In the first decades, roller skaters and skateboarders have been rolling side by side. They shared the same spaces, tricks (and the same terms), and passion for life on wheels – but it’s fair to say our history isn’t as well documented. One of the people helping to document and conserve this history is Jay Tubb. The 56-year-old roller skater from Southsea (a seaside resort in Portsmouth), England, is an OG side stance vert skater. During the ’80s and ’90s, Jay travelled the world competing in international events and skated with some big names in roller skating.
Jay: “For as long as I can remember I’ve been messing around on roller skates. I remember using strap-on skates before proper boots came out. And I used to push my trainers over the front of the skates so I could use them as toe stops, because strap on skates didn’t have them.”
“Our elder uncle, in 1976 made us three skateboards, which were basically roller skates attached to a piece of wood and we’d throw ourselves down a hill that’s next to Southsea Castle. It was the steepest hill we could find around the place.”
In 1976, the roller rink in Southsea was developed into one of Britain’s first concrete skate parks – a huge change for Jay.
“We watched through the fence literally while it was constructed. Seeing the steel being put in and the concrete poured, we were just kind of awestruck that it was going to become available to us.”
A year later, the park opened and Jay’s park skating journey began. Many parks in the ’70s operated on a badge system similar to skiing where different color badges would show a skater’s skill level. Jay had to work his way through badges from green to black – covering a range of skills including slalom and snake runs, in order to access the bowls at the park, which were marshalled.
At the time, knee and elbow pads didn’t really exist yet, or at least what was available was out of his price range, so Jay had to get creative.
“I grew up in an era when we would make our own pads, as they didn’t really exist back then. I remember making them out of vinyl and sponge and I’ve always been a bit handy with a sewing machine, so I’d make some inch wide elastic to wrap around it. But when you slammed into rough concrete you’d scrape your knee anyway, so the intro of kneepads was amazing. It was also big culture at the time to wear two pairs of knee pads and then Pro Design came out in the ’80s from Texas. And I still have the same pair to this day, they’re so good.”
Jay first started skating side stance after watching icons like Fred Blood and Duke Rennie skate in the same style.
“I remember seeing pictures of them skating pools and bowls in California in Venice and Marina Del Mar, but they were skating with their feet heel to heel. It just blew my mind that it was possible in bowls and at the time I remember side stance being called ‘Blood’ after Fred Blood.”
“The Germans and the Europeans called it spider, and side surfing is another term for it too. But these guys were riding pools and bowls and doing amazing tricks, so me and my brother started roller skating in the bowls in the same way ourselves.”
According to Jay, at first, skating side stance feels very unnatural.
“Anyone that’s ever tried it knows when you first put your legs into side stance it feels completely alien, it doesn’t feel natural. It hurts like hell between your legs because obviously you’re working your muscles in a way that you wouldn’t normally be using them, but if you stick with it, you get used to riding that way.”
Jay said that a key difference of side stance was having a backside and a frontside like a skateboarder as opposed to riding parallel.
“It opened up the tricks you could do because you had the parallel and side stance version of them. On top of that you also had the capability to do tricks on your trucks and stuff like that although that did come in later. But those were kind of the reasons that side stance was attractive to us as skaters. A lot of tricks you might go up, and when you hit the lip your feet might come together, or your feet might come together in an air, or something similar, but then you’d come back down into side stance.”
“Riding like that for a while you physically get used to riding that way. It starts to feel natural. It is an unusual style. We try to make all our tricks look like we’re on a skateboard and a big part of the side-stance phenomenon is style.
“I was also taught by Brian Wainwright, that if you’re pulling an air or another move, you try to make it as clean as possible by grabbing the plate of your skates like you’re grabbing a skateboard. I was totally influenced by skateboarding, and I wanted my style to look like I was on a skateboard. I’ve also always felt like parallel and side stance were miles apart because what we’re doing is so different.”
After dipping in and out of skating growing up, Jay came back to the sport more fully in the mid to late ’80s at around 19 years old. It was then he first dipped his toe into the world of vert and vert competition skating.
“It would have been around ’85 or ’86 when Southsea had a half pipe built, it was pretty small in terms of width in those days. It was built by John Thurston, the legend who ran the skatepark. And it was only 16 feet wide and had a 10-foot transition and six inches of vert, so you didn’t have a lot to play with.”
“The half pipe was then widened I think to perhaps 24 feet wide and more vert put on top. That’s when things started really evolving.”
Having a Solid Ramp to Practice on was a Turning Point
“I started going more regularly and I met a bunch of amazing skateboarders including Barry Abrook, Gary Lee and Barry’s brother, Mark Abrook. Barry became my mentor. He was one of Britain’s wildest skateboarders. Those guys were so rad because they were used to riding pools, so going onto vert they were already miles ahead, although they weren’t on roller skates.”
Jay said from there, himself and his brother Brad began to get bigger airs, land better hand plants and more on the vert ramp. It was during this time he also met his best friend and fellow iconic roller skater Mon Barbour at a skate competition in Farnborough in 1987.
“At that competition I hadn’t met Mon before, but my brother knew him and at the time another competition had come up in the United States. It was called Raging Waters and the competition took place on a massive half pipe with a bend in it, so the ramp went around the corner. It was announced that there was going to be a vert roller-skating competition there and I really fancied going and I’d heard Mon might be going as well. We were introduced to each other at Farnborough and we made arrangements to hook up in L.A.”
The Raging Waters competition was the start of a life-long friendship between Mon and Jay, who are still best friends now. Once in the United States, the pair competed in Raging Waters in San Jose and rode various famous skate parks in LA including Pipeline at Uplands.
“Uplands had a combi pool, which was a massive square pool connected to a round pool and that was just mind blowing to skate because we’d never ridden anything like that in the UK.”
Jay Tubb: “I had to sit it out on crutches with my taped-up ankle”
Whilst at Uplands Skatepark, riding the full pipe, Jay dropped in and got cut up by a skateboarder dropping in at the same time.
“I spun around and twisted my ankle and thought I’d broken it but stayed in the States for two or three weeks on crutches and couldn’t ride and had to travel around in the back seat of Mon’s Ford Pinto.
“We went to skate parks like Fallbrook where we met Brian Wainwright, the best roller skater in the world. I had to sit it out on crutches with my taped-up ankle and I saw my first ever 540 on roller skates. Just seeing him ride was on another level. It was so inspiring; I’d never seen anything like it.”
Jay became friends with Brian and his brother and met another iconic skater, Jimmy Scott, who was from California.
“We all then travelled to this Raging Waters and after two weeks of icing my ankle, I taped it up and entered the contest.”
At Raging Waters Mon won first place in the amateur section and Jay got third place, which he said he was proud of in light of his injury. Brian Wainwright won the pro section. It was Jay’s first contest and his trip out to the States only inspired him to push his skating even further.
“Seeing all those new tricks and Brian and Barry Abrook skate just totally inspired me to push myself. Barry totally became my mentor, he was one of the UK’s best skateboarders, he just rode so radical. He would just push me all the time to try new things, and that really did evolve my riding.”
In 1988, Jay competed in the British Open Vert Roller Skating Championship which was part of a Zorlac Shut Up And Skate contest. It was organized by Barry Abrook and his brother, and Jay scooped first place, which left him stoked. He then continued to grow in confidence as a skater and landed his first 540.
“It’s a real mental block because you’re sort of going upside down and leaving the ramp. There’s the thought in your head that you’re going to land on your neck and kill yourself. At that stage you’re supposed to get pretty consistent and I landed on my back for the first one. It was at the end of a session and I think about a third attempt or my last attempt of the day that I landed one on both skates.”
Jay then went on to compete in several European competitions including the Münster Monster Mastership Vert Championship in 1989.
“It was amazing as well because there were about 20 or perhaps more roller skaters there from Europe and the States and I’d only ever seen a few skaters at a time, and that was really inspiring. I was pretty stoked about going with the 540’s under my belt and joining the clan of Brian Wainwright and Jimmy Scott that were doing them ad hoc.”
For Jay, it was a seminal moment, and he continued to compete in European contests alongside parallel skaters Marcos Longares, from Spain, and Rene Hulgreen, from Denmark. He also got taken on by Barry Abrook from Zorlac Skateboards as their team vert roller skater. Jay said he was over the moon to be taken on by them as he felt they were a cool company to ride for. As he got older, his skating slowed down around the age of 24 when his career in television as a lighting cameraman took off. He continued going to contests alongside his career for a while before eventually retiring from competition. When Jay was out competing in European contests he was often judged against parallel skaters – despite side stance being so different.
“Whilst I was skating professionally I was shooting photos for magazines and writing articles so wherever I was, I was riding and taking pictures. So I do have quite a large catalogue of skate shots. Not just roller skating, but skateboarding too including Tony Hawk and Stevie Caballero, Mike Frazier and all the Bones Brigade. Lots of it’s on slide and black and white negative, which was what you shot on for magazines in those days.”
“I started posting pictures up during lockdown and doing one or two a day to give people time to digest them and I’ve got shedloads I could do if transferred from negatives.”
Parallel skating these days is even more popular than it was, but for Jay, now 56, keeping the passion for side stance alive is still really important to him.
Jay still rides vert today, and has been skating this year at a friend’s private vert ramp in Southampton, England.
“When you get to the skatepark and get your roller skates out, people look at you and think, ‘What’s this guy doing?’ And then you put them on and they’re still wondering. And then you drop in and do your first side stance run. And you look around and without fail kids are trying the side stance position. It’s really funny and sweet. They usually ask me how long I’ve been skating and I normally jokingly answer, ‘About 10 minutes.’ But It’s good to see them trying it, and keeping it alive and representing.“
“Because we’re representing the style these days it’s really important that we look and act the part of a side stance vert roller skate too – which means wearing shorts, knee pads and elbow pads, it’s part of the ritual of skating. I remember Duke Rennie gave us all t-shirts at the Woodward reunion that had him skating on it and were branded ‘Dying Breed’ and that is totally what we are. We are a dying breed of our style and keeping side stance alive is important. As Brian Wainwright said, ‘We’re representing, and we have an obligation to represent what we do because there’s not many of us left.’”
“I’d love to see it continue on. It’s super stylish and it’s all about riding a wave like you’re on a skateboard. So I’d say to everyone: Go out and ride side stance. Help us keep it alive.”