As told to: Mackenzie Eisenhour
For this installment we delve into the origins (and early evolution) of the switch 360 flip. One of the first articles I wrote for TWS back in ’05 (Back In The Day: Jed Walters) indirectly launched my quest to understand how this trick—often considered the ‘Royal Flush’ of flatground maneuvers came to be and who the first people to adapt it to street (and film one that appeared in a video) were over the course of 1990-1992. As far as the trick’s creator, that’s never really been in question. As listed in his ’94 Plan B ad titled “The House that Rodney Built,” Rodney Mullen landed the very first switch 360 flip in 1990. From there, my understanding was that the first one adapted to and filmed on the streets (down stairs no less) was the one Guy Mariano filmed for his teaser clips at the beginning of Blind’s ’92 promo Tim and Henry’s Pack of Lies.
My ’05 article about Jed Walters had mentioned that Jed’s two switch 360 flips in his Love Child (’92) part were actually the first time I (and the rest of the world following skateboarding’s progression from afar via VHS) had seen the trick. At the time, I rightly assumed that Guy’s had been filmed first, and that it was only due to Love Child being released a few months prior to Pack of Lies that Jed’s was seen first. But my understanding was always that Rodney was the inventor and Guy was the first to land and adapt the trick to the streets—similar to Gonz and Natas seeing the potential and adapting Rodney’s flatground ollie.
The only problem with my conclusion was that every time I spoke to Guy about it over the years—first for his ’06 Pro Spotlight, and later for his ’18 COCI article—Guy insisted that it was Henry Sanchez who actually did the trick first (after Rodney) on a shaped street board. To set the record straight, if only for my own curiosity, I reached out to all three to get the full story of the trick’s beginnings.
Guy’s switch 360 flip at John Burroughs Elementary in Burbank from Tim and Henry’s Pack of Lies (1992 by Blind / Soc / Meza / Schlossbach). The first one ever filmed down stairs. I thought the video sequences would be a nice era accurate touch.
ME: Over the years you’ve credited Rodney and Henry Sanchez with the Switch 360 flip. Did you learn them with Henry?
Guy: Rodney Mullen was blasting them all over our Blind summer tour (’91).
He knew it was switch? Even on the symmetrical freestyle board?
Yeah. The freestyle board he was riding by then—he was kind of beefing them up a little bit. But to be fair, Henry (Sanchez) was doing them just on a shaped board. He would do them for hours and hours.
Did Henry try them after seeing Rodney do them?
Henry, for me at least, it seemed like he invented every single trick. Just on a curb and on flatground I saw him do so much of everything first. I think at that time he was so far ahead and just testing himself. Like, “What am I capable of?” The thing about skateboarding, like maybe Rodney Mullen invented the tre flip and somebody else invented the frontside flip—but Jason Lee and Andrew Reynolds do those tricks so well that you almost have to credit the people who popularized them too. The people who showed us how good they could be.
It takes a village. You gotta invent the trick, market the trick, sell the trick…
(Laughs) Yeah, so maybe I pissed on the fire hydrant for the switch tre along with Henry. Why not? I marked some territory.—Guy
That was Guy’s response when I asked him about it after the COCI interview in ’18. A few weeks back I reached out to Rodney explaining that Guy wanted to give Henry some credit for it and asked Rodney about his recollection of inventing the switch 360 flip in ’90 and taking it on the Blind summer tour with Guy and Henry.
From your perspective, do you remember learning switch 360 flips? Do you remember the first one? Where it was landed?
Rodney: The first one I did was at a Ralphs parking lot one night in the winter, whatever year that was (’90 —Ed). By the time the (World/Blind) summer tour came around (summer of ’91), the recollection I have best was tinkering on the flat of one of the ramps at Bruna (Verna)’s skatepark The Playground in Connecticut while those dudes all killed the park on tour, I think after a demo. (Jim) Greco used to skate there as a kid; seems that’s where we first met.
Was it a memorable trick for you or was it more of just another variation you rifled off with everything else?
Your instincts are right: nollie 360 flips came earlier, so I just turned them around (switch 360 flip) to get a better feel—no biggie. It was common with a bunch of tricks: “Helipop Heelflips” came early but I sucked at them, so nollie backside heels and switch frontside heels were bundled together to gain control— just made sense, not really a creative act. Goes back to finger flip days.
Do you think giving Henry some credit for being the first to adapt it to street skating (after you invented it) is fair?
I would LOVE for you to give Henry some credit with this. He was just coming into his powers, and to this day I believe we only saw glimpses of what he had inside him—one of the greatest skaters I ever knew. It’s also so cool hearing this from Guy, especially given how he took to ‘em (switch 360 flips)—I love his humility. I got to be there at that Imperial double set when he tossed ‘em down it so effortlessly. Blew my mind. Please say hello to them both if you get the time. Man do they shine in my memory.—Rodney
The final piece of the puzzle was reaching out to Henry to see what his recollection of it all was.
Henry blasts one over the Santa Monica sand gaps in 2022 with room to spare. Filmed by Izak Diaz.
As Guy explains it, Rodney was doing switch 360 flips on the ’91 Blind tour on his shaved down freestyle board (he landed the first one in late ‘90). Guy says you were the first person he saw do them after Rodney on a “street” board. Do you remember the first switch 360 flip you did?
Henry: I just remember it was probably sloppy. I can’t recall what board I did it on.
Had you seen Rodney doing them? Or heard about it? Did you guys talk about tricks and brainstorm together?
Rodney was a machine back then. I don’t think it mattered what kind of board he did anything on. We would just try to copy what we thought would translate to street.
Did you try to film any for Tim and Henry’s Pack of Lies? I know you had the switch bigspin flip over the hip at Gardena. I suppose switch bigspin flip is harder than just a regular switch 360 flip. Did it matter to you to get footage of one in a video?
We didn’t really plan tricks or anything. It was just what felt good for that moment. We had no idea people would be looking back for NBDs (decades later).
30 years later you just popped a few over the sand gaps in Santa Monica. Do you have a favorite switch 360 flip from through the years?
My favorites were just simple ones on hips or Euro gaps.
Both Guy and Rodney agreed you should get credit for being first to adapt the switch 360 flip to street. Do these things matter to you at this point?
I always credited Guy for the first legit street one he did on video down the couple of stairs. I don’t take credit for that trick. It was inevitable. But I always credited those two (Rodney and Guy). It was never a competition other than I probably wanted to land it first on a tiny bump in front of Guy’s house. But it was always a friendly competition, like sharing tips and encouraging each other. I’d say we learned it together but ultimately that’s Rodney’s creation and the first adaptation to street that mattered to me was Guy doing it down the stairs (In Tim and Henry’s). But there was a moment where I had a good one (laughs).
Thanks for doing this and tell Rodney what’s up. I hope he’s still doing it with that same drive. It really set him apart and was special. To think of all the stuff he took to the streets all those years was really incredible being that he was a freestyler. That’s never been done like that ever.—Henry
In conclusion, Rodney Mullen definitely invented the switch 360 flip in late 1990. Guy Mariano and Henry Sanchez can both be credited with adapting the trick to street by late ‘91/ early ‘92. While it sounds like Henry did possibly land it first on the bump in front of Guy’s house (and on that summer tour), Mariano certainly made the trick his calling card with his first one down the three-stair in Pack of Lies (’92), the one he does over 3rd street gap in the Virtual Reality (’93) Blind friends section, and later the notorious ones he landed down the Imperial double set (that were never filmed circa ‘94), over the table (off the bump) at Los Feliz in Mouse (’96)—all the way to the one he did to switch nosegrind down the rail in Pretty Sweet (’12). Thanks to three of the all time greats for giving us one the most iconic (and most difficult) flatground tricks there is. Go learn switch 360 flips today.
More TWS Origins:
TWS Origins of the Stalefish with Tony Hawk and Gonz
TWS Origins of the Frontside Pop Shove with Steve Rocco and Alan Gelfand
TWS Origins of the Backside Noseblunt Slide with Matt Hensley
TWS Origins of the Nollie Flip with Ali Mills and Rodney Mullen
TWS Origins of the Noseslide with Guy and Gonz
TWS Origins of the Japan Air with Tony Hawk
TWS Origins of the Noseblunt with Gonz, Guy, and Julien Stranger
TWS Origins: The Photo That Named the Sadplant
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