MCTWIST!

After inventing the McTwist at a skate camp in Sweden, Mike McGill debuted his amazing trick during a the NSA Summer Nationals contest at the Del Mar Skate Ranch on August 27, 1984.

Fahrenheit 540[degrees]: 20 years of the twist.

(Taken from Thrasher Magazine - September 2004)

THE 540, OR AS MY FRIENDS CALL IT the “McTwist,” was first conceived in my head when I was twice the size of Jamie Godfry’s little ripping brother Dean. I had just maxed out on my seventh Gatorade when I saw Fred Blood, the roller transbiker, do a 360 and a half-Cab pirouette in the Egg Bowl at Cherry Hill, New Jersey. “Wow, that would actually be cool to see if you put your legs together on a skateboard somehow,” I said.

At least two years had past and I found myself trying this crazy 540 thing with Caballero in a hotel swimming pool full of water. Of course he had no idea what I was doing; we mostly just tried contorted handplants in the shallow end as water went up our noses. The next summer of ‘84 I returned to Per Welinder’s hometown in Sweden to skate a big ramp by a lake for three weeks, with Sir Lance and the Mutt from Gainesville, FL. It was really cool; we hung out with skaters from all over Europe like Claus Grabke, Hans Jacobson and Bod Boyle, to name a few.

Well, after skating the ramp for three weeks straight, every day, two to three sessions per day, I had made every trick that I could think of with the exception of riding my board backwards, which was way too circus for me; not comfortable and not fun. Anyway, three days before we left, the rest of the 40 or so Swedish summer camp skaters went to our daily dinner routine restaurant, which I skipped to finally try the trick I had dreamt about. Or was it going to be my nightmare?

There were just two other skaters who had skipped the Swedish cuisine that night. I came to the ramp padded up more than Kevin Staab. I had two layers of hip pads and had Duct-taped my wristguards into temporary casts just in case. I told the two younger skaters to check out what I was doing and let me know what it looks like. “Okay,” I thought, “if I could just get past the 400-degree mark I could bail out to my knees and not land on my head.” After a couple dozen tries it happened and I landed one with speed, just like that. Bod Boyle, the English youngster, jumped up and said, “No bloody fucking way!” and ran all the way to the restaurant to tell Mr Mountain and the crew. Before long everybody showed up, saying, “Okay, let’s see it.” So I did, but it wasn’t half-way up the wall as they all suspected; it was about four-feet out, which was actually easier for me to see what I was doing. Lance proceeded to grab his skate stuff and did a full body jar with his body over the coping trying it. The next day he took a sequence of it with a single shot camera for the Bones Brigade Intelligence Report, and made me do it 27 times in the same spot. Rodney Mullen then named it the McTwist. — Mike McGill

A Del Mar memory of the McTwist 

NONE OF US were expecting it, let alone knew anything about it. We were just skating Del Mar’s keyhole in the daytime when it happened. McGill shows up out of the blue, carves a few walls, does a few rocks, maybe a backside air or two—then you hear the crack of his tail ring out as he tumbles through the air. It was surreal; I freaked out like the time Cab unveiled the Caballerial at Marina years before.

We’d just witnessed the 540 air, and it went down in a bowl with coping and tile. How tad. The move to me seemed too advanced to learn. To this day when I see digital clocks at 5:40 I get a little nervous. Props to you, McGill. — Neil Blender

Betcha’ didn’t know Trujillo was a poet…

GOT YOUR BOYS, grab some brew ride the vert, it’s there for you. Phelper, Upson and Lee Ralph, Stranger, Spittle in the house. Little buzzed, very shaky, can I skate? Who know? Maybe. Droppin’ in your first run too far forward, take the plunge. Tranny check is what’s next alcohol has got me vexed. Drunk ‘n’ stoned started thinking in the zone, no more speaking. ‘Cause what do I got to lose? Padless tire’s the biggest news. Droppin’ in just for a look a 50-50 starts to cook. Up the wall you can’t choke drop your shoulder, go for broke. Spinnin’ blindly in the air only balls can take you there. Surprisingly you’re running out I got this shit without a doubt. Whose that on the sidelines barking? Scream with me and I’ll start sparking. Seeing two of Timmy U ain’t got this shit, well luck you too! Gimme VB, I’m feelin’ great an indy five I shall rape. I got you in my fuckin’ claws I’m takin’ you for all my dawgs. Crack the tail off the cope drop the shoulder, don’t lose hope, Clenchin’ tight onto my wire, just do this once in your life. Comin’ ‘round I see the lip I put her down, holy shit! Landed low but it’s alright history was made tonight. Not for you or anyone else, this one’s purely for myself! — Tony Trujillo

Recollection of a Wet Brain

MY DAD CALLS ‘EM WHIRLY BIRDS. He’d never been too impressed with my skating, until he witnessed me do one first hand. “That Tony Hawk is an ugly little fucker, but he sure does a mean whirly bird!”

"That’s Mike McGill, Dad."

"Oh. Why don’t you do ‘em?" Good question.

I think it was the summer of ‘84 when Dale “The Sausage Man” Smith came over to Lance’s one afternoon with an idea. Dale was a washed-up freestyler whose big claim to fame was being the self-proclaimed 360 King, or some bullshit like that. Clinging to the corpse of skateboarding, he stayed in the game by “coaching” some of our best and brightest. His sporty demeanor was a little too positive for me, and I quickly became annoyed. His idea was simple: take Stacy Peralta’s 540 slide and turn it into an aerial. Lance liked the challenge and set out to figure the dynamics of the move. We spent the afternoon spinning “Body Bags” at scum line and laughing at the midget who had come to visit. A short time later, Lance left for Swedish summer camp. 

It was the summer nationals at Del Mar, and collectively we’d received word that McGill had mastered the Body Bag by sneaking off to practice it alone. He had also renamed it the McTwist. I was livid! I disliked Mike intensely, considering him to be a jock, and now a thief. But all that washed away—if only briefly—after witnessing him succumb to peer pressure and launch one out about five feet on the north wall of the keyhole. Two tries later he stuck it. It was awe-inspiring! People just stood there, dumb-struck. I remember Neil claiming excitedly, “It’s all over now! That’s it!” All I could think was: “Why’d it have to be him? Why not someone else—someone cool!” 

People were just walking away and taking off their pads-just walking away from the most heated session at the most important contest of the year. We were all like zombies. But not Lester. Lester Kasai dropped into a six-foot method air and shot into what would later be dubbed a Drill Bit, spinning twice as fast, much, much more inverted, then entering on the same coping block. Skateboarding changed forever; it upped the ante. 

Hawk, Mountain, Phillips, Gator and Hosoi all followed suit, as did amateurs Joe Johnson and Little Luis from Fogtown. Christian did the best, of course; a slow rotating flip about nine feet from the lip, just laughing. Insane! It was a creative shot in the arm, at once unifying and dividing skating. Some sought it out obsessively, hoping to jumpstart their waning careers—Ruff; Magnusson, Roskopp. All the while kids chanted “Twist! Twist!” The 540 had become the it trick. If you didn’t have it, you didn’t have shit. 

As for me? I tried to stay in the game, occasionally tossing a few between beers. I lacked one major ingredient: balls. My quest for the five took approximately 14 years. Too chicken shit to ride away as a kid, then too wasted as a young man, and then? Well, there shouldn’t even be a then, should there? My little buddy Brett and I had just gotten off drugs and had started roiling again. The Vans park in Orange had just opened and with no prospective girlfriends we’d spend our nights rolling around, perving out on 15-year-olds and trying to recapture our youth. One evening we got in an argument about whether or not I could even spin one. My ego bruised, I padded up and tossed one for him. I came around and it was right there. All I had to do was set it down—which proved easier said than done. I believe it was a few weeks later when I actually rolled away. I was over-whelmed with emotion; at first anger, then elation. I cried on the ear ride home. I was 31-years-old. 

Shortly thereafter I broke my wrist. It would be a year before I could skate again: plates, pins, screws. I’ve knocked myself out trying to get ‘em wired. It’s one of those things I’ve done but cannot do on a regular basis. So please don’t ask me to. — Jeff Grosso

SKATEBOARDING was a lot different 20 years ago. The emphasis on street had yet to be ushered in, so in 1984 the vertical warlords commenced to battle around the globe. Helmets, pads, tight shorts—the works—the only question was, ramp or pool? There was air, there were grinds, and the ollie was here, but something else needed to happen to break the staleness of routine. When the world heard of the “McTwist,” an actual 540-degree-spin air, the stage had been set. Florida’s Mike McGill landed one in Sweden on a skate camp ramp. Word traveled fast, and when the next contest came around at Del Mar in San Diego, the eyes of the world waited to see the future. By unveiling this new trick, the collective conscience of skateboarding entered a new dimension, where anything thought of could be executed. 

Take a look into the past to understand the future. And read between the lines—for the true secrets are understood, not implied. — Jake Phelps

FIRST PERSON YOU SAW DO A 540? 

Christian Hosoi: Mike McGill at Del Mar skatepark. 

Tony Hawk: Frontside—Billy Ruff’s “Unit” (Miller flip revert), Del Mar, 1982. Backside—Mike McGill, Del Mar, 1984. 

Chris Miller: McGill at Del Mar. When I first saw it, it was confusing; it took a few to even figure out what he did. 

Lance Mountain: Mike McGill the day he learned it. 

John Cardiel: Christian Hosoi. 

Dan Drehobl: Probably Lance or Tony in Public Domain. In person, I think Andy Mac at Ratz. I’m not sure ‘cause I used to smoke too much weed. 

Peter Hewitt: Tony Hawk. 

Pierre Luc Gagnon: Bill Weiss. He was living in Toronto and used to come to MTL with Justin Bokma to skate our park. That was insane, the 540 was one of the first tricks he did on our vert ramp. He could do better 540s than he could do backside airs. 

Jake Brown: Probably Tony in Animal Chin, or my mum when I started drinking. 

Eric Koston: When I first saw Animal Chin, so, everyone who yanked one in that video. 

Bob Burnquist: Sergio Negao at the Ultra skatepark in Brazil. It was a frontside 540. 

Rune Glifberg: Maybe Hawk? 

WHEN WAS YOUR FIRST 540? 

Christian Hosoi: A couple months later at Del Mar skatepark, skating with Neil Blender. We drove down in his Volvo and slept in the parking lot, hardcore style. 

Tony Hawk: Later that same year (1984). 

Chris Miller: The first ones I tried were at a skate camp in St Louis in maybe 1986. The first one I made was in ‘89 at a demo in Portugal with Tony Hawk. I had been spinning them pretty much perfectly since St Louis and just couldn’t put it down. In the demo Tony did one of those runs where he does like every variation of a 540 possible back to back, and then later did another run with 14 in a row or something ridiculous. After that I just realized that I was a wuss for not making it yet. I spun a couple and then made it after five or six tries. After making it once I didn’t bail again for the next 28 tries. I was more consistent on 540s than backside airs. 

Lance Mountain: A month or so after McGill. 

John Cardiel: The playground, 1993. 

Dan Drehobl: I’ve never pulled one. 

Peter Hewitt: Linda Vista, 1989. 

Pierre Luc Gagnon: I learned it in ‘96 on my local skatepark vert ramp. I learned it mute grab first. After I got that wired I pulled it indy grab. I really wanted to make that indy grab one ‘cause I was looking up to Colin McKay a lot and used to love the way he was doing that trick. 

Jake Brown: I tried to take my life 180 but it went 540 3.7 days ago. 

Eric Koston: At Lake Owen skate camp in the summer of ‘91. They would have demos once a week for the campers and I put it down during one of them; it was tailgrab. 

Bob Burnquist: Around 1989 at the Ultra skatepark, a mute 540. 

Rune Glifberg: 1992. 

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO MAKE IT? 

Christian Hosoi: Tried everyday ‘til I made it, two months or so. 

Tony Hawk: I tried for a couple months right after I first saw it done and finally landed it—on the bottom, squatting all the way. 

Chris Miller: Three years. See above. 

Lance Mountain: I tried it right after I saw Mike do it, fell on my ribs on the coping and flipped onto my head on the flatbottom. After that, a good month of slamming, maybe two, until I made it. 

John Cardiel: About an hour. Danny Way gave me the secret. 

Dan Drehobl: I’ve been trying my whole life; I suck. I gave up. 

Peter Hewitt: A month of slamming. 

Pierre Luc Gagnon: It was a lil’ while ago. I remember spinning it for a couples weeks before I really tried to put it down, but after I could put the wheels down it didn’t take too long before I rolled away. 

Jake Brown: I’m still trying. 

Eric Koston: I would just pose them at the occasional vert session, but I never seriously committed to any until that demo. It probably took me about 10 tries. 

Bob Burnquist: I remember trying it every now and then. I would try it way underneath the coping just to get used to spinning; I wouldn’t even grab. Just spin. Then I started to try and grab it and it was hard to do under the coping, so I just went for it after a little backside air. Hard to think of all the things at once and it took me a while to even grab the spin. It went on like that for about five months. Then one day I started spinning somewhat in control. Then all of a sudden I landed one. It wasn’t even a proper mute five; it was more like a nosegrab five. I was stoked and very surprised. I tried almost every day after that and it was a long shot from getting them wired. For a while I would only do them when I really had to. I would throw it in my run without even doing them in practice. Straight business. Now I actually enjoy spinning a 540. 

Rune Glifberg: Three to four months. 

WHO DOES THE BEST 540? 

Christian Hosoi: I have not been able to see any in person recently, but Sandro Dins’ Christ Air 540s and body jar 540s are awesome. And Danny Way’s method 540s looked radical. 

Tony Hawk: Holmes. 

Chris Miller: Rune does the best mute grab variation, and Georgio’s ally-oop indy ones. 

Lance Mountain: The guys who do it straight over the top. That’s a McTwist. 

John Cardiel: Sandro Dias. 

Dan Drehobl: Hosoi, Lance—I don’t know. Max has a good one. 

Peter Hewitt: Hosoi. 

Pierre Luc Gagnon: Danny Way. He’s done the biggest ones and made them look so casual and stylish. 

Jake Brown: Way has a mean one. Colin’s fakie fives are nice. Lincoln can blast ‘em. 

Eric Koston: Danny Way and Hosoi. 

Bob Burnquist: Tony Hawk—the most solid and consistent 540 ever. 

Rune Glifberg: Danny Way. 

WHAT MAKES FOR BUNK STYLE ON A 540? 

Christian Hosoi: When someone makes it look hard, and when done very low. 

Tony Hawk: A big wind-up. 

Chris Miller: You either have good style or you don’t, it doesn’t matter what trick you do. In general, though, corked spins look better than flat spins. 

Lance Mountain: The style of the skater. 

John Cardiel: Perfection. 

Dan Drehobl: Sucking at life. 

Peter Hewitt: Try grabbin’ early. 

Pierre Luc Gagnon: A really low, out of control spin like you’re never gonna make it around, but somehow you find a way to kick turn out of it and make it! 

Jake Brown: Pink shoe laces. 

Eric Koston: When your head hits the coping or it’s so close it looks like it’s going to. See T-Mag. 

Bob Burnquist: Loose and unstable 540s can be hard to watch. Oh, and when you set your body up through the flatbottom, showing the predictability of what you’re about to do—that’s pretty bad, too. Remember the invert set-up across the flat? Arms crossing for the set up? Bad. 

Rune Glifberg: When the head gets close to the coping. 

GNARLIEST PLACE TO DO ONE? 

Christian Hosoi: Gnarliest place I did one was at Kelly Belmar’s. 

Tony Hawk: For me it was at the Pink Motel. 

Chris Miller: I’d say whoever did them in the original Combi pool was pretty gnar. Also, there was a photo of John Cardiel doing one on a ramp in a snow storm. 

Lance Mountain: No vert. 

John Cardiel: Hailey, Idaho. 

Dan Drehobl: In a pool? How about out of the pipe at Baldy? 

Peter Hewitt: King Kong kidney. 

Pierre Luc Gagnon: Any backyard pool. Anything that has a tight tranny makes it gnarly, ‘cause if you mess up or over-rotate you hit the flatbottom. 

Jake Brown: On the dance floor. 

Eric Koston: In a fullpipe. 

Bob Burnquist: Backyard pools. 

Rune Glifberg: A backyard pool is the gnarliest place. 

EVER DONE ONE DRUNK? 

Christian Hosoi: I can’t remember, so I doubt it. 

Tony Hawk: I couldn’t have been past the legal limit. 

Chris Miller: Never drink and skate. 

Lance Mountain: No. 

John Cardiel: Yes. 

Dan Drehobl: I’ve gotten drunk, but like I said, no 540. 

Peter Hewitt: LSD? 

Pierre Luc Gagnon: Couple beers deep, but never hammered. 

Jake Brown: Of course not … 

Eric Koston: Never. 

Bob Burnquist: I’ve never, ever skated vert drunk. I know better than that. 

Rune Glifberg: No. 

EVER HUNG ONE UP? 

Christian Hosoi: Every way imaginable—truck, board, feet, but never my body. 

Tony Hawk: Of course. I’ve landed on the deck and bounced in trying frontside fives. 

Chris Miller: Houston contest. When you lock on a 540 you usually wind up over-rotating to your shoulder or back, and almost always hit your head. I’ve done it a few times, but Houston was the worst. I had to skate my second run with no music because my head was literally ringing. The silence worked and I made the second one. 

Lance Mountain: All the time. 

John Cardiel: Yes. 

Peter Hewitt: Double shin bash on the coping. I thought I broke both my legs. 

Pierre Luc Gagnon: No. Knock on wood. I did over-rotate to the flat and broke my wrist, though. 

Jake Brown: I only hang up on wrong numbers. 

Bob Burnquist: Oh yeah. The worst one was an over-rotation on a mute 540 on the extension. My helmet went flying off when I hit my ass on the flatbottom in a twisted fashion. I’d rather hang up than over-rotate. 

Rune Glifberg: No. 

A BETTER NAME? 

Christian Hosoi: We always liked to call it a McFlip, because they looked tad when you flip ‘em. 

Tony Hawk: The Twirl? 

Chris Miller: It seems like most people just call them “fives.” 

Lance Mountain: No, Mike did it first; McTwist. 

John Cardiel: Flippy twisty. 

Dan Drehobl: The McAsshole. 

Peter Hewitt: Body shoomer. 

PLG: Crowd pleaser twist? 

Jake Brown: 550. 

Eric Koston: Bachelor party. 

Bob Burnquist: If the 360 varial is the champion, then the 540 could be the King air. If you got the King air, you throw the champion in a combo and you’re the demo emperor. 

Rune Glifberg: The twist. 

LEARN IT ON ‘CRETE OR WOOD? 

Christian Hosoi: I learned them on concrete, but I think it would be a lot safer to learn them on wood. 

Tony Hawk: Wood, no question. You can usually get back up and try it again. 

Chris Miller: Wood. 

Lance Mountain: At one of the padded stunt schools they have. Send your kids this summer. 

John Cardiel: Wood, so you can hear and feel the coping. 

Dan Drehobl: I’ve only tried ‘em on wood. Doing ‘era on concrete is definitely gnarlier. 

Peter Hewitt: Either way you’re gonna slam. 

Pierre Luc Gagnon: Wood makes it easier on you if you’re going to take a couples slams. 

Jake Brown: Plastic. Marble would be fun. If they carved a vert ramp outta marble? Mmmm … 

Eric Koston: Definitely wood. 

Bob Burnquist: Learn them on wood if you can. And if you don’t have to, don’t try them on concrete. Do it on concrete. 

Rune Glifberg: Wood. 

MCTWISTS OR 540S? 

Christian Hosoi: The crowd always says McTwist, but we always say 540s. 

Tony Hawk: A McTwist is when you grab mute. Everything else is a five—stale five, varial five, frontside five, etc. 

Chris Miller: Huh? 

Lance Mountain: McTwist. 

John Cardiel: 540s. 

Dan Drehobl: 540. 

Peter Hewitt: Front flip. 

Pierre Luc Gagnon: McTwists if you flip it, and fives if you spin it flat. 

Bob Burnquist: 540s. 

Rune Glifberg: Both. 

TOP FIVES: 

Tony Hawk: Hosoi, Glifberg, Lasek, Kasai, Gentry (frontside). 

Chris Miller: Rune, Hosoi, Georgio, Buster, Sandro Dias. 

Lance Mountain: McGill, Christian, Miller, Tony did them any place. I actually really liked mine. 

John Cardiel: Gator, Lester, Ruff, Hawk, McGill. 

Dan Drehobl: Hosoi, Lance, Hewitt, Max, Jake Brown. 

Peter Hewitt: Hosoi, Gator, Grosso, D Way, Jake Brown. 

Pierre Luc Gagnon: I never had the chance to see some of those guys skate so I’ll just list five skaters I know about. Danny Way, Sandro Dias, Tony Hawk, Hosoi, Tas Pappas. 

Eric Koston: Hawk, Gator, Lester, McGill, Ruff. 

Bob Burnquist: Danny Way’s tailgrab 540 in one of the H-street videos. Hawk’s ollie 540, Pierre Luc’s heelflip mute 540, Sandro Dias’ body jar 540, Chris Gentry’s frontside 540. 

Rune Glifberg: Danny Way (method), Chris Miller (mute), Colin Mckay (indy), Jake Brown (mute), Bill Weiss (drunk). 

ANY GOOD 540 STORIES? 

Christian Hosoi: When we were all at Del Mar waiting for McGill to do the first 540, I remember him warming up and we were so anxious to see him do it that we were yelling at him. Then he busted his first one and landed it. Right then I knew that skateboarding’s potential just got started. 

Tony Hawk: When people heard that Mike learned McTwists in Sweden in 1984, the crew at Del Mar tried to keep it a secret from me—as if I could learn it before he got back to the US a week later. I was blown away when I finally saw it; it was more of a flip than a spin, and a whole new direction in vert skating. 

Lance Mountain: I don’t think Ruff did them. 

John Cardiel: Drunk naked Bill Weiss is always a good one. 

Dan Drehobl: I’m scared to try them now ‘cause I’m a pussy. The first time I tried one I fell off the side of the ramp and landed in dog shit with a concussion. I woke up and my friend Rob was carrying me into my house and I had dog shit on my face. 

Peter Hewitt: One time loops poops’d on a 540. 

Jake Brown: I was so bummed when my friend Spin (Dave Bodnar) learned ‘em. He was 16. At the time that seemed young, and then Squatty Scare used to squat those fuckers all over the place. 

Eric Koston: Nothing too special, just Bill Weiss doing one nude on that metal ramp in Amsterdam during a demo in front of about 200 people. It took him an embarrassing four tries and he was about eight or nine warm beers deep. 

Bob Burnquist: In Northampton, England, around 1998 or ‘99, Tas Pappas showed up and hadn’t even skated the ramp; got padded up, and in a burst of competition-thinking bet Mike Crum that he could just drop in and do a 540 first hit. Can’t remember how much money was on the line but whatever it was, if Tas knew what was coming, he wouldn’t have offered the bet. He dropped in, spun it and landed halfway on the deck on his back, then shot to the flatbottom. It was the funniest thing ever, but Tas wasn’t laughing. Crum was rolling and everyone just couldn’t stop laughing. He was done, with just one wail. No England contest for Tas that year. I haven’t seen that bet come up again. Gotta love first-wall 540s. 

20 YEARS LATER: Giorgio does ‘em without pads, Weiss does ‘em without clothes, and Sandro does 540 body jars. Let’s hope for more milestones to come, where the old is over and the new is now. A toast to the future, and an embrace for the past. — Jake Phelps


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