Interview & Portrait By Shawn Whisenant Skate Photo by Tessa Klein
Nick Klein is an underground ripper from the Bay Area that’s been on the scene for a few years. He had a good part in the Baysick video and has been a regular in FTC’s web clips. Outside of skating, Nick is currently studying photography, traveling, and living life. He’s got a really positive attitude and some definite skills on his board. Shawn Whisenant recently sat down with Nick and got the following interview.
Shawn: How did you first get involved with skateboarding?
Nick: Growing up, I had two neighbor friends that got me into it about 11 or 12 years ago.
Shawn: Describe the moment that you first decided you wanted to skateboard.
Nick: It was at the Napa skate park one day. I saw Bill Pepper skating at the park. He ollied the potato and then did this 360 on flat. I thought it was the sickest thing I’d ever seen.
Nick: Growing up in Napa, Bill Pepper was the hometown pro. Do you have any other memories or stories about seeing Bill around?
Nick: Just seeing him around at the skatepark, shredding around, and I’d see him out skating on the streets. I remember seeing him at CC Skates. They built a little café inside, and he was always poppin’ up in there, because it was the old school shop. He had a few of his boards hanging on the wall. I don’t have too many stories though, other than that he ripped hella hard.
Shawn: Growing up, which skate videos got you hyped?
Nick: My mom got me the Girl / Chocolate box set, and it had 4 VHS tapes. That was the sickest. Then, ES – that was the first premiere I went to, and the video definitely hyped me up.
Shawn: Born and raised in the Bay Area, you were traveling to San Francisco at an early age to skate. Tell me about your trips and how you would get out here, being just 15 or 16 years old.
Nick: It was pretty nuts. My dad used to work in the city, so we would sometimes get a ride with him at 5 in the morning, and we’d get into San Francisco around 6. Other times, we’d take the first ferry heading out of Vallejo. Once we were in the city, we’d just skate around the streets, no bus, no car, no nothing.
Shawn: What spots did you guys skate in the city?
Nick: We didn’t know where too much stuff was back then, other than Pier 7, Embarcadero and Hubba. We were little kids and would just go to these spots to look at them. One time, we skated from the Ferry Building all the way to Ft. Miley, which is crazy, because I would definitely never do that now. Mostly, we’d just skate around, discovering spots along the way.
Shawn: What made you decide to move to San Francisco?
Nick: It was the coolest city for skateboarding close to my hometown. Napa is super-small and doesn’t have a lot going on with skating, other than a small park. It’s mostly just wineries. San Francisco is the sickest spot to be in the Bay.
Shawn: By the time you were coming to San Francisco to skate places like Pier 7 and Embarcadero, a lot of famous spots were already gone, such as Brown Marble and Black Rock. Union Square might have still been around. Were you guys aware that the city had such a rich history in skating?
Nick: Yeah, pretty much after I got that Girl / Chocolate boxset from my mom, I had seen all the SF spots in those videos. At first, I didn’t know that all of that stuff was here. I assumed that a lot of it was in different cities, but when we came out here, I was amazed at how dense the spots were in this city
Shawn: Did you ever have any run-ins with the police out here?
Nick: Yes. One time, my friends and I all got tickets, and our boards were taken from us. We had to go to court, and since we were minors, all of our parents had to take off work. So, we go to court, they end up not giving us a fine, and we’re allowed to get our boards back. But, we end up having to go to the jail to get them. They were kept all the way down in the basement, and when I got mine back, it had a little tag on it that said, “weapon.” There was a huge stack of boards down there. The cops would saw the boards into quarters and were making a giant mosaic out of them. I just remember seeing that, being super young, and thinking, like, whoa!
Shawn: Who was the first pro you saw out here in San Francisco? I used to get really hyped to see pros out here when I was young.
Nick: One time, at 3rd and Army, we saw Karl Watson back when he was on Expedition. I think it was around the time Organika came out, right after the Expedition video. My friends and I all had Expedition boards, because the shop sponsor hooked us up with them. Karl saw that we were riding the boards and was super stoked. I remember him being, like, “Come over here,” and opening the trunk of his car. There was so much good stuff in there, and he pulled out an FTC video and gave it to us. He was all, like, “Here you go kids.” That was my first actual encounter with a pro.
Shawn: So, after graduating high school you decided to move out to San Francisco for skating and school. Why did you choose SF over somewhere else, such as LA or NY?
Nick: I moved out here to go to school for photography, and it was a toss up between art schools here, in Santa Barbara, and Chicago. But, since I was in the Bay, I was already skating a lot out here and had already fallen in love with the area. I was like “screw it, this is where I want to be.” I moved out here and got a place with a couple of homies.
Shawn: Around the time you moved out here, you went to Europe with some friends to skate and made a video of your trip. Can you tell me a little about the trip? What spots did you guys skate out there?
Nick: Yeah, straight out of high school, about nine of us bolted out because we had no jobs or responsibilities tying us down. We went to England, France, Germany, Denmark, and Spain, and, basically skated hella stuff. It was the opportunity of a lifetime. I’d do it again in a heartbeat, but things change.
Shawn: What was up with the video you guys made?
Nick: It was sick, but I don’t think it really got out there much. We didn’t know where any of the spots out there were, so we’d just go out and meet people and ask around, finding shit along the way. Toward the end of the trip, I hit my head pretty hard. I ended up getting some staples, so after that, the trip slowed down, and the video kind of died off. All the sections are like, England, Denmark, Germany, and Spain. By the time we made it to France, we were just chillin’. I feel bad, because I’m sure if I didn’t hit my head, people would’ve continued rippin’. It was cool though, because Spain has free healthcare. When it happened, I was so out of it, but luckily there was a little clinic right next to the spot we were skating, and right away, a wheelchair was there, like out of nowhere.
Shawn: Were you sketched out to be in a foreign country’s hospital?
Nick: It was crazy. My homie John spoke Spanish, but the Spanish is a little different out there. He came out with me to the hospital. An ambulance picked us up, and all of these loud sirens were blaring like we’d never heard before, since we were in a different country. We flew through traffic like crazy. The next thing I remember is sitting in the hospital, getting staples in my head, and filling out a form. After that, they tossed us out and we took a taxi back to the hostel. I didn’t have to pay for shit, and I got X rays and everything. Everyone was super friendly the whole time; they didn’t ever care that I was American.
Shawn: Your first full-length part came out in Baysick a couple of years ago. It was your first part in a somewhat larger-scale video. How did that whole thing come about?
Nick: I met Airto through Karl Watson down at 3rd and Army. He was the only one I knew out here that was really filming and stuff. I eventually met Pauly and all the other dudes that were really trying to work hard on a video. So, we all kind of collaborated on it. I met a lot of really great people and friends through making that video. It was good times.
Shawn: Who do you skate with out here? Do you have a clique?
Nick: Ceasar Rosado, Wes Bell, Jon Walden, Zack Stow, Mullett, a bunch of homies from Napa who are always coming out, and basically, all of the dudes in the Baysick video.
Shawn: Who’s hooking you up with stuff these days?
Nick: FTC and Karl Watson hooks me up when I need it.
Shawn: How did you hook up with FTC?
Nick: Just going through the shop. When I moved out to SF, I needed to find a new home since the shop I was riding for before was just too far away. I used to go into FTC every now and then to just chill and lurk. Eventually, it became family. I’ve known those dudes for a while.
Shawn: Are you going to be involved in any of FTC’s upcoming video? If so, can we expect a full part?
Nick: Yeah, hopefully I’ll get some good footage up in there.
Shawn: I saw that the new Baysick video is coming out soon. Are you going to have some stuff in that?
Nick: For sure, we’ve been stacking footage since we got done with the first video. It’s about time we drop this one. It probably won’t have so many people in it, so it will definitely be more personal.
Shawn: So, I know you go to school for photography. Do you ever take any skate photos?
Nick: All the time, I love it. Hopefully, I’ll have more of an opportunity when school’s out since my school is always hating on my skate photos. I like to shoot them with a fisheye, it’s what I grew up with, but they think it’s all gimmicky and shit.
Shawn: I know you’ve got another trip to Europe coming up soon. What have you got planned for the trip? Is it for skating or personal?
Nick: Gonna live it up! I’m going out there with my lady. I talked to a couple of the homies that ride for the FTC shop in Barcelona, so I’ll definitely link up with them. I’m bringing my cameras so I can try to take some photos and get some footage. Worst comes to worst, I can have my lady film me skating.
Shawn: Were your parents always supportive of your skateboarding?
Nick: Yeah, my parents are so down with it. I used to play basketball, soccer, and all that stuff in middle school, but my dad saw that I was really into skateboarding. He borrowed an old school skateboard from one of his friends, and I rode around on that for a while. Eventually, it came to the point where I needed a board with a tail and a nose.
Shawn: What was your first real set-up?
Nick: I remember that it was all matching. It had to be, because that was the cleanest shit back then. It was a blue and tan Element capsule deck, with blue and silver Ram trucks and matching wheels. That was the set-up, with super tight trucks. My dad hooked it up with that first board, but I had to buy my own after that, because I was always breaking them.
Shawn: What are your plans for the future?
Nick: I’m just going to try to keep rocking, keep taking photos, keep skating, and see where the wind takes me really.
Shawn: You seem like the type of kid that is always going to skate because you truly love it and won’t stress about sponsors.
Nick: Of course, I would love to have more backing with my skating, but it’s not really that big of a deal for me. Pretty much, I’m down for whatever and in no big hurry. I’m happy, as long as I’m riding a skateboard.
Shawn: Thank you’s?
Nick: I want to thank my lady for being so supportive throughout the years, as well as Mom and Pops. Thanks to all my brothas from the grape valley of the North, Boardgarden, everyone at FTC, Karl, and all the Frisco homies I have grown to know over the years.