A Fermanagh skateboarder who has set up a successful skate school in England is hoping to branch out, with the goal to one day facilitate skateboarding lessons in his home county.

Tom Johnston from Lisnarick has been skateboarding since he was 11 years old.

“I got my first skateboard in Hanna’s toy shop [in Enniskillen],” Tom told The Impartial Reporter.

“I was 11, and when I came out of the store, I put the board down and went down the hill towards the carpark where we were parked.

“I went the whole way down the hill and off the kerb and thought, ‘that’s amazing’,” said Tom, admitting that he was scared at the time but “it was that adrenaline that hooked me right away”.

“That feeling that I felt then is exactly the same feeling I get when I stand up on the board. It never changes, that feeling is powerful,” he added.

This was the beginning of Tom’s life-long passion for skateboarding. At the age of 12 he built his first ramp and from there went on to build a skatepark near his family’s farm in Lisnarick.

Love of skateboarding

“I built it for myself but then people started hearing about it and it got very popular. It was very well run, people donated a few quid and we kept it going on the QT [quiet] for a long time,” he said.

At 16 Tom moved to Coleraine for college - his love of skateboarding being a huge factor in his choosing to go there.

He explained: “I went for a holiday one time and I seen skateboarders there and I wanted to go to college there because basically everything I have chosen to do in my life is to be around skateboarders.”

Although he didn’t complete his college course, explaining that he became “wayward-bound”, Tom believes that skateboarding always kept him safe.”

In his 20s, he moved to England with the ambition to build skateboard ramps.

On first moving to England Tom contacted a number of ramp companies asking if he could work with them. Initially he was turned down, with companies saying he didn’t have enough experience.

“I kept going and never gave up. I got a couple of gigs and I built a skatepark in Rushe in Stroud, which was six months work. I done a few festivals and I done a few ramps for the Gumball Rally in London,” said Tom, adding that he also helped build the ramps for the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony.

Israel and Norway

He then moved on to building concrete skate parks for five years with Wheelscape, where he travelled all over the UK and even to Israel and Norway.

Unfortunately the company went bust and Tom returned to England, taking up a job as a waste collector. During this time, he was dealing with anxiety which impacted his skateboarding.

Tom soon rekindled his love of the sport through teaching. This meant he could get outdoors and found that being around skating again helped him to combat his anxiety problems.


“I was at a skate park, I was teaching someone, she was happy, I was happy. That’s how Tic-Tac [Skate School] was born,” said Tom, noting that the skate school is a way of helping him maintain positivity in his own mental health while sharing his love of skateboarding with others.

Founded in April 2018, over the three years that Tic-Tac Skate School has been running, Tom and his team have taught over 1,500 people to skateboard.

Tom explained that the youngest person he has taught to skate was three years old and the oldest was 66.

He went on to speak highly of his youngest student, Autumn, who is now four years old.

“I built her two ramps and teach her and she’s not pushed into it, she decides when she wants to skate and how she wants to skate. That little girl will say, ‘right, I’ve had enough, I’m done’. And she’ll walk away and that’s fine, nobody pushes her.

Incredible talent

“It’s incredible the talent that she has,” said Tom, noting that Autumn has over 100,000 followers on her Instagram account @autumnskating.

Highlighting his belief that “skateboarding is for everyone”, Tom added: “I’m getting a frame built for cerebral palsy kids who want to learn.”

Now that Tic-Tac is well established in England, Tom has plans to branch out.

When asked if he would like to bring the skate school to Fermanagh, he said: “I would love that, that would be the icing on the cake for me.”

“I don’t doubt for a second that I will be teaching or having someone teaching in Fermanagh under Tic-Tac at some stage,” added Tom, who has been fighting for a skate park in Enniskillen for many years.

“It only takes one mini-ramp in Fermanagh to create that scene and nurture what is coming through.

“You never know, there could be someone from Fermanagh who could be the next Olympian and representing GB for sure,” Tom told this newspaper.