Mike McGill: The First McTwist

Skateboarding language can be strange. Tricks assume names like the Fakie 360 Flip, the Roast Beef or even The Jealous Husband. But one trick with a funny name is oddly serious. The “McTwist” was invented almost 30 years ago and still awes crowds and skateboarders alike. Reporter Andrew Norton met with skateboarding personalities who told of the humble originals of the trick that turned skateboarding on its head.

Mike McGill, Former Skateboarder: I’m a skateboard shop proprietor, a family man. I’m married, I have three children.

What gave me a good feeling recently is when Shawn White was interviewed by NBC and they said, “what’s this double corkscrew you’re doing?” He corrected them and said, “It actually is a double McTwist.” And I was just very stoked for Shawn to have my back for that. And you know, it makes you feel good when people remember what you do.

Sean Mortimer: I write about skateboarding.

Mike was just this unassuming, sort of blue collar, hard-working sort of skate guy, not the most technically gifted, talented skater, but somebody who really was going to do whatever he had to become a good skater. Nobody expected him to push the limits, especially in a way that other people couldn’t keep up.

You know what the McTwist is? It’s the one skateboard trick, and when you don’t know anything about skating—when you see someone do it, they’re like, “awwww.”

You’re sort of going into this great unknown where you go up, you have to flip, you’re totally blind, you don’t know if you’re going to hang up or slam. You don’t even know if you’re going to fall it correctly. You can get de-stroyed, like few things in skating can destroy you.

Mike McGill: I saw this roller skater, Fred Blood, I saw him in Cherry Hill New Jersey and he was spinning around on his roller skates.

Roller skaters were pretty nerdy, too—but I seen him do little 540 spins.

But I was kind of bummed out, like, “why can’t we do that with our skateboard?” You know, it’s another whole dimension. I was like, “Man I gotta figure this out.” And of course I knew something like that just wasn’t like any other trick. I knew it would be definitely a game changer.

Sean Mortimer: It was just like, okay, he went on the ramp and then when he landed that trick—it was a whole different era. Everyone freaked out. And Transworld, for instance, took a picture from that and on their magazine and simply put “The Trick.” They didn’t even explain what it was, they just showed him up in the air, upside down.

It brought a different sort of aggressive level to skating and it definitely opened up a lot of possibilities.

Michael Burnett: I’m a skateboard photographer. I work for Thrasher Magazine.

It’s almost like a front flip, but it’s actually a 540 degree rotation. It was the ultimate trick you could do. Like, “just let me do a McTwist. Did you do a McTwist? Are you in the club? The McTwist club?” That’s how it was.

Tony Hawk, Professional Skateboarder: When McTwist was first invented, my whole focus on skateboarding was to learn new tricks, that was it, that was what I prided myself on: I’m gonna learn the newest trick, I’m gonna take this further and do this. And then suddenly there was this trick, this glaring omission in my arsenal that was—“I’ve never even tried that.”

Sean Mortimer: He said he would literally be in class and look down and notice that he had written “McTwist,” it was so burned into his head subliminally and he would go to the park after school and just try, try, try.

Tony Hawk: I would obsess over it, probably for about three or four months. When I finally made it, it was super ugly, I barely landed it. My butt was touching my skateboard on the way down, but I finally figured it out.

I think the most difficult part of learning the trick is trusting in your instincts. There is a moment where you cannot see anything in terms of where you’re landing. It is all in the feeling of it. I hate to use the cheesy expression, but it is like using the force.

Sean Mortimer: It’s totally rejuvenated Mike again, he’s skating like he’s never skated. At that last Pro Tec pool contest, there’s a masters division which is all old guys, and you could just see it was like 1984 again.
And when he did that McTwist, there was such a feeling of warmth, people were so happy for Mike. It was an awesome McTwist. I mean, guys who do it all the time were on their feet. They were all jumping up and down.

Tony Hawk: “McTwist.” People still identify it with Mike McGill.