Louis Selby is a world-class slalom skater and also in general a really great guy. Shove It Mag’s editor, April Whitlow, sat down with Louis last year at the canal-side cafe Inspiral Lounge in Camden Town, London. It was too good a chat to keep buried in the hard-drive so here it is for all you awesome Shoviters to read with a few updates for this year. We talked about slalom, competitions, world travels and being a student artist. Scroll on and enjoy!
SIM: When did you start skating and why?
Louis: Um, when did I start skating? Um…
SIM: What got you into skating, basically?
Louis: Well, I got my first skateboard when I was I guess around 10, no, maybe not, maybe 8 or 9 or something like that. So …no the real beginning was when I had my first go on a skateboard when I was about 7 or 8. One of my friends had got one and so I was hanging out with him and tried it out in the street and obviously I loved it straight away. I don’t think I got one until a year or two later and we finished school and sort of went our separate ways and he gave me his old skateboard so it was like a gift from him. Then I didn’t really get serious with it for a few years and then I picked it up again when I was 13 or 14 and got hooked.
SIM: You recently competed in a few European titles for Slalom, which were those?
Louis: What did I get? I guess 2011 The UKSSA set up a UK Slalom Cup so throughout the year it led up to a final prize at the end of the year. So over the course of the year I did quite well in the competitions and ended up with a first place UK cup title. I think that was the first year we’ve done that really. That’s probably my best result really.
SIM: Did you have any memorable moments in the competitions? Anything really strange or really cool?
Louis: Uhhh…that’s going to be difficult…I guess competitions, they’re always crazy, just, sometimes there’s places where you just end up racing someone and you get the exact same time, down to the hundredth of a second or you end up racing the same person three days in a row. I had competitions where that happened to me. In 2010, maybe, World Championship, I raced Joe McClaren and I raced him in both races: tight and hybrid. it was a bit of a trip getting to race the world champ once let alone twice. It’s slalom though, there’s not really any massively crazy events ha ha. We get excited by things like close head to head racing which probably seems geeky to the current wave of freeriders.
SIM: Recently we talked about you travelling. Have you travelled recently for skating and where did you go?
Louis: Well pretty much every year since I started slalom I’ve done international competitions, so I travel a lot for skating. I haven’t done as much travelling as last year, but in 2007 I did my first international competition in Grenoble with the UK slalom guys. They all took me over and sort of showed me how it was done. I probably got, like, last place, you know 29th out of 30 people or something, ha ha. And then the following year I bought an inter-rail ticket for Europe so I just did a Euro-tour on my own on the train. I took a small bag and one skateboard and just went to all the competitions, like, that was pretty cool.
SIM: Where did you go on your Euro-tour?
Louis: I started in Sweden, in Gothenburg, for the world championships where I did pretty badly. It was my second or third big competition so I couldn’t expect to do that well. And then I went to Denmark just for fun. I went to a skatepark there and just hung out for a couple of days. I went to Germany. I went to the Pavel factory and just met up with those guys. I went on a terrible drinking binge with Dominik Kowalski and Ramon Königshausen. It’s really hard to piece together…mostly probably because of the drinking…it’s hard to piece together the exact route I took. But I ended up in Germany, and then the Czech Republic for the Polička Race, which was…it’s…you have to go to it basically, for slalom it’s one of those ones that you have to go to. It’s one of those races that has been going on forever. I met some skaters there who took me back to Prague and put me up for a few days and showed me around rock ‘n’ roll skateboard distribution which was rad. And then back through Germany for the Pavel/G.O.G Rhine Race where the drinking I alluded to happened, then the next day onto Amsterdam, traveling with the worst hangover ever, for the European championships. I got a third place in the amateurs, but probably not deservedly heh. I can’t remember exactly what happened but there was some mess-up in the timing equipment or maybe someone fell…I can’t remember exactly how it happened but I ended up in 3rd which probably should have gone to someone else. But I can still claim it, yeah?
SIM: What was one of the craziest times on that trip? Like, sometime when you got lost or something happened? …Or the hotel story *wink wink*
Louis: Did I tell you something before? [pause]…That’s embarrassing ha ha! Um, yeah, so basically during a trip you have limited money, so by the time I got to Berlin, which was probably ¾ of the way through the trip…
SIM: You had a ways to go!
Louis: Heh, yeah… Well I ran out of money. Not fully ran out of money but my funds were LIMITED, ha ha. So I ended up trying to find the cheapest hostel or hotel that I could which turned out to be right next to the station…that’s normally a bad sign…because it normally means that it serves a certain kind of customer who pay by the hour so I ended up staying there and they ended up putting me up in a quite decent room which was almost separate from the main hotel so possibly it was a room that they don’t usually rent out. So, pretty dodgy place but it got me through…. I didn’t have enough money for any extra services…
SIM: So what do you do aside from skateboarding?
Louis: Um, think about Skating!
SIM: Good answer.
Louis: Um, I don’t know try, and make some money to do more skating. I’ve been doing art-technician work which is basically a fancy way of saying ‘building’…or…um…handyman. We do some work helping to install art exhibitions or I’ve done some work at metal work fabricating places building furniture and helping to make artwork for big-name artists and that kind of thing.
SIM: Helping to make art for artists, that’s interesting.
Louis: Yeah it is interesting, I love Art, that’s what I studied.
SIM: Where did you get your degree?
Louis: Goldsmiths University, London.
SIM: What subject?
Louis: Fine art. The course was called Art Practice, but it’s a fine art degree.
SIM: 2D, 3D or anything?
Louis: Well Goldsmiths is very free. You can take your work in any direction, you don’t have to specialize particularly, but I ended up doing sculpture. I did a bit of video but mostly sculpture.
SIM: Do you still have any of those pieces around?
Louis: Ha ha, no! I’m probably like most art students who…well unless you’re a painter, a lot of your work ends up in the bin or being re-used by other students and turned into something else! Yeah I butchered quite a lot of my work and re-used the bits to make new work. It’s very difficult to justify storing you’re university sculpture long term so I had to unfortunately discard most of it.
SIM: Back to skating, what’s been your worst ever injury?
Louis: Well, rather embarrassingly it was a sprained ankle. That’s it, ha ha! It’s a really bad one. So at Bo Peep Crash and Burn. For people who don’t know it it’s like a UK downhill race, so it’s not my usual slalom but it’s a UK downhill race which is on a really gnarly, really narrow road. The name of the race is ‘Crash and Burn’ and that’s exactly what I did in my second go down the hill.
SIM: When was that?
Louis: About two years ago, but it’s still bad now. It’s one of those that’s probably going to be with me for a long time.
SIM: What do you like most about slalom?
Louis: I don’t know it’s really hard to explain because I’m not normally a competitive person but there’s an element in slalom where when I’m racing suddenly I get into the competitive spirit and it’s exciting. Head to head racing is my favourite part of slalom. That’s when you have the cones in two parallel courses. If you’re up against someone who is of very similar ability to you it becomes really fun. You go through the course and one person will be pulling away from the other person and you might catch up again and then it’s sort of back and forth through the course. It’s hard to explain but anyone whose done a competition will understand.
SIM: Do you have any advice for someone who would like to get into slalom? It’s such a different variation of skating to a lot of the rest.
Louis: um… ha ha… just give it a go I guess.
SIM: ha ha
Louis: And don’t feel like you have to buy £600 skateboards or whatever.
SIM: Is that what yours costs?
Louis: Yeah, my setup once you start adding up might be close to that amount. [mentally calculates] Yeah maybe not quite that much but well over £500. It doesn’t necessarily make you faster having more expensive equipment. I started racing on Bennett and Tracker trucks on a second hand deck and did just fine.
SIM: Do you have a favourite deck out of your quiver?
Louis: I’d have to say my own obviously.
SIM: Which is?
Louis: The Pavel twin terror. Me and Bruno (Oliviera), have a shared pro-model board that we had a hand in designing. I couldn’t be happier with the board to be honest even though I’m saying it about our own pro-model board, sorry it sounds like I have to, but I’m honestly so happy with it.
SIM: What makes it different?
Louis: It’s an unusual board. You have a sort of spoon-shaped concave in the nose and in the tail which really, really locks your feet into the board and the width of the board works really well for me. It gives you a lot of leverage over your trucks. It’s also got a very slight amount of stiff camber just in the centre which makes it feel very alive. I like riding normal plain wooden slalom decks as well but there’s something different about hand-made carbon, fibre-glass and foam-core boards. They feel alive when you’re riding them. You’re not just steering a plank, there’s feedback from the board as well, you feel everything from the wheels, trucks and road…it’s hard to explain but…you get it, yeah.
SIM: How about wheels, any favourites there?
Louis: Uh, well, Cult wheels…I say that honestly. I was racing on them before they sponsored me, I’d only ride for a company’s whose product I respect.
SIM: Amongst the whole Cult series then, do you have any top picks?
Louis: Well my absolute go-to set-up for the wheels would be the Traction Beam on the back and Zillas on the front or if the surface is really grippy it would be Zillas at the back and Dominators at the front. So these are my two kind of go-to set-ups, but I’ve tried some of the new wheels out as well and I’m experimenting a bit.
SIM: Who are your other sponsors and what makes you stick with them?
Louis: Well I’ve got Octane Sport who, well it’s run by Mike Stride as I’m sure a lot of people will know and since I’ve started slalom he’s been helping me out anyway you know ‘mates rates’ and all that kind of thing so even before it was a sponsorship as such he’s been massively helpful, and not just with equipment and actually having something for me to ride but also giving me pointers and tips and everything. Yeah it just seemed like a really natural choice for me to ride for his team and for him to put me on the team. Who else have I had? I’ve also got Pistache Clothing. They’re like a hand-printed fair-trade-friendly t-shirt company and they’ve been around for a long time. They’re mostly involved in the hip-hop world. That’s actually how I first heard about them. I was really into British Hip-Hop and they sponsored quite a lot of British Hip-Hop artists and I ended up getting in contact with them and they hooked me up and have been hooking me up with clothes since about 2008. Really nice guys, they’ve sponsored surfers as well so they’re really involved in the sort of underground sports and music. It makes sense for slalom; it’s such an underground scene as well.
SIM: How did last year go for skate events?
Louis: So I didn’t make it to the World’s but I did hit up Slovenia for the freeride which was indescribably awesome. And of course the UKSSA hosted the euros at Hog Hill which went great, we had some minor issues and weather problems but that’s par for the course with races…sadly I didn’t really do the UK proud haha, but I didn’t do too bad and it’s always great to party with old and new friends after the racing is over! Not sure everyone was too impressed with the British ale but I loved it and did my part to help empty the barrels Glastonbury Ales supplied!
SIM: Do you have any plans to visit Bruno in Brazil?
Louis: I will definitely, probably not this year mostly because he won’t be able to skate. But yeah definitely I’ll have to go.
SIM: Yeah he’s kept going on about all the good spots over there!
Louis: Exactly, I’ll have to go skate with him and, well, drink lots of Cachaça and eat lots of good food.
SIM: What is Cachaça?
Louis: It’s kind of a Brazilian rum, but yeah we’ve drunk a lot of it together over the years and I’ve been awfully drunk on that many times.
SIM: I’m pretty sure he brought some to Hoghill and his then-girlfriend kept pouring more of it into tiny tea-cups which was really misleading of how much we were actually drinking! I just remember waking up in the morning, looking up at this beautiful scenery of farmland…and then IMMEDIATELY throwing up.
Louis: It does have that effect! I think one of the worst times that I’ve ever been drunk was drinking that with Bruno in NASS extreme sports festival. It’s like a skateboarding, BMX, extreme sports festival and we did a slalom race. Bruno brought some of this Cachaça and I ended up drinking it pretty much like water when we went out to one of the gigs at the festival! I’ve never been so horrifically drunk in my life and then the next day was a race and I was hungover obviously. I woke up half in half out my tent, having missed race practice. Mike Stride paid for me to have a ride in a Bowler Wildcat, it’s a super-powerful Dakar rally style car. They sort of just carried me into this thing half-unconscious just completely off my face. It just took me round this off-road track. I didn’t throw up thankfully and then after that I went off and raced.
SIM: How did that end up?
Louis: I think I did quite well… but I can’t remember…
SIM: Fair enough, ha ha.
Louis: actually I think I took first! My best race results always seem to follow a night of excessive drinking… I should probably be concerned by that…
SIM: Oh!? Good then! For one second, I want to ask you about travelling again, what’s the one place you really want to go to?
Louis: For skateboarding?
Louis: It’s difficult, I’d really want to go to skate in America… just one place, that’s difficult… possibly Switzerland because a lot of amazing videos have come out of Switzerland. I’ve skated there once but only for slalom so I got to see the amazing landscape and the beautiful roads but I didn’t actually skate them I just got to skate just one road for slalom so you know it’s kind of slightly torturous to go to somewhere like that and just seeing the amazing potential and then not get to ride them. It’s another place I’d have to go back to. In slalom it doesn’t really matter, you could just go anywhere there’s a hill.
SIM: I’ll just ask one more to finish this off. What’s one random fact about yourself that not that many people would know?
Louis: Jesus, I don’t think I’m interesting enough to have one of those. I’d really like to be able to come up with some amazingly crazy shit and everyone’s going to go, like, ‘WOWWW!!! What the fuck!?’ But actually I’m really boring.
SIM: Judging from the interview we’ve just had we know that’s not true, ha ha. Thanks for your time Louis!
Louis: No problem, any time.
Words by: April Whitlow, Photo by: Olly Sail
Inspiral Lounge- http://www.inspiral.co/
Cult Wheels- http://www.skatecultwheels.com/
FTC – This is not a sponsored post
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