Darren Evons has been working at Cardiff’s oldest skate shop for 27 years. The 45-year-old from Rumney joined City Surf as a part-time help and has since taken over the little store located in the city centre’s High Street Arcade.
“Evo” was first introduced to skateboarding through his older brothers in the late 70s looking for obstacles in their urban environment to perform tricks on.
“We started skating the curbs down at Magnets,” he remembers. “It was basically a car park of the big kitchen shop. They had really good curbs so we just did slappies and curb sessions and things like that.”
Although skateboarding was quite popular amongst “Evo” and his friends at the time, it was far from being considered an acceptable pastime in South Wales.
“You used to get so much abuse for being a skateboarder. Back then you were just seen as a weirdo.”
City Surf first opened shop in Cardiff 1986 to cater to this small community of “weirdos” and support the growth of the underground culture.
The community played a big role in Guto Williams’ decision to move to capital from the West Wales after finishing school. As the new kid in town he regularly visited City Surf to meet new people to go skating with.
“What’s good about the shop is that it’s a focal point for the skate scene. If you hang out around the shop long enough you get to meet everyone and soon enough have loads of people to go skating with.
“It’s pure fun just going out street skating with your friends, not really knowing what you’re going to find. It’s a great way to explore the city”
If not at City Surf, the scene would regularly gather in iconic skate spots to hang out and skate. Guto’s favourite spot was the “Blocks”, a set of stairs in front of Cardiff University.
“It was a really good place to meet and hang out and we didn’t often get kicked out. You could just turn up there any night of the week in summer and there would always be people there.”
Darren remembers the “Banks” near Central Station as one of the most iconic spots for skateboarding in Cardiff. The area on Wood St is now the site of the WE Bridge International building. His favourite spot is the Welsh Offices, which is still skated today.
“We would take little fly-off ramps and big gas pipes for rail slides down to Welshies and we would just session down there for hours.”
Bute Square later became a popular spot because it was unintentionally perfect for skating. The government later placed skate stoppers on the benches and ledges as discouragement, much to the frustration of skaters like Darren:
“Skateboarders look at the environment completely differently.
“We see something that we can use, which I don’t see as a bad thing so why prevent people from having a good time on it?”
Guto sees the action taken by the government as a motivation to take a different approach to the way he skates.
“I think it’s pretty aggressive architecture but in a way it forces people to get more creative with their skating. It doesn’t really stop people from skating, it just means you either have to skate that spot in a different way or you have to find another spot. I don’t think the government really understands that.”