your role in the community evolved over the years?
It evolved quite quickly, probably because the whole longboarding thing is still reasonably young. It didn’t seem to take long before I was an OG who people looked up to and asked advice. It’s still the same now, I was OG when it started; other skills learned in life helped me progress fast and understand the principles of going fast down hills. I feel my role is to pass on everything I know and be a mentor and role model. That’s life, you spend a long time learning, then get to a point. It’s all for nothing if you don’t share what you got. I also continue to learn myself and feel I could skate forever. I still win races and make finals so I feel I have lots to give.

What have been your most fun years of skating?
Definitely the last 8. I probs had my most success a few years ago, but the scene has changed and it’s not just about racing, it just keeps getting better, which surprises me sometimes. The community still has a place for me, so i’ll keep filling it.

Has the loss of the IDF races had any impact?
It’s made it harder for us ozzies to get real race time, there’re outlaws and a few legit events still There’s plenty going on, we will make sure of that. Not having 2 world class races sucks, it’s only temporary though. Unfortunately Mt Kiera road fell away and governments are slow to fix, or else it would have been on! The immediate future is looking good with some big races in planning.

How did you do against the internationals?
I’ve struggled at Bathurst with the whole danger element. Sure, all tracks are dangerous, but Bathurst is a different kind. Because of the concrete walls, the crashers come back in on the race track, rather than blowing bails outward; everything bounces back into the line which makes avoiding  crashes impossible. I’ve heard it labelled as the most dangerous track in the world and seen all the injuries every year and feel I’ve always kept my skating reserved there. One year it was wet and I was like ”yes, I can do this” and beat most of the best riders in the world and placed 5th. Mt Kiera, I qualified 3rd and was killing it until being passed on the line by the Arbor crew in the quarters. I feel I can hold it with the best if I got to race that level more often.

Where would you like to see DH skating in Australia in 3 years?
Above all, I want to see our own stage on the world tour again. I know and have complete faith it’s happening before then. Smaller but legit events are starting to become more widespread, outlaw racing is the grass roots but it’s gotta go further. It’s a dream that others in higher places have also, so the future is looking good.

What are your plans for the rest of the year?
After VLT, I’ll come home for a month and then I’m going to ”Beat the bastard” charity event held in Townsville north Queensland. It’s a freeride where we get to skate an amazing hill for 3 days and raise money for cancer charities, we do a road trip for a week before it, also hitting some sweet hills up there. There are a few races in Oz after that and I’m thinking the boarder cross series won’t be far off. But saying that, I like to leave my options open and if something good comes up and my sponsors help me out a bit, I drop everything and go! My result in the WQS at VLT perhaps will inspire me to chase the racing thing further this year.

What do you do when you’re not skating?
I’m a fisherman so I spend a lot of time on the sea catching fish. It’s a huge part of me, another lifestyle choice that allows me to work when I want and fit skating around it. I occasionally still surf, but I put most of my board riding effort into the discipline where I have more backing and support which is Downhill.
And of course, family! I have 2 young kids to feed and I get lots of stoke from teaching them to skate also.

Pick 3 numbers between 1-21.
8  10  21

8 – what did Lincoln keep under his hat?
Air and no hair.

10 – Who’s your favourite skater?
James k, he attacks and hacks!

21 – Lyndsay McLaren asks – what is your dream skate destination?
Lately the twisty turns of siquijor and cebu are in my dreams.

Thank you so much for your time and patience bro. It’s been fun getting to know you. Have fun in the Philippines.
Thank you for the cool chat bro, I have no doubt I will enjoy the Philippines, skating, island paradises, you just can’t beat that.

Any last words?
Big shout out to the whole Aussie downhill and skate community for being so rad and always keepin it real. Robbo and the Basement team for keeping it alive and to my supporters for still believing. Basement Skate, Orangatang wheels, Kahalani trucks, Glyde Longboards. Stoked they’re all great friends of mine as well. Shred til ya dead!