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Interview with Naomi Grigg

November 2003

 

Q: When did you first start skating?

A: When I was 15 – I started travelling to the local ice rink in Swindon about three times a week in the school holidays. There wasn’t much to do where I lived.

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Q: What made you keep skating?

A: It must be either the therapeutic nature of the gliding sensation and move repetition, or the constant progress and achievement from improving.

 

Q: What types of skating have you tried and why?

A: I started out on ice, messing around learning some freestyle moves with ice hockey blades, and fell into ice hockey (at which I was dreadful!). I then started inlining as well when I wanted to be able to skate during the week at boarding school, and due to my ice hockey (I still thought I had hope at improving my hockey), I joined the Swindon roller hockey team.

At some point I decided to try out aggressive skating – and so travelled to the outdoor ramps in Bath’s Victoria Park, before my lack of elbow pads and breaking my hockey skates put me out of action (wearing pads outside of hockey was a new thing for me – on ice we don’t use them).

When I came to London I discovered dancing, and made up some quads so I could learn and then convert it over to inlines. Using quads then prompted me to join in some figure skating classes to improve the discipline and precision in my skating – I felt quite sloppy and admired the technical precision of other skaters I had met who had done the same. I also hoped it would help my spinning and 360s.

I've tried a couple of speed workshops with Blake, Dave, and Berti, and took part in the Le Mans 24hr race a couple of times, but my only real interest in speed is purely ego driven, and little to do with pleasure – to get good times at Le Mans, to keep up with the faster skaters on the suicide skates in London, and to enhance my theoretical understanding of skating (Speed is Geeky…isn’t it Mike…).

Over the years I have also played with the more aggressive side of street skating – starting out jumping over cones and sticks at school, and learning to ride stairs when I arrived in London, and I'm now back on the ramps, though it seems that for every month I learn, I have to take another off for injury! Really, it hurts SO much, and I’m a complete wimp – especially when jumping up ledges, or going near coping.

The only other type of skating I haven’t mentioned is freestyle slalom – I got into that when Vincent Vu Van Kha persuaded a couple of us to join in the European competitions.

Gosh! What a long answer – its really nice to look back over the years.

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Q: What are your favourite pairs of skates, and why, and how many pairs of skates do you currently own.

A: At the moment its my Salomon Crossmax, and previously my Rollerblade Tarmacs. Both of them I could wear for anything – street, aggressive, and all types of freestyle. That quality is very important to me. There are better skates for all those things, but none others strike such a balance between them all.

I would love to say I own two pairs, one to use, and one spare, but Im just not that cool. Despite my mass skate throw out, I still have too many! I have 2 pairs of ice skates (1 spare), 1 pair of trainer quads, and 3 pairs of inlines: Salomon Crossmax, Rollerblade Tarmacs, and Mission something or others.

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Q: There’s a rumour you’re now a part of the Salomon Freeskate (FSK) team as one of their sponsored skaters. How awesome is that? Give us the skinny…

A: Yes! Its feels great – most teenaged skaters have day dreamed about being endorsed, and I was no exception – I was told a few months ago, but that is all so far. No goods, expenses or skating has been exchanged yet as its winter and so very little going on.

During next season I'm guessing it will mean that I just have more money for my skating-travel and development, since it should mean some of my competition travelling, accommodation and fees are covered. As well as wheels and bearings!

You know, I also day dream about pulling a 720 out of a vert ramp…

 

Q: You’re a well-known skate instructor as well. Do you get a lot of pleasure out of teaching?

A: Yes I do – really. I'm definitely the first one to whine about having to be somewhere at a certain time, interrupting my practice when I'm ‘in the zone’, to pad up, however I rarely finish a lesson without an immense feeling of fulfilment. My real teaching passion though is teaching my own favourite – freestyle, whether its dance, slalom or other moves, and this year I’ve been able to start teaching all of that to both friends in London, and also when I’ve travelled overseas.

 

Q: Tell us about all the skating you did this summer and the related problems of trying to eat enough to keep you weight up.

A: LOL! When I started practicing slalom at the end of February, I came out my winter slump with a mission, and fresh enthusiasm that comes from learning something new, and at one point was skating close to 50 hours a week.

Unfortunately I had failed to appreciate the energy I was using and the muscle usage – when your mind is occupied and you are enjoying yourself, it feels about as much exercise as a game of chess. The pounds dropped off, and my muscles stopped working properly – about two weeks before my first competition!

Since then I’ve been a lot more careful to pay special attention to my diet when I’m skating a lot – typically a large pasta meal for lunch and two carbo meals during the evening, with plenty of protein. It has definitely increased my interest in how the body breaks down and uses what we give it.

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Q: You’ve also done a lot of practising on the more aggressive side of skating, including jumps, vert work etc. Tell us more…

A: I returned to the ramps, for the first time since face planting on a midi in Manchester a few years ago, just before the Salomon BladerX in London this year, and it reawakened my interest, especially as it was my first time on a street course.

After taking part in the London BladerX I was hooked on the street course, and practiced regularly before going onto take part in the BladerX at the Urban Contest in Lausanne at the end of August. In comparison to the others that successfully completed the course I was dreadful, truly dreadful, but I overcame so many fears and took risks that I could never have entertained the idea of before that weekend. I also learned that there are some things that you Just Don’t Tell Mum.

After a couple of months of mending and physio I was back on the ramps, and this time I’m also working on the midi and vert ramps. Very badly still and slow going, but getting there…

Jumping from the flat is something that I play with every so often, but playing on the street course is working on my spring, and I’m now starting to jump and 180 up onto ledges, which quite frankly scares me silly.

 

Q: Isn’t that scary stuff?

A: Yes! I have serious fear issues and constantly chicken out of things that I know I can do – I'm actually quite pathetic. It drives me up the wall and makes me absolutely furious with myself.

 

Q: I remember you telling me how you psych yourself up. Care to elaborate?

A: LOL! I don’t have the self-belief yet to get the guts to do things like others do. I’ve been told that the way to try things is to not consider the possibility of falling, and to have complete “belief” that you will make it.

I just can't do that. In fact, it’s the opposite that works for me.

I visualise the worst that could happen, and accept that it is probably going to happen. I remind myself that it is worth it, and the only way to progress. Even greater than the fear of hurting myself is the fear of leaving having not tried, and the resulting feeling of having let myself down and frustration with myself.

I’ve even been known to make arrangements for hospital visits before trying something – there was to be a party at my place later. I made sure that it could still go ahead without me… and will often quickly make sure that one of my friends will come with me to hospital if needed.

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Q: Ah, the bit I was looking for was that time you told me about testosterone!

A: When I’m psyching myself up for something longer term like doing a fast and potentially dangerous street skate with friends, I often let myself slip into a different (and pretty unpleasant) state of mind, because its not in my nature to push myself to physical extremes or let go of sense enough to play with traffic or street obstacles. I think it gives me a testosterone buzz, but I’m sure I’ll be corrected.

I put on baggier, more masculine clothes, and think myself into adopting the mindset of an arrogant & irritable tough guy who isn’t phased by anything. When I’m in that kind of mood I don’t want to talk much, and hate any physical contact, which is unusual for me! But it enables me to take a much more blaze attitude to say, riding a flight of steps and a much more fierce approach to skating, enabling me to go much faster for much longer than I would normally.

But it does come at the expense of friendliness and niceness etc – I can be quite harsh and impatient with people, and when they are used to my usual self… it can result in misunderstandings - Ok now I sound like a complete psycho… ;)

 

Q: What about the romantic side of your life, and how does your skating prowess affect that?

A: Mike, really…

Its no secret that I tend to be very ‘seasonal’ with my level of interest, and am very interested in the similarities between the skating buzz and ‘romantic’ buzz (no, not talking endorphins) and how one can substitute the other.

I also think that guys are either attracted by or intimidated by my skating, and am also aware that guys that I meet through skating only really see my ‘skating persona’ to start with, and so my other, less outgoing and more boring, side could come as a bit of a disappointment!

As for when I have a boyfriend, it can be quite testing when I go through a period of obsessive skating. It's all I can think about. I’ve been in a situation before where we resorted to booking ‘together time’ weeks in advance when I’ve been ultra active. And I was once asked ‘tell me, is this normal for you?’ when I brought up skating at a particularly inappropriate moment (‘you know, I think I should have bent my knees more’). Really, steer clear!

 

Thanks for your time in this interview, Naomi!  Best of luck with your skating!

 

 

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