Nikhil Thayer has been putting in work on the streets of San Francisco for over a decade. He has bridged the gap from unknown amatuer to seasoned pro while maintaining the same smooth style and level-headedness that can sometimes go out the window after a long tenure in the City. Given that, we were curious to talk to Nikhil and find out what makes him tick.
48 Blocks: You’re originally from a small town in New Hampshire. What was it like growing up skating there, how did you get into it?
Nikhil: I first got into skateboarding because this guy that was working on our house as a contractor came over to do some work and his son was with him. His son had a little banana board and I was like wow, that thing’s awesome. So I just asked my parents, come on, lemme get a board, lemme get a board. They wouldn’t get me one. They were like, no, you won’t use it… it’s just a fad. Finally after months and months they let me get one. I was really young, I was like five or six… it was that long ago. I just started out skating in the driveway. I basically grew up in the woods and we had a dirt driveway until right around the time when I got that board. My parents were cool, my dad would always let me build ramps in the driveway… he bought me a curb. (laughs) He bought me this crappy ass parking block, so I had a parking block in my driveway and I’d just try to railslide it and stuff. But really there was no going around or skating in town cause I lived in the woods, it was like miles to civilization. My skating started out really organic and homegrown, it was all in the yard.
48 Blocks: That kinda leads into the next question. Did you travel much around the east coast or did you stick close to home?
Nikhil: I stayed close to home until I got my driver’s license. Also, I went to boarding school when I was in the eighth grade, but they didn’t allow skateboards there… so I didn’t even skate in eighth or ninth grade at all. Once I was a sophomore in high school I went to a different boarding school, so I started skating again. There were a bunch of skaters there, some guys who I’m still friends with today. I met Jim Gagne out there. I skated with him a lot, he was the first sponsored guy that I ever saw. After that all my friends started getting older. People started getting cars and we’d go to Boston.
48 Blocks: When did you first come to California, how did that happen?
Nikhil:I graduated high school and was back in New Hampshire. I was loosing my mind with boredom. I called up Rob Welsh and a couple other guys and I was like, hey… let’s do this. I sorta used school as a way to get out here. My parents helped me out a little bit with money cause I was going to school, but once I got out here I was living in an apartment with three other dudes who weren’t going to school. I was trying to go to school and these other dudes were just partying… there was no way that I could focus on it. In hindsight I guess I wish I stayed in it, but what are you gonna do… it’s just the path that life takes you on. If you can’t handle it then you can’t handle it, and skating was what my main focus was.
48 Blocks: Who was your first sponsor and how did that happen for you?
Nikhil: The very first bit of free product was from Ron Allen in Fun’s twilight years. I had a friend from Massachusetts who lived downstairs from him in Oakland. A friend of mine had sent him a footage tape with a bunch of other buddies from back east skating and he showed it to Ron. Ron was like, what’s up with this kid. My friend Corey Shaw told him I was moving out here and set up an introduction. I got out here and met Ron, he was cool and gave me some boards.
48 Blocks: You have a reputation for being a soldier on your skateboard. Why don’t you talk a little about your work ethic when it comes to skating.
Nikhil: I don’t know if I would call myself a soldier, I think that one came from Doug, my team manager. My work ethic has sort of changed over the last couple of years in that I don’t really push it anymore. If I don’t feel like skating, I just won’t do it. I do skate a lot, maybe that’s what he’s talking about. I skate almost every day. Some days I think I won’t have time to skate when I wake up, but when I go to walk my dog I end up taking him to the skate park in San Mateo and he just chases me around. I just like skating. As far as a work ethic goes, I just do that cause I gotta keep my paycheck coming in… you gotta keep that money coming in, so when it’s time for a video – just try to get what you can without pushing it so hard that you resent the fact that you gotta film.
48 Blocks: Nowadays do you look at skating as a job or is it still about the fun and the love?
Nikhil: It’s definitely way more about the fun and the love for me, but at the same time I need that money. I have other things that I do to get income, but skateboarding’s more like a personal thing. That’s part of the reason why you can’t describe skateboarding to someone who doesn’t skate. I’d be doing it anyways even if I wasn’t getting paid. When I wake up in the morning, I’m not just gonna sit around all day… I’m gonna go skate because we got this video or I gotta do this or that.
48 Blocks: Who are some people that you admire for their skating? Who are some of your personal favorites?
Nikhil: Peter Hewitt, he’s pretty sick. Buzenitz is awesome. My friends that I skate with, Joey (Pepper) has been ripping lately, Brad (Johnson) has been killing it, Jason (Wussler) has been killing it. Danny Renaud is sick. I like all different kinds of skating, so when I say someone like Peter Hewitt I’m dead serious – that dude is fucking sick. It sounds weird coming from some dude that’s known for skating ledges.
48 Blocks: How did you first hook up with Western Edition, how did that start?
Nikhil:I was skating for Infamous and we had sort of an implosion. It blew up due to team conflicts and the guy that had the money just didn’t wanna do it anymore. I was sort of sponsorless for awhile and I would always go to Kent (Uyehara) for advice back in the day. He was always really good about that for me. I was like, what am I gonna do? These Planet Earth guys aren’t really hooking me up the way they should be. He talked me through it and told me what he thought I should do. After Infamous, I didn’t know where to turn or what to do and Kent told me he would just give me FTC team boards and that he knew it was gonna work out for me. Then they decided to take Western Edition to a different level, which was…
48 Blocks:Adding Pros?
Nikhil: Adding pros, they gave Pat the first board. I don’t know what the sequence was… then Brad and Jason got on. I was getting a little bit of coverage and asked Kent what he thought about me skating for Western Edition as a Pro? I had a pro board on Infamous for two or three months before it went out of business. He said they could’t give me a pro board right away, but they’d put me on and see what happens. I was down for it cause Pat, Brad, and Jason were and are my good friends. I had faith in it and went with it and it worked out for me.
48 Blocks: In past video parts I remember you skating to some pretty sick music. What do you like to listen to personally?
Nikhil: I listen to 80’s punk. I listen to Bad Brains. I listen to some mid 90’s kinda like, I don’t wanna say emo shit, but I listen to like Pavement and Built to Spill. It’s mostly rocked based stuff now and it’s probably under the commercial radar.
48 Blocks: Like indie stuff…
Nikhil: Yeah like indie stuff, I haven’t been listening to as much hip hop lately, but I still love UGK, 3-6 Mafia, Ghetto Boys, Smif n’ Wessin, all that Boot Camp shit was my favorite stuff for years; but I grew up listening to a lot of punk stuff, so I’ve been getting back into that. I don’t know why, it’s just been sounding right to me lately. Bowie, I love Bowie.
48 Blocks: Bowie’s tight. You recently became a father. How has that impacted your skating? Is it hard juggling the family with filming and taking photos?
Nikhil: It’s harder, but my wife is awesome and she knows that I have to skate. Not only for my job, but because I’ll go nuts if I don’t get out there. Yeah it’s hard, but you just gotta get better at time management.
48 Blocks: You’ve stayed in SF for a long time while many people have come and gone. What keeps you here?
Nikhil: My friends and I just like this city. I like the architecture, I like the hills, I like the weather, I like not having to drive everywhere. You’re close to nature out here too, which may sound strange to people but being that I have a dog, I’m always out there on the cliffs by the beach with my dog every single day, but mostly it’s just the people here.
48 Blocks: Are you more inspired by older skate videos or newer ones? What’s your favorite era and why?
Nikhil: I like a lot of the eras. I like the Tim and Henry Era, I like the Video Days Era, I really like Neil Blender in Ohio Skateout, I like the Mouse video and I like new stuff too. A lot of these dudes out here are so sick. Off the top of my head, the Blueprint video is awesome… those guys are real sick. My favorite skate video of all time is probably Tim and Henry’s (Pack of Lies). It was short, it was sweet….
48 Blocks: Who do you normally skate with, do you have a crew or is it just whoever is around?
Nikhil: It’s definitely not whoever’s around. The crew consists of Brad (Johnson), Matt (Jones), Jason (Wussler), Joey (Pepper), Lee (Smith) is here so I’ve been skating with him everyday, Mecky, Sean Connally, Reed when he’s here, Cairo now that he’s here again, John Igei when he’s here….get back here John. I got Andy Honen out there skating the other day, that was fun. I skate with (Ken) Goto too, I skate mini ramps with him a lot. Alex Klein when he’s up here. Brenan Conroy when I can, he’s fun to skate with.
48 Blocks: What are your future plans both in and out of skating? Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
Nikhil: In five years? Shit, I don’t know. Kent and Doug probably will have retired me by then (laughs). I don’t know, I might be a general contractor, I might be an independent investor in the stock market, I’m interested in things like that. I’m interested in real estate and the stock market. I’ll still be a dad. I’ll be taking my daughter to preschool and all that stuff.
48 Blocks: You’ll probably still be skating.
Nikhil: Yeah, I’ll still be skating. Hopefully I can keep it going on a professional level. I mean five years, that’s a long ways away. If you would have asked me when I was twenty-five what I was gonna be doing when I’m thirty, I would have said that I would be done already. I think a lot of people say that and a lot of people feel like that.