A lot of people wanted this, but I never really ‘got’ Gino. I watched Yeah Right a lot when I started skating and thought his part was a skipper. But I found a new appreciation for him while working on this.
So let’s get into it.
Gino grew up in Long Island, in a neighborhood called Poets’ Corner. It was called that because all of the street names were named after famous poets. And he used the name ‘Poets’ for several projects later on in his career.
He started skating around 1987, around Long Beach and Brooklynn, and eventually started making sponsor me tapes and getting a few sponsors when he was about 16 or 17.
One of the guys he sent a sponsor me video to was John Lucero, over at Blacklabel.
Lucero said: “I’ll send you a couple boards. Send me another tape wearing the shirts and riding the boards and I’ll send you some more boards.”
Pretty soon he moved over there and has his first published clips in a Black Label video called ‘crummy promo’ in 1991. He does a ton of 360s. Like, everywhere. Most of this stuff is in his local spots, like this little bump gap thing. Keep in mind that he had been skating for about 4 years at this point. I still can’t do 360 ollies and I’ve been skating for 18 years.
He ended up moving out to California to be by Blacklabel, and he stayed with Lucero for a while, eventually getting a pro model when he was about 20.
Lucero really liked that Gino did his own thing, and didn’t conform to what all the other skaters were doing. There’s lots of footage of him doing double flips and pressure flips and stuff in his Epicly Later’d profile that I don’t want to steal, but it exists. But still, he was one of the first guys taking switch really seriously. There was a funny story about a picture that was in Big Brother magazine of a switch backside flip. The team was upset that Lucero didn’t label it switch, and his response was, “what’s switch?”
Around that time, he also did a backside heel over the Gonz gap. That was considered a really big deal for the time. Gino doesn’t really consider it a land because he stepped off right after, but it still made some waves. Around this time, other brands were starting to show some interest, and he ended up over at 101.
101 was a pretty new brand still, being run by Natas Kaupas. He saw Gino’s footage and he was interested. Plus a lot of the 101 team left to go do Girl and Chocolate. They needed skaters. Gino says he felt like he was one of the replacements. But still, he was over there and he was really excited about it.—
He has a part in the 101 video Snuff in 1993. And like I mentioned earlier, there’s a lot of early switch stuff here. But I was also surprised how tech it was too. But he’s got gaps, a nice fakie hardflip, and look at this stuff. Nollie inward heelflip to noseslide. Switch tre flip manny. Switch flip nose manny fakie flip. This stuff is pretty heavy tech, even for that time. I was surprised by that, because he isn’t known for tech stuff later. But it’s clearly just his preference because he can do that stuff if he wants to.
He has another part the next year in 20 shot sequence. You see some of his staple tricks in there, like switch flips and switch pop shove its, but again I have to point out the tech stuff. Backside flip fakie manny half cab flip out. That’s crazy. That’s some Mullen and Daewon level stuff at that time. He later said that skating here was really stressful, but he was making it work obviously. He also does a few spins into fakie manuals, which becomes a go-to trick for him later.
You’re also starting to see the style that he’s known for today. One of the biggest things about Gino’s skating that sets him apart is the speed he’s skating at. Reda said that he would get up to speed for whatever he was going to do, then he’d just push 3 more times. And as we get further into his career, look for that. See how much he clears gaps by. If I ever skated a gap, I’d clip the grass a tiny bit on my way down because I was just barely going fast enough. He blasts over stuff and lands 5 feet further than he needs to just because he can. And that’s pretty incredible. He also gets famous for his push later on.
He does one more part with World/101, and that’s Trilogy in 96. Notice what I was talking about with speed and power. He’s blasting all of his tricks here. And look at this kickflip back tail. That was perfect. I love his hardflips here too. I usually like the flat ones more, but I can’t deny that his look really great. I saw another pro skater talking about him and he said that he can do whatever he wants, because he always makes it look good. So varial flips aren’t considered cool. But Gino gets a pass because he kills them.
I also want to point out his nollie backside heels. He does a few of these and they’re always crazy. It’s like he’s catching them completely blind and then having to catch up with it afterward. I love how these look.
In 96, he switched over to Chocolate. He was good friends with Keenan Milton, and this is what he said:
“Well, Keenan had just gotten on. I was still psyched on 101, til Dill and Natas left. Then I just talked to Keenan, he talked to Rick and hooked it up. That’s the way it went.”
He was in New York when he decided to quit, and he called up Rodney Mullen to let him know he wanted to leave. Mullen offered for him to have a part of the actual company, but Gino just wanted to skate and not worry about that kind of stuff.
Gino and Keenan have a shared part in Mouse. It’s mostly Keenan because Gino just had a part that same year. But there’s some cool stuff in there.
Funny story, Gino isn’t even in his first ad with Chocolate. There’s just an outline of him.
1997, he was on the team when Axion started with Kareem Campbell and Guy Mariano. He stayed with them for 5 years. He said recently that he rarely ever skated his own shoes. Or even his own boards. It wasn’t that big of a deal back then.
He did get a pro model at the time, called the Islander. He liked it at the time, but now he’s shocked that people were able to skate shoes that were so thick and stiff.
He went on tour with the Chocolate team for the Chocolate tour in 1999. And he described it as being really brutal. Skating all day, filming skits and other random stuff at night, and just never stopping.
He says that the lifestyle they were living around that time was starting to catch up with him. He and Keenan and some other guys would be out partying all night, get home at 8 or 9 in the morning. Gino had a story about how they did that one night, and everyone came home and crashed, but Keenan stayed up and cooked a turkey and had a bunch of people over for a Thanksgiving style meal right away. It was just too much.
So some time around this, after Keenan’s death, Gino moves back to New York and opens Poets skateshop. He closes it and reopens it later, then closes it again. He says it wasn’t really his passion and it was hard to give 100% to.
Eventually he works up to having a part in Yeah Right in 2003. A part that I mentioned I thought was a skipper back in the day. But let’s take a close look at it.
There’s a retrospective article about this part on King Skate Mag, and it says this, which I thought was really interesting:
“If the tricks in this part, with [its] abundance of shitty spots and shaky filming, were done by just about anyone else, it would be entirely forgettable and potentially unwatchable at times. Corny as it may sound, this part is a true testament to the value of style, and an illustration of how it can shine through in even the most sub-optimal circumstances.”
I get that. If I just described the tricks to you, it would seem like a really boring part.
Also, there are 3 versions of this part. There’s the main one, which we’ll be looking at, which is what you would have seen if you bought the DVD from a skateshop. There’s a version with a David Bowie song, and another edit as a special feature on the limited edition DVD.
Anyway, he starts with this kickflip, and he’s got so much speed. He says he almost ripped his pants off one of the times he fell and slid it out. Sorry ladies, there’s no footage of that.
He does a 360 shove it over the grate, which I thought was really cool. You don’t see that trick every day and it’s tough to control. But he made it look good. Here’s a back lip. Notice that he slides further than he needs to and still rolls away with a ton of speed.
With this 180 fakie nose manual, he’s wearing a jersey from an Italian soccer team from his trip there. I’ll talk about that trip in a little bit.
Here’s a frontside noseslide. Again, more speed than he needed. Cleared a lot of space on the landing. The 360 and switch backside heel are really clean. His 360s look great in this video.
Switch flip over a fire hydrant. File that one away for a minute.
He filmed this line just because he didn’t have one for the part yet. The speed is pretty crazy, but also notice his 180. He said he more people were stoked on the style of that than the actual line. And look at it. He pops up and then kind of scoops the tail around afterward. Really cool.
Now we’re back to the Italy trip, where he does a switch pop shove and a nollie back heel. Reda got a group of Italian Americans to go to Italy to do some skating. And Gino killed this spot. There’s footage of a local guy talking about how Mussolini owned that spot for 60 years, but now Gino does. It’s called ‘Gino’s gap’ now. And that nollie back heel is ridiculous. Again, it’s got that style where he’s catching it and trying to catch up to it after. Crazy.
He ends the part with some varial flip manuals, and this. A backside 360 to manual. His filmer, Bradley Ferrell, talks about how he was convinced the trick was impossible because it had never been done, and Gino said that wasn’t a good enough reason for him to not do it. Sick trick. I had seen a backside 360 manual before, but it wasn’t going 80 miles an hour down the Rosalyn banks.
Remember that switch flip? Here’s a sequence of it in Transworld. It’s a different land, because he’s got a shirt on this time.
Anyway, Gino switched to Nike in 2002, and they used a picture from this session and just photoshopped Nikes on him. Pretty badly too. This is from a different attempt than the land because the board is in a different spot, but that was pretty funny.
Another interesting thing to note in that part is his ankle monitor.
“Yeah. I got two D.W.I.s, here in New York. The second one is a felony charge. I had to do some time in county jail, and when I got out I was on house arrest. I had to wear the house arrest anklet for 60 days. They monitor where you are from the anklet. You can be out of your house only to go to work. Luckily skating is my profession. So I could go anywhere, so long as I was home by six. It still sucked though.
Crailtap: Is that why you’re sober now?
Pretty much. I was getting a little out of hand. Then the legal trouble, on top of that, really interfered with my life, for over two years. It was basically smarten up and get over it.”
Yeah and there was a bit more legal trouble. In his words:
“Shit really hit the fan after Yeah Right. I caught a charge that got me 1 month in county jail and not too long after I caught another charge which upped the time to 4 months and sent me upstate. No more county jail. With all this going on, I was out on bail all while going through the court process, and with the stress of programming and awaiting sentencing I was completely uninterested in everything, especially skating.
“During Nothing But The Truth, things weren’t going too good. I was living way out on Long Island with my girlfriend at the time. We both were in and out of sobriety while I was on probation after the 4 month stint and it was a mess. No skating whatsoever. One thing led to another and bang, another charge. Now I was really ghost and I knew it. Once it was fact I was headed upstate, my lawyer made it clear I’d most likely do 2 years in all.”
“But once I got sent upstate, I found out that there was a Shock program. It’s like a marines military bootcamp style jail and you can qualify for it if it’s your first time going upstate and you’re there for a non-violent crime. If you qualify and take it, you’re home in 6 months rather than whatever time I would have served in regular prison. I qualified and of course I hopped on it. After joining, they sent me way upstate near Niagara falls. You’re in barracks with like 40 guys and they’re really strict, punishing you for any little fuck up or mistake. Fucking up always meant them putting you on the ground and making you do some sort of exercise. Don’t get it twisted, not to get in shape but to get under your skin. There was one morning some shit happened during morning physical training. We all got sent to the field, 40 of us – and had to lay on the frosty geese shit covered field from left to right, top to bottom, and we had to roll back and forth for about a half hour. Pretty fun!”
I don’t know exactly what charges those were. I tried to find news articles or stuff from skate publications and I couldn’t find anything other than rumors. But he did stuff that could have gotten him 2 years. That would have been devastating. But it seems like he’s kept himself out of trouble since then. Let’s take a look at that part he talked about.
He only has a couple tricks in Brian Anderson’s part, but it got a huge reaction. According to 2 accounts I saw, when his name came up on the screen and he started pushing, there was a standing ovation at the premiere. People are absolutely obsessed with the way he pushes. Even though he doesn’t seem to get it himself when asked about it. But again, here’s some stuff done clean and way faster than it needs to be, and a completely perfect switch inward heelflip manual. Overall, a really nice featured spot. What happened after jail though?
“2009 was pretty much me just my getting my life back in order. I was in some legal trouble at the end of 2007, so I had to go away for a while. I returned home at the end of 2008 and had to start from scratch. I had to find a new place to live, and my business partner opened up POETS while I was gone, so when I returned, I jumped right into being a store owner. It was a bit foreign, even though I had a shop for a second in 2003. I hadn’t skated in a long time, so I gradually got on the board whenever possible, and that was a bit tough too.”
This iteration of the shop ran from 2008 to 2012. Around this time, he was starting to feel a bit too old to keep up with filming and stuff, but he definitely kept skating and would hit up skateparks and stuff like that in the area. In 2013, a few clips surfaced of him from Brick Harbor, a clothing brand he had been working with. He had some clips in Pretty Sweet, and they were able to get those and edit in some more stuff and put out a mini part for him.
I love the pivot kickflip, and this no comply 360. But he’s the same old Gino. Still switch mongoing! He gets a pass though it seems. Check out this line though. I love the 180 pivot. Nobody else would do that, and it looks good with enough speed. And the 270 out was about as perfect as you can get. And how about this ollie one foot?
A little after this stuff came out though, he left Chocolate, where he had been for 18 years, to join Dill over at FA.
Here’s how that went down:
When I first heard that Jason [Dill] and Anthony [Van Engelen] broke out of Alien Workshop and (…) expanded Fucking Awesome into a board company, I was immediately super psyched. There was something about it, just a feeling I can’t describe… just like, the industry needed this… It was gonna stir things up a little bit. The industry has been rolling the same way for a while now, and for something small to come out with these guys that are so well respected… I was just really happy for them.
But it was just one day, I was filming something, and we went to Supreme and Jason [Dill] was there. (…) In the back of my mind, from the day that I heard about Fucking Awesome, I immediately thought, I’d be down for it. It’s tight, it’s small, it’s new, it’s different. So yeah, it just got brought up while we were sitting in front of Supreme and I was like, “Yeah, I’m down.” I knew in my heart that that’s where I’d rather be, and when you feel it in your heart, and it’s a true gut feeling, then I had to go for it.
The interviewer asked about the name of the company, and he said that it has made it harder to get into some skate shops, especially chains like Zumiez. He says he likes that because it means only core shops will carry it, but to me that just honestly just seems like a bad business plan, but hey, that’s just me. Leaving Chocolate was really rough for him though.
Here’s what he says about it:
Well, that was the hardest thing in the world. I don’t think anyone expected me to leave. There was no signs of me being bummed out or wanting to leave. There’s never been any problems or whatever. I spoke to Rick [Howard], but it kind of sucked cause I ended up having to speak to him over the phone cause I was in Florida at the time. It was coming to the point where Jason [Dill] was just like, “Yo, have you spoken to them yet?” He was giving me advice, cause he quit Alien and was telling me how hard it was for them to leave and that tears were flowing.
I just had to sit down, get in the car, give Rick a call and tell him that’s where my heart was at and that’s what I wanted to do, and that I don’t think there’s anything I could do about it. What sucked was that it happened to be the 20th anniversary of Chocolate, so it came at the worst time. There’s so much stuff going on with Chocolate this year, and for me to be feeling this way at this time, it really sucked and it was really hard for me.
He waited until after the 20th anniversary celebrations to officially leave.
Should we ever expect him to put out another video part, maybe with FA, or Nike?
People expect a full part, and it baffles me that people still ask that when they know where a person is in their career. It’s just a question that I hear and it just puts me in a negative zone. I don’t know why people expect so much… It’s just that sometimes you get the feeling that you’re disappointing people. When you reach 40 years old, there’s only a few people out there that are still able to put out amazing video parts in their 30s, and they’re special skaters, you know? It’s not like just anyone can do that. Just leave that alone and let’s just enjoy skating. It doesn’t have to be about a 10 minute video part, let’s have fun and let the best things come out of that.
So what else is Gino up to these days? Well, he brought back the Poets brand, except this time, instead of a skate shop, it’s a high end clothing line.
This is a world I don’t know anything about. I don’t exactly get it, but it’s just not my world. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with any of this stuff. And it’s getting a lot of buzz. There are tons of articles out there about the Poets brand, and it seems to be doing pretty well.
It’s all really high end stuff. He says it’s not made for skating specifically and it’s not meant as a skate brand. But it’s got his DNA in it, so there’s always some kind of skate presence in it. If you want to risk skating in a $45 white T-shirt, you’re free to do so, but it’s a little risky. Here’s what he says about it:
“I don’t know, dude. I’m a grown man now. And I like some nice clothes. It’s just the natural progression of getting older. You want finer things that are made well.”
So what else is up with Gino? You can follow him on instagram as ginoiannuccipoets. He still skates all the time, and you’ll see some clips here and there on that account. He also plays tennis a lot and is just living his life.
Closing words from Gino:
“I feel like respect is the most important thing in this thing that we do. I think that’s the one thing that I would love to have—just the respect in the industry that I did my thing. I did me. I just kind of stuck to who I am. I put out whatever I felt I wanted to put out. I didn’t conform. You do find yourself doing that sometimes. It’s kind of hard not to when you have sponsors. You find yourself doing things that you aren’t necessarily extremely into. I feel that throughout my career I’ve just tried to stick with my gut, and what I feel that I can do to promote myself and my sponsors the best without selling my soul. So I guess I want to be remembered for being true to myself, skateboarding, and being honest. And that’s all. It’s as simple as that.”