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Chad Muska – Illusion Flips and Arrests (Part 1)

“Each day my goal was to find some fuckin’ tourist bitch to fuckin’ take advantage of. I could tell a tourist bitch when they roll by, they’d have rich-ass parents out there and have their own little fuckin’ beach house to themselves and that’s a place to stay for the night. Get wasted, wake up early, go through the fuckin’ whatevs. I ripped those bitches off to the fullest, man!”

Big Brother, 1996

Yeah, I hope you’re ready. It’s time for the Muska.

To me, Muska was always just my least favorite Tony Hawk character. He had a lame ending video in THPS3 and 4. In 3, he just does some basic tricks in a skatepark with a painting mask on. In 4, he talks about making music. I just played a whole game as you, and that’s all I get?

But as time went on, I saw some interviews and clips of him and he seems like a genuinely good dude…. Imagine my surprise when I found stories about him committing hate crimes. But we’ll get there in a minute. But let’s rewind a bit. Muska was born in 1977.

“I’ve grown up all over the place […] I was born in Ohio, grew up in New Jersey, Philadelphia… my parents were crazy, that’s probably the best way to put it. I was in twelve different schools by the time I was in sixth grade.”

Huck Mag Spring 2011

Yeah, his childhood seemed pretty crazy. He grew up in really sketchy areas, and had to move around because of how dangerous things were at times. He was first exposed to skating in Pennsylvania, but only briefly. At about 5 years old, he lived by an old abandoned skatepark. This would have been about 1982. He would hang out there and watch. Eventually his dad sent him a Variflex board, and he learned how to roll around. The biggest thing he did at this point was roll out of the back of a truck onto some carpet. But of course the first thing Muska does on a board is figure out how to drop off of something. That board got lost in a move before he got too into skating.

But this is also when he got introduced to street art too:

“[…] I just had a flashback to living in Philadelphia in the eighties. I remember seeing graffiti on the freeway from the school bus and I was just staring at these vivid colors and patterns.”

Low Down Magazine 2015

It’s crazy to think how much of your life is determined by the time you’re 5. I was drawing pictures and comics at 5, and I had a skateboard, even though I never learned how to ride on it at the time. I lived right next to a library and I would get books there constantly. Now my life is about skateboarding, reading and creating art in various ways. Mostly design but also animation and stuff too. What if Muska grew up with a view of a baseball diamond and he watched that all day? What if his mom dated somebody who was really into stamp collecting and he got exposed to that a lot as a kid?

Anyway, he ends up moving to Phoenix, Arizona where he got into BMX. He and his buddies were riding in pools and building launch ramps and stuff. He would try out a board every now and then, but it was mostly bikes. And then he ran into one of the best skaters ever.

Muska was hanging out and BMXing on the launch ramp. A guy randomly skating by comes and launches an air off of it. And who could it have been other than… Mark Gonzalez. At least according to his friend, who was supposedly Gonz’s cousin. 

Now my friend’s 4th grade teacher was best friends with Michael Jordan and had a poster that covered her whole wall. According to my friend, she would buy any Michael Jordan trading cards for $300 each. What I’m saying is that little kids are liars. So there’s a pretty good chance that his friend was lying, but you never know. Muska knows that and chooses to believe it. I would do the same.

Anyway, Muska’s bike gets stolen, and he got a spare board from the launch ramp guy. There was a pretty big skate scene in Phoenix at the time, with demos and contests and stuff like that. He says that skating was his way to escape from his bad family life and drama with his parents. I get that. It wasn’t just at home where he was having problems. School was also pretty terrible for him.

Skateboarding wasn’t cool to the other kids in school, and the teachers hated it too. So he was basically a pariah from everybody. His one skater friend was hispanic, and he got jumped by the Mexican gang in school who were trying to get him to stop doing that white boy stuff and skating. 

“[…] When I started [skating] in the early ’90s, it was dead. There was nobody else that skated in my neighborhood. I was the outcast. But that’s when I was skating the most; that’s when I was learning my tricks. As my career grew, the skateboard industry began growing again, too.

Huck Mag 2019

And so what do you do in his position, being the outcast? You just kind of stop going to school. How does that even work?

So don’t forget that Muska grew up in some sketchy areas. And because of that, his parents were using a friend’s mailing address so he could be in a better school district. And his parents didn’t have a phone. So if he skipped school every day, they would send letters… which his parents wouldn’t get. And the school couldn’t call them either. 

He did end up back in school for a while after his dad moved. But things weren’t better at the new school either.

“In school, teachers were a strong source of doubt in my life. Skateboarding wasn’t accepted at that time, so it was like, ‘Oh, you’re a skateboarder? You’re a bad kid. That’s not going to amount to anything.’

Huck Mag 2019

So what did he do? He stopped going and never graduated High School. He says that this decision haunts him, and that he doesn’t promote it by any means. Things worked out for him eventually, but if you want to be like Chad Muska, try being like 40 year old Muska, not 13 year old Muska.

How was he spending his time while skipping school? Drinking, drugs, stealing, graffiti, and skateboarding. Luckily he had the graffiti and skateboarding though, because his friends started falling off the deep end. Some of them ended up dying. But Muska was splitting time between Phoenix and Las Vegas at this point. The Vegas guys were less crazy with the drugs and stuff and probably saved him from getting too deep into that stuff.

In Vegas is where the skating really took off. He got some pictures printed, and eventually got on G&S, which later became Maple. And that’s where his first part came out in 1994.

This part starts out good. He pushes a few times and gets some speed going, which wasn’t always what you saw at the time. He hits some gaps. These are simple tricks for the time, but there’s some switch in there. Keep that in mind for a minute. He’s also got a tailslide on a hubba, which is one of his most iconic tricks. You’ll be seeing a lot of these throughout his career. He also throws in a surprise tre flip noseslide, which seems a little out of character. But it’s cool that he’s got tech too.

Maple was happy with his footage, and they wanted to send him to a contest in California. He was skating at a skatepark a couple days before the trip, and broke his ankle. He got a metal plate and 9 pins, which he still has to this day. This was his right foot, and he was never able to recover mobility enough to skate switch anymore. Maple told him to give them a call when he heals, and that was it. What did he do next?

“Also for me art is an extension of skateboarding and they just complement each other kind of you know? I had some injuries over the years, and art had always been a part of my life.

I’d be into graffiti as a teenager and all that, but I didn’t even know that that was art. At the time it was just graffiti for me. I didn’t like art but I liked graffiti you know?”

The South Bank Interview 2012

So without being able to skate, he got more and more into graffiti. But he did it until he got caught and was facing juvie and community service.

“I moved back in with my mom in the fuckin’ trailer park and got a job with my mom’s boyfriend. I worked for 3 months driving a forklift. I saved up all my money and then just bailed to California. I haven’t really talked to my mom since then.”

Big Brother 1996

“It was either stay [in Phoenix], work a shitty job and do community service, or catch a ride with these girls to San Diego, and that sounded like a better plan at the time. In the ninety-somethings, California was a dream come true. It was heaven. […] I was broke, I was homeless, I had nothing and I was just happy. I loved it. Nothing mattered because the beach was there and this energy of skateboarding was just kind of starting up again.”

Huck Mag 2011

So, instead of serving his time, he just bailed and moved to San Diego. It’s interesting, because he couldn’t even skate at the time, so it’s not like he was moving there to advance his skateboarding career. At least at first. He only knew one person and just lived on the beach. He had a cane, and just hobbled around and drew tag ideas in a notebook.

And this is where that quote from earlier comes in. When he was living on the beach and his skating career wasn’t going anywhere yet, he was just spending his whole day trying to find somewhere to stay, get some food, and of course be as drunk as possible.

“Our mission each day was to find somewhere to crash at and someone to feed us. My daily plan was to wake up and get a 40 to help get the shit goin’.”

Big Brother 1996

“I lived on the beach for fuckin’ like 3 years, dude. We used to just kick it there everyday. There was this one bitch’s pad we used to stay at all the time, this chick Stephanie, we used to just take advantage of the pad.” –

Big Brother 1996

So what does a Chad do when he’s homeless? Hooks up with girls and takes advantage of them. And also gets really into ecstasy and the rave scene. 

Also, the hate crimes I mentioned in the beginning. I wasn’t exaggerating:

“Our house was on the main strip where all the f*ts walked up and down. We had a balcony right there and we used to get wasted every night and talk shit and throw shit at f*ts all night long.”

Big Brother, 1996

In context, he’s talking about gay people, and not just using that as a generic insult for other people. This Big Brother interview is really rough. He looks back on this time fondly, but I think he might have done some things differently if he could do it all over again. At least I hope.

But throughout all of this, he’s slowly healing and eventually he’s able to get back on a board, and back with Maple.

Muska is filming for the next Maple video. I’m not sure where that footage ended up, but we’re going to take a look at his footage from High 5 in 1995 for a taste of what it was like.

This part is good. I was impressed by the fact that all the spots are basically modern. You might see more technical tricks at these spots these days, but it’s good. I also wanted to point out his nollie backside flip. Muska is of course known for Muska flips, but he hasn’t done one on video yet. He actually does a nollie one first, and it’s not super vertical yet. It’s interesting.

So anyway, he’s stacking footage for Maple, and the tapes are at his friend’s house, where Jamie Thomas and Josh Kalis end up watching it while he’s not around. Jamie invites Muska to skate.

I have a video on Jaime Thomas by the way, and how he personally insulted me but I still think he’s a cool dude.

Anyway, Jamie records him doing a front smith and it gets ripped to a sequence in a Check Out article in Transworld in May 1995.

“One word sums up the way that Chad carries himself – reckless. Easily pressured into trying anything. Chad is one of my favorites to skate with. Working hard to come out strong, Chad will stop at nothing, nothing.”

Jamie Thomas

Jamie invites him over to Toy Machine, and he was blown away by the way that the company is actually run by skaters. This is Muska’s first real look at the inner workings of the industry. He always pictured it as faceless corporations and not actual real people, like himself, working behind the scenes. And I think this sets the stage for his business ventures later on down the line. But of course he’s got a few more years of craziness before he gets into any business stuff. For now, he’s starting to go on tour with Ed Templeton and Toy Machine. And living with him too.

“What was it like staying at Ed’s?

Ed: The first two nights were super mellow then the third night I get this call, ‘This is Sgt. Johnson from the Huntington Beach Police Dept. and I have a guy who says his name is Chad.

Chad: […] They finally made Ed come get my ass ‘cause I didn’t have any I.D. on me or anything – he brought my “Check Out” in Transworld. I think I have a warrant out for that shit right now”

Big Brother 1996

Now that I’m old, I always think about the team managers or Ed Templetons in stories like these. Imagine trying to control a team full of crazy 18 year olds who are always drunk and high and getting arrested. Like, imagine how this went down:

“When me and Tom [Penny] went to Japan we duct-taped a quarter of chronic to the bottom of our feet.

Tom: Half an ounce of chronic each, man. In Japan if you get caught with that much weed you go to jail for life.

Chad: We smuggled that much over and we even got stopped in Customs. They had fuckin’ TV cameras on us. I had my board and I was all, “Buy my board!” on the TV cameras.

Tom: I went in solo, like away from everybody else.

Chad: They let Tom go ahead of us and stopped all of us. I was scared as fuck, dude. Finally the news cameras left and they just let us go and shit. We were so wasted. We drank so much fuckin’ liquor on that stupid plane. I was baked, I was eating buds on the plane. Japan was a crazy trip.”

Big Brother 1996

So I looked up what the punishment for this was. I found stories about people with a couple grams of weed going to jail for 10 to 20 years in Japan. But those were citizens. A foreigner could be deported and is never allowed back in the country for having half a gram. These guys had about 30 times that much. Who knows what would have happened if they got caught with that much. And it’s being held on by duct tape! Imagine Tom Penny and Chad Muska being taken out of the skateboard world around 1995 before their careers took off. It’s hard to imagine the effects that would have had. One more story:

“We were on a Tum Yeto tour in 1995 and Muska raged and got wasted every night. He was probably 16 or 17 at the time and one night we were at a pizza place and he got pretty drunk and asked the Tum Yeto TM Mike Ballard to slap him. I think it was supposed to be a show of toughness, but Ballard’s huge and his hand is huge. So needless to say, you wouldn’t want that dude to slap you. 

Muska kept pushing and Ballard kept saying no. Eventually Ballard slapped him and Chad freaked out. It was like the slap immediately sobered him up. He was screaming about how we had to take him to the airport cause he was leaving the tour. No one took him serious, so he went to the van fuming. He was still pumped up when everyone was ready to go. 

We got in the van and he started yelling the same thing over and over to Ballard. “Ballard motherf*cker, if you ever hit me again, I”ll bust a bottle over your head! I’ll rip your ear off! Nobody can fade ‘The Muska.’” Eventually, he passed out and slept it off. From that day on, we all referred to him as ‘The Muska’.”

Jamie Thomas – Chrome Ball Incident

That brings us to 1996, where he has 2 parts. First is Transworld’s Uno:

I couldn’t stop laughing during this part. I’m sure his terribly fitting suit was just as terrible back then as it is now, but this car was definitely pretty cool at the time. And the cell phone! Nowadays, this is the most ridiculous flex you could come up with. But it’s really funny. There are only a handful of tricks after the skit part, but they’re good. I like how he always pulls his tailslides out to fakie. A lot of people do that backside, but not as much frontside. It’s pretty cool.

The next part from 1996 is Welcome to Hell. “Wait,” I hear you saying, “Muska wasn’t in Welcome to Hell.” Yeah, we’ll get to that in a minute, but he most definitely filmed a part for it. Let’s watch it.

Lots of hubbas and tailslides to fakie. Lots of big stuff overall. And more of a wide trick selection than we’ve seen so far. He does a frontside bigspin to boardslide. And this absolutely crazy 50-50. We’ll talk about this more in a minute. And possibly the first appearance of a Muska flip. 

Let’s look at this trick for a minute. This one never made any sense to me. If you aren’t familiar with a Muska flip, it’s a frontside flip that goes completely vertical. From some perspectives, it doesn’t even look like the board flips at all. Muska didn’t invent this, and has never taken credit for it at all. It’s just called that because he did them so much. Illusion flip is technically a better name. Although the thing is, illusion flips predate regular frontside flips… debateably.

The first documented frontside flip was Gonz. Because of course it was. Here’s a picture of him doing one in 1987. It looks like a normal, flat style one. But the thing is, it’s on a bank. How much of the rotation was spinning in air, and how much of it was from the carve? It’s still a frontside flip, but you can only get so much from a picture.

In 1989, Natas was the first to do a frontside flip in a quarter pipe. He did them in a tour, and one made it into Speed Freaks.It’s an illusion flip for sure. Matt Hensley does one in Hokus Pokus from the same year. Also illusion style. 

In 1990, Ali Mills does one on flat in Useless Wooden Toys, and it’s considered slow motion worthy. 

Muska doing them 6 years later wasn’t revolutionary, but he definitely made them popular. The thing is, there are two competing stories about he learned them.

“I learned them on a quarterpipe like Natas, so I started doing them like that,” Muska told VICE of discovering illusion-style frontside flips. Years later while skating demos with Tom Penny, who was beloved for his flick-and-catch-style frontside flips, Muska fully adopted the illusion style to stand out in his own way. “I knew I could do them this certain way on the mini ramp,” Muska said. “So I would try to blast those as high as I could to make up for not being able to flick them like Tom. Then that developed into my style of frontside flipping, and whether I was doing it on a mini ramp, on flatground, or down stairs, that became the way I started doing them.”

Vice.com

In his Nine Club interview, he says he learned it off a curb cut in San Diego. He threw a frontside flip away when he was trying one, and it somehow worked. Tom Penny eventually taught him the flat ones.

I don’t like Muska flips. They don’t make sense. Look at how he catches them. It’s pretty much at 180 already. He has to try to not over-rotate the whole way down. It makes so much more sense to catch it flat at 90 and guide it around. If you want to learn how to do them right, check it out here.

Anyway, so that was his Welcome to Hell part, but he wasn’t in Welcome to Hell. What’s up? Well, he filmed the whole thing and then got kicked off the team. The part later came out as a hidden feature on the DVD. And most of the footage was reused later. How did he get kicked off?

So he was at the premiere for the video. He was very drunk on Goldschlager, which is a great start. He had turned pro and the whole event was a big celebration for him. Jamie Thomas comes out and announces that the premiere is canceled. Muska freaks out and starts screaming at him and Ed. Kareem Campbell had to drag him out. He was so drunk that he blacked out and he doesn’t remember anything more than that. But here’s what Ed says:

“In Muska’s case, and we’ve talked about this, kicking Chad off is probably what he needed. He was in a co-dependent relationship. He was drunk all the time, and a bad drunk at that. Bumming everybody out to the point where it blew up at the premiere.

Wasted Muska starts chewing me out in front of a crowd of people. Yelling in my face with spit flying everywhere, that’s not why I got into skateboarding. I kicked him off on principle, which is what he needed.

He was a burgeoning superstar but everyone was being a yes man to him. To have someone say to his face, “You’re being a dick. Fuck you.” Was eye-opening.”

Ed Templeton, Chrome Ball Incident

They’re still friends after all this time now:

“We talk all the time randomly and through Instagram, he posts some old photos of me and stuff.”

Chad Muska, The South Bank Interview – 2012

Anyway, let’s jump back to this 50-50 from Welcome to Hell. This footage was eventually used in Fulfil the Dream, but it was 2 years old by then.

Skateboarder Magazine wrote a really interesting article about this shot. There are 15 facts about it, like how Satva Leung poached the shot. He’s right here in the picture. Toy Machine was going to sit on the picture for a poster for the Welcome to Hell video, but Satva’s picture ended up at a Thrasher subscription card. He claims they stole it from him, but we’ll never know how it actually happened. But that’s a really tragic spot for such an epic picture to turn up on.

Let’s read a couple of these.

“11. Known for 50-50ing anything in his path, James Riff later tried to grind the same rail from the other side, hitting it backside. He never came close.”

“13. Disgusted by the scene, a crowd of 30 people watching, filmer Lee Dupont bet his life that Muska wouldn’t make it and left mid-session before he landed it. Lee’s still alive.”

“14. The photo is actually a still pulled from a sequence shot by photographer and professional partyer [sic] Theo Hand. On the actual make, Theo was reloading film into his camera and missed the sequence.”

This should give you some perspective on how crazy this trick was. So imagine. He’s one of the best street skaters alive at the time. He just got kicked off of his team. Even though he seems terrible to work with, he’s no doubt going to end up somewhere. Being friends with Tom Penny, he could probably have gotten on Flip. He liked that idea, because he would have been one of the first American skaters, and that appealed to him. But the paycheck didn’t.

What did appeal to him was being able to build and manage his own team, which he got when he joined and helped launch Shorty’s. We’ll talk about that next time! This post is already getting out of control length-wise, so we’ll jump into Shorty’s, Muskabeatz, and the racially charged vandalism arrest next week. That’ll go up next Friday at 2:00 Mountain Time.

Before we go, I want to give a huge thanks to Stevie Rich, my new research assistant who helped me compile all this information. Thanks to her, I’m hoping to be able to get into some bigger projects and cover some bigger names on Retro Rippers.

Also a big thanks to my Patreon sponsors! You guys are the best.

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