Skating Paris and London With Kyron Davis and Casper Brooker
We headed to République and Baysixty6 to speak to two of the most exciting young skateboarders to come out of Britain in recent years.
Pictures provided by Nike
"Gang?" Kyron Davis, one of Nike's UK skaters, asks me, offering out his fist. I bump mine into his. "Err... Gang?" I reply. "Gang!" he repeats with a smile, as he proceeds to bump everyone in our group of thirty's fists. "Gang! Gang! Gang!"
I've tagged along with the European Nike SB guys as they spend the weekend skating in Paris and London to mark the anniversary of the Nike Dunk. As we get off the Eurostar and hop into a cab, we head to legendary Parisian skate hangout, République. It's a large roundabout that has been a part of the Parisian skate scene for as long as anyone can remember.
Seeing as I'm now officially in the gang, I ask Kyron why he seems to have only brought a Tesco bag for life with him on a trip abroad. "Everything I need is right here in this Tesco bag," he says with a grin. "I've got a pair of red jeans and a sandwich. It's my bag for life!"
Kyron is the talismanic figure that every skate crew needs: he's excitable, friendly, hilarious, and always up for skating. On top of this, he's also one of the most exciting street skaters in the UK at the moment. Having honed his skills at various London parks and spots over the years, he's recently caught the eye of the icon Eric Koston, and was invited to join his new board brand Numbers.
As we've ventured over to Paris, I ask him about other skate trips he's been on. "I went to Brazil not too long ago, and it was a world I couldn't even comprehend. I'd seen it in pictures and stuff, but to actually be there skating in beautiful weather with the vibe of the people, it was totally breathtaking."
Getting into skateboarding was pretty unavoidable for Kyron, as his dad worked at London skate park Baysixty6. "Every time he would go to work and leave his board at the house, I would go outside and skate on it. One day he asked if I wanted to come with him because he could see I could actually roll around. I'd done other sports like football, but skateboarding was the only thing that made me feel different. It gave me a thrill that I never had before, it was like a natural high."
By growing up with skateboarding in the family, Kyron got to meet and skate with many of his favourite skateboarders from a young age. "My favourites growing up were Jim Shimizu and Lucian Clarke, and they were always nice to me as a kid. I remember seeing them skate and going to video premieres and being like 'OH MY GOD, they're right there!' I was lucky I got to hang out with them a lot. Other favourites growing up... well obviously Eric Koston, and I actually know him now, he's become a mate. I ride for a company he's started up called Numbers, that him and Guy Mariano have started up."
Being asked by skateboarding royalty like Eric Koston to join his new company must have been bizarre. "Yeah it's kinda strange, because when I meet him I don't really think too much about his influence. It doesn't hit me until after I've finished talking to him. While I'm in the moment meeting them they're just normal people who skateboard. Afterwards, that's when I get a little bit starstruck."
After a day of skating, playing basketball and drinking in Paris, we board the early Eurostar back to London and head to the aforementioned Baysixty6. It's a brisk winter's day in the capital, with the sun shining onto the iconic skate park located under a bridge in West London. The hungover vibe hanging in the air soon disappears as the session starts.
Another of the young Londoners in Nike's ranks currently is Casper Brooker. Having skated for most of his life, he's become one of brightest skaters to come out of the South Bank scene, and has positioned himself as one of the most versatile street skaters in the UK. As we take a seat outside the park, he tells me his journey to becoming an accomplished skateboarder has been fairly straightforward so far.
"I guess I was like eight or nine when I picked up a board, and I got obsessed straight away. There was an indoor park that I went to all the time, then I started going to South Bank and hung with the people there. Then I met some people and ended up getting sponsored, and it was a nice and natural progression."
Like many British skateboarders, Casper's influences growing up were a mixture of both UK and American skaters. "One of the first videos I watched was the Blueprint video Lost & Found, but then I met some people and they showed me some American videos, then my biggest influences became Greco, Ellington, Reynolds, Rowley, and Ali Boulala of course. I remember I stole a pair of my mum's jeans once because they were similar to a pair he wore. She wasn't stoked."
Though these guys are only young, the life of a sponsored skater means being welcomed into an amazing world of travelling and experiencing a way of life that not many others get to enjoy. I ask him if he can pinpoint a particular highlight in skateboarding so far.
"It's hard to pinpoint one. Travelling is obviously so good, but also just being at South Bank or Gillet Square when it's sunny and everyone's there having a nice skate and having beers. It's all wicked really, there's not really any downside to this. Though I guess there's been a few injuries here and there, but nothing too serious, just a few rolled injuries and my wrist has got a bit of crunch to it."
"I went to Palestine recently, that was amazing. I had a very loose idea of what was going on there politically. So by being there I learned something new every day, and seeing how mental it all is, and how much the media cover it up. It's really horrible and dark. But it's a great place, the people are so nice and I'm so happy to have gone there."
As we walk back into the park, a group of children who can't be much older than seven run up to a smiling Kyron Davis, who's taking it in terms to high five each of them. As he skates off, the stoked kids walk off with grins on their faces to watch Casper attempt to back-smith a raised curved ledge in the middle of the park.
By just doing what they love doing, Casper and Kyron have unwittingly become role models to the next generation of British skateboarders, and with their positive energy and general outlook on life, they're not a bad couple of role models to have. Gang?