12.22.2019

chrome ball interview #136: mark suciu


chops and mark sit down for conversation.


December 1, 2019

So two years in the making, are you happy with Verso? Is there anything you would’ve done differently?

Yeah, I am happy with Verso overall but I’m still not happy with my last trick, even though it took me a year to get. I just didn’t grind very far. And I knew that it was going to work out that way, but still... With how the part is structured, I knew that trick had to be my ender. I really left myself with no choice.

But as I was trying and trying this thing, I couldn’t help but talk to different people about their difficulties in filming enders. And I heard quite a few but it was Alex Olson and Kenny Anderson’s stories that really stuck out to me. I’m sure there are crazier ones, but Alex Olson telling me firsthand about going back 17 times for his tailslide impossible ender in Pretty Sweet was pretty extraordinary.  

That’s a lot.

Yeah, 17 is high. I don’t think mine could’ve taken much more than that.

But even after all that, 17 times, Alex still feels like he didn’t end up doing it very well. He told me that himself. That he feels like he didn’t wrap it well enough. And in the footage, you can see him yelling as he rolls away. He’s not happy with it.

And with Kenny, he hasn’t even done his ender yet. He’s tried it for two different video parts and still hasn’t gotten it.

So, in hearing these stories, I started to ask myself, as a skateboarder trying the same trick over and over again, it is possible that we just get stuck in the same rhythm? That we’ve learned how to do this trick incorrectly, which becomes what our body now does automatically? How do you break through that muscle memory of doing something wrong in order to actually land it?

For a long time, I didn’t think that I was ever going to get my ender. And even if I actually did do it, it wasn’t going to look good. But, again, with the structure of the part, I’d have to take it, even if it’s terrible.

There was a span of about 3 months, at both premieres, where I just showed my ender in the state I had it in... this shitty, bounce-off-the-ledge, bounce-back-onto-your-board, tic-tac away... because that was as close as I’d gotten. And I really didn’t care about going back to do it any better, either. Until my friend Ryen talked me into it.



I was going to ask about the delay between the premiere and the online release. Because I’d heard that you were out hunting for an ender but I guess that trick was always the ender, right?

Yes, with how the overall concept worked out, that had to be it.

So your dissatisfaction with the earlier version was just over the quality of the ender?

It was terrible. I did it so badly. You cannot count that as a make. (laughs)

But yeah, that was really it. We did take out one other trick and add another, since we had those extra two months. I had the opportunity to try front boarding Kezar in San Francisco again. Because I’d already tried it for the video with no sign and ended up putting it down into the dirt a bunch of times. So after the premieres, I had to be in San Francisco anyway, I might as well get it. Put a sign down and do the front board. Take out this slightly weaker clip and use that instead.

But no, we didn’t want to change anything else because we liked what we had... except for that last trick. I still can’t watch it. Because not only do I not like how I did it, the trick itself represents such a terrible time for me. An entire year of self-doubt and feeling crazy.



Were you only trying it at Lenox Ledges?

No, I tried it three separate times in Madrid. The layout at Congresso Plaza is really good for those types of lines because I needed a ledge on both sides.

For the 50-50.

Exactly. And if I could’ve done it in Madrid, I would’ve probably liked that better because it would’ve been in a straight line. I don’t really lines where you turn around. But at least I wasn’t turning around to the same ledge.

I like a good swerve.

(laughs) I like swerving, too, just not going back to the same thing. It shows that there’s nothing else to skate there. You’re just trying to make something out of nothing. That maybe you should just do a single trick instead.

But let me reiterate that when I say that I’m proud of this part, I mean that I’m really fucking proud. Because there were times when we were going through the editing process and I’d feel like I did something cleaner… and then we’d pull up seven different clips of the same trick. And every time this would happen, I couldn’t help but feel a burst of pride with how hard we’d worked on this project. How much time we put in. 



Is that what you meant by saying you wanted Verso to be “without compromise”? Doing tricks repeatedly until you’re satisfied?

That’s an aspect of it but it also has to do with getting the music. That’s the main thing with video parts these days, you have to compromise on the music.

I’m a big Beirut fan. I don’t give a shit what anybody else thinks. And I’ve always wanted to skate to them. We actually tried to get a Beirut song for my part in Away Days but it didn’t work out... which I’m happy about now as I don’t like my Away Days part anyway. It would be awful to look back on my bad part with their great song.  

But you’ve skated to Beirut before...

I did in Cross Continental, there’s an instrumental.



Right, because I took the first part of Verso with Beirut as being the front of the page. The first part of your career...

Kind of. It’s all interconnected in a kinda sloppy way, which I like.

We actually thought about mirroring the songs at first. Since we had two Beirut songs already, we could get an Elliott Smith instrumental as well. Like “Angel in the Snow” but just the instrumental part. Justin was down at first but then he started to feel like it was too self-aware. With Elliott Smith being in Cross Continental as well, it could possibly be seen as a little narcissistic.

So using a Beirut isn’t an exact flip-flop but it is acknowledging who I am as a... skate video part-maker, I guess. (laughs)

By ending with Beirut, we were trying to do a chiasmus-type of thing with the four songs. Not exactly ABBA, but ABCA.



How much control do you typically have with parts, compared to Verso?

Verso is probably the most in-depth I’ve gone.

For Away Days, I didn’t have much say. I talked a little bit about songs and possibly a few tricks I didn’t like. I was shown the video maybe once before the premiere. It was just this giant big-budget project, so I had very little control over it.

I suppose the gnarliest trick I have in Away Days is a switch front blunt on a 9-stair. It was hard for me but it doesn’t exactly make sense for an ender, as I feel like a lot of other people could do that one. But on the other hand, the line I actually ended the part with was hard for me and probably for the rest of the world, too. So that made a little more sense to me, even though it’s weird to end with a line on a manny pad. But at least it was my decision.

I don’t have any say with the Sabotage videos at all, which I like a lot. I feel those allow me to be presented in a different way. And because they’re not my decisions, it’s like someone else is taking these risks for me, too. I really enjoy that.



Talk about the concept of perfection. You’re obviously quite a cerebral fellow, when does this fixation start to become unhealthy for you? I imagine you possibly thinking yourself out of skating at all sometimes...

I think my concept of perfection has mellowed since I was 18. Because at that age, I’d just graduated from high school and ended up hurting my ankle really bad. I no longer had a friend group, as hanging out with my skater friends while I couldn’t skate felt weird. So I was alone a lot at the time, depressed. Thinking about all of the things you think about at that age. How life terrible life is and how awesome it could be if only...

At that time, all I could think about was how awesome life could be if you truly put all of yourself into something. Foregoing all of life’s pleasures to immerse yourself into this one thing, even if it meant being completely solitary for the rest of your life. Because at 18, you really haven’t experienced crippling loneliness yet. You don’t realize that there’s more to it than that.

So I did my little 18-year-old math equation of how perfect things could be. I started to think about all of the tricks I want to do and what a perfect career could possibly look like. And not only that, but also just how disappointing careers really are. Again, I was only 18, but I started to feel like skate careers are always so disappointing because not only do you reach your athletic peak around 18 to 22, that’s probably the time of your peak stoke as well. So how can you possibly do anything new from that point forward that aren’t just small step-ups? I think I’ve referred to it as “adding a kickflip”.

It’s funny because I was just thinking about this two days ago. I was switch backsmithing a rail against a wall that was almost identical to one I switch back 50’d ten years ago, back when I was 18. I couldn’t help but start getting these thoughts again. And yes, I probably could have done it at 18, too. And to have done it at that point would’ve been one thing, but to have the uphill battle of doing something even the tiniest bit harder 10 years later is equally commendable.

My idea of perfection now is that progression happens in many different ways. Even the slightest push forward, to know that I’m not slipping backwards, is awesome. Sure, in a vacuum of thought while sitting on the couch, switch backsmithing the same rail now that I switch back 50’d ten years ago might not be so awesome. But that’s just a small detail. It’s not fair to minimize my entire career to that one instance. It’s not that linear.

Would 18-year-old Mark be stoked on Verso?

Yeah, for sure.

Why?

Kyle Beachy wrote a review of Verso where he mentions the homages in my SF Library line from Cross Continental... I was fucking hyped on that.  Because as a kid, I really did want that line to allude to five different skaters, along with Mike Carroll.



I was actually going to ask about that.

It wasn’t that I was alluding to skaters who were all giant influences on me. They honestly all feel a little random to me now. Obviously, Mike Carroll is the key inspiration there. But when I start off the line by kickflipping the gap, I was thinking of Jake Donnelly. Jake is a great skater, he’s got a great kickflip. But it doesn’t matter that I shout him out, you know?

Still, I had specific skaters in mind for each of those tricks and I wanted them to be visible to other people, beneath the tricks. Unfortunately, the only thing that reads in the footage is me skating and the larger Mike Carroll reference.

So, the fact that I made this new part where I put a lot of thought into it and people are considering it as something more than just the tricks... That people can see more of what I’m trying to do and that the thought process is translating, I’m proud of that.

So who are the five?

I can’t actually remember all of them. Mike Carroll, obviously. Jake Donnelly was the kickflip. The front 3 could’ve been PJ Ladd, maybe not. I can’t remember who the back 3 or the nollie flip were for, but the varial heel was for Tyler Bledsoe.



Going back now, is Origin the culmination of your YouTube youth? Because I know you had some things on YouTube prior to that, was any of that stuff incorporated into your part?

No, that was all specifically filmed for Origin, so it does feel different from all of the YouTube stuff prior. That was a time of trying to figure out what all was expected of me and doing things based on that, to a degree. I really wasn’t sure of what I was doing. That part largely came about through the hope of possibly getting on Habitat, so I’d better go out every single night and film whatever the fuck I can.

I mean, in my footage that didn’t make it into Origin, there’s a clip where I do a nollie 360 shove-it off a small loading dock, over a rail. I thought that was a sick trick. That’s where I was at back then.

But how old are you?

That was the first half of 2010, which means I was 17.

That’s understandable for a big debut part at that age.

Right. Because I just didn’t know the inner workings of how to film a part yet. I remember it being such a revelation whenever I started to think about how spots looked on film. Comparing the aesthetic of different spots to figure out which one to go to. That stuff never crossed my mind before. I was more, “Oh, an 8-stair rail! Sick! Let’s skate it!”



And the laserflip down 3rd and Army...

...I don’t know, man. (laughs)

Yeah, that one made it in there. I was spared the nollie 360 shove-it but not the laserflip.

I always thought laserflips looked fucking awesome when I was a little kid, just because you’d never see them.

Every little kid thinks laserflips are awesome.

(laughs) Dude, I remember when I landed my first one. I was on a family vacation. My mom was filming me with a little mini-dv cam. I think I was 13 at the time. Holy shit, I thought I was the best skater ever.

But doing one down 3rd and Army had to be difficult.

...you just flip the board. (laughs)

That gap isn’t very tall.

It’s pretty long, though...

Yeah, it’s kinda long. But I’d skated it a bunch before. I’d already big flipped it, tre flipped it, back 3’d it...

Next up: laserflip.

(laughs) Here we go!



And you were on Powell flow prior to this? Is it true that they wanted you for their amateur team and you told them no?

That’s true. They gave me the contract and I told them that I had to think about it. Because I knew, deep inside, that I wasn’t sure. I probably had some counseling from the Etnies team manager at the time, Heath Brinkley... and also Justin Williams, who was over at my truck sponsor at the time, Force Trucks.

Not that I didn’t like riding for Powell. Going on those trips back then was awesome and I really learned a lot... 16 flow kids in a 2-bedroom apartment, stressing out over photos. But my thing was that I always wanted to ride for Alien Workshop. And I think Heath and Justin motivated me to actually try for that instead of just settling.

Wasn’t Kalis flowing you Alien boxes at first? How did Habitat happen?

I think Kalis got me one box and sent me over to Chad Bowers, who got me another one. There were two or three boxes, tops. And I still have some of those boards, too. Skated, obviously. But yeah, that was special.

I’d never even met Kalis before. He’d just heard about me through the grapevine. PJ Ladd had shouted me out on the Berrics... I guess he’d seen some stuff on YouTube, which is pretty funny to think about. I’d done a hardflip backside tail backside flip out that people were talking about. Kalis heard about me somehow and sent me a box. Turns out that Chad Bowers wasn’t down for me so Alien wasn’t going to happen, but luckily, Brennan Conroy hit him up about me for Habitat.



And you had to get on Habitat shoes in order to get the bump up from flow?

Yeah, I started getting flowed Habitat in 2009. I went to Tampa Am for the first time that year with Heath Brinkley and Etnies, skating Habitat boards. In 2010, I graduated high school and started filming for Origin, which was a big deal at the time. And that’s when Joe dropped it on me.

“Hey, I know you’re psyched on Etnies but we’re really wanting to make some waves with Habitat shoes. If you want to ride for Habitat, you’re gonna have to also wear the shoes for at least a year. If you don’t want to ride for them after that, fine. But hopefully, that’s not the case.”

So yeah, I talked to Heath about it and we both agreed that leaving Etnies was probably the best move for me.

There’s only a year between Origin and Cross Continental, but wow... what happened there?

Yeah, so I graduated high school, hurt my ankle and sat around, thinking about skating a lot. And that was my first step, actually. Thinking about how great the good shit could be.

I started focusing more on possibly doing tricks that could be seen as the culmination of more than one thing. Like, ollieing gaps that had never been ollied before, especially gaps that people knew. Thinking about how much more weight there is in doing tricks at those spots, in particular... like the Love gap. Brennan actually helped me out a lot in this regard. Hating on me for skating certain spots, because I just didn’t get it.

“What do you mean, dude? It’s just a spot.”

But after I recovered from rolling my ankle, I started paying more attention to spots that could achieve that for me... like the Library Gap. That was all filmed pretty early on for Cross Continental, which I feel opened my eyes a little to see the value of this approach and keep going.  

Cross Continental was a special time because I’m just out there, driving around. Trying to live the life I had imagined while I was hurt. Because all of that frustration was still so fresh in my mind, I could still tap into it for inspiration.

In December of 2010, I went out to skate in Philly for the first time. And I ended up meeting a ton of people who were all really psyched on showing me this other type of skating.

“Oh, have you seen Stop Fakin? You know how sick Jimmy McDonald is, right?”

And yeah, I knew how awesome that stuff was, but I hadn’t really seen it through their lens yet. It was a different set of priorities, even down to becoming a bit more critical of things.



What was it about the East Coast that captivated you as a skateboarder from Saratoga, California?

I have no idea. I watched Static 2 shortly after it came out, which must’ve been 2005. I was 13. And it was dope... even though when I first watched it, I actually thought it was a little too long. I didn’t “get it” entirely until much later, but I loved Puleo’s part right away. I must’ve watched that part the whole summer. Curb cuts and cellar doors, it just looked sick. Because ever since I was a kid, I always wanted to live in a city. I’ve always liked the urban atmosphere.

For example, I was just watching Danny Brady’s part in Lost and Found. He does that line with the two banks on the sidewalk: a tailslide and a front board to fakie. He’s going at the same time that a car is passing him in the street and they’re kinda in-unison for a second. The fact that there’s more than just one thing going on is invigorating to me. That there’s so much life happening, you want to be part of the energy. It’s exciting.

The East Coast just seemed so different from my experience growing up.

But did you expect the older locals to be so territorial? I remember several people claiming that you were essentially co-opting the East Coast. Even Puleo made some comments.

No, I didn’t expect that at all. It was pretty saddening. I just don’t think that I knew about that sort of thing back then, co-opting and shit.



Do you understand where they were coming from now?

Yeah, it totally makes sense. But at the same time, I think it just has to be done right.

If you were at all aware of who I am as a person, then Cross Continental makes sense. I’m just growing up, driving around on a cross-country trip, and I happen to be stoked on this one place more than the others. But if you don’t know who the fuck I am and you’re an east coaster like Andrew Petillo, I’m just some new Habitat rider from California, out there doing laserflips. I get on the team and, all of a sudden, there’s this new part where I’m skating East Coast spots.

You also have remember that Steve Durante, one of Andrew’s best buds, was getting the short shrift at the time. From his outside perspective, I’m sure it must’ve looked like Habitat sent out some west coast skatepark talent to skate Philly spots without any regard for who’s been doing it there and why. Seemingly ignoring the whole culture surrounding it.

I can definitely see their point and I don’t think that I would do the same thing now.

But it’s kinda wild that everyone seized on the East Coast aspect of it because there is a lot of West Coast footage in that part as well.

Because that part is almost all iconic spots. And yeah, it can be innocently described as simply being stoked on the spots and coming here to skate them, but it does ride the line of intent.

I did see Bobby Puleo on the sidewalk recently and he apologized for all the bad press years ago... before trying to justify himself in a way that sounded like he was still kinda hating, which I’m not surprised by. But he was really nice about it.

Hopefully, people now see me and my skating for what it really is.



I think you’ve more than proven your intentions by this point. Did you already have trick ideas as you were driving towards these spots?

I did, but it was typically more situational. Like, we’re driving through El Paso and I would have no idea about anything. I just happen to be on this route, so I call up Brennan and ask what spots are close by.

“That kinked hubba from Static 2 is in El Paso.”

“Fuck yeah! Let’s go!”

But other spots, like the Trader Vic’s Hubba in Atlanta, I really wanted to nollie heel front nose that. I don’t know why that trick specifically. Danny Renaud already did it backside, I guess I’ll do it frontside? Not that I wanted to show him up or anything I just wanted to do it for some reason. Kind of embarrassing.

So yeah, I had a few ideas for things but it was mostly just skate tourism.

It was also at this time when I met Jake Johnson, who’s always been an inspiration. I remember him picking me up somewhere to go meet up with all the other guys and for the whole car ride, he’s feverishly explaining to me the importance of cross-country trips and the reason why what I was doing was so important.

“Because it’s all about the story, man.”

That was awesome. And seeing all of the spots he skated in New York for the first time and hearing the stories behind them... but not directly from him.

“What the fuck! That’s not even possible!”

The fact that there was no footage for a lot of it made these stories even better. Because at that point, I’d been skating for 10 years. I was used to being stoked on difficult tricks and meeting new skaters, but these were new joys. New surprises. What if you do the gnarliest trick ever and don’t even film it? You just hope that people might talk about it. Word-of-mouth hammers, is that even possible? These were all things that I never considered at 18 on my couch. 


What spot was most disappointing in finally getting to skate?

Well, you have to learn how to skate Love. The first time I went there, I had several ideas for it and couldn’t make any of them work. All of the ledges were granite, so they’re rounded in that way. There’s so many cracks and tiles you have to avoid. And we were going at night, too… Back then, you could only skate there after 10:30. But I had all of these ideas for the levels, 180 in/180 out tricks. But there wasn’t a good enough edge to give you the grip for pivoting.

But “disappointing” probably isn’t the right word. Because if it’s harder to skate than you thought it would be, you walk away with a greater respect for those who did get stuff there. Like the hubba that Jake Johnson backtails in Mindfield? That thing is untranslatably gnarly. It’s so narrow. So long and tall. You can’t get an angle, you’re out at sea once you get on, there’s a huge chunk at the end and you ride out into a curb cut.

Jake forever has my respect for just that one alone.


What about the varial heel down Love?

That was something I wanted to do on my first trip out to Philly, back in December of 2010. But I didn’t end up doing it until around October 2011. I don’t even think I even ollied it my first time there. I’m pretty sure I rolled my ankle just as we were starting to skate and that was the last day of the trip.

I remember going back that summer but the fountain was on... Not that I was even all that particularly good at varial heels. It was like any other trick for me. I just chose that one because I couldn’t think of anything else that hadn’t already been done down it.

“Well, I guess that I could do it down Love if I got really good at them.”

So I just started doing them all of the time. Practicing them off literally everything, going as fast as I could… until I finally tried it one weekend as everyone was skating the Gap.

I ollied it during the day and my bearing broke. Tried the varial heel that night, probably 10 to 14 tries, and gave up. I couldn’t get it and I got so fucking pissed. Because they were flipping fine, I just couldn’t put it down. So yeah, full tantrum-style, freaking out in the car by myself.

The next day, I went to the skatepark and varial heeled off everything again. Went back that night and put one down in about the same amount of tries.



Bobby Worrest cites you and Ishod at Love in Sabotage 3 as fueling his resurgence a few years back...

Oh, wow. I didn’t know that.

We touched on this a little earlier, but your Sabotage stuff is always fun to watch because it does feel looser, watching you skate to Jay-Z...

(laughs) I wish I could skate to Jay-Z now, for sure. Especially after Verso and hearing so many people call the music in my parts “hipster bullshit”. I just want to skate to the music I like but I also don’t want to be a skater who is defined by their music. I don’t want it to be that if you don’t like the music I skate to, you can’t watch me skate.

So yeah, I wish that I could skate to Jay-Z again, I just don’t listen to Jay-Z.

But the whole Sabotage experience had to be quite healthy for you, right?

Definitely. It’s healthy in two ways. One, it switches up things and creates a more diverse body of work. So when I look back, it doesn’t feel like I’ve just done the same thing over and over again. And two, it’s really fun to film with a VX. I feel like it’s that way for every skater, VX is a field day. Whatever you want to try, film it. It’s VX so it’s gonna look sick. It’s similar to that same freedom of filming with an iPhone. Just go cruise some spots.


What about that long switch crooks line at Muni for Search the Horizon? Was that whole thing planned with references intact?

I can’t really remember the thought process behind that one. I’ve just been psyched on Muni ever since seeing Steve Durante skate it in Inhabitants. That line of his with the switch tre?

Is that why you threw a switch tre in yours?

That honestly wasn’t intentionally referential but it’s sick that it worked out that way.

I didn’t layout that line in the same way as my SF line because I had given up on trying to reference things by that point. Obviously, I love that Carroll line at the SF Library. It’s amazing. He hits everything there was to skate there and it looks dope... maybe I could do the same thing through Muni and hit everything, too? I’m sure that’s what my subconscious mind was doing.

But the line itself was planned. I always think about my lines beforehand. Sometimes they don’t work out and I have to switch it up, but for the most part, I’ll be thinking about lines for a day or two beforehand.


Talk about the back noseblunt down the Duffy SF State kinker.

It’s funny because I actually backtailed it first, which was my first photo ever in Thrasher. That was because of Brennan and was also one of the first times I ever hung out with Stefan. Brennan was trying to get him to backtail it and I feel like he brought me along to possibly add some pressure. Because I’d already done one at Davis, down the 10-stair rail that starts my Origin part. I think Brennan brought us both there in hopes that Stefan would get sparked on the rivalry aspect of it… like, “Fuck you, little kid. I’m going to backtail this!” Which is funny to think about because that’s not Stefan’s style whatsoever.

He’s just like, “Yeah, go ahead! You got that!” So I did it.

But hearing Brennan talk about the backtail afterwards and how psyched he was, I got sparked to go back for more. Because yeah, it’s scary and has that big kink, but it’s still just a seven-stair rail. So back noseblunt felt like a really good one.

How come that wasn’t your ender?

(laughs) Because I did it like shit! I can’t do that trick on rails. I can do them on ledges fine but I shouldn’t even be allowed to do back noseblunts on rails because I don’t know how to poke it.

Honestly, my backside noseblunt on Blubba is me making up for my shitty back noseblunt at SF State.

I’m hyped on the cover but when you see the footage… I feel like it was one of those things where I told them that it couldn’t be my ender because people will be disappointed. Plus, with tricks on the cover, people already know you did it. So do you keep it as your ender or do you surprise them with something else?


Your Adidas Philadelphia part is incredible. Not only with the gap backlip on the Freddie gap-to-rail, but also a 50-50 gap out over the rail. That had to be terrifying.

Yeah, that was scary as fuck.

...Actually, with us just talking about things that weren’t planned, I hit that same feature in Cross Continental, which might be one of the only things I’ve had in a part that was unplanned.

Right before the ender.

Yeah, I had no idea that I was about to hit that thing. I was just hyped on having landed my three ledge tricks that preceded it. So I just start pushing, until I look up and see all these people in the way of this and that... that gap-to-rail was pretty much my only option. Fuck it, just keep going. Because I’d sized it up before, just never actually done anything on it.

“Alright, I’m gonna try it…”

It was either gonna be a 180 or a ollie, so I went with the 180 because I’d be getting away from the rail that goes out.

But that was the only time that I’d ever skated it. It’s just so scary. But I kept looking at it, because I knew that ledge was just asking for a 50 gap out. It’s just that nobody ever skates that thing, so I had to break it in. I waxed it a bunch and just kept waxing it until I finally started grinding it. This was near the end of filming for that part. I still remember going out in mid-January, just to get that trick. 

The gap-to-back lip actually came a little bit before that, on Halloween night. I had just shot photos of a switch crooked grind and switch backtail on the Muni Rail. Single tricks, but two really good photos. And they both came pretty quickly, so I was pretty juiced afterwards. That’s when I decided to go across the street and get that backlip, too. Same night.

But yeah, I feel like because I got those two tricks on the rail so quickly, that’s what got me started to think about doing the long switch crooked grind line for Search the Horizon later. 



A follow-up to my Silas interview: did you know that Brennan used you as motivation for his TWS 50-gap-50?

No… that’s what it was! Because I’ve heard something about this. I heard that Silas was scared that somebody else was going to do it that weekend, but I didn’t realize that it was supposed to be me! Brennan just must’ve really wanted him to do it.

You did a similar trick at PR park around this time, do you think you could’ve done it?

...When does this come out?

Probably in a few weeks.


Really!?!

Yeah, I did it at a spot in Pittsburgh. It’s the ender for my next part coming out. Joe’s actually sending me an edit here in an hour or so.



That’s insane! So I guess Brennan was right, you could do it.

I don’t know if I could do it where Silas did it. The slams he took on that thing were insane. The one I did it on is a 6-flat-6, so it’s a little bigger but the gap is smaller. I think his rails actually curve a little bit, too. And mine were way less rickety. Not to mention that his was years ago...

Incredible. But what made you stay on Habitat during its recess? I’m sure you got a ton of offers.

Honestly, I was pretty wrapped up in school at the time. The Habitat thing just happened to coincide with when I decided to quit skateboarding. So riding for anybody else at that point didn’t really make any sense. I had a few people hit me up but I’ve never had any desire to ride for anybody other than Habitat. It’s never even crossed my mind.

Who tried to get you?

I remember Crailtap reaching out, saying that I’d always have a home there. And I appreciated the ask but I was so caught up in school, I didn’t even think that I was going to be skating anymore, let alone for a new team.



You’ve mentioned not liking your Away Days part, why not?  

Mainly because of my clothing, as funny as that sounds.

As I went to school and started to step away from skating, I actually started wearing clothes to hide the fact that I was a skater. And because I wasn’t filming much anymore, I didn’t know what these clothes looked like on camera... or even cared.

So when I watch that part, I can’t help but see that I really wasn’t stoked on skating back then. Based on the fit, the combination of colors and the overall style, it’s all so representative that my heart just wasn’t into it at the time.  

Talk to me about your burnout. Because between school, your appendix, and releasing multiple parts every year, it seems almost unavoidable.

Yeah, I don’t think I realized how incredibly burnt out I was until after I got through it all.

I went to Mexico in the early summer of 2015 for an Away Days trip and it was one of the lowest points for me. I had just finished my last semester at Temple and I knew that I was moving to New York. I had finally come back from my appendix issue, but I still wasn’t thinking about skating at all. I wanted to be back in Philly. I had just started seeing a girl and was trying to make that work, even though I knew that I was moving. So yeah, whenever I did go skating, I wasn’t inspired by much. Almost forced to skate, in a way.

All of this came to a head in Mexico, where I’m yelling at my friend Zander in the middle of manual tricks.

“Great, send me to Mexico so that I can continue to sink lower and lower. Trying to repeat the same things that I’ve already done but failing because my time has passed. Because I shouldn’t naturally be doing this anymore but I’m contractually obliged to.”

Coming out of an existentialism class at Temple, in pure Marxist terms. So bad... (laughs)



Is there footage from that trip in your Away Days part?

That line with the 5-0 backside flip and a switch wallie. At that moment, I am the most burnt out on skating that I’ve ever been in my entire life. Happy about life, burnt out on skating.

And it’s funny to look back on no after having gone through all that trauma. Because here I am, frontblunt bigspinning a handrail and having a really good session. Doing all of these tricks and looking on-point...  even after all that, I still felt dead inside.

Was there ever talk of you leaving your sponsors? Did it get to that point?

Yeah, I mentioned it most to Adidas, that I didn’t want a shoe.

I wanted to quit because I was burnt out but also because I thought it would be a cool career move, you know? Walking into the sunset.

They didn’t understand that at all.

But you’re glad you stuck with it, right?

Yes, 100%.



So where does the idea for Verso come in this timeline of being burnt out and wanting to quit?

Thinking about leaving was mainly 2013, when I first started going to school. And being burnt out carries over, especially when the appendix stuff happens and I can’t skate well. So I heal from that and the summer passes. Then I move to New York in 2015 and end up having a few good sessions to remind me that I still am talented at this.

I start going on little filming trips with Adidas to places like Japan, where it’s more of a short, week-away vibe. Lower pressure, and I actually start having fun again. And then it’s almost like the inverse starts to happen, where I’m now getting burned out on school.

I come to find out that I won’t be going right into a PhD. program, that I need to take a gap year in order to include a thesis with my application. I start to realize that becoming a professor is going to be quite difficult. That it’s a wild ride and you’d better be sure that it’s what you really want to do.

Skateboarding is the low-hanging fruit in my life. I’m sponsored. I have a pro shoe. So I know that if I take a year off, I’m going to come back to skating. But in order to do so, I needed to take a few back things back with regard to my skating, personally... In addition to just dealing with my school situation and the cards I’d been dealt.



How are you avoiding the same burnout as before?

For one, I gotta skate more like Busenitz: Skate more, think less, and skate whatever.

That’s not a random callout to Dennis. I remember a specific instance, right when I got in Adidas in 2012, where he was completely baffled after I told him that I didn’t want to skate a garage guardrail in Brooklyn.

“Everybody has feebled those things. I don’t want to skate that.”

This seemed to totally confuse him. And after a pause, he says, “Dude, you’re gonna take all the fun out of skating by thinking that way.”

But I still didn’t get it.

“Are you kidding me? We’re in the van, trying to film stuff. Why would I film a feeble on that rail?”

I actually laughed at him, like I couldn’t believe he thought that way. I honestly didn’t get the benefit of what he said until years later, after I’d gone through everything. But it’s become quite a gem that I use a lot, actually.

I also have to view skateboarding as my way of exploring the world. Like, right now, I’m trying this thing where I want to skate down every street in New York City. Finding new spots. It’s already been a lot of fun and I still have many more to go. Because New York is such a big city, it’s exciting to think about possibly finding a new spot around every corner. Something that fits my style of skating, like the way Max Palmer does. That guy will make pure gold out of straight nothing.

And if there’s a third thing to have on this list, it would be to fully devote myself to a project. To not be afraid and just go for something really awesome. Because I remember telling myself after Cross Continental that I was done filming cool things. That Cross Continental would be the best part I ever put out. So I resigned myself to not really having much say in things after that. And I did that for a while. But after all this went down, I made the decision to stop settling on things. No more compromise.



Where do the Adidas and Thunder parts fit in all this?

Well, Verso was two years in the making. But we still hadn’t fully figured everything out by the time we started to film, I just knew that it was going to be a big project. Six months into it, all of a sudden, Adidas tells me that I have to film a promotional video for my new shoe coming out.

“Oh fuck, I gotta start wearing the shoe and make this video!”

My thing was that I didn’t want to lose any of the footage we’d filmed for the big project so far. Because we already had some good stuff by this time. Like in Seoul, for instance, the fakie 5-0 gap to fakie nosegrind and the backlip sugarcane transfer. I didn’t want to lose that stuff to the shoe commercial.

So, I decided to use only the footage that I get wearing my shoe for however long we’re filming this Adidas thing, and that would be it. And that’s what we did. I filmed enough to where I could keep that Verso footage I already had. We’re good.

Over the course of 2018, we really built up Verso. And it wasn’t long until we realized that we had a lot of footage that couldn’t be used for Verso, even though it was still cool. What can we do? Luckily, Jim Thiebaud reached out about doing a Thunder thing, which worked out perfectly. Verso was probably 80% done by that point. Let’s just go out and film for this Thunder part for a couple weeks and finish it up. I got the ender, that backlip shove-it... which was a very scary trick. I’m just not sure if it translated.



I disagree, but moving on... the seven lines you came up with as the seed for Verso, those are the seven clips at the end, correct? The ABBA 50-50 bookends?

Correct. But they had changed from when I first thought of them to the time we actually put the part together. I came up with the overall idea on the plane, but I had to work with it a little longer to figure out what all was possible and what made sense. It developed further and became much more mirrored.

How methodical did you get in preparing for this?

When I had to divert my attention from this big project to filming for the Adidas commercial, I was bummed. Because not only did I just want to work on my big project, I also got anxious about what clips I might possibly lose to this other part. So that was really the impetus behind my starting to make lists for Verso. To get everything organized. But these weren’t your traditional “Go here, do that” lists, more like trying to figure out what footage I had and where it was going. And as I started divvying things up, it actually felt very comforting. I imagine that comes from going to school.

But I had these lists of tricks on my phone. And as I went back to filming for Verso, I just kept adding to my list and watching it take shape. I had those seven lines that I wanted to do and with that, it was enough for Justin and I to know how that section was gonna look. Because those seven lines have to go in order.

I knew from the start that I was going to have a lot to say in this thing. But nothing crazy. No research. Just following what I wanted to do and adding to the list. Skating first and then, by putting those clips on my list, realizing how certain things went together. Seeing different themes, which would then inform what I should do next... or possibly lend themselves to an editing structure.



But how much of this stuff was improvised at the spot? Like the quick set-up stuff with the chains and the skate-stopper stuff?

That stuff was pretty improvised.

The chain stuff with the brick bank, that’s in Boston. I’d been there before and filmed an ollie over, nollie frontside heelflip out. But on this trip, we just happened be staying right next to the spot. And it’s a really fun, too. Ollie in, ollie out... It’s a bank, so if you ollie in, you automatically feel the urge to do another ollie, because there’s a decent amount of space there. What else can I do?

Okay... ollie up, hardflip, backside 180 out.

Ah, that was kinda easy. Maybe I can do something else? And that’s when I added the big spin. Fuck yeah, that’s one of my most favorite clips I had filmed in a long time.

But on the other hand, we really weren’t sure about the triple ollie on the cellar door. We thought that it might look a little dinky. In theory, it sounded cool. Because you hop the whole thing and then you go back down through them. But when you see it, I was afraid that I looked like we put the chains there ourselves. And maybe if they were off the ground a little, it would’ve looked better? Yeah, we weren’t sure about that one.   
Figuring out how to skate spots, it’s nothing insane but it has been fun to start putting my little brain to use in that way. It’s a different type of joy for me in skating. And it felt really good, so I just followed the stoke.



It breaks things up nicely because it is so different, especially that step-up/step-down line towards the beginning.

Yeah, we just happened to be in London and headed over to Bristol specifically for Lloyd’s. It’s an amazing spot but I really didn’t have any specific ideas for anything there. I came up with all that at the spot, that day. Because that part is different than any other spot I know of... I guess that’s how I go about skating a new spot, seeing how it is different from the rest. Figuring out something fun to do and then going from there.

Honestly, that line could’ve been a little rinky-dink, too. Because what if I had done a shitty front nose? That would mean that I dropped down to make things harder for myself and it still looks bad. Why didn’t I just do something simpler that looks better? But I’m proud of that front nose. I’ve never really filmed a straight front nose on a ledge before.

I love that line.

Yeah, it worked out. Because the switch ollie… what’s funny is that I didn’t even know how to correctly switch ollie until last year. I never noticed that I wasn’t dragging the side of my foot up the griptape. That’s why I always got air-foot whenever I switch ollied. I could never figure out why and it used to drive me crazy. I wasn’t until a friend of mine showed me how to nollie heel in Norway last year that I realized I wasn’t flicking... oh shit, I don’t even do that for a switch ollie!  

So, if I hadn’t gone through that process and nerded out on switch ollies, I wouldn’t have been able to switch ollie up that step correctly. It would’ve looked like shit and I would’ve either stopped trying it or not used the clip.

It’s crazy how much of a nit-picker you can become.



Well, I have a few nit-picky things myself. Because, like we talked about earlier, this first section is largely the culmination of the first half of your career, right? With the west coast footage, Cross Continental’s Beirut and the Suciu Grind...

It’s funny you bring up the “Suciu Grind”. I only redid that trick because I wanted to prove that I could still do it. I actually hadn’t done it in a very long time. And it was nice to improve upon as well. Because while the rail I first did it on has its history with Pappalardo and Wenning, it’s also knee-high... And it’s sketchy, too. The ground goes down a little, right before it. It’s weird. But yeah, it’s really fucking small, to where I don’t know if it even counts as a legit rail anymore. So I wanted to do it on a better one and it’s nice to have in that first part where I skate to Beirut.

What about that giant ollie in Madrid? That was no joke.

Yeah, that’s the gap that hadn’t been ollied before. What I was explaining to you earlier, I just now realized that I was talking to you about that. Because that whole spot is skateable, we’ve just only skated the other stuff. I even have a long line around that place in the Adidas video. And the whole time, this thing has just been sitting there, waiting to be ollied.

We just happened to be in Madrid. We were heading out to try my ender some more but there were protests going on, so we had to make do. Sometime before all that, I had ollied a large flat gap that I actually ended up measuring, because I was so stoked on how big it was... like, “Dude, this thing is pretty long.”

It ended up being 15 feet or so. And just by looking at the Madrid thing, I knew that it couldn’t be much longer than that. Turns out that it’s 12 feet of flat.

“Oh shit, with the stairs, it can’t be much longer that. I can clear the flat, no problem.”

I give it a few goes, but because I have to reach to clear it, I end up bruising my heel. So we leave and I don’t really think too much more about it after that. But then, I started to hear that someone else was coming to do it. That they’d already tried it once and were on their way back to do it with a moped. It quickly became this thing where I wanted to do it without the moped. So I went back and got it.



What’s the theme of the second section with Air’s “Playground Love”?

I’m gonna have to disappoint you here because that’s just a transition. “Scenic World” wasn’t long enough.

If putting the tricks from around the world into two sections would have compromised the structure, we wouldn’t have done that. But when we put it into four sections, it took on that four quadrant shape the last segment has, so it still made sense. It was definitely a retroactive decision that we made in editing.

And the third part is all New York stuff...

Right, except for Frankie’s frontside 360, which never even occurred to me during editing because it’s not my trick. I didn’t realize until after the premiere when my friend from New Jersey brought it up to me.

“I saw you snuck a Jersey clip in there!”

“What are you talking about?”

“Frankie’s clip.”

“Oh fuck! We blew it!” (laughs) 



Where’d the manhole theme come from?

That’s a Paul Shier/John Rattray influence.

I was thinking of that Shier clip where he does the nollie shove-it to manny on flatground, backside pivot. Just really quick. And then there’s the Rattray thing where he does a backside 180 on flat, lands in a switch manual and frontside pivots out of it. I really like how those two clips stand out in your mind after you see them. Like, here’s some flatground. Can I do that? No, it’s fucking hard.

Manholes are just something you can have fun with in every city. I’m always skating them in New York. Because on some streets, they’ll be in different patterns and you can ollie over a bunch. You feel like Keith Hufnagel or something. And there’s the sunken ones, too, that you can ride on and they pop you back up.

It just felt like a nice little something extra to add to the structure.

What’s a reference that we are going to miss?

Well, the tricks at the end are ABBA. The songs are ABCA. The four tricks down the double-set: the first two are one day, the second two are another day, to turn the page. There’s the number of tricks in a group and how they increase as the part goes on... I didn’t want any awkward numbers like 6, for instance.  But I feel like the biggest thing that will probably be missed is the Ben Raemers shout at the end.

Because there’s the Ben memorial at the beginning, which was Justin’s idea and I love it. And while we were over in London for Ben’s memorial, we happened to see Casper Brooker get his last trick for Trust Fall with a shirt for Ben on. I had already made a shirt with Ben’s photo on it for Street League... I would wear it some days and feel like it gave me a little extra charge. But it didn’t click until later that that the structure of the video was just asking for a Ben salute at the end, to mirror the beginning. So I wore a Ben shirt for my ender, too.



Was the plan to always annihilate Pyramid or was it something that you just kept coming back to?

The plan was to just switch flip backtail it, past the skatestopper. And that was the hardest one, for sure. I’d only ever done one other trick there, the backtail front shove for my shoe part. But the switch flip backtail took me two times to finally get over a 7-month period, because it was so difficult. Pyramid, with the grate, is a spot that you really have to learn how to skate. Plus, it was knobbed, which meant that I had to be going really fast, switch, with a small runway. So I was basically learning how to skate the spot as I was trying this really hard trick.

And honestly, I would’ve been fine with just that. But because I live close by and it’s such a perfect spot, one you learn how to skate it, you want to keep coming back. Frankie Spears skates there a lot, too. He goes crazy on that place. It’s become one of those things where every time he learns a ledge trick, he’s like, “Dude, Pyramid?”

I don’t remember how it happened, but I decided to make a Zered allusion for Verso. Because Zered does that thing for New York where he just sessions a spot. He never seems to be looking for that one specific trick to film, he just does the tricks he’s doing. So I wanted to do that at a few spots and Pyramid just became one of those spots for me.

But you have a few tricks there that I’d never seen before.

The switch back 50, frontside big spin out?

Yeah.

I was a little worried about that one.

How so?

Worried in the sense that I wasn’t sure it was going to be cool.

With Verso, I’m trying to one-up myself in a creative way. I had done the backtail front shove prior and it didn’t feel all that difficult, let’s try it switch. Once I got that, I figured that a switch back 50, front big spin would go well with it. So I start trying that the same day I got the switch backtail front shove but had to come back for it.

So I now have three tricks on Pyramid for Verso but they don’t all go together so well. How do I work this out? The front 50 back 3 was more of a trick for the edit. I’d never done that before but figured it could help out those other clips. And the blunt 5-0 to frontside 180 was just randomly thrown in there. It’s kind of an outlier but I like how it looks.  



Bigger battle on Blubba: backside noseblunt or the backlip kickflip?

I think you can tell by how I land the backside noseblunt, right?

Well, the backlip kickflip is fucking perfect.

But you can tell by the way I roll away, I’m still there. I’m in control of my board. With the backside noseblunt, I pretty much faint as I’m rolling away. I think I even go limp a little bit... like, finally! I seriously start staring up at the sky. (laughs)

How long had you been trying that?

Probably three hours that day. And I’d tried it once before, too. I always knew that I wanted to do it. If I was going to do a New York section, I really had to have something down Black Hubba.

I knew that Billy Rohan did a backside noseblunt to fakie down it. And there was some concern about that, where I asked people if it was wack for me to do it to regular. Not that these people were arbiters in anyway, but they gave me the greenlight, which I think made me realize that I wanted to do it more than I was afraid of what could happen.

I don’t know, man. Billy can be a wildcard.

(laughs) He’s already given me the blessing on Instagram.

The backlip kickflip story is funny, too. Because I’d been backlipping it, which was always fun. So, of course, I started to think about kickflipping out of it... but after a few tries, I was sure that it was impossible. You get into it at such a big angle, your board just shoots out at the end. It snaps away from the ledge as I’m staying over here. My body just wasn’t ready to do all that. But I wanted to do it, so I would just repeatedly pop and flick it, only for it to go to the side every time.

 So I’m trying this thing and everyone’s out there, trying to be supportive.

“You’ve got it! Keep going!”

I just got so fed up, man. Finally, after another try where the same thing happens, Frankie says, “Dude, that was it! Right here!”

“No, it fucking wasn’t! I’ll kill you!” (laughs)

I think I really startled him! But then, after all that and telling everyone to go die, it started happening. And I end up doing it 4 times to get a good catch... which I don’t even think the last one is the one in the video.



So what is it about SOTY for you?

I don’t know, man. There’s just something deep inside me that is yearning for that achievement. I don’t really know how to say it.

Honestly, and this doesn’t speak to everything, but I was told in 2013 that if I hadn’t gone to school, I could’ve been Skater of the Year. And at the time, hearing that pissed me off so much. I just thought it was so stupid. I understand why it was said now, that it was more logistical... Because there’s just so much planning involved with SOTY. You need do things and be open for trips in order to stay on their radar. There needs to be plans made with all your sponsors. It really is a lot. Even after you win, there are still obligations to think about. That’s essentially what was said to me, I just didn’t understand back then. I took it as they thought I wasn’t dedicated enough to skating because I went to school. Like I didn’t deserve it.

So that fire was still burning in all this, for sure.

Gotta ask, what were your thoughts on seeing Milton’s part for the first time? And how does one even compare the two of you?

I had heard about the kickflip prior to the part. And seeing the cover was cool, it’s obviously such a gnarly thing to do. But watching the footage is just incredible. I wasn’t expecting for it to speak to me as much as it did. Because it’s so much more than just the representation of what I’d heard about. How he rolls way and his hat blows off, he doesn’t even bother to catch it. That’s just beautiful, you know? So fucking sick.

...I gotta say that SOTY has reinvigorated me so much on a personal level, which has been rad. But it’s also made me competitive in a way that I’m really embarrassed about. Because, as you said, how do you compare our skating? You can’t. Don’t even try.

It’s barely the same thing.

So yeah, I can’t wait for this Skater of the Year thing to be over.



This is selfish, but having faced burnout before, is it possibly better if you don’t win?

(laughs) Overall, SOTY has been good for me. I feel like after I left school, I needed to have some clear direction in this. It can’t just be “Go Skate” for me. I have to set goals and work towards them. Because it’s hard, doing video part after video part. It all starts to blend together.

SOTY has been good for this year, but everything that I’ve put out has taken longer than a year. So if I don’t get it, I can’t conceivably try again next year. I’d have to put it off a year, which would mean dedicating another two years in trying to accomplish this same goal that I got weirdly competitive over. That would be a little tough.

Understandable. So as we wrap this up, what’s coming up next as Mark Suciu officially enters the second-half of his career? Having released four parts this year alone, I can’t imagine you continuing at this rate of productivity much longer...

Well, I blew it because there was supposed to be six parts but I got hurt twice towards the end of the year. So we’ll have to get those other two parts out. That’ll be cool because I’m working with Chris Mulhern for the first time in a while. And I’ll be working with Justin again. He’s doing a webisode series. But after that, I’m probably going to take a little break from Instagram.

The “second half of the career” thing just something that someone said to me after Verso.

“Hey, you’re kinda entering the second half of my career now.”

“Dude, shut up! No, I’m not!”

I was offended at first, but it’s true... I went to school and now I’m back. 


Special thanks to Mark for taking the time. 

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

4 video parts and could have been 6. and thrasher still went with the behind the curtain pay to play SOTY. damn.

Anonymous said...

Had no idea that this part was so detail-oriented. Mark is incredible. Thanks for breaking it down.

Anonymous said...

Incredible interview! The real SOTY!

Dan said...

Hes SOTY every year

Unknown said...

Dude, reading this felt like watching another video part. He's so enjoyable to read. Suciu is art.

SG said...

Shoulda gotten SOTY imo Mark is an intelligent chap.

Anonymous said...

great to see chromeball interviewing younger riders. this was sick. big fan of you both.

captain chaos said...

Still don't see how he didn't get SOTY! Great interview and thanks for including links to all the vids. Excellent work all around.

Anonymous said...

Thrasher has a type

Stephan said...

Great skater, and great interview.
But I have to ask, did Nike pay you to feature him and Bobby Worrest?
Obviously they are both fantastic skaters and deserve a decent interviewer, it just seems to clash a bit with the historical thing you have going on, a belly feeling if you will.

chops said...

@Stephan

I realize "Paid Content" is currently a hot topic of conversation but I just wanted to interview two of my favorite skateboarders. Although a bit younger in age, both Worrest and Suciu have produced more than the majority of skaters featured on CBI combined.
And no, I wasn't paid... I think the 12-year history of this site shows that I'm a terrible businessman. I'm okay with that.

Stephan said...

@chops

Cool, that's all I wanted to hear! Not that I would have judged you terribly if they were paid, it was more out of curiosity. I certainly think they are interesting enough to be featured in their own right, to say the least.
In fact, I would love to see more interviews with more current skaters, if you felt they had something interesting to say. I've been out of skateboarding for years now and don't recognize any of the big names nowadays, and don't really feel like I want to, but Suciu is one of those new school guys that feel like the real deal.