Mouthing Off: Jon Nguyen

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Words by Kevin Duffel, photography by Dave Chami.

Give any team manager a minute and they can effortlessly rifle off ten million reasons why certain flow guys never move up the hierarchical ranks to am status: “Talks too much shit; can’t handle the tour van; drank one too many brewskis a while back, and presumably thinking he was Vin Diesel, tried to flex on the veteran pros.” You know, just kooking it. Yet, unlike those who have unforgivably blown it, Jon Nguyen–the ever-stylish Tilt Mode ripper who once ran with the likes of Toy Machine and enjoi–was ostensibly slated for perma-flow for no real reason. But now, with Blueprint properly hooking him up, Jon can finally call himself a legit am. And seriously, it’s about goddamn time.

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Full speed gap to front blunt with perfect form.

So you’re finally am now, huh? That’s like going pro nowadays.
Yeah [laughs].

Does this mean you can go another five years without having a proper job?
I hope so, man. I haven’t had a proper job in five years. I’ve just been bumming it, basically, so hopefully I can keep it going.

Yeah, you’ve been on summer vacation for five years or so–just floating around and staying on people’s couches, right?
Pretty much. Basically, just eating shitty [food] and selling product, getting odd jobs, and just hustling, I guess.

Is there an art to bumming it that you have to perfect?
Kind of [laughs]. You just have to go with it. Sometimes I’m super broke, and then something will happen that day, and I’ll just end up making some money somehow. But I also have some support. My sister and girlfriend help me out.

So is that whose couch you’re crashing on nowadays–your girlfriend’s?
Yeah, I’m staying at my girlfriend’s house right now in San Francisco.

How’d you swing that one? Did she just ask you to move in?
Yeah, basically. I’d float around San Jose and then just come back here, and I’ve just been staying here more and more I guess. I like SF a lot. I miss all my friends and stuff in San Jose, but I go back there once in a while, so it’s not too bad.

What are you doing for money right now?
I was working with my neighbor. He was trying to remodel his house and I was helping him with that. That was kind of steady. But yeah, it’s pretty random–just sell stuff, basically. And photo incentive.

Damn, you’re doing the full on ramen diet, huh?
Well, I get food stamps too–E.B.T. So that pretty much helps me a lot. I just go and buy groceries.

How did you manage to get food stamps? Did you have to go through some lengthy process to become eligible?
Not really, you just go down to the office, and tell them you’re broke. I mean, I am broke. I showed them my bank account, and it had zero dollars for the past year [laughs]. And then they were like, “Yeah, you’re good.”

So do you have to stash all your cash under a mattress so it keeps your bank account at an even zero?
I mean, yeah, if I make checks–I probably shouldn’t say this–then I don’t tell them.

Going into a different topic, you’ve been around for years, even getting photos in the mags, but it seemed like you were always destined to be forever-flow for some odd reason.
Yeah, man. It definitely felt like that.

Why do you think it took you this long to get properly hooked up?
I had to find where I fit in. I definitely feel like I fit with these dudes [Blueprint]. It’s a good match. It just took a little while.

How long were you flow for?
Five years on the flow-gram.

That’s a long time.
Definitely. There was a little while when I thought it wasn’t going to happen. I was just over it. But it’s a good thing I stuck with it.

Who’d you get boards from before Blueprint hooked you up?
Toy Machine.

Was enjoi ever an option? It seems like that would be the logical choice, seeing as how you lived in San Jose and hang out with those guys on a regular basis.
Yeah, that was like the first flow I had. I wasn’t really in the right state of mind when I was that age. I didn’t really get what I had to do, and wasn’t doing what I should have been doing.

So how did riding for Blueprint ultimately come about?
I was riding for Toy Machine for a while and realized it wasn’t really going anywhere. I was with my friend Dave Ashley, and we were just talking about companies I might be down to ride for. He mentioned he knew [Paul] Shier, and so I was down, like, “Blueprint’s sick.” So, I sent him a tape and started getting boards. We went on a little trip soon after that to Ohio.

I’m sure it must be pretty nice to finally see yourself in an ad. Do you feel like all the hard work finally paid off?
It’s pretty f–king awesome, man. It’s been a long time waiting. It’s kind of weird. I’ve been doing the same thing for forever, but it’s finally coming together.

I don’t think you took off your beanie during the whole “Welcome To Blueprint” part.
Yeah, dude. I need to get a haircut [laughs].
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Is that why you keep it on?
Yeah, I’ve just had long hair for forever. And it’s hard to skate with it out. I just tuck it in the beanie.

How bad does that thing smell? I’d think you could probably kill a young child just with the stench of it.
It gets pretty stinky, yeah. That’s funny. My girlfriend just talked about that–how much it smells, yesterday.

So if you had to get rid of one of the two, what would you get rid of: food stamps or the beanie?
Probably the beanie, I guess. I need those food stamps right now, until I start getting some checks, maybe.

For anyone who’s struggling and sleeping on couches, what’s the best way to keep warm in the middle of a cold night?
If blankets are at a minimum, wear those clothes. Put your socks on, put a hoodie on. Maybe get a two liter bottle and fill it up with hot water if you’re that cold. And then make sure to be nice to whoever’s letting you crash. Wash their dishes, or do whatever you’ve got to do.

Finally, what’s some good advice for other struggling flow guys hoping to finally get the golden ticket into am status?
Just keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t fall into the fad of tricks and whatever’s going on. Keep it basic. Don’t go too combo-guy. Quality over quantity. It just looks sicker when you have a sick spot, not just some boring set of stairs.