I remember so vividly the first time I watched Mark Neighbours skate. In complete silence and totally taken aback, I felt like a kid again that was still learning to drop in down at the local ramp.

We’d been invited to have a roll around together through some mutual family friends, and I could tell they were amping as Mark was going to be there. I was stoked to tag along for the ride. Being my naive self, I didn’t think anything of the excitement until we arrived and the display was well and truly underway.

Mark Neighbours at Onslow Bowl
Mark Neighbours, frontside tailgrab, Onslow Bowl, Wellington. Photo by David Read

Seeing someone skate like that is so inspiring yet a little intimidating. The old tennis court turned DIY park where we were barely had a smooth patch of concrete in it but that wasn’t stopping Mark, who linked line after line through it and put down massive airs out of the quarter. He would occasionally pull up for a chat or a high five between, which was a cool example of how down to earth he is. I was a complete stranger but he took the time to hang and get to know us. The following day we took a rusty old dingy out to a secluded beach and surfed together with a group of close friends. That’s where I truly saw his talent, in the water. Seeing someone tear apart feature after feature without ever trying and then the following day surf with such natural style and finesse, that really stuck with me. Mark’s style is amazingly fluid. He has that sort of style that’s most definitely not taught and that most people would give their back teeth for. It’s spontaneous yet flows naturally, like he’s only half asleep, not fully. If you get the opportunity to watch him skate transition, consider yourself lucky. I’ve been a professional snowboarder for almost 20 years, and as much as I get stoked seeing friends and people I know get nice snowboarding images published, there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing a nice clean skate shot that really represents why we started and where we came from. I can tell Mark is the sort of guy that would usually shy away from the camera being put in front of him when he skates, but I’m bloody stoked the guys at Manual can shoot him, as it inspires me and all the other readers.

“Mark’s style is amazingly fluid. He has that sort of style that’s most definitely not taught and that most people would give their back teeth for.”

The last time I saw Mark in person he extended the offer to sail our whole family (kids included) out to the Barrier on his catamaran and enjoy a slower pace of life in his neck of the woods. Live off the land, go fishing together, surf a stone’s throw from his teepee and hang at his place with the groms. That sort of sincerity and kindness doesn’t come around every day in this fast-paced internet-filled world and I really appreciated that from him. We had to decline unfortunately, but knowing the generosity he possesses I know the offer will always be there. Sooner rather than later, we’ll have the chance to hang again. Respect Mark, thanks for the inspiration.

First published in Manual #65.