Dan Adam’s 5 Favourites From The RaD Archive

My friend Dan Adams is custodian of the incredible Read and Destroy Project. Here he chooses his five favourite pics from this unique treasure trove of UK skateboarding history.

“Matt has asked me to think about my five ‘favourite’ photos from the RaD archive. Wow. Five? Over the last couple of years I’ve been through thousands of photographic images spanning 1979 to 1995. Five? Every time I open a box or file that I’ve already been through I find something else that gets me stoked about skateboarding and that I’ve obviously missed before.

With this rather daunting task in mind here are five of my favourites as chosen today – ask me tomorrow and it will more than likely be something else. However I hope these five go some way to describing the aspects of skate culture that have helped to keep me enthralled for the past 40 years and also encapsulate the spirit of the RaD archive”.

1. Shogo Kubo, Harrow, London, c1979. Photo: Tim Leighton-Boyce

“At the very beginning of the Read and Destroy project, when I started combing through Tim’s entire archive this image spoke to me. Despite knowing Tim for many years and having worked on the mag for a time, I’d never seen this before and here it was, pressing ALL the buttons for me.

As a 13 year old I saw Kubo riding at the (long defunct) Skate Star skatepark in Guildford. Safe to say this chance encounter truly blew my mind. This was the first time I really ‘got’ skateboarding, the first time I saw just how beautiful an expression of physical prowess it can be. The power and grace that I still find totally entrancing when put down by a skater (snowboarder or surfer for that matter) with a real gift was all there. He had this very powerful, low, flowing style – what I can only guess at being what those early surf inspired Californian skaters brought to the table. It was a way of riding we’d read about but not really witnessed first hand. 

Added to all this poetry, Shogo is in the Harrow halfpipe – which is a tough spot to ride – and where I’d spent a great deal of time in the early 80s. After the locals had re-opened the park we would trek up there to ride with with the self proclaimed ‘Harrow Boyz’, an absolute bunch of rippers and solid guys to boot. And then there’s the L.S.D marker pen graff!”

2. Steve Caballero and Mike McGill, Crystal Palace ramp, London, 1982. Photo: Tim Leighton-Boyce

“Although shot in 1982, Tim ran this image in BMX Action Bike right before it morphed into RaD. It was used in an article decrying the destruction of the Crystal Palace vert ramp in December 1986. Tim wanted to emphasise what an important spot the ramp had been during the years when skateboarding had contracted, hidden away and evolved into something altogether MORE radical.

Like the Shogo image this one was very personal for me. I had helped to build this ramp and later maintained it to ensure its survival. Pretty much everyone I knew in skateboarding (which was pretty much everyone in UK skateboarding at the time) is sitting in the crowd. ALL of us had our minds well and truly blown by this ‘demo’. Cab and McGill had stopped off in Scotland on a return trip to the US from the Swedish skateboard summer camp. They were staying with Dee and Iain Urquhart and had been brought to London to skate one of the very few (maybe only), vertical, flat-bottomed half-pipes in the UK at the time (Iain was an architect and the brains behind Livingston skatepark).

Nobody there that night could really believe what they were seeing and it provided a huge impetus for how the UK scene developed over the next few years. It was exactly what everyone needed to validate their obsession”.

3. John Embury, Southbank, London, c1985. Photo: Tony ‘Dobie’ Campbell

“I think this is so strong and an image I keep coming back to. Again, ticking a lot of boxes for me. John and Dobie were both friends and part of the early 1980s London scene. Dobie was an insanely good slalom racer who had turned his hand quickly and ably to skate photography (aided and abetted by TLB). Having Dobie around at a skate session was like having another good skater there. He pushed people, took the piss, created a vibe. Unlike Tim, who at that time preferred to observe quietly and shoot, Dobie would set up lights, request tricks and call the shots. I think Dobie was ahead of the curve here. This kind of ’stage managed’ shot was something that became more prevalent with photographers of the mid 90s onwards.

Dobie worked alongside Tim at BMX Action Bike and was instrumental in helping to include skateboarding in that mag and push towards the inception of RaD.

John was a Southbank fixture, a heavy bank and street rider who always brought a lot of flair and attitude to the session. He rode for Brand-X for a while and this image ran as an ad for them. Sadly he’s no-longer with us and I’m glad we have an image as strong as this to remember him by”.

4. Joe Millson’s ramp, c1989. Photo: Tim Leighton-Boyce

“For me one of the abiding attitudes of skateboarding has always been making shit happen. When interviewed for the book project, RaD photographer and Slam City Skates founder Paul Sunman expressed “…everybody (in the scene) had that attitude of: nobody else is going to do it for us, we have to build our own ramp, we have to design our own ‘zine, we have to open our own shop, take our own photographs…”. He’s right and this is what made it so attractive as a culture for me – although this only became apparent as the scene evolved around us and we evolved with it.

In the 80s, building a ramp was the key to creating this magical alternative universe. A crusty ramp is perhaps even more of a hardcore achievement than a perfect vert or mini ramp – they’re an edgier, harder ride and more dangerous as a consequence. Look at this thing – it’s all heart – so much commitment, so many odds to overcome”.

5. Goshen snake session, c1991. Photo: Tim Leighton-Boyce

“My own, deeper love of skateboarding developed during the wooden ramp era. Today as a less able rider and now more often spectator, I still get a visceral high from a full blown heavy skate and snake session on a ramp or bowl. The energy is unbeatable. This photo, found in a pile of un-filed random black and white prints encapsulates that energy perfectly. Just look at the expression on Curtis McCanns face – totally in the zone and feeling the stoke. Next to Curtis and equally focussed is Mike Manzoori, two of my personal favourite skaters”.