Marcus Shaw Interview

Switch backside flip, Berlin. Ph. Sam Ashley

I was well aware of Marcus before I started skating; he was born the day after me. I have vivid memories of him skating back and forth to school popping flip tricks, uniform on and ginger hair peeking out from under his trucker cap.

When I eventually picked up a skateboard it became painfully apparent he was light years ahead of me and our age group. I was struggling with kickflips and he was 360 flipping four stairs. 13-year-olds shouldn’t be able to 360 flip.

On MSN messenger his profile picture was him skating with an éS logo branded on top; I genuinely thought he was sponsored by them. Later I found out he had made it himself.

When he moved to Norway we kept in touch; we would exchange footage. His progression has always been rapid. Suddenly he was skating switch really well and doing super tech stuff on ledges.

I was stoked that he wanted to come back to Edinburgh to shoot some stuff for Free. Especially when he’s handled some NBDs that many people wouldn’t even consider.

It’s rad to see him doing things like this interview; he’s come a long way since that fake éS advert. – Miles Kondracki

Interview by Will Harmon

What’s your full name?
My full name is Marcus Alexander Shaw of Tordarroch.

Can you explain that?
It’s a Scottish clan name. I got it from my dad who is from Scotland. It’s a clan that’s based in the north of Scotland near Inverness. I was born in Scotland.

Does your family name have its own Scottish tartan print/pattern?
Yeah we actually do have our own tartan in the family. It’s pretty dope.

Do you ever rock it?
I used to have a kilt when I was around 13 or 14, but then I grew and it just turned into a mini-skirt…

Ha ha. So what was it like being back in Edinburgh to shoot for this interview?
It was really good, but kinda strange actually too because we went back to all the places I used to skate as a kid.

Did they seem smaller?
Yeah, all of them man. Bristo (Square) is basically where I started skating so going back there now was a bit of a bummer as it’s all renewed now; it’s different.

50-50 along and up, Edinburgh. Ph. Sam Ashley

The step statue/monument they kept the same though right?
Yeah, I wanted to get something on that, but there’s knobs on the first two steps now. There’s no knobs on the third one, which is really high, but good, but when we went last week there was a festival going on there so they put like grass over the whole plaza. So we didn’t get to skate there really, which is a bit of a bummer.

What was it like growing up there? How did you discover skateboarding?
I think I first got into it when I lived outside, close to Inverness. My first board was a small plastic banana board thing, but I think that got run over by a car or something so I just left it (skateboarding) for a couple of years. I moved back and forth between Norway and Scotland a few times, so it was when I moved back to Scotland and I was in primary school I got into it again.
I started skating properly with a friend of mine called Miles Kondracki from Edinburgh. We went to primary school together.

So did you see Miles when you were back in Edinburgh last week?
Yeah we met for a coffee. We couldn’t skate together because he was away mostly on a holiday; the timing was bad. But yeah that’s who I used to skate with back in the day when we were super young. That’s kinda how I remember getting into it, just skating by our primary school with Miles and my other friends Daniel Nicholas and Liam McCreanor. And then later on we started going to Bristo. At that time the scene there at the Square was really good. We skated there a full two to three years before we fully got into the skate scene like hanging out at skate shops and reading the magazines. At that time Blueprint was the big thing: Colin Kennedy, Nick Jensen…

Famous Scotsman John Rattray?
Yeah he was big, but I never got the chance to see him skate live. I’d see Colin Kennedy though.

Switch backside tailslide, Edinbugh. Ph. Sam Ashley

Maybe John had moved to California by then.
Yeah I think it was around that time. There were so many other insanely good skaters at Bristo though; I think they used to ride for Focus (Skate Shop) back in the day. I remember going to the premiere of Blueprint’s Lost & Found, it was the first kind of skate premiere thing my mum let me go to. I was about 13 or 14 and I think this was around the time or the same year I moved away.

So why did you move to Norway?
The thing is my dad is Scottish and my mum’s from Norway. I guess they figured out later that the jobs were better in Norway and it would be a nice place for me to grow up.

Did you have to learn how to speak Norwegian or had your mother already taught you?
It was actually quite natural. I think I just spoke both languages from a young age, but I reckon when I moved my Norwegian probably wasn’t that good.

Frontside 180 kickflip, Oslo. Ph. Lars Gartå

So when you moved over to Norway, do you remember the first skaters you met?
I moved to a place 20 minutes outside of Oslo called Asker. I met a guy, Daniel Spiro, and he was quite good, so after hanging out with him I eventually started hanging out more with the kids in Oslo. I think that’s what made me get into skating more and developing if you know what I mean? Because there wasn’t much of that in Edinburgh for me: it was just kind of having fun skating ledges and then I moved to Norway and ‘oh shit! They’re quite good here, they skate stairs and the spots are good.’

Oh OK the level was really high there in Norway…
Yeah it was actually. I remember when we were kids, the only thing we really had in Edinburgh was Bristo and I think I maybe went to two skateparks: Perth once or twice and Livingston a couple of times… Then I came here and it wasn’t the ledge spot kind of thing, it was more stairs and I don’t know, it was just different.

So by your new friends you were kinda forced to skate that bigger stuff?
Yeah. So for that first year I just skated with guys in Asker and then after that I’d go to Oslo more and that’s when I met Magnus (Bordewick) and those guys.

Switch ollie, Oslo. Ph. Lars Gartå

So would you agree that moving to Norway helped you progress?
I think so yeah. I reckon I wouldn’t be as good a skater if I stayed in Scotland.

Have you ever thought about moving back?
I mean I have actually, but just for a short while. It would be fun to do for maybe a year or something.

Have you ever thought about living elsewhere in the world aside from Oslo?
I was studying before; I did a 3-year degree (in Product Design) so I was stuck here a bit, but now I’m working and I could do it.

Where would you go?
I’ve been to Berlin a lot, so I have a lot of homies there. I’ve been on like three to four longer trips there so I’ve been thinking about that maybe. I mean I’ve travelled quite a bit, but I’ve never travelled outside of Europe skate-wise. I went to Asia for a couple months, but I’ve never been to the States, so I don’t really know what it’s like there.

Backside lipslide, Berlin. Ph. Sam Ashley

Neil Chester told me you were a pretty serious diver when you were younger. How did you get into this and why did you stop?
Yeah this was when I was in Edinburgh, like in primary school. When you’re a kid everything is cool: you have bikes, skateboards, you try everything and I just liked going to the pool and jumping off diving boards. Then I found out that they were doing proper diving courses and I started with my mate Liam. We’d skate together and then we’d go to these diving things and he went with me for about a year and then he was over it, but I kept on doing it. I got better and better at it and I went to some type of talent thing in Sheffield… I dunno diving was a really small sport in Scotland at that time so if anyone had potential they would really try and bring it out of them because they wanted to do this national team for Scotland and everything.

Oh OK…
So I would go to the Royal Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh like two to three times a week and it was serious… It was almost the same as gymnastics, you’d have a coach and you’d have to do a half an hour of dry training or strength training with pull-ups, push-ups and all that stuff before you could get in the water.

And so how old were you for this?
I think I was about 11 when I started. So I was going to these small competitions around England and Scotland at the start and then we moved to Norway. Then I started going to a diving club near where I lived and that’s when it got more serious. I was doing a lot of competitions and travelling around but at the same time I was doing the skate thing and I don’t know I always like both of them, but the skate thing was always what I liked the most.

Marcus Shaw, Glasgow, 2019. Ph. Sam Ashley

So one day you just decided not to dive competitively anymore?
Yeah, I think I was around 15 or 16. I guess you could say I was at kind of a high level so I was going to the Norwegian championships and stuff and I think I may have gotten a few medals actually…

Yeah but then it just didn’t work… My friends were skating more and they were like, ‘ah you’re never skating and you have to go to this fucking diving practice four to five times a week!’ So then I realised I had to just choose one of them and then naturally ‘no one’s telling me what to do, I can do this when I want, so…’

And what did your parents think about you choosing skating over diving?
To be honest I don’t think they cared much. They were like, ‘do what you wanna do.’ I mean with that sport if you want to make money or go far with it I think you have to go to the Olympics.

It’s not like you can just film for your next diving video part…
It’s really funny in the competitions because of how it works… It’s not like ‘OK it’s your go’ and you go off the diving board and do a cool trick, it’s like ‘this is this guy and he’s doing this dive.’

Backside 180 kickflip, Glasgow. Ph. Sam Ashley

Oh so you have to do a particular dive…
Yeah. It’s like if it’s your turn you gotta do a switch tre flip and you get marked on how good your switch tre is.

I can see how that could get old…
Yeah and to be honest it got to the point where it was also really scary.

Did you ever hit your head like some divers do?
Yeah one, well I didn’t smack my actual head, but I was doing a dive where you kind of go backwards but you go forwards and it was with some somersaults and I flipped around, because often to do a good dive you have to be as close to the diving board as possible, and I ended up whacking my arms and my head was this close (Marcus puts his fingertips an inch apart) to the board and it was right on the back so it could have been fucked up. So that really shook me a bit and I just realised skating was easier or rather I was more stoked on doing it. It was fun though; I’ll still pull out a little dive now and then. I did a double backflip last summer. I still know all the techniques so I do it the way I was told to do it; it’s funny.

Pekka (Per Lovas) showed me your diving meme
I knew he was gonna mention this!

Ha ha ha… Who made it and how did your friends find out about it?
It’s such a funny story… This is from one of these diving trips. It was at a time when I was diving for a club in Norway. We went to this training camp in Riccione, Italy and I think I was just doing a lot of somersaults and you go fast, it’s like g-force and this guy from another club in Stavanger took a picture of it with his new camera. It was so sharp and he showed me the picture and I was like, ‘oh my god!’ and we just looked at the picture for ages.

50-50 grind, Berlin. Ph. Sam Ashley

Your face…
I was like, ‘what happened?’ My face looks photo-shopped; it doesn’t look real. But I saw it right then after he shot it; it’s real. And then so years went on and there was something on Facebook about reminiscing about the old days, ‘diving trip 2007’ or some shit and my friend put the album on Facebook and this picture was in there and I guess someone in his network, one of his friends in Stavanger or something took the picture and reposted it like, ‘this is insane!’ And then it just got posted with the words Cannonderp or Gingerderp…

What is derp? Is that Norwegian?
To be honest I’m not too sure, but basically it got used for tons of memes.

OK but then how did your skate friends find out it was you?
This is the most insane part… So I saw the picture on Facebook when the guy from Stavanger originally posted it, but then I didn’t think it would come up again. And then my skate friend Thomas, from Asker, he was like, ‘hey I was on this fail blog and I saw this picture…’ And then I think he showed me it, like, ‘you have to see this shit!’ and then he had spent a lot of time with me and he was like, ‘Is this you?’ He must have recognised something distinct and I was like, ‘what the fuck!’ and that’s how it kind of came out. That pic was actually on a web page and still to this day people will be like, ‘ah have you seen this diving photo of Marcus?’ Ha ha…

It doesn’t even look like you though. It looks so weird…
I think it’s funny; it’s timeless. It’s gonna follow me for the rest of my life.

Nollie 180 switch crooks, Oslo. Ph. Olav Stubberud

Well it sounds like it doesn’t bother you too much, that’s good. OK subject change… Before we knew who you were, my friends and I referred to you as the Norwegian Rob Welsh, because of your trick selection and steezy outfits. Is he your favourite skater?
That’s really funny actually; I would say he was one of my all time favourites. I’ve always liked his trick selection especially. In the Fully Flared days, the way I dressed when I was a kid you wouldn’t believe it, but even still then it was more trick inspiration from him even though I dressed a completely different way. But then when you get older you just find out what’s your thing. Skateboarders, I feel like they go through these weird phases with clothing… The hesh/fresh thing; I was hesh, wearing tight red trousers.

Well it seems to have changed for you now. Every clip I see of you these days you have a new flashy windbreaker, baggy trackies and sometimes neon shoes. How important is the right outfit for you when you go skate?
I’m quite into fashion, well street fashion. I worked at a sneaker store for one and a half years so I got really into sneakers and all that. Then I guess I care about it when I watch skateboarding too.

Who has the best fits right now in skateboarding?
I’d say Lucien Clarke; he’s got some wild shit going on. And most of the Palace guys look pretty dope, who else? Magnus (Bordewick)… It’s funny Magnus and I care a lot about that shit. We trade stuff like, ‘what tracksuit pants are those? They have a good fit…’

In Pekka’s Firetre vid you were just wearing Dickies and plain tees
I like the plain style, I always do: the white tee and normal pants is never going to look bad. It’s timeless, but I also feel that what I like about an outfit is that you can tell what kind of person the skater is a bit. It says something about someone I think. When I was living with Pekka we had this joke: ‘Who can be the most offensive?’ Like, ‘OK put these on and you’ll offend everybody.’

Like the bright neon yellow windbreaker?
I was just filming and I had on the neon shoes so I thought ‘why not?’ and I added the neon windbreaker. It wasn’t a super serious thing… Either way people are gonna hate or like it. It doesn’t matter…

Tailgrab, Berlin. Ph. Sam Ashley

Just fucking with people.
Yeah, I don’t think there’s anything bad about it. I think we are currently in a time when a lot of stuff is acceptable in skateboarding. Now anything goes in a way. In skateboarding people take shit so seriously and it’s funny. I’m over that.

It’s just a time in your life.
Yeah all these thing you’re gonna look back at them like, ‘ah this is funny’ but maybe I’m wrong actually, maybe in 15 years most likely not. But it’s cool that at one time you felt like that. You felt like putting those neon shoes on in the morning, that neon windbreaker…

Have you ever re-filmed a line because you didn’t like your outfit that day?
Ah yeah. It’s happened for sure. I don’t want to be over-picky about it, I just feel like the whole outfit thing is really funny… I mean when I go on trips people think I’m crazy.

Sam (Ashley) was saying you were changing outfits a lot.
I was wearing a neon sweater and when we got the one picture then it’s like you can’t wear that twice.

Backside 180 to frontside crooked grind, Oslo. Ph. Lars Gartå

Does this strict rule apply to filming or just photos?
For filming outfits will turn up twice, but it’s more for pictures… I like the aspect of it, like ‘what shoes is he wearing?’ if there’s a dope fisheye shot; it’s cool to see the details. I don’t want to sound too crazy about it, but yeah, I care about how I dress when I skate. I think all skateboarders do, but some of them pretend that they don’t. They’ll put paint on their trousers on purpose you know what I mean?

Yeah totally. Sam also said you’d sneak out to go clothes shopping mid-skate session. Is that true?
Not mid-session! But I did go on a little cruise in Edinburgh because I was running out of fits.

Ha ha…
I brought five fits on the trip, but then I was there for seven days… So I think I got a picture in all of them, but I didn’t land all the tricks… So I needed a new fit anyways. When I was on this trip some of the days I brought a bag so if I was feeling it I could try to get two pictures that day. I just don’t want to wear… One thing is when you’re wearing a white tee and jeans it doesn’t make any difference, but then if you’re wearing something wilder and it shows up two times it’s so much more noticeable. It’s like (Jason) Dill and his silver shoes and yellow socks/leggings…

You can’t rock that outfit again in two different places…
Maybe not too many times, ha ha ha.

Ollie, Oslo. Ph. Lars Gartå

OK so who are you riding for right now?
Right now I’m riding for… well I guess I’m flow; I don’t know what the deal is, but I ride for adidas shoes, Krooked boards, Thunder trucks and Spitfire wheels. Oh and German (Nieves) sends me Paterson gear sometimes.

Do you get paid from skateboarding or what do you do to pay the bills?
I’m not getting paid to skate so I recently I got a job at a suitcase company making these custom Peli cases. It’s a company that does the inserts for these cases but they also distribute the cases without the foam inserts. I work in production and do a bit of drawing, but some of the stuff we do suitcases for is so expensive… Like sonar gear for the oil industry and these things cost millions. Like crazy microphones that can pick up sounds miles away…

You must have to make those inserts pretty exact to fit that expensive equipment in!
Yeah, ha ha…

Nice. So what’s next?
I’m doing this San Francisco trip in September. I’m going to be out there for three weeks. I’m gonna try to hook up with the Deluxe guys and do a part for Thunder: some Oslo clips mixed with some SF stuff. I wanna try to get some clips on some of those OG SF spots; that’s kind of a dream for me. I wish Pier 7 was still good…

Maybe you’ll even run into Wu Welsh out there!
Ha ha, that would be sick! Another check on the bucket list… We’ll see what happens I guess.

Backside 180 nosegrind, Glasgow. Ph. Sam Ashley