(warning - graphic images)
It was 1999 and an opportunity arose to do something so completely 'out of the norm' that the 'artist' inside of me could not resist, and that was to 'bare all' for a Studio Magazine, BLUE. Three months prior to the shoot, was spent in the gym, attempting to get in shape for what was to be the most confronting and exhilarating experiences of my life (in hindsight, probably not the most sensible!).
The shoot took place on location in Redfern, Sydney NSW by Harold David in a studio on a closed set. As the day progressed, and as all the barriers were 'let down' the joke was that it would be 'great to skate down the main road'... unexplainably, I agreed and before we knew it I was skating down the main road, not long before I was being chased down by two Police officers. No charges were laid, but it was one of those 'once in the lifetime, never again' moments in life.
Blue Magazine: Issue #23, 1999
Story: Brad Johnston
Photography: Harold David
Styling & Grooming: Charlotte Blakeney
"CHAMPION ROLLERSKATER JAYSON SUTCLIFFE BECAME ‘SEX ON WHEELS’ WHEN HE BARED ALL FOR A LITTLE"
ROLLERBOOGIE DOWN A BUSY CITY STREET FOR BLUE. AFTER 17 YEARS OF COMPETITION, HE TELLS BRAD JOHNSTON, HE’S STARTING TO CHALLENGE ALL SORTS OF TRADITIONS..
“They were blue and yellow with big yellow wheels and kind of suede, and a yellow stripe down the side.” Jayson Sutcliffe is describing his very first pair of rollerskates, and his tone suggest they could very well be in a display cabinet somewhere in the family home.
He discovered them at the age of 12 in a cousin’s shed in Warrnambool, an Australian town not usually noted for its hidden treasure. After rescuing them from a life of neglect and taking them to a skating rink in his hometown of Melbourne, it was less than a year before Sutcliffe held the National Freeskating title, the first of many. Clearly, this was a serendipitous fashion find.
Of course, it was 1982 when a pari of garishly hued skates could be considered fashionable. Only two years before, Olivia Newton-John had convinced Gene Kelly to roll his way through Xanadu. Cliff Richard had only just stopped reminding the world that despite his age, he wheely was wired for sound. And throughout Australian suburbia, children and adults alike devoted their spare time at local rinks to interpreting the Top 40 while trying to avoid permanent injury. A Golden Age, you might say.
These days, you would be forgiven for thinking that this era is well and truly over. In-Line extremity has seized the public’s imagination, and today’s youth would probably view Sutcliffe’s original wheels as a quaint artefact. However, there is still an arena where “quads” rule, an international stage upon which in-line skates are about as useful as a broken shoelace. Yes, in world level Artistic Roller Skating, there are certain traditions, although as Sutcliffe has discovered after 17years in competition, not all of them are worth upholding.
Having just returned from the National Championships on Australia’s Gold Coast, his first after a three year hiatus, Sutcliffe explains that as a 29year-old veteran, there are some regulations he no longer feels obliged to follow. “Last week on the Gold Coast I seemed to be encountering a few problems,” he recalls. “I was getting penalties for what I was wearing.
Traditionally, men would wear pants with the flared bottom that attached to the skates, but I just started wearing tights, like a cyclist. And before I went on I was being pulled aside by the referee and being told that if I wore them I’d get a one-point penalty: ‘You know, you’re not going to make the team if you wear that sort of stuff.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’ll take that chance.’ ”
Shades of Stricly Ballroom, perhaps? Sutcliffe concurs with a laugh. “Any skater could probably relate to that movie because it’s not that different,” he says. “All the mums and kids in a dance school… there’s that pettiness all the time. There’s always competition on and off [the rink]. It’s hard to be relaxed in that sort of atmosphere, ‘cause there’s always a lot of tension.
“You have six hours of training to music each day and you train with two or three countries, and it’s just mind games the whole time. He does something, you do it. If he does something better, you try to outdo that. It’s just ongoing.
"It sounds like the competitive Artistic Roller Skating circuit is cinema’s next camp classic waiting to happen, but Sutcliffe’s achievements should not be trivialised. " -- Blue Magazine, Brad Johnston.
It sounds like the competitive Artistic Roller Skating circuit is cinema’s next camp classic waiting to happen, but Sutcliffe’s achievements should not be trivialised. He held the title of National Champion every year from 1982 – 1996, and took Double Gold World Championship honours in Colombia in 1995. That year, he was also nominated as the Sport Australia Male Athlete Of The Year, while numerous television appearances have kept hi well-tuned torso on the periphery of public consciousness. However, compared to the attention he receives in other countries, local media interest is low.
“It’s strange,” he says, “because when we go to a European city or a country in South America it’s always front page news and we find ourselves splashed across the papers. You’d wake up each morning and be like ‘Who’s in the paper today?’ whereas back here you’re lucky to find a clipping the size of a death notice.”
Perhaps now is a good time to explain exactly what Artistic Roller Skating is, Sutcliffe has his own succinct description. Apparently, if you were watching, say, Torvill and Dean and you “didn’t look at their feet, there’s no difference”. As in ice skating, there are individual and pairs events, short and long programs scored for the technical and artistic merit. Sutcliffe concedes that his very first effort had little of either.
"There’s always competition on and off [the rink]. It’s hard to be relaxed in that sort of atmosphere, ‘cause there’s always a lot of tension.."
“It was really shocking,” he laughs. “I remember the coach gave me the music, that song ‘Delilah’. It was only instrumental, but I remember hating it at the time. After that I progressed to Elton John’s ‘Funeral For A Friend’. Back in `82 that was a big thing.”
After his first international appearances in 1985, Sutcliffe continued to climb up the ranks and by 1990 he had reached World No 2. The following year, the death of his brother precipitated a fall in form, but he soon regained mementum, winning top accolades a few years later. A disappointing performance in 1996 led to “time out”, as he calls it, but now Sutcliffes ready to, well, roll once more. And it is his more relaxed attitude towards the sport’s niggling details that seems to be affording him the energy to do so.
When asked to recall his favourite roller moment, it’s not the major accomplishments that come to mind. “Winning [the World Championship] is obviously up there,” he says, “but I don’t think it was an all-time high because I didn’t really perform at optimum level. I sort of felt like the best of a bad bunch. I’d say that last week on the Gold Coast was one of the best I’ve had. It was the most I’ve really enjoyed it. I knew I was going to be hammered by the judges and I just did it for me – this is what I’m wearing, this is what I’m comfortable in and I’m just going out there. I really got a kick out of it.”
It would appear that his photoshoot for blue gave him a similar buzz. When asked how it went, Sutcliffe’s voice rings with a combination of mischief and disbelief. Suffice to say, skating nude along Sydney’s perpetually busy Cleveland Street was a first. So was being threatened with a charge of public indecency.
“During the last shot the police happened to sport me, so I skated off in to a shop,” he laughs. After a brief dressing down, so to speak, from two officers trying to suppress the giggles, Sutcliffe was free to go.
So does he expect his latest appearance to cause ripples through the competition circuit? “Yeah, I hope so,” he laughs. “I think I’ll take a few copies with me.”