Ben Raemers Portrait - Jacob Sawyer
About fifteen years ago, a photographer friend rang me as he was about to head to the city with a kid I’d met a few times called Ben Raemers. He was a park rat from out of town who really wanted to skate it all – but needed help as he didn’t have spots.
Later that day, I got told by a couple of people that they’d seen Ben rolling away from tricks at the Liverpool Stret double set.
A few years later, we ended up hanging out more and more and then eventually came together over the last decade at Volcom. We’ve lurked, travelled and filmed for years and right now, Ben is off trying to work on a project with some other filmers. Once again, the spot calls have started. He has said directly that he just has a couple of places he likes to skate regularly and that’s it.
His world may have changed externally now he is a made man with his name on a board, but that self-driven need for him to fully charge the moment he sees something which takes his fancy still is a huge part of what makes Ben an exciting character to bear witness to.
Intro by Kevin Parrott
Hello Ben how is it going?
Yeah it's going really good. It's the last day of this Volcom trip.
How long has it been?
It will be a week today. It's nice to be on a trip where I can actually be at my own house and the hotel everyone is in is five minutes away. It's very rare. It's been great showing them spots and witnessing them skate stuff that I didn't think would be possible. People like Alec Marjerus skating the rails out here that people don't really hit that often.
When did you get your first skateboard and do you remember what it was?
I was 8 years old, it was Christmas time and my uncle lives in Croydon. I woke up on Christmas day opened this thing and I had a Goosebumps skateboard, it was the best. It had a mummy on a skateboard on the back of it and it was so banging. That was the first.
Do you remember the first time you ever saw somebody else skating?
This is actually pretty crazy as well. We would go to my uncles all the time in Croydon. We would go past Fairfield Halls because there is a big shopping centre near there. That's the first time I saw a big group of people skating something and i remember being like wow this is sick. That was my first encounter with skating.
Who was the first skateboarder you looked up to?
I think because I grew up in Walton On The Naze which is in Essex, Ipswich wasn't far from where I grew up. It was like a thirty minute train ride. That was where the nearest good skatepark was and Frank Stephens is from Ipswich. He was my first Pro encounter. I went down there and he was killing it, just killing it and I hadn't seen that before. I had just been skating with my mates. We had gotten to an age of about 12 where we could get trains together and seeing someone on that sort of level was just the best thing ever, so good!
When did you first get on Volcom?
When I was 14 years old which was 12 years ago. I remember I was so stoked. I was at school and I had just got a massive box of Volcom clothes. That was around the time when Flip Sorry had just come out so there was all this footage of Rowley wearing sick Volcom stuff. Even just having the sticker. I'm still stoked now but it was really surreal.
Where is the best destination a Volcom trip has taken you?
Probably the Cayman Islands which is an Island next to Jamaica, a Carribean island. It just so happens that they built this crazy, massive concrete park on the beach. There's a lot of footage of Grant Taylor skating there. The skating part is a quarter of it. We were swimming with stingrays, stingray city. The sea is see through, you go snorkelling and you can just see tropical fish everywhere. It's like a dream. It's the sort of place you'd see in a movie where they're drinking cocktails on the beach. I'd go back there anytime.
How's this trip been so far? Where have you been and where are you off to after today?
We went to some spots around East on the first day like the Birdcage banks and stuff, we kept it local around there. The next day it just rained all day so we went to Southbank. Daan did a fucking crazy trick there, he did a 540 on the new quarter so high out of it. That was good, we then skated that big cut off rail that Barney Page had a Sidewalk cover feeble grinding. The day after that we went to the Clapham Junction spot and skated all of that stuff. Yesterday we drove to Bristol and went to a skate park to do this thing. We ended up getting home at about 2:30 in the morning. Today everyone went skating and I couldn't do it because I pulled a muscle by where my heart is. I'm going to America in two days.
Who is your favourite person to skate with on the Volcom team and who is the best to watch?
I would say Jackson Pilz or Caswell Berry. They both ride for enjoi and we have been friends for a long time. That's always a good time. I don't see them all that much so it's always a treat. To watch I would have to go with Grant Taylor or Daan van Der Linden because it's not even real when you watch them skate, it's something else. Everything they do, if they go to a spot you need to get a camera out before you've even sat down. They could just do something first go and not again
Have you been keeping up with Dollin in your down time or is that impossible?
It's pretty impressive because he can put down some beers. Whenever I get to the hotel to meet everyone he will be at the bar getting a beer. He is bringing the good energy the whole time. When people are skating he's yelling at them and getting them to do stuff. He did some classic Dollin tricks too. At the Clapham Junction spot he somehow did a frontside flip three foot out of that tranny which is pretty much impossible but he did it. It was classic Dollin like in the Baker videos. His whole personality like you see in movies and stuff, there is not an ounce of fakeness in it. It is genuinely what he is like, having a good time all of the time, it's sick.
Quite a lot of things seem to happen to you on your travels. What is the best and worst situation a tour has found you in?
It's not the worst situation but it's definitely not great. I was in LA staying there for a bit and I was walking to Walgreens to buy something. My bank card was inside my passport in my back pocket. I got to Walgreens and realised I had somehow lost both of them on the two minute walk there. Then I was completely fucked. It's like 500 dollars for a new passport situation. Luckily I had friends around me who took care of me but it was rough because I had a few more trips while I was there. I had to live off no money for another five weeks. Crazy bumming it, it was pretty harsh, luckily some good friends helped sort it out.
I think when I was a kid the best decision I have ever made was in America. I was on a homies trip when i was a kid and I had met Louie Barletta before from being here. I didn't think it would happen but I hit him up and told him I was in America and that I wanted to stay a bit longer because everyone else was going home. I asked if he minded if I could stay out and skate with them for a week. If I could I would extend my ticket, I didn't know him very well or anything. He was down, he said "yeah do it". When the trip finished everyone left and took a flight back to England and I just flew down to his. I ended up having the sickest week, I skated with all of the enjoi team. I was probably only 15 or 16. Looking back it was an amazing time, that's the best, i'm stoked on that.
Ben and Axel Cruysberghs in our Covent Garden Shop
You're straight off on an enjoi trip after this one and you have a pretty heavy Summer schedule. What trips do you have lined up?
After this I'm going out to San Jose just to go and skate with them boys for a week. I'm going to go to Baltimore when we get back from there…
Have you seen The Wire?
Yeah we have skated that spot a few times, the one from The Wire. It's fucking banging! It's pretty gnarly though, you're skating there and it's the real deal. I've never actually watched The Wire but I have been there a couple of times and everyone wants to keep it cool, just get a trick, be cool to the locals. We are doing something there I think and then I'm coming back here to work on a Converse thing. When enjoi come on a Euro tour they will be here towards the end of September, Newcastle Manchester, London, that's going to be good. I think Louie will stay afterwards for ten days at mine. There are trips after that and it just goes on. It's good, it's tiring sometimes but I appreciate everything.
Will Colchester remain home in your heart or can you see yourself relocating somewhere sunny permanently some day?
It's a tough one. l lived in California for a long time, I moved to Barcelona for a bit and i couldn't handle the party scene so I had to leave. It's phenomenal, wake up and drink a Damm Lemon. It's hard to say really. When I'm old I'm definitely going to be living somewhere in England, Essex or somewhere. It's where you're from you know. I will definitely be going to the states and will spend a lot of months out there though.
Are you stoked to be getting your London room mate back?
Tom Tanner? Yeah I'm stoked because he is one of my best friends and Nick Stansfield is also moving in with us. I have known Nick since I was 13 years old. It's going to be a good trio. The place we are trying to get at the moment is really nice as well, big kitchen and living room and nice rooms. We just want to make a nice house, it's not going to be a skate house. More like a place we will cook dinners together. I'm hyped
Where is your favourite park and street spot in London?
I try and drag everyone there all of the time but my favourite park is Victoria Park. I quite enjoy it but nobody else is really into it. I like Viccy Park and I enjoy Stockwell. I like the whole Clapham zone as well and the Clockwork Orange banks. i like going there because as a kid I would watch that all the time, it has that history. Also I'm amazed that I'm literally being taken to spots everyday that I didn't know existed here which is amazing. Kev Parrot on this trip is showing us these cutty street spots. He has got the knowledge, he's been skating in London forever so he knows a lot. People say London doesn't have the most amount of spots, it's good to know there are things you never knew existed untapped. Daan skated a rail here, he did a 50-50 down a big rail in an estate in Tottenham that I never knew existed.
What's your favourite Pro board. Is it a Rob Mathieson graphic?
I would have to go with Rob's Cock Piss Partridge board. I have been a massive Alan Partridge fan my whole life. To have that on a board is next level, I'm stoked. The only other thing I would be really stoked on would be to have a Del Boy board.
Have you guys got more ideas in the pipeline?
Yeah he comes up with ideas a lot, him and Louie. I don't hear all that much, him and Louie talk about ideas and do it all. I quite like it like that because it's a bit of a surprise when it comes out. Sometimes you will be going through a new catalogue and see a new one. It's quite a surreal feeling to see your name on the bottom of a skateboard which still hasn't really kicked in. Every time I see it it's crazy.
Is it true Rob beat you in a game of Connect 4 in 4 moves?
It possibly could be true but the reason I can't remember it and was so bad is because I was probably at a pub wasted.
You were caught up in the riots which happened in Dalston the other day. How was that?
It was pretty mad, basically we were walking from my house to go and play some pool. Me, Smithy and Tom walking from Haggerston to Dalston. All of the roads were shut off and it was getting kind of sketchy. There were Police everywhere, we carried on walking and there were all these sketchy looking people in balaclavas. We just walked through and noone paid any notice to us. We thought it was sketchy but carried on and played pool at this mini golf place then we got a pint afterwards and it all started kicking off! We were heading towards Haggerston and it was heavy. Riot Police, Police on horses, bottles getting lobbed. Hundreds of rude boys lobbing bottles at Police. It was crazy, like something out of a movie. The crazy thing is I watched that whole thing happen and I didn't see it on the news or in a newspaper which makes me think there are things like that going on all the time in London and you don't even hear about it. In Ipswich if someones newspaper is taken from their front garden it's front page news. Here there are mad riots with shop windows getting smashed and there's nothing. I hate to say it but it was quite exciting just to be there seeing it all zoom by.
Do you have a new video part in the works or any other personal projects?
I'm filming for the Converse video and the deadline is the end of the year, I think it's meant to be coming out around December time. It's been pretty tough so far, you put so much pressure on yourself sometimes. Going on trips with some of the other guys can be overwhelming sometimes. It's really sick to see the level people are skating on these days but sometimes it can be intimidating and I feel very self conscious. I'll get to a spot and feel I could skate it but would rather watch what they are doing.
How do you combat that?
Recently I've been trying to forget about it and think that we are all just skateboarders and noone cares so just do your thing. I went on a trip recently with Bobby De Keyzer who is filming towards the video, the talent on that guy is something else, it's amazing to watch. I go on these trips and it's a treat. Sometimes I wish I had done more but I will leave the trip thinking I've seen some amazing stuff and I was hanging out with my friends the whole time. I need to crack on with it and see what happens.
Where is the best place to barbecue?
Previously it was London Fields, good atmosphere and people watching is always a treat, shops nearby. The place I think I'm moving out of is banging too, on the canal. I will go with London Fields.
Any final words of wisdom for someone starting out?
I think when I got my first skateboard, that Goosebumps one I think it was the best thing I could have possibly got in my whole life. If someone else who has never skated before gets that same feeling from it then I would go with it.