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Denham Hill (@denweasel_fs)

Dan – As I last checked, you’re in the States right now for a pro freestyle contest in Arizona. You’re quite the skateboarding globe-trotter! What contest or event sticks out to you the most? Any specific memories or stories you’d mind sharing with us?

Denham – I’ve been getting around a bit! I’ve been lucky enough to skate in a lot of contests, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. One that’ll always stick out to me is my first contest, Paderborn 2015(?) I think it was. I was advised to enter pro despite only being back into freestyle for a short while. I got utterly smoked, which led me to have a difficult relationship with contests from then on in. I think that baptism of fire was a good thing looking back on it. It motivated me to work a lot harder. 

Dan – Your skating is—among other things—lightning fast. Did you settle on that style intentionally? If not, what made you gravitate towards your particular brand of freestyle?

Denham – I think it just came about naturally. I used to skate a lot of transition and throw myself around, so I think the speed and aggression just carried over into freestyle. I always thought freestyle was a little too “floaty”, and that’s absolutely nothing against those who execute that style well, it just wasn’t what I was about. I wanted to rough it up a little.

Dan – Which skaters have had the biggest influence on your style?

Denham – Don Brown, Pierre Andre, Primo Desiderio, but I’m inspired every day by contemporary freestylers who are too numerous to mention! There’s some incredible skaters out there.

Dan – You’re at the helm of “Terror Firma”, a skate apparel brand and mainstay of the freestyle scene. I’m inspired by the fact that the organization reinvests profits back into the freestyle skateboarding community. What’s the latest with Terror Firma? Any big projects on the horizon? 

Denham – Terror Firma has gone a little quiet recently, mainly because of a lack of time and money. I’m still keeping the flame burning when I can though! I’ve teamed up with FourD Grip to create some printed griptape (which should be available soon), and I’m working on the Freestyle book project too. This will aim to tell the stories of different scenes and the individuals who make up each respective scene. Anyone who wants to get involved, let me know! It’s gonna take some time to put together though! I’m also hoping to work on more informative video content, ranging from trick tips, to contest prep, to Freestyle history.

Dan – I’m always interested in how skaters approach a session. Do you typically map out which tricks you plan on practising before you get started, or do you let the process unfold organically? How long is your typical skate sesh?

Denham – It can be really variable, depending on the weather and other undesirable variables in the U.K.! Generally, a two hour session is good for me, but I’ll skate 4 hours or more on Sundays if the weather is good. Some days, I might only sneak 30 minutes in. 

My sessions are generally really focused. I’ll spend the first part of the session working on footwork and finding flow. Then, I’ll go in to contest or consistency drilling, then I’ll wrap up by working on new tricks or lines I want to experiment with, and film stuff if I’ve landed something I like. 

I’ve usually got a plan for my sessions, but sometimes those that unfold organically are the best. Hard, focused practice can get frustrating, so it’s important to know when to break off and relax into the session. I’ve had to learn recently that when I’ve stopped having fun, the session is over. While a tenacious work ethic can be useful, it’s important to take a step back every now and then.                    

Dan – It appears, from the outside, that music is pretty important to you. How does music influence your skating? (Or does it?)

Denham – Music has been a huge part of my life from a fairly early age. I play a multitude of instruments, used to play in a few bands, and used to record music too. I think music and skateboarding are synonymous, particularly when it comes to Freestyle. 

It all depends on how I’m feeling on any given day. I’ll skate to Hardcore most days, because the energy and aggression matches how I skate. 

On the other hand, I’m absolutely loving skating to Tunnel of Love by Dire Straits at the minute. That’s one for the more chilled sessions, but you can choreograph a run to it really nicely.

If you want a banger to skate to though, check out Mr. Blobby’s number 1 hit. UK heads will know what I’m talking about.

Dan – Some skaters talk about “the one that got away.” Do you have any trick that just seems to elude you, no matter what?

Denham – 360 Carousels. I’ve been trying them on and off for years, but I just can’t get one. I’m at a stage where I’m not chasing it as much, as it’ll take up a full session. I also saw Danimal land 3 in a row at the Thunderdome, which is nuts. I’m not sure I’ll ever have them down like that!

Dan – Your sessions are often filmed in a skate park. Am I recalling correctly that you work there? How did that come about?

Denham – Yeah! I work at LS-TEN Skatepark as Community Manager and Skateboard Coach. I coordinate our coaching efforts in schools and youth clubs, and set up skate projects for kids in disadvantaged areas, among a lot of other things. 

It came about at just the right time. I used to work as an aquatic specialist for a pet retailer over here a few years back, which paid fairly well and had good security. Once I got back into Freestyle, I wanted to pursue a career in skating, so I took a chance and left. I went to work for a skate coaching company, but it folded. I was then in and out of loads of jobs, totally skint, until LS-TEN just popped up. I had a lot of experience in coaching and coach development, so they took me on a part time contract, and before long I was on full time.

It was hard for a while, and there were times when I was totally broke but I’m stoked to have the life I have now. If you’re stuck in a job you hate, and have something you are passionate about, find a way to make it pay you. It might not pay much, but you’ll wake up everyday and not want to die. Which is nice.

Dan – You seem to bring a refreshing degree of optimism to the freestyle scene. Do you think the community is heading in the right direction? What do you think is next for our small but growing scene?

Denham – I think the reason I try to breathe some optimism into the scene is just because my own mental health is awful. Freestyle has given me something to feel a part of, and a place to feel comfortable and valued, and so I like to try and keep the environment as positive as possible, almost selfishly, but also for those who are into Freestyle for the same reasons as me.  

Don’t get me wrong, tough conversations need to happen at times and we can’t allow “toxic positivity” to take over, but I feel our interactions should be positive the majority of the time. The shit has to be allowed to hit the fan occasionally though, and when it does, you have to leave your umbrella at home. 

I’m terms of where the community is heading, there’s some amazing things happening, and some less amazing things. 

I love how there’s more of us. How there’s more events, more companies, more people pulling together to build and sustain the scene.

There is more female representation which is awesome, and more positive role models within that community.

On the flip side, the word “gatekeeper” is being thrown around like the worlds hottest new curseword.

Some folks are coming into Freestyle with a distorted view of what it actually is, and any constructive criticism to help correct technique is dismissed as gatekeeping or an assault on someone’s personal freedom and expression. Folks need to understand that Freestyle isn’t “just whatever you want it to be.” As Alex Foster said, a freestyle swimmer can’t just exit the pool, run the length, and say he won the race because freestyle is “whatever you want it to be”. There are certain rules and structure which actually help protect Freestyle at its core. These rules aid in its definition, and they uphold a certain standard. Once we start saying it’s “whatever you want it to be”, that definition is lost. The very identity of what we do is lost. It becomes nothing.

Please understand that this isn’t meant to prevent anyone from skating how they want. You can skate bollock naked in a fez, lubed up in Sweet Baby Ray’s for all I care (and I’ll defend your right to do it), but please don’t call it freestyle just because you’re unaware of how to properly define it. Freestyle isn’t a catch-all. It’s more specific than that.

As I mentioned though, I think the scene is going in an overwhelmingly positive direction. We’re starting to go to contests and events and not know every single person there which is a great sign! I’d love to see more contests, and particularly more Rookies and Girls getting into their first contests. Freestyle needs you! We need more new people with fresh ideas and perspectives. I’d love to see more Freestyle camps like the one Christian sets up. Those look rad.

Dan – Anything you’d like to add, or shout-outs you’d like to make?

Denham – I’d like to shout out to my sponsors, team mates, and freestyle friends around the world who believe in my skating when I don’t. Just a big thanks to everyone who is helping grow what we do, and to all those who are supporting each other on their Freestyle journey.

Become a brutal taskmaster when you’re skating, but remember to cut yourself at least a bit of slack every now and then. If the enjoyment stops, it’s time to take a break. 

Embrace failure. Failure isn’t permanent. Quitting absolutely is.


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