Nick is known by several names, TnT if you’ve seen his explosive riding. Che Blanc if you’ve befriended him online. But no matter what you call him, there is no arguing that he is the future of wakeskating. In a few short years he’s mastered just about everything already done in the sport, and continues to add new variations and more pop, doing all of it with a smile on his face. In 2007, Nick is poised to go from the “next” generation, to THE generation, already exemplified by his finishes at the first stop of the Toe Jam. For the rest of us less skilled water dancers, all we can do is sit back and watch him go.
AW: What have you been up to?
NT: Just wakeskating a lot, doing a lot of traveling. Did a trip out to California with Josh Slay, Reed Hansen, Collin Harrington and Alliance. We just cruised south hitting up all these different winch spots and waves and stuff. I went to LA and filmed an episode of the Daily Habit.
AW: Did you ride big waves? How was that?
NT: We got pulled into some pretty good waves, but there wasn’t as much swell as we were thinking. We got some waves that were a foot overhead, two feet over. It was a pretty good time.
AW: Did the surfers make fun of you?
NT: No, not at all. They were super stoked on what we were doing. We had Josh Slay out there who is a really good aerialist surfer and we got him on the wakeskate and he was super pumped on it. It was kind of cool to get that respect from different board sports.
AW: Speaking of other board sports, where do you get your inspiration for new tricks to try?
NT: Most of my inspiration for new tricks comes from watching skateboarding videos, just the different way that skaters do stuff. It’s so technical but they make everything look good. That’s kind of like the ideal that I look up to.
AW: Any new tricks you are working on or that you’ve learned recently?
NT: Yeah, I’ve been doing a lot of wake-to-wake stuff. My jet ski broke down so I’ve been riding behind Stu’s boat. I’ve been doing switch judo 180s wake-to-wake, benihana layback 180s, doin’ some switch 5s, stuff like that. I also learned this thing– some of my friends call it a half cab flip — but it’s a switch 180, late regular flip. It looks how a half cab flip would look on a skateboard.
AW: What is your position on the fins debate?
NT: I’d definitely say it’s personal preference to a degree, but there are some people who just kind of need fins. When the whole fin debate started, there was a certain group of riders that rode without fins and they were just sliding their stuff around, not popping, sliding out of stuff, and that’s really where that stereotype came from. I think the riders who are riding finless right now, can still hang. Guys like me, and Stu (Shinn) and Drew Danielo, we’ve kind of shown that we don’t need fins to be at that level. But there are still some people who kind of depend on them.
AW: Tell me about the “most legit shuv ever.” Did it ever happen?
NT: The plan was to take one of my wakeskates and fit in with a 6 or 7-inch surf dog fin, one on each end, and try and do the most legit shuv ever. It would probably end up being a late shuv because you’d have to pop it so much. It would definitely look pretty rad. We haven’t got it yet, but we’ll get on that this summer.
AW: I’ve heard you claim to invent several things in wakeskating, Reed Hansen among them. Which of your many inventions are you most proud of?
NT: I’m pretty stoked about inventing Reed Hansen, and water. I feel like they were definitely kind of big contributions to wakeskating. I did not invent Reed’s skills though, he got those on his own. But yeah, water I totally invented.
AW: You are often referred to as the next generation of wakeskating. How does that make you feel, do you feel like you are in a position to change the sport?
NT: Maybe not change, but definitely take it to the next level. The foundation that was laid down by guys like Thomas and Aaron and Scott, they totally had the right vision going and it’s like my responsibility to keep that going and just push it to the next level. The ideals that Thomas and Aaron have had since the beginning, I’m just taking their vision and running with it. It really gets me stoked to know that I’m going to be one of the guys pushing that.
AW: How do you feel about competing?
NT: It’s a different vibe for sure. I’ve always said I like going to contests just because it’s one of the few times that you get all the wakeskaters together. I’m really not a competitive person, personality-wise. I like standing on the podium, I like getting recognized for being able to do what I do. It can be good. It’s definitely good exposure for the sport. It’s good to have an event where people can come and it can be showcased on TV and stuff. Overall I’d say they’re definitely necessary.
AW: How did your Che Blanc persona become such a staple on wakeskating.com?
NT: I came on there in like ’03, before I even wakeskated, and I just layed out 345 questions and just demanded answers because as soon as I wakeskated I wanted to know everything about it. Then I just learned everything about the history of wakeskating, the tricks and stuff through wakeskating.com, and once I had it all down, I just kind of returned the favor. Anytime anyone had a question I would just tell them what everyone had taught me and eventually I just became the go-to guy when you had a question that no one else could figure out. By the way, I just hit 10,000 posts, so we’re gonna’ have a party.
AW: Wow! Congratulations. What’s one thing that not even the kids of wakeskating.com know about you?
NT: None of them know where the name Che Blanc comes from.
AW: Oh yeah, will you let us in on the secret?
NT: I can’t tell you! Actually, I don’t even remember. Just say its one of Bill Paxton’s aliases.
AW: Are you finished with high school yet?
NT: Yeah, my graduation was last night. Pretty pumped on that, done with school!
AW: What was your GPA?
NT: I made it that was all that mattered. It was a 3-point something. I got a 1380 on my SATs though.
AW: Who would win in a duel, you or Reed Hansen?
NT: Well it depends on what kind of duel, because he’s really good at arm wrestling, but I’m way better at sword fighting.
AW: What about Stuart Shinn or Matt Manzari?
NT: Again it depends on what kind of duel they had. I think if they were break dance fighting I’m pretty sure Matt would take it, but if they were having a western style shoot out, Matt’s definitely got quicker hands.
AW: So Matt would win?
NT: I don’t know, Stu could definitely out eat Matt. Stu won an eating contest for our whole country. I’ve seen him give up a wakeskating sesh because he was making fettucini alfredo.
AW: Your dad was a big supporter of wakeskating, and his death touched a lot of people in the industry. How are things going for you now?
NT: It’s been about a year and a half. It’s different. With all this stuff going on, getting second at Toe Jam, getting a Day in the Life video part, I just want to show him. But I know he sees it anyway.
AW: Do you think he is proud of what you’re doing?
NT: Yeah, absolutely. He’d be super stoked on everything that’s going on. I know he’d be going on all the trips and stuff, or at least wanting to.
AW: What is Anna Maria Island like?
NT: Living on the island’s been pretty chill. It’s just starting to get warm again so we’re putting away the fishing polls, busting out the wakeskates again. No actually, I haven’t really quit riding at all throughout winter, but we did start fishing a lot more. It’s been fun, just having the beach right down the road. But it’s pretty weird, people are starting to move away already. I’m actually headed out, moving up to Matt Manzari’s.
AW: What is your motivation for heading to Orlando?
NT: More riding time, and just being close to the scene. Out here, all the waterways within 20 miles of my house are no wake zones now, because of Jimmy Buffett and his band of hippies. They rolled through with the Save the Manatees foundation and shut down everything. It takes like a 30-minute drive to go riding, and living at Matt’s I’ll be able to just go out into the backyard and hit up the session. Definitely me and Matt are really gonna’ push each other the whole time. We’re gonna’ be riding boat, jet ski, going to the Projects all the time, it’s going to be fun.
AW: What’s next for you? Any more inventions in the works?
NT: Nah, I’m just taking it slow, taking it one thing at a time. It’s gonna’ be different. I’ve lived at my house my whole life, so moving out is going to be pretty intense. Just keeping it real.