JEFF THORBURN PORTFOLIO
Make a few moves in your adult life and you’ll inevitably end up with friends and family all over the place. Such...
Blueprint’s Lost and Found came out in 2005, I’m figuring the DVD made it to Calgary around that time too. I didn’t know how anything worked back then, and I don’t think you could get Blueprint boards in Canada, but somehow this DVD made it to The Source while I was working there. I would have been 20 years old at the time. I think Nick and I are just about the same age. I was aware of Nick and the rest of the Blueprint guys from photos in various magazines, but I don’t think I had really seen him or any of them in videos. If you haven’t watched the whole video, I highly suggest it. Maybe it won’t have the same impact now, with skateboarding from all over the world visible at all times, but in 2005 it was pretty unique to see a professional video from a world away. What stood out is that had so much flavour that was unique to a specific geographical area. There are influences I can look back and see now, but at the time this video really seemed to come out of a bubble. For this to be my first look at British skateboarding set a very high standard for what I continue to expect to see from the lads over there. By and far, Nick and the rest of them live up to those standards everytime. So I pulled up Nick’s part, the last part in Lost and Found, and watched it a few times over the last few days, taking note of particular things and musing on them.—Jeff Thorburn
-Right from the start of his part it’s clear this is going to be unique in terms of the skating and editing. While the rest of the video has a cohesive vibe, there’s just something extra special about how this one kicks off with the opening orchestral sounds over the crackle of vinyl. We get an immediate treat right away when we see the flatground Nollie Frontside Flip from the front shot on film, and then the first line starts as a whole and we see it from the back, with the post-Britpop sounds of Glasgow’s Travis kicking in (according to skatevideosite.com, the only time Travis has been catalogued as used in a skate video) and Nick takes a Switch Ollie into what was and is now even more so one of the most recognizable and iconic spots in the world.
-Once we leave Southbank and get into the streets, the gap to manual followed by the quick Ollie up and Ollie across the gap are now, many years later, clear precursors to a theme Nick would expand upon in later parts, like Fully Flared and Vase.
-There is some thoughtful editing at play throughout, which you’ll catch early on with the out-ledge Frontside Bluntslide to Fakie, which then cuts to a similar spot where he does a Frontside Bluntslide to regular. As that line continues, it ends with an imperceptibly dipped Backside Smith Grind Shuv-it. We get another angle of that, and the camera lingers long enough after to catch a Shuv on flatground. The subsequent clip being a Nollie Shuv-it over a bar makes the whole chunk rather pleasant and complete feeling.
-While we’ve only seen a couple by this point, it’s here that I start to think about Nick’s unabashed use of the switch mongo push, which is really one of his style signifiers. I think you could pick out his push if you were just looking at a shadow. It’s funny in skateboarding how the switch mongo push is such a divisive means of propulsion. A lot of them are bad, and some of them are really good. But you never hear about how great someone’s switch push is, because that just means they are overly ambidextrous, and that’s boring. We do and think some weird shit in skateboarding, is this topic is up there as one of the weirdest. Anyway, whether he’s pushing switch or regular, there’s such an eagerness in the push of the scrawny kid you see here that you can tell how hyped he is to be a part of this crew at this time. What makes it even better is that now, well over a decade later, he’s still got that same eagerness in his push in every part he puts out.
-The introduction here is the Backside Nosegrind 180 out, immediately followed by the Switch Frontside Nosegrind, which at first think is going to keep going around, but he sort of fishtails it out in the other direction. If you saw these tricks now, with the static camera angles, you’d think he filmed this himself on his iPhone. I don’t think they did that here.
-I have to say that I’ve always liked the lavender pink polo shirt he’s wearing for the Switch Backside 5-0 on the out-ledge. It makes me think of Gino wearing that sweater vest. It’s tastefully unusual.
-Take note of the amount of spots he continues to revisits in future video parts. While I don’t know the city at all really except for major tourist attractions and a few skate spots, this and the rest of Nick’s parts are all so obviously centred around London. He hasn’t had to go far to make a career out of skateboarding; he’s just had to have a keen eye for spots. It’s cool to see the nooks and crannies he finds, as well as the spots he returns to progress on or reinterpret. Mike McDermott said something about the half-circle bench in Winnipeg being the one spot he could continue to one-up himself on. The up the 3 and down the 6 spot may be like that for Nick.
-There’s just something about the fact that he was skating the same Lakais that a lot of us were skating at this time. He wasn’t wearing the Manchester yet, as they only came out right around the same time as this video, but those and a few other classic models would be worn by Nick and Danny Brady for years to come. But the main thing seeing him in Lakais gets me to thinking about is how he never seemed like part of the main team due to distance. Despite that though, he was productive while being visibly and verbally proud to be skating for a company run by skaters that he clearly admired. I think Lakai and the Crailtap camp acknowledged that to an extent, but never really promoted or included him enough. It’s a shame that he and Lakai had to part ways, as he explained in an interview with Grey last year: “Lakai couldn’t renew my contract to the same as it was before so I had to decide between getting a proper job and skating less or moving to a brand that allows me to carry on doing what I love. I am so grateful to Lakai for everything they did for me. I had some of the best years of my life (riding for Lakai) and feel massively humble because of it.” I don’t know the numbers involved, but Nick seems like a valuable asset to me that they should have kept. He was really one of the most productive and unique riders they had, and in addition to his part in Fully Flared he put out some other solid Lakai coverage, including this really interesting part/commercial from 2010. Despite the change, he’s continued to do some cool stuff since getting on Nike, including this just-for-fun part he released last year with an unexpected song.
-That long, arcing turn in between tricks during a line at Southbank points to a Jason Dill in Mosaic influence. These patient, meandering lines are something he continues to do, and I think they are a great pacing device in videos. He even opens his part in Eleventh Hour with a line that basically ends up tracing as a complete circle. All this to say, it’s ok to have a breath between tricks sometimes without having to actually cut the clip. Editors, take note.
-A Switch Backside 180 down a fat stack definitely makes one think of Gino in Yeah Right, and then probably Brian Wenning flying down the Love Park gap. While he’s an eager young skater in this part, you still see that even today Nick’s willing to toss a Switch Ollie, Switch Backside 180, or Switch Flip down a massive set.
-There’s a nicely flowing combo of a Switch Tre over a street gap, something we’ll see more of in the future, followed by a Nollie 360 Flip Manual.
-We see another uphill Switch Frontside Nosegrind, but this time with a fakie Front Shuv out that is stomped and then easily dropped down the next block. We’re getting towards what we think is nearly the end, with one of his now trademark Nollie Frontside Flips down a set, and then a pleasantly bigspinned out of Frontside Bluntslide at Southbank. What looks like an outro for the whole video starts up, but it’s a transition with Nick’s enders bleeding into it. The Switch Backside Flip and the Switch Heelflip are just gold, while the beachfront Backside Bigspin off the ramp is definitely my least favourite trick in the part. But that’s just a tough trick to like anyway.
-I like that HUF shirt he’s wearing when he 5-0s that tall handrail. It was cool when HUF first started just as a shop, and had a “team” of guys like Mike Carroll, Alex Olson, and Julien Stranger. Back when it was more of a vague idea rather than a thing that anyone could be seen as exclusively representing. The first time I went to San Francisco, I bought a pair of Half Cabs from Keith Hufnagel himself at their original shop on Sutter Street, and then some years later I bought a couple of hats online, and it was again Keith himself that emailed me to complete the transaction. So big ups to Keith for what what he’s built.
-The Nollie Frontside 360 Kickflip at that pyramid spot looks like it felt just terrific to land and roll away from. It’s the same spot that Pappalardo Backside 360 Kickflips in Fully Flared. You would think the latter came first, but it appears as though it was the former.
-We’re almost at the end, and we see Nick run and jump onto his board switch with no push, to Switch Flip a long 9-stair, with the sequence camera clicking away. You’ve got to feel good for the photographer for capturing that, assuming he didn’t run out of film mid-burst.
-We end on a Switch Ollie over a bump to bar, in an alleyway that has at least three telephone booths in it, which has the effect of simultaneously reminding us just how British this part is and just how much communication has changed since then.
Read more “Musing On…”: Bobby Puleo