WORD AND PHOTOS: Yoon Sul
Needless to say, Neen Williams has the best heelflip in skateboarding; there is, and will be, no argument there.
There was a time when I didn’t know that, and boy did I find out the shocking way. Sometime in 2011, I got a text from Beagle: “Neen, heelflip, Burbank Middle School 16, tomorrow, 10:30am.” It was an easy reply back, “See you there.” I had just recently met Neen, actually at the same spot where he did a fs pop shuv in, like, 3 tries and other than that I wasn’t really familiar with his skateboarding. Figured I’ll hopefully get a photo of a heelflip down up and over and down that 16. So the next day, I got to Burbank Middle school around 10:27ish. It was a very foggy morning in LA. I find parking and turn off my car, and as I jump out, the Baker tanks pulls up behind me. (It was an even foggier morning in the Baker tank.)
Beagle finds parking, I walk over and Neen pops out first with the “let’s do this” face as the thick smoke from inside the van follows him out. We give each other the proper fist bump/handshake/hug bro combo and as his crew files out of the van (going big requires the homies to be there at all times), Jim Greco pulls up. It was at that moment when I realized how big of a deal this was for Neen. This was a Andrew-Reynolds-frontside-flips-Hollywood-High moment. So, Beagle and I set up our shit as Jim had a little “talk” with Neen. This was a hammer, so some advice from the “Commissioner of Hammers” always comes in handy.
When Beagle and I were set up, we gave the thumbs up to Neen and he ran up the stairs ready to go to war. As he’s running up the stairs, we get a “he gonna do skateboarding on that shit?” pedestrian on his phone walking by. We say yes, and he tells the person on the phone he’s talking to, “Hold on, I’m gonna watch this boarder eat some shit.” Great. No matter how many times you run into these yahoos, they’re never gonna stop being kooks.
Neen starts off with the standard ollie, which I could never do easily first try. Dissapointed, the kook tells the guy on the phone, “ah shit, the boarder made it… I wanted to see him hit his balls and eat shit!” Thanks guy—keep on walking.
Neen runs back up the stairs as the kook goes on with his Saturday to, as they say, “GET BUCK.” He looks back at Beagle and I with the standard, “You guys good?” scream. Yes. Beagle and I are good… at doing Arnold Schwarzenegger impressions. First go: he rolls up, pops and heelflips with the catch. My mouth drops as I had just witnessed the most beautiful heelflip attempt as he kicks away his board and lands at the bottom on his feet. It was right then and there that I had just realized some kid from Chicago named Neen has the best heelflip in skateboarding history. It was and still is a true thing of beauty.
I look over at Beagle, and he gives me the now-you-know look. Neen’s next attempt was the same: just another bail of beauty. At this point Neen is comfortable with doing the heelflip. He says the magical “this is the one,” and we all knew it was. Boom… rolls up, pops, catches, lands, and rolls away… straight into a big hug from Jim Greco. The Hammer stamp of approval has been issued as we all just witnessed the best heelflip ever… third try. Man, was it a thing of beauty! Heelflips are very hard, and even harder to make look good. Never did I think a heelflip could look that amazing. So, after 10 minutes of hugs and high-fives, we all went our separate ways to go on with the rest of our Saturday, and it was only 11am. I was driving away, scratching my head and wondering what I was gonna do with the rest of my day. Talk about a great day.
On a side note, after that day, Neen and I met up pretty much every week for a month to shoot photos; by the end of that month we had finished an interview for a magazine that we had no idea we were shooting. The stars alligned for the both of us and it worked out, starting with that beautiful heelflip one foggy morning in LA in 2011.