Do You Remember The First Time?
For pretty much as long as there have been skateboard brands there have been skate tours. Hop on a flight, get in a van, maybe do a demo or two, meet some new faces and skate new places; it’s a tried and tested formula that’s been going on for decades. So when some of the Etnies crew toured through southern Spain recently we thought we’d talk to them about some of their past tour experiences. Getting arrested, shot at, robbed, hurt, and meeting rock stars are just some of the things Mike Manzoori, Nick Garcia and 16-year-old Eetu Toropainen have encountered. Read on to see what these three different generations of skateboarders had to say.
– Will Harmon
Before the main questions can you tell me about going on tour with Eetu (Toropainen)?
Mike Manzoori: Everyone was psyched on Eetu; he’s a wonderful kid. He’s such a joy to be around. I mean he’s quiet, but he’s funny when he comes out with anything. He’s silent but deadly. You literally don’t even know he’s there… There were so many times on the trip when I’d just turn around and I’d jump out my skin because he’d have been standing there the whole time and I didn’t realise. I mean his dad even described him as ‘a creepy lurker’. For a dad to acknowledge that, you definitely have to be that kind of kid. He’s a good kid though and a ripping skater. I don’t know it’s different because like you see young kids who are killing it and they’re really trying and going for it you know, whereas for him skating just looked like play. He absolutely made everything look like play; sometimes he’d land tricks a little loose and sloppy but it was just like ‘woohoo easy cakes’. He just did gnarly things and made them look fun. Like everything was all on the same fun level whether it was goofing around or trying something really hard. It was a nice kind of thing to be around.
OK, first main question: Do you remember the first time you went on tour?
The first tour I went on I was about 15 or 16 and it was with the Bones Brigade Powell team. It was Tony Hawk, Lance Mountain, Ray Underhill and Eric Sanderson. They came to the UK in 1990 and I’d just gotten on Powell through the European set-up. I was just a little kid that didn’t know a damn thing and the next thing you know I’m in the van with absolute heroes. I was the Eetu of that time: just quiet, sitting in the corner, not saying anything, I was just trying to be chill and trying to make a good impression. I was absolutely terrified to do demos with these dudes; I’d drop in with my legs violently shaking from nerves. The most normal tricks seemed so hard. Even like a frontside 5-0 on vert… I was just terrified of every wall. So you’d do a demo on a vert ramp and everyone takes turns so you fall into a pattern of rotation so I was always trying to dodge the bullet of being after Tony, ha ha. I’d try to go after Eric Sanderson. I just remember skating horribly at the demos. It was still a good time though and when you’re a little kid you just want to make a good impression.
Total side story, but at that first demo at the Bracknell ramp, just outside of London, this lady comes up to us before the demo and asks: ‘Is Mike McGill here?’ She’s American and everyone’s like, ‘No Mike’s not on this trip.’ And then she’s like, ‘Alright well, if you guys want to come hang out afterwards this is Dhani. Alright have a good demo!’ We were all like, ‘Who was that?’ and it turns out it was George Harrison’s wife and their kid Dhani. So I guess Dhani was into skateboarding and he’d been to a Powell demo before and met Mike McGill and they talked about him going to build a ramp at his place or something. Anyways so after the demo the next thing you know I’m in the van following them through the countryside and we end up in Henley-on-Thames at a big house called Friar Park; it’s a giant manor house. It’s crazy as I just ordered a book about this place. So we go to the Harrison’s house and I’m with my skate heroes fanning out who are with their rock star heroes fanning out.
So we get a tour of the place and George Harrison’s wife cooks pizza for us…
Was George Harrison there? Did you meet him?
Yeah he was there and he was hanging out with Tom Petty! Tom was there because they have a recording studio and at that time they were doing a band called The Travelling Wilburys, which was like a charity band of rock legends. So the next day Bob Dylan was due to come over and they were basically recording one of the tracks for The Travelling Wilburys there and that’s why Tom Petty was there. So we went to the studio and saw all these guitars on the wall and I was just fanning out so hard. I mean, I was double fanning out; my parents and family were such die-hard Beatles fans… It was just the music we grew up to so I’m just tripping like: I’m with Tony Hawk, Lance Mountain, the Bones Brigade and the other side of the table is like Tom Petty and George Harrison… I was like, ‘What the fuck?!’ It was just the trippiest thing I’ve ever been involved with. And that was on the first day and my first tour and that’s what I saw. It’s all been downhill from there ha ha! Just kidding…
Wow, what a story!
They were super cool people, totally chill and nice. They were talking to Tony Hawk and those guys about skating and they asked them questions about touring, kind of comparing to touring as a rock star. I’m just sitting at the table eating my pizza all quiet like the little Eetu.
What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened on tour?
There are probably two that stand out the most… One was when we were in South America and both Oliver Barton and myself got our cameras robbed at gunpoint. This guy just kind of came out of nowhere when we were sessioning in Peru; that was a rough one. And that was like two days before the end of a really long amazing trip that everyone was having so much fun on, so that just kind of ruined it for everyone else. We were all planning on staying longer afterwards and going out to Machu Picchu but then everyone was just over it after the robbery. I decided to still go though. It was worth it because it made a bad trip better again and I almost forgot all about the situation. So that was a bad one and then there was another one in Miami… I used to hate going to Miami because I’d have bad trips there and something would always go wrong. Once Antton (Miettinen) got arrested and then the next day we had this weird situation where the cops burst into our room and pulled guns on us because they were looking for people… It was just a horrible trip; I was like, ‘Get me home! I’m done with this trip!’ Luckily the next time I went to Miami I had a good tour guide in Danny Fuenzalida and it just changed my opinion of the place completely.
Is there a tour you’ve been on that’s your particular favourite?
I mean your favourite tour is always the one you’re on. You’ll look back and they’re all good times, even the bad ones; you’ll look back and laugh at the crazy stuff. Every time we do another trip I feel like it’s a blessing and a miracle we get to do these all the time. Like, ‘Really? You’re gonna send us to there just to go skating?’ That part to me is still nuts.
And lastly anything in particular or noteworthy from this recent Etnies trip to southern Spain?
It was a really fun trip. It also was kinda weird because we never actually skated Malaga. It was slated as ‘a Malaga trip’ and I think we only went into town to eat one day. I mean we might have skated one spot in the vicinity of Malaga… But that’s fine. The crew that we had didn’t want to skate the usual shit, they wanted to skate the weird thing they’d see on the way to the spot. We didn’t really have a tour guide this trip, which was kind of nice because we were off the beaten path and looking for things other people weren’t skating. I think that’s what stood out about the trip: we just went on a slightly different path.
Can you remember your first skate tour?
Nick Garcia: The first trip I ever went on where I was in a van, like a proper tour van, was when I went to Phoenix Am. I jumped in the van with the Circa dudes. I wasn’t on the team, my cousin was, I didn’t get flow or anything but they just let me tag along. This was around ‘07 or ‘08 I think. And so we went and I had fun and I skated around at the contest and we ended up getting really drunk after the contest at the hotel… And I uh ended up getting arrested and spending the night in jail – with wet clothes. We all jumped into the pool and a bunch of guys got arrested for underage drinking and stuff so I spent the night in jail in Phoenix.
So I’m guessing things didn’t work out with you and Circa?
No, ha ha. I didn’t get on. Not the best impression. Yeah that was my first tour and also pretty much my worst one. It’s been all uphill from there.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve experienced whilst being on tour?
A lot of things happen… Just last week we were in Albuquerque and we were at the skatepark around noon and this car pulled up and started shooting at another car right next to us like 20-30 feet away.
Yeah there was a full-on shootout. I’ve been to some third world countries and kind of all over the place so it’s funny that the closest I’ve come to getting shot is right here, not too far from home. It was gnarly.
Do you have a favourite tour ever?
We did a tour five or six years ago… It was an Element and L.E. Skateboards combined tour. That was pretty cool because all the L.E. dudes are really good friends of ours and we otherwise would have never had a chance to travel with them like that. And it was a really long trip driving all around the United States… I dunno there was just a lot of crazy hi-jinx and good memories on that trip for sure.
How do you feel about demos?
Uh… I mean I’ve been doing them forever and I feel like I’m just now kind of getting used to it. I don’t know you always get a stomach-ache before you do them but you just gotta get out there and have fun and pretend like you’re skating a park back home.
Have you signed many autographs in your life?
Yeah man I’m on a team with Nyjah (Huston) and one with (Ryan) Sheckler so… Ha ha, we get some long signings sometimes.
Anything noteworthy from this recent Etnies trip to southern Spain?
It was a sick one. I think my favourite thing on the tour, aside from our airBnB that was kind like a mini mansion on top of the hill there, was watching that kid Eetu rip. I’ve never seen him skate before and it’s just super sick to skate with that kid in person. It’s inspiring. He didn’t speak much, which is kind of cool as that’s always how it’s like if you’re the new kid. And then every time we’d get out of the van he would just start doing some insane shit. I felt like a kid again; I just wanted to sit down and watch him rip. He’s got the fastest feet I’ve ever seen.
When, with who and where was your first skate tour?
Eetu Toropainen: It was a couple months ago with Element in Paris. Yeah it was cool… It was my first time skating with the guys, well they were in Finland earlier this year so I had met Alex (Deron) there already, but this was my first time skating with Maité (Steenhoudt) and Phil (Zwijsen). It rained quite a lot, but it was cool; we got some clips. In the beginning I was maybe a little shy because I didn’t know anyone, but then after a couple of days I got to know them. It was fun skating with everyone.
And so how was this Etnies trip? (Eetu’s second tour ever)
Yeah it was nice. I’d never been to Malaga before so I was expecting all the perfect plazas and spots, but there were other spots too. And again it was my first time meeting all of the guys. At first I was intimidated, but then as the days go by you get to know them and it’s all fun.
How do you feel about demos?
We did a couple on the Etnies trip, but the last one I couldn’t really skate because I kind of bent my knee the day before so I kind of chilled that day. But the first one didn’t feel like a demo, just a session.
Did you sign any autographs?
Yeah a little bit. That was pretty weird; I’d never done that before. I don’t know, I don’t think they knew who I was. What’s crazy is that in 2011 (when Eetu was only eight) the Etnies team came to Finland and Nick was there. I remember waiting in line to get Nick Garcia’s autograph; so it felt extra weird to be signing autographs next to him on this trip.
Do you remember anything else about that time Etnies came to Finland with Nick? Like did you talk to him or anything? The demo?
I don’t really remember anything other than being in the line for the signing to be honest. And that Sean Malto was on the poster but not at the signing ha ha.
What about the future? Got any more tours planned?
Yeah! I’m going on an Element tour next week… To the Canary Islands. It should be fun.
And many more tours to come no doubt… Thanks Eetu!