Phaidon has teamed up with Jonathan Oliveras for its new book, Skateboard, developed in close collaboration with Converse – a brand engrained in skate culture since its inception, chronicling skateboard design from 1950 to today. The exhibition showcases over 100 skateboards, each reflective of a different era. To celebrate the launch, Converse has worked with London’s Design Museum for a belter of an exhibition charting skateboarding’s monumental history.
Ahead of the public opening, we caught up with Converse’s newest (and youngest) team member, 13-year-old Diggs English. He joined his team members, including Louie Lopez and Raney Beres, to skate the Design Museum’s mini-ramp, specially built as part of the exhibition and open for the public to skate from October 20.
Diggs can switch between transition and street skating with ease, is a familiar face at London’s Southbank, and is no stranger to destroying Bristol’s Dean Lane either. His skating has taken him worldwide, with the rising star recently returning from LA. Despite the US city’s significance in skateboarding, Diggs prefers to keep it local, favouring the gritty UK concrete over the smooth surfaces of the West Coast.
We sat down with the rising talent to talk all things skateboarding.
How long have you been skating?
I’ve been skating for seven years, properly.
What is it that drew you to skateboarding?
I think I saw a mini Spiderman skateboard in the window [of a shop], and I sent a photo to my dad of me standing on it, and then I got a board for Christmas.
The first board I got was a rocket board, and it had an alien graphic on it.
What do you love about Converse?
I love Converse so much. The shoes are the nicest looking shoes. The skate team has all of my favourite skaters on, and they’re super nice dudes. They take care of me super well.
What is your favourite trick?
What shoe do you skate in the most?
The Louie Mid, Chuck or One-Star
I’ve seen you’ve been out in LA recently. Do you prefer skating in London or LA?
I think the weather is better in LA, but I prefer skating in London, to be honest. I feel like the spots are less skated. I know a lot of people here, and it’s just more fun and interesting. The spots in London are a lot harder [to skate] and crustier than most of the spots in LA.
Would you rather only skate street for the rest of your life or transition?
It would probably be street. I guess there’s more stuff [to do]. You can skate street in a park, you can skate street in the street, it works for filming too.
Where is the best place to skate in London?
Stockwell. It’s the best park ever!
What is one thing people don’t know about you that they should?
I feel like people who know me know that I’m stupidly short. I’m really short. I think it maybe [helps with my skating], I know a lot of people have said that, but I don’t know because I’ve never been tall. I feel like it might help a bit.
What is it like being on a team with some of the best skaters around, including Louie Lopez, Sage Elsesser, Bobby De Keyzer and Mike Anderson?
It’s super insane. It’s all so new still, but yeah, it’s an insane opportunity, and I still can’t really believe that I am skating with these guys. It’s super sick, and hopefully, it’ll make me a better skater. It’s super nice to be able to learn and skate with them.
Tight or loose trucks?
Finally, is there anything else you want to share with us?
Buy some AS 1s right now!
The exhibition includes some of the first skateboards, which had steel wheels, which were the precursor to the game-changing introduction of polyurethane, responsible for the satisfying screeches heard at skate parks and street spots worldwide. Educational videos are displayed throughout, with Cons skater Alexis Sablone narrating us through some fascinating four-wheeled history.
The exploration is true to the DNA of skateboarding. Vitrines are made from plywood and masonite, the same materials used to construct a skate ramp, and banners displaying historic skate photographs emulate those hung up at skate competitions. Navigating the exhibition is easy thanks to the double yellow line wayfinding, being not only native to skateboarding but also a homage to Goldfish, the 1994 film directed by Spike Jones for Girl Skateboards.
Bringing skateboarding from the streets and into a museum is no easy task, and getting it right was at the forefront of Oliveras’ mind when curating the display. Thankfully, with the backing of the skate community and the generous support of Converse, we saw an authentic exploration into the evolution of skateboarding from a rebellious pastime to an Olympic sport.
Whether you’re a skater or not, seeing such an authentic, well-researched, immersive skateboarding exhibition is not something you should miss.
“Skateboard” will run from October 20, 2023, until June 2, 2024, at the Design Museum in London – you know what to do.
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