Oliver Deane – Under The Radar

by Marta
Oliver Deane

Oliver Deane (he/him) hails from Harrogate, North Yorkshire, but currently lives in London. Watching the former karate champion skate is inspiring and impressive. So after absorbing his Instagram content, we realized that we haven’t featured an UK skater for Under the Radar. Up to now! In our interview, he told us how the London community has grown big and into an accepting and well-integrated scene. Oliver is convinced that London has the most underrated skaters, and if after reading this interview you don’t fancy visiting London soon, we can’t help you.

How long have you been roller skating and what made you pick it up?

About 6 years in total. My girlfriend at the time was a skater and after thinking I was too cool for something like that, I quickly realised how amazing it felt to just skate around. Plus, I was hooked when I figured out how fun it was learning and then showing off my new tricks and dance moves! I started spending all my weekends skating, got offered a job at the local disco and couldn’t stop! I also used to referee roller derby during this time. I took about 3 years off when I went to university but returned, like many people, during the COVID craze.

During the COVID lockdowns in the UK, you could only leave the house for exercise once a day, so skating was an easy choice for me. I got inspired by park skaters on Instagram and YouTube and ended up as the only local quad park skater so I would watch online tutorials to learn. It has now been around 3 years since I picked up park skating again.

50-50 – Photo: @hannahbeth

A bit more than a year ago you broke your leg and had to pause for 6 months. What was it like coming back after the injury?

Yes, I broke my ankle tore some other important stuff and had to have fixation surgery to put a plate and lots of screws in. That was August 2022, and I was recovering for 6 months. Though it was frightening, I knew from day one that I wanted to return. When I came back there was uncertainty and I was anxious about the severity and what kind of recovery I could make.

Staying active during recovery was huge for me. Both swimming and staying diligent with my physiotherapy were amazing at helping me come back! My physio gave me a targeted routine to help me regain my strength and stability, it felt like homework but the more I did it, the more confident I felt. I also didn’t want to rush back to skating until I felt ready. My first few skates back were a little weird because I had to rediscover what tricks I could and couldn’t still do. So, it was really hard work to come back, but the work and patience paid off.

Every injury and human is a bit different but what helped you physically and mentally to not be hesitant when trying new tricks?

After my injury, I focused on low-impact, technical skills. I joined a game of SKATE focused on ledge skating and honed my mini-ramp skills. Both of these put little strain on my now dodgy metal ankle and my wibbly wobbly anxious mind. I could relax and just focus on the joy of rediscovering old tricks and pushing myself to break down and learn new tricks without the fear of plunging into a cavernous bowl or off an enormous gap.

I was still avoiding certain tricks that flexed my ankle, but I learned quickly to shrug them off and accept that a future version of myself, who wasn’t so orthopaedically challenged would land them, without much trouble.

When I look back on those sessions, I looked calm and collected but, in my head, there was a battle between my fears and my desire to progress and have fun. I resorted mostly to visualising the trick in my head and if it didn’t feel right, I just wouldn’t try it. When you come back from injury, it really teaches you to have patience and humility about your progression.

As a final note to anyone struggling with coming back from an injury, do what I did and try to surround yourself with people who love you and encourage you, my girlfriend, grandparents and my dad were especially wonderful in their wisdom and encouragement.

Oliver Deane
Axle Grind – Photo: @quaddball

You progressed amazingly since your injury and came in 3rd at the Love Bowl contest in Barcelona. How much time do you spend skating or are you just naturally gifted?

Hah! Gifted? I really do appreciate that, my performance in Skate Love was a total surprise. I got to skate with my actual skate heroes and all I wanted to do was not fall over! But I don’t think I can fairly comment on my own gifts. My ego swings up and down so let’s not indulge it too much! 

This year has been full of skating. Since my injury I have been listening to my body and trying to skate as much as I can, usually about 3 times a week. My skate progression I credit mostly to my restless nature. I love trying new tricks and you can often catch me in the corner of the park trying some stupid new tricks no one would ever care about! Plus, it’s really more about total hours spent skating rather than when you started, it’s how some skaters can ‘progress quickly’; we also cram lots of hours in! 

Skating with friends of a similar level was also important for my progress. When prepping for things like Skate Love that kind of camaraderie is very valuable. London has the most underrated skaters in the world so there is no shortage of rad skaters encouraging and pushing me.

Do you have any other sports background and how did it help you with your skating journey?

I grew up playing rugby and getting trampled by the bigger kids. And from age four I spent thirteen years practising and competing in Karate, which felt more natural to me. This culminated in me becoming the 16-17 European champion in my association.

All this has helped with general athletic skills, but I credit karate with being the reason why my skating style centres on spins and jumps and technical footwork, as it’s what I’m used to! Aerial control and proprioception (bodily awareness) are other useful carry-overs. It also really helps you visualise tricks and runs in my mind and other ex-fighters have said similar things when I’ve spoken to them.

Oliver Deane
Photo: @hannahbeth

What does roller skating mean to you besides the athletic fun?

The biggest thing is the social aspect. The London skating scene is a close community and I’ve been fortunate to make some amazing friends in my time skating. Organising trips, socialising after skates and hanging out as friends are all rooted in skating. Things can get kind of lonely when you live in a city like London if you don’t have a medium to connect with people. Skating is that for me.

Also, the obvious answer is love! I met my wonderful partner Nat in my local skatepark before I even moved to London, we moved here together and have been happily skating and dating ever since.

Lastly, its expression. Skating allows me to express myself, I love styling my outfits, wearing makeup, painting my nails and getting dressed to go skate. It makes me feel affirmed in who I am. Roller skating is already a rather niche space and so it is a great space to express myself as a queer man.

London Jam – Photo: @quaddball

Tell us a bit about the roller-skating scene in London.

In 2020 and 21, London was easily the UK’s biggest quad park scene. Our Thursday blade and quad night at the Baysixty6 indoor skatepark has been a hub for not only London skaters but many across the UK. It’s where I met pretty much all my friends and is the reason why the Quad and Inline scenes in London are so close. Since the pandemic, the hype has calmed down, but our community has grown into an accepting and well-integrated scene, and the skill level of the skaters has seriously risen, these sods have gotten excellent! We formed bonds with our local inline scene and have shared a lot of space with them encouraging skaters to cross disciplines. Capital rollas inline group continues to share their London Jam competition with us which allowed us to offer some serious prizes this year and attract some amazing international talent! We also continue to be a welcoming space for beginners and queer folks through our B&Q and fruit boot sessions, and we also organise lots of meetups, competitions and social events to harbour community spirit.

My crew is the Saturday humans, we’re some of the best skaters and most lovely humans I’ve ever met. We started as a weekly Saturday meetup group chat and have morphed into a pseudo crew and a really tight-knit group of friends. Meg who won the Skate Love open category is a Saturday Human!

What skaters from London should we watch and follow?

First is the Bog Man herself @_bog_man
And in no particular order are the best of the London quad skaters in my opinion! 
Echo – @echo.is.a.rider Eli – @quaddball Gabby – @gabryssska Hadlee -@bungkneemcee Kalli – @kantrip_ Meg – @meg.skater Ryan – @rlowers93 and Sevda – @sevda.skates AK – @bjortsampson

Oliver skating the bowl at Nevermind Bar in Barcelona in 2023

Which skateparks and street spots in your area are your favourites and a must-visit?

Baysixty6 is the central hub for quad skaters in London. Second is Clapham as it is also the site for lots of meetups. Iconic spots would be Stockwell, Hop Kingdom, the Selfridges Bowl, Southbank, Meanwhile Gardens and Victoria Park. If you’re ever visiting London, I would encourage you to visit our DIY spots like Hackney Bumps, The Grove DIY, A12/ the Gym / Mabley Green Skatepark

Favourite tricks you go for everywhere you show up?

Spins and grinds mostly. My favourite trick is a 540! I always do them, and I try them in as many varieties as possible. I also adore Fishbrain grinds, Sweatstance, Soul grinds and 50-50s. 

What does your skate-travel wish list look like?

It’s mainly countries on my wish list. the main ones in Europe would be Poland, Germany, and the Basque country. Outside of Europe? Australia, California, New York, Colorado and Tokyo, Bali and Mexico.

What do you do if you are not skating?

Outside of skating? Not too much. I work for the NHS in an administrative role. I’m a huge history nerd, I enjoy video games and music, I love to travel, I love to go dancing and, in the past, I was hugely into photography.

Anything else you want to say?

Yes! Stand by LGTBQ+ folks and skaters and remember to support skater owned businesses! We can all keep this community as caring and inclusive as possible. Roller skating needs to be a fun space for everyone, and we should support and protect each other. No shade, but in the past especially, women and other marginalised folks seem to have struggled to be accepted and uplifted in other similar sports and it means a lot to me that roller skating can be a shining example of what a great community can be, even as we continue to improve. Also, shoutout to women in blading! Pro-model for Fabiola da Silva!

Make sure to follow Oliver on Instagram. And check out more “Under the Radar – interviews”

Top image by Eli @quaddball
Interview by Marta Popowska

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