Though he didn’t know it at the time, Floyd Town first bumped up against life in the raw shortly after his second birthday.
It was then that this now 25-year-old pro skateboarder first became a nomad. His parents had divorced and his father heeded advice that if he wanted custody of his two sons, he should leave Australia, taking his boys with him.
The Perth court had granted custody of the children to Floyd’s mother.
There followed years of traveling around the world with their father, always one step ahead of the law. Eventually the traveling trio were caught in Cambodia, and Floyd and his brother were repatriated to Australia, Floyd told fellow Media Super member, John Dickson, from his current home in Taiwan.
Floyd was seven when he and his family finally washed up in Brisbane with a name change, a secret address and an unlisted phone number. He insists that stories like his are always open to interpretation and conjecture, and, admitting that even he doesn’t know the complete version of events, said: ‘There is no bad guy here. People react in different ways, believing they are doing the best they can.’
Typical of these difficult situations, objective information is hard to come by but Floyd was hungry to hear the whole story. He spent a lot of fruitless time searching for information about his father and even considered employing private detectives.
‘I was a pretty troubled teen. Between various stepfathers I didn’t get along with, a mother who was reluctant to give me the answers I was after, I felt like I didn’t fit.
‘It was a very controlled situation, probably because of my mother’s fears of what had happened in the past. When I was 14, my mates were out in the street riding their bikes and I wasn’t allowed off our property.
‘To me, it was like I was always under house arrest.’
Enter, the driveway
Fortunately the large house had a big driveway.
‘We weren’t allowed game consoles or TV in our house, so I had to find a way to be active. And that meant playing on the driveway.
‘Mum wasn’t happy with me and extreme sports. I had an allowance of $2 a week so after a year of saving, and adding in birthday and Christmas gifts, I had enough money to buy my first pair of roller blades. I got pretty good at it.
‘Eventually my step cousin came over from Canada, and he was quite a good skateboarder. He opened my eyes to the rest of the world. He taught me to ride and inspired me to continue when he left,’ Floyd said.
Floyd’s German 84-year-old grandfather, or Opa, was his next visitor.
‘Opa loved working with wood. So he and I set out to make a skateboard from a plank of wood and four bed wheels. Bed wheels spin 360 degrees, letting the skateboard go in any direction, so we jammed them with pieces of wood on each side. At least then it would go straight. That was my first skateboard,’ Floyd said.
Floyd soon graduated to a board built from second hand parts bought and scrounged from his mates – appropriate equipment to develop his skills on the jerry-built ramps and rails that now littered his mother’s driveway.
Then Floyd started running away.
The trouble with school
Floyd had found it difficult to settle into school after his early nomadic life. He also had a ‘thing’ about authority figures. School to him, was torture. In fact, the only class he could tolerate was woodworking – it allowed creativity and independent endeavour.
His dad, he said, was an education tyrant. Throughout the early traveling years he was constantly schooled, if not within a school system, then at home. When he returned to Australia, aged six years, he was already familiar with five languages and could play piano.
To combat his ‘bad behaviour’, the school would give him incentives to conform. If he behaved himself for a week, he would get a free pass to The Skateaway – a roller blading rink.
The Skateaway finished at 10.00 pm. It was then that his mates would kick on. Not Floyd. His folks were there to pick him up on the dot, if not earlier. So he began to leave earlier and stay out all weekend at friend’s houses, much to his parents’ distress.
He started skipping school to skate and became a constant presence in the principal’s office, eventually dropping out altogether. Soon after, the 18-year-old left home with his skateboard and little else, and began living on the street.
Light in dark places
‘Living on the street was good for me. Once again I was traveling, I was meeting people, I was relying on my own resources to get by. It made me a strong person,’ Floyd said.
From friends’ couches to park benches to breaking into old buildings and eventually connecting up with the subculture that is the young homeless, Floyd spent 18 months on the street.
‘Yes it was violent sometimes. And you never had many possessions. There were drugs of course. The only way we could make money was to buy and sell drugs,’ he said.
One day, at a particularly low point, he met an old school friend who invited him to share an apartment and his job in a pizza shop. It was another lesson that fed into his philosophy of ‘you can’t get anything done on your own, you always needs others to help.’
He worked hard at the shop and eventually took on a chef apprenticeship at another restaurant. After six months of long hours and little pay, Floyd ‘felt trapped again and ran away’.
‘Yes we had jobs, but me and my friends and were still on drugs, and our apartment quickly turned into a squat house – it looked like a tip,’ he said.
One day the landlord turned up unexpectedly and that was the end of that.
Throughout this time, Floyd always had a skateboard. And while work and feeding a drug habit were major distractions, there was always skating.
‘Whenever I was under pressure or stress, I would just take my skateboard and go. Skating was the great release. When you’re skating you are absolutely in the moment. Nothing else matters.
‘I was never chasing after success as a skater. I just did it because it made me happy. When I finally got picked up for being good at the sport, I was already 19 and on my first trip to Europe,’ Floyd said.
Germany changed everything
Floyd’s aunt and uncle offered to pay for a trip to Germany to meet his relatives. He had been living an unstable and chaotic existence in Australia and seized this opportunity to escape it.
He stayed for a year. His relatives were caring people who gave him some insight into what had happened in his life. It was a new start.
‘I had free shelter and food. To me it was golden opportunity. All I wanted to do was skate, sure. But instead I worked for my uncle as a way of showing appreciation for all that they were doing for me.
‘I went to school. Within eight months I was fluent in German. I was able to focus on my skateboarding. I was fit and healthy. I got really good in a very short time,’ he said.
It was at this point he met a Taiwanese woman who owned a skateboard company, WaveOnBoard. Impressed by Floyd’s ability she invited him to represent her company. For five years they have worked together, she as the business entrepreneur and Floyd as the ‘house skater’ traveling the world making videos and promoting her products at demonstration days.
The company’s flagship product is a three-wheeled skateboard which is exceptionally stable but offers incredible flexibility for trick skating. The single front wheel is mounted on a swivel, not all that dissimilar to Floyd’s original skateboard he designed and built with his grandfather.
In recent times, however, partners in WaveOnBoard decided that they no longer wanted to pursue this business. So Floyd, having been connected with the product for five years, offered to take over the company.
‘So now I have taken on the challenge of redesigning and relaunching this product under my own brand, The Wobbiee.
‘We have big plans to extend the product range, and are hoping for crowd-funding support on indigogo,’ he said
While in Germany, Floyd had started to write to his father via email. While his dad had difficulty believing it was Floyd, the pair continued to correspond over the next four years. They began sharing photos and personal information. Floyd avoided meeting him because he wanted to meet him as an equal, not as a dependent ‘with my hand out’.
Eventually he flew to Perth and was met at the airport by one of his brothers. His father was waiting for him in the carpark.
‘We spent three weeks just talking non-stop. I was able to help them out a bit, which made me proud, and the circle was complete,’ Floyd said.
He was able to later visit his father in his Indonesian home and meet his stepmother, two more half-brothers and a stepsister.
‘Then there were six of us,’ he laughed.
Floyd says that after leading such a hectic and fragmented life, he is now focused on making the transition from ‘skater guy’ to ‘business guy’ and the challenge of continuing the international success of The Wobbiee – the three-wheeled skateboard that got him this far.