A BASINGSTOKE man who was featured in The Gazette at age 11 with his campaign for skateboarding facilities is still skating, more than four decades on.

Ralf Hubbard, now 54, captured the town’s attention in 1977 with a poem he wrote asking the local council to consider building a skatepark for the young people of Basingstoke and surrounding area.

“In the 70s, there was a massive skateboard boom,” Ralf said.

“We didn’t really have anywhere to go. Any hill would do, but the most popular place was the town centre.

“Obviously, it caused problems and they were banning kids from going there. That’s what inspired me.”

The poem, which was printed in this newspaper at the time, read:

See the skateboards whizzing up and down the street,

In and out the Pepsi cans, they’ll knock you off your feet;

Slaloms, kicktails, wheelies, the fun we have is great,

The shops are selling skateboards at a most alarming rate.

We kids don’t mean any harm, we don’t want to knock you down,

But there are some lovely slopes in the middle of the town;

We’re like you when you were young, we just like a lark,

So come on Basingstoke - how about a Skateboard park?

By the end of 1977, an indoor Skatpark had opened on West Street, Newbury, and was the first of its kind in the country.

“Because there was a response to what I did and it was really important to me and my friends, I became quite well known in the [skateboarding] groups,” recalls Ralf.

The former teacher continued to skateboard until about five years ago, when he sold his board in favour of ‘’speed skating’’.

“It’s like ice-skating, but you can go on roads. The types of skates we use are different - you wouldn’t get much change from £1,000. They’re made from carbon fibre, and you can mould them,” he said.

Ralf, who now lives in Brighton with his partner, Luca, trains around three times a week with friends at a velodrome and with the Brighton Street Skate group.

As winter approaches, training will be more gym-based and involve mimicking the exercises, which Ralf says is “all in the legs!”

Ralf enters competitions, most recently competing at the Olympic Park in London, and recommends the London Friday Night Skate event for anyone interested in taking up recreational skating.

As for the poetry, he says he doesn’t write as much now and has turned his hand to other art forms.

“The stuff I have written is more abstract. I do more painting now,” he said.

When asked what he’d say to future generations of pre-teens interested in getting involved with skateboarding and skating, he said: “My advice would be, it is cool to wear a helmet and pads!”