SMLTalk with: John "From Flip" Nicholson

"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.

Nicholson and Majerus enjoying sobriety in Tampa.

Nicholson and Majerus enjoying sobriety in Tampa.

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.

  1. Traffic
  2. Traffic
  3. 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.

  1. Snow.
  2. Snow.
  3. 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.

360 Flip at the Rowley Ditch.

360 Flip at the Rowley Ditch.

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!

SMLTalk With: Pat Donfro

Before we go into this, I really have no idea what Shape Deuce means...care to share?

Me and my buddy John used to run a company called Shape Skateboards. The first video was “The Shape Video”... Then came the second, "Shape 2"… Nah, Shape Deuce. At this point it’s more of just a crew.

Alright Donny, with that out of the way let’s start at the beginning. When/How did Shape Deuce start and who made up the original crew?

Shape Deuce came out almost five years ago. We just had all this footage on a computer and were like, I guess lets make another video? The crew is and was heavy. The people with parts were John Coyne, Bachinsky, Mantiago, Brad Miller, Matt Fenell, Dyllon Horne, Jay and Justin Clement, Kruper, Shane Perry, Joey Ragali, Cromer, Serge, Nicky Lamarche, and not to mention just all the homies with clips.

What role did you play specifically in the making of these videos? How much did you film/edit yourself?

I hardly filmed anything in Shape Deuce besides second angles. I just was the one that brought it all together and had it happen. I did most of the editing with help from my buddy Mac who filmed a lot of it.

What was the vibe like when you guys were first starting to film for these? Was it everyone donating footage separately or was everyone skating/filming together?

Everyone was filming together. Those were the golden days. It was great. We had a couple friends that filmed so on any given day there was usually someone, so it worked great. We stacked footage pretty quick.

The videos always struck me as local Massachusetts videos, but there is a pretty varied mix of dudes who have clips/parts. How did dudes like Cromer and Ragali become affiliated?

Remember myspace? Pretty sure it was Dave and Manny who met Joey and Brad on that and went and stayed with them one winter to skate and then the following summer when it was hot as hell down there they came up north to stay with us. It sort of became an every year ritual for a while. We just all become friends.

What was the gnarliest thing you filmed/witnessed live?

There was this 16 stair rail in Carlisle, MA. Big. Crappy downhill landing and a curb you gotta ride of. Brad Miller back 50-50ed it like a champ. That always sticks out to me.

Lowell, MA seems to produce some of the most productive skateboarders video-wise. What is it about that scene that motivates people to film so much?

I wouldn’t say I was the type of kid to always jump on handrails but if you ended up on a session everyday and all your friends were skating them… It just sort of happened too. It’s just everyone pushing each other.

Did you feel like Lowell was lacking a presence in the greater skate world? What were the videos that inspired Shape?

You gotta be the cream of the crop to make it in the skate world outside of Massachusetts without leaving Massachusetts, so yeah I’d agree. As far as what inspired us, it’s probably pretty obvious… The Baker videos.

How established were Manny and Dave at the time of the first video? Was there a feeling that this could be their breakout into the industry or was it just something they wanted to be apart with their friends?

I sold close to 1,000 DVDs hardly trying. I never expected that. I don’t think anyone knew how big it was going to be. Manny and Dave both had given me a lot of their good footage but were still saving some for their other projects. Dave was already there, it might have been more on the rise for Manny.

Tell us about what Branny. What can we expect?

Five parts. Serge Murphy, Nicky Lamarche, Sean Hernandez, John Coyne, and Myself.

Coynes part is incredible...and yeah, the rest of the videos pretty great too.

What the hell does “Branny” even mean?

I found a camera when I was staying in Florida. It was a shitty handycam. I used to film all the random shit and 2nd angles with it. This was when Brad Cromer and Manny were both just starting to get big. I always said I was gonna make a video with Brad first part and a Manny ender. Brad + Manny = Branny. That never happened but I still had most of the footage, so you’ll see a lot of that in this. Me and my buddy Nicky Lamarche always just liked the name Branny so I figured we’d call this video Branny.

You have hard copies of Branny available to sell at the premiere and thereafter. Don’t you know skate videos go online these days? Why make a hard copy?

I only made 100 copies. I’ve already sold some pre-orders online, but the real reason I made copies is for everyone involved in it. One day we can all be diggin' in our attics and be like shit… remember this? We used to not change diapers and have car payments.

I want to know why I wasn’t bombarded with hashtags and trailers before this thing came out...why no hype for this new Shape?

Nobody was “filming” for this video. It’s just all the footage we somehow got since Shape Deuce. And some of the footage is from even before it. Was I supposed to have a hashtag and have people hype it up? I must have missed that memo.

How would you say the crew has changed from the first video to this new one? Does everyone still talk/skate together? Have there been any VH1 Behind The Music-esque fall outs?

No fall outs. Everyone still does here and there but people are more busy than they used to be. The golden days are fading away.

Of all the Shape memories, partying/skating/traveling etc., which is your favorite? Give us a good story from the glory days.

Oh man. I miss Kuzmas van. My buddy Kuzma had like a 13 passenger van. He drove it up from Florida, we’d all just cram in and go skate. Didn’t even matter where, just anywhere. Sort of made all of us feel like we were actually doing it, like actually professionals on a trip. I always miss that.

Of all the Shape parts, whose is the stand out and from what video? Which are you most proud of and why?

Matt Fenell and John Coyne split a part. I always liked that because there were random guns and four wheeling in the part. It showed who those dudes really were more than just through their skating,

Is this it for Shape? Are we witnessing the final chapter? Or can we still hope for some more on the horizon?

Oh man, this could be the last of the series. I sort of thought after Shape Deuce that it was all was over and then this happened, so who knows. I wouldn’t be upset making another.

Why don’t you give some advice for some kids thinking about making a video, what would you say to this young generation eager to put their videos all across the internet?

For me, putting out multiple short edits just gets lost and forgotten. I like the idea of working towards something. Something that represents a time in your life. One day I’ll look back on a handful of full length dvds rather than 50 web edits. Just my preference.

Any last words/shout outs?

Thanks to everyone involved and anyone that supports it.

 

*Special thanks to Donfro for providing the photos and taking the time. Premiere is tonight, info on the flyer above.

SMLTalk with: Brian Delaney

Who did you grow up skating with on Cape Cod? What were some of the spots you skated out there?

When we were kids the crew was Jack Kelly, Devin Woelfel, Dillon Buss, Buck Squibb, Tim Burlingame, Billy Campbell and a bunch of other dudes. There really wasn't much to skate but prefab skateparks and some random schoolyards. My driveway had some pretty heavy sessions.

What is it about the Cape that constantly produces some of the city’s best skateboarders?**

There are a lot of small towns that make up the Cape and they pretty much all had a skatepark. If you got bored at your local park, you could always just go a couple towns over and skate something new. That's how I met a lot of people that I still skate with to this day.The Boarding House Skateshop has always been a big part of keeping skating alive out there, but when it finally comes time to move to the city I think you appreciate it more because there really wasn’t much to skate back home. Most skaters from the Cape dream of living in the city.

Frontside Noseblunt

Frontside Noseblunt

Do you remember the first time you skated Eggs? Who regularly skated it back then?

The first time was in 2007. Tom Mayo took me there. On the way there I was hungry so I asked if there was food at Eggs. He told me there was a omelette station. When I got there I realized he was fucking with me.. But I wasn't mad. I don't think I ended up eating that day, I couldn't get myself to leave the amazing spot. Back then, it was mostly the city people crew running the spot. I remember seeing Jason Jenkins filming for his log clips.

In your opinion, what’s the craziest trick/line ever done at Eggs and why?

Its really hard to say.. Basically every line Gavin has filmed and every trick Dana has done is the best. Also John Wisdom's switch tre noseslide line was fucked..

What is the craziest, non­skateboarding related thing to ever happen at Eggs?

So much crazy shit happens there on a daily basis it's hard to keep track. One time this old dude came through and started handing out 20$ bills for flat ground ollies. He was a creep but fuck it.. he gave out like $200.. pretty chill day.

Could a skatepark ever replace something like Eggs? Or do you see skateparks as a non­solution to a non­problem?

I am really excited for the new park, but I don't think a skatepark could ever duplicate what goes on at Eggs. Skateparks are given to you, Eggs took work. From de­nobbing and bondo­ing cracks, to dealing with cops on a daily basis, it took time and effort to make it what it is today.

Your #eggsreports are all works of genius. Who are your directorial influences? Are any of them ever thought out or are they always spur of the moment?

They are definitely spur of the moment. I just try and post shit that me and my friends would think is funny. I think my favorite video is the one of K.C. riding some girls paddle board in the river. You could never plan that shit.. My influences come from different things.. music, Worldstar, Dimestore, squaa...

One time we skated together out in Southie and you told me you were on a vacation from Eggs. How often are these vacations needed and why are they important?

Once in awhile you just need to make yourself leave Eggs. It's good to get out and skate other shit. I forget how sick downtown is sometimes.

K-Grind

K-Grind

A lot of people from out of town feel vibed out when they go to Eggs. Are there any rules about how to skate/interact with people at Eggs? Have you yourself ever vibed anyone out?

For the most part anyone can skate there. But the spot isn't that big and if you're constantly in the way or have a shitty attitude, someone will call you on it. If it's your first time there and no one talks to you it's not because we are assholes, it's because there are so many new faces there everyday, if we took the time to talk to everyone there wouldn't be time to skate. I'm definitely guilty of vibing whether I like to admit it or not, but fuck...If you don't hold it down, the spot would turn into a zoo. I think it's sick that people are intimidated. It has that EMB feel.

Have you ever vibed your own self out at Eggs, gotten #thefear, and just called it a day?

Once in awhile it's just too hot, there's too many people skating, and you're just too fried...But for the most part I get the fear when I'm not there. Serious FOMO.

Is Eggs the best spot in America? If not, name what you think may be the best.

I would say it's one of the best spots in America, if not the best. Kinda biased though...But since LOVE is still skateable I would have to say that is the best spot besides Eggs. So much history there and all the new Philly dudes kill it.

Have you ever thought about relocating to another city? If you could pack up and leave tomorrow, where would you go?

Thought about New York once but I got the fear last minute...But if I could move anywhere I would move to Montreal. I fuck with Canada.

If you had to give up smoking weed or backside tailslides which would you choose to stop forever?

Probably weed. Anyone can smoke weed, not everyone can skate. Forever IS a long time though...

Frontside Flip

Frontside Flip

Give us your top five backside tailslides in skate history - can be any variation (switch, shuv out, flip out, etc.)

Gino’s battery park line In Chocolate tour, Kenny Anderson across that grate ledge, Nate Jones at 3rd and Army, Tiago Lemos switch back tail gap to ledge at Jkwon, and Brian Anderson on that hubba that Carroll eats shit on in Harsh Barge. Always liked that one.

Name your top three rap albums currently in rotation:

  1. French Montana and Fetty Wap “ coke zoo”
  2. Future and drake “wattba”
  3. Young dolph “16 zips”

Top three favorite styles?

JB Gillet, Zered Bassett, Andrew Mcgraw.

Tell us how you ended up skating for DQM.

They opened a shop in Boston and I got a job working there. That’s how I met the owner Chris Keefe. He saw some of my footage and let me film a welcome part. Really happy to be a part of such a rad company.

How much wax is too much wax?

For the most part there can never be too much wax. To the people saying “just skate faster”, go skate a pole jam or something. Your opinion does not matter to us.

Explain the “Forbidden 14”...When is it ok to skate that section of your board?

14 inches is the length of the middle of the board from truck to truck. Forbidden 14 means that you do not do any lip or board slide tricks. It is definitely a Boston thing. It's more of a joke than an actual way of skating.

To piggy back on that last question, what are the ultimate ledge sins that will make the ledge gods puke? i.e “Thou shalt not nollie 5­0”

The older I get the more I realzie every trick can be sick if it's done well. But the frontside nosegrind to lipslide is definitely an unforgivable combo...just do one or the other you idiot. I see that one a lot at Eggs smh..

What’s the worst skate fashion trend you’ve ever participated in?

Probably tall tees. I would wear 2XL at one point. Definitely kept it G. Maybe too G..

You and Lee Madden collaborated for both your RAW part and your DQM part, tell us a little bit about what it’s like to film with him. Does he pitch you tricks/spots? How do you guys operate as a team to make a clip work?

He's pretty much the only person I really film with. We're just on the same page when it comes to skating. Lee is more into making full length projects rather than random web clips. Sometimes he'll gives me spot ideas and what he thinks I could do there, but it's more about how the skating looks on film than just doing the hardest tricks you can think of. Sometimes I'll be hyped on a trick we got but he won't use it because the lighting was bad or it wasn't filmed to his standard. I don't ever really question him because I know ultimately he is the man with the vision and he knows what looks good and what doesn't. I don't give too much input into the editing process either, I know he'll make something better than I could imagine. Dude is really talented. Thanks for putting up with my shit.

When you go to a spot that isn’t Eggs to film a back tail fakie, you clearly mean business. Tell us about the back tail fakie at Revere’s MGH / Beach ledges. What made you want to try it, or even think it was possible? Is that the longest back tail you’ve ever done?

I skated it a couple years back and I kinda messed around with it, but it didn't really see possible at the time. I kinda forgot about the spot but once Wonderland was built we ended up going back. I tried for awhile one day and failed. I went back a week later just me and Lee and with the help of a lot of wax it worked. Probably the longest I've ever done.

What is the best thing about the Boston skate scene in your opinion?

You don’t have to call anyone to meet up...You just go to Eggs and everyone is there. I don’t think many other cities have that.

*Special thanks to Delaney for taking the time and Liam Annis for providing the photos.