Si Napper

Here’s an interview with London skateboarder Simon Napper from 1977 Skateboard magazine

1977 has thrown up a multitude of promising  UK skateboard stars. Some have shown   tremendous footwork skill, a few have   displayed brilliant bowl-busting technique   and others have ‘gone for it’ so hard you’ve   wondered if they really are totally fearless.

One rider straddling all three camps is   Simon Napper. Nobody goes for it like Simon.   He’s 16 years old, hails from Chelsea in   London and he represents almost every rider’s   idea of the complete skateboarding machine.   Renowned for his legendary reserves of guts,   his mastery over Skate City’s Black Bowl has   to be seen to be believed.

Lately, rumours   have been heard regarding his physical   condition. Could his recurrent knee problem   force him to cool off for a while – even   permanently? ‘Skate- board!’ magazine’s Steve   Kane asks the questions.


Si Napper. Photo by Robert Vente
Si Napper. Photo by Robert Vente

Simon, how long have you been skating?


Just over a year now. . . I started around   November ’76.


What kind of board did you learn on and where   did you use it?


Originally I had a home-made board with Tiger   Trak wheels and X-Calibers. To begin with I   used the South Bank, Primrose Hill and   Wandsworth roundabout. Then Skate City came   along.


What do you think of the South Bank? It was a good place, but then it got really   boring – it almost made me stop skating. It’s   really limiting.


How about Skate City. . . didn’t you have   something to do with its design?


No, not really. I had a little to do with it,   but not directly.. I think it’s great – a   good place. What I mean is the Black Bowl is   great. . . I wouldn’t bother with the rest of   it. The Black Bowl’s original and very nice   to skate. To start with it’s radical —   plenty of vertical. It’s just a good shaped   bowl. Funnily enough it wasn’t‘ actually designed   like that originally. That’s just how it   turned out.


You mean it was a happy‘ accident?


Yea. . . l thought the original design was   terrible. And I wish the whole place could he   1. organised better. . . it needs more   atmosphere.


What mistakes have they made that you think   other * park builders might learn from? There’s only a select few who can ride the   Black Bowl and , lots of the others can only   just ride the Red Bowl. And there’s about   5,000 people who can’t ride any bowl, so   they’re just left with the flatland. There’s   not many people who’ll want to pay the money   just to ride flatlend. . . they’ll go to the   South Bank.


Skateboarding-wise, where do you think the   future lies now?


America. . . I’m going in March. They’re not   all that far in front of us. They’re ahead in   freestyle, but in bowl riding, they don’t   seem to be doing much more than we are. Who would you most like to meet? Tony Alva. . . full stop. Why? Well, Tony’s into this really radical stance   — a go-for-it stance. And he’s into bowls and   pipes which is where my main interest lies.   I’d just like to see him skate. . – it looks   like he’s really hot. Of course he is   commercial, but I’d say less than most of the   others.


What do you think of the image of American   skating. ls it good as it is, or do you think   it’s too commercial? It’s good as it is. . . it certainly works   okay?


What about over here? Right now there’s many people in   skateboarding who’ve just jumped on the   bandwagon. They’re not in it seriously. l   mean, yea, they’re making perks, but they’re   cutting corners and costs. Obviously they’re   trying to make their money back as quick as   possible. If they go on making really bad parks, ‘people are   going to lose interest.


Are there any parks over here that you’ve   really enjoyed – apart from Skate City, which   we’ve already discussed?


I’ve been to Thruxton and Newbury and enjoyed   both. Thruxton was the only one with   verticals, but I thought the other was quite   fun as well.


What do you think of the media coverage   skateboarding’s been getting? There’s lots of   people been saying it’s dangerous. . .would   you say that was fair? That’s a hard question to answer. I mean   there’s always ‘old women’ around. if the   kids weren’t into skate- boarding you’d still   get people complaining about something. What’s your opinion on safety gear?


Well, I don’t like wearing it and if I had a   choice, I wouldn’t wear it. But I think it   should be compulsory. it gets difficult if   you start saying when you should and   shouldn’t wear it, so in skateparks anyway it   should be worn all the time.


Do you think it’s just a matter of allowing   for bad judgement? When you first start, there’s no doubt that   everyone should wear safety equipment. As you   get better, l don’t think maybe you need it   so much. But then, common sense tells you if   you’re going for a hard trick, then you   should put it on. As I say, I suppose it’s   best really to wear it all the time.


Do you think skating on the streets should be   banned? No, it’s really fun skating on the streets.   There’s no need to ban it. Sometimes l prefer   skating in the streets to skating in parks.


What sort of thing do you like to do in the   streets? Sometimes l slalom in and out of people. . .   King’s Road is pretty good for that, or on   the bridge to the South Bank. When it’s busy   you’ve got to use your judgement when you’re   overtaking. I find I often have to lurk   behind people. . . and then shoot through the   gap.


Obviously what you’re saying is   controversial. Have you ever been stopped by   the police? No, I’ve never had any problems. I’ve had   them asking questions when they’ve been   looking for a stolen skateboard, but they’ve   always been nice about it. ln fact one of   them even had a go on mine.



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