Origins of the Backside Noseblunt Slide with Matt Hensley

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After investigating the beginnings of the front noseblunt and noseblunt slide with the Gonz, the next logical step was to hit up Matt Hensley and try and shed some light on the origins of the backside version. Matt famously had a full-page sequence doing one on a curb in Carlsbad shot by Dan Sturt in our December 1991 issue. For many people, myself included, Matt’s sequence more or less introduced the trick to the world.

While the footage, also shot by Sturt, wouldn’t see the light of day until Matt’s “retirement” part in Plan B’s Questionable—a year later in 1992, the sequence alone—done with speed, fully locked in, slid, and popped out in the middle—to fakie—was enough for many to crown Matt as the back noseblunt’s creator. Having chatted on and off with Matt through my years of skate journalism and using our own TWS Photo Associate—Matt’s wife Desiree—as a stealth conduit, I called Matt up, explained my previous article with the Gonz, and set out to try and lock down the roots of the BSNBS. Yeah Matt.

Exhibit A: Matt's sequence in Carlsbad. Photo: Sturt. TWS Dec. 1991, Vol. 9, No. 12.
Exhibit A: Matt’s sequence in Carlsbad. Sick to this day. Photo: Sturt. TWS Dec. 1991, Vol. 9, No. 12.

ME: For a lot of people, myself included, the Sturt sequence of your back noseblunt was the first time seeing the trick. Not only that but it was done so proper. It was like an instructional manual. Can you break down going there that day? Did you go there specifically to shoot it?
Hensley: Thanks. Yeah. We went there to shoot that. That little curb lives in Carlsbad and I had been skating there for years. It’s funny that you mentioned Mark Gonzales, because I had seen Mark Gonzales do frontside ones and he probably did backside ones too. But I remember learning the frontside ones with Mark in mind and then thinking, “I’m going to try and do it backside.” But I wanted to really push it.

Put some muscle into it?
Yeah. It’s a weird motion to get it to start to slide. Then once you get it, obviously it starts to do its thing, but at that time I hadn’t seen many people try to get into it. So to me, I wanted to see if I could get enough speed and push it in there almost like an over-extended backside lipslide—like I’m trying to ollie up to something really high for a backside lipslide but at the last second decide to go in to noseblunt. And do it with enough lean so you actually move when it touches down.

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With back lips this good, back noseblunt was the next logical step. Earlier Hensley/Sturt gold. TWS, May 1990, Vol. 8, No.5.

You had been working on it for a minute?
I had just been working on it—doing it just like anything else—then starting to slide it like, “I slid two inches and came off. Sweet.” Then I just kept it going, kept it truckin’ with that until it started to get that I could slide it for a little while. It started to feel good and that was the same time we were filming all that stuff at that curb (NTNHSV). Dan was filming all my stuff and doing a lot of my photography then so we went to film it that morning.

Had you made the trick before this sequence?
I had made some. I could come out of it normal. The hard part that I was working on that day was trying to come out fakie. Like fully rotate around. I think that morning or right around that time—it’s a little foggy in my mind—within that week or that day was the first time I got it to fakie. Dan filmed it and shot the sequence and in typical Dan Sturt fashion he said, “That wasn’t good enough (laughs).”

So sick. Where did you see Gonz doing the frontside ones? Down there (SD) or at contests?
Honestly, I just knew it by Osmosis brother. Probably at both—seeing him at contests, maybe the Del Mar one and then just being a skateboarder alive. I think I was lucky enough to be in a spot where I was going to every contest and was around it all the time. So I had seen Mark do it at contests and just various skate events.

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Stalefish at Del Mar for an A1 Meats ad. Possibly one of the places Matt saw Gonz do frontside noseblunt slides. Photo: Brittain. TWS Aug. 1990, Vol. 8, No. 8.

It’s funny because when you talk to Mark sometimes he doesn’t remember. Imagine everything he’s done that nobody saw. Like he may well have done a kickflip back noseblunt slide for all we know.
That’s why I come to this conversation with this caveat of like—just from my eclectic memory—I hadn’t seen too many people try it backside and I kind of came to that trick with Mark in my mind—like I wanted to try and think outside the box like he did.

As far as the one in the sequence—that day was a breakthrough? You said it was the first one to fakie.
Yeah. On that day—for sure. I had been working on them, I would come out—as you can guess, the first ones I was just happy to get into it and maybe slide an inch or so. Then I started coming out to backside disaster and then I started getting it to where I could kind of come to a complete stop and pressure ollie straight the fuck out. Then finally on that day I got them all the way around. It’s almost more like a back lip to revert. You kind of have to go dark for a little bit—just completely commit to the motherfucker.

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Another Hensley/Sturt photographic gem. Frontside grab in a ditch. Photo: Sturt. TWS Cover June, 1992, Vol. 10, No. 6.

Were you guys waxing that curb or was it pretty raw?
No. It was slick. That was why we liked that curb. There wasn’t a whole lot of stuff going on. It was nice and painted. I honestly don’t remember if we waxed it or not that day. But it was up to the task. It was nice and slick.

Did anybody else at that time pick up on the trick after you did it? I think Brian Lotti had some early photos trying them and some others.
I don’t know. All I remember is being very happy when we filmed it and I made it. I know that much. I remember the feeling of being stoked. Outside of that my memory around it isn’t great—I’m glad you said Mark can’t keep it all in his mind either—because it all kind of fogs into one. I think that trick was just one of the things skateboarding as a whole was starting to push as a movement, whether I did it or not it was about to happen. It was just one small move in a big collective shift by a lot of people.

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Brian Lotti with some BSNBS experimentation of his own. Photo: Brittain. TWS Aug. 1992, Vol. 10, No. 2.

Yeah, for me, it just so happened that Sturt had shot that sequence of you and we all saw it first. I didn’t see the footage until later. But skate media was so slow back then and a sequence in a magazine was kind of the best way to “go viral” back then.
Oh, for sure. Anything pre-Internet, I’m with you. I’d get the two magazines (TWS, Thrasher) and I’d stare at those pictures for hours on end. Your imagination would fill in the gaps. Now you don’t have to wait three months. You only have to wait like three seconds (laughs).

Did you ever try to bring them up to ledges or tables?
I never tried to take it higher necessarily, but once I had that motion going I got them on mini ramps and stuff. I could do back noseblunt slides to revert. Then just anything backside just felt more and more comfortable. You get used to going dark. I always loved backside lipslides and back Smiths. That motion just feels good to me. I tried to get into that motion about a month ago and it didn’t feel as good as it used to though (laughs).

For the other Sturt photo of the one in the Gullwing ad, that was a different curb right? The one with the Burlesque club sign?
Yeah. That one is down in San Diego, off Rosecrans. It’s still there. I believe it hasn’t changed. I used go to my rehearsal studio just down the street from there. The Carlsbad curb is still there, too. It’s right by Pizza Port.

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The still photo from the Gullwing ad a month after the sequence. Photo: Sturt. TWS Jan. 1992, Vol. 10, No.1.

On a separate note, I remember you telling me that you retired from pro skating based on an incident involving the backside noseblunt too. I remember the story of filming for Questionable and doing a back noseblunt on mini ramp and I guess Mike Ternasky was telling you that you needed to slide it or something. Then how that became the straw that broke the camel’s back so to speak that made you quit and move to Chicago. Here was the quote:

Matt Hensley: “My decision to leave became relatively simple. I was going through kind of a weird time in my life, that’s the best I can really summarize it. I was filming for the video (Questionable [‘92]) and Mike (Ternasky) wanted me to do all these tricks that I wasn’t doing at the time. I remember doing a backside noseblunt on a miniramp and he was like, ‘You’ve got to slide it. You’ve got to do a noseblunt slide.’ At that session, I just sort of lost it. I talked to him for a long time and eventually he was just kind of like, ‘Well, maybe you should bail out for a little while.’ As weird as it was, I just went home that day and decided, ‘I’m moving. I’m moving to Chicago and am going to try to be a paramedic.’ That’s exactly what happened.”

From: The Rise and Fall of Plan B (Version 1.0), Skateboarder Mag, Nov. 2003.

Do you remember that one?
Yeah (laughs). That was at the Plan B ramp. I don’t remember all the details of the argument but I remember us sitting on the curb outside Plan B afterwards and having that long talk. He was like, “Maybe it’s time to break out for a little while.” And I went with that.

Yeah, I just thought it was funny that of all things it involved the back noseblunt.
(Laughs) Yeah.


The intro to Plan B’s Questionable with Matt’s ‘retirement’ part at 1:35 and footage of the BSNBS in Carlsbad at 2:10.

I wanted to ask you too; because when I did the frontside noseblunt slide article we also talked about stationary frontside noseblunts on mini ramps with the nollie in. Gonz is more or less credited with both but John Reeves also had them real early on ramps, as did Sal Barbier. John Reeves actually hit us up about it as he had the Sturt sequence doing one on Primo’s ramp. And Sal does them frontside and backside in NTNHSV (1990) too. Did you witness those guys doing them?
I totally remember John Reeves having it super early. I also remember Sal doing them for sure, too. As far as the actual firsts, I can’t really say. It all melts into one. I don’t know who was the first person I saw do it.

I know there aren’t really absolutes. Like we’re all feeding off the same thing and moving it along together. But I just wanted to credit those guys, too, either way. I know none of it is super clear-cut.
Yeah. I hesitate personally to say I was first to do anything. Especially at that time for skateboarding. Things were moving so fast. It was changing by the month if not by the week or even minute.

I think we can identify the people and tricks though that changed the flow of the culture. Like to me, your Sturt sequence changed the flow of what was going on. Whether it was the first—first or not it still carries that weight.
Yeah, I understand what you’re saying.

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Matt’s Trick Tip for “Fakie one-footed 360 ollies” over picnic tables. Super easy. Photos: Sturt. TWS April 1991, Vol. 9, No. 4.

You sort of left skateboarding based on the focus on progressive skateboarding at all costs. Like in that weird ’92-’93 phase where everything had to be a triple pressure flip or whatever. How do you feel looking at skateboarding in 2016? It seems like kids are almost going all the way back to the 1990/1991 style now and rebelling against the tech format. Like almost tearing it down with the basics—slappies, powerslides, no-complies, wallies, footplants, inverts, etc…
I hear you. Yeah, I love it. They’re going back to basics—not just rock n’ rolls and Smith grinds but they’re taking the real basics and pushing them further. I agree with that. There’s definitely a sense of that free flowing vibe coming back. I think what happens sometimes is that things get so radical—so advanced and so great in one way—but the main reason that most people ride a skateboard is just for the goddamn pure joy and fun of doing it. It feels magical and great and you hang out with your friends while doing it. It’s hard to beat that and it has to be fun. At some point, the progression gets so insane that—and I’m sure it’s still fun for some people—but it gets to a point of like, “I’m either going to have fun right now or I’m going to break my bloody neck and wind up in a coma.” And I’ll watch people do crazy shit. I love it, too. I’ll watch Danny Way roll over the Great Wall of China. But I’m not dropping in on that thing (laughs).

It seems like it has always gone in those cycles—it focuses on feeling and pure style for a minute then it goes back to progression for a while then it has to slow down again, go back and find a new direction. Even with kids going back and learning all the inverts now.
Yeah. I think it’s super rad. I love that kids are doing that. I’m down for that because I can speak that language better than the modern stuff where I’ve never even heard of this or that trick (laughs.)

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The notorious freeway overpass ollie centerspread from Matt’s Pro Spotlight. Photo: Sturt. TWS Aug. 1990, Vol. 8, No. 8.

What’s up with Sturt? You ever see that dude?
I do. I saw him three days ago. I honestly don’t know what he’s up to. I don’t know what he does for a living. I see him because we walk our dogs together a lot. He likes to show up in running shorts with his pooch and tell me Dan Sturt stories.

As far as the back noseblunt slide, who did you see do it after your day take it to new heights where you were just blown away?
I want to say Daewon [Song]. I think Daewon utterly smashed the living shit out of it. He probably did it well before I ever fucked with it, too. But he’s definitely one of the best skateboarders ever. As far as someone taking it to the next level—picnic tables and the whole thing—I would have to say him. Then on handrails or anything like that is just a whole other universe for me—especially now (laughs).

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Matt keeping things simple with a handstand. Photo: Sturt. TWS June 1992, Vol. 10, No. 6.

ORIGINS OF THE FRONTSIDE NOSEBLUNT FOLLOW-UP:

Meanwhile, after posting up the original Gonz story last month, a few more bits of info trickled in from around the interwebs. As mentioned in the article, Gonz did some of the first front noseblunts (nollie in) in the UK over the summer of 1990. One of those ended up in the Video Days end credits. Max (aka @maxolijnyk on Instagram) from the UK sent over this sequence that ran at the time of Mark trying the trick at another demo. This sequence (full disclosure: I re-ordered the sequence just to make it tighter.) ran in 1990 in Skateboard! Magazine in the UK. Unfortunately Max only kept this actual page, torn out from the mag so not sure of month or photographer. But the caption alone is rad. Clearly, noboby has seen these before. Thanks Max!

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Gonz with some of the first front noseblunts in the UK. Photo: Unknown. Skateboard! Magazine, 1990.

Another note to add on, a few days after I posted the Gonz FSNB article, as mentioned above John Reeves also hit us up to remind us that he had a Sturt shot sequence of a frontside noseblunt on Primo’s ramp in SD for a Life ad. While the ad appeared in ’91, the footage of the trick was in Not the New H-Street Video which came out in 1990. It also featured Sal Barbier doing them both ways (front and backside) on the same ramp in the same shared part. It’s entirely possible that John and Sal were both doing them at the same time as Gonz on ramps. Either way, I just wanted to credit John Reeves. JTMR is the truth.

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JTMR’s sequence from his Life ad. These images were from @koolmoeleo’s Sequence Saturdays. Original ad ran in 1991. Photos: Sturt.

Stay tuned for more Origins.
Previous nerdology:
Origins of the Noseblunt with Gonz, Guy, and Julien Stranger
Gonz and Hawk: The Origins of the Stalefish
The Photo that Named the Sadplant
Origins of the Stalefish Follow Up
Skatenerdstarmaps: Kenter Canyon with Eric Dressen
Skatenerdstarmaps: School Q
COCI: Ron Chatman
COCI: Simon Woodstock
COCI: Tony Cox

Follow Matt Hensley on Instagram: @Matthensley22
Follow Gonz on Instagram: @krooked
Follow John Reeves on Instagram: @johnthemanreeves
Follow me on Instagram: @deadhippie

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The Hensley/Sturt Magnum Opus. Frontide ollie in Seattle (after an all-night drive, then straight back in the car home). Photo: Sturt. TWS Feb. 1992, Vol. 10, No. 2.
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Finally, the opening spread to Matt’s Aug. 1990 TWS Pro Spotlight (by Sturt of course). I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Daniel Harold Sturt for all his amazing contributions. Vol. 8, No. 8.