Raphael La Roche talks about comps, centres and going to church

In case you don’t who Raph is then what can we say to introduce him? Well, he’s undeniably dedicated to the wheelieboarding cause, involved in many aspects of the sport. Along with brother Andre (who sadly died a couple of years ago), he’s been at the centre of the UK scene; from causing chaos at events to racing hard and often having the most fun on the hill. Since 2008 Raph been doing an fantastic job as ATBA-UK Chairman and if that wasn’t enough, last year he became the manager of Court Farm MBC, aka Ironsides. So, we give you the leader of the Orange revolution!

First things first, How did you get into mountainboarding, and how long have you been riding?
I got into mountainboarding with Andre La Roche and Andy Ramsey powerkiting on the beach in Margate. We progressed from building sacks to a Peter Lynn buggy. One day while we were out playing we spotted someone on the beach with a mountainboard. We decided to put all our pennies together and buy one (a Scrub Scudda 35), and that was the summer of 2002. Definitely the main instigator was Andy Ramsey. He was always the one who came up with the bright (or not-so-bright) ideas.

Tell us a bit about the early days back in Kent?
It was still just Andre and me freeriding at what we called ‘our church’ (Kersney Abbey) every Sunday. In them days we were known at Team SEX (South East eXtreme) but didn’t seem to attract the right attention from our name! After a couple of years thinking of different names, Andre’s partner had a brilliant idea after Andy Ramsey had an unfortunate accident at OTG which put him in a wheelchair for a short time. She came up with the name Team Ironside after the 1970’s paraplegic detective and the team colours which were the disabled badge orange.

And then you moved to Norfolk, not the most hilly part of the world. Was Ringland Hills one the factors for making the move?
Lorna and myself were looking to move, and on one of our freeriding visits to different areas we went to visit our friends the Flying Squirrels. We rode at their local spot which they had been developing for a couple of years and realised that this was the place where we had to be as Ringland Hills was by far the best freeriding spot we had ever been to (until it was taken away from us on April Fools Day 2008).

So, when did you start competing, and what is your best comp memory?
I started competing in 2003. Every comp has been memorable in one way or another as I haven’t missed a single round since I started. But my most memorable comp was winning the Andre La Roche Memorial Trophy in 2008.

And then you became Chairman of the ATBA-UK. What’s the best thing about it?
The best thing about being Chairman is being able to work along side like-minded people who love the sport as much as I do. But the best feeling I get is seeing everybody having a good time practicing at the comps, and knowing that we’ve kept the ATBA-UK and the events going.

Just about every ATBA-UK comp got rained on this year, and the World Freestyle Championships were cancelled because of the rain. Do you think mountainboard comps are cursed with bad weather?
No, we’re not cursed. This is England, deal with it! All mountainboarders love dirt, rain turns dirt to mud and I LOVE MUD! And if the powers that be would allow us to race in the mud, I’d be well happy because it’s not all about racing the the hundredth of a second, it’s the first man or woman across the line no matter what.

Attendance at comps has been declining over the past few years, with this year being the lowest for a long time. Why do you think that is and what is the ATBA-UK doing to get more people to compete at a national level?
I do think it had a lot to do with the price changes to enter last year being quite steep, however this was something the ATBA-UK had to do to keep ourselves afloat. But the dedicated competitors still came and entered, and their support has meant that we can drop the cost of the entry charges considerably for next year. Hopefully this will bring some riders back and make it easier for new riders to get into competing. Also, as a lot of the original riders are off doing their own thing at college/uni/work/etc. we need to bring some new blood into the sport. Personally, as we are lucky enough to be running Ironside’s Court Farm, we make it our utmost priority to encourage new riders (especially younger ones) with fun comps to boost their confidence but still get to mix and ride with alongside established riders.

This year saw the introduction of a new four-man BoarderX qualification system. How has that been working out and what are the benefits for the riders?
In my opinion it has been working brilliantly as every rider gets to race from the start like in the good old days, so even if you’re not qualifying in the top numbers you’re still gaining race experience. The racing seems to be running smoothly (thanks to the people behind the scenes) and the riders aren’t having to wait long between races. And it’s better for the spectators, as its much more appealing to be watching racing from the start.

We hear you’ve got a lot of new volunteers working with you, not just at events but behind the scenes too. Is the ATBA-UK expanding and what kind of things are you working on?
The ATBA-UK is bigger and stronger now than it has been for a long time. And each one of the committee is a trusted friend so if for any reason I’m not around I know they are making the right decisions for the good of the sport and the future of the ATBA-UK.

So, you’re Chairman of the ATBA-UK and Centre Manager of Ironsides Court Farm, do you find it difficult juggling the two?
I find the two go hand in hand. I found it harder before taking over Court Fram as working full time and being Chairman of the ATBA-UK used up all my spare time, time that was precious and that was needed to be spent with my family. I was in a very lucky position when I heard about the possibility of taking over Court Farm Mountainboard Centre as Lorna was 100% behind the decision, as was my daughter Rachel. They were both prepared to give up stable jobs, our home, and our friends to pursue our dream. Without Lorna’s blessing I wouldn’t be running the ATBA-UK or a Centre. We all work as a unit now and that’s how I believe it works! “Behind every great man is a great woman” and I’m lucky enough to have two of them.

What’s it like running your own mountainboard centre and having all those tracks and jumps in your front garden?

Team Ironside seems to grow at every event during the season, and did really well in the Team Challenge, is it going to take over the world?
The future’s bright, the future’s IRONSIDE! The best thing is that every rider we have on the team has asked to be part of the Ironside Massive and supported us. We can’t offer many financial benefits, we can just give loads of love and parties! Ironside has always been about fun, not finances. So many Ironside riders would make Andre proud! Long live Team IRONSIDE!

Are all you guys looking forward to next season?
F**k yeah!

And finally, the random remolicious questions…
If you could build your ultimate track what would it look like?
I’m looking at it. Suckers!

Who the hell is Woodie Wright?

How big does a mountainboard have to be before it becomes the first mountainboard bus?
With a minimum for four passengers but must have a pull cord bell (ding ding!).

How many pairs of shoes do you own?
I don’t own any, I wear Lorna’s.

What about sunglasses?
I don’t own any, people just leave them lying about all over the place.

Last film you loved?
Shits and Giggles

Tyre colour?
Black (they don’t make orange)

Egg shocks or TrampaDampas?
Trampa Dampas

Coffee or tea?
Coffee. Nescafe Alta Rica. Mmmmm.

Sunrise or sunset?
Whenever the sky is orange (sheep walk backwards when it snows oranges in summer time).

Pirates or ninjas?

Is orange the new black?
Hell yeah!

Mutant elbow or giant knee?
How did you find out I had those?

Seagulls are sky-rats. What are rats?
Scaly land-birds with one eye and big pointy teeth that breath through their anal gill.

Who put the bling in wobbling?
Bizarre from D12!

Green or brown?
Brown is mud? Green is grass. I ride on mud. I have to keep cutting the bloody grass! Brown wins.

One line or multiple lines?
Multiple is always best! Giggady giggady goo!

Sounds like battenburg. I love cake. Mmmmmm….

Any good places to eat round here?
In my land ship. My new slow cooker is amazing. Thanks Josh and Carina!

Big thanks to Raph & the photographers 😉
Interview by Roger Swannell

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