Am Scramble Interview: Nick Matthews
With a stare that could melt granite, Chicago’s Nick Matthews was the Scrambler all of us were excited but a little scared to meet. Turns out this Great Lakes powerhouse is as friendly off the board as he is terrifying on it. Nick’s bounced around board sponsors even though everyone knows he’s the best. Will the Champ from Chi-Town find a home with the 1-8? Shit, it would be tight.
Don't miss Nick and the Scramblers put on a serious show on some of Boston's most hallowed ground
So we did this trip in August and I’m talking to you now in November. And in the last few weeks it seems like things have been going pretty crazy for you as far as stuff coming out. Did you have a sense that this was on the horizon?
Not really. I don’t know, like the edit that just came out, the Nike/Huf thing, I found out about after the Scramble trip. And then it was a pretty quick turnaround. We went to SF and then a week later we went to New York and the video came out pretty fast after that.
So now you get to be the neck-high-backside-Smith guy for a while, right?
Shit, I don’t know. I battled that one.
Yeah, what’s the story behind that? ‘Cause that looks really, really tall.
Thanks. Yeah, that was like multiple trips going back there and it just felt fried. Like the last day that I was there, I don’t think I could have tried it again. And it worked out—like I blacked out and just landed the trick. I was so hyped. But it was, seriously—it felt insane how many times I’d been there. And I’d even tried it before that trip, just like fucking around being at the Island skating. That’s kinda where I had the idea from. And then it just turned into a whole ordeal once I started to try to film it. I felt like I had to get it.
When you’re standing next to it, how high is it?
If I’m not on the curb it’s probably shoulder high. The hardest part about it, too, was there’s no angle for it. It’s only a board’s width, so that was the hard part for me.
Yeah, what’s the secret to getting your back truck five feet off the ground?
I don’t know, I feel like I just pretend like I’m jumping. I’m just jumping and getting my back foot on it. It feels safer than front 50s for me, or something like that.
Is there a trick to it?
Yeah, maybe it’s just like a tweaked ollie? I don’t know.
We threw this out as a joke. Five tries later Nick was riding away at Eggs
It’s fuckin’ nuts! So then you had a homie clip in the Johnny Wilson Chicago video, that was pretty sick. I know any time Supreme shows up in a town it kind of brings some heat. Do you think Chicago could become a big skate destination? Not that it isn’t, but even more so?
Oh yeah, for sure. I think it’ll definitely bring more attention to it. For whatever reason people kind of looked over Chicago. I think people will realize that it’s a pretty sick city with a core skate scene and they also have one of the best shops, Uprise, too. There’s just a lot of good skaters that are from there and good spots and a cool scene and I think Supreme will definitely give it some more notoriety.
Maybe attract some different eyeballs that wouldn’t have thought about it.
Yeah, definitely. So that’s cool, and those dudes being in town is super cool. They’re all super rad.
I got to come out and skate with you and your brother in Chicago for a long weekend and it was some real street skating. We didn’t drive from spot to spot—we parked the car and pushed around for nine hours! Is that how you and your brother typically do it? Do you just drive to the zone and then you’re just pushing around?
Yeah, there’s a lot of days that are like that. I feel like most days we just park on this street, Lasalle, where they have free parking on the weekends and we’ll just push from spot to spot. And I feel like most of the super-good spots in the city are like in that Loop area, like in the downtown area. And then the weekdays we’ll kind of drive to spots because the Loop isn’t really as skateable. So we’ll hit the one-off spots. But yeah, definitely weekends we mostly will skate all day around the city.
It’s funny, I was telling people like, It’s not only street skating, like half the spots Nick wanted to skate were like jumping over a street.
Yeah, literally. That’s funny. I feel like we skated some hectic spots that were definitely fucked up. We had to wait for traffic for most of the spots we skated.
That’s good, though. We weren’t waiting in the car, we were just waiting for cars to be gone the whole time.
True “street” skating, back home in Chicago
Who were some of the legendary skaters when you were coming up? Who were the legendary Chicago guys?
Damn, there’s a lot. I’d say Dave Ruta definitely was a big skater. And a lot of Uprise guys that run that shop. And then also from the Chicago suburbs there’s Marisa and this dude Steve Perdue that was super good. Neen’s from there, too. There’s Timmy Johnson.
Hell yeah. So again, not to gossip, but you were riding Antihero boards on the trip. Is it safe to assume you’re a prospect?
Yeah. I mean, I’m actually on the Antihero trip right now.
How will we know if you’re on the team or not?
I don’t know. I guess we’ll see how this trip goes.
They’re a tough crew, man. You got any tattoos?
Nah, I should probably get some, though.
Dude, this might be the time. What’s been your sponsorship history so far? What was the first box you ever got?
The first box I got was super young but it wasn’t a really serious sponsorship, I guess. I got boards from Chocolate. It was not really legit, though.
Dude, that’ll freak a kid out.
And then I kinda got boards from Krooked and then I did the Quasi thing and now Antihero.
Is there a reason why you kept shopping?
I don’t know, I guess—well, Quasi was probably the one that I was taking the most seriously. I don’t even know. That’s when it was like, Oh, I could be an am or pro skater or whatever. You know what I mean?
Flyin' on a front blunt
Right. So only recently you considered it, that you could go all the way?
Yeah, definitely. I feel like within the past couple of few years that’s when people were putting it in my ear. I guess maybe I never thought of myself as a sponsored or pro skater. I was just gonna be a guy who got boards here and there.
So did you have any reservations about coming on the Scramble trip?
I just knew it was gonna be a lot of skating—just from the videos, there’s just so much footage from there, so much footy.
What about jumping in the van with people you don’t know or barely know?
Yeah, I really didn’t have any expectations ’cause I didn’t know who was going on it.
Big ups just like Huf, 50-50 over the top
Oh yeah, I try not to tell people who’s on the trip so they don’t make the decision based off that.
Yeah. I knew Brian Reid, so I was like, Okay, cool, I at least know one dude so I’ll feel comfortable with that dude.
Yeah, but how did it work out?
It was cool. Everyone was super chill and nice. I definitely became friends with some of the guys, for sure. Everyone was super good at skating and gnarly and cool, so it worked out.
For sure. Did you know anything about Dylan Jaeb before the trip?
I just knew him through his footage and stuff and knew how fuckin’ good he was at skating. That’s pretty much all I knew. I feel like I knew everyone’s skating from videos.
Nick enhances Chi-Town’s skyline with an epic back tail
Right. So do you watch every video?
I watch a lot of shit, for sure. I don’t think it’s possible to watch every single skate video, but I definitely knew most of the people on the trip.
Have you ever been on a trip with dudes like those Australians we had?
Shit, no I haven’t. It was actually super entertaining to watch how gnarly they were and how easy it was for them to grind the biggest rails. It was pretty inspiring. I definitely couldn’t skate like that. It was definitely interesting to see.
What about the Frenchies? They’re on the new shit, like always pole jamming everything.
It was sick, dude. That was also inspiring. ’Cause they were super creative, especially Max. He would just find random objects and try to make something out of a sign, or like stick it into a rail and make a pole jam out of it. That was pretty cool to see. I’ve never really been around anyone that was trying to make shit like that either.
Daewon sometimes does stuff like that. I got to meet your brother Blake when I was in Chicago and you guys are like a dynamic duo. I didn’t realize how serious he was about filming and that he gets jobs and goes on trips with companies and stuff. What are the pros and cons of filming with your brother?
Yeah, it’s super sick skating with him. He’s really good at filming. He’ll do stuff and go on trips and shit, so he knows what he’s doing. It’s cool; he has a good vision, too, for spots and a similar vision to what I want to skate. So when I’m filming with him it’s a lot easier than other people. We kinda know what we’re both into, so it works.
From Lakeshore Drive, across and down, Nick unlocks another Chicago “what if?” spot
I felt like a fly on the wall a little bit, just ’cause you guys had the rhythm and you didn’t even have to talk that much and it was like you were so focused. Do you ever need a hype man? Can he snap into Beagle mode and fire it up if he has to?
I have some homies that are hype men. But I don’t know, it definitely takes some willpower in Chicago sometimes because there aren’t that many dudes who are skating spots and filming every day. Not that they’re not taking it seriously, but it’s not like LA or New York where people are trying to film constantly. It takes willpower to do it on your own because no one’s out there with you most of the time. I feel like when I go to SF or New York or LA you see other groups of skaters that are super into it and down to film. In Chicago it definitely is harder. You have to make it happen sometimes.
So he’s the big brother? Do you guys ever fight?
Yeah. I mean, we did when we were younger, just about stupid shit. But not really. It’s always pretty chill. We’ve always been super good friends.
Yeah, I could tell. Almost shockingly so. I was like, I wonder if these guys ever annoy the shit out of each other?
Maybe when we were younger, but now I feel like as we’ve matured we definitely feel lucky that we have each other. I definitely know it’s rare.
Why do you think you guys get along so well? Is that just how your family is?
Yeah, I would say my mom and dad were always supportive of whatever we did. Especially my mom, she would always drive us to skateparks together. I feel like just being together so much we just ended up being obviously super close from that. We just ended up skating together, too, ’cause we both love skating. So it worked out that way.
We talked about this a little bit on the trip, but you’re kind of a mellow dude. Would you say you’re shy?
Yeah, definitely. Especially in groups. I’m definitely introverted.
Very cutty ollie. This is where we had to move the dead rat
But then at the same time, when you’re skating sometimes you look mean. Has there ever been any misunderstandings where somebody thinks you’re mean mugging them?
Yeah, it’s funny, that always gets brought up. People always think I’m mean. I don’t know, I guess I have a serious look. But, nah, I don’t know. That gets brought up a lot; that’s always the thing people talk about is my face. Like, Damn, is my face that weird?
It’s not that weird, you just look very serious.
Yeah. I think I’m just focusing on not eating shit. Like, that’s my main objective when I’m skating. It’s fun to me—it’s just if I’m trying a trick I’m filming I’m usually just like, Don’t eat shit. So it’s about landing the trick or whatever, not falling. I guess that’s the face I make under those circumstances.
Yeah, I was gonna ask, how did that back Smith at Roxbury banks go?
Oh yeah, I was not feeling that spot at all when we first got there. I was hyped on it, how it looks and everything and I wanted to skate it, but when we got there I’m like, Dude, I don’t think I could do anything on this. This is gnarly as fuck. And then some of those dudes were skating it and they were making it look chill to skate. And then I jumped on one back Smith and it just went and I was like, Oh shit, I could maybe do this. So then I was trying it and got kinda close, or was kicking out and then I finally tried to put one down and just clipped and flew onto my hip from the top of the bank! I ate shit! I was shook, but I was like, Fuck, I have to do it. It ended up working out, but I was definitely relieved that I did it without eating shit again.
You look very serious in the photo.
Yeah, I just wanted to land it before the soreness kicked in, too.
Straight to the front with a back Smith for the ages
You said today you got to skate some pools with Grant Taylor in LA. What was that like?
He’s so insane to watch. I was in awe watching him skate. All those dudes are so good at it. I felt intimidated. When I first got there, I rolled around for a second and then those dudes started skating and I had to sit down. I was like, Oh, fuck. But yeah, he’s so fucking good at skating, it’s seriously insane. He’s probably the gnarliest person I’ve seen skate in person.
He’s bananas. What were the tricks on the trip that really stuck with you?
Probably the back Smith and the switch back 180 nosegrind on the out ledge. Those were the ones I was most hyped on—especially the switch back 180 nosegrind because I had been wanting to do that on an out ledge for a while. I just learned it and I didn’t know if I could do it and then it just worked.
That was one where I had to figure out if you were skating switch or not.
Yeah, it felt good skating and that just worked out. I feel like most days I would be scared to try it, but I was feeling it that day.
It seemed like Boston was your kinda town, too.
Oh yeah, it was so sick. I was so hyped that the trip was there. It was a cool city and Tim was super cool and knew good spots. It’s just like a core skate city.
I’d have felt bad if I had to take you to Phoenix.
Yeah, I feel like that woulda been hard, for sure.
Goddamn it, I gotta take Nick to Phoenix.
Yeah, once you told me it was Boston that was definitely a relief. ’Cause I was like, Oh, okay, there’ll at least be spots I’m hyped on.
Switch backside 180 to nosegrind? Believe it!
What’d you make of Max’s pole jam to triple-set grind?
That was so insane. I thought he was insane before he even started trying that. Then he got super close and, I don’t know—I was scared watching it, too, ’cause there’s barely any landing. He was flying into that wall.
Into a hole.
But when he did it—it was so insane! It looked like a rollercoaster ride, a sketchy-ass roller coaster ride.
Were there other people’s tricks that you tripped out on?
Yeah, there were a lot. I feel like everyone had a gnarly trick—like Dylan did that super gnarly frontside flip and then Noah did that ride-on grind. Then there was the kinked rail.
I could tell you guys were tripping on the Rob Pace kinked rail.
Yeah, that kinked rail was insane.
With metal stairs. Just the worst fuckin’ shit.
He did it so easy, too. I was like, What?!
Does your girlfriend ever stress out about you skating all the time?
Oh no, she’s super cool about it. She’s super supportive of it. She gets that I have to skate on the weekends. She’s a creative person, too. She does graphic design, so she doesn’t have a conventional job either. And I think her brother skated, so she gets it. She doesn’t skate herself, but she’s down for it.
That’s nice. So we’ve talked about this before, but I think in this issue it would be really cool to talk about again—what did your mom say when she found out she had a photo in Thrasher?
I think I noticed it first. I remember being bummed that she got into Thrasher before me! It was funny.
It was an Anatomy photo I took a long time ago at a demo and it’s a kid about to ollie a stack of boards and then there’s all the arrows pointing to everything. I can’t remember, what was your mom saying? What does the arrow say?
She has a speech bubble and I think it says like, This kid’s gonna bust his ass!or something. It was funny. I remember being bummed ’cause I was like, Damn, my mom’s cooler than I am.
What did she think about it, though?
She thought it was funny. She was like, Oh, that’s cool! She thought it was super funny.
Choppin' the block in both directions, switch crook
It sounds like you’ve got a lot of stuff kind of happening at once these days. Can you see yourself becoming a pro skater some day?
Yeah, I’m definitely down. I love skating and I’m gonna do it regardless as long as I can, so I might as well try to make it a career if I can, you know? If that’s an option, I’m definitely trying to do that.
At 27, you’ve been skating and filming a long time. Do you feel like you have more wisdom going into the sponsorship game at this age than if someone had offered to turn you pro at 17?
Oh yeah, for sure. I feel like I’m glad that I didn’t have whatever spotlight then that I have now. I’m glad it’s happening now rather than when I was younger. ’Cause I feel like I would probably do more cringe shit, you know?
What would the 17-year-old pro Nick Matthews been looking like?
I don’t know. I don’t even want to think about that. It probably wouldn’t be good.
Who do you think’s gonna go pro first from this trip?
Probably Brian. I would think Brian just ’cause he just had that part that came out that was super good. Yeah, I would say him.
That’s a pretty safe bet.
He’s been killing it for a while.
Yeah, he’s about your age, too. I feel like now’s a different time. It’s not like when everybody wanted Spanky and Herman when they were little kids.
Yeah, it seems different now. Just with the Internet I feel like people are more open to different avenues. I feel like there’s room for everyone nowadays.
Yeah. I think people can find their audience. Once you realize all the different things going on it broadens your idea of what’s good.
Oh yeah, definitely. And then also with older guys pushing the envelope, guys like AVE and Guy, people that are still ripping. And like Julien, too, is ripping super hard on this trip. He’s skating every day and looks amazing on a skateboard. Like, Oh yeah, you can skate when you’re older and still fuckin’ rip. And he’s hyped; he’s like a full-on skate rat. It’s sick.
Back Smith, three boxcars high
I agree. Oh yeah, what’s the highest thing you ever ollied over?
Shit, I’m trying to think. I feel like maybe the trash cans at the Chase building. I’ve ollied those from flat and they’re pretty tall. And wide too.
Forty years on in skate history, and the question is still, How high can you ollie?
Who’s in your top three of favorite skaters?
I would say BA, Pappalardo—it always changes, so it’s hard. I really like Van Wastel too.
Yeah, he’s sick. He was really funny, too. In 20 years what are you gonna remember about this trip?
There was so much that happened. The last night was pretty funny with Noah falling in the water. Meeting everyone and just seeing the super gnarly skating and everyone being super cool. There was so much cool shit.
Ollie to varial flip, and push, push, push! Nick Matthews is the baddest am alive
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