Jarrad Carlin 🔴 by Sirus F Gahan
The world is a big place, especially when you grow up in a small part of it. Jarrad Carlin is from ‘The Mount’, aka Mount Maunganui, a pretty surfer town set around the base of an extinct volcano in New Zealand’s North Island. Jarrad could’ve very easily never left this coastal paradise; he could’ve stayed and built a life close to family and familiarity, which there is definitely something to be said for. But skateboarding and the idea of a world outside of the Mount led Jarrad to the other side of the world, all the way to London. Now look at him – he wears those long socks and rides for Thames.
I am from a small town too, and skate-boarding led me around the world and back again. I’m further down the road than Jarrad in the years department, and I’ve never been as good at skateboarding as him, but I strongly related to his stories, especially the ups and downs he’s had with his mates. Life doesn’t get much better than that, and Jarrad’s travels over the past decade have provided him with more of those moments than most. Jarrad is a very funny, lovely fellow and a skilled storyteller. If he is ever interviewed on a podcast, I recommend you listen in. But until then, I hope this interview will suffice.
Photography by Sam Ashley
Interview by Max Olijnyk
So you’ve been working on this interview for a while.
Jarrad Carlin: We started it last summer, that was when I first started skating for Thames and I was skating with Sirus (F Gahan). It was supposed to come out in January, but then I had the injury and it was only recently that I got back to skating properly and we could finish it off. So it’s definitely taken longer than expected, but I didn’t want to just finish it because of the injury. I wanted to do it properly.
It was quite a weird injury, actually. I was skating in Lisbon and landing on those really uneven cobbles they have there. I kept landing with my ankle on really minor angles, and after a while it swelled up double the size without actually rolling it or anything. And that was kind of the end of the trip for me.
I went to check it out when I got back to London and they told me I’d damaged the inside of the joint from the bones hitting together. That sort of thing doesn’t really heal on its own so I had to have this little procedure where they put a needle in and pushed the inflammation from inside the joint out, and then I got a cortisone steroid injection into the joint. It sounds quite gory, but it was really simple and easy, and it only took about 15 minutes.
The NHS was going to do it, but I went private. If I had waited, it would have been like last week that I got the injection instead of January.
It doesn’t sound cheap, but sometimes you just have to do these things.
It was maybe like £700, which is obviously a lot to pay for a 15-minute thing. But then you think how four months of not being able to do anything is going to affect your life. I was just so sad that I couldn’t skate. It was like paying to be able to do it again and enjoy myself.
It’s good you got it sorted. Apart from skating, I’m just looking at your website and you do a lot of photography.
Yeah, that was partly because of the injury because it was three and a half months without skating, which I haven’t really experienced before. I think all skaters rely on skating to sort of remain sane. I think after a while of not really doing that, you start to feel pretty down. So I wasn’t doing anything for the first month and then I’ve always taken photos, it’s something I’ve slowly gotten more and more into over the last eight years or so. I guess it just seemed like the best way for me to spend my time. I think there’s a similar reward of getting film back and the anxiety of whether it’s good, like filming a trick or something.
And it’s similar in its documenting of this funny life that we lead. So you’ve been taking photos for the last eight years, does that cover the period of time since you left New Zealand?
Yeah, it kind of started when I moved to Melbourne.
Were you part of the great migration?
I’m assuming you’re talking about Max Couling, Geoff Campbell, Tom Snape and Casey Foley, all those guys – I was a bit younger. I saw them living over there, Geoff making those amazing videos like Secky Presh. I saw Max doing really well, travelling a bunch, going to the States… Just things that weren’t possible from New Zealand. It became very apparent to me that the things I considered the coolest things to do with your life, you couldn’t actually do from home.
As a 16 or 17-year-old in New Zealand, your options are: study, get a job, do a trade. It’s a very accelerated rate of growing up. So I moved to Melbourne just after I turned 17.
What about that amazing house you all lived in?
The h0use! You could jump off the roof into the swimming pool. There were so many of us living there. It was Tully West, Simon Zuzic, Isaac Maatz, Elijah Robertson, Hootie Andrewes… Basically everyone who had a part in Tully’s video School Holidays.
To a 16-year-old it’s the dream to live in a shitty skate house, skate every day, work one or two days a week to get by, get a little bit of money from skating and just travel all the time, film and hang out.
I’m speaking about this like I’m not still doing it. I don’t know, it’s just freedom. And it’s just always fun, having everyone at home. Even with Simon now, some people would find it annoying having someone staying in their room for months. But it’s making my life so much more fun.
I know you’ve had a lot of interesting jobs. Was that around the time when you were working at Boney?
Oh god, that place was so mental. I was doing two day shifts during the week when it was a restaurant, then these giant nights on the weekend, from 9pm to 10am. It was one of those situations where you’ve got no money and you just need to do it for a while to continue existing.
I worked all night on Friday and then quite often I’d finish at ten in the morning when everyone was texting about going skating. So I’d just get a coffee, eat something and go skate. Then I’d go home, shower and go back to work that night. And then I’d stay out all night and go skate again on Sunday. I was staying awake for so long.
The last trick I’ve got in that video was after I’d done one of those giant shifts, and Tully came to meet me because he was in early. Boney was on Collins Street so we skated down the hill and chilled at those stairs at City Square. A couple of people showed up and I just started trying switch backside flips down the stairs. Surprisingly, I landed it quite easily, but I can’t really remember the landing; the whole thing was just such a blur. I was definitely drunk because I would slowly drink all night. What a weird morning!
Switch backside flip is not a normal trick to be able to do in that state.
It’s funny as well because that’s the only time I’ve ever done it down something, I think.
So were you picking up sponsors and stuff around that time?
I guess that’s when Hoddle started, through our mutual friend Keegan Walker when he was working in a bar round the corner. He finished work at five in the morning then would often come in to see me and have a beer. So we met by just working near each other and being up at weird hours in the morning. And then one day he was like, ‘me and Dale (Van Iersel) are making a skate company. It’s going to be you, Simon (Zuzic) and Caeylen (Norris).’ He didn’t ask, it was just, ‘I’m starting this company called Hoddle and it’s going to be fucking sick.’ So yeah, that was how that started.
That must’ve been really exciting. Keegan started it with such energy; it was a really cool thing.
It’s sick to see Hoddle still going strong since Keegan passed away. Caeylen’s taken over.
So after Melbourne, you went to Sydney, right?
Yeah, Sydney was quite chill compared to Melbourne. I had more of a schedule and what not. I felt a bit grown up compared to how I did in Melbourne.
Around that time Snape and Max went to London and after they were just like, man, it’s so good there in the summer. You need to come over next year.
I was actually born in England so I had the passport. Them saying that was music to my ears.
Were you intimidated to do it? It’s quite a big move.
I never really understood the intimidation of going somewhere because I feel like wherever you are currently is still there, no matter where you go. I love New Zealand, I love Melbourne and Sydney, but they’re all still there and all my friends are still there, and it makes it so nice to go back.
The worst that can happen if you move is you come back with your tail between your legs like, fuck, I blew it. Or you can not go and think about how sick it might have been your whole life.
So when you got over to London, was it like you expected?
When I first arrived the whole place was buzzing because it was the World Cup, so I think I saw London in a different light. It was a bit more open and upbeat than it really is. Everyone was so excited and hung out at the pub every time there was a game, and there were all these skaters around. It did seem like this place where everyone hangs out all the time, but it turned out to be just when the football is on.
Nick (Mason) and Mac (Christie), my two besties from New Zealand, had also moved over. I think London may have felt a bit more lonely had I not had those two.
Nick told me the three of you lived in a room together, temporarily, for two years.
Yes, that’s another absolutely amazing time in my life. Nick and Mac found this council flat in Bethnal Green with one room and it had a double bed and a single bed, and it was like £800 a month. It was quite a big room with a balcony. They were like, okay, this is pretty calm for us to do for a couple of months. So they moved in and I think they knew they could probably fit me in there as well.
The funniest thing is when they were choosing the bed, Nick knew I’d probably be there in like a week, so he goes to Mac, ‘ah bro you can have the double, I’ll take the single.’ He told me Mac was going like, ‘are you sure?’ And he was like, ‘nah, honestly man, take it.’ Purely making himself out like a legend.
I had been staying with my friend Steph, then in Benny Fairfax’s attic for ages. And then sure enough, Benny was like, ‘it’s kind of time for you to get out, do you reckon you could go stay with those boys?’
So me and Mac were posted up in the double bed and Nick was in his single bed across the room.
How about the job you all had? I want to know about Urban Crew.
Oh man, ha ha! I think we saw this ad on Gumtree or something saying like, need labouring work? So we go and there’s these three South African guys, I guess they had moved over and started a labouring company. They were so serious. We showed up and they’re like, ‘all right boys, now, we need people who are going to graft and not complain.’ And we’re like, ‘yeah, cool, we’re up for it,’ whatever.
The deal was basically they just text you the next day’s shift at this postcode from this time. It might be like one hour or maybe 14 hours and it’s just literally whatever they need. We’re not particularly strong guys, and we were there with these giant actual labourers, big Polish and South African men. Everything was heavy to me.
And they kept on texting you?
They kept texting us for a bit. Nick started working at Stüssy not that long after, and then it was just me and Mac. We knew we had to get out of it, because you’d be doing this really hard work and then you’d get paid at the end of the fortnight and be like, oh my god, that was not worth it at all.
You probably would have been too tired to skate as well.
The good thing about it was you could decline jobs. If there was any good part of that job, it was so casual that you could just say no. Honestly, I think it was the people who made it the hardest. You just couldn’t be a part of their conversation because they were so fucked.
What were they talking about?
Imagine twelve hours carrying around something really heavy, listening to some massive guy talk about his gym routine or just gross stuff. We were complete and utter outcasts.
They must have found you fascinating.
Oh yeah. They were like, ‘what the fuck? You’d take a day off work so you could ride a skateboard?’ It was back to that feeling of being in school when you were a loser for skating. It was that exact same vibe of people that just don’t understand you. I’m very glad that’s over. Me and Nick talked about that yesterday, how happy we are every day not having to go there.
And now you know how it feels to work really hard for no money.
It’s impossible to not be grateful for basically anything after working for Urban Crew.
The only way is up.
That’s what their slogan should actually be.
So what happened from there? Nick went to work at Stüssy, and now he does Always Do What You Should Do.
The room in Bethnal Green is where Always was born, I guess. He started making these little cases or wallets. It was when he was working at Stüssy, and people started buying them because they were so sick. He’d brought a silkscreen from home so he started screening shirts, and slowly it started turning into a real brand. He started making a lot more, and he was making the jeans, dyeing them from home. He was always doing that and me and Mac tried to help him. After sharing a room for two years, I guess the three of us are a unit. When Nick’s doing well I’m doing well, you know, it’s kind of like a relationship. Those two are like my family. After my mum it’s literally Nick and Mac.
So how did you phase out of Urban Crew?
I was filming with Austin Bristow quite a lot at that time; I met him through Benny. They were doing an adidas trip to Paris and Austin told me I might as well just get a ticket and I could stay in their hotel. I had no money so I got the bus overnight for like 11 pounds. Benny and Blondey (McCoy) had a room together, and I posted up on the floor. I stayed there for a few days and was out with Austin, skating. It was while this big adidas event was on, so we’d go out and skate in the days and then there’d be an event on with free food and drinks in the evening. So I was living my best, brokest life.
Towards the end of that trip, me and Benny were on a Lime scooter, scootering around, having a great time, and we saw this man punch his girlfriend outside this restaurant, right as we were going past. We both jumped off and went to help this girl, as the guy was basically attacking her. Me and Benny grabbed him off her and he started wanting to fight us for doing that. Then I actually punched him. I’ve never really punched anyone other than that. So we got the guy away and then some people from the restaurant came and got the woman, and she was fine. And then I realised my hand was completely fucked.
So I went back to London after that and it was just back to Urban Crew, but my hand was completely broken. I told them I hurt my hand skating in Paris, and I wouldn’t be able to lift anything heavy. And they said that’s cool, just show up anyway. There’s a shift at some event, setting up for some music thing. But somehow there was a miscommunication and I was put on a 10-hour shift scaffolding, carrying these giant metal poles. I tried to do it for about half an hour and then I thought, what am I doing? I ended up walking out and never going back.
That was the end of Urban Crew.
Yeah, the end of an era. So that was how adidas happened, really. I guess that was when Benny was starting the TM job and they were sort of rejigging everything. And yeah, I’d been skating with Austin a lot filming and then with Benny as well, and Blondey.
That happened not long after Urban Crew. I was still not making any money and trying to skate. A bit after that, I started working in the Palace shop. And then Covid hit, and then I started skating for Thames just over a year ago. That was an interesting one because Thames nearly happened earlier, then it didn’t, but it did happen eventually.
How come it didn’t happen earlier?
I was going on trips filming for Blondey’s first shoe on adidas. But coinciding with that, all these things were happening and I didn’t really know at the time, but I was in a deep depression. I just couldn’t skate; I didn’t want to skate. I’d go on trips and I just wouldn’t try. It was actually on the first trip for Blondey’s shoe when Keegan passed away.
I was in Milan and it was right at the start of the trip. I didn’t really have any time to process it. Also, it was not as major for all the other people on that trip. Some people didn’t even know him at all. And then Tully (West) was really sick, and Ben Raemers had passed away. I just couldn’t focus on anything.
Did you go home at all?
I didn’t make it back for Keegan’s; I wish I could have, but it sort of didn’t make sense at the time. I went back to Melbourne twice, though. The first time was when Tully was really ill, and the second time for his funeral.
As far as the Thames thing not working out, I actually think back on being on those trips and how I didn’t even think about trying anything or doing anything; I was just trying to remain sane. I guess from Blondey’s perspective, it didn’t really make sense at that point, and I completely agree. I had so much shit I needed to sort out within myself.
That makes a lot of sense to me. It’s funny to look back on a time like that when you’ve come out the other side.
Also at that time, I hadn’t been in London too long and my friends here weren’t as close as they are now. I think I was really homesick, more so with Tully being my best mate and he was super ill. I obviously wanted to be skating and travelling, but I was feeling so down that I wasn’t fun to be around on the trips, and I wasn’t skating well at all. I’ve looked back on it and if I was starting a brand and trying to put someone on, there’s no way I would’ve gone with me at that point.
And I guess for Blondey, he didn’t know me too well before that. I probably just seemed like I was always just fucking lazy on trips, because I think I didn’t really express how bad I was feeling until a bit later on. It’s a hard thing to talk about, and sometimes you don’t really even know. Especially before the whole Raemers Foundation started, all the information now given to skateboarders about mental health… That was such a big thing for me as well. I remember the Aaron Herrington interview spoke to me so much, he spoke about being on trips and just needing a minute but you’re sharing a room then you’re in a van and then you’re at dinner, then you’re at a bar, then you’re back in the room with someone you don’t know that well.
Mental health has always been a thing in skateboarding, but now it’s actually being spoken about, which is great.
I think there are definitely two sides of it. I think people who already would have wanted to talk about it just talk about it now. But when the Raemers thing happened it was like, let’s all talk to each other and make sure everyone’s okay. But it was for what felt like a couple of weeks and then everyone was back into their own old ways, which should be expected. I definitely don’t think everything’s better now. I think there’s still so much work to be done.
I know what you mean, but a small change is better than no change.
A hundred per cent. You can’t expect these things to happen overnight. And for kids getting into skating now, it’s going to be such a different world to even three years ago. So yeah, it’s a massively positive thing. But I do just think that there’s a lot to be done.
So eventually you’ve gone through this period and now you’re officially a part of Thames. How does that feel?
I’m actually really happy with the way that it turned out. I was so fresh to London initially, and I think it just gave me the time to settle in exactly where I want to be. And now I’m super, super happy about it all. And it’s nice having a support system the way I do with Blondey, Benny and Nick. I couldn’t really ask for a better, more supportive immediate friend group.
From all the way over in New Zealand, Thames seems like a bit of a mystery. It’s a skate company, but my wife has heard of it through fashion stuff. How would you explain it?
I think it’s interesting because it’s not a conventional skate brand. There is kind of a blueprint for a skate brand, and Thames just doesn’t fit into that, which is why people might feel confused. In terms of skating for Thames, having Blondey supporting me, it’s nice he really wants me to do well as a person, not only on a skateboard. I feel like some brands don’t care what you do as long as you’re getting clips and skating well.
Do you feel like he’s a mentor?
Yeah, definitely. There’s so many things I really respect about Blondey, he’s lived such an interesting and long life for someone who’s 25 years old. He has so much experience and is so knowledgeable. It’s helping me progress outside of skateboarding as well as in skateboarding.
Thames has a very different aesthetic to other skate brands and it dips into some very different influences.
I guess that’s a bit of an eye opener for a lot of people, but also it’s a cool utilisation of skateboarding as a bridge between different parts of culture.
Yeah, totally. And if something’s not going to be completely different, I just don’t think the world needs it. I think things should be aiming at standing out right now. Obviously it’s a biased opinion, but I do really think that Always and Thames are really doing that. They are completely their own things and you can’t really compare either of them to something else, which is what I love about both of them.
Have you met Kate Moss?
Very briefly, at Blondey’s exhibition a couple of years ago.
That’s amazing. Have you spent much time with Ludvig?
Yeah man, I can’t get enough. He’s amazing. It’s like having a friend in a time capsule from the ’80s. He has the stuff he’s interested in and I guess he’s grown up in a small part of Sweden where most of his view into the world was through the Internet or watching videos. He’s decided what he likes, how he wants to look and how he wants to skate and be. I love him so much for that. He’s such an amazing skater, especially in person. Skating around smoking a cigar in a fucking suit jacket, like who is this guy?
And you wear the long socks. We definitely noticed over here.
Yeah, it really gets people going. I find it so funny. The way I see it, there’s always going to be people sitting at IMAX talking, and I may as well give them something to talk about. It’s funny to think that my socks could be the big topic of conversation.
It’s definitely going to be discussed. Well, I hope you carry on giving us something to talk about, Jarrad.
I will, don’t you worry.