It’s unfair to say that nobody has ever heard of Walton-on-the-Naze, the (sorta) charming resort town of 6000 inhabitants in England, by the North Sea. After all, In Blur’s song “Tracy Jack,” the Tracy in question took “the first train to Walton,” where he “stood on the sea front.”
Apparently, he didn’t miss anything, swears migrant enjoi pro skater, and legend in the making, Ben Raemers, who grew up in the Tendring district’s gem of a place.
Teenage angst that dragged into adulthood? In other words, is this charming man exaggerating Walton’s non-plusses? Let’s take a look at an unbiased view on the subject, its Wikipedia page. About the town, it reads: “It attracts many visitors, The Naze (peninsula) being the main attraction. There is also a pier.” Get that party started!
While Tracy Jack was taking his train back home shaking his head in disdain, I asked Ben to tell me how the hell you become a pro skater when you come from a town that seems to be hailing straight from a seaside version of Guy Ritchie’s movie Snatch. A more interesting and unusual story than the cliché “I’ll die for my ‘hood” mentality that prevails in, say, hip-hop and skateboarding, and a picture-perfect tale of hometown non-pride at its finest, here’s in his own words what everybody’s favorite dreamy/dreaming skater had to say about spending his childhood in the dystopian sea haven he once reluctantly called home.
BEN RAEMERS: “I’m from a small seaside town East of England called Walton-on the-Naze. Growing down there was really boring, it felt like there was 50 people living in town. It was weird ’cause it’s only an hour and a half from London on the train, but back then I couldn’t afford to get on the train. Just stuck there. Basically, growing up in kind of a poorer family, we ended up living in a flat in Walton and it was super cheap. It was just my mom, my two brothers, my sister.
Luckily, I had a friend who had a Playstation with the Tony Hawk game. This was amazing. His brother would have a skateboard, me and my friend would use it and it was the best thing ever. From then, when I was 8 years old I carried on skating.
When I started skating everyone would pick on me, ’cause it was quite a chav-ey area where I lived [Editor’s note: “chav” is an English no-good teenager generally clad in a shiny tracksuit]. You had all these people, pikey kids [Editor’s note: See “chav” definition above, but with a gypsy twist]. They would always come and try to bully us and stuff. Like, this one time, they all came down, grabbed my friends’ skateboard and started smashing it against this rail, broke it. We couldn’t do anything ’cause there were so many of them.
It’s hard to describe pikey kids. You saw the movie Snatch? They’re an older version of the kids I grew up around. No respect for anyone or anybody. The flat I grew up in, I’d look out the window sometimes, and you’d just see groups of these kids... Once, there were all these stones by the road, and there were people in the beach houses down the pier and they’d be throwing stones at them, from the top of these stairs – somebody could have died. Oh my god.
Anyway, I carried on skating. There was a couple of guys in town, they were older, in their twenties perhaps, and they’d rally around cause they had cars and stuff. But when you’d see they actually skated before, you realized they were really good. This guy Paul Martin once did a kickflip in front of me, I had never seen one in person before! Could not believe it.
When I was 13, we were probably seven skateboarders, we begged the city and they built a skatepark. It was kind of in a field. We were out of sight, so there was no friction with everyday people besides the pikey kids. I loved it. I started smoking under the ramps. That park gave me my escape! One day, I was skating the mini ramp and Mark Monson and these guys came from Ipswich, the biggest town nearby, just ’cause they heard there was this new skatepark. Luckily, Mark was the team manager for Duffs and he started to come pick me up. I ended up moving with him in Ipswich when I was 15.
Some time later, my mom moved out to Ipswich, too. I was so thankful. Actually, I was visiting her in Ipswich the other day and we drove to Walton, just to be reminiscing the old times. We passed the skatepark but none of my friends live there anymore. I think no one skates anymore and that the skatepark’s dead. It’s sad.
As you guessed, I have zero hometown pride. ‘Cause it’s kind of like a state, so I got pride of Essex. I got this tattoo, with the three swords, it’s the symbol of Essex. Neil Smith, who was pro for Blueprint, is also from Essex. He even had a board graphic with the three swords, once. I might do something like that some day with enjoi, who knows?
But to be honest, to somebody visiting Walton to skate, I’d feel bad for them. There are not really spots, there’s “stuff”: four stairs or something. The upside of it, though, is that growing up there made me appreciate everything in life. Literally everything. I’m so grateful I never have to live there again.”
Follow Ben on Instagram @benraemers.