I first met Michael around 1980 or 1981, when we were fresh-faced skaters at Southbank. Little did I know then what a pivotal role this happy-go-lucky chap, driving around in a yellow Triumph Spitfire, would ultimately play in the UK skate scene. Michael was an enthusiastic supporter of all things skateboarding. In recent years his online skate shop, Octane Sport, sponsored many Slalom and Downhill events, as well as a team of riders of all ages.
Michael’s first love was slalom. The international slalom renaissance of the early 2000s drew him to the annual World Championships in the States and to competitions throughout Europe. Historically the Brits have always been very good at tight slalom – where the cones are closely spaced together. In 2003 in Morro Bay, California, Michael beat Chris Barker to be crowned Amateur World Tight Slalom Champion. When Sam Gordon first secured Hog Hill as a race venue, it was Michael who offered help – providing starting ramps, timing gear, speed guns, and prizes. This was a most welcome continuation of the support he had provided in years previous for the Wasteland series at Hillingdon Cycle Track. However he didn’t provide for just one event; Michael and Octane Sport were Hog Hill’s title sponsors for over eleven years! Michael saw it as his duty as a skater to keep the stoke alive. At the start of the millennium, Michael was a decisive presence (along with Chris Linford and Mog and Barny from Brixton Cycles) at the UKSSA’s inaugural meeting, at the Punch and Judy pub in Covent Garden. Octane Sport was always the organization’s prime supporter. Michael’s love of gadgets and “Heath Robinson” engineering led him to gradually amass a fair bit of eclectic timing equipment. When the word spread, Michael and kit were in demand. He timed everything – from Joel King’s (and Jason Bradbury’s) jet luge World Record attempts on “The Gadget Show,” to running the clock on Guy Martin’s street luge when he was in training for an attempt on the toboggan world speed record. But his TV work didn’t end behind the scenes. He appeared as a judge on an episode of “Scrapheap Challenge” that tasked teams to build giant skateboards. Michael also proudly won a “Blue Peter” badge for coaching English television personality Helen Skelton (then co-host of the BBC children’s program “Blue Peter”), so that she could enter the Eastbourne Speed Days Downhill race as part of her very first “presenter challenge.” Donning his engineering hat, Michael designed and produced a range of CNC trucks for slalom and LDP use. Octane Sport sold and distributed them under the Virage brand, and they were introduced to the international slalom scene in April 2009 at the Tunnel Race in Zurich. Michael’s 50th Birthday present to himself was a Caterham 7 sports car, which was finished and tuned to an astonishing degree – just as he would have done with a skateboard. Michael joined the “7 Club” and made many like-minded technical friends at the group’s drives and rallies. He would turn up to slalom events with the Octane shop crammed into the Caterham’s passenger seat, with just a few bolts and bushings squeezed into the tiny boot space. In between races he would gleefully take people for a quick burn up round the block. Everyone who knew Michael well has lasting images and fond memories of him. The news of his passing rapidly spread throughout the worldwide skate community. A testament to his much-loved character, a great many heartfelt and beautifully-written tributes immediately appeared on social media, capturing the various facets of his personality: generous, playful, witty (though never crude), irascible, yet always inclusive and considerate. Thank you for your kindness, endless enthusiasm, encouragement… and above all for your friendship. I shall miss your terrible jokes and your trackside presence with the Ol’ Jalopy Shop – C7 SKT. Farewell Michael, and enjoy the ride. Our most sincere condolences to Michael’s mother, sister Susan, and the rest of the Stride family.