Sam Bruce, 20, is one of the UK's top skater girls. We chat about her trajectory to success, from hanging out in car parks causing trouble to getting sponsored and blitzing the skate contest scene.
From: London, UK
How did you get into skating? I first properly got in to skating when I moved homes. I didn’t do much besides hang out in car parks and cause trouble, then one day I spotted a skate park round the corner from my house and there was a skate comp happening there. I sat about and watched it from start to finish. It was amazing! It really inspired me. So the next day at school told my best friend and she got me a £20 skateboard from Argos for Christmas. Custom built with plastic wheels and abec ‘Germany’ bearings! Then I just rode it up and down the streets before taking it to the skate park to drop in, then it just progressed and took off from there.
Did you find it pretty hard to break into a male-dominated sport? It’s had its ups and downs. I’ve always been a bit of a tomboy and so have always got on better with males than females, so the socializing and meeting new people side of it was fine. The older skaters were really welcoming and when I first started skating they were really supportive of me and helped me to learn a lot of stuff. Whereas the younger kids who were my age were fun to skate with, but at the same time were a bit two-faced about me being a skater too. I got quite a lot of stick for coming first at my local skatepark competition in the early years of skating and the boys put it down to me being a girl and couldn’t accept that I had simply worked hard and progressed. They were just being competitive boys about the whole ordeal! I must admit that there were some rough patches along the way with some of the kids I skated with giving me a tough time - I just put it down to envy and jealousy and got on with it.
Do you consider yourself to be an adrenaline junkie? At times I do. I find myself loving it when I’ve just landed a sketchy trick or had a near death experience and making it out in one piece. That just gives you such a buzz! It’s just the fear of hurting myself which has stopped me from turning in to a junkie, which I suppose in its own way is a good thing, Otherwise I’d be wheeling myself about in a wheelchair rather than a skateboard. But I am very laid back. In fact a little too laid back. As much as I love skating, It still scares the hell out of me! Skating too fast, skating big ramps and all the things that I thought I would have grown out of by now are still pretty intimidating. It does feel amazing when you land a gnarly trick or if you’ve just cheated death though. On those occasions I just want to do it all again! It sends a buzz through my body!
MORE>>Can you give us a run down of your average day? The usual morning ritual: wake up, shower, run for the bus, then run for the train. Then if I’ve got work, I’ll do my 10 hour shift at the vans store in Carnaby Street, then come home and just mong out in front of the TV, eating myself into a coma! Then if I’m not feeling too tired I'll go for a skate for an hour or two. Then go home, change, go out and party. The next morning I'm usually having to scrub extra hard in the shower to get rid of all the marker pen that's been graffitied on my arms! If I have a day off then I’ll probably go to my friends and skate their mini ramp or go for a push at my local park to which they’ve just re-done Meanwhile 2 street course, which is really smooth and the perfect size to learn on.
And if you could have the perfect day, what would it include? Waking up feeling fresh, with nice weather; it doesn’t even have to be perfect, I’m just getting bored of seeing rain now! Then having a good brunch to set me off for a good skate, followed by a shopping spree at Primark! Having a day without injuries, plenty of falafels and smoothies to get me through a sunny day of perfect skating, but we can only wish eh!
What are your plans for this summer? That is if summer ever comes! Spring and autumn have just seemed to have merged together! I’ve just come off an all-girl skate tour around the UK with the handful of UK girl skaters… Well I say the UK, I really mean doing the main skate spots along the M1! We did one last year and it was so much fun. We crashed on people’s floors and were on a tight budget but managed to get a few giggles out of it. There’s only one more comp for this summer which will be the UKSA championships held in Corby, Northamptonshire, which should be amazing! All the top UK skaters under one roof. Then hopefully visit some other girl skaters in France for a good old schralp!
What’s your favourite place to skate? Anywhere that’s dry and has good company is good. Although I think my favourite spot at the moment it has to be Meanwhile 2, as it’s a 5-minute skate from my house and is just great to learn stuff on. On top of that, there’s a great chippy across the road too. Get fat, burn the calories off. Brilliant!
Do you still get nervous before a big contest? All the time! I hate big crowds of people watching me skate, it gets my heart racing and my hands start to shake! Just having a hundred or so people just watching you skate and then skating up against your mates too! I break out in a sweat and get light headed before I’ve even stepped on my board. MC’s commenting on what you’re doing, or in our case, British MC’s doing what they’re best at and just hurling abuse at us for a spot of encouragement and a few giggles. It’s always an ice breaker. I must admit I do push myself a lot harder to skate better in a comp with all the pressure, but I always prefer skating in Jam format where you have a couple of other people skating with you so the attention isn't all on you.
What is the atmosphere like behind the scenes? It’s a right laugh! It’s really cool and chilled. Everyone’s really supportive of each other, and you usually always see the same faces at the contests, so everyone is friendly with one another. We all have a giggle before our run, chatting and just having fun with everyone. Talking with all the pro's and getting free food and drink. That is before our run starts. Once we're up, that’s when we poop ourselves!
What are your suitcase essentials when you're on the road? I am such a girl when it comes to packing. I can never seem to pack light! I have this thing where I have to pack for every occasion so I pack at least two possible outfits per day, making sure I’ve got a spare pair of trainers, high heels and ‘going out’ clothes. Then it usually gets a bit random, like torches, first aid bits and bobs and a sewing kit.
What have been your biggest career setbacks? When I was younger I just wanted to skate all the time and forget about my education, but sense hit me and so I decided to go to university. Then when comps were going on around Europe, I had exams to do. Now I’ve been at uni for two years and the financial burdens were becoming too big, so I had to quit and move back with my mum which has shaken things up a little. I’m still unsure to what path I want to take for a career at the moment, so I’m still using the trial and error method as a way of life. I couldn’t see myself being a full-time professional skater as it’s very rare to be able to make a living out of it. I think its knowing that which has set me back from doing it as a career. At the moment, I'm still trying to work out the right move for me from here on...
What have your greatest achievements been so far? Being able to travel the world and make so many friends from skating. Experiencing what a lot of people wouldn’t have experienced until their mid to late twenties when I started at 14! I think I took it for granted a lot, but now am starting to really appreciate it all. I also loved experiencing university life and discovering a new passion for basketball, meeting some really good, close friends.
Who or what are your inspirations? Always my friends! I was never one to get into reading or watching much skate stuff, so never really looked up to anyone famous. It’s just been people I skate with.
What affect does your career have on your personal life? I used to have to take a lot of time off school, and now I always need to book time off work if I go on trips or have to go to a comp. I’m rarely home so don’t get to see my friends or parents much, so it just feels like I’m never home. I also have loads of different groups of friends, but two in particular: the skaters and the non skaters. I’ve never been able to merge the two together. It also means that I’m away from home a lot. I just always seem to be on the move, but when an opportunity presents itself, such as traveling the world, I’ll take it!
How do you relax when you get the chance? If I’ve got the money, I go out shopping - I spent £200 on clothes earlier today! But usually I just watch TV with a big pile of food, then soaking in a bath afterwards and playing with my kitten. If I’m feeling a little more productive then I’ll go and chill out with friends.
What’s up next for you? I’m going through lots of possible ideas for what the future might hold for me. Personal trainer, physiotherapist, P.E teacher, interpreter: who knows? I’m going to be skating a lot more now that I’ve moved back to London, and I’m going to get myself ready for all the comps that are going to take place next year. Try and save up to do some traveling and aid work. Then just generally take things as they come along. Travelling the world is definitely on the agenda for me. Forever!
Photos by: Bo and Jenna Selby