When Geoff Rowley came to skate culture consciousness in the early 1990s he was a byword for gnarly. He went bigger than everybody. He went harder than everybody.
When Geoff Rowley came to skate culture consciousness in the early 1990s he was a byword for gnarly. He went bigger than everybody. He went harder than everybody. The whole package came with that trademark scouse accent, the ragged dental rack and wispy moustache and an attitude that encompassed the street skate aesthetic of the time.
Geoff Rowley touched down recently in London and we caught up with him at the House of Vans in Waterloo – a place close to the city’s talismanic South Bank street spot. The House of Vans is a distinct part of the skating infrastructure of what can still be a sketchy city to skate. It’s a nurturing environment where kids can be introduced to the world of power floated concrete with a roof over their heads and a security guard at the door. It’s free of charge,and, contrary to what you may expect, it’s impossible to even buy a T-shirt there.
This is the Vans brand’s point of outreach – and it’s wholly appropriate that Rowley, once a poster boy for skate culture’s edgier aspect, now sits calmly here in what was once the sort of scene that no sane parent would support.
But not only did he in his early years reimagine the hard-edged art of the stair and the rail – and pioneer ridiculous gaps and huge architectural elements – when Rowley went to America he charged the home plate of skating’s alternative establishment. Under the subtle tutelage of Ed Templeton and other sultans of SoCal street he became the definitive skateboarder of his generation.
It’s a more mellow Rowley we meet these days. He is media trained and professional. While the constricted consonants of Merseyside hang in there with a touch of SoCal inflection – the chipped tooth remains. It’s a reminder of what Rowley really is and what he will always represent.
Things I Learned Along The Way is a film series that accompanies Huck’s Fiftieth Special Issue – a compendium of personal stories about the lessons life throws us when we’re busy doing what we love.