Down for the Cause
One of the biggest characters in Scottish rollerblading, Scott Riddles, talks about his efforts to build the national scene and defends his questionable taste in women, music and tattoos.
First impressions can be deceiving. Scott Riddles wears a variety of loud, baggy outfits that always seem to incorporate a snapback cap and silver chain, and sports some of the most ill-considered tattoos ever witnessed on human flesh. He also seems to be driving a new car every six months but the running theme throughout all of his automotive choices appears to be anything that looks like a boy racer toy. Then there is the fact that he is the only person I know that listens to Franky Morales’ rap music without any hint of irony. However, simply dismissing him as a gangster wannabe white boy would be extremely short-sighted. He is just a man that has a very strong sense of what he likes and doesn’t really care what anyone else thinks. Just like a peacock, he is not trying to fit in with the latest trend; he is making a conscious effort to stand out from the crowd in order to attract attention, and it works. Just ask any of his numerous female conquests.
Despite the fact that the rollerblading scene in Scotland is extremely small and we have shared mutual friends and acquaintances for many years, I never actually had a conversation with Riddles until a couple of years ago. We had crossed paths at various events and exchanged mandatory greetings but our meetings were so short and infrequent that we never managed to strike up a friendship until I moved back to Glasgow in 2011. Until that point, I simply dismissed him as a bit of a lad that listened to the type of awful music that is only found on Ministry of Sound compilations and conformed to the cliché ‘90s rap dress code. In my defence, he does own a T-shirt that reads “Thug Life” and still, to this day, wears it on a regular basis.
However, after attending several Scottish Rolling monthly sessions, which Riddles organises, and street skating in Glasgow together a few times, I began to realise that he is probably one of the most likeable characters our scene has to offer. Not only does he make an effort to get various skaters from all over the country together every weekend for a big session, but he also takes it upon himself to provide the majority of the entertainment. At any particular spot, you can simply start calling out random tricks to Riddles and he will attempt them. If he gets close to landing it on his first attempt, it is guaranteed that he will keep going until he executes it or goes down. Then there is the fact that he often refers to himself in the third person. On one occasion, after driving for 30 minutes to a kink rail on the west coast, Riddles took one look at the spot, glanced at me and walked away, saying: “Riddles doesn’t do kinks.”
Another amusing personality trait that Riddles possesses is the way in which he refers to periods of time. He doesn’t remember specific years in the same way other people do; he reflects on them in terms of the skate that was released at that particular time. It is quite funny to witness just how much of an impact rollerblading has had on the way he expresses himself. When recounting how he was first introduced to the sport and his subsequent development as a skater, Riddles regularly replaces years with skate models.
“I first saw skating in Portobello, Edinburgh seaside, and there was this guy in Oxygen Argons skating a marble curb. I got talking to him and ended up buying my first pair of skates, Bauer FX.1. I got the kitchen knife out and cut a wee groove into them. With a flat set-up, it was virtually impossible to do grinds – that was in 1995, maybe. Then I moved on to Rollerblade Menace and started from there, grinding curbs and skating three-sets. When I first started skating I stayed local in Portobello. After Salomons were released, ST-8, I started going to Bristo Square and started getting to know everyone.”
Considering he goes through skates like most people go through underwear, it seems only natural to find out some of Riddles’ favourite models over the years and why he keeps returning to USD after brief periods riding other brands.
“After Salomons went I tried Razors and they were alright, but they wore down pretty quick. USD skates do have flaws, the bolts loosen off quite easily, but I always seem to have a pair in the house. I have been wanting to try Carbons for so long so I bought a pair. Previously USD have been slated for all their stuff breaking, but I think that’s inevitable. If you skate hard and do big stuff, you are going to break your skates. If you are a pussy and you just skate skateparks then they will be fine.”
Riddles’ first encounter with rollerblading took place over 17 years ago and he is still going strong. Even though most of the people he grew up with have either quit or done too much physical damage to continue, he is thriving and pushing the boundaries of street skating in Scotland. Riddles is one of only a handful of skaters in this country that can perform several hurricane and truespin alley-oop topside variations on handrails, and that is no mean feat considering he does them on rails with hardly any run-up and a missing top step, making the manoeuvres disaster grinds by default. There is not a spot in this country that Riddles has not left his mark on and, as his second decade of blading rapidly approaches, he seems slightly surprised that he has managed to keep going for such a long period.
“I didn’t think when I first started that people would be doing the tricks they are doing now. People are now going crazy. I also didn’t see myself sticking with it that long, but the more I kept skating the more I enjoyed it. I certainly didn’t think I would be travelling with skating. The first time I ever travelled I went to Livingston Skatepark and saw Josie skating, he destroyed it. It made me think to myself, ‘I am just going to keep doing this.’ It kept me out of trouble.”
In addition to being a regular source of hilarity, Riddles also happens to be one of the most productive members of the Scottish blading scene. In addition to organising the Scottish Rolling monthly sessions in various cities across the country, he also creates regular online edits for the Scottish Rolling website and still finds time to film personal edits every couple of weeks. But where did the idea for the site and the gatherings originate from? “Originally, it was Kyle McGivern from Bathgate that started the whole Scottish Rolling thing,” says Riddles. “He brought out the Scottish Rolling Underground DVD, then Chris Doughty and James Keyte got involved. It has been slacking over the past year because Doughty has been busy and I’m not up to gear on WordPress. All I can do is upload videos.”
It would seem that Riddles is being slightly hard on himself when he claims to be “slacking”, as the site features a new video almost every week and it is the only online platform dedicated to displaying the national blading scene. However, he does have plans to expand the website over the upcoming year and hopes to provide some much-needed exposure to the country’s most underrated skaters.
“There are a couple of people I have been wanting to do a section on for ages, Andy Mills for one. He is such a sick skater but he always seems to be filming instead of skating. I also want to get a lot of people from Glasgow involved because a lot of people have been saying Scottish Rolling is really cliquey and it’s basically the east of Scotland that we’re covering.”
Scottish Rolling may be a non-profit site, but that hasn’t stopped Riddles using his hard-earned money to promote the site throughout the UK. At this year’s Noiya Jam in Sheffield, he gave the organisers £100 from his own pocket in order to fund the best trick contest that ended up being a fiercely fought battle between Loco Skates riders Joe Atkinson and Elliot Stevens. Usually when companies sponsor events, it is to build up their brand and show potential customers that they are doing their part for the industry. However, Riddles was happy to part ways with his cash just to motivate his contemporaries to skate harder and push the envelope.
“I like seeing people try really hard and if there is money on the plate then people are going to go for it,” he begins. “If I see there is money up for grabs then I am gonna try things I haven’t tried before and risk hurting myself. It’s always good to have a best trick at a comp. I want to see Scottish Rolling get big and start sponsoring more events.”
Over the past couple of years, Riddles has been travelling across the UK and mainland Europe in order to find new spots and connect with other people that share his passion. Despite covering many miles in his homeland and skating some of the most iconic spots in the country, he is adamant that there is no scene better in terms of spots and skaters than South Yorkshire’s city of steel. Although he believes the best obstacle England has to offer is slightly further down the road.
“The best place in the UK that I have visited so far is probably Sheffield. Every time I go we seem to skate different stuff. Sheffield has a lot of good rollers, too. I skated Cambridge a while back with Lewis Bowden and that was pretty sick, too. The Lando ledges are probably the best ledges in the UK, to be honest.”
One of Riddles’ most likable characteristics is his unwavering, brutal honesty. He is physically incapable of keeping his opinions to himself, regardless of the topic, and the results are often hilarious. Every time the guy straps on a pair of blades, he always makes sure he has his trusty iPod with him, so it seemed only necessary to find out some of the artists that are in his current blading playlist.
“A lot of people think of me as a big, white gangster because I listen to a lot of commercial rap. I love all that Rick Ross and DJ Khaled stuff, I like the beats. I have some gay music, like Justin Bieber and Conor Maynard. Plus, I love that Franky Morales track, ‘I Made It’. The boy’s a G! If I like the sound of the music and I can skate to it then I will listen to it.”
There are few certainties in life, but when it comes to Scott Riddles, there are three things that you can be sure of: if he is in a nightclub and there is one slutty girl in attendance he will find her and sleep with her, if there is track on the radio the makes you laugh or cringe with disgust he will probably own it, and if you put a handrail in front of him, he will make you shake your head with disbelief at the sheer volume of ridiculous tricks he can lace down it. Riddles, we salute you.
Aside from skating, Scott Riddles has two main vices; tattoos and ladies. Although he is the first to admit, that where either of these two obsessions are concerned, he does not always have the highest standards.
I have about 16 tattoos. There is no theme whatsoever. I have the Scottish Rolling tattoo, which now looks like a gang tattoo. I have my birth sign, but that’s just a tribal mess. I also have roses, skulls, a boom box and some other stuff. When I first started getting tattoos I thought tribal was the in thing – I didn’t really know – now I hate them. I think I was just a NED going through a stage of getting a tribal tattoo because I thought it was cool, now I think it’s the worst thing ever.
Fuck it (laughs), you know what I mean? Any hole is a goal. That applied to 2011 Slamm Jamm when I ended up back at some state’s house and I thought to myself, “I am doing this for the team.” The next day, I woke up and I was dying to get out of there. Now I have a girlfriend so I can’t be doing that.
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