The DIY skateboarding scene in the UK is continuing to go from strength to strength. With the help of initiatives such as Red Bull DIY and The G.R.A.N.T.S. Fund more and more unorthodox yet brilliant spots are popping up thanks to the hard work put in by local crews. I caught up with Benjamin Cook, one of the founders of one of the UK’s leading DIY crews - The “Moon Goons”, to discuss what got him into DIY and what goes into creating these special spots.
So Ben, tell me a bit about how your background, where are you from?
Hi Ed mate - I'm 23 and born and raised in Sunderland. I started skating on my 15th birthday and have been stoked on it ever since.
What was it like growing up and skating there?
Like most places Sunderland has some sketchy areas and I was kinda brought up in one until my late teens so it took me a while to discover skateboarding. Unlike other cities though there isn't really many different crews skating here, just one big crew really. We've got a pretty decent local park if you like tranny (which I do) called Silksworth and a few good street spots in town, but not on the same scale as Newcastle which is only like 30 mins away on the train. That's where the scene is mainly based with Native Skate Store keeping everyone rolling.
And what do you do in your day-to-day?
Well I live in town and work a standard 9-5 office job there which is handy for fitting everything else around it. My day usually starts with the gym or a run before work and skating afterwards then its building at The Moon on weekends. The light nights are coming back now so been able to get there midweek after work again recently.
What would you say your best memory of skating is?
There's plenty to choose from but my first trip to Barcelona back in 2014 stands out. Out of a crew of around 10 lads from Leeds I'd only met 1 of them before and even that was just for an afternoon when I bumped into him skating in Mallorca the year before. Just being in Barcelona for the first time was rad enough but it was sick to be out there meeting a whole new crew at the same time. I made some good pals on that trip! Saying that though, every skate trip is always a good laugh.
Would you say you’ve always been into DIY or is it just something that took your fancy when the chance presented itself?
My Dad's a painter and decorator by trade and a pretty skilled joiner too so I'd always been around him constantly doing DIY around the house when I was younger but I'd never really been introduced to brick or concrete work. That wasn't really until we got started at The Moon that I took a real interest in that. My two good mates Tom and Blayne who are also involved with the build are both bricklayers so they helped me learn the basics of mixing and laying concrete.
When did you set up the Moon Goons?
Moon Goons are pretty much just the crew of Sunderland skaters that build and skate at The Moon regularly. I'm pretty sure my mate Cal coined the term ages ago but it wasn't really until I set up the Insta page for the spot this time last year that the name kinda stuck.
How did you discover the Moon?
The spot itself isn't exactly hard to find, it sits on the site of a demolished hardware store at the bottom of B&Q's carpark (which can be a blessing and a curse). At first it was just nice escape from the hectic skateparks, as the floor is so smooth it was good fun just to skate flatground there. Eventually we utilised the fact that we had incredibly easy access to materials/tools from B&Q and got to work.
So as a spot how long have you been working on it?
Well for a good while there was nothing there other than the nice floor and a rail but I think we started building properly almost 4 years ago. We've really been lucky that it's lasted so long, especially with Needleside and Dustbowl spots in Leeds being knocking down this past year, and more recently the DIY spot in Nottingham. I don't really know but maybe it has something to do with the fact B&Q actually own the land we're building on and are making some good money out of us.
How many of you were involved in getting it going?
I didn't get really involved until just after the first one or two obstacles were put in but really there's always been a good amount of lads keen to help out whether that be with graft or cash. There's too many to list but you all know who you are. We've never really been without the help needed. Pretty much the whole of the Sunderland scene is centred around the spot now.
How do you figure out what you want to do next? Is there anything that inspires you or do you just pick an obstacle?
I think due the vast size of the spot we've never had to worry about running out of space which works great for when someone comes up with an idea. It's never a matter of, well we could build this or this, we can usually do both. The spot is very street heavy with plenty of ledges, rails and manny pads but we built a rad 5' quarter with a doorway early last year and we're currently working on a 4' spine which I can't wait to skate.
What would you say has helped the DIY mission the most along the way?
A few things really. Mainly everyone's enthusiasm for the spot and willingness to help out, and not just the locals. There's always crews from Middlesbrough area and further south popping up regularly. Being involved in the Red Bull DIY competition last year really helped as they supplied us with a good load of cement/sand and tools. Luckily our efforts paid off and we were 1 of the 3 spots picked to receive another delivery of materials at the end of the comp. We're currently involved in the comp this year too that ends in July so hopefully we can do the same again. Apart from that we held a skate jam a while back to raise some money and I've made and sold two runs of Moon Goons t-shirts over the past year so props to everyone that bought one of those!
Awesome, you’ve got a fundraising jam coming up don’t you? Tell me more about that.
Yeah! It's gonna be held on Sunday 25th June, kicking off around 1pm. We held our first jam in the summer of 2015 and it really went off, such a sick day. That one was to help raise funds for the spot but this year it will also be helping to raise money for the skateboarding charity SkatePAL. They're a British charity based in Palestine that help and support the lives of young people in the area through skateboarding. I'm actually going to be volunteering with them over there for a while at the end of the Summer. Should be a rad day so get yourself down!
So you’re off to Palestine this summer to volunteer for SkatePal, what is it you’re going to be doing out there?
Yeah I'm so hyped for the opportunity! I'll be travelling there in late September and coming back sometime in November. I'll be teaching skateboarding to the locals and helping maintain the skatepark the charity built there in 2015. Wish I'd also went back then too as they needed volunteers to help build the park. My good buddy Sam Hutchinson and Josh Rose are also coming too which is sick.
Who’s your favourite skater at the moment and why?
At the moment it's probably Chris Russell, he fucking rips. I saw him skate in person at CPH Open last year and he was just insane in the giant bowl at Fælledparken. His part in the new Creature video actually got put up on the Thrasher site today. So good!
If you could ride for any team, who would it be?
It's gotta be Anti-Hero. Amazing team, sick videos and all their tours are always amazing. Camping and skating tranny everyday? Nothing better.
What’s next for the Moon?
Current goal is to get this spine finished before the jam and hopefully a couple other projects. Once the jam is over we'll have a couple weeks before the Red Bull DIY comp ends so hopefully we'll do well in that again and get funded to continue the build over the summer.
If you want to come and skate the Moon (and trust me you do) then check out the event for the Fundraising Jam for more information visit his Facebook Event
You can also donate to Ben’s JustGiving page to raise money for rebuilding communities in Palestine through skateboarding here