30 - Wight Trash
A plump reclining cartoon cat smiled at me from the “We’re open” sign. I took this as an invitation and, without hesitation, went inside. I wasn’t after sausages or toggles today, in fact, I had no business whatsoever in a skateboarding shop, except that I do have a liking for bright colours, especially neon, and this shop had plenty of that. Seductively tactile wheels, sets of pads, bearings and brushed metal trucks (the undercarriage on a skateboard) gleamed at me enticingly. Skeletons and monsters, wild eyes and snarling teeth decorated many of the boards that covered the wall space. Others were more obviously designed for serious style and speed. I was excited by the colours and imagery and suggestion of risk. Had I stumbled into a deviant subculture? If so, it was one that felt friendly and safe. This was largely due to the cheerful enthusiasm of the shop manager who was kneeling on the floor, industriously sealing a pile of boards into long, thin cardboard boxes ready for dispatch. In Wight Trash, Zoe runs not just a little independent shop at the top end of town, but a busy mail-order business serving customers world-wide.
As with the other shops I’ve explored already in this little stretch of Ryde High Street, to go into Wight Trash is to get a glimpse into a whole community, diverse and unique in its own way. This shop serves the needs of young people not just in Ryde, but, through their skateboarding sponsorship activities, throughout the UK. Zoe Thompson, and the shop’s skateboarding founder and owner, John Cattle, are a mainstay of the local skateboarding community on the Island and beyond, offering help and advice to young people and forming a bridge between “the voices that aren’t heard” and bodies such as local councils and regional authorities and sporting bodies such as Skateboard GB now that Skateboarding is an Olympic Sport. They have been instrumental in helping to bring about things that young people would like to see happen in their area.
The range of interests this little skateboard business encompasses is indeed diverse and eclectic. As well as skate spots, they are involved in videography projects and, I was happy to see, the art scene. A row of skateboarding legends including John Cattle himself, drawn as zombies, leered down at me from a series of Wight Trash branded skateboards displayed above the counter. I couldn’t help thinking of Grayson Perry’s memorable Kate Board which had entertained me at his “Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever” at the Serpentine Gallery in London in 2017.
Some real customers entered the shop and I wandered into its inner recesses where I found a skatewear boutique with hoodies, tee shirts, shoes, sunglasses and skateboarding videos, helmets, mugs and socks – and a box of RIP THE GRIP neon pens in pink, blue, white and fluorescent green which I seized upon delightedly – just what I needed for my own artwork.
One of the lads who had come in to buy skateboarding equipment asked Zoe to apply grip tape to his board. Peeling, fitting, trimming and filing the grip tape was a precision operation. “This is the sound that’s synonymous with skateboarding” Zoe called to me as she began to file away at the grip tape, then held up her expert handiwork for me to admire.
After they had gone, I inquired about the signed skateboard above the archway to the sportswear section. The signature was that of DEATH founder Nick Zorlac who had helped John Cattle get started with his business 17 years ago. A skateboarder of 35 years now, John in those days had been a sponsored skater, riding for DEATH.
I thanked Zoe for her insights into the world of skateboarding on the Island and beyond, and said goodbye, eager to get drawing with my newly-purchased neon pens. That cool cat on the reverse of the “We’re open” sign saluted me with the middle finger of both paws as I left, telling me to get the heck out of there.
I went home and looked up DEATH SKATEBOARDS. DEATH, like Wight Trash, is a skater-owned skateboard business, and its motto is DEATH FOR LIFE. I took a wander along the esplanade where another archetypal sound of skateboarding was to be heard – the grind and rumble of speed bearings flying up the steep ramps of the recently re-opened skateboard park as brave skaters soared skyward, pushed on by sharp autumn winds straight off the Solent. I began to get an inkling of why it might be a great motto for a skateboard company.