The Rules of Skateboarding #9: Marc Johnson

Illustration by  Cosme

Illustration by Cosme

We have the privilege of adding one of our all-time favorite skaters to the Rules of Skateboarding roster this week. Ian Browning talked to Marc Johnson about what it is that constitutes a circus trick.

Over your career you've managed to make highly technical skating look pretty good, but I think a lot of the tricks the you’ve filmed might invoke eye rolls if some 15 year old busted them out of the skatepark. Are there any tricks in skateboarding that you think are kooky enough that they deserve to be shunned from street skating?

Oh dude, fucking  Benihana's. Like at this point…have you looked at the Instagram Explore page lately? I make it a point not to look at Instagram.

What happens to people when they look at Instagram too much, I've seen it with my own two eyes what happens to people, grown men, grown adults. People that grew up, you know, finding spots off the Thomas guide, using a map to find out like how to get to this and that before cell phones. Adults can develop attention deficit disorder using Instagram. It can ruin people who use it too much, and knowing that, I’ve actually been getting really interested in the the the effects of social media and reading about it. Now it's a whole branch of psychology, it’s like psychology grew a tumor.

This trick is now off limits. Not that it was cool before…

This trick is now off limits. Not that it was cool before…

All this shit is happening to people who are balls deep in things like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, like all day long. I've seen it seen it happen to people that I've known for 20 years, I've seen people change. And I've seen people turn into people that they wouldn't have been friends with 5 years ago. I'm watching it happen to a lot of people I care very deeply for. So with that said, I make it a point not to do that to myself because I don't want to turn into someone that I wouldn't have been fucking friends with 5 years ago.

You want to be able to somehow retain some kind of wonder and awe at what you're seeing. And so now, we're seeing that all skate media is being given away for free all day long on Instagram. All these skaters’ Instagrams have now just turned into these ‘sponsor me’ pages. That's what it is now.

And, recently somebody tried to poke fun at me for posting for posting like, weird shit on my Instagram, stuff that’s not like promotional, right? And. I don't post a whole lot of skate stuff on there, I’m hurt right now. Even if I'm skating, I don't post a whole lot of skateboarding. Everybody else, their Instagram as a footage dump. I've been told point blank, ‘video parts are dead’. With that in mind, if it's a footage dump, you've got some kid out in the Midwest who just wants to be noticed or something, right?

So they're watching skate videos and they’re like ‘frontside flip down stairs, backside flip down stairs, hardflip down stairs, you know, back smith on a rail, back smith on a ledge, this is what the pros are doing – I'm going to do this’. And then, I'm seeing a lot of people doing a Rodney Mullen’s tricks. Casper slides from the early Plan B videos, right? That that trick is fucking hard. I've tried. So I'm seeing kids now learning the primo slides across boxes and casper slides across boxes. Rodney did that 1991 or 92. The kids now are just like looking at old videos and be like, ‘What's the most fucking obscure trick?’, like the half flip casper.

Or I just saw a show called Trashin the other day, randomly. It’s a show on Facebook that Ritchie Jackson hosts. Basically, he gets a group of really creative skaters together, he takes them to a junkyard. They have the day or weekend to basically take junk and figure out really creative ways to skate it. And I was blown away, only because I don't look at Instagram all day long.

If you prefer this trick, there are many ways to view it online. Austyn Gillette, half cab flip,

If you prefer this trick, there are many ways to view it online. Austyn Gillette, half cab flip,

The problem is is we've got this generation now. We’ve got a generation of skaters, let’s just say ages 15 to 35. You know, the first generation of users or whatever. And that's all they're doing, all day long they’re watching skateboarding and they're so desensitized that they don't care about anything. It's so specialized now, where you can say ‘I’d rather see Austin Gillette do a half cab flip over a trash can than any of this like circus trick shit.’

This is over a schoolyard table - I saw a guy who did a cabalarial half-kickflip casper flip. He flipped the board is upside down on his foot, and then brought it back around, right? It was probably on Explore page, and this guy did it really fucking good. Like that dude owns that trick. It wasn't sloppy. I clicked on his name and looked at his page, and he's got that trick like really good. He's got a lot of other tricks, really, really good. And for the most part he’s just like filming weird shit like that at skateparks. And that's what it is now.

You've got all of the popular people. You know, the Sean Malto's and Nyjah's, and you know, Paul Rodriguez, Daewon. Daewon has a million followers now too. His is a footage dump. And he's remixing old footage in in or whatever. Some of the stuff he's putting out there, it’s circus tricks.

So what would you say the definition of a circus trick is?

A circus trick is called a circus trick because 20 years ago, it was a trick that was just so fucked up and obscure that nobody ever did it. So you're just like, ‘Well, dude, that's a crazy circus trick’. But now, it's so common place. Has Instagram skewed the definition? A circus trick would be something that most people don't do. Do you know what a dolphin flip is?


That's not the name because I knew a dude that did them in 1994-95 and they weren’t called dolphin flips, it was like a late varial flip. So these guys, these fucking YouTube dipshits, they're just doing really random flip tricks – that fucking Revive douchebag, the European guy. His whole channel is him, trying and landing really weird flip tricks. And he names them too like, that's his big thing. He's naming tricks. So and so did that trick and a fucking Planet Earth video in 1992 or 93. You know what I mean?

Here it is! Jason Carney, shove-it late triple flip.

Here it is! Jason Carney, shove-it late triple flip.

Okay. Like a pop shove it late flipped like a pop shove it late triple flip. Jason Carney did that in a Planet Earth video 1992 or 93, or whatever the fuck it was, and you know, he's out there just trying that shit for like an hour, and he got one around. You know, it just landed right, he rolled away, whatever.

So these guys, they take it to YouTube, and they probably either know someone did it and they just name it a ‘Dragon Flip’ or something. Some of the names these fucking douchebags come up with, just like sitting there naming flip tricks.

Yeah, like ‘Oh! I thought of this trick!’ and it's like ‘No, you didn't motherfucker!’. But if so and so already did that shit, you know, and you think no one's going to catch it. But these people that watch YouTube channels haven’t been skating long enough to know that this guy has been watching old videos, and he's just going take some really obscure tricks some guy did over a hip really shitty in a weird Powell video in 1994 or whatever. Like, Frankie Hill’s part in Celebrity Tropical Fish, did ever seen that? You want to know what a circus trick is? His whole video part [laughs]. It's one of the most shocking things I've ever seen, to this day. Just watching it, you're like, ‘Why did they put that in?’. It just makes it worse.

The last the last 60 seconds of video part you're just like ‘Dude, you should've left that out, it makes you look bad.’ He lands a trick and slides down a hip one way, and then slides down coming back the other way. It's not a horrible video. Frankie Hill’s part is horrible.

This is the kid who two years prior was like using a jump ramp to boardslide gymnastics bars on a playground. He's just like, ‘Ahhh what am I going to do? Technical street skating is in, I need to go to the Powell Skate Zone and I have to pop shove it late shove it flip revert fucking tail grab.’ Like weird shit, trying tricks over the over the pyramid at Powell and landing... on the top of the pyramid [laughs]. That's your definition of circus tricks. Frankie Hill’s part Celebrity Tropical Fish, not knocking his previous things. I'm just saying that like that. I think that video part ruined him, or at least did more harm than good for him.

I just think there’s this thing now... kids all at skate parks. Just trying quadruple dolphin flips, all day long. And they have a friend who will point their phone at them. And that's the one we see on their Instagram page. If these guys think they're inventing tricks, they're not, sorry. It's not even like I’m dissing something really, like, it’s that I can't even imagine. I can't even imagine like the mentality that a 14 year old or 15 year old kid has now who grew up where Instagram was already there by the time they started skating. They're like, ‘This is what you do if you're skater, you have Instagram’.

When it came to filming video part 10+ years ago, you're at a spot and you’re trying a trick that you've never done before, you've never seen anyone else do it either. So you're just like, ‘This is literally going to be an NBD.’ And you're so excited you want to do it. That feeling is fucking crazy. And I'm sorry, that (feeling) is just gone. Instead, you've got 5 billion skaters out there with phones that are all trying to get some kind of recognition and... motherfuckers are setting their shit up, filming themselves on a tripod? You're not even wasting anybody else's time. And you're just going to sit there for fucking 6 hours, and you're gonna land one, and that motherfucker is going to be uploaded to Instagram in less than 120 seconds [laughs].

So the circus trick thing like...fuck. Is it even a circus trick anymore if everybody's doing them? Just go to the Explore page, and you're going to see some fucked up shit.

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