From judging skate competitions for Skateboarding Australia to writing and producing web content and an independent magazine about skate culture, Morgan Campbell is well and truly immersed in all facets of skate life. He tells us how he was able to make a career out of it all and what’s going down in the Aussie skate scene.
Hey Morg, so what do you do?
I work for Skateboarding Australia, but over the years I have worked for numerous skate publications and websites. My role involves curating content for their website and doing PR for their contests as well as helping set up and judge the contests.
Can you explain to us what SbA does?
Our collective duty is to promote skateboarding and inspire exercise-related activity among our youth. With a website ladled with articles and videos, entry-level skate coaching programs called Streetwise, and competitions from junior amateur all the way up to pro-level, we are able to support and inspire kids.
There is a government aspect to the organisation. How does this work and does it ever feel at odds with the ‘damn the man’ nature inherent in skate?
Skateboarding will always have a rebellious streak. Surfing Australia is a similar body to SbA in that it is government funded. Look at art for example. Our elite painters have been getting government grants and funding for eons. Just because a culture has rebellious roots does not discount its validity, especially one that is getting people outdoors, creative and active. Obviously, there are cultural sensitivities when dealing with an entity as complex as skateboarding. If the wrong people try and transpose their values and ideals on it, they are going to botch it. The government knows this, so they are prepared to back those in the know, rather than fumble.
For example, our web content tries to focus on positive content. It is obviously a pretty thin line that we walk in order to keep everyone from the funders to the punters happy, but with such a good cause and so many potentially good outcomes, I am happy to try and do that balancing act.
How did you end up being involved with the organisation?
In late 2010, I was approached by Andrew Currie to see if I would be into coordinating the judging of SbA’s comps. Fast forward a month or so to the first stop of the 2011 SbA Am Series in QLD. Without really thinking about it I picked up a broom and started sweeping the course while skating. I am pretty sure that day my boss figured if I could sweep while skating, then I could make content while judging.
What is your history in skate, what attracted you to it initially?
Adrenaline, creativity, freedom, velocity and the chance to exist within a fourth dimension. Initially what attracted me to it were the films Back to the Future and Thrashin’.
And how did you end up making a career out of it?
Initially I had sponsors giving me product, and then later they started paying and giving me travel budgets. I never really made a whole load of cash from it, but for 10 years I was able to survive solely off it. Over the years there have been several creative pursuits that I have been interested in, which are potentially facets of the industry including writing, editing, directing and filming. I first started writing for skate mags in 1994 and that progressed alongside my skating.
Describe your typical day…
I try to mix it up as much as possible. Workdays involve a fair bit of time on the computer, time on the phone and maybe one too many coffees. And some ping-pong as we have a table in the house. Also, my flat mate and I often peer out the window and critique people’s parking while under tram pressure on Gertrude Street and mark them out of ten.
I have been hurt for a few months now, but when I’m up and shredding every single day I try and get on my board in some way or form.
How do you stay motivated?
I have constantly had a bizarre urgency to work on various projects. I think the key to being motivated with work is to do something you love. I feel it should be something we enjoy doing, otherwise it is a form of prostitution: work takes up too big a portion of our lives for us to spend it doing something we don’t enjoy.
What are some plusses and perils that are uniquely specific to operating within the skate industry?
Working with skating is a double-edged board: it can be as lame as it can be awesome. And, yes, there are politics, but you just have to remember why you fell into it in the first place. Skateboarding to me is about knowing the motion, not the tangled emotions of the insecure.
What were you doing before your role at SbA?
Apart from working at SbA, this time last year I was also working at Radio Bar and Cafe, Hemley and on my magazine Staple. Also I had my actual skating going on. There was barely a full day to relax and I was constantly disorientated. Over the past 12 months I have refined my schedule to contain two main elements – SbA and skating. Staple is having a snooze right now.
Your roles at SbA span Head Judge, PR and Web Content Manager. How do you juggle these different responsibilities?
They fuse, they cross over and they blur: it is really just one big job and a really long list of tasks to complete.
Who would you say is an up-and-comer to watch in Oz skate right now?
In terms of up-and-comers, off the top of the dial, I am rating Anthony Bull (NSW), Matt Reilly (WA), Dani Campbell (NSW), Cam Mullan (NSW), Beau Hinge (SA) and Nathan Mason (TAS). As far as the next Aussie who is really going to blow up overseas, I think it will be Jack Fardell. He is already known internationally, but when the planet cops the wrath of what he has got rocking in his trick, speed and power bag, they are going to be fleeing like penguins out of a ‘lavatating’ volcano.
How would you rate the skate scene locally compared to what is currently happening overseas?
I am no patriot, but Australia has to be the best place to skate in the world, hands-down. We may not have the plazas of Barcelona or Shenzhen, but we have the most parks in the world. The weather here is A-class, there are great spots, the cops are pretty relaxed about street skating and we have loads of space. Of course I have the utmost respect for various scenes around the world, and Australia could learn a whole lot by being more open to what is going on in other places.
What would you say to anyone who wanted to work in the skate industry?
Bottom line is you have to have it in your blood. You have to love it. Do it for the right reasons. If dollars or fame are your motivation then pick something else.
The best part of my job is…waking up when I want, deciding what I want to work on and being able to take my computer anywhere I feel like commencing this work. Presenting the culture I love and respect in a positive light and getting creative skaters paid for their craft as well as providing opportunities for the next generation of pros.
The worst part of my job is…working consecutive 16-hour days during peak times, but even then, you have got to love it.
Tomorrow I’ll be working on…I’ll be finishing up a Josh Roberts Chin Wag regarding his recent DVD, Domingo; doing a bit of preliminary work for the 2012 Shocklands comp (Pro/Am Stop #2), then (I know it is not work but) I’m going out for dinner with my girl and then on to Rod Laver to see Prince. Yeoooow.
My proudest achievement to date is…probably still being alive, as I have had some pretty close calls before. Also Natas thanking me for shooting a photo that was in a book of Marc McKee’s, and getting an Internet high-five from one of the pioneers of street skating.
When I was five I wanted to be…I wanted to mow lawns at five. I wanted one of those buggy-style mowers. Back-up careers included becoming a fireman or stuntman.
All Images Courtesy Daniel Luxford