"Never meet your idols."
We've all heard this piece of advice tossed around by industry heads and older dudes alike, citing disappointment upon realization that their childhood heroes are actually just human beings with shitty, real-life problems of their own after all.
For John Nicholson, this information was caution to the wind. In fact, John did exactly the opposite of everything any shopkeeper, VHS-collector, or defunct board company owner could have ever told him; he became the Flip team manager, and he was only 22 years old when he did it.
A native Masshole-turned-LA-transplant, we couldn't help but grill this dude about how he found himself in this position that the 2003 versions of ourselves would have murdered our parents to be in.
With that dark analogy in the books, lets hop right into our first SMLTalk of 2016—with John "From Flip" Nicholson.
Lets start things out right. How many times has being “The Flip T.M.” got you laid?
Haha, well the way LA chicks are, a little extra status never hurts but it backfires in situations like recently at Tampa pro when I'm out with Curren and Nordberg. Im the last choice by a mile.
What did you think of Jaws’ Melon over the Lyon 25? Were you hyped someone finally did it, or bummed that Ali’s legacy was tarnished?
I think its really rad that he finally handled it but it's almost like Ali not making it in the way that he did was almost a trick in itself. You guys actually summed it up perfectly in that write up you did. Ali’s whole part had almost more non-skate tricks in it than skate tricks but was still somehow one of the best parts in the video.
Have you ever seen Bieber at Brooklyn Projects? Asking for a friend...
I have not. He was skating a flip board for a minute there if you see the infamous footage of him trying to ollie a 3-stair in what appears to be a dress so I gave 2 boards to Dom (owner of Brooklyn Projects) and he gave them to him, but I still haven’t seen any photos or video of him skating them.
Stepping back a little bit, why don’t you tell us how you ended up in the role you have now.
Well, it came about from working at Woodward with Josh Zucker. One summer we had devised a master plan to move to California and try to weasel our way into the skateboard industry. Arto was a visiting pro one week and was stoked on Josh’s photography, so he offered him a job at Flip, but when he got the job description it ended up being a Team Manager position. Josh knew I was more cut out for the job and after he ended up doing it for about half a year or so he handed the position off to me.
How was it growing up in the Worcester scene? Did you feel out of place coming from somewhere like that and being planted into the heart of the LA scene?
The Worcester scene is for sure something else and being from a pretty reckless group of dudes, it gave me quite a bit of life experience by the time I was 22. It was still such a trip being such a skate nerd and going essentially straight from behind the counter of the skate shop to kicking it with all of my idols.
What exactly is your day to day job? Do you have a regular 40-hour work week or are you constantly on the job?
Im fully on 24/7. I am the Team Manager and I also do all of the social media, as well as social media for some of the riders, specifically Curren these days.
How often do you yourself get to skate during the week?
It's funny because most people would assume you get to skate quite a bit, but whenever I do go out to a park or something I'm with at least one of the team guys. A big thing I tried to do with our social media is to just try to constantly create original content, so by the time my legs are warmed up, someone like Louie will already be destroying it, so my time is much better spent filming.
I feel like team managers are old guys who have been in the industry...did you feel weird managing dudes that were older than you like Arto/Geoff/Rune? Or were they able to help you transition to your role?
Those guys were honestly so rad and helpful. Someone like Arto fully took me and Josh under his wing and is still always giving me guidance and advice. He was like my all-time favorite dude growing up so no matter how tight we are I still feel like I act like a little fan boy around him.
Did you go to college? If you did, was this experience helpful in doing the job you have now? And if you didn’t, was this something you wished you had done before taking on the job?
I didn’t go to college and my only regret is that I’m not more proficient in photoshop or graphic design in general so that I can do board graphics and advert layouts. I'm working on it now and would really like to be able to do a board series here and there.
What’s the best part about your job?
The best part of my job is that I get to work in the industry of the only thing I've ever truly cared about my whole life, surrounded by my idols and some of the best skateboarders to ever do it.
An inevitably, what’s the worst part about your job?
The only down side is that obviously being a team manager can be super stressful at times, more so because I really don’t want to let any of the guys down.
Do you find it hard to balance something you love to do as your hobby as your job as well? Do you feel like you’re going to get burnt out on skateboarding now that you’re in it so heavily?
Sometimes I get burnt out on the actual act of skateboarding just because I realize now more than ever how much I suck (laughs). But I can never picture myself getting jaded on skateboarding as a whole. Although there was an initial shock at first, once I realized first-hand how cutthroat the industry can be.
Switching gears a little bit, what are some of the videos you grew up on? Give us your top three favorite VHS’s.
I'll never forget buying Sorry from Blades board & skate in Boston and just being blown away when I popped that sucker in the VHS player. The other two would be Yeah Right and Mosaic. That was such an incredible time for skate videos.
If you could put anyone on Flip right now (besides Sean Brooks), dead or alive, who would it be?
I would have really liked to have known Shane Cross (RIP) because from what I hear he was just such an epic human, but I am a huge fan of Dylan Rieder’s skating.
If you could kick anyone off Flip right now, who would it be?
(Laughs) Curren since he keeps trying to kick himself off so he can go surf.
What’s the gnarliest thing you’ve seen go down on a trip or filming mission?
Honestly, everything on King Of The Road was so insane. Watching Alec nose grind the double-kink in Somerville was some serious video game shit. Louie grinding a 32-stair rail just as I finally couldn’t hold the cops off any longer. Also any time Luan steps on a skateboard I can’t believe my eyes.
Is this a job that you would recommend to kids who want to work in the industry someday? What would you be doing if your tenure as team manager ended tomorrow?
I would for sure recommend it with the disclaimer that it's not for the faint of heart. Working at a skate shop since I was 14 and then multiple years at Woodward taking care of and giving guidance to kids was the perfect conditioning for being a TM. If I were to have to find another position I could see myself going back to the sales side of things.
Give us the top three things you hate about Los Angeles.
- Everyone being so god damn fake and sensitive. Having to introduce yourself for the first time to someone after you’ve already met them 5 times can be a little discouraging. You get used to it though.
And on the “Flip” side, give us the top three things you hate about Massachusetts.
- People having kind of a “this is it for me” mentality and never getting out or trying anything new. I've also lost a lot of good friends to drugs where I feel like if they just kept skating and saw what else the world had to offer they would still be around.
Do kids still send you sponsor tapes? Or with social media has it all turned into kids bombarding you with instagram tags and sliding into the DM’s?
Haha yeah I get quite a bit of sponsor me tapes still. Every time I think some cute girl might be trying to slide into my DM’s its just a 15 year old kid trying to kickflip back tail slide into them.
Any big plans for Flip this year that you can share? I think “3” was the last semi-full-length release from you guys, so it would be rad to see a sequel or something similar to that.
We have a U.S. tour planned for sometime this year. The dudes schedules are so hectic that just to get a couple of them together at the same time for any kind of team event is quite the mission in itself. Alec, Louie, and David will all have parts in Volcom’s “Holy Stokes” in May and I can assure you Louie’s part is going to change the game. He is one of the best to ever do it. Alec also has a banging Adidas part coming out around the same time as well as an Xgames real street part and I am really stoked for the rest of the world to realize how truly gnarly he is.
Do you ever skate with the dudes on the team for fun? Or is it strictly business?
All of the dudes on the team have become really close friends. I lived with Nordberg for a short while and I consider Curren a little brother. We all hang out and skate for fun all the time but like I said earlier a mellow dorking around session can quickly turn into some of the gnarliest Instagram videos of all time.
People will always wax nostalgic about the ‘Golden Age’ of Flip following the release of Sorry, but the truth is that the current roster was just voted Best Team by The Skateboard Mag, and you’ve got some of the best skaters on the planet riding for you right now. Do you feel like 15 years from now, people will look back at this era with the same regard we view the Sorry years?
It's really hard to recreate that vibe just because of how fast-paced and accessible everything is now. I'm wondering if people will even remember things 3 years from now. But I do agree that right now Jeremy & Ian have once again assembled one of the most talented and elite group of skateboarders in the game. Once everyone's schedules are cleared up we are fully pushing for a Flip full length.
Now for the juicy stuff. Care to divulge any information regarding Geoff leaving the company? Was it an amicable break up? Does he still have any ownership over the company?
Geoff is currently still an owner of Flip but basically he just wasn't hyped on the new direction Flip was taking, and thats all I can really say about it. At the same time, it's really hard for anyone to weather a 20+ year relationship, be it with a skateboard company or anything, for that matter.
Any last words/shout out’s?
Yeah, thank you guys for caring to hear what I have to say. I am truly fortunate to be able to have my dream job and work with such inspirational people so it's rad to be able to talk about it. Thanks to Eastern Boarder for raising me and thanks to all the Massachusetts transplants out here in LA. We have a pretty heavy running crew and it's only getting bigger. Now we just need you guys out here!