Like most things skateboarding, the pressure flip was probably invented by Rodney Mullen, but it rose to mainstream prominence in the heady days of the early ‘90s.
Pressure flips were the ultimate subversion of the new; a flip trick performed without the snap of an ollie. They discredited the argument that street skaters had taken the power and grace of vert skating and adapted it to the urban environment. A pressure flip was a folly. A private joke. I tried to learn pressure flips for months; it just didn’t seem to work. To do one, you crouch then stab down on the back corner of the tail, jump in the air, get your front foot out of the way, and hope for the best. I wore through the tail of two boards trying to learn pressure flips. When I finally landed on one, I screamed. It was one of the most satisfying moments of my life. And then, as if by magic, I could do them nearly every try. But then pressure flips weren’t cool anymore, so I stopped doing them and pretended they were dumb. They were dumb. I got back into kickflips and 180s and pretending I was cool like Ethan Fowler. So much of skateboarding is about emulating your heroes. I wish it wasn’t, but it is.
I’m nearing the end of the road with skateboarding; I can’t deny it anymore. For 30-odd years I’ve devoted my life to it, and it’s given me basically everything I hold dear. But now, I can hardly skate at all, because my knee is completely ruined. The tricks I can do are hardly a reflection of what I like. I can’t copy my heroes anymore, I just do what hurts least. What hurts least is pressure flips, because I don’t have to ollie. It could be worse, I suppose. Indulge me, dear reader, with a trip down my personal pressure flip memory lane. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but life sure is exhausting.
Chris Fissel – The New Deal ‘1281’, 1991: Everyone had their own favourite pressure flipper, but to me, Chris Fissel was king. This previously unknown cat got his seemingly drunken friend to film his entire video part, unaware that he was actually capturing a genius at the height of his powers. Fissel rarely did anything but pressure flips, as well as late flips, and pressure flip late flips. He was in deep. He could do every pressure variation – switch, frontside, nollie, revert, and did them onto benches and in weird ditches. He did them slow and methodically, his cap pulled down low to obscure his eyes. Most of his footage looked like it was the first time he’d ever landed the trick. It was skateboarding at its most lo-fi.
Julio De La Cruz – The New Deal ‘Da Deal is Dead’, 1992: This guy really got carried away with the pressure flips. Like Fissel before him, De La Cruz was an overnight hero, appearing out of nowhere in his disgusting green jeans, unashamedly parading a bunch of slow-motion pressure flip variations to the sounds of Chariots of Fire. It was as bloated and ridiculous as early ‘90s skating ever got, and looking back, it was pretty cool.
Mike Carroll – Plan B, ‘Questionable’, 1992: The problem with Da Deal is Dead was that it came out in the same year as Questionable—the best, most game-changing skateboarding video ever. It’s difficult to overstate the significance of Questionable; it changed everything. Watching it now, it still makes my hair stand on end. There is a scattering of pressure flips throughout the video, but nothing like the shameless sideshow of the New Deal circus. This was sophisticated skateboarding. Carroll and his friends could do pressure flips, but they preferred not to.
Erik Ellington – Supra, ‘Under Pressure’, 2014: Ellington has great style, but also a penchant for the spicy side of tastefulness, making him the perfect foil for the pressure flip’s re-entry into the realm of things you were allowed to do on a skateboard. This ad is corny as hell, and so are pressure flips… but it’s Ellington, so it’s actually fine.
Sean Pablo – Converse Cons’ ‘Purple’, 2018: To be honest, I couldn’t be bothered scrolling through every piece of Sean Pablo footage from the past eight years to find his definitive pressure flip moment, so settled on this one to manual. Pablo cops a lot of hate (at least in my DM chats), but I like him. I like his hangdog stance and limited trick bag, and his cute spider web drawings. Did he bring pressure flips back? Naw. Kind of?
Casper Brooker – Nike SB, ‘Constant’, 2021: My friend John messaged me this morning specifically to tell me about this trick, and he was right to. Brooker is one of the most exciting skateboarders on the planet at the moment, and for him to do a pressure flip in a line is significant – even if it was an afterthought, not a calculated homage to Chris Fissel. Brooker’s pressure is done at speed, nestled perfectly between two legitimate ledge tricks, and it’s devastatingly cool. It makes me feel good about myself.
Author’s note: in researching this piece, I came across this recent musing on a similar theme by Quartersnacks. I even remember reading it, but, as is the way these days, I promptly forgot. I apologise for the oversight, o Snackman; and promise you, dear reader, you too will forget this ever happened.