Skate Resurrection: After a 13 year break Gauteng skateboarder Donovan Fourie returns from the wilderness to found Clip Skateboards
South Africa boasts several small but thriving underground skateboarding communities. At the heart of all these scenes there is usually a handful of dedicated older individuals making things happen, helping their fellow skaters by sorting them out with equipment, mentoring them and doing what they can – often with limited support and resources – to grow skateboarding in their local hoods.
Edenvale skateboarder Donovan Fourie epitomises this kind of SA skate stalwart. Returning to the scene, after giving up a promising contest skate career more than a decade ago to pursue a life as musician and music journo, Donovan, now 37, recently came back full circle to his first love – skateboarding – and founded Clip Skateboards. His mission is now to foster skateboarding in his hometown of Edenvale and beyond and to pass on his passion to a new generation.
This is his story, with quick Q&As at the end with Clip team riders Kelvin Vosloo, Christiaan de Jager, Calvin Kotze, Pieter Du Plessis, Christo Strydom and Mauritz Pienaar.
Q&As by bluntEd. Photos and YouTube clips courtesy Donovan Fourie/Clip Skateboards.
blunt: Where are you from and how did you start skateboarding?
Donovan: I was born and raised in the hustle and bustle of Gauteng, Johannesburg. I grew up in Kempton Park and I moved to Edenvale when I was 18 years old. I started skating as a toddler, just messing around on the board making a noise and irritating the neighbourhood. In early 1996 my brother introduced me to the ollie for the first time, after a few attempts, I managed to get the hang of it and little did I know that from that day forward skateboarding would become a big part of my life.
Your bio says you were a ‘professional skater’ in the early 2000s?
Yes, back in the 2000’s I was skating at the top of my game, I entered several local competitions where I placed in the top three positions in the professional divisions. Session magazine did an Edenvale spot check article on myself and a few of the other Vale locals, and we filmed three skate films together with the Edenvale local crew between 2003 and 2007. I travelled South Africa and skated some of the most amazing street spots and skateparks in Durban, Cape Town, Free State and every little town in between in all the major provinces. I had a small local sponsor in the late 90s by a local skater that ran his own company called Maggot Skateboards but soon after I was sponsored, the company closed down. After that I did not skate for another company again until 2020 when I started my own company, Clip Skateboards.
Why did you stop skating?
I stopped around 2008 to focus on my music career and grow myself in the music scene. I started writing music and performing live shows in the local South African club and festival scene. After all the late-night time slots performing at venues all across Johannesburg and getting involved with the bad habits of drugs and alcohol, my skateboarding career and all the gents I used to skate with just slowly started fading away, until I didn’t even have a skateboard. I was out of shape and did not care about being a skater.
“I started writing music and performing live shows in the local South African club and festival scene. After all the late-night time slots performing at venues all across Johannesburg and getting involved with the bad habits of drugs and alcohol, my skateboarding career and all the gents I used to skate with just slowly started fading away.”
Do you also still make an income from music or just skateboarding now?
I was a music journalist for Fanbase music magazine and also featured for them in the magazine as an artist on a regular basis, I’ve done articles on big names like Fokofpolisiekar, Musa ‘Moose’ Mntambo from 11th Hour, Because of Betrayal and many more. I also run a record label called Makemore Records and have created tons of content for artists in the music industry over the years, from photo shoots, music videos, press kits, live show recordings, biographies, magazine interviews and articles. Now I express the same creativity through my skateboarding career and help up and coming skaters to build content and a decent portfolio for themselves to showcase their skateboarding talents and turn it into a potential career path.
You then returned to skateboarding after a 13 year break? Why?
Skateboarding has saved me many times in my life. My love for skateboarding and the local skate community always represented a positive aspect that makes sense to me in my life, after all the partying and late nights performing at these different dingy clubs around the city until early hours in the morning getting drunk, I just knew it was all going to come to a point and I had to find another way to express my art. So, I decided to go buy a secondhand skateboard from a kid. I worked hard to get myself into shape again and get back onto the board to pursue my career in the South African skateboarding scene.
After I stopped skating I still went to the skate park every now and then to go smoke a blunt and grab one of the local kid’s boards just to see if I still kind of had it. Skateboarding never left me during that 13 year period, it was always running strong in my veins. When I started up again in 2020 to get back into it, I came back into it cold, just learning from everything I still had in me at the time and progressing forward from there – I think knowing what it takes to land certain tricks and how to build the confidence to be a hardcore skater kind of helped me a lot when I started skating again at the age of 35.
“Skateboarding never left me during that 13 year period, it was always running strong in my veins. When I started up again in 2020 to get back into it, I came back into it cold, just learning from everything I still had in me at the time and progressing forward from there.”
It took me three years to get to the same level as I was before. I stopped skating I am now 37 and feeling comfortable on a skateboard again, it takes hard work, self-confidence and dedication, there is no easy way out in skateboarding if you truly want to achieve the level you want to be at, even for an old ballie like me hahahaha, slams are slams, handrails are handrails and big star sets are still big stair sets – at least now I know my limits, what my capabilities are and how far I can push it, now I just have fun on a board and I try not to hurt myself too bad, even though I still have slams like I am 20 years old sometimes.
How did you find it relearning tricks, learning new tricks and taking slams after so long out of it? Have you had any really serious injuries to fight back from? It’s as much mental as physical right?
When I started again, it wasn’t just a case of just jumping back on a board and throwing myself from dangerous staircases and handrails again or picking up where I left off a decade ago. I had to train myself and get back into shape again by eating healthier, going on regular walks and jogs, watching ample skateboarding footage to catch up on all the modern skateboarding progression that I’ve missed over the years and getting inspired by the new generations of skaters that have been ripping it up for the last 13 years since I haven’t been skating.
I felt like a retired skateboarder training for another shot at his passion. I wasn’t messing around, I wanted it bad…. A few months after I started skating again and I was back into it, I started a company and started skating together with some of the most talented skaters in the community and got to know some of the best people.
The worst part for me about starting up skateboarding again is the slams for sure – coming off a hard slam is not the same in your 30s as it was in your 20s. In the last year I had to fight back from twisted ankles, crushed some cartilage on the lower back from clipping on a backside smith grind on a handrail, both my wrists are currently busted, I’ve had a few heel bruises and I ruptured my urethra from landing credit card that left me peeing blood for a couple of weeks. The mental aspect of it is probably the same like any other skate rat… use YouTube to figure out the fastest way to heal so that we can get back on a board and go try again and keep skating, to quote Tony Hawk, “until the wheels fall off”.
What was the upside for you, reconnecting with your passion and old homies etc?
Reconnecting with my passion and seeing some of the old homies I use to skate together with me was super awesome. I felt like I was still part of the skate community and it almost felt like I never left. Obviously, a lot of the homies I skated with together in the late 90s and 2000s stopped skating, they either got married, had kids, or just completely went off the rails and don’t skate anymore. But I found another family and met a lot of awesome new mates from the new skateboarding generation, I consider them all family.
You have a pretty solid but creative approach to skating, like hang ten nose grinds etc? Are you a thinking skater, dreaming up new tricks or a spontaneous skater, just doing new stuff on the spot, or a combination of both?
I would say I’m more of a spontaneous skateboarder that comes up with new tricks on the spot, or maybe a combination of some of the basic tricks that I know I’ve always had down, mixed with some new modern skateboarding tricks and tips that I pick up and learn from the young kids that are ripping it up out there nowadays.
Now you are sponsored by Maxam shoes/John Schutte. How did that come about?
John Schutte is a frikken legend in the South African skateboarding industry and has done a lot for the scene. He runs Johnos Skate Shop, Epitome Skateboards and Maxam footwear. John has been supporting Clip Skateboards since day one and I am super grateful for everything he has done for me and Clip Skateboards over the past few years. John made me the brand ambassador for Maxam footwear in June 2022. I’ve always loved the Maxam shoes to skate with and I have always promoted Maxam shoes in the community.
“John Schutte is a frikken legend in the South African skateboarding industry and has done a lot for the scene. He runs Johnos Skate Shop, Epitome Skateboards and Maxam footwear. John has been supporting Clip Skateboards since day one and I am super grateful for everything he has done for me and Clip Skateboards over the past few years.”
Myself and John started working together in early 2020, when he became our main supplier for Clip Skateboards, supplying us with the best quality skateboarding products on the market. We have built a good business relationship over the past few years and he has made it possible for me to run a retail shop as well as sponsor a team of six talented individuals who all have a huge passion for skateboarding and pushing the limits in the South African skateboarding scene.
How did Clip Skateboards come about?
I came up with the concept to buy second hand skateboards on second hand sites, then I used to go to local skateparks and hand out those boards to underprivileged skaters who desperately needed a board. I started becoming good friends with some of the gents and got to know some super talented skaters, who all had a huge potential to go pro. I knew something had to be done in our community because these kids had no support or backing to help them in their skateboarding career to achieve a professional standard within the South African scene.
So I registered Clip Skateboards and started assisting these gents by keeping them on a board so that they can push themselves and reach their goals without having to worry about the general wear and tear on their gear. A few of these team riders eventually partnered up with the company, invested funds and now own shares within the organisation. Over the last few years the company has grown a lot and Clip Skateboards has made an impact in the South African skateboarding scene and has a positive involvement with the skate community.
You also sponsor skaters and mentors young skaters off and on the board. Tell us a bit more about that, what motivates you, who have you helped and what difference do you think it makes?
I currently have sponsorship agreements with seven skaters who all play a major role in promoting the company. We work together as a team to create content for all our marketing and promotional campaigns as well as selling our retail gear in the community. I mentor skaters by assisting them to build their brand for themselves as an individual skater within the industry as well as to become an influential skateboarder within the local skate community.
I educate my team on the business of skateboarding, content rights, getting compensated to advertise and market other brands who want to use their content for business or marketing, how sponsorships work and how to work together with your sponsors, and how to have a professional business approach to the industry. I also advise partners/investors a lot about the supply chain in the retail side of our business and how to ace profits and work on demand structures etc. Throughout my mentorship I’ve realised that my team riders have a whole new understanding on how the industry works and actually know what it takes to make a success out of their skateboarding careers.
You also spend a lot of time filming, either in front of or behind the camera? Which do you prefer? A most recent clip is at Thaba Eco Village Skate Park in Gauteng, tell us a bit about that? Is it a public skatepark or only for the residents of the complex? Looks pretty fun.
I prefer being in front of the camera skating and building skate parts for myself, these skate parts become gold as you grow older so I’m always up to bust out some tricks for the camera and get creative. But on the other hand I also enjoy filming, editing and creating content, being in front or behind the camera is equally hard work. I think nowadays every skater should know how to film and learn how to edit video parts, capturing those moments is an art on its own and building a video part is probably the most epic thing for any skateboarder to achieve.
The Thaba Eco Village Skate Park is awesome, it reminds me of a backyard skatepark. It is located in an estate area and is like 100 bucks to get in, the park is well looked after and is designed with precision, obstacles are built perfect, they have super cool marble ledges and an awesome bowl, the only downside for me at the park is that I skate regular and most of the obstacles I can only skate front side, for goofy skaters you will only be able to skate most of the obstacles backside – the park is very limited but super fun to skate and get creative at.
How about your online skate shop, how is that going, are you seeing a good demand for products? Do you think the industry is growing, shrinking or staying the same?
We launched our online skate shop in January 2023. We retail sell some of the leading brands, such as Thank You Skateboards, Primitive, Baker, Flip Skateboards, Shake Junt, Thunder trucks, Grizzly and many more. There is definitely a good demand for skateboarding products in South Africa. Over the years the sport has really grown a lot in the country and many female skaters have also joined the community as well.
The skateboarding industry is definitely a trend right now and is growing on a daily basis right across the world. I think skateboarding is doing very well as a sport and many new skateboarding brands are popping all over the place. There are a lot more skaters now, more skate parks in South Africa, more local skate brands, and a lot of events happening all over the place. I would say that it is already growing at quite a fast pace.
“We launched our online skate shop in January 2023. We retail sell some of the leading brands, such as Thank You Skateboards, Primitive, Baker, Flip Skateboards, Shake Junt, Thunder trucks, Grizzly and many more. There is definitely a good demand for skateboarding products in South Africa.”
I think there should be a lot more indoor skate parks in South Africa located all over the country. When it rains in Johannesburg and in other parts of the country where there are no indoor facilities, there are no spots for us to skate that isn’t a rent a rentacop bust. Indoor parks and more evening sessions at local parks will definitely help grow the scene more. The government’s input will also help a lot in the skate community but I wouldn’t rely on the government to ever bat an eye to South African skateboarding, let’s just hope they can keep on the electricity for night sessions at least.
What about street skating, a lot of your clips and images seem to be in parks, is there a lack of quality spots in your area, lots of crusty bricks etc? Crime, Karens and rentacops are also a problem for SA street skaters?
I consider myself a street skater for sure and we love skating the streets, but yes, we deal with all the mentioned factors, the lack of quality street spots in our area, lots of crusty bricks of spots that were never maintained over the years or have been fenced off. Crime plays a major factor in Johannesburg street skating, you cannot just whip out your iPhone 13 anywhere in the streets and start filming, there is probably a 80% chance you will get mugged. Karens aren’t too much of a problem as we give them just as much shit back nowadays, but rentacops are also a huge factor for not being able to skate street spots, unless you are willing to bribe them with a two piece pap, they never say no to a two piece pap.
I can recall one day when four of our team riders were almost jumped by 15-plus security guards just for doing a few kickflips under a cover roof in an industrial area while it was raining. Those rentacops would have pounded us that day, we did not have any two piece pap to bribe all of them with that day, luckily they let us go. But regardless of all the negative factors of trying to film a skate part in the streets of Johannesburg, we’ve learned to deal with it and adapt to it. Clip Skateboards is currently working on a new team street edit that will be released soon. Street skating is still where our passions lie in skateboarding and nothing beats getting creative in the streets, that’s where it’s at.
There is also a lot of politics in SA skateboarding, which kind of sucks sometimes, how do you navigate that?
I’ve learnt to navigate around it all by just keeping it professional and do the best I can to grow our brand.
What about starting a skate club and becoming part of Roller Sport South Africa (RSSA), which is run by non-skateboarders but right now is the only way for our skateboarders to get to the Olympics?
We are definitely looking to get associated with the RSSA in the future and give our riders the opportunity to compete in the Olympics. At this point though, none of our team riders is interested in qualifying to skate the next Olympics, so, to be honest, being part of the RSSA and competing in the Olympics at this point is not a major priority. There are many other great events and competitions happening every weekend all across the world to skate.
Who are your main homies, in the skate industry and otherwise? You mention 011 Skate Park, anyone else you would like to give a shout out to?
The 011 Skate Park (Skateworld) will always hold a special place in my heart, I’ve met all the best people in my life at that skatepark, it holds a great legacy in the Edenvale skate community and we appreciate everything Dean Backos has done in the park to make it great for the community again.
I definitely want to give a shout out to John Schutte and thank him for all the love, the support and opportunities he has been giving our team since day one, we appreciate everything he has done for us very much. I also want to give a shout out to all our Clip Skateboards team riders, much love to all our homies and thank you for all your hard work and dedication to the company, there is nowhere in the world I would rather skate than skating anywhere together with my homies from Clip Skateboards.
Then most of all I would also like to give a mad shout out to the local Johannesburg skate community. Thank you for all the love and support, without the skate community Clip Skateboards would never be where it is today.
Can you sum up your approach to life in a few words? Is there a motto you live by or some famous quote that inspires you?
I believe in living life to the fullest and pursuing one’s passions with dedication and determination. My philosophy is reflected in my skateboarding and my art, which is both daring and graceful. My approach to life is rooted in my belief that anything is possible if you set your mind to it. I’ve faced numerous challenges throughout my life as well as my career and I will never give up on my dreams. NBD – Never Back Down.
Check out Donovan and Clip Skateboards’ online:
Donovan’s YouTube Clip:
Clip Skateboards Team Riders Q&As
blunt mag grilled a few of Donovan Fourie’s main Clip Skateboards team riders a few questions about their skateboard setups, embarrassing facts about their sponsor Donovan and the sad or rad state of skateboarding in Mzansi.
- What set up do you ride?
- What is your favourite thing about Donovan Fourie?
- Tell us a funny story about him that might embarrass him a bit?
- Olympics in skateboarding, yes or no – and why?
- What do you think needs to happen to make skateboarding grow in SA?
- I’m riding a Thank You, with some Pornstar Primitive grip tape, black Mason Silva Independent trucks, green and blue spitfire wheels with some Grizzly bearings.
- Donovan is just such an awesome dude man on and off the board. He really has been through it all. Also, he pushes my skateboarding to new levels.
- He believes that he can have kids but he only wants the kids and not the mothers.
- No, because skateboarding is a culture and does not deserve to be for corporate gain but rather for those in the scene that need it.
- Stop hiding all the underrated skateboarders, there’s homies out here pushing blood and concrete, some heavy hitters and some NBDs (never been dones) are unexplored. These guys have big dreams and not only for themselves but for the communities around them. And some love. A common ground where we can flip together and grow with each other.
“Donovan is just such an awesome dude man on and off the board. He really has been through it all. Also, he pushes my skateboarding to new levels.” – Kelvin Vosloo.
- Thank You board, Thunder trucks, DGK wheels, Primitive bearings, Grizzly grip, Chocolate hardware.
- Donovan is the most chilled guy at the park and since a kid I’ve always looked up to him and he always has that go do it attitude.
- Well, he was trying a trick and managed to get a credit card that came with a lot of credit. It put him out for a week or so but he came back stronger.
- I say yes and no There just isn’t any support from our government to improve the level of skateboarding in South Africa. There are so many good skaters in SA but they have to do it all on their own.
- We need more support from the government and the quality and quantity of the parks need to get so much better for us to be able to step up and show up.
- I ride a Thank You deck with Royal trucks, Independent bearings and Mini Logo wheels.
- Donovan is a fucking G. He’s humble. Always willing to help and improve our talents. He’s a good guy!
- Donovan has a small tollie lol. Just kidding, there is nothing embarrassing about him except that he sucks at vert.
- Yes. South Africa is making a huge name in skateboarding. We deserve world titles, just like the Springboks.
- We need more parks and more interest in skaters. We are the shit!
Pieter Du Plessis
- At the moment I am skating an 8.25 Zero Deck with Thunder trucks, and Spitfire wheels with Bronson bearings.
- My favourite thing about Donnie is just how real he is and his dedication to skateboarding is inspiring.
- I think he might be addicted to Steri Stumpie and Bioplus.
- Yes, because it gives skateboarding the credibility it deserves!
- Better skate parks!
“Donovan has a small tollie lol. Just kidding, there is nothing embarrassing about him except that he sucks at vert.”– Christo Strydom.
- Usually a Thank You skateboard with Thunder trucks and Bronson bearings and I dig my fancy grips.
- He looks after his team and helps us where he can. Don has kept me on a board for the last year and is a big key to my progress in skateboarding in the last year. Don’s Team is not just a team of skaters but a familia and he is also a good manager who helps us make the right choices.
- His warm up routine to skate is a fat blunt, a banana Steri Stumpi and a Bioplus sachet.
- Yes, that would be the end goal in life is to skateboard in the big leagues and experience a different world of skaters. I enjoy skateboarding comps and evolving myself with the different communities. It’s always sick to watch people bust down tricks you’ve never seen before.
- More skateparks and skateboarding related comps and events. Involve the different provinces to the scene because right now everything is happening in Cape Town but the culture is slowly growing again as new parks are opening and competitions are happening, but they are more local than anything else.
Christiaan de Jager
- Enjoy board with Thunder trucks, No Name wheels and Nothing Special bearings.
- Everything, the way he lives life to the fullest and always making the best of every moment.
- The one day he skated he got credit carded by a board and there was a little bit of blood. I called it the blood bank at first. It wasn’t funny, but if you look back on it could’ve been worse.
- Yes, to spread the word about our community and bring a little light on our sport to people that might disagree.
- More parks and more people overseas contributing towards SA’s skating community.