Joe Habgood : Who are you guys and how did Fifty Fifty come into existence?
Justin Sydenham : I’m Syd.
Danny Wainwright : I’m Danny.
Syd : We had been skating in Bristol for a long time and there was no real focal point for the skate scene, so we started Fifty Fifty back in ’97. It felt like Bristol needed a legit skatestore for all the skaters to hang out in, a meeting point, somewhere to check out all the new goods, so we opened.
Danny : Joe Habgood came up with the name.
Syd : Yep, Joe came up with the name because we were to stupid too. Ha!
Joe : And didn’t you raise the money you needed to start by winning contests and stuff?
Danny : Um, I wasn’t winning contests then. I was coming in the top 5.
Syd : You were pretty good in contests to be fair.
Danny : Yeah but I wasn’t winning any. I went off on tour in ’97 that went around Europe I believe. So I won money at Munster, and then I came 3rd at Wembley and basically saved the money, put it in the pot and opened a skateshop with £10,000 [over $13,500 pre-Brexit], we put £5,000 in each.
Joe : Why did you choose Bristol for your store?
Danny : Because it was where we were living, right?
Syd: I wasn’t living here.
Danny : Ah yeah, you weren’t living here.
Syd : You had moved here already. Me and Mr. Habgood use to come down pretty much everyday and we grew up skating here. I used to get the train here when I was like 13/14, when I had just started skating and it was the closest city to Gloucestershire.
Danny : We all grew up skating out of the city, in like a small town, so it was obvious to us, it’s the next progression, it’s the next step to move into the city. There’s loads of spots, loads, the facilities, the ramps, the people you meet, the mates you meet, y’know. It was the scene here, the vibes, all the people, I mean it was good. It’s the next place you move when you come from a small town. Bristol for me is so rich in talent, with people coming up skating, every different generation that comes up is fucking amazing. That’s why we chose Bristol; it was for us.
Joe : So you’re doing a collab board with REAL Skateboards; how did that come about?
Syd : Wow, how did that come about?
Danny: REAL recognise Real.
Syd : Yeah, REAL recognise Real. Haha!
Danny : Nah we were stoked. REAL is REAL, I mean, it’s in the name! It’s one of those skateboard brands you can’t fault. And Jim especially, he is one of the best dudes in skateboarding.
Syd : He came over last year for the Shiner 40th Anniversary…
Joe : Was that where the idea was sparked?
Danny : Yeah, basically. We had sat down and had one beer over the table and we were both like “Yeah, lets fucking do something!” That’s where the best skateboarding networking happens!
Joe : As we are doing for this interview right now!
Danny : Yeah, definitely. And now it’s happened. Stoked!
Joe : How many years of Fifty Fifty are you celebrating? And how are you celebrating it
Syd : Just the 20. There are a few things in then pipeline. Firstly,’ we’re kicking it off with this REAL collab as the first thing of the year, and the launch party is this Friday. The previous thing we did with REAL was a race at St. George’s park (REAL Crash Up Derby), so we wanted to make it go hand in hand and thought fuck it, the launch is going to be a race from the shop to the newly re-tarmacked pump track! Then we will host a jam down there, fastest laps, BBQ, booze, laughs, it’s going to be good. Then there will be the Lloyds Annual Big 3 jam, which is going to the biggest yet.
Danny : The ‘Bigger’ 3 Jam.
Syd: Yeah exactly. And then there are other things in the work, and of course a very big party in October!
Danny : The essence of everything is to involve people, to do cool fun shit instead of like standing on a pedestal and being like “yeah, 20 years”. The emphasis is trying to involve people who have supported us for 20 years and anyone who wants to get involved.
Joe : You’ve had a shop team since day one; how did you manage to put such an awesome team together?
Danny : That existed before the shop was open because we were already working on the first video “Bristol Zoo”. We opened October 16th 1997, and that video was on sale for Christmas. The crew was there, all the locals, all the dudes ya know, we were filming, skating, hanging out. It just happened!
Joe : What do you love most about the skateboarding scene in Bristol?
Danny : Bristol, for me, is so rich in talent. Whether it’s people coming up skating, filmers, musicians. I think it’s the DNA of the city if I’m honest. You can look at the skateboard history here, art history here or the music history here with people like Massive Attack and Portishead, creativity is engraved in the young people here, which is why I believe that so much talent comes out of Bristol from a skateboarding perspective. Every generation of skateboarding is amazing, at least 10 dudes killing it. Just look at Mike Arnold!
Joe : How much of an influence do you think people like Danny and the older generation of skaters has had on kids getting into skateboarding in Bristol?
Syd : I think he’s had a hugely positive influence. That’s one of the main things I really like actually because you hear all the kids saying “ah, he has a Tre flip like Danny”, “he has Back Tails like Stalker”. And like, they’ve taken bits out of every generation and mixed it together which is why some of the kids these days are so good.
Joe : There has been a huge number of teams and pro’s that have rolled through Fifty. Who have been some of your favourites to visit the store?
Syd : Definitely the Vans team with Cardiel and… Cardiel. The Lakai team! Skating Lloyds with Mike Carroll and then going out for pizza with them after haha. They were good times. Stevie Williams!
Danny : Stevie was here for the 10 year party right?
Syd : Yeah, he was! Let’s fly him back out for this!
Danny : Most importantly for me was Cardiel. He is the fucking boss, he is the best. We were stoked to go rolling around with him, showing him the spots, Cardiel blessed the spots!
Joe : I know there’s been some crazy stuff that has gone down in the store. Do you have any stories of the most crazy thing to go down in the shop?
Syd : I don’t want to talk about them.
Danny : I remember I was working in there one day, and we had a kid in there called Surrey that was working in there and I was on the laptop at the cash register at the desk with my my hat on, head down getting on with work but I could see what people were doing. So a crack head came in and stole a pair of jeans and I saw, turned to Seri and he saw as well, we both clocked it and I was about to move from the cash register to deal with it and Seri put his hand up like “nah I’ve got this.” But instead of walking to the guy, he walked to the front door and locked it. Bare in mind, at the time Seri was like an 18 year old little dude.
Syd : Yeah, nowhere near as big as he is now. Ha.
Danny : Exactly. Anyway, then he went up to the crack head and said “put the jeans back”.
“The ones in your jacket.”
Then the crack head was like “ah them, yeah I’m sorry man. I’ll put them back.”
Seri was like “if I ever see you in the shop again, I’m going to kick you in” and threw him out. That was pretty mental.
But that’s one of millions we’ve had! We’ve had people getting out of cars and walking in with their crews trying to pick up the coat rack whilst one guys got his hands in his pants looking like he’s got a shooter saying “what you gonna do?” And we had to stand there and let it happen.
Syd: Yeah, that was one of the gnarliest. I didn’t know it was going on so I came in like “hey, you guys alright?” and then he just stared at me. I was like, nah, just do what you like man. We haven’t got this one.
Danny : People putting their hands through the letterbox and grabbing whatever is nearest and pulling it through.
Syd: Drunk people falling through the windows on nights out.
Danny : It’s been pretty fucking gnarly at times! Haha!
Joe : The world of retail at its finest! Right, the final question. What’s next for Fifty Fifty Store?
Syd: Well the next thing is celebrating surviving 20 years! We’re trying to cook up a new lease of life, a new direction, in the very near future. So yeah, it’s all underwraps but we want to keep the dream alive, keep going, keep skating, keep filming, keep making our own shit, keep working with rad brands like Real! We’re gonna carry on man!
Danny : Yeah exactly! We want to keep bringing more elements in Fifty, make it more than a store, a destination! We’ve got exciting plans and we can’t wait for you to see.
The REAL x Fifty Fifty ‘Home Is Where The Heart Is’ Deck will be available this Friday, August 11th at the shop, followed by a Race to the Pumptrack BBQ Skatejam. Special Thanks to Syd, Danny and Joe for holding it down for 20 fuckin’ Years, and to Shiner Dist for all their help.