This article originally appeared on VICE UK
There’s a lot you don’t realize about your hometown until you leave it. Anyone who reinvented themselves at college could tell you that for free. For 23-year-old Chris Luu, the lesson came when he flew from Perth to England last summer, after befriending a Brit who was traveling through Australia in January. As a skater and photographer, he hadn’t quite counted on the culture shock.
"Skating has the same melody worldwide, but it’s the environment that makes it interesting," he says. Skating felt distinctly different in London and Bristol: "With London being a lot rougher, I would skate at a snail’s pace, worried about hitting a crack and flying into dusting my front teeth on the tarmac. Then I’d see ‘little local Billy’ from down the road just blast through."
After an initial four-month trip to the UK last year, where he crashed with two friends, "lowering their tea and cereal supply," Chris returned this year. His month-long trip felt as though it bent time. "This was a close group of friends of mine who were on a seemingly endless British summer holiday. They were all so hyped on skateboarding: it reminded me of being a kid, and wanting to go session the curb outside my friend’s house for ten hours a day. Seeing the world through their eyes, bombing hills, bleeding, traveling, and sleeping in seven-man ‘stink-pits.’"
Chris kept his camera on him throughout. He documented the aftermath of his friend Gabs taking a spill in Bristol—"he choked up his wheel, went flying, and just butchered himself on the pavement; his hands were toast"—and the days that turned into mass sleepovers. "There were dudes everywhere, limbs just scattered in all directions, we were shoulder to shoulder. Some of my best memories were on that trip. None of us cared—we’d barely showered but we just wanted to go skate."
While he notes that, due to its size, Perth "naturally has a smaller community of skaters," Chris says he twigged how skate culture has become a commodity. "I think skateboards themselves have become a bit of an ‘accessory’ for some," he says. He mentions the interplay between gentrification in London and the way skating has been used to sell a certain "look," which felt worlds away from what he saw and the people he met. "These are guys whose personalities are far from what’s ‘trending’ today inside the wider skate world. It’s a bare insight into what skateboarding should be with mates: concrete, beers, and seeing cool shit."