Contribution and words by: Rob Dubber
The year is ’96, I’m 17 years old and I’m a rollerblader!
I’d been skating for 4 or 5 years by the time the 96 British champs came round and I’d already skated the 2005 Radlands Jam in Northampton and placed 3rd in Open Street. For the ’96 British Champs I was stepping up and entering Expert Street.
The ‘96 British Champs were held at Rehab Skate Park in Wakefield. I’d seen the park in the magazines and heard testimonies from friends who’d been so it was clear the place was Rad. I was stoked to finally be going and getting to skate the best park in the UK.
The skate park scene in 1996 was totally different to what it is today. The Sony Playstation Park in London was still 2 years away from being built and there were certainly no council skate parks like there are today.
My skate grounds in those days were the streets of London and the concrete of Southsea skate park. I lived and breathed Parliament Square and the Southbank undercroft. Weekends were spent travelling to Southsea and I was there for the infamous weekly Sunday sessions. But Rehab was where it was at… it was THE UK rollerblading Mecca.
In ‘96 I was entrenched in the British rollerblading scene and I knew all the main players skating at the competition. John Goodfellow was a Southsea local and, in my view, the best skater in the country and of course I knew Ben and Dean Jagger. Everyone did in the late ’90’s.
My crew was my brother from another mother Chris Keward and the soon to be established Roadrunner team; Nick Lynch, Ray Whybro, Ant Mackie, Simeon Hartwig, Filipe Hawkins and the Webster Brothers. I also skated with Lewis Neil and Jenny Logue. Jenny won the Womens ’96 British Champs and deservedly so. She was gnarley! I’ll never forget 2 or 3 years later driving past a giant billboard advertising an energy drink and there was Jenny, 10 foot high, airing over a giant fizzy drinks bottle!
In ’96 though, my man was Adam Fryatt. The original back flipper. Skate film maker. And menace to society.
I used to stay with Adam in Southsea pretty much every weekend and following the British Championships we would travel the country skating and filming for the Dirty Magic Video Magazine series. Fast forward 10 years and I bumped into Adam in Queenstown, New Zealand. He still had that sparkle in his eye and a crazy night of hip-hop, rum and Dunedin weed ensued.
We were all there at Rehab on the day of the ’96 Championships, pushing boundaries and hyping each other up. Despite it being a competition there was no competitiveness. Everyone was amped to be there and to watch each other’s runs.
It’s been 23 years since the competition so my memory is hazy but back then Rehab skate park was set up with a large street section, a smaller street section off to the side, a large bowl and the Vert ramp. In the years following the competition, the park owners built a huge flat bank at one end of the park and built wooden bunks beneath it. I have vivid memories of the whole Roadrunner team getting the National Express Coach to Wakefield and staying for weeks at a time. Skating all day, partying all night and sleeping under the ramps!
As for the actual competition, my overriding memory was it being unbelievably hot. It would have been sensible for us, the competitors, to conserve energy but we all skated solidly from the moment we arrived until it was our turn to compete. At 17 it hardly mattered. I wasn’t short of energy in those days… and no one told me about competition strategy so to hell with that shit!
In the end, I finished fifth overall and was stoked. I finished ahead of the late great Richard Taylor and for sure that was last time I beat him in any competition as he soon went on to become one of the best skaters in the world. Rest in Peace Richard I hope your Bio 540’s are as appreciated where you are now as they were back then!
Peace and Love
Rob Dubber – Soul, Westminster 1996.