Tuesday 7 July 2015

The Nic Powley Interview

Nic Powley. Photo Mark Heaton
Hey Nic just to get a little background you’re the Vans UK TM and proud owner of Skate Pharmacy how is it juggling the two?
Ummm it’s not too bad, I’d say juggling home and family life with a new business that requires a lot of my time probably causes me more stress. I pretty much work 7 days a week so some days I’ll be doing whatever Vans stuff I have to deal with the rest of the time it’s Skate Pharmacy business. It kind of blends into one most of the time, I just have a long list of jobs and I work through it. 5 days a week in my office and 2 days in the actual shop. I much prefer my shop days because that feels more ‘real’ to me.

So Skate Pharmacy is relatively new, was opening a shop a long term goal of yours?
No absolutely not, I never even wanted to work in skateboarding at all. For me skateboarding was always about having a laugh with my mates, it was a hobby.  A lot changes when it becomes your job and you can never go back, I guess I knew it would be a bit like that so I avoided it for as long as I could but eventually I fell into it at around 30 after skating for 15 years at that point.

Saying that I’ve worked in skating now for about 13 years or so, on the whole it’s been a pretty amazing time, I’ve had a lot of opportunities and I’ve done a lot more with my life than I would have predicted. Most of the people I deal with I’ve know for 15-20 years so it’s kind of easy to get stuff done on a semi formal basis like if I’m doing something with Sidewalk it’s just a call to Ben, CJ or Horse to talk some shit and it’s all sorted. You don’t really have to deal with the dickheads in the real world that much which is pretty nice.

I was 42 when I opened the shop so I’d left it pretty late but it was a natural progression and I felt like I was ready for it, to do something for myself.

Running a shop is definitely one of skateboardings hardest ventures, what do you think the secret to a successful skate shop is?
I wouldn’t be the guy to ask that, we haven’t been round long enough to be classed as successful yet! Maybe come back to me in 5-10 years time if the doors are still open and I’ll be qualified to answer. If you want a guess I’d say it’s just down to being passionate and committed balanced with knowing your stuff and not being afraid to work hard, really hard. I try not to pay attention to what anyone else is doing, just do things how I feel they should be done, hopefully that’s an approach that will come to fruition at some point, or not.

Traditionally shop teams are quite local based however your riders are quite spread, how did you go about picking the roster?
I knew I wanted to set the standard to get on the team quite high, so it actually meant something to ride for the shop. Obviously I’ve been running events and doing the Vans stuff for years so I know people all over the place, I just wanted people that I got on with and were cool guys and mostly that were down for what we’re doing. I’ve known Ross McGouran for close to 15 years I think, we were just talking and I mentioned the shop and he was down to ride for us before we even opened. I think next on was Cates, he said he liked the hoodie I was wearing and I said he could have it if he rode for the shop so he said yeah because there’s no way he’s paying for anything ever, plus he just moved here too so it makes sense. Carl ‘Potter’ Wilson rides for us too and he’s looking for a house down this way too, so in a way we’ve imported our team! I didn’t know Charlie Munro too well at all but I was a fan of his skating so I just messaged him on FB and he was keen. I remember Kris Vile got in touch and asked to ride for the shop, obviously he’s one of the best guys around so I was really stoked on that one, it made sense too as we’d spent a lot of time together through Vans anyway. After that the other guys got asked or expressed an interest, there was no master plan to it, we ended up with a better team than anyone could hope for. 

So yeah getting back to the question the team just came together really but despite the fact everyone’s all over the place they’re all down here a lot filming for our first video, filming in the Surgery, events etc plus I see them out and about all the time so it’s not like they’re disconnected from the shop by not living round here. It’s worked out well, we have a good crew, we all get on well and they are all really supportive of the shop and proud to be a part of it. We support a handful of local guys too on the flow team and nothing would make me happier than to add some homegrown talent to the full team and for them to end up getting properly hooked up and turning pro one day.

James Bush, Back Heel (in the surgery). Photo Ben Wilks
So we’ve recently seen little snippets of ‘The Surgery’ can you tell us a bit more about what it is?
Our landlord sort of came up with the idea in a way, he had a space behind our unit that was hard to access because of the way the rest of the building is divided so he offered us a good price to use it for a ‘skatepark’.  It wasn’t big enough for that anyway and that wasn’t something I really need to be getting into, there’s already a perfectly good local indoor park. But it got me thinking it could be really useful and a fun thing to have, I spoke to Alexis at Vans and he was down to help us out with it, they’ve been really cool about the whole thing. So the idea is just to build bits as we go along, skate them, film, change them, build new stuff. We’re going to use it for film premieres and we used it for Go Skateboarding day so all the locals got to skate. It’s just a space to use for whatever comes along really, we’ve got no fixed plans. We’d like to get some teams/brands in to build their own bits and make their own edits etc too. If anyone’s got an idea for something they want to do in there they’re more than welcome to get in touch, it’s there to be used. I guess you’ll see it as it develops, we have a few clips backed up already.

Being in the skate industry for so long you’ve developed a good relationship with both Sidewalk and Kingpin magazine did it come as a surprise when they announced that they were becoming an online outlet?
Yes and no. I posted what I had to say about that on Facebook really, I felt sad, it seemed as though Sidewalk was a form of ‘quality control’ on UK skateboarding rather than kids watching any old shit on YouTube and thinking it was the business. Do you know what I mean?  Like if  someone had a cover of Sidewalk you know they’re a ripper. I don’t know, I’m just old, I realise times change and things move on but I don’t think the death of print mags will do anything hugely positive for skateboarding. I’m stoked that all the Sidewalk guys kept their jobs and that Will and Sam went straight out and started Free, I wish them the best of luck. So yeah hopefully it’s not all bad but a sad day nonetheless.

In the credits of Vans propeller a few Vans UK names were mentioned, it would have been insane to have seen them with a clip or two in the video. Do you think the gap between the US and British scene will ever shorten?
If your talking about on an ability level I think it’s already really short. When I was young we were learning tricks off imported VHS tapes that were probably already 6 months old, now you can see what Daewon did on Insta the day he learned it, stuff like that’s done a lot to change the whole face of skateboarding and also push the standards really high worldwide. I think British skateboarders are highly regarded, maybe more so than ever before. I mean we’ve really done a pretty good job with exports in the past but it does seem to be that more UK guys are getting recognised by the US now. I don’t think the talent level is significantly higher in the States these days, just the industry is there, guys can earn a living and get better support out there, obviously the weather is better in a lot of places but mainly its just down to numbers, there’s more people skating so obviously there’s going to be more amazing skaters coming out of that particular country. I think head for head we more than hold our own. It’s traditional for British people to knock themselves, it’s part of our culture but really we have the sickest skate scene, plus we know how to take the piss out of each other way better than any other country.

Specifically going back to Propeller, it seemed like there was an effort to keep it ‘tight’, it was the US pro team and a few clips from the legends guys and that was it. If you’d put in clips of UK guys you would have had to put in clips from guys from every country and it would have got so diluted. Yeah it would have been good to see some UK guys in there (other than just Rowley of course) but it made perfect sense for them not to be in from Vans point of view. I was expecting it to maybe have some ‘skits’ and stuff like that, I think it’s rad they just put out a pure skate video, they could have tried to do something way more commercial and it probably would have sucked!

Kris Vile ollieing up and over. Photo Ben Wilks
What are you most excited about in skateboarding right now?
I think skateboarding is in an amazing place in terms of how diverse it is these days, like literally anything goes trick wise and terrain wise. Having skated through the 90’s when you had to dress and skate a certain way or you weren’t cool or whatever it’s been good to see personality and quirkiness come back into it (and I don’t just mean doing a no-comply and wearing some jazzy socks!). I like that skateboarding is more creative again rather than just kickflipping down the biggest stairs you can find, I wasn’t really into that phase of skateboarding, it got boring really quickly. Also I’m stoked on the rise of girls skateboarding, they have a rad scene and the standard is getting ridiculous.

Going back to Insta me and Ben Powell were talking the other day about how rad it is that kids can converse with their favourite pros so easily via Insta or Twitter etc these days, that’s pretty insane, especially the guys that a super active on there. How stoked kids are when some pro likes their pic or comments on their clip will keep them hyped on skating for days or weeks. It’s so sick when you think about it from a kids point of view, makes the world such a smaller place and all these guys so much more accessible and real.

But by far the best thing about skateboarding for me today is the same as when I started - no one gives a fuck. I think that the best thing we have is that skaters on the whole don’t care about race, age, religion, sexual orientation etc, basically if you skate we’re already friends before we even meet, everywhere I’ve been lucky enough to go through skateboarding this has been the case.  That is pretty unique really and something I’m proud to be a part of, it’s an open welcoming worldwide family and I hope that it never gets so big and corporate that that dies. Excuse me while I wipe this sentimental tear from my cheek after such an emotional outburst!

Cheers Nic, seems like a good place to leave, any last words?
No infinite wisdom springs to mind really, just thanks to everyone that’s supported Skate Pharmacy in some shape or form, it means a lot. Thanks to Vans for their help with the Surgery of course.

To everyone reading this thanks for your time and I hope skateboarding is as kind to you as it has been to me.

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