In front of the London Eye, pedestrians flood the streets. From where he stands, Ryan Thompson has a birds-eye view of the path he plans to take. Ollie off the guardrail, onto the slant ramp and stick the landing. Street performers shout and push people out of the way to clear his path.
Just hours after the skate trick, Grey Skateboard Magazine, the biggest skateboarding magazine in London, asked Thompson to be on the cover.
Though he is an electrical engineering senior, Thompson has an extensive background with skateboarding. He started the activity when he was just six years old; his father would take him to Vans Skate Park in Houston.
His career continued as he began competing in “ams,” or amateur skating competitions all over the country and sometimes the world. He competed for several years, even placed tenth in the X-Games am division, but stopped competing when he was 18 to pursue his degree. He continues skating by filming clips or “parts” of himself doing tricks and street skating, though he does not want it to be his main career.
“If you have something that’s an escape, you use that little sanctuary you have every time you have a problem,” Thompson said. “Some people are hard-pressed to make that a job.”
Thompson has been featured multiple times in Thrasher Magazine, which is one of the most prominent skateboarding publications. He boasts sponsors from companies like Adidas, Dickies, and Roger Skateboards— the company with which he is going pro in August.
Thompson has been to England, France, Spain and Japan to film parts and compete, but he said he dreams of visiting Vancouver and Montréal, Canada.
Thompson said his favorite thing about skateboarding is the connections he makes and the ability to build relationships with people from all over the world who share similar passions.
“(Skateboarding) is a creative outlet where I set arbitrary goals for myself and accomplish those,” Thompson said. “It somehow allows me to make friends easier than anyone else in the world. The connections you make are just unparalleled to any other activity.”
Thompson said he often watches his own clips to see how he can improve and takes into account which tricks people don’t enjoy watching.
“I’m a helpless and hopeless self-critic,” Thompson said. “I criticize myself so bad it’s unhealthy. I google myself all the time.”
When he isn’t skateboarding, Thompson is working with crystal oscillators as an intern at Abracon, where he hopes to work full-time after he graduates. Thompson doesn’t plan on pursuing skateboarding as an end-game career and said he prefers to keep it as an escape from reality.
Ken Justice, electrical engineering junior, saw a side of skateboarding closely associated with drug usage. Justice said after becoming friends with Thompson, his negative perception of skate culture changed for the better.
“That image (of skateboarding), which was passed down from other people I lived with and around the area, is not the correct image at all,” Justice said. “It’s just what other people put on that culture.”
Thompson said attaching your hobbies to your livelihood and finances drains the fun out of the outlet.
“If you have monetary dependencies on the thing you love to do most, that little sanctuary starts to go away,” Thompson said. “I chose to keep skating, something I love to do, and I keep it as my sanctuary; I keep it pristine.”
Adam Barousse, who met Thompson at a skate shop when he first moved to Austin, said it’s fun to skate with Thompson, even if though most people do not skate at his level.
“Everybody’s got their eyes on him,” Barousse said. “He’s got really great style, pops his tricks super high and just skates very uniquely. He always looks for some way to be different and he always is.”
Thompson’s skate clips can be found on Thrasher Magazine’s YouTube channel or through his Instagram: @rthomp.