Skaters are the most interesting people—to me, anyway. A big part of what makes them so interesting is all the other stuff that they do aside from actually skating. Whether it’s the clothes they wear, the photos they take or the jokes they tell, skaters always have a specific way of looking at things, and all their character flows through in the way they skate. In What else? I interview some of my favourite skaters about what they do when they’re not riding their skateboard. Spoiler alert: we’ll usually end up talking about skating anyway.
My first subject is Melbourne’s Caeylen Norris. Caeylen’s skating is pretty spot-on; fast and smooth with top-shelf trick selection. His style is in the great tradition of creative skaters like Jason Dill, Jason Lee, and Brian Lotti—you can almost smell the turps on him. I didn’t mean that he seems like a really cheap drunk; I mean Caeylen has an air of the artiste about him—you’d wager he keeps a sketchbook in his backpack. I wasn’t surprised to learn the 22-year-old is an art student at RMIT, and that his work is really interesting. I called him to talk about it while he waited in line at Officeworks.
MO: How’s it going in Melbourne?
CN: It’s alright I guess. I haven’t actually been here for the past three or four nights because I went on a Nike SB trip.
Where did you go?
It was organised as a lead up to the Sydney video premiere. I think Geoff (Campbell, Nike SB Oz Team Manager) thought it was a really good idea to make a trip out of it. In hindsight, you can’t really take 20 skaters on a trip in three vans and expect anything much to get done.
That’s a lot of people.
Yeah, it was crazy. It was almost the best thing ever, but almost the worst thing ever. Everyone was friends, but there were too many people. And I don’t skate kinked rails, so… Sydney was awesome, though. It was nice going there; it’s super warm and stuff.
So you got some skating done?
Yeah, I guess so. Nothing I could report about; I guess we just hung out. Some of those Sydney dudes are so gnarly, they baffle me with how they skate. They do some pretty ludicrous stuff.
Well, Sydney people are very ambitious.
Yeah. Did you see the video?
I did. Talk about kinked rails.
It’s bonkers. I met some of those kids for the first time on that trip and I was under the impression they were kind of good, but the stuff they were trying on the trip was like, oh my god.
It is mental. But you have the ace up your sleeve: the backside 180 fakie 5-0. My friend Sam calls that one ‘the move’.
Oh, the ‘dead or alive’?
Is that what you call it?
I don’t know who coined that; I think it was Jimmy Roche or maybe it was Callum (Paul). I don’t know, it’s one of those tricks that if you screw it up, you’re done.
You seem to get away with it pretty often. You even got the shove-it out.
For me, that was just like turning around, I somehow fluked it. But yes, as Sam would say, it’s the ace up my sleeve.
No, Sam calls it ‘the move’.
Oh, the move! That’s so good, I’m going to start calling it that.
So what are you doing today?
I’m catching up on a whole bunch of school stuff that I missed out on while I was away. I have to print a whole bunch of photos for this class, and then install them in a space, and make them look like they were considered as a finished piece, not like I’ve just printed them at Officeworks. I’ve got a whole bunch of paintings to do as well. That’s all got to be done by tomorrow, which is not really feasible. I’ll figure it out.
What are you studying?
It’s called Expanded Studio Practice at RMIT. It’s pretty much just fine art, but instead of doing painting or drawing or photography or sculpture or so on, they make it quite broad. I guess you can start from scratch then figure out where you want to take it. I did Photography a few years ago and didn’t really like it because it was too commercial and I couldn’t really do what I wanted to do, so I just dropped out. This is way better; I just cruise around and do my thing, try and figure it out.
The work you post on Instagram is sort of mixed media. Is that representative of your whole practice?
Pretty much. I don’t post everything I’m doing; I feel like Insta is almost fast food of whatever you’re doing, whether it’s skating or artwork or whatever. But generally it is a combination of stuff, like transferred images or drawings, using different materials. I want to make some of the stuff more sculptural, rather than a painting on the wall. I’ve been trying to figure that out.
It changes things a lot, when someone encounters an object rather than sees it on their feed.
That’s why I want to do it. When people see it in a space and see everything else in the space, it gives it more emphasis and you have more control. When you put it on Instagram, you’re only showing them a flattened, pixelated…
…tiny phone-shaped thing.
How does being a sponsored skater fit in with having an art practice as well?
They’re kind of the same. Once you do something for a while, you don’t just do it for the sake of it; you don’t have to do it to prove anything to anyone else. I’m not skating to show people I can skate a rail; I’m not painting to show people I can paint really technically; I just do what I want. You’ve got to curate your own little vibe, I guess.
With the Nike thing, it’s really fortunate that I know Geoff and Middsy, so I can actually talk to them. They know I’m out there skating and trying. It’s the same with Hoddle, Keegan’s board company. I’m a part of that, so it’s more than being sponsored. We work together on it.
It’s good too because you can offer them more than tricks. You’ve got the vibe.