Kris Vile is a skateboarder from Birmingham, England who’s been a standout presence on his board since the day he started. He’s always pushing himself to do the gnarliest and most challenging tricks he can on whatever is in front of him.
It’s tough to nail down exactly how many tough tricks he does in any given session because he can do so many and skate practically anything he puts his mind to. He’s constantly busy filming in Birmingham and beyond and he’s always pushing to finish his next project.
So we were lucky enough to catch up with Kris to find out what it was like growing up and skating in Birmingham, going to Ideal Birmingham, A Third Foot Skateboards, getting sponsored by Vans, meeting Flo Marfaing, living in Barcelona with Chewy Cannon, going on trips with Ross McGouran, inspiration from Geoff Rowley, Andrew Reynolds and Alex Moul, filming for Vans Europe’s 1966 video, Get Lesta, Callun Loomes, building creative obstacles and Bournbrook DIY, his favourite photos, tricks and spots and more.
I grew up in Yardley in Birmingham where I went to primary school and I moved to Sheldon where I did secondary school.
I heard that you learnt to ollie the first day you started to skate, is that true?
Yeah I did. Essentially, I watched my oldest brother Rob and his best mate Kurt learn to skate for a bit on the corner of our road, every so often, for the first four months that they skated.
It looked interesting but I never tried it but then one day after watching them for so long, I was like I want a try!
Rob could ollie already but his best mate Kurt was still trying to get the ollie down. I somehow managed to do one in just three tries. It was a rubbish ollie but I did it!
How did you learn to ollie so fast?
Rather than having to learn how to do it, I understood how to do it and did not have to think about it. Then I learnt Pop Shuvits, then Frontside 180s, then Fakie Ollies and then Kickflips.
How long did it take you to learn all of that?
I learnt all of the other tricks in the first six months but I was kickflipping up and down the curb outside in six months.
When I boardslide the 7 stair rail at WHSmiths spot in Birmingham, I’d been skating for about 9 months. So I told the guys at Ideal Skateshop and one of the guys who worked there called Bob Sanderson said I’ll give you 50p if you can do the 9 stair rail that’s there and so I thought yeah go on and so I did it.
I went back to Ideal a few days later and told them and Bob Sanderson gave me a Third Foot Skateboards’ deck for it.
I was 12. I didn’t know what sponsorship was at the time but I realised it was something that could help me to skate more.
What do you remember from skating in Birmingham as a kid?
A whole lot of our existence of our skating in Birmingham in my youth was making stuff to skate because we never had anything to skate and so it was natural to skate things we built and use the obstacles to film footage.
What is it about making those kickers and contraptions that you liked so much?
It’s just the raw freedom of you making something and the unique way that you constructed it. If you create something that disappears after the session, nobody will ever skate that again. I put together the weirdest contraptions I could find, some that were barely skateable but just for the chance to try it.
There’s a beauty in that because it’s your creation. It’s like the new Bournbrook DIY spot in Birmingham. The spot’s always had potential for a DIY but it’s cool to be a part of actually doing it and building something in my own city.
Yeah, it’s rad. What are your favourite spots to skate in Birmingham and why?
There’s been eras. I really wish that I had more time skating at Chamberlain Square, where the old Birmingham Library was, that one year I had was great but I wish it had been for a bit longer. That year was a big one for my skating.
It was my first six months in skating. I went from kickflipping off a curb to kickflipping three stairs. You had the opportunity to level up gradually and if you build on something gradually, then you can get it down, rather then taking shortcuts.
So I learnt to kickflip down stairs there and I kickflipped everything I could until I learnt another trick. Then I would do the same with that one!
Yeah, it shows in your skating, you’re really consistent. What about Ideal, they’ve always hooked you up, when did you first go to the shop?
I’d been skating for six months and my oldest brother got his first job in the city centre. Then we watched this skate video filmed in Birmingham at the time, it was this skate video by a filmmaker from Brighton named Andy Evans called As If.
We saw a couple of the spots and recognised that they were in town too and we’d been to Ideal briefly to get my first board also. So from then on, we went in there all the time. Bob was always the most friendly person and Kris Ludford and Zip have had such a big passion for skateboarding in Birmingham for the last 25 years. I wouldn’t be the same person today without them really.
As a scene we do a lot but individually, I think everybody plays a part but Ideal is still a major part of everything.
How did you get sponsored by A Third Foot?
A Third Foot was wicked. They were a very strong part of the Birmingham scene when I started. Although, the company didn’t get seen as much as it could have done beyond Birmingham and the West Midlands. What they were doing was awesome. They were the only company producing skateboards in the UK for such a long time.
Going on trips with Ben Blake and Damon Leventhal was amazing, having the chance to hang out with older guys when I was 13, we went on a UK wide tour. It was great. Then the two Big Pushes too. A Third Foot and Document were tight at the time.
Yeah, that Big Push was a rad trip. Joe Gavin, Dougy, Ozzie Ben, Tom Brown. That was great. Obviously it was all down to Ken and Joel. They skated a lot when they were younger but even as they got older and could not skate as much, their love of skating showed in their production. They made boards for skate shops, brands and their own brand.
What was your favourite A Third Foot Graphic?
My favourite board? The first board I had was the Roman Numeral Board, in my mind now, I love the woodgrain background it had and that was like the first board I had. I love that woodgrain effect. I also loved the ball and chain graphic.
Everything was related. Being less abstract, they always had an angle they wanted to go with. Yeah the brand had a vision beyond looking cool, it meant something. They put blood, sweat and tears into that brand. It’s sad it doesn’t exist anymore but all good things must come to an end. They were running for 20 years.
Yeah, they contributed so much.
I’ve been through a few board sponsors, I’ve been with each for a long time. When it came to getting a pro board, I never really found my place. But A Third Foot after all that time, they kept in touch and we did a guest board and it gave me the chance to put my name on something. I couldn’t be more thankful enough for that.
We both did so much for each other. So it was rad to have the opportunity to do something.
Well before I ever thought of sponsorship or anybody else offering to take me to places. From the first time I skated somewhere that I hadn’t been, I fell in love with the adventure of skating somewhere new. I got bit by that bug. I wanted to travel and meet people.
I had the drive to travel locally, and because I was skating with my brother, my parents allowed me to go to little towns and cities outside of Birmingham from the get-go. To this day I’m a social person. It all stems from that. When my sponsors like Vans offered me the opportunity to go to other places. My bag was packed and I was ready to go.
How did you film that part in New Zealand?
At that point in time, I went on a trip to New Zealand for an event called X-Air. Redbull flew me and Ross McGouran out there for that and we met up with our friend Dom Henry there, who was out there studying, and we met a bunch of locals who we became friends with.
Ross and I became best friends when we were on Vans.
Yeah, you two were tight.
Yeah we skated similarly but different. I was more of a street skater and I loved skating transition. Ross was more of a transition skater but could handle his own on street. So we did a lot for each other in that sense.
Being of a similar age, it was great to have friends growing up at that time and especially being involved with the same sponsors and situations. It meant we were always able to do stuff together and we’re still friends to this day. I wish I spoke to him more.
What’s your favourite Ross McGouran trick?
Ross has got the best Frontside and Backside Air, he can do any Nosegrab. The simplicity and beauty of how he does it is incredible, 360, to fakie, anything, it’s so simple but so difficult to make it look that easy and refined. Ross has also got one of the best Kickflips I’ve ever seen, to this day. They were always perfect form.
You’ve done so many trick variations like, firecrackers and polejam fakie flip outs, why do you like to do challenging creative tricks?
I think it’s a part of the same inspiration from travelling. Sometimes a trick doesn’t present itself as something you can do until you get to the right spot that opens your mind to it being possible. Skating something new, you can do something different. You open up a field to new variations, when you start playing around with a trick in its simplest form. Throw a little grab in, turn it the other way. It might be against the grain but that’s how you figure them out.
Yeah, I just learnt some new slappies and I’m doing them as much as I can till I can slappy anything. These little tangents or journeys you do with tricks will help you to learn more about other tricks too.
Geoff and Reynolds were two of my favourite skaters, I think all the tricks I tried and progression I made in those early years was heavily influenced by those two skaters.
Where did you first see Andrew Reynolds skate?
The Birdhouse video The End with his section was the first skate video I ever had and a 411 from 1998!
Where did you get them?
We got them from Ideal. I got 411 for my 11th birthday. We used to rinse them both.
Sick, what was it like filming the Vans video ‘1966’?
It was fantastic. That was my first chance to go around Europe with Vans. We did demos and tours and events in all of these different countries and then we spent the other 5-6 days of the trip skating street spots to get footage for the video.
How long did it take to film?
We did it over a year, we did twelve, two -week long trips.
So I spent half the year travelling around the world. It was amazing. It solidified some friends for life.
I remember meeting Flo Marfaing for a street skate in Birmingham when I was 13. He was touring as part of the King of the Street Event and we went to the WH Smiths spot in Birmingham city centre and I got to see him Nollie Crook down the nine stair rail. I took them there and I got to see him do that and we travelled to Barcelona and China together too when I was older so Flo has been a major inspiration to my skating. His energy and skating is amazing.
You lived in Barcelona, what’s your favourite thing about skating there?
Barcelona is like the international crossroad point of skateboarding. From first timers to seasoned vets, Barcelona is still the holy grail of world skateboarding It’s a fantastic place to be and to be involved in the skate industry, you were in exactly the right place and the weather and the food was fantastic.
What’s your favourite spot in Barcelona?
There’s so many but there is one spot I skated a lot over the years, we were the first people to skate it. It’s a downhill spot, up to a big 4 block. It was just amazing. We christened the stairs. I did a backside 360 down it.
What about your bigspin down that big 7?
That was a good one. I was out there and I was with a friend who runs an Italian skate magazine. I had just shot an article for his magazine and used all that footage in the first Get Lesta part that I had.
During that week we were all together in Barcelona, I wanted to skate that big 7 stair spot, I remember somebody doing a line where they skated the bench and skated the stairs.
So I nosemanualled the bench in a line instead and then Bigspinned the 7 and Dan Wileman filmed it but he zoomed in on the fish eye so we couldn’t use the footage but we still had the single and the sequence, which was cool
What was the line?
I did a 360 Shuvit, a Nosemanual on the bench then a Nollie Heel on flat and then a Bigspin down the 7 at the end.
Yeah, it’s a shame the footage would have been great. It was filmed on my camera as well!
What was it like living with Chewy in Barcelona?
Yeah that was a brilliant time. I absolutely love Chewy Cannon and I knew him from spending time in London when I used to visit Ross. So I felt like I knew him really well. Yeah, he just hit me up about a room and I lived with him for like 7 months.
Any good stories from skating with Chewy?
We used to do quite a lot of late night missions. Because Barcelona is so hot in the summer. The hours that people normally spend outside is limited. At the latter points of the day it’s more active. So we did a lot of night missions and went hillbombing. Chewy loves going fast and so do I. So we used to bomb the hills a lot.
What’s your favourite spot in London?
Southbank has loads of history. What was skateable at the time I first went was wonderful although it’s way bigger now. You could go to London, not speak to anyone, go to Southbank and you’ll run into someone there. It’s great.
What about the Kickflip Front Blunt on the cheese?
Yeah, Frontside Bluntslides have always been one of my favourite tricks to do on a ledge and I’d actually done that trick before on a Big Push at Hyde Park in Leeds. I remember being in London for the Emerica Wild in the Streets jam at Southbank and I thought I’d give it a go. I did one, it landed in front blunt and a few attempts later I rolled it.
Yeah, my arm’s look crazy on that lander but it was so difficult just to lock into that trick. I remember it felt a bit weird but I was happy about that one.
Yeah it looked tight. So how did you first meet Callun Loomes who runs Get Lesta?
I’d come back to the UK from Barcelona and I was back in Birmingham for a while. I had an injury on my foot and had serious ligament damage. I’ve had problems with them for years. So then I was skating with Kelley Dawson, a skater from Bromsgrove, we hung out in Barcelona and he was already skating and filming with Callun Loomes.
So it was Kelley who introduced us to one another.
What was it like filming for Get Lesta’s first video?
It was sick; I think for me, aside from that first Vans video, filming for the What’s Cooking video for Get Lesta was what I considered was really my first video part. The Vans 1966 video was more about trips and there was a set amount of spots we went to and I didn’t choose all of them but with the Get Lesta part it was different.
My favourite part is 420. I liked the tricks I did, how it was filmed, the spots and the aesthetic of the whole video and the music were all really well put together.
But probably the best one to work on was that first one ‘What’s Cooking because of that fresh energy and drive, I did stuff I’d never done before.
What trick were you most stoked on from that?
I did the first BS 360 Lipslide I ever did on a street rail in that part on a rail in Sheffield. I hadn’t seen anyone in the UK do that trick at the time.
What about the SW Bigspin Heel down Fastlands 9?
The few times I did that trick after learning it, it was always down a set of stairs and it always worked really well.
You think there was Alex Moul Inspiration on that?
For sure. There’s a lot of rotations and variations of tricks that I do, that are inspired by people I skated with, especially Alex Moul. I mean he can do literally everything on a skateboard. I probably absorbed a lot of his skating into mine. I’ve never thought about it till now. I see a lot of my skating in Alex’s when I really think about it. He was a big inspiration to my skating and we do have a lot of similarities in our skating.
Yeah, Mouly put you on Santa Cruz too when he was TM. Who are your current sponsors?
I’m still getting stuff from Almost Skateboards, through Dwindle, they’re looking after me well. I still get a lot of boards which is brilliant. I’m still with Vans, been skating for them for 15 years and I’m hoping to be working on some new future projects with them in the coming year.
What’s your favourite skate photo?
One of my favourite photos is this Front Blunt I did in China shot by Leo Sharp.
At that time, when I was younger and smaller, Leo was such a larger than life character.
He’s always looked out for me and is one of my all-time favourite photographers.
Last words for those reading this in Lockdown?
Yeah, although we never thought this would be something that would happen, it has. I think a lot of people haven’t experienced the benefit and maybe they should. In a dark tunnel there is always a light and we just need to make it through.