Big risks create big rewards, and it seems for Taylor Nawrocki, he’s still reaping the benefits of his move to NYC. Taylor was your usual working class dude from the Midwest before he hitchhiked a ride to New York on a whim, with no plan or connections. After some luck (and busting his ass) he managed to lock in a moving job to pay the bills and link up with Politic and the whole Theories of Atlantis crew. He’s been catching some breaks and stacking clips ever since, putting out multiple parts while exploring Europe. As someone who’s been quietly making a name for himself among our circles, we figured we’d try to find out how a guy from the midwest with practically no high school education and no money is making it all happen.
Just gotta get the basics out of the way. How do you say your last name properly?
Nuh-rocky. Nawrocki is Polish, but I’m Cuban-Polish, so that’s the mix.
Where’d you grow up? You graduate high school?
I grew up in Columbus, Ohio. I graduated a year early from high school, actually. I was in an accelerated credit program ’cause there was just no way that I was going to do anything in school. You couldn’t get me to do shit, so they had this weird program that wasn’t even in the high school called Trailblazers, it was down the street in a renovated apartment building that they turned into classrooms.
They basically had a school for the drug dealers and felons and people with kids, and you’d get credits for showing up, you’d get credits for having a job, you’d get credits for anything really. It’s basically just a place that’s like, “Get them the fuck out of high school, cause they don’t stand a chance here.”
But it’s pretty sick, they taught me how to balance a checkbook, how to file taxes, how to act in job interviews. It was all the shit you actually could use and apply. There’s nothing that I used from my freshman year of high school to this day, but everything they taught me in that program, I use all the time.
How did you end up in that program?
You know when you’re a kid and you don’t want to do shit but the thing that you’re into? That was skating for me, and I told my mom, “I am just not going to do anything.” She talked to the principal and was like, “Listen, if you just do this for him, he’ll be out of your hair. He just wants to do what he wants to do. It’s not a problem, he just doesn’t wanna do school.”
How big were the classes? What was the vibe like?
They were small, it was maybe 10 of us to a classroom, and 45 or 50 of us in the program. Most of ’em were on parole and had been to juvenile hall or had jobs or kids. They also knew that school wasn’t a priority for them either, so they took another route. They took the less lucrative route. The scumbag route. [laughs] The program was mainly for them, it’s not for dudes like me who could’ve done school but just said, “Nah, I’m good.”
Skating wasn’t that big in the area. There were only a couple skaters in the school, and we had bullies, but it was cool ’cause we were all just poor. We were all related through poverty. The school was not a rich school, so it didn’t matter what you were into really, but there were still bullies. These guys were always talking shit. I never got beat up for being a skater or anything, but they definitely had their go to jokes like, “Oh what’s up Tony Hawk?!” and all that corny bullshit. But it was cool because all you did was talk shit back and then it became a thing.
But girls were always fighting in there. They were just reckless. Student-on-student, student-on-teacher. Kids would steal shit all the time too. There were two different cafeterias, there was the main cafeteria with the lunch lady, and then there was our separate cafeteria that served us food, and people would steal money and blame it on other people. It was just that high school petty shit.
With all that being said, would you recommend it over regular schooling?
I feel like they should just teach that in high school and just level the playing field, then it’s all the same. I guess Advanced Placement is probably smart for people who have that going for them, but algebra is hard to do. Geometry, science, all that shit is hard, are you kidding me? If you teach everyone about taxes, which is actually something you have to deal with, teach everyone about how to act for job interviews, it’s better for everybody. It just comes down to what they teach in high school, really.
So how did you end up in New York after Ohio?
So I’m in Columbus one day, and we’re skating the park early in the morning, and these guys are on a trip driving from Chicago back to New York. Some of ’em live in NY now. Did you see the BSA video “Whole Bitch?” It’s those dudes. But anyway, it was like 10 of ’em, we’re all skating this park, and we just started talking and they were like, “Yeah, we’re driving back to New York,” and I was like, “Alright, well fuck, you got any room in the van?” And they were like, “I mean yeah, but what are you gonna do?” And I just told them I’d figure it out. I packed a bag that night and the next morning I was on my way there.
On the ride to New York, I called my friend Michael Carney, whose brother is Patrick Carney in The Black Keys, actually. He put me in contact with this dude who had a room opening up, so on the drive to NY I got a room. Then we get to Brooklyn and we go to this bar in Williamsburg, some really shitty bar, I can’t remember the name of it right now. But anyway, we go into this bar and one of the dudes who was on the trip, his ex-girlfriend was there and she worked in the kitchen, and she hooked it up and got me a job right away.
So on the drive to NY, I got an apartment and as soon as I got there, I got a job.
Then at the bar, the bartender asked my friend Nate, “Oh, who’s that dude?” And my friend Nate is like, “Oh, that’s Taylor, he just moved here 10 minutes ago.” She said, “Alright cool, well if I have sex with him you can drink for free for a month.” So I got a room, got a job, and got laid my first night in New York. It was lovely.
I got a room, got a job, and got laid my first night in New York. It was lovely.
Do you make a living off of skating now in New York?
Naaaah, fuck no. There’s no money in skating, man. Especially in this small brand shit. I work for the best moving company in New York City, Lou Moves You. It’s like a skater’s hustle. I don’t drive the vans, but we’ve got a couple other skaters who work with us and take care of that side. I’m a packer, and I bring furniture and stuff down stairs and all that.
After you’re done working that job, aren’t you too worn out to go skate?
It depends on how many moves we’re doing that day. If we do one move, I’m definitely skating after. If we do two, it depends how gnarly the moves were, but chances are I’ll probably skate later. If we do three, you can fuckin’ forget it, man. There’s no way.
Do you consider yourself a “man AM?”
I mean, uh, no… I’m 27. Aren’t we all amateur skaters, though? Like what do you call an amateur skater? Just cause you get free boards, is that an amateur? Or are we all amateur skaters because we all skate?
I guess “industry wise” you get a team bio page, you get boards, you get a check, all that…
Well, I’ll tell you this, there is no check. [laughs] But first of all, I knew a long time ago that it was never in the cards for me to get paid from skating. I don’t give a fuck about getting paid from skating. Seriously, 100% of the people I know who were in that position have been burned by the game, and they fucking hate skating now, and I refuse to let that happen. I refuse to get burnt out on skating, that’s the last thing I want.
But aren’t you on Nike?
I get shoes…
”I just lift furniture for a living, man”
So you literally see no money from skateboarding?
No. I mean, when it comes down to a trip and I ask certain people for money, then yes, but there’s never a moment like, “The check came in for the month!” You know what I mean? I just lift furniture for a living, man.
I mean, we’re talking about skateboarding checks here, they’re not even real. That shit’s below poverty line. When people do make money off skating, I think it’s beautiful, but on the other side of it, you just come out with bullshit and it just means less to you. But that’s all personal, and that’s all up to the person and their relationship with skateboarding. But as far as I can see, once you get in that position, you just have to keep coming out with bullshit web edits that mean nothing.
I tried to convince myself that I wanted to do it that way, coming out with shit all the time, but it literally means nothing. And it’s never meant less. And I think I represent a really small minority, but I think it’s coming back around to where people are like, ok cool, let’s save footage for a fuckin’ video. If Josh [Stewart] wants to come out with something, people would pay attention. Even with Colin Read’s video, that shit is going to change the game. He’s doing shit that had people tripping out, even just with the trailer. I think it’s coming back around, but I could be wrong…
What do you see as your end game in skating? Do you care about turning pro?
If you asked the 12-year-old me to hang out with me right now, he would fuckin’ freak out. He would cry. He would be so psyched to meet me or be me, so if I’m looking at it like that, I think I’ve done everything. I’ve traveled the world, I’ve been in magazines, been in videos, skated with a ton of sick people. Making it is all personal. Whether or not you feel like you’ve made it or not is all personal.
I do know this. I refuse to be the guy milking some weird career. I don’t want to be that dude. Look at Scott Johnston. Scott Johnston got out the game at the perfect time, and nobody is mad at him. He came out with cool shit only, did his thing, and then just stepped out the game. He didn’t try to milk a career and struggle to get clips to put out shitty video parts. He did his thing and got out, and the respect you get from that is greater than trying to stay relevant to me. Getting the respect that way means more than trying to just hang on to this.
Well, right now your livelihood is the moving job, so say some day you get injured skating and you struggle to continue doing moving jobs, do you have another back up?
Yeah, that is a scary, scary thought. I’ve thought about it, but I try not to humor it too much. To answer that, no. [laughs] It’s very unlikely that it’ll last forever, but I don’t have a back up, man.
You recently went to LA with Theories. What do you think, is LA mexican food the best?
It’s definitely going toe to toe with San Francisco burritos. I couldn’t tell you the names of the places we went to, but it’s phenomenal there. I’ll tell you this though, the LA and SF pizzas are fucking bullshit. I’m really picky about my pizza and I just refuse to eat it man, for real. It’s just like, for a regular slice, for a slice of cheese, you’re paying $4, and I can’t do that. I cant give up $4 for a slice of cheese. Something felt so wrong about it. But we were in the Haight in SF so I’m sure that had something to do with it…
Do you have any travel tips for living on a shoestring budget?
Always buy groceries, cook for yourself, and live frugal. I don’t drink, smoke weed, or party or anything like that, so that automatically means I save 90% of my money by not doing shit. Unfortunately, not everyone is on that same shit, and that would definitely help people out. When you’re out in Europe you drink all day I guess, you come back to the States and do the same, then pick up weed. It’s so stupid, there’s definitely ways to do it.
Also, clean up the house that you stay in. Whoever’s house that you’re staying at, do the dishes, sweep, do anything. And be small. Be as small as you can in your space. Don’t be spread out in an apartment that’s not your space, you’re on borrowed time.
What’s the grimiest living situation you’ve found yourself in when you’re on these long trips?
I don’t know if Chris Jones is gonna like this, but his fuckin’ apartment in London is trife man. It was stinkin’ [laughs]. I’m just over exaggerating a bit, but, man, the kitchen was gnarly. And the hot water heater broke, so I was taking showers like a cowboy. I was heating up water on the stove and bringing it into the bathroom in a bucket, just shivering. So I gotta say Chris Jones’ place was the trifest. I kind of had the spot to myself for three days but they turned the living room into another bedroom, so there wasn’t really a place to chill except for the kitchen, and the kitchen is the trifest part about the apartment.
I noticed you’ve been skating with Quim Cardona a lot. Now that Organika’s team is done, is there talk of him getting on Politic?
Ooooooh, I don’t know if I’m supposed to tell you. [laughs] But it’s looking good, it’ll be cool. We were getting out together a lot cause he was the latest addition to Colin Read’s video. Whatever he decides on in the end will be fucking sick.
Does he ever freestyle for you?
Haaa, no but he does have a recording of a Tom Penny rap that he’s played for us, it’s phenomenal. Tom was rapping on a song with Quim, it’s next level, man. If there’s a way you could get it, it’s so fucking good. I don’t think Quim was even there for the recording session, but Tom recorded a verse and then sent it to Quim to record on and Quim never did, so he just has a Tom Penny verse on a song. It’s fucking insane. You have to track it down.
I saw on your Instagram that you’re a master ass scouter. Where’s the best place to scope out ass in the city?
[Laughs] Fuck, basically just all of New York. It’s funny, I travel the world, I’m in skate videos, I’m in magazines, I get to do all this cool shit, and I’ll post some tricks or something and they don’t even do numbers, but as soon as I post something about eating ass or some cheeks it’s like fuckin’ 600 likes instantly. It sucks, man. [laughs] But dude, any time you’re in Harlem you see some shit walking around, the Lower East Side too, and SoHo is always dope. I’m always on the Five Leaves bench over here in Greenpoint, and there’s always some shit walking by. Always girls havin’ brunch.
Isn’t it tough to eat ass with all that beard in the way?
Nah, you just move it out the way!
They don’t get ticklish??
Nah, you just tie it up!
Nah, I’m just kidding [laughs]. But I might have to try that one real quick actually.