chrome ball interview #162: mark appleyard

Chops and Apples sit down for conversation.

photo: thompson

The first time I ever heard of you, how does a kid from Canada end up on True Mathematics?

(laughs) It’s kinda wild how that worked out, actually. Because I started skating when I was 11 years old. My older brother got me into it. And we’d just skate around my town, you know? Every day, after school. 


By the time I was 13 or so, we started going out to one of the only skateparks in the area, Beasley Park. The park really wasn’t that great, but there was always a good group of guys around who were super hyped on skating. I just thought it was a good scene, so I started having my mom drive me out there all the time. 


There ended up being a small crew of dudes who would drive up from Washington D.C. to skate, and one of those guys happened to be Chris Hall from New Deal. He started coming up a lot, actually. I think he had a girlfriend who lived nearby or something, so yeah, he started spending a lot of time up there. After a while, he basically became another local. 


True Mathematics was his little company back then. Prosperity squared. He was making these funny clothes, which we thought were super cool at the time. And he was just filming everything. Passing the camera around to everybody, and he ended up making a video.


So Chris Hall filmed you for that part? That wasn’t a sponsor-me tape or anything?


Yeah, Chris actually filmed a lot of my part in that. He would jump in on our sessions sometimes. We started going over to Toronto around this time, too, which was basically the nearest city. Chris was actually a big part of our crew for a couple summers. I just happened to be a young ripper at the time. Giving it my all. 


You can say that I was technically “sponsored” and on the team, but in reality, I think I only got about four t-shirts from him. Maybe a sweater.


(laughs) Nice. How old are you in that video?


I was around 15 or so when we filmed that. Early times, for sure. 

Was that your first sponsor?


I can’t remember the exact chronological order but I think so. Because somewhere along this time, I also started riding for a Canadian board brand called True. 


Oh, okay… doubling down on the truth.


Right? What can I say, I’m an honest guy. (laughs)


Because at this point, skating and filming was my entire life. I’m watching every skate video on repeat, trying to figure it all out. Hoping to maybe go pro one day, that was the dream. So I’m out there, trying to kickflip off of everything and filming all my tricks. My friends and I are passing the camera around. None of us know exactly how to film but we’re doing it anyway. We started putting sponsor-me tapes together and sending them out to companies that we thought were reasonable to get on. And that’s how I got on True… Because they were the only ones who hit me back. (laughs)


Who all did you send tapes to? 


I don’t think I sent tapes to any American companies. That came later. I didn’t think I was quite on that level yet, so I stuck with smaller Canadian companies instead. It seemed more realistic at the time. Because the most important thing in all of this was to get free product. I didn’t have much growing up and was going through boards pretty quickly. I didn’t want my family to have to keep buying me stuff. 


So yeah, I sent a tape to this little company out of Quebec named True. They ended up calling me back and sent me a bunch of boards… like, six or seven boards, so I was hyped. I couldn’t believe it. 


I was on True for a year or two. We did a little commercial for 411 that I was in and I went up to Montreal a couple of times. It was good. 

Then you went on a Hail Mary-style trip to Tampa Am and scored sponsorships from Birdhouse, Adio and Thunder, all on one trip… 


Yep, that’s right. (laughs)


But how did that happen? It’s like straight out of the movies!


I know, right? So funny. Because it’s not like I had a job back then. I was way too young for all that, which meant that I didn’t really have any money, either. I just happen to have a really great older brother… the same one who got me into skateboarding to begin with. He was always a part of our crew growing up and I guess he must’ve recognized my potential. That I was pretty good, you know? 


By this time, my brother was working in a steel factory. He wasn’t really skating as much anymore but he always knew how much skateboarding meant to me, so he bought me a plane ticket to Tampa Am. Because I had told True that I wanted to go down for the contest and while they couldn’t pay for my flight, they would cover my entry fee, which was like $150. I just had to get there. So my brother bought me my ticket. 

That’s incredible. 


Oh, for sure. But you also have to remember that I had no real experience in booking a trip like this. And Canada and Florida are two completely different places. Like, I didn’t make any hotel reservations for down there because I didn’t know how. I just went for it, man. My parents were cool about it… They probably weren’t as informed about everything as they should’ve been, but I wasn’t gonna let anything stop me from going. 


So yeah, I just flew down there and figured it out as I went. I shared a cab over to the skatepark with this other skater I met at the airport from Chile. He didn’t know what he was doing either, but we figured it out together. I still remember doing all of my paperwork and rolling out onto the course the first time. I ended up meeting a bunch of people that day, as you do whenever you’re skating around like that. Like, “Hey, where are you guys staying?”


“We’re at the Hotel La Quinta down the street. What about you?”


“I don’t know.” 


“You don’t have a place to stay!?! Well, you can sleep on the floor if you want?”


“Dude! Thank you so much! You’re the man!”


Because I only brought, like, fifty bucks for my entire trip. Just enough to eat, really.


But in the following days, I skated my ass off, man. I was always out there on the course. And I really shined. Consistently doing a lot of tricks in my practice runs that a lot of people saw… although, it never quite came together in the actual contest. The pressure must’ve gotten to me but I guess it really didn’t matter. 


I remember Micke Reyes coming up and asking my name, saying that he wanted to put me on Thunder. Same thing with Jeff Taylor and Adio. And because I was already starting to hang out with Jeff Lenoce on that trip, J. Strickland put me on Birdhouse… Because so much of this comes from meeting people and making friends. I’m old enough now to realize that while I was skating well, I’ve always been able to communicate, too. Since I grew up hanging out at skateparks, I’ve always known how to be myself and vibe with people. That’s actually a big part in all of this.  


But yeah, people took care of me. I got three very respected American sponsors that day. 


(laughs) That day. 


(laughs) And after all that, I was able to get myself back to the Toronto Airport. My Mom picked me up and I remember telling her about everything. I followed up with those companies and started building relationships… I mean, I’m still on Thunder to this day. And next thing you know, I’m getting big packages from these guys. Not just a couple t-shirts and sweater anymore, these were legit boxes. Things just progressed from there. 

photo: thompson


It's an amazing story, and something that rarely happens in real life. Do you think you would’ve “made it” if not for this trip? Because I know you shot a Check-Out on that trip, too. 


I totally forgot about that! Nollie flip down that famous brick double-set in Ybor. Yeah, we got the sequence. Because after all the sponsor stuff and skating in the park all weekend, Pete Thompson asked if I wanted to go actual street skating and maybe shoot a Check-Out for Transworld? I knew what a Check-Out meant... “Dude, let’s go right now!” (laughs)


That trip was definitely a big step forward for me. Because if I hadn’t gone down there, I don’t know what else would’ve given me such a springboard into skating like that. I’m sure something else might’ve come along. Maybe. But it would’ve definitely taken a lot longer. One trip to Tampa basically changed everything for me over the course of four days. 


And I feel like shortly after this is when your career really started to explode.


Yeah, it really did. I came back from Tampa and graduated high school, then immediately moved to California. All for skateboarding. Just trying to get in there the best I could.


But was all this quick success difficult for you? 


Nah, I was ready. Because it was the only thing I ever truly wanted. I grew up skateboarding, man. It’s all I cared about. And back then, I didn’t have anything else on my plate, either. Just skating… and wow, things are really starting to work out for me. Let’s keep this going.

You quickly bounced from Adio to Circa at this time. Both teams were pretty elite back then, how’d you get the nod so early in your career? 


I guess people just liked what they saw. I was standout, man. I’m old enough to be able to say that now without sounding like a dick. The times were changing and I was bringing something new to the table. Jeff Taylor hooked me up at Adio, just like those other guys did for their companies, because people were able to see what I could do. Circa came from that, too. 


Jumping ahead real quick, how was that Videoradio tour for you with the crowds and Muska being gigantic? 


Oh dude, that was crazy. Especially with it being one of my first big tours with all these famous pro skaters… Arguably the most famous pro skaters at the time with Chad Muska and Jamie Thomas. Just insane. 


It was me, Colt Cannon and Chris Cole, who were all kind of the new guys at the time. We share a pretty special bond because of that tour, because everywhere we went, it seemed like people were losing their minds. I’d never seen anything like it before. 


It was like Beatlemania or something. 


It really was! Because Muska was getting swarmed by kids constantly. They’d surround him on all sides and he couldn’t escape. Just these layers of people, all wanting to talk to him or get his autograph. He’d have to climb on top of the van just to get a breather. Sometimes, he’d actually have to run away. Not that he was trying to be mean or anything, there was just too many people. Like, I remember one time, he had an entire fucking town chasing after him. Chasing him down the street as he skated away. It was crazy. 


Jamie was always a bit more professional about things. More business-minded. Like, “I’m gonna sign every single person’s thing and maybe they’ll ended up buying my products next time.”


But the rest of us, the younger guys, we were just skating. Happy to be in the midst of all that chaos, traveling around Europe. It was really cool. 

So how’d the Habitat offer come about? Was it always supposed to be for this new company or was Alien ever an option? 


Let’s think about that one… because to be honest, this question always baffles me. Because there was so much momentum with everything I was doing. People really seemed to be talking about me a lot at this point. And it’s funny, because I got the offer to ride for Habitat while I was still living in Canada but I don’t think I ever sent them a tape or anything.  


I had been on Birdhouse for a little while. I did a trip or two with those guys but never really felt part of it. They were just flowing me boards and every now and then, I’d go on a trip. Like, I went on a demo tour with them across the States. A couple things here and there, but I never felt like there was any room for me to move up.


Somehow, the guys at Habitat got a hold of me and started telling me about everything they had planned. That they were gonna launch this new company through Alien and they were all about to film this Photosynthesis video. It was always supposed to be for Habitat, Alien was never on the table for me. But regardless, it sounded cool and seemed like a good opportunity. I’m interested. 


So, they flew me out to Philadelphia to skate Love Park and meet a few of the guys, like Wenning and Pluhowski. I actually met Kalis for the first time on that trip, too. And I felt like we hit it off pretty good. 

I’ve always loved your switch front heel down that Philly double-set. Was that on this trip?  


Yeah, I’m riding like a 7.5” or something there. Just a really small board. And while I had done that trick before, I’d never really done one down a big set like that. Fuck, man… there might’ve been a little bit of me trying to prove myself to those guys on that one, to be honest. Because I was still just a kid. Here I am, at this spot with these guys that I don’t really know and we’re all wanting to do this thing together. You want to rip. Habitat had flown me out there so whatever spot they take me to, I have to try something. Somehow, I fucking managed to do it. (laughs)


Because Rob Pluhowski was there. Pappalardo and Wenning. They had their little clique going and here comes this new guy from Canada. I don’t know how well they took to that, but I’m friendly so I can roll with the punches. 


Yeah, that’s a pretty cutthroat crew to be walking into. 


They could be a little harsh at times, but I didn’t care. Those guys are cool and all but I’m trying to do my thing. Whatever. 


So yeah, I got on Habitat. The plan was to give me a couple hundred bucks per month as an amateur and then put the video out. After that, they’re gonna turn these other guys pro and then I’ll be next. Something like that. The pro part was always a little fuzzy but listen, they were gonna pay me. Free boards are cool and all but money is better. 


(laughs) You can’t pay rent with wheels. 


Exactly. So I fly out to Philadelphia a couple more times and skate around with those guys. We film some stuff and then I move to California. I was actually on Habitat when I moved, which looking back, maybe wasn’t the best for the situation. But I’d always wanted to live in California and actually had some connections out there now. I can work this out.  


So, I move out to California and film some more tricks out there. That’s when I nollie flipped the stairs at Bricktown. 

photo; bonderov

Are they sending you on filming trips for Photosynthesis? Because you have footage from all over the place in there. Like, how’d you get down to Miami?


That’s where Circa came in. I left Adio for Circa shortly after moving to California. And Circa used to love going to Miami. That’s how I got the nollie noseslide down the Synagogue Rail, I’m wearing Circa shoes. They sent me out there to film, I just gave the footage to Habitat. 


Were you actively working on your Habitat section or just filming?


Part of being a skateboarder back then was filming every time you went skating. That’s just how it was. And that’s what I did until it basically came time for me to send in my footage, like, “Well, this is all the footage I have. Here, take it.” 


But no, it was never a big project like how we did the Flip videos. Those were much different. With Flip, we all agreed to make those videos as epic as possible, to where they basically became our entire lives for several years. That’s it, just this video. The Habitat video wasn’t like that at all. At least, not for me. 

Talk to me about that rail on Western in LA. Because you really went to work there for Photosynthesis, going back repeatedly in subsequent videos. 


Yeah, that’s a fun spot. I think that was two different sessions for the Habitat video. The varial heel was kinda warm-up style, then I nollie backheel’d it. And the nollie frontside heel was a different day. 


When I find a spot that I like, I have a tendency to not only get a bunch of tricks on it all at once, but I also end up going back there a lot, too. If the spot’s good, I’m gonna try to juice it for as many tricks as I can. (laughs)


Were you filming for Photosynthesis and IE at the same time? 


Yeah, after moving out to California, I started getting more and more into the scene. A few of the guys that I was skating with at Circa would meet up with Greg Hunt and Jon Holland a lot, so I started jumping in on those sessions. Because Muska and Jamie Thomas always had filmers and photographers with them. And as the new guy coming up, it benefitted me to be out there with them, too. Getting tricks and building those relationships, which is what eventually led to those guys asking me to do a part for their next Transworld video. Another great opportunity.


But it was difficult juggling two parts like that. I remember being pretty stressed out about it back then. Because trying to film one part is hard enough, here I am trying to do two of these things. I have to get all of these tricks and some days you don’t get anything…


To be honest, while I probably ended up giving most of my footage to Transworld, I remember thinking at the time that my Habitat part was a little stronger. Because some of the stuff I gave to Habitat would’ve looked really good in my Transworld part, like that stuff over the rail in LA. The nollie back heel. But that just comes with making two parts at the same time. 

photo: stewart

I was wondering if one had priority, because your IE part also has the nollie heel front board and that gap-out kickflip front board. Both are super gnarly. 


My priority would’ve been Transworld, but it’s not like I was gonna neglect the Habitat video either. Photosynthesis was obviously going to be a big video but Transworld felt like the more important project for me to be involved with at the time. I definitely put more time and energy into Transworld. You also have to remember that the Transworld guys were right there with me in California. We’re spending all this time together, driving me around to film stuff. I can’t ask those guys to use their footage for Habitat, for this whole other project. I couldn’t do that. 


…I remember always liking that switch tailslide down the curved brick ledge in San Clemente for Transworld.

San Clemente was nice but the switch front tail in Manhattan Beach for Digital 7 was insane.  

Switch front tail was always my trick. I’m pretty sure that had a lot to do with my getting sponsored back at Tampa Am. Because I would do that trick on pretty much everything. Switch tailslide 270 out. And it’s pretty much the same thing to do a switch 5-0. I did that stuff everywhere.  


I just remember it being super windy that day in Manhattan Beach. And that thing isn’t small, either. It was scary. I’d seen where Koston had backtailed it, which was really gnarly, but switch tails are my trick. If I’m gonna be able to do anything here, that’s the one. So I just went really fast and it worked out. 


photo: atiba

Is techier stuff down, like, 8-stair rails easier for you than standing on longer rails? 


Yeah, techier stuff on medium-sized rails was my thing. That “Jamie Thomas smith grinding an 18-stair rail” shit was never my forte. A little too gnarly for me. I much preferred nollie heel noseslides down an 8-stair rail. Nollie flip crooks down a 9-stair. And at the time, not too many people were doing that stuff. I was bringing something new to the table. Kickflip backlips on rails. Not huge rails but big enough, you know? That’s where I stood out. 


It's funny because while you’re flipping into all this crazy handrail shit, the smith grind down that rail in Daly City is the only clip that warranted you screaming out “Fuck yeah!”


(laughs) Exactly. There’s also that backlip at the El Toro Post Office. That was fucking gnarly for me, too. So I have done some bigger shit as well, but the thing is, especially back then, those giant rails were already being taken care of by other guys on the team. Feeble grinding long-ass rails, that was their thing, but they weren’t doing nollie heel noseslides down rails. That’s where I came in. We each brought our own individual strengths to the team.


There was a time when I was hanging out with Geoff Rowley a lot and I saw him do some giant-ass handrails. It inspired me to hit a few as well. I definitely jumped on some rails back then that I’m not sure I would’ve done otherwise. 

photo: burnett

Was it intimidating to go out with Geoff and Arto at first? 


Skating with Geoff and Arto back then was the first time that I actually felt like I was a member in the band. Circa was cool, but I was still the young guy while Muska and Jamie Thomas were the superstars running the show. They took care of me and it was good… Same thing with Habitat. Yeah, it was cool but I didn’t really feel a part of it. I was just kinda there. 


Yeah, Arto and Geoff could be intimidating, but I quickly felt part of the whole Flip operation. Plus, they were gonna help me finally get a working visa so that I could legally stay in the States. We’re going do this epic video and then they’re gonna turn me pro next. We had a plan and it felt good. Nobody was a dick. Sure, everyone had their own personalities, but there weren’t any of those small kooky cliques of dudes from one specific part of the States. None of that shit. Because, basically, it was all people from other countries living in the U.S. We fucking rip and that’s what we’re here to do. We’re gonna make an insane video. That’s our deal, and that’s what we did. 


We went hard, man. We lived that shit. Skating all the time, driving all over the place. Flying everywhere. Like a family. Just a bunch of guys looking to progress skateboarding and film it all at the highest level possible. 

photo: pommier


And all this came about from Arto cold calling you one day? 


Yeah, he just called me out of the blue one day. I imagine Jeremy Fox already had the conversation with everyone and they just got Arto to call me. This was after his Transworld part, so he was already a pretty big deal and I definitely knew who he was. 


“Hey Mark, you should come up and skate with Geoff and I this weekend in Huntington Beach. Let’s get a session going.”


“Yeah, man! I’d love to!”


I go up there a couple times and it turns out that they’re very straightforward about everything. Like, “We would like you to ride for Flip.”


I couldn’t believe it, because Tom Penny is one of my all-time favorites. And they already have this plan worked out that they’re throwing at me. It was insane. Turning me pro… it was the first time that anyone had brought up turning me pro that didn’t feel like an empty promise. These guys were serious. 


It just felt right. And it turned out to be the best decision I could’ve ever made. It really was. Everyone was nice and super down to Earth. Yeah, Geoff and Arto were doing insane stuff, but they also knew what all I could do. I had enough stuff out there by then. And they’re the ones who reached out to me. I was honored.

How would you compare Geoff and Arto’s approach to rails back then with watching Nyjah years later?


Nyjah is more of an athlete. Like, I imagine he has a personal trainer or something. A full-on professional, where Geoff and Arto were a bit more rough around the edges. The night before with them was probably a bit more partytime. Kinda rockstar-ish. I mean, they definitely had things they wanted to accomplish and would always plan out whenever they were gonna do their big stuff. They took it very seriously. It’s just that they went about it in a much different way than Nyjah. But I’ve definitely seen all three of those guys take some pretty gnarly slams. 


They’re just different. I’ve been on trips with Nyjah where he’s done the craziest tech shit down huge rails, like, third try. It’s like he’s more “evolved” or something. Because he’s coming at this stuff years after Geoff and Arto. He’s building on what they did. Like, I was there when Arto did that switch front boardslide down the Hollywood 16. It was mind-blowing. It was at nighttime with generators and the whole deal. He just did a couple kickflips on flatground, switch frontboard’d the 12-stair and then went right into the 16. And Arto’s a big guy, he really makes a thud when he doesn’t land something. But Nyjah came after all that. Nyjah is further on down in that evolution.


photo: thompson

How long did you film for Sorry? Hadn’t the team already been filming for a while when you got on? 


Yeah, they were definitely sitting on a lot of footage when I jumped in. But my whole program was skating back then. I wasn’t doing anything else. And I was younger, too, so I could skate every day and not get as sore. 


I remember them getting French Fred on board and I started going on trips. I was able to stack up some footage pretty quick because I wanted to make the most of these opportunities and put out the best part I could. I took it really serious… without being an asshole, you know? But yeah, I caught up. I ended up having first part in Sorry, right? 


Right. But how long was all that? Because it’s such an enormous video. 


I want to say that was a couple years for me, but it also kept getting pushed back. Like, “Okay, we’re gonna do a couple more months of filming because Geoff wants to noseblunt this 20-stair” or “Arto just hurt his ankle but he still wants to do this big trick so we’re gonna push it back again.” It’s coming out in June… okay, now it’s coming out in August. That happened a couple times. 

Did you know Johnny Rotten was gonna bust your chops that day for the video? 


(laughs) I had no idea. I knew they were hiring him to do the intros but I didn’t know what all he was gonna say. It was funny, though, and his analysis was pretty spot-on. Because looking back, that photo shoot was pretty stupid. Those goofy board graphics where we all went to a photo studio and I dressed up like a nerd? With the weird pants and all that?


The Freshman. 


Yeah, he had every right to make fun of that one. But I did end up meeting him the night of the premiere and he was cool. There’s a photo of us together somewhere.


Yeah, Geoff was the Heshman and you were the Freshman, right? You definitely got the short end of that stick.


(laughs) Yeah, yeah… I know.


Actually, no! Do you remember Arto’s where he’s all dressed up like a punk, standing on a scooter!?


(laughs) Oh my god, you’re right! He looked crazy! 


Yeah, he got it bad! I think Geoff was the only one who made it out of that one relatively okay. He got the least fucked up, because he wasn’t about to have it any other way. But me, I just show up to the studio that day like, “This is what you want me to do? Fuck… this is kinda weird, but alright!” 

(laughs) How’d you land on that Placebo song?


Oh man, picking music was really hard for me, especially because I had a pretty limited music knowledge at the time. I listened to a few things back then but it always seemed to be the type of music that would never work for a Flip video. Because it wasn’t like there was gonna be any hip-hop in there. That wasn’t gonna happen because it wouldn’t have fit. And it’s not like we could’ve got the rights for Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd either. So what do you do?


I was searching all over the place, trying to find a song for this part, but none of it seemed to work. I was at a loss. Finally, one of my friends hands me the soundtrack to Cruel Intentions. I had never heard of Placebo before but he plays me the song and I thought it was pretty cool. It has a nice pace to it. So I took it to the guys and French Fred seemed to like it. They were able to get the rights and it actually turned out to be a pretty big hit. 


It's weird because when you listen to that song by itself, it doesn’t seem like it would work as well as it does in the edit. But it works perfectly.  


Yeah, it's a funny song, man. Because I really liked it at the time… and I do think it worked really well for the part. I still like it; it just hits a little different now that I’m 40 years old. But when I was 20, I was feeling it. (laughs) 

photo: atiba


Back to that LA Western Rail, the nollie 360 in that yellow shirt is classic, but weren’t you also trying nollie 360 flips over that thing, too? 


Not spinning your body, yeah, I was trying that. I actually landed on one but couldn’t roll away. I just couldn’t get it. And what’s funny is that I still think about that trick. I still want to go up there and try that one again. 


The spot is still open. 


I know! I might have to go up there and finally get it. Because I’m filming a video part right now and that would be nice to have in there. 


photo: sturt

You mentioned your backlip at the El Toro Post Office earlier. Sturt shoots the photo and it’s a cover, famously sealing your fate as you hadn’t actually made it at the time… 


It’s true, it’s true. 

But how many times did you have to go back? And what’s your process for even doing something like that? Because that thing is massive. 


Yeah, man. That thing is big. It’s tall, it’s long and it’s really scary. But I had been there before. The first time was when I got the frontside boardslide. That was another big trick for me back in the day. You could throw those out on just about anything. So yeah, I got the front board first, which was a Circa ad. Sturt shot that one as well. 


The backlip wasn’t until a year or so later. I was progressing a lot at the time with trying to get all this stuff for the video. I’d been backlipping some rails and started to think about possibly trying one on that Post Office rail. That it would be a really good for my part. I remember mentioning it to Geoff and he goes “Oh, if you’re gonna do that, we’ll get Sturt up here.”


I forgot that Geoff and Sturt are really good friends. And if you ever got the chance to shoot photos with Sturt, it was always a privilege. 


So yeah, the day I go to do it, Geoff calls Sturt and he comes up. We get there… and I’m scared. This thing is fucking gnarly and I’m not sure if I’m gonna be able to do it. I remember Sturt having a bit of a vibe about it, like, “Dude, we’re here. Do it. You have to do it.”


Geoff’s not as vibey, but he’s talking to me about it, too. Like, “Come on, Mark. We’re here, man. This is it. Let’s do it.”


I had to find a way to put my fear aside. I start riding up to it a bunch of times without jumping on it, until this one time where I pushed really fast, ignored my fear and just fucking hucked up there. I got into the backlip and shot it out, but that broke the ice. I knew it was doable after that. 


I gave it everything I had that day until I got too beat up. But I tried, man. I just couldn’t get it. I had to call it. 


Fast-forward a couple days later, Sturt shows me the most amazing photo of that trick. Where the board is barely touching the rail at this incredible angle, just getting on. And I remember Sturt telling me, “Yeah, you’re gonna have to go do that now. You have to land it.”


I wanted to do it, too. I want it for my part, you know? And I was already planning on going back there at some point… when boom! The photo comes out on the cover of Thrasher. I’m hyped, but at the same time, I realize that this trick has become top priority. I have to land this thing now, because when you get a cover like that, you always have to back it up with footage. 


So Geoff, Arto and I head back to the rail. Sturt didn’t come with us the second time because he already had his photo, obviously. But the funny thing is that it only took me a few tries that day until I landed it. It was crazy. Even Arto gave me props that day, one of the first times he’d ever given props. Like, “That was fucking sick, man!”


I just remember thinking to myself, “Wow! Arto’s giving me props! Nice!” (laughs)


But yeah, I got it on that next trip back, which was good because I knew I had to make it happen. And it was a strong landing for me, too. Like ba-boom! Hang on to that! You’re rolling and trying to stay on top of it… then you roll off the curb and that’s when you know you fucking landed it. Rolling away from that thing just felt fucking amazing. 

photo: sturt

(laughs) I bet. Any other non-makes published? 


There might’ve been one or two slip by in the past 20 years but nothing major. Any cover I’ve had is a make. A few years ago, I had a Transworld cover backside flipping this gap in LA and there wasn’t a filmer there, but I landed it. You’re just gonna have to take my word for it or ask Oliver Barton. I landed it. 

photo: barton

Your kickflip front crooks ender was an accident, right? 


Pretty much. I was trying kickflip front nose when it just happened to bonk off the rail and jumped into crooks. I was gonna take it, no matter what. Just let me land this thing, which I did. I rolled up the windows with my arms and rode right into a bush. I couldn’t even believe it. 


Did you keep trying the noseslide afterwards? 


Nah, I called it. Because my goal that day was to land a good trick on a rail, so I took it. I did go on to learn kickflip front crooks shortly afterwards. I did another one down a rail on purpose for Really Sorry. But no, I was stoked that day. Kickflip front nose can easily go to crooks. It’s not that different of a trick. 


Did you think at the time that it was going to be your ender? 


No, not at all. I had the nollie flip 50-50 down Clipper. I thought that was my strongest trick, but the kickflip front crook had a little bit more character. I’ve always felt like the nollie flip 50-50 was my ender, the kickflip front crook at UC Davis was just more of a transitional thing as the part wound down. That had more to do with how the overall video was edited.

photo: french fred
How much input did you have on editing these Sorry parts?


I didn’t have a lot of input. I got to choose the song, but that was about it. As far as what tricks went where or the overall pace of the part, I didn’t have much say. I did go into the editing room a few times but it was always real secretive. Because French Fred was doing his thing, man. It was like an art project for him. He had a real vision for these things, so I just let him do whatever he wanted. I think we all did. He’s the artist.  


You got that nollie flip 50 down Clipper but weren’t you also trying nollie flip 5-0 as well? I even heard hardflip backtail. Is that true? 


No, hardflip backtail is not true. I did try hardflipping onto it as if to land in 5-0, just to see if it would work, but I’ve never been that great at hardflips. I’ve done a few hardflip tricks over the years but I never quite had those as good as I wanted them.


I did try nollie flip back 5-0 but could never land it. That edge was pretty rounded to get into. Nollie flip 50-50 was good enough for me. With no drop-in wood? Luckily, I could work with short run-ups, because I honestly don’t know how I did that trick. It was gnarly. And the fact that I was even trying back 5-0 and almost made it? I must’ve really been on point back then! (laughs)

photo: brook

But how were you going about making these epic parts? What’s your process? 


At the beginning, it’s just skating and trying to get a decent amount of footage. Like, I would always write down all of the tricks I had on this little notepad. Once you have a good base, you start listing all the stuff you want to do. Either the things you think your part needs or just the stuff you still want to get. Prioritizing different things. That’s the basic framework, but it’s not like that’s the only thing you’re doing. Like, I’ve always loved a good hubba ledge, if we happen to find one on a trip somewhere, I’ll stray from the list and see whatever else I can get. 


There was a good amount of planning and going on sessions for certain things, but I’d also go on sessions with the other guys just as much. Skating the spot if I liked it… or sometimes even if I didn’t. Just seeing how it went. 


After a while, you start to have those crunch time scenarios where the video is coming out in a month. Editing is almost done and the deadline is this date. That’s when we’d go out and try some last big efforts to squeeze a few things in real fast. That’s when things got more intense. 

photo: brook

Were you ready to go right back into Really Sorry so quickly? It was barely even a year!


Right?! I think I even saved a trick from Sorry and used it in Really Sorry. At the Sacramento triple-set, there’s a nollie back heel and a backside heel. I got both of those the same day. I just kept one back for Really Sorry, whichever one it was. 


But honestly, I was ready to go. I was young and full of bounce, dude. I could just keep going. We were traveling a lot back then and some of us started breaking off on our own, too. Like, I started going to Spain and hanging out there a bunch. Globe would send me to Australia. We all started going our own way at times and bringing back footage. 


Does all this Sorry stuff feel like a blur to you? 


The Sorry videos feel like a trilogy of greatness. And the prime of my career is in those three videos. The first one being this huge project that put me on the map and changed my life. I mean, I got SOTY and all these big endorsement deals. Suddenly, I was that guy. It continued right into the second one because I wasn’t done yet and then on to the third one. Because I still had more to give. 


Looking back on them now, I like my Extremely Sorry part the best because I feel like I’m more mature there. More of an adult, and I think that shows in my skating. They’re not all a blur for me because there’s a lot of growth taking place during each one. 


What made you go with a double dose of Hole?


(laughs) They’re cool songs, man! I like it when songs have a good feel to them and those Hole songs have a lot of passion. And there’s something about having a female vocalist, too. 


…We were passionate motherfuckers, man! It can get emotional working on these parts! Trying to do all these tricks at a such a high level. You really have to battle it out sometimes. You get all fucked up and can barely walk. Not to mention all of the mental games that go on in your head... 


I don’t know, I thought it was cool. I like Hole. 

photo: allan


I was surprised to hear about all of the madness you had back in the day. Because in your parts, everything looks so easy and you seem to be having the best time. 


There was a lot of that, too. Because like I said, I’m a real skateboarder. I love the craft of it and I really am in my prime there. But there was also a side to it where I had to knock on wood in order to land something. If some weird thought popped into my mind, I had to get it out of there immediately or I just couldn’t function. Total OCD. Like, I had this obsessive knocking thing. Knock four times on the tail. Four times on the nose. Just to get my mind into the right place, even if I looked ridiculous doing it. Little things, too, like not stepping on cracks in the sidewalk or having to say stuff. Because I thought it made a difference somehow. 


I was able to get over all of this eventually, but at the time, it was absolutely vital for me to knock in the wheelbite area of my board, under each wheel, in order to make it in this world. (laughs)


This came up earlier, but I love that you’re always returning to spots, like Bricktown and Sylmar. 


I still do that to this day. Like the green rail in Fullerton with the little kink? I’ve gotten a lot of clips on that one over the last few years. 


Yeah, by that parking garage. 


I just get comfortable at certain spots. And those are the ones that I typically go back to, even when I’m not filming. I’ll just go skate ‘em for fun. I like to keep building on top of whatever momentum I have there. Those ditch spots are like that, too. Like, if I can fakie flip into it, then I can probably fakie frontside flip into it, too. That’s just how my brain works.

What was a notorious battle for you?


Let me think… Because like I said, there have been times where I’ve gone until I couldn’t walk anymore. I have a really good work ethic, especially back then when my body could endure two or three hours of trying something. Most times, it wouldn’t come to that, but if it was something that I really wanted and knew I could do, I’d go for it. 


Some things surprisingly came pretty quick. Like treflip noseslide on the Wilshire 10? That happened in five tries. 




Yeah, sometimes things just work out. 


Nollie bigspin heel down the MACBA 4 was quite the battle. I literally did a fucking split on an earlier attempt. There’s a clip of it somewhere. Hit my knee on the ground and everything. That was a rough one. 


Did you come up with “Double Primo” that very second? 


Yeah, it just came out. I primo’d on the bank and then on the way down, the board flipped again and I primo’d my back. Fuck… double primo! Just one of those things. I got back up and did it. It wasn’t supposed to be difficult or anything. 

photo: pommier


I love the heelflip over the fence that I believe was a Transworld cover. You really made it look easy. 


Actually, that was pretty hard! It’s funny because a lot of the things people ask about, thinking it was easy… they weren’t. Because that fence was really high. It wouldn’t have been as big of a problem if the bump was further back, but the fence was way too close. You had to time your trick a little bit differently. Cranking it up and over instead of taking your time and lofting it over. 


I’m looking at the photo now and I’m barely over that fence. My board even looks like it’s about to touch the top wire. It was hard because of the spot, but I made it work. But no, that one took some effort. 


What about that kickflip backtail big spin? Was Tom sitting there the entire time?


(laughs) Penny’s a character, man. I remember Tom always taking his time to warm up. Like, you’d already be out and jumping on shit when he’s just getting done with his spliff back in the van. He’d always come out without any shoes on, sit down, take a brand new pair of shoes out of the box and start lacing them up slowly. Just checking out the scene, you know? That’s Tom. 


That clip is funny, though… that Tom Penny, the legend, is just sitting there. And not only that, he’s sitting so close! He’s right next to the filmer! Almost like he was shooting a sequence of his own or something, because he was in position. But no, he’s just hanging out, dude. Tying his shoes. 


I actually have a couple clips where you can hear Tom yelling in the background, like “Oh my God!” in that voice of his. It’s some funny shit, man. So amazing. 


Wasn’t that distracting, though? Because that’s an insane trick and here’s this legendary dude sitting right in the blast zone at the bottom of the rail. 


Right, but he trusted me. He was just hanging out, dude. And I actually think him sitting there motivated me even more to land it. The presence of his greatness. 


I could always kickflip backtail really well. And the shuv-it out wasn’t that big of a thing, just rotate it a little more for the big spin and go with it. I was doing those almost every day on ledges anyway. Taking it up to a rail wasn’t that big of a deal.


What’s your favorite Shane Cross memory?


He was just such a cool dude, man. Always ripping. Always with a positive attitude. He had a great energy and was always fun to be around. We went to Pizzey together in Australia one time. That big blue cement bowl? I just remember him flowing around with a tie-dye bandana on and some funny thrift store gear. Full of color. Everything was always so funny and psychedelic with him, like he was from a different time. Super flowy and easygoing. 


And gnarly. 


Super gnarly. I remember seeing Shane when he first came to the States, he was jumping on 50-50s down 20-stair handrails like it was no big deal, physically or mentally. He could just do that shit. But he could do other stuff, too. Going back to that time at the Pizzey Bowl, he got a cover doing a backside noseblunt on that thing. So insane, but he made it look all fluid and flowing. Shane was awesome. 

photo: brook

How was PJ on Flip? 


PJ’s a good dude, man. I like PJ. But back then, he was pretty socially awkward. We went on a trip to Spain together and we barely saw the guy. He would just disappear. Like, he’d literally skate off and be gone. Wouldn’t come to dinner. Wouldn’t come with us to spots. He was just out. He must’ve been going through something.


I know PJ and he does keep to himself but you can have a good conversation with him, if he’s in the mood. He was on Flip for a little while but I don’t think he fully put both feet in. He wouldn’t join in on a lot of the fun. We really loved him and his skating, obviously, but he needed to go his own way. That’s just how he is. 


Was Flip starting to feel a little different at this point, post-Really Sorry? 


Yeah, Flip was definitely started to go through some changes at this point. You had the whole tragedy with Shane and Ali, which was awful, and then Arto left for Alien. They were starting to put all of these younger rippers on the team, like Louie, Curren and Luan... All those guys are great people and amazing skaters, but it was just different, you know? To see something that I was so deeply involved with really starting to change. I know nothing can stay the same forever, but as a result of all this, I started to become less involved. After all those videos, I was probably due for a little bit of soul searching anyway. Cruising my own way and doing a few things that I always wanted to do. 

photo: o'meally

You deserved a bit of a break. 


Yeah, I did. And I took some breaks…


I don’t know, man. I just didn’t see Flip the way I used to during those golden years. It’s still a great company, just different. 


When you look at those earlier parts, what’s something you wish you could change? 


I wish that I had more lines in there. Those earlier parts are almost all individual tricks, I wish that I would’ve taken the time to film more lines back then. I’d just get so impatient with all that. 

photo: atiba

But I’m stoked to hear that Extremely Sorry is your favorite part. Because while the project as a whole has a different vibe, you can tell that you’re trying to take your skating in some new directions there.  


I mean, I like all my parts for different reasons, but yeah, Extremely Sorry is my favorite. I like the song. It’s easygoing. And I’m a little more mature there, both as a person and in my skating. I feel like it has a better flow than the others. It’s a little looser and not so hammertime. It’s more creative. 

photo: burnett

What made you lean into nollie big spins and kickflip melons at this time? 


I was just having fun, man. Fun tricks are what it’s all about. 


For so long, I had to prove myself with all that nollie flip back 50 shit just so I could finally arrive at this place in my career. Because I really loosened up for Extremely Sorry. These are tricks that I enjoy doing, and I think it shows in my part. I was still doing things that I’m proud of, like the kickflip backtail shuv down Hubba. But that part is more about me skating without the pressure of having to impress people. I no longer felt like I had anything to prove. 


Were nollie big spins both in and out of those wallrides in Spain always the plan?


Well, I really liked riding up that thing and doing little nollie 180s off of it. The next step in my mind was a nollie big spin off. And after that, hey, why not nollie big spin in? I’ve been doing nollie big spins on quarterpipes for years and it’s one of the funnest tricks. It’s not that hard and when you catch it, it feels great. So yeah, I basically started doing nollie big spins all over the place. (laughs)


I think those wallrides were on different days, just kind of the logical progression in my mind. I was actually in Barcelona a lot back then. And that spot was always fun to skate, so I went there a lot. Skate around, maybe have a beer or something. Have a little picnic. It was a good place to go whenever you couldn’t figure out where else to go. Maybe somebody new is in town and you want to take them down there? It all just kinda came out of that. Very casual stuff. 


You’ve always had great clips over the Besos bump to bar, but I especially love the late big spin. How’d that even happen? 


That was another spot we’d go to all the time. Can’t think of a spot? Let’s just go fly over the thing. So much fun.   


I was actually trying to get a kickflip in there with that, like a backside flip-late shuv. I’ve done that at a few different spots but I couldn’t get it there, so I went with the back 180 bigspin. It was just an evolution of a backside 180. 

You brought up your kickflip backtail shuv down Hubba. Had you ever skated there before? 


I 50-50’d Hubba on my very first trip to California when I was 16 years old, back in the 90s. So I already knew what I was getting into with everything… how big it was and the drop on the other side. That clip was actually during the resurgence of Hubba Hideout after they got the skatestoppers off. Because it wasn’t skateable for a long time. We just happened to be right in the middle of filming when they deknobbed it, so we went up there immediately. 


I remember doing a kickflip backtail to fakie first, but that had already been done by Diego the Butcher, so I had to think of something else if I wanted a clip to use. And, of course, I wanted Hubba Hideout in my part. It’s an iconic spot. So I went with the shuv-it out, which is just like going to fakie. Same motion, really. 


Your 360 kickflip noseslide down the Wilshire 10 may be the gnarliest trick to go down on that rail. And you said that was five tries? 


That was actually on the same trip up to San Francisco. We just happened to be driving through LA and figured we might as well give Wilshire a try. It’s so hit-or-miss with security. Half the time, they’re already waiting for you as you’re walking up the stairs. But this time, we got lucky. 


I started warming up and within 10-15 minutes, I got the tre flip noseslide. It was awesome. Just one of those times where you have an idea and everything works out. And then we got right back into the van and headed on up to San Francisco. 


photo: burnett

What about the board brand idea with Kalis that never came to fruition? How close was that? 


Yeah, I remember having a meeting at Kayo about that. Because Kalis and I had spent a lot of time together in Spain, hanging out and skating. Clicking. And we had this idea to start a company out of Kayo. He was gonna leave DGK and I was gonna leave Flip. And I was interested, I just didn’t want to take on so much responsibility. Trying to get this new thing off the ground when I already had offers to ride for established companies. Running a company while still being pro…


I just wasn’t ready for the ownership piece. I wanted a simple life and I was able to get that through making money with already established companies, so I decided not to do it. I’m probably the one responsible for it not happening, even though it could’ve turned out to be a really good thing. I guess we’ll never know. I support Josh in everything he does, but I just wanted to keep it simple. 


Did it have a name or any other riders attached to it? 


There wasn’t much of a plan to it yet. It was still in the early concepting phase of whether we’d actually do it or not. It wasn’t much farther than that. 

photo: atiba

Didn’t you go on a few Girl trips, too?


Well, I know Rick Howard. I met him at a spot back in the day. This was before I got on Flip. But yeah, I used to really like Girl. One of my favorite skaters is Eric Koston and I always thought their stuff was great. 


If Girl would’ve made me an offer, I would’ve taken it. There were just so many people to get the okay from in order to get on the team, some of them might’ve had egos or weird attitudes about it. And if the process of getting on a team isn’t smooth, I don’t want to be a part of it. I’m not trying to convince people to let me on a team. That’s not my style. 


But I have to imagine a lot of companies coming at you over the years. 


Yeah, there were a few that came at me back in the day. Nothing major, just little brands that aren’t even around anymore… Although, I did almost get on DC at one point. But I think that I’ve made mostly the right decisions over the course of my career.  

What made you go with Element?


They made me a really good deal. I’ve always been into nature, too. And I liked the team. It felt like a good move. 


Fair enough, but what was up with Flip’s diss ad when you left? 


Yeah, I know the one you’re talking about. I just think people might’ve been set off emotionally by my leaving, but I left Flip in a very respectable way. And it’s laughable now as we’ve all seen what has gone down over the years and where people ended up. That ad was low class, man. Not very classy at all, but that doesn’t reflect me. It makes whoever was involved in that ad look immature. 


That's all been sorted, dude. I’m still good friends with Geoff. He doesn’t even ride for Flip anymore. And I’m still friends with David, too. I don’t even know what that was all about. Whatever. 

Regardless, you came out swinging with that Soul Rebel part. Talk about all the crazy shit you did into that LA River spot, like the switch backside flip Skateboard Mag cover and your fakie flip ender. 


Yeah, that stuff was pretty buck for me, man. Really scary. It’s a big fucking ditch and you go really fast whenever you land on that incline. And it’s super rough. Every time you slam, you tear up your pants and hands really bad. That definitely happened a few times. 


I ended up doing four tricks into that thing. The fakie flip was super scary, but after I did it, I found out that some other dude had done it, too. Like, wow! Bravo to that dude, he must be really good! So I went back and did a fakie frontside flip, a nollie cab and the switch backside flip. 


It’s a hard spot to skate, man. Because first, you actually have to land your trick into the thing, but then you gotta be able to hang on down the bank, too. Because you pick up a lot of speed on that thing. You’re gonna get speed wobbles, for sure. 


The fakie flip was probably the hardest one because you’re landing fakie into the bank. And I could never turn in time so I’d always end up with my board in the water.

photo: atiba


What’s the balance between these standalone projects, like Soul Rebel and your Globe part, versus the bigger team full-lengths?


I just wanted to get the footage out. It’s weird, because for a while there, I felt like Element had kinda put me on the backburner. Because they were focusing on a bunch of guys that they were about to turn pro, I was honestly feeling a little left out of the whole Element thing. They had that big video and I don’t even remember if I had anything in it. They were just so focused on these other guys… and that’s fine. I don’t necessarily need to be in a video like that. I’ll be in their videos, of course, but I also like the freedom to create my own video parts. My own projects. Because no matter who I ride for, I’m also my own entity. And I love being able to do my own thing. It’s fun for me. 


I’m actually working on another video part right now. 

For Globe or…


No, it’s just my own thing. If Globe wants to put a logo on there, that’s fine. If Element wants to put a logo on there, that’s fine, too. It’s all good. But for right now, I’m just gonna work on this thing at my own pace and put it out on Thrasher myself when it’s done.  


How long have you been filming for? 


About a year or so. It’s not going to be some epic 10-minute long part or anything... I’m honestly trying to be a little more selective with the footage I put in there. Maybe it ends up being a fun little edit of 15-20 tricks with a few friends in there, too? I’ve been thinking about calling up a few of the guys that I really respect and getting a trick or two from them in there, like Kalis. Calling up Penny for a clip. Maybe Jeremy Wray or Geoff. I just want there to be a good vibe in this thing. It’ll still be my part, but I think it would be nice to have a couple cameos in there along with me. 

You’ve mentioned having more fun with your skating as you’ve gotten older. How does that play in your head when there’s so much emphasis on all the gnarly shit you did in your 20s? 


I’m just happy to be riding for the companies I ride for. There are good people at Globe and Element and I love riding for both of them. We have a long history together. At this point, I just go on all of the trips that I can and I skate. I still push it. I still try. And luckily, I’ve been able to figure out that people just want to see me skate. 




I’m still getting footage where I’m doing tricks that I’m proud of. It’s nice, it’s smooth and a lot of it looks like it could’ve come out of Extremely Sorry. That’s where I’m at right now. I’m 40 years old and a dad. I’m skating on the weekends. And I’m just happy to still be in it. 


But you’re still doing your thing, too. I mean, that Globe part from a couple years ago, you’re 360 flipping off somebody’s roof.


Hell yeah, man! That’s fucking right! (laughs)


I’m still going for it. I’ve got a strong presence of today’s media outlets and social medias and whatnot. I don’t fuck around. I’m like a real professional, ya know? 


(laughs) So when can we expect the new part? Where are you at with this thing?


I’m not quite at that ender phase just yet. I still have a lot of ideas that I’m kicking around. Like I said, I’m thinking about hitting up a few friends of mine. And I also might have some old footage in there, too. I have a lot of unseen footage from back in the day that’s never been put out. I think that could be cool… 


I don’t know, man. I want this thing to be a little more all-encompassing, you know? Not just your standard video part. 

photo: burnett

Can’t wait to see it, Mark. As we wrap this up, what would you say has been the proudest moment of your skateboarding career and your biggest regret? 


My proudest moment would have to be winning Skater of the Year for Thrasher. That really changed my life… But more than that, I’m just happy to have made in the world as a professional skater. To have accomplished my dream. And to have stuck with it this long without doing anything too stupid.  


Yeah, 20+ years is a solid run. 


My biggest regret would be that I wasted a lot of money, but that just comes with the territory. Coming from where I come from and finding myself in that position at such a young age, I feel like blowing some money on a few fancy cars was all a part of it. 


I think if you hadn’t blown some cash, you’d probably be regretting that right now instead.


(laughs) At the end of the day, I don’t really have any complaints, man. I maybe should’ve taken a few different endorsements here and there, but overall, I’m proud of my career. I really am. 


Old man and the beas said...

Thanks Chops and Mark - as someone who was around when Mark was starting out a Beasley, it's been amazing to watch his career. Great read as always

Nonickname said...

Oakville...unless he was living north of Dundas St as a kid ain't rural :-)
Never knew about his brother working at a steel mill (Stelco in Hamilton?) - but amazing story of him paying for the trip to Tampa.

chops said...

@nonickname fair call. changed it.
Thanks @oldman

Anonymous said...

All good! Wasn't trying to be snarky. Thanks for all your work - always a must read.

Patrick said...

Wow! Such a great interview! Will always love Apples.

Anonymous said...


olinmatt said...

Great interview. Good insight to the golden years of Flip.

Anonymous said...

This guy is original!! Thanks for this interview!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Never occurred to me that he was the one saying fuck yeah after that Smith grind, always assumed it was someone closer to the camera. Maybe because of how loud it sounded?

Dustin Umberger said...

Great one. Positive vibes, great insights, and as always great questions with more attention to detail than the average skate nerd can process. Stoker.

Anonymous said...

He’s from Burlington

Anonymous said...

He’s got that skate rat in him like Kalis.

Anonymous said...

First dude I ever saw kickflip over the pyramid and frontside flip the quarter pipe at the Aud skatepark in Kitchener, ON Canada. He ripped then and still does!

Anonymous said...

Great read! Met Mark a few times over the years, he even signed my skinny white LEVIS at a flip demo once! Thanks for all the years of inspiration! I moved to Barcelona when I turned 18 and never looked back. Still skating in my early 30’s. Killer interview Chops! 🇨🇦 ps. Nollie big spins are the shit.