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Nick Michel – Reference Is The Key

Finding a new skater you are stoked on is quite the same as getting really hooked on a band or musician you had never listened to before: sometimes you just know your record collection needed something new even if it was pretty solid already. We are all watching skate clips on every media every day and I have my go-tos. However, suddenly my algorithm gifted me a refreshing clip of an ollie one-foot tailgrab by Nick Michel, and ever since this day, I’m hyped like a teenager if new footage of him comes out – comparable to your favorite band releasing a new song. It’s not too common that a guy your age, in his mid-twenties, keeps on stoking you for years like your favorites regularly do, who have been in the game for twenty, maybe thirty years. And if you are a fan of someone, you certainly have several questions about them in your mind – at least enough to meet up for a burrito in L.A.


Taildrop 50-50

You were born and raised in Vegas and moved to Los Angeles now. Was it a big deal to move here and how did you get familiar with your new home? Is it your home?

I feel like I still have a while till it feels like my home. I've only been here for a year and a half. I’d say the biggest part of moving out was the fact that it was my first time living on my own, without my family. Before moving here, I was already pretty familiar with the place and the people because it’s not that far from Las Vegas and I went back and forth all the time.

You got friends here?

Yeah, all my best friends from Vegas moved here years before I did. I would come out here and stay on their couches. I knew I was eventually gonna make the move out here too, but i just didn't know when. When the time came, it worked out really well and I ended up living with my two really good friends. I was here for a visit and they were both pretty tired of the places they lived at the time. One day on a session at a spot they were pretty much like, “Should we just get a place together?” I was just staying at my homie's house and then started looking for an apartment with my friends all of a sudden. The first one we looked at ended up being the place we moved in. I remember calling my dad to tell him I was planning to move out. Crazy to think about now, but I'm happy it worked out.

Is it a typical skate house?

I wouldn’t say it’s a skate house. It wasn’t that rugged, just me and my two close friends who keep it pretty mellow. I wouldn’t want to live in a skate house. The first couple times I came and visited here, I stayed in the most busted, dirty places my homies stayed at. Looking back on it though, it was so much fun and I'm glad I experienced it.

"He also had a cat and her litter box was just a couple of feet away from me. It smelled like shit, there were ants everywhere, and I just slept on my back with my sweater over my nose every night."

Who had the dirtiest house?

The one I always remember is my friend Cody Thompson, who’s from Las Vegas. He moved to L.A. when I was still pretty young and he lived in a crazy skate house that they called “The Skate House.” I never went, that was a little bit before my time, but after that, he moved to this place in East L.A., and the very first time i ever came to LA, I stayed at his place. I was 16 and slept on this shitty floor mat every night with a built-in triangle pillow. I was sleeping on the ground in the living room pretty much. He also had a cat and her litter box was just a couple of feet away from me. It smelled like shit pretty bad, there were ants running around everywhere, and I just slept on my back with my sweater over my nose every night. He also had this roommate, a skater, and I remember him coming home really late one night, just all drunk, and he grabbed me and yelled, “Nick, fuck you!” all up in my face. [laughing] I didn’t shower once that trip I'm pretty sure. If I stayed five days, I didn’t shower. The one time I thought about it I peeked my head in the shower and saw a pretty fat spider on the wall so i decided to just keep it going all dirty. Really awesome first trip, that one.

Now that you’re here, which areas do you go to a lot and which ones don’t you feel?

Usually, me and my friends like to stick around in what we call “the zone.” It’s pretty much where we live and the neighborhoods within a few miles: Glendale, Eagle Rock, Highland Park, Echo Park, and Silver Lake. We’re always trying to find spots here. I like leaving the zone every now and again, but I feel like it can become a jam-up. I feel like we definitely don’t go to the Westside very much because of traffic coming back, and we're just not as familiar. Seems a lot more spread out over there too. My most recent Vans part was all filmed in the zone. I’m happy about that cause I like how the spots look, and you can tell it was all around the neighborhood. It’s more personal feeling.


Backside Smith

Is there one thing that Vegas has that you wish L.A. had as well?

It would be nice if my family was here, but maybe they will be one day. It’s so close, so I didn’t feel bad about moving or leaving them, cause it’s so easy to go there if I needed to. However, to be honest, I don’t miss Vegas very much. There’s not really anything about it that L.A. needs. As far as skating, it’s cool that all the skateparks out there have lights and stay open till 11 pm. Sometimes it sucks if you want to keep it going when it gets dark out and can only go to Chevy Chase park or something.

Talking about skateparks, what the deal with that old-school metal ramp skatepark you and your friends post a lot on Insta? How did this place come up?

That place is called Frogtown. Even before coming out here, we would always see that park on Instagram or wherever and it looked really fun, so we would go there. It was also the closest skatepark to the house I moved into initially. Naturally, I just ended up going there. That place is so much fun.

I thought people would consider the skatepark weird, but right now in skateboarding, weird stuff is the cool stuff.

It’s a nice break from all those perfect skateparks being built with the really smooth, slippery ass concrete – Street League style. It’s nice to skate some janky metal park or an old concrete park.

Is it the same with street spots, too? Do you like spots that look weird to others?

I feel like that happens every day. This double-sided curb that my friends got going recently, it goes downhill through a gap and you gotta pop in, pop out. So many people wouldn’t look twice at that or think to film there, but my friends and I have been going quite a bit and it looks cool. Sometimes less is more.

"There are often times when I think to myself, “How did I get here?” […] I definitely think I wasn’t ready to turn pro, or to have that title or whatever."

I think it changes. If it looks cool, it doesn’t matter what you do, if you pop your board or whatever. I think Aiden Mackey started a lot of this rolling into dirt hills and stuff like that.

It’s entertaining and relatable. People know how fun it is to mess around on grass hills and stuff. The ones he does, though, are obviously insane and not the most ideal. It’s sick to see.

Mark Suciu gave you props for one of your clips of your last part – the roof to pole platform thing. Did you find that spot?

I think my friend pointed it out first when we were at another spot on the same street. We cut these little metal rods that were sticking out a bit and then we went a few days later and it ended up working out.

Definitely a spot to get smoked at. Did you not have any serious bails?

I almost got pitched going into that dirt bank, because i made the dirt pretty soft from the one i landed. I wanted go maybe try to land a better one, but it was a miracle that I even rolled away from the one I rolled away from. Cool that Mark posted it though, I didn’t expect that.

You chatted with him about it?

I just said, “Thanks, Mark!” and he said, “Yeee.” I just thought it was funny cause he’s gotten clowned on a little bit lately. All these funny clips from past interviews coming out and stuff.

I think that was his way to SOTY. People gave him shit for this, but I think he didn’t really care.

He’s just on some other level with skating, he has other things to worry about. His attitude about the whole thing is kinda funny but whatever.


Indy to Fakie

How does it feel, coming from Las Vegas to having the first and last part in a Vans and Lotties video to becoming pro on Frog? Has it been a rush the last few years?

Honestly, when you lay it all out like that, it's hard for me to understand and I'm still processing a lot of it. There are often times when I think to myself, “How did I even get here?" I don’t know, some parts of it feel a little fast. I definitely think I wasn’t ready to turn pro, or to have that title or whatever. Not that it even matters, it’s just your name on a board, but i felt like i probably could've done a lot more leading up to that.

You just couldn’t say no to Chris one more time, I guess…

That would’ve been three strikes. [Nick declined to ride for Frog two times before he got on.] I haven’t been in the spotlight for too long, so it's a little crazy to me that i've had these interviews come out in the last year, but it's cool that people are thinking of me. It makes me really happy, and I just wanna keep skating and put out more footage.

I read that your father was also a skater and a big influence for you. Do you talk to him about going pro? Did he see it on social media?

I’m not like, “Look, I became pro, Dad,” but he sees stuff on Instagram and texts me about it. He’s super proud. Lately, there's been more things coming up, so there might be stuff I haven’t talked to him in detail about. Like, how I'm doing this interview with you guys right now.

So he knows about stuff, but he’s not involved?

No, he’s doing his thing and I’m doing my thing here, but he’ll see it all regardless. He’s really stoked.

"I feel like a lot of it comes from watching old skate videos, like H-Street’s Next Generation, it’s so good. […] I guess I just tried to emulate that stuff."

The Lotties videos helped you a lot to come up. They had a good team and everything, and now the place is closed. I heard some rumors about what happened. How is it to have lost that shop? Is there another shop you’re going to?

Well yeah that whole thing is pretty crazy, and how things turned out. I don't think I'm the one to speak on it or on anyone’s behalf but it sucks for sure. Those kids loved that place.

Did you use the shop as a meeting or hangout place as well?

I didn’t go super often cause it’s a little far from my house, but I'd definitely meet up with friends there and see Mike [Gigliotti].

Do you still hang out with the shop crew?

I don't see Mike that much anymore but he's always out skating, we're still boys. I see Chris [Ramos] and Louie [Martinez] around more often, they're the best.


Ride on 5-0

Getting back to your dad for a second, he probably had a lot of knowledge of skateboarding. Did he have an influence in your trick choices? Cause you’re doing some tricks that don’t seem to fit this era. We nerded out on your one-foot tailgrabs that you do like Salman Agah did for a Real ad.

I love that photo! My dad definitely inspired me to skate more banks and transitions and stuff. Encouraged me to drop into stuff cause that’s what he likes to skate: ditches, banks, quarter pipes, things like that. As far as tricks though, i think that mainly came from watching a bunch of old skate videos, like H-Street’s Next Generation, it’s so good. No one is skating like that these days. All the sick tricks they did. Sal flips, Japan, disasters. I guess I just tried to emulate that stuff.

Cause no one did them when you did them a few years ago.

Well I was already just doing one-foots for awhile and then I did it with a tailgrab cause it looks cool in a photo. I did one recently on a DIY my friends made around here. There are these two sketchy humps you can gap from one to another. I was there with Mango one day and he was shooting photos on his digital camera. I was doing shifty ollies and one-foots and I threw out a tailgrab one-foot and grabbed my shoe instead of my tail. Don’t know how I landed it.

Talking about the H-Street video, do you look for inspiration in older videos a lot?

A lot of the stuff in those older videos is just too insane for me to do. Something I like to do is watch these videos and try to pick out some miniramp tricks that I can maybe do, and get my friends to try them with me. That vert and mini ramp stuff from back then gets me so stoked. Old Wade Speyer, Dan Drehobl, or John Cardiel footage is the sickest! Phil Shao too, man. I’m thinking more about old skate videos when I skate an old skatepark or an old ramp. It’s also cool if I do a trick on my own and then later see someone I look up to doing it in an old video. That’s so sick. Like, doing a frontside half cab over a spine. I don’t do it that much, but I definitely started doing them a while back and then I’m seeing some Wade Speyer footage and he does it a bunch. I wish I could skate like that.

"It always makes people laugh because it’s so random that I know all SOTYs by year. […] I did it once on a Vans trip that Michael Burnett was on, too. He was really stoked."

I saw you naming your favorite skaters in another interview. Where is the love for us Europeans, man?

Oh, no! There's just so many skaters out there. I've been pretty hyped on Vincent Huhta for a while. I love Hugo's [Boserup] skating a lot as well. He can skate everything and he skates fast. He skates the way I would want to skate, lots of power.

Would you consider yourself a skate nerd?

I don’t know. For my age, I know some stuff, but some of my friends know a lot more than me. I would say I’m pretty familiar with the stuff I grew up with. Sometimes I could tell you some fun fact because I would’ve read some old Chrome Ball interview. However, I can tell you every Skater of the Year for sure. Let’s go, name a year!

Name all winners from the last ten years.

Grant Taylor, David Gonzalez, Ishod, Wes Kremer, AVE, Kyle Walker [takes a small break], Foy, Tyshawn, Milton, Mason, Suciu. The newer ones get a little bit hazy because I have more interest in the older ones. They would’ve come to my mind a lot quicker.

Okay, now it’s your chance to impress all people who still read print magazines: all from 1995 till 2005.

Chris Senn, Eric Koston, Bob Burnquist, Andrew Reynolds, Brian Anderson, Geoff Rowley, Arto Saari, Tony Trujillo, Mark Appleyard, Danny Way, Chris Cole [Nick needed 19 seconds for that answer].

Wow, that was impressive.

It always makes people laugh because it’s so random that I know all SOTYs by year. It’s a funny thing to get people in on. I did it once on a Vans trip that Michael Burnett was on, too. He was really stoked.

I feel like it’s kind of a trendy thing to be a nerd. A lot of skateboarding nerd content Instagram accounts like @overthinkingskatevideos are popping up at the moment. Do you follow pages like that?

I actually came across that account lately! It’s pretty interesting, especially that accounts post old footage. I follow that @all_hail_skateboarding page, it’s pretty sick.


Backside Lipslide

Do you think learning tricks that are trendy at the moment and looking less at references from the past limits your progress as a skater?

I don't think it limits progress but I feel like It shows in a lot of skaters that they don’t have much inspiration . For me, it's important to look back and educate yourself a little bit and get stoked on other skating and see what you actually like, and try to skate everything you can. That's what makes a good skater to me.

How old are you now?

I’m 24.

For that age, you really seem like a kind of complete skater. Is there one thing you’d say you suck at?

I mean, so much! [laughing] I still feel limited, there is so much stuff I’ve never tried, I don't think I have the skill or patience to do a real trick on a manual pad. Switch and nollie is very foreign still. I don't think I'm that complete of a skater.

What are your next plans? I didn’t see that much footage of you from Europe. Is there some place you would like to go?

There are so many places. I just went to Mallorca and I’d never heard about that place or been to Spain before, but it was such a great time. Obviously, I want to go to Copenhagen and kick it.

So Copenhagen Open is the call?

Maybe not CPH Open. It sounds fun, riding your bike around the city looks fun, but I’d rather do that with some of my friends. I am going to Hawaii tomorrow though and I'm really excited.

Sounds sick! If you didn’t have to pack your stuff, do an interview, or skate a day, what would your day in L.A. look like?

Well I live with my girlfriend now, and she only has one day off at the moment so I keep that day free to kick it with her. Otherwise I'll just get something to eat and hang at home and listen to music or go on this one hike by my house that's really fun. Hanging alone can be really nice too.

Sweet. Enjoy your day off skating and have a good flight tomorrow!

Thank you!