Calvin Ligono is a skateboarder sponsored by New Balance who lives in London. He’s well travelled and consistently upbeat but we’re not just talking about his personality and skating. After finding out he’s lived in Africa, America, and the North and South of England and witnessing his ability to pop on and over stairs, ledges, gaps and ramps, with unique powerful style, it all pushed us to learn more about him.
So we got in touch and gave him a call to ask him to join The No Comply Network
He was down and so we had a chat about where he’s been on his board, what he’s been up to lately and what he has in store for the future.
Here’s our conversation about his skating on both sides of the Atlantic as a kid, finding inspiration from Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater secret tapes, Africa, America, skating at Pulaski, the UK, Rotherham, Sheffield, meeting Faro Phiri, going to Dev Green, Slugger Skate Store, shooting skate clips with Martin Kenelley, Ravenous, filming his Oreo part, making big moves in London, Wayward, Edson, Snowy, hanging with Hold Tight Henry, localising SB with Twiggy, Mark Baines, New Balance, Tom Knox, Portugal, his key to proper technique on Frontside Noseblunts and his favourite tricks, spots, skate videos and much more
Calvin, Nollie Hardflip St Pauls: Shot by Leo Sharp
What’s your full name?
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Nairobi, Kenya and I lived there until I was about four or 5 years old.
I lived in Washington DC until I was 12 but spent most of my high school years in a small town next to Sheffield called Rotherham.
Right now I’m living in London – The Big Smoke!
Sick. So, when did you first see skateboarding?
I used to watch the X Games a bunch when I first moved from Kenya and thought everything was cool because you don’t really get exposed to that shit in Africa.
But in my head skateboarding was in the same ‘extreme’ category as like Motocross or whatever.
It wasn’t until I played Tony Hawk‘s Underground that I saw skateboarding though this raw, gritty skate rat influenced lens.
That whole vibe of seeing skateboarding in the streets, raw and uncut, mixed with graffiti hip hop culture was toooo ill.
I must have been 7 or 8 and used to watch all the in game videos for hours.
Chad Muska, Andrew Reynolds, Kareem Campbell and Paul Rodriguez‘s footy stood out for sure.
What was your first skateboard?
I got my first setup when I was about 10 or 11 years old. It was a Blind Skateboards complete from the website.
Where did you first learn to skate?
I learned to skate behind my old school in Washington, D.C.
I used to hang out with a bunch of older kids once I started skating.
Then on Go Skate day 2008 they were like “yeah were gonna go downtown and skate Pulaski, there’s gonna be a huge event, you should pull up.”
I was 11 and definitely wasn’t allowed to go all the way downtown on my own so obviously I lied to my mum and went anyways haha.
After that it was a wrap. I spent the whole summer going to Pulaski everyday!
At that age it was surreal, seeing people like Darren Harper or Bobby Worrest skate everyday, graffiti culture, random crackheads buggin, Hip Hop culture, learning to grind the ledges at Pulaski meeting new heads.
To this day my mum has no idea I was downtown getting chased by feds at Pulaski when I was eleven haha.
Why did you move from the US to the UK?
My parents got back together and my dad was living in London when they were separated.
I was starting to get into a bit of trouble and I guess my mum thought it might be better for me to grow up in a country where the justice system isn’t as fucked as America so she decided we move to the UK, instead of my dad moving to the states.
Calvin, Ollie, Sheffield: Shot by @eazystreets
Cool. So, how did you end up moving to Sheffield?
We lived in London for like 9 months but then when I first moved here but my parents found it super expensive.
My mum got a job in Rotherham, a city near Sheffield, which meant she could support us more so we moved up there after 9 months.
When did you first start skating at Dev Green?
I used to pull up now and then with Joe Marks when I was like 13, 14. He lived near me and used to pick me up a lot.
But I started going there a lot more when I was around 17 and met more of the Sheffield scene.
Calvin: Shot by @sluggerskatestore
Do you have a favourite Shaun Currie trick?
Shaun Currie‘s Frontside 360 Heelflip or Kickflip. No doubt!
Gnarliest trick you’ve ever seen at Dev Green?
Anything by Ben Broyd. Power!!
Or Matlok Bennett-Jones doing a Switch Frontside Flip over the driveway.
How did your Ravenous Oreo video part go down?
I met Martin Kennelly when I was 13 from chilling with Joe but I didn’t see him much for 3-4 years.
When I started skating Sheffield more at 17/18 he asked if I wanted to skate for Ravenous and I was down.
We filmed that day and then we started filming a bit after that.
What’s your favourite trick in your Oreo section?
Hardflip Manny pop down the stairs. Or maybe Nollie Flip into the uni bank?
Both felt good though
What was favourite trick in the video?
Faro’s Nollie Backside Heelflip was the one!!
Calvin, Martin Kennelly and Faro Phiri: @sluggerskatestore
What’s it like filming with Martin Kennelly?
Martin’s one of my favourite people to film with. He’s constantly cracking jokes or making witty comments.
It’s good to have that around when your out busting your ass all day.
Calvin, Nollie Hardflip: Shot by @reeceleung
For sure. Your Subway 9 Hardflip is dope. How long did that one take?
Thanks G. The nollie or normal one?
The regular one
The one Reece filmed on his phone was maybe 3rd go?
What about the Nollie Hardflip?
And maybe no more than 10 for the nollie hard? Can’t really remember
What’s your favourite trick you’ve seen down the 9?
Joe Mark’s Switch Front Heel down it in the Adidas Big Push 2011. No doubt.
Cool.So, when and why did you move to London?
I moved back to London July 2019. At the time I was skating for Wayward and was coming through a lot more often.
Every time I left I found myself wanting to come back.
Skating here is fast paced, you can go spot to spot all day,and there seems to be more events down here that I fuck with.
I get bored kinda easy and the city is always changing,so everything just made sense.
I was going through some other shit in my life so I basically said fuck it, packed a suitcase and some boards and moved down with £40 in my bank account and tried to see how long I’d last.
Sick, that’s amazing you just went for it like that
Another reason that made me stay, that I only realised maybe a year after being here was the presence of black skateboarders. Not saying there aren’t black skateboarders elsewhere in the UK.
I’ll skate with anyone as long as there safe, regardless of race but it’s refreshing being at a spot, looking around and every skateboarder there is black. That’s something I for sure never experienced in the UK.
Calvin, Smith Grind: Shot by @reeceleung
How did you get on Wayward?
When Kennelly was doing Ravenous me and Faro used to call him skate dad haha.
He definitely has a good taste and we fucked with him and listened to his advice. When Ravenous ended, Wayward approached me and Faro.
We asked Kennelly and he mentioned he knew the people and told us to ride for them and we did.
Calvin, Ollie: Shot by @reeceleung
Snowy and Edson who run Wayward are legends. What’s your favourite thing about Wayward?
Snowy and Edson were always super accommodating. I’ll always appreciate and remember that. Clicked real well with the rest of the team too.
I stopped skating for Wayward early last summer but we ended on good terms and still say what’s up and jam together when we see each other which is banging and how it should be. Those two are the homies for real!
What’s your favourite Snowy trick?
Snowy’s Wallie Back 3 at SB is tooo ill!
You also skate for New Balance how did you get on?
I was getting Adidas for a while after Oreo came out. I lived in Manchester at the time and Adidas was focusing more on the London scene, so not much was happening plus I didn’t have any plans on moving to London at the time.
I had known Mark Baines for a while and he mentioned riding New Balance a few times and told me to keep it in mind. Baines had mentioned he would be down to try and get me involved with what they had planned. I spoke to him, he sent me some shoes to try and they skated banging! I was on board from then.
How was that New Balance trip to Portugal?
Portugal trip was real good. Was my first time visiting mainland Europe and going on a legit skate trip.
Definitely had cold feet a bit but was banging to see all the heads smash it.
What’s your favourite Tom Knox trick?
That line where he Heelflips the street driveway, Backside 360’s down the stairs straight to Front Board on the brick ledge is fucked!!
Gone on any other trips you were stoked on?
Covid made sure that wasn’t possible for me haha, I might try and go on some anyways this year…Fuck it let’s see.
You’ve got a dope Nollie Hardflip. Who’s got your favourite?
Thanks G, Kareem Campbell no doubt! NA KEL Smith has got a good one too.
Calvin, Popped Hardflip: Shot by @eazystreets
How have you passed the time over lockdown?
I been skating a bunch to be honest. Really just trying to stay productive and healthy.
Trying to work on my body, Korahn Gayle got me into that shit heavy!
I also do this online university course which gives my brain something to do.
How did that Nollie Hardflip at SB down the 7 right in front of security go down? Looked amazing
Oh yeah I remember that session. I got there and skated for like 5 minutes and I was gonna cut, I was so over it.
Twiggy must’ve pulled up so I just decided to stay a bit longer and he pulled out the table and we started skating over it.
He got me gassed to try the trick for sure. SB security guards were just bugging to be honest.
Some trivial shit, I don’t know I wasn’t really trying to hear it. But I kinda fuck with the seccy presh.
You’ve filmed sick tricks with Hold Tight Henry what was it like filming with him?
Yeah I filmed a trick with Hold Tight Henry for his Overcroft edit. He was real chill and safe. Think it was the first time I met him. He knew exactly what he wanted, how to film it, where it was going to be in the edit etc.
You skate with Cameron Gooden AKA Twiggy, a lot, what’s your favourite thing about Twiggy’s skating?
I think there are two types of skateboarders. People who can do tricks and people who are good at skating!
Twiggy‘s got tricks for sure but you can just watch him cruise around going real fast and make it look dope without doing a single ‘trick’ which not many people can get away with! That bredda’s good at skating!
I’d rather watch Twiggy bomb around SB mach 10 wallieing and sliding than see someone try a really tech trick for 3 hours hoping to just fall on the board eventually.
What’s the key to great Frontside Nosebluntslides?
Definitely load up the weight on the front leg. Make sure to turn the board a full 45 degrees too.
Who’s got your favourite Frontside Noseblunt?
Jerome Campbell no doubt! Too much style
When we first met you had a job working at the mini ramp in Selfridges how did you get that job?
Oh yeah, so like I said before I just moved down to London trying to wing it and see how long I lasted.
I ended up on Dan Fisher’s sofa at one point and remembered him saying how he works there and its a bless job.
I definitely had to think of a way to stay in London long term so I applied, and Ross McGouran hooked it up.
Calvin, Nollie FS Heelflip @herefordskatepark : Shot by @ashwilsonphoto
Do you like skating transition?
I like skating it a lot more now since working at a bowl. I ain’t the best at it but the shit’s fun.
You and Faro are good mates, how did you meet ?
Me and Faro met when he was in Sheffield for Uni.
I was a little younger than him and he was another black skateboarder killing it!
I gave credit where it was due of course. I’m pretty sure he messaged me asking if I wanted to skate for Ravenous after Kenelley mentioned it. We used to just go out skating all the time, roasting each other and try to learn tricks and shit.
Calvin and Faro: Shot by @reeceleung
What’s your favourite trick by Faro and why?
Faro’s Switch Heel over the road gap at Wicker in Sheffield for his ender in Oreeo.
The way he grinded for that and came back for it after taking some gnarly bails was super inspiring.
Who is your favourite skate photographer and why?
Rafski!AKA Rafal Wojnowski
He’s dope to have on a session.
Where’s your favourite skate spot in your London and why?
Oxford street ledges are dope. Feels like your going downhill both ways. Good for blunts and slides. And you can’t really skate it so much because of pedestrians so when you do skate it it feels dope.
Where’s your favourite skate spot in Sheffield and why?
The university bank. I like how you only get a few goes to skate because security is hot!
Plus you can pop up first which just makes anything you do into it look legit.
Where’s your favourite skate spot in the world?
What’s your favourite skate photo of all-time?
Stevie Williams ,Switch Frontside Noseslide at Love Park Shot by Mike Blabac. Because its STEVIE!
Stevie Williams SW FS Noseslide, Love Park: Shot by Mike Blabac
What’s your favourite skate video ever and why?
Transworld – In Bloom.
That era of skateboarding really stands out. The drip, the style of the skaters and the skate fashion, especially.
And that video has got Evan Hernandez.
Do you have a favourite skater, if you do, who is it and why?
Damn this changes on a day by day basis.
But right now its gotta be Tiago Lemos. The dude’s got power and style and he looks dope on a skateboard.
Who has your favourite style on a board and why?
Heitor Da Silva or Kyle Wilson
They both could be riding rip sticks and make it look good.
What do you think about The No Comply Network?
What you guys are doing is dope.
Talking to a wide range of people from different perspectives is cool. It means your content isn’t monotonous.
Any shout outs Calvin?
Shout out to you guys for this interview.
Anybody who’s ever helped or supported me skating in any way shape or form.
The Sheff skate crews, Manchester skate crews and London skate crews.
Slugger, Brixton’s Baddest Skate Shop. Anybody who ever affected me positively and anybody who I missed… It’s all love
Any last words?
Big up Jason, respect.