TWS Witness: Penny Part 2, The Invisible Shove-It


Following up on the Tom Penny TWS Witness column we posted back in May, here was a second installment focusing on this single clip filmed of Tom by Theo Hand in France in 1999. I was first made aware of this clip by Chris Thiessen and Oliver Barton who had found it on YouTube a few years back. An outtake from a longer line, Tom appears to create an optical illusion with a back five-0 that slips to tail before going to shove. The shove-it is clearly there as the board ends up backwards but try as you may, it is almost impossible to see it happening. Behold, the invisible shove-it. In hopes of determining whether we are witnessing cosmic telekinesis and outright magic or simply a frame rate fluke, I hit up filmer/photographer Theo Hand to bare witness.


The Invisible Shove-it. Tom Penny filmed by Theo Hand. France, 1999. Watch the back foot.

ME: Where and when was this?
Theo Hand:
This was 1999 in France, at a place called Malraux. The locals called it “MX.” We would skate there from our apartment, which was about a mile away. We lived at the end of a long shopping street, (like no cars, just shops and restaurants) named “Place De La Victoire.” So most days we would just skate down that street, hitting up spots along the way, and then meet everyone there.

Was this part of a longer line that he was trying to get?
Definitely part of a longer line but I haven’t seen that footage in over 15 years, so I couldn’t tell you what it was. Tom did a lot of great stuff there. Everything was spontaneous. Nothing was planned. I can remember one rainy day when I was over at a friend’s house, (Tom was at his girlfriend’s place) and I found out that he had gone to MX that night (the weather cleared just enough so the ground was like half dry) and he kick flipped the double set there, which is/was really big. No footage, no photo, except some random person shot a shitty Kodak throwaway photo! Somewhere that exists. The thing is, Tom just did what he felt like doing, when he felt like it. He could have called me to tell me to come down there, and it would have taken me five minutes, and I was bummed that he didn’t, but I was never mad, because when I say spontaneous, I really mean it. When the feeling was there, he just went, so I would try to just always be around when it happened. Unfortunately that one got away from me.

Did you notice anything special about the clip at the time? Was this one attempt a fluke or were they all sort of looking like this?
Not that clip specifically. I would say that they all really did look like this! I was laughing when I saw it posted, because I never noticed it, and it looked so cool! Obviously the angle happened to lend a hand in the “illusion,” but Tom just skated with that style. His incredible foot control and connection to the board was an everyday thing! Straight up magical every time, but I’m not kidding, it was “normal” for him. I'm pretty sure I have some more footage with his “wizardry.” We lived together for 14 months, and aside from a brief ankle injury intermission, it was non-stop amazing entertainment.

Did Tom think anything of it?
You would have to ask him, but in my opinion, other than enjoying a day of skating, he thought nothing of it.

Most supernatural thing you have seen Tom do in person?
There’s a few. But going back to the ankle injury, which was not skate related, ranks up there. Early morning in Spain, across the street from Salvador Dali’s house, there’s a bunch of giant rocks in a field/mountain side. I’m standing on one of the rocks, filming the weird landscape, not paying attention to what Tom’s doing, and I hear him say, “Are you filming? I think I can make it." As I look over and see him standing on another rock above me, “Huh, what?" I replied, and about the same time I start to tell him “No way dude! I don’t even think that’s possib…." he jumps! I’m sure a lot of people reading this have seen the clip of that jump from the intro to his part in Sorry, and some of you might think, “it’s not that big,” but until you go there and stand on that rock, and look across to the “landing,” and all the things that could go very wrong if you do not make it across, you have no idea how “supernatural” that really was! The fact that he walked away left me in shock. Not to mention that as he walked away, he told me, “Might have jacked my ankle, probably just three weeks though.” I was just happy he wasn’t seriously injured, but he was right, it was exactly three weeks!


Tom and Arto’s part from Sorry (’01). Cliff jump at 1:00.