The French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908-1961) argued that firsthand perception played the foundational role in the way humans understood and interacted with the world. Rather than placing consciousness as the source of human knowledge, he emphasized the body itself ("the flesh of the world") as the primary site for knowing our existence. If Merleau-Ponty were alive today, he might possibly find no better case study for his ideas than professional skateboarders. They travel the world, hurtling through space and time--all while submitting their bodies directly and repeatedly to the streets, cultures, and tribes of humanity at large. To them, "the flesh of the world" is a literal description.
Mark Suciu has embodied some experiences of his own over the past few years. After rising meteorically through a barrage of video parts culminating with his turning pro for Habitat and winning the TWS Rookie of the Year Award in 2013, there has been a noticeable radio silence since. Having famously begun his studies at Temple University in Philadelphia in 2014, here he breaks down arriving at a catabolic state following a burst appendix last Thanksgiving, losing 45 pounds and relearning to skate from scratch, his first year of college, skateboarding as art, the upcoming adidas full-length, and every other relevant firsthand perception between.-Mackenzie Eisenhour
Photos by Zander Taketomo
What's been going on lately? How has this London trip been?
London's been great. We've got a large part of the adidas squad all together. I've had the time to meet up with friends out here too. I just saw Tom Knox and Jake Harris--those two are doing a lot for the London skate scene.
Jumping right in--I was told that you got your appendix out last Thanksgiving and that they gave you the wrong antibiotics or something afterwards. Can you break down what happened?
Yeah, my appendix burst, so it was worse than a regular case of appendicitis--I had to stay a week in the hospital. But when I got out, I really hadn't recovered, and when I returned home for Thanksgiving shortly after, I was rehospitalized. The doctors there told me that I had developed an abscess because the Philly doctors had only given me one kind of antibiotic out of the two I should've had. I was supposed to be fine after getting rid of the abscess, but I had an ileus--my intestines fell asleep. In total, I was in and out of the hospital for over a month and didn't eat or drink for half of that time. I ended up losing about 45 pounds.
They were saying that you pretty much had to relearn skating from scratch, like you couldn't 50-50 a curb. Was it that serious?
Yeah, I couldn't skate at all. My body went into what's called a catabolic state--as I understand it, because I wasn't eating, my body had to break down its own muscle for sustenance. I was insanely skinny after leaving the hospital. There were times I would forget the state I was in and try to do normal things--like run up stairs or pick up a box or something--and would abruptly find myself completely incapable of doing it. It was crazy to just be confronted with this body that would not do anything I expected it to. But I did get back into skating after four months. To have just been able to come back from that at all, that gives you a lot of confidence.
"IN TOTAL, I WAS IN AND OUT OF THE HOSPITAL FOR OVER A MONTH AND DIDN'T EAT OR DRINK FOR HALF OF THAT TIME. I ENDED UP LOSING ABOUT 45 POUNDS."
So you're studying English literature at Temple University? Is that your major?
I was a French major, but now that I'm transferring, I'm going to do either comparative literature or French literature. Not the most lucrative path, as everyone likes to tell me. But I don't feel too much pressure in that direction at the moment since things are going well with skating.
Can you break down your day-to-day at school? Have you met other skaters there, or is it sort of a parallel life outside skating? Do people know you're a professional skateboarder?
I've been living in Center City, so I take the subway up to Temple every day for class. I don't bring my board to school, so no, people don't know right away that I skate. I usually avoid telling people anyway--there are always those initial judgments and even good-natured questions that get old after a while. But if I do become friends with people from class, I'll of course tell them. I have to admit, it's fun to see their reactions.
I was told you felt like you were facing some big decisions between school and skating a few years back after winning those awards [TWS Readers' Choice & Rookie of the Year 2013]. What were some of the decision points for or against either?
Well, it wasn't so much between skating and school as it was just a question of skating. At the time, I think it was really a thing of super strict ambition--I had a really decided view of what I wanted to do with skateboarding. In just the same way that we put a lot of thought into a video part--not thinking only about the music and the skating, but about certain themes, a unity of tricks or of spots, and even contrasting elements--I was thinking about all my coverage as a whole. I wanted it to be tight- knit, not to needlessly repeat myself. Hence the idea of not putting out any more coverage. But at that point I was looking at it as intent only, not paying any attention to interpretation. Because that's the other side--at some point you have to realize that no matter what you put into a video part or anything of that sort, it changes when it goes public, and with time, it becomes entirely independent of you. It's a little narrow-minded to think creative intent is the only thing that matters in something so complex as skating.
Is it a settled decision now?
As for right now, because I've diverted my attention with school, skating has become a little more natural. The necessity for it becomes apparent when you don't have all the time in the world for it and when you need a release of stress from other corners of life. I don't know if my decision is settled. The photos for this interview-- even though I'm coming back from an injury--well, it's not exactly the most rewarding thing, putting out coverage you aren't at all proud of. But I can roll with the punches for a while, I suppose.
"IT'S A LITTLE NARROW- MINDED TO THINK CREATIVE INTENT IS THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS IN SOMETHING SO COMPLEX AS SKATING."
You mentioned transferring. Is it true you might go to New York or Lyon, France, next? Would you be recreating Gonz's fabled year in Lyon [circa '96]?
Yeah, it's either The New School in Manhattan, or Jean Moulin 3 in Lyon. I'm sure I would fall very far short of Gonz's legacy there. He did tell me I should choose Lyon, though.
How do you deal with the pressure and expectations put upon you as a professional skateboarder? Do you see skateboarding more as an art form? Should there be no expectations?
Apart from deadlines and the regular pressure of inertia, I don't really notice any outside expectations. Nothing has really changed since before I was sponsored. So if there are expectations, they're naturally fulfilled. My own expectations are a different story.
How about the idea of skateboarding as an art?
Every time I think about the question of skateboarding being considered an art, I normally lean to the side of art, all the while feeling that it's a stretch. But really it is no stretch. Take a video part: We step away from reality by filtering out the random, and the result is a bridge between reality and ideal that can't be reproduced. Every video part makes a statement about skateboarding. And it can refer to things beyond itself--it can speak about aesthetics, city planning, and architecture, and it can describe a place in time. If skateboarding weren't an art, we might have some idea of what Nyjah Huston means when he calls someone's skateboarding "real skating." Each time he puts something out, that becomes his latest word on what real skating is, which is just as valid as Max Garson's sponsor-me tape that we just watched for Habitat. There's no fixed idea.
Your first pro shoe is dropping this year, right? What has that process been like? I heard you were pretty hands on.
Ah, it's been awesome. I got to work with the design team from the very start. We went to shoe stores around Philly and talked about old shoes I used to skate. I learned a lot, and the result is something I'm entirely happy with.
"I SHOULD MENTION THAT IF I COULD'VE READ THIS INTERVIEW FIVE YEARS AGO, I WOULD'VE HATED MYSELF-- WHICH IS NOT ALTOGETHER A BAD FEELING."
Apparently we can officially unveil the name of the upcoming first full-length adidas video [Away Days] What are your plans for that?
My plans for Away Days are to keep going on these adidas trips and to skate as much as possible. I would like to break away from my strict view of the way things should be done, to open up my own expectations a little, but of course I don't quite know how to do that. So skating as much as possible is the only way I could imagine that happening.
I also heard even Gonz wants to film a full part. Has he been filming on this trip with you guys?
Yeah, Mark has been on it lately. Skating the Southbank demo with him was really fun. He was so stoked by a nollie Cab I did down the stairs--or at least by the way I carved into it--that later that day he made a whole iPad animation of it. And on Go Skateboarding Day, he told us all about his dismay at Tony Hawk's refusal to acknowledge him as the first one to do a stalefish.
Let's close with some philosophy. I was told you're a fan of the field. What are your favorite schools of thought? How do you relate them to the life you live between skating, traveling, and school?
Well, I don't really study philosophy, but I suppose I've always felt some sort of need for it. For me, it's the trouble we have when we try to say "I"-- the question of identity, of the continuity of personality. A line of thought that can unite our multifaceted nature or question the importance of that unity, that's a powerful thing. If it's more interesting to name drop, I recently read a bit of Maurice Merleau-Ponty's ideas on embodiment. I should mention that if I could've read this interview five years ago, I would've hated myself-- which is not altogether a bad feeling.
Since you get a good taste of both at a young age, which has taught you more: the streets or the books?
I don't know. But in the books it feels like collecting, and in the streets it feels like creating.
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