Errol Strachan is not only a living legend in the South African music scene but a living legend in South Africa’s skateboarding history. If you have never heard of Errol Strachan aka BONG you about to get educated.
1. Could you give us a brief introduction on who you are, age and a summary of your life with regards to skateboarding and msic?.
Hello – I am Bong, 51 years, I old started skateboarding in 1975, at age 13. I started in the same skate era that the Lords of Dogtown Movie depicts. I skated for 25 years nonstop since, practically every day, and stopped skating at around age 38/39.
I grew up in an area that had no facilities and due to apartheid we were not really easily allowed into places that had ramps, and least of all pools, so I naturally became a Freestyle/Flatland trick skater. My friends and I had a skate club in Grassy Park called “Comets” Skate Club and we used to imitate the tricks we saw Tony Alva and the Boys do in the then popular “Skateboarder” magazine.
Skateboarding was pretty much a “fad” sport in South Africa, it came and went like a fashion style. So when its popularity declined, many of my friends stopped skating, but Myself and a handful continued to skate. That’s also when Thrasher magazine surfaced in the USA – this was the early 80’s. We knew there were other skaters around, but we never really made much contact with these people – It was not accepted really for colored kids to have white friends and was actually frowned upon, in the late 70’s / early 80’s.
Then I got into Reggae and Rastafarianism and my life changed radically- I was also introduced to Reggae music and due to the politically turbulent times I was in I found this a fitting culture to adopt. That’s also when I started growing my dreadlocks, around 1983. I also started playing music – I started The Sons of Selassie Reggae band with 2 other friends – and the band is still going strong to this day – 28 years later!
I spent some time in Johannesburg playing music – it was there that I met 2 small kids 8/9 years old called Greg Finch and Dallas Oberholzer. I was probably around 29 years old. They saw me demo skate at some shopping centres and used to hang out with me once or twice when they got a chance to come through.
I got back to Cape Town and as I arrived my friends told me that they were hosting the first ever South African National Skateboarding contest – and it included Freestyle. So I entered and won it. And I won the next one, and the next one as they happened annually, won a few of those until 1993 when I stopped skating contests. That’s also when I opened my skate shop.
From there I mostly focussed on family work and music.
2. You had a distinct skateboarding style back in the day. In a time of half pipes and big tricks what made you follow this kind of style?
We had no other facilities really than flat land. SO we all resorted to trick skating.
3. Who were your biggest influences as a skateboarder growing up?
Rodney Mullen, Per Welinder, any good pro and rated freestyle skaters mostly. I would also admire the rest but they were not really influences
4. How did you get into skateboarding?
I saw someone skating, and fell in love with what I saw… and said: “I am going to do that!”
5. Do you prefer the skate scene of the good old days to the current skate scene?
I am not sure. What I can say from what I see is this: The sport has evolved radically to become more extreme. I doubt there are any more technical skaters than what I saw when I skated in the 90’s just everything got bigger and more intense.
6. You play in the band The Rudimentals. Have you played in other bands?
Yes, Sons of Selassie, Roots Rockers, Blunt (the Blunt Skate Magazine was named by myself and it was named after my hip hop band I had at them time, although it took on its own personality, I named that MAG!), A few other reggae bands, Braindead and then Rudimentals. I had some gaps between bands, as I also stopped playing music for a while when I lost a good friend. I was bummed out about that.
7. How was your experience running your shop “Bongs”
Fun but hard. We imported stuff and it killed us. The excon rate fluctuated so badly that in 2 years we had to double up on selling price and that’s when we called it a day – But we knew that we had a major rep as it was a real skate shop run by real skaters for skaters. Kids cried when we closed it. If I were well off and born with a silver spoon I would have kept that going, but simply could not afford to.
8. What are the future plans for Bong?
Play Music, Work, Breath, Live, Love, the same as yesterday and the day before and the day before….