February 13, 2024/ / ARTICLES/ Comments: 3

photo: pete thompson

The naked 540º has long been a piece of skateboarding folklore.

First rearing its ugly head (and shaft), in the 80s, Bill Weiss, who you might know from his latest venture, Opera Skateboards, brought the daring innovation to the masses, injecting extra hype by doing the stunt at random skate events.

Photos have circulated for years, and it became Bill’s go-to party trick. Could he have simply learned how to open a beer bottle with his mouth or perfect a People’s Elbow table slam? Probably, but the potential for blunt force ball trauma inked this one in history forever.

While rounding out content for our last book, Jenkem Vol. 3 (which is still available BTW), we got the chance to interview Bill about baring it all on the vert ramp and how all this tomfoolery started.

When did you do your first naked 540º?
1988 or 1989. Back then the only way to make your name as a vert skater was through the NSA [National Skateboard Association] am series. So, in ‘89 I went to Huntsville, Alabama for a contest and we got there two days early. We were drinking beers, skating the vert ramp, and all the locals were doing “Circle K speed,” as they called it. I still don’t even know what that is but that was very popular.

It had just stopped raining and someone was like, “You should do a naked 540º in your run.” I was kind of hammered and I was like, I’ll do it right now. So I did it and everyone was kind of freaked out.

How old were you when you did your first one?
Let’s see…16 or 17.

Did that first naked 540º lead to any opportunities?
Shortly after I got offered my first ad for Dogtown in Thrasher. I was trying to think, I needed to do something that will stand out. At the time not that many pros did 540ºs, and I was like, I should just do a nude 540º so that it kind of breaks the monotony. But when I did it, it kind of did the opposite. Everyone was like, what the fuck. And then of course anywhere I went after that it was, “Do a nude 540º.”

Then of course vert died and everybody I knew that was a vert skater in ‘91 packed their shit up and went back to college, back to work, whatever they were doing. I was like, do I not skate? I don’t not want to skate. So everywhere I went if there was a vert ramp, and of course we were pretty lubricated drinking Coors Light, it was a given that it was going to happen.

How many times have you done it and how often did it work out?
I’m going to say at least 20 times. Almost all continents, now that I think about it. 80% of the time it will work first try, but on the ones that it didn’t, it would probably be four or five slams before it worked, and they were usually pretty significant. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a masonite burn or slammed on street where you get a hipper burn or something. I remember driving back from Vancouver and I had masonite burns from my knee to under my arm. I fell asleep in the car and my pants adhered to my cuts. I had to lay in the tub and soak my clothes off because they had dried, it was disgusting. Also masonite is disgusting, so when you get those burns that ooze because the fibers get in there. So yeah, I guess I would tell people it’s safer to skate with clothes on. You kind of forget that you’re naked except when you slam and you’re lying in an arena and the whole place is dead silent.

“So yeah, I guess I would tell people it’s safer to skate with clothes on.”

Did you ever have any reservations about getting naked?
Not with the Coors Lights. It wasn’t until later that I really thought about that kind of stuff.

The one I did in Tampa for the Rob and Big show, I remember [Rob] Dyrdek was like you got to do it! The producer [Jeff] Tremaine is like we’re going to throw out $5000 in ones. I hadn’t skated in seven years, so those guys were banking on something that is probably not going to work. As the weekend went on they kept asking and I was like, “Give me a twelve-pack, some nice headphones, and a nice robe.” So they provided those things.

I had James Craig as my towel boy in case things didn’t work, he was on the sidelines to cover me. I sat in the parking lot and pounded some beers, then I’m like fuck it, Dyrdek did his little announcement and I dropped in and I was doing power kick turns to get speed. I did 10 kick turns and I was like I can’t do it, I can’t get speed. I looked at James Craig and shook my head, then I did a couple more kick turns and just did it first try. I shot out and I just saw the money going and people swan diving across the flat getting all this money.

I’ve heard you have unusually long balls. How does that factor into everything?
That’s why it’s ironic I never ran them over. But I think in the moment they coil back up from, I guess you could call it stage fright or a self-defense mechanism. If you’ve ever skated and run over your finger when you bend down, that shit is the worst. I couldn’t even imagine, that would be… Another running joke was my sack catching a screw sliding down the ramp. What if my balls just flew in two different directions and someone had to get them for me?

Your balls would be long gone if they ran over a screw. They would be ripped in half.
Well, you’ve seen what screws do to knee pads. The caps on them break them in half, you know?

If you bailed one, did you have a way of falling to avoid getting hurt?
If the flip goes bad, sometimes people panic. Because when you’re flipping it sends you into an awkward spiral so I’d try to go to my feet and hands and try not to slide on my ass cheeks. That’s if it went awry. But if I landed and I knew I wasn’t going to make it, I’d try to go to my hip instead of going forward so the brunt of it would go to my ass cheek.

“You kind of forget that you’re naked except when you slam and you’re lying in an arena and the whole place is dead silent.”

What kinds of scrapes would you normally get if you bailed a naked 540º?
Definitely burns. Another fucked up one was in Europe in ‘95 when they did a contest series from England to the Netherlands, then Amsterdam and Germany. I rode for Premiere Change, which was a random company out of Pacific Drive, so I had nothing except a ticket there and a bunch of boards to sell. After England I was at the train station and the Girl team was at the same train station and they were like, are you by yourself? Rick [Howard] was like, “Who wants to room with Weiss?” Nobody put their hand up and Eric Koston is like, I’ll take him! So Girl took me through Europe.

Inevitably we end up at that Amsterdam ramp near the Van Gogh Museum, a big metal ramp. I did a naked 540 there, and there’s a really good photo in Transworld. The older I got, the nude fives were like coping level, but this one was a good four feet out. And if you look at the photo, there’s so many people in it that all have the same smile. Like, Rune Glifberg’s turning around, and they all have the same disturbed smile.

After I did that one I think I actually tried a nude 720º and then just ducked out. I had these burns from the metal on my ass and I was getting dressed and this dude that could barely speak English is like hey, come with me. He has this dark green van and I’m like “No!” and he opens it and it’s this mobile Heineken van filled with beer. He’s like “This is for you, for that.” So I told everyone and we just chilled in that van. He worked for Heineken and he just gave the van to us to party.

What was your worst naked 540º slam?
The [Pat] Duffy stuff from SF is probably the worst slam. Duffy used to live, I believe, in Phelps’ warehouse where they had this shitty vert ramp. Pat used to have these big parties, two thousand people in Hunter’s Point. He was like dude, you got to do one, and he had a band on top of the ramp and there were so many fucking people there. I was pretty hammered and I’m like, fuck yeah, I’ll do one! So I dropped in, did it, and landed right on my femur bone on the coping and flipped to the flat bottom. I thought I broke my leg in half. It went from a full party to dead silence, and no one came to my assistance. I’m lying there and the drummer starts hyping it up and people start clapping and egging it on. I got up and Duffy gave me a beer and I sat there for a second. The whole time the drummer is just hyping it up. I was so sore but I was like fuck it and I did the next one and the place just freaked the fuck out. That was definitely the weirdest one.

Do you feel like this kind of maneuver could exist in skateboarding today?
A ways back I saw Jaws tried to melon El Toro nude, so he’s one dude. There are definitely dudes out there that live in that same vein, that whenever they want to get buckwild and they feel it’s the time, they certainly do that.

But now you see people doing the most random shit, and it’s all built on ‘likes.’ So there’s lanes for everyone now, love it or hate it.

“To be perfectly honest, a 540 properly done was easier than me doing a frontside grind.”

Were 540ºs always an easy trick for you?
I saw Tony Hawk in 1985 at a demo in Toronto and I remember he did one. That was right when I started skating, and from that moment on I was always chasing that trick. To be perfectly honest, a 540º properly done was easier than me doing a frontside grind. Because I just skipped certain fundamentals to learn that.

After any of the naked 540ºs, as you were walking off the ramp, did any women hit on you?
Probably at the bar, but the only thing I ever got from doing it was at the Tampa one. I was sitting down and there was a bunch of derby girls at the Skatepark of Tampa and they came over to me with a helmet filled with cash. I’m like, that’s super nice but you guys take it. They must have gathered a couple hundred bucks.

What could someone offer you now to do another naked 540º?
Minimum $10,000, because over the last few years I’ve had three major surgeries. I broke my wrist, I broke my forearm in half, and my elbow all in the same arm. If I re-injured one of those injuries at 49 years old, I would need some sort of compensation to soften that blow.

If someone offered you $20,000 right now, would you risk potentially getting hurt?
I would definitely give it a whirl. I would need a good vert ramp. Let’s just start the bidding at $20,000. That’s a reasonable GoFundMe. Some Coors Lights. Actually, I’d take some seltzers at this point, stay a little lighter on my feet.

So seltzers, potentially Coors Light, and a good ramp.
Yeah. Maybe this is a conversation for White Claw.

How do you want the naked 540º to be remembered?
Hopefully it’s not remembered. But for anyone that got a laugh out of it that’s about as much as I could hope for. I think that if a ridiculous situation can make people smile and laugh, then mission accomplished.

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  1. Baphomet

    February 15, 2024 7:38 pm

    Skated FDR naked on night. It was all fun and games, until I butt slid down the transition!

  2. HR

    February 20, 2024 11:46 pm

    I got $20

  3. Fuxl

    March 10, 2024 1:44 am

    What a legend.
    I ll chip in

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