From the blunt mag archive: OG Cape Town skateboarder Roger Coyles skates a full pipe for the filming of the classic old Hunter’s Gold ‘Mind Riding’ TV commercial, blunt 2.3
Slamming only once, Roger carved the custom-made pipe for two full days for the cameras with good friend Sven Martin as back up, resulting in a groundbreaking South African TV ad.
Words and photos by bluntEd.
All boardriders dream. Surfers will dream of perfect waves, or mind ride ripples in a river. Snowboarders will imagine they are dropping into huge cliffs, or look up at snowless mountains and wish. And skateboarders? They will mind ride anything feasible, and sometimes not.
This is the core concept behind ‘Mind Riding’, the latest Hunter’s Gold television commercial, which was first screened in late May this year (1998). If you haven’t seen it by now, it features top Cape Town skateboarder Roger Coyles hurtling down a huge air-conditioning duct.
Or at least that is what it was made to look like… and it’s really only a daydream anyway.
“We needed a reason why the guy would want to ride the duct. He looks down the disposal unit, and it sets his mind off, and he does a 15 second mind ride down the tunnel.” – Errol Denman, copywriter.
Produced by the Cape Town branch of Berry Bush/BBD, the idea originated in the minds of art directors Mike Cook, and creative copywriter Errol Denman. As most of us know, Hunter’s aim their product marketing at a target audience into adrenalin sports. This is a section of the public impressed by progressive thinking and originality, which Mike and Errol were quick to acknowledge.
“The product’s platform provided us with an ideal opportunity to keep ahead of the pack by setting the ad in an unusual urban environment,” explained Errol, adding that the location for the ad was supposed to originally be a huge satellite dish, but this proved impractical and expensive.
“Then we needed a reason why the guy would want to ride the duct,” he continued. “He looks down the disposal unit, and it sets his mind off, and he does a 15 second mind ride down the tunnel.”
But why skateboarding? Being a surfer himself, Errol is in tune with the boarding scene, and knew that skateboarding is experiencing and resurgence of interest worldwide, due , he feels, to the popularity of snowboarding, which has almost reached cult status overseas,
So skateboarding, one of the only truly urban sports, seemed a natural choice, and Roger and Sven Martin were recruited to star in it. “We all went to the Pinelands ramp for a kind of video casting,” recalled Roger. “At first I thought the ad was going to be just a two second flash of skateboarding or surfing. We only found out a few days before that the whole thing would be skating, and I didn’t know I was going to be the main guy.”
Roger slammed hard during that session, which if nothing else convinced the powers that be that a stunt double was required, lining eventual choice Sven Martin’s pockets nicely too.
Once they had been hired, all that remained to be done was to build a set. Or three: the kitchen, the scale model of a building, and of course the full pipe tunnel. Although the first two took time and money to construct, it was the tunnel which provided the most problems.
Eventually yacht designer Leon Morland and yacht builder Greg Davis were called in to design and construct the intricate wooden curves and spine supports required for a project of this nature.
“The excess on the camera was more than we were getting paid. Whilst carving the tunnel I had to miss the thing 15 times in a row… that was definitely the hardest part.” – Roger Coyles.
Roger and Sven were also consulted, and showed them where they thought the most strain would be (although they still ended up pushing their wheels through the surface a few times). “They didnt fuck around,” laughed Roger. “They built part of it in this room, and they couldn’t get it out, so they knocked the wall down.”
Shoot director Kim Geldenhuys (a former fashion photographer who turned to film directing three years ago, and is responsible for such productions as the Liberty Life Nostradamus ad), and is a surfer and former avid skateboarder, embraced the project as an opportunity to do something amazing. Roger described him as not having the “skate or die” approach but being really in touch.
The storyboard flowed naturally for Kim and his assistant director, Neil Uys, who is also a surfer; as did their understanding of what was and wasn’t physically possible for a skateboarder to do in the tunnel.
“It helped communicate with the riders too,” added Neil. “How they could use their bodies to achieve movements, and how they used their momentum to get into position.”
Neither Kim or Neil were picked for the job because of this, but merely on their merits as directors. Both enjoyed working with the skaters, and found them totally professional.
However, as the star, all the pressure was on Roger who despite some stage nerves early on, was most worried about slamming into the expensive camera equipment.
“The excess on the camera was more than we were getting paid,” said Roger. “Whilst carving the tunnel I had to miss the thing 15 times in a row… that was definitely the hardest part.”
Roger did fall once – from the top of the tunnel – and the whole crew hushed in silence until they knew he was alright. There were no other spills – though Sven got a board in the cheekbone – but no-one got hurt.
Kim also admitted to not knowing whether he and his camera would come out in one piece during the high speed cornering and tunnel sequences. But he felt that getting as close to the action as he could, and using as much genuine footage as possible, was crucial to authenticity.
“The key thing,” he said, was to make it as awesome as possible without using the computer.”
Apart from the logistics involved in the shoot and the two days in which they had to film the commercial, post production provided Kim with the biggest concern, especially the sequence where the camera moves from the scale set of the building through to the life size window.
All involved were pleased with the outcome. “The concept is unique,” said Kim, “ and it’s definitely not your normal SA ad. “The hardest part was making it look real, but has opened up many ideas for the future.”
“Skating the pipe was super fun, it’s a pity they had to break it up afterwards,” said Roger. “The corner especially was super tight, just to carve, it was super fun.”
2022 update: Plagued by injury during his skate career, Roger – undeniably one the best skaters to emerge from Cape Town ever and the star of the first cover of blunt – recently started skating again and is still ripping.