Marc Churchill – 30 Years of The Half Cab Interview


This year, Vans celebrates 30 years of the Half Cab. As part of the celebration of this milestone, I caught up with long-time Vans affiliate Marc Churchill to discuss the shoe, his lengthy relationship with the brand and his involvement in the ever evolving yet still nebulous in meaning ‘skateboard event’. It wasn’t an easy task to keep my questions shoe-related – Marc is a man of many hats and has been involved in the UK for a solid length of time, so rather than grasping for subject material my main issue when planning this was narrowing subject matter down. On top of that, neither of us is averse to delving down unplanned conversational side alleys. As such, what you have before you is an interview about the Half Cab via Southampton, Copenhagen, Nottingham, early 2000s demos, Batman costumes and Vans Shop Riots. Outside of what was fit for printing, discussion ranged between bad backs, badger shit, what the world would be like if Cardiel skated for Osiris in the D3 era, Slade’s Farm Skatepark and James Breeze’s spud bongs. On this considerable journey through time, space and sense the only real point of reference is the venerable sawn-off shoe being celebrated here; so grab a shoelace tight, delve in, and remember to never turn down a proffered smoke-shrouded potato…

Artwork by: Martyn Hill

Introduction & Interview by: Jono Coote

Illustrations by: Martyn Hill

Photography by: Wig Worland

So, let’s tell the world about our new cocktail, the ‘JagerCab’ – how are we going to market this one? I’m not sure if we sell it as a drink or a biological weapon, but either way it will ruin some lives…

I think we sell it as a drink, but it’s actually a biological weapon… but no one knows, they buy it thinking they’re going to have a good time, but they’re actually drinking Jagermeister out of a shoe. I mean people have drunk worse, haven’t they? (laughs)


I’m sure the Newport crew have done some interesting shooeys…

Yeah I’m sure I’ve seen them drinking beer out of each other’s shoes. It’s the way to start your day – get up in the morning, drink some beer or some other fluid out of your mate’s shoe, it’s kind of a friendship retainer. It keeps everybody in check, you know who’s friends with who, who you can rely on. It’s like a trust fall.


With necessity being the mother of the Half Cab, with skateboarders cutting down the Full Cab and Vans taking note of that – what’s the most versatile use you’ve ever put one to over the years?

Probably just holding beers. The Half Cab is the ultimate beer koozie – if you just put your beer in it it just sits there, no one’s knocking it over. It’s a sturdy shoe, it does the job. And obviously walking and skateboarding, but they’re second to holding your beer, I think. 

I remember when I saw the Half Cab for the first time, I didn’t know it was a pro shoe. It was in a magazine, someone had cut the shoe down and put stickers all round it to stop it from fraying. There was even a Tracker sticker on there I think, I remember thinking, “What the hell has someone done to those shoes?!” The more I saw it, I think it was a stand up grind or a tailblock, the more I thought it was so punk and rad. You’ve taken a shoe, and ruined it (laughs) in the name of skating. I think that’s one of the best things about that shoe, and I bet the majority of people who’ve worn them have no idea that it’s not actually supposed to be that shoe, it never started like that. I think that’s really fucking cool. Every other shoe has sort of been designed from the ground up – it’s got to be this, look like this, we want it to have an ollie patch or lace protector or whatever – but this was, this shoe isn’t what we want so we’ll cut it down and make it what we want. I guess people weren’t even doing up the top five loops on that, it was heavy and clumsy, I imagine someone was sitting around having a few beers and just went, “Right, I’m just going to cut it off, follow the seam and cut it.” Stuck some stickers on it, then went to EMB the next day and everyone was like “Daaamn, I need to do that!” 

That pure punk thing of, “I’m going to take this cool thing, and ruin it, then I’m going to like it.” Then it’s turned into possibly, arguably, the best skate shoe ever. It’s at least one of the most identifiable shoes. I mean it’s the shoe Wainwright did the highest ollie in, at the time. I’ve been lucky enough to get those shoes, and it wasn’t until much later it clicked and I realised it was the same shoe that I’d see in the mag. When I first got on Vans, and you didn’t really choose what shoe you got sent, occasionally you’d get the Half Cab and it was amazing. All these other shoes they were doing, the Fairlane and that… bar the Old School and the Skate-Hi, there wasn’t really any need for another shoe. I’m sure Vans could have done just those three, and maybe the Slip-On and the Era, and that would be it, that would be good enough.

I remember a Vans tour years ago, everyone was wearing the red Rowleys – everyone, literally people driving the buses, people helping run the tour, all the riders. [Editor’s Note: The only person who wasn’t wearing red Rowleys was Howard Cooke – as a proud Evertonian, he would always give away any red shoes he got sent]. Everyone must have gone and got red Rowleys after that. Geoff put up some images the other day with them, I sent him a message and he said they kind of messed them up in one factory so they ended up moving factories. It’s so cool, the history behind how some of these shoes come about. There’s always more behind it than just being a shoe that you put on, and I feel like the Half Cab has way more history than any other shoe. Van Doren’s obviously gone, “Let’s give him a signature shoe,” they’ve developed it, soon enough everyone’s wearing it because with regards to signature shoes it was pretty much that and the Etnies Natas, that was it. Then everyone starts cutting them down, it looked really good, so Cab goes, “Why don’t we just make them like it?” 

“No Home Comforts Tour” Vans UK Tour – 2001

Filmed + Edited by: Andy Evans

When did you first start skating for Vans? Can you tell us a bit about those early tours released in DVD form, No Home Comforts and Are We There Yet?

They were good days, very good days. I got on Vans after I went to a competition in Germany. I met Christian Stevenson there, who had either just become the Vans team manager or was about to. I ended up getting the same flight home with him, then staying with him in his squat in Camden for a little while, back when I had no responsibilities. He said he was going to give me some shoes and then they actually turned up at my house, it was so sick, it was unbelievable. It was around that time he asked me if I wanted to do RAD, the series that was on Channel 5. We filmed a pilot for that, Christian rang me up to tell me that it got commissioned and I was like, “What the hell is going on?” I’m some kid from the New Forest, I know nothing about this world, then suddenly I was thrown into being a TV presenter and skating in Vans. 

I didn’t really know anything about that side of it, you know, beyond what was in the videos and magazines or seeing the cool guys in Southampton skating. I’d go to the odd tour or demo, years later we go on this tour and it was nuts. It was going skating with people I fully respected and I couldn’t work out why I was on this tour, with people who were already legends and then these up and comers who would go on to be really good skaters. I already knew Chris Oliver from going on Addict and Howies tours. Things like that, you’d start getting this crossover of different skaters meeting each other, then going on tour together, you didn’t know this other person but you met them through someone you were in the van with. You’d develop these life-long relationships from sitting in the back of a tour bus, giggling like a child for two weeks. After travelling down the motorway at 30mph wondering how to entertain yourself, so you just get loads of Vans tape and make a cape and a cowl. That’s what me and Franklin did, anyway.

“Are We There Yet” Vans UK Tour – 2007

Filmed + Edited by: Andy Evans

How many Vans stickers does it take to make a Batman costume? Any tips for aspiring fashion designers?

If you are reading this right now, have a look around, see what you can make a Batman outfit out of, and quickly do it. Just get it done, it’ll be much more entertaining than reading this. But yeah, those tours were crazy – the kids that turned up, these screaming fans, you’d open the van and you couldn’t even get out. Skateboarding was massive at the time, it was so, so big. Christian and Ed Leigh came along to one of them, the people who made it happen put in so much effort. The people and skateparks that hosted us, obviously Chris Ince at Radlands – that was always one of the ones that I couldn’t wait to go to. Usually on the way up you’d leave London and head straight up to Northampton, so it would be early on. Everyone who was there was so into skateboarding and it was always such a laugh, getting kids to do crazy stuff for stickers.They were the glory days for me really, they were so cool and I met so many people who are lifelong friends. We’re talking twenty odd years ago… I got sent some Half Cabs recently, I was over the moon. I’ve been getting Vans for 25 years or something, it’s the best thing, it really is like a family. Is it that long? I don’t even know, but I haven’t worn any other shoes for a very long time.

Marc Churchill

So those early Vans tours, there were loads of people in the van… and I was interested, who is the worst person on Vans UK, past or present, to be stuck in the van with?

That’s a heavy, heavy question there! Rogie threw up once, and fell asleep stood up, but that was more entertaining. Grove on a full rager? That was pretty gnarly, he needed a chat after that. But there were silly decisions made to cause these things; “We’ve got a nine hour trip from Scotland to Bristol, let’s buy some whiskey and beers for everyone.” Then that causes certain people to flame up a bit. I found it quite entertaining, when you look back at things it must have been stressful, but I remember thinking it was so funny. So Grove I guess, when he was in full Grove mode, but at the same time I love him, he’s amazing. I’ve got so many good memories of sober and drunk Ben.


On the flip side, who would you most want back in the Van who no longer skates for Vans?

Franklin Stephens. That guy is the best – his brain, his kindness, his positivity, and his skill on a skateboard is second to none. He’s just amazing, so good to skate with, and a good laugh. Other than that, he wasn’t on Vans but Dave Carnie was definitely a good person to be in the van with when he came on one of those tours. That was eye opening, he was quite an interesting character. I sat at the back of the van and talked to him for a really long time, we got on really well. We were doing a demo in maybe Dublin or Belfast and someone asked where Dave was. He’d gone off to some old man pub, sat and drank pints with the locals and told and listened to stories, then came back and told us, it was amazing.

He’s the perfect combination of a really smart dude who’s also clearly a fucking maniac.

That sums it up – you’re thinking, “This guy is on the cusp of solving free energy, and pissing in his own mouth. And we just can’t get that free energy, because he’s too busy pissing in his own mouth.” He’s brilliant. 

Who else? It’s always fun travelling with Dan Cates, because you never know which Cates you’re going to get; clown Cates, gangsta Cates, cornrows Cates, fire breathing Cates. It’s always a laugh, and his laugh always stands out. He’s always down for taking the piss, and he’ll always put the time in at demos, the first getting some and the last. He’s always got some sort of quiver of skateboards or accessories to bring. You’re wondering what he’s got in that bag and then oh, it’s a fire breathing kit, because obviously fire breathing goes with skateboarding. We got a photo in Cardiff actually, I did an air whilst Dan breathed fire at me and burnt my eyebrows and eyelashes off.

Marc Churchill escapes Dan Cates’ flames ~ Photo: Wig Worland

Even though this interview is about the Half Cab, I feel like we should talk about the fact that you’ve turned shouting abuse at skateboarders into a job. What have been your favourite events to MC over the years? How hard is it when commentating on the Olympics to not shout “Have it you fucking mosher cunt?”

Vans Shop Riot is possibly the best thing. If you own a shop, you have to kick your team’s arse to go. It’s booze, fun, everything’s paid for, it’s Vans chance to give back to proper skate shops. Plus anything goes, full abuse, everyone just gets wasted and has loads of fun. Amsterdam was the last one to go on because of Covid, it was brilliant. You could look around and just see everyone smiling. Burnside Skateshop, they bring a coachload of people with banners, everyone’s screaming, after the words “Next up is Burnside” you can’t say anything on the mic because their supporters make so much noise for about five minutes. It’s pure skateboarding, hanging out, having fun with the best people, that event is so much fun. 

I love UK Champs as well because you get to see the new up and comers. I mean the older guys, Ben Grove, Eddie Belvedere and that are still smashing it, but seeing the younger guys and girls that are coming through who are absolutely smashing it is amazing. I still get to be involved, even though I’m old and decrepit, and see skateboarding at its grass roots while still doing these things like the Rome World Championships at the same time. That was really good because you had the highest level of skateboarding, it was the last chance for people to get points for the Olympics so you saw people just going crazy, pushing it way further than they would have normally. 

2017-18 was nuts for high level competitions and they are really good fun. It’s always fun to MC the runs of people I know, MCing the runs of all these people I’ve met on my travels and just taking the piss out of them. Just having some banter, getting everyone laughing… because I think, and no disrespect to other MCs, but it slipped a little bit in the last couple of years. Things got a little serious for a while. One of the things with World Skate is that they came to me and said, “We want people to have a laugh.” It’s really cool to be able to do that, especially coming from the UK where the majority of the session will be taking the piss out of and screaming at each other. One of the best tricks I think I ever did was because Munson was screaming at me. I didn’t even know him at the time. The UK side of things is more tongue in cheek, some people don’t get it but people mostly gravitate towards it in the end. Those ISPO comps they used to do, the miniramp ones, I got asked to MC it for a while and they just bring you trays of beer all day. I remember everyone was wasted one year, all the Brits and the Americans in one corner screaming, and Oski was skating. We were getting him to do the craziest stuff, lines where no one filmed it, no one who wasn’t there knows it exists, but it was the best thing you’ve ever seen – stuff legends are made out of. Stuff like that is amazing. The MCing side is brilliant and the event is really good but it’s the stuff afterwards, at the after party or the hotel, that sticks in your mind. Then you make more friends for life, I’m so lucky to go and do all these events because I get to hang out with like minded people.


I feel like that’s the genius of events like the Copenhagen Open or Helsinki Hellride, they’ve taken that format and that spirit and stretched it over a whole week.

I couldn’t imagine doing a week of it, it might kill me, but I’d love to MC Copenhagen Open. I’ve spoken to Tim O’Connor about it and he says it’s the best thing. If anyone from Copenhagen Open reading wants me to come and get drunk and shout at people, I’d definitely be up for doing that. It looks amazing, everybody coming together and partying, skating these weird obstacles and spots, and skating really good. Did you see that bank in the gym? It looks so scary, everything done into it was incredible. They make that stuff happen and the city fully gets behind it, because they’re bringing all these people in. The Tourist Board is fully behind it; “Here you go, come into this museum and skate here.” 


Skate Nottingham are trying to get that going over here, it seems. I’d love to see it get to that point, where Nottingham Council are just letting Chris Lawton do whatever the fuck he wants.

There’s that place in Scotland too, the Transport Museum with the thin quarterpipe and bank to curb – those kind of places, you wonder why there hasn’t been something like this before. Skate Southampton are doing good stuff down here. The city is going for City of Culture and there’s talk of making skateable sculptures, they’ve handed over the Guildhall to the skaters and are just letting them skate there, it’s so cool. Now local authorities are starting to listen and go you know what, this isn’t a bad thing. There is damage done, but that’s also creating legacies and creating things. Damage is done to these lovely castles and they’re still there, that’s the history. Maybe in 150 years people will be going, “Look, that’s where Colin Kennedy did switch crooks on this old monument. You can still see some of the wax there.” The world’s opening up to it, and whether you like the Olympics or not it’s making things happen, opening people’s minds. Skate Nottingham are smashing it, pushing the limits and pushing things forward, they’re doing a great job.


I was in Paris last weekend and skated that weird little collection of skateable obstacles in an alleyway in the city centre. 

The one with the pyramid hip and the whippy, thin quarter? I stumbled across that in Paris once, I’d seen a photo before but assumed it was in a park or something. More stuff like that can exist. The health and safety culture needs to go out the window. Let’s make multi use spaces, someone can sit and have their lunch on it then afterwards people are skating it, and that’s fine.

Artwork by: Martyn Hill

So going back to footwear, with little attempt at a segue – who is the most questionable person you’ve seen rocking the Half Cab, be it celebrity or random pedestrian?

Oh man… do you remember there were a load of Half Cabs that came out in white and red? I think maybe TK Maxx got hold of them, or someone like that, and there were loads of treacherous people wearing them. Both sides of the eyelets touching, with the tongue hanging out over the top, the end looking puffy because it’s been tied up so tight around the foot. It’s such a good looking shoe, but if you dress it wrong it’ll rapidly start to look like Sideshow Bob’s clown shoes. I don’t know, you see people sometimes and you’re like, “You must skate, you have Half Cabs on,” but you’ve just forgotten what world we live in. People always followed skate fashion, and everything comes in peaks and troughs, but Half Cabs have been there all the way through. Once at the skatepark this kid turned up in Half Cabs, helmet on, then got rollerblades out…


What’s the worst taxi cab experience you’ve ever had?

Probably in Prague, after the Mystic Cup on the way back to the airport. Adam Keats was hanging and we had to stop on a roundabout for him to spew, we managed to convince the taxi driver he had a bug or something. It was ridiculous, we must have all smelt of Jäger, sweat and regret.


To finish up, who has the best half cab you’ve witnessed, both in person and on video?

Oh shit, that question’s gnarly! Danny Wainwright has a street half cab you wouldn’t believe, melon grabbed too. I’ve seen Cab himself do a half cab with my own eyes, which was special. It’s a tough one, but I think Danny. Half cab over a full size cone or a bin or something. I heard he half cabbed some of the highest bits that people couldn’t even ollie at that high ollie competition in Long Beach. I don’t know how true it is but I heard that, and it is a mean half cab. He had a good one on a miniramp too. So did Alan Rushbrooke, and a good full cab, but it has to be Danny. 

Tidy Mike Skate Crates 7 – The Danny Wainwright Mixtape

Filmed by: Tidy Mike ~ Courtesy of Sidewalk Mag