"Know The Ledge": A Conversation With adidas Skateboarding Pro Mark Suciu

The guy with the golden feet orates architecture, skateboarding, and bi-coastal living in our exclusive new interview.

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Let’s talk about lines for a second. In terms of design, they’re the groundwork for anything created; everything that has ever been designed started as a line. In skateboarding, the term refers to something a bit different: the ability to string tricks together in a sequence. For skaters, lines are a measure of fluidity and control – not unlike the way a blind contour drawing is made from one stroke. The parallels between design and skateboarding are many, and comparing the two reveals their deep-seated connection.

“Lines” are an important idea in the growing legend of one Mark Suciu, who is the latest recipient of a signature silhouette on adidas’ Skateboarding imprint. For those unfamiliar, Suciu has some of the quickest feet in skateboarding, and accordingly has an uncanny ability to create (and interpret) lines wherever there’s space to do so. This was alluded to in his recent “Civil Liberty” part, which played up the importance of plazas on the East Coast; historic skateboarding sites such as LOVE Park, Flushing Meadows and Pulaski Park all have a common denominator in their endless wealth of straight edges. From our conversation with the 23 year-old professional, its easy to see that lines are on his mind. From his eloquence on the importance of architecture to his close working relationship with the adidas design team, down to his refined brand of skateboarding – Suciu embodies lines in every sense. Perhaps unbeknownst to him, he’s also strikingly reminiscent of some of the great skaters of generations past, but that line is still being drawn. Enjoy the interview below and try out a pair of Suciu’s new shoe at your local skate shop.

What were some of your favorite skate shoes growing up?
Growing up I always had this big thing for eS. I was super into the entire eS line. I loved their aesthetic and all of their shoes. Adidas I started getting into a little bit later around 14 or so. I was really stoked on the Super Skate. That shoe was the first on Adidas where I was just like, “Holy shit this is awesome.” Then I started getting really stoked with Adidas after that. But, in designing my shoe, the ones that I took stock in as being the most influential shoes for me were some notable eS’s and really the ones I was thinking of the most were on Lakai, The Rick Howard 4 and the Manchester and also randomly by DVS, the Huf 3. What all these shoes have in common is the cupsole body and a really good toe.

Can you elaborate on how these shoes influenced the design of your Mark Suciu ADV?
Yeah, I think just to re-emphasize the toe because that is the number one thing I look for in a shoe. The open toe cap is perfect, a little narrow. Something that allows for a perfect flick, you know? So that’s kind of what all these shoes have given me. I know for sure that’s what I look for in a shoe.

Can you discuss your involvement in the design process?
The design process was really cool. I was happily surprised by how willing and excited everyone was to work with me. They flew out two members of the design team, Andrew Sprigle and Rob Carlos, to Philadelphia to work with me and we kind of had lunch and dinner and we talked the whole day. We went to shoe stores the very first time we hung out so we kind of got to know each other a little bit while talking about the shoes that had influenced us and we discussed what we wanted to get across with this new shoe. That was the big point of departure and also kind of the most we worked together. From then on we had a really solid idea of what we wanted and it was kind of just keeping up over Skype and over e-mails about this line here (points at line on the shoe), the development of one angle, and so on, but mostly it was super productive the first time we met up and then we stayed in good contact after that.

So it was a true collaborative effort?
Yeah, I was so pleasantly surprised. The one thing that I’ve been mentioning, is the perfect story to explain how enthusiastic they were about the design process. I was talking to Rob Carlos about the lines of the shoe and kind of just expressing how I really wanted one line to be a little curved instead of straight. Then I got a bit excited thinking about all these lines and we were just eating and talking. I say to him, “I wonder what school of architecture this would fall into?” Just saying it randomly, and he kind of turns the question on me and is like, “Oh do you like architecture? Who’s your favorite architect?” Pressed to speak I discussed some of my favorite architects and structures. The next time I saw him he had taken the design from one of the churches that I said I had been inspired by and drew it into the sole of the shoe; so that’s how we get this really cool heel pattern. That was entirely his idea, he was turning the question on me to try to get some of my personality into the shoe. I mentioned the church in Milan I had recently seen, the Duomo. This thing was so awe-inspiring and the next time I saw him he had a 20 page booklet of photos of the building printed out and the last 3 pages were designs that he had liked on the windows and the second of those pages was then geometrically laid into the shoe.

Can you single out a favorite aspect of the shoe?
It’s hard to choose one. I knew we would come up with a good shoe, I mean it’s Adidas and they make great shoes. It’s a skate shoe so the design can’t be that complex. However, I wanted the lines on the toe to be something interesting. That was the most important thing, to give it some personality. When you’re looking down at your shoe while you skate, I want you to feel something unique to this shoe.

So that adds the personality to all of the function of the rest of the shoe?
Yeah, but if you’re asking me about my favorite aspect function-wise I couldn’t answer that. A shoe can’t work on one aspect alone, it needs all of it together to function.

Are there relationships that you can draw between architecture and skateboarding?
As I said, it was just very organic the way architecture was brought up and incorporated into the shoe. I do think that underlying that conversation was the fact that skateboarding depends on architecture. If we were to talk about cities with someone who doesn’t skateboard I honestly think they would be very surprised and say, “Wow you’re looking at this a lot differently.” I basically moved across the country for postmodern architecture. Put like that it doesn’t sound like I’m telling the truth, but what I mean is I moved because I want to skate Love Park and Muni, which are pieces of postmodern architecture. The parks now are mostly grass; in Philly they have more structured plazas with a lot of granite and that’s perfect for skating.

The relationship between architecture and skateboarding is definitely there. When you think about architecture of course the function is the necessity and you think about architects who have found ways to weave unique designs with the function. That’s kind of what we did when designing this shoe.

Skateboarders tend to look at architecture and their environment in a different way, so you may be doing all of this without even realizing your interest in these fields.
Exactly, it’s the funniest thing. I can surprise myself by saying to you that I moved across the country for this, because it is kind of the case, even though it’s ridiculous. Not only do we have this relationship between skateboarding and architecture, but also the design process of the shoe we took enough care to make it feel like it was an architectural study.

What are the differences in the skate scenes between your hometown and Philadelphia?
So I live in one suburb of San Jose. San Jose is a huge city, urban sprawl, but the city I live in Saratoga is quite small. Then there’s San Francisco which is an amazing city. In terms of the skate scene it’s not quite what it once was when Pier 7 and Embarcadero were uniting the skate scene, and that’s something that still exists in Philly and that’s what I love so much about it. I grew up skating spots that we would drive to or skate a long time to and there would be one thing to skate there. We would always talk about finding a spot that was more diverse for skating than that. The necessity for something central to unify the scene, that was always something that I was not finding at home and I knew of course existed over in Philly.

I only have a few friends in Philly that don’t go to the Municipal Building or Love and consequently I don’t see them that much (laughs). It’s so easy to just go out there and I know that somebody will be skating already. I know that there’s going to be a sea of people on Muni at Saturdays, because that’s like the only day you can really skate there, and I know that I’ll find somebody trying to get in a session in between security kickouts on a weekday or weekday night. At Love there’s always something going down as well. All your friends are constantly around and you can just jump in at anytime. These spots have the locals and there’s a certain feeling you get when you enter their spot and I’m just glad to be skating there.

Habitat has a super strong heritage on the east coast, specifically Philly. How much does that play into how you skate there, if at all?
I’ve always really been into Habitat and that was the company I really wanted to ride for and it was because they had skaters skating on the east and they made it look so good. So initially I was stoked on Habitat and the east coast. There’s never been an influence after that. I don’t skate any differently than I do here. I always have the same kind of value system of skating, in terms of what I like. I was so excited to get out there the first time and then I seriously considered moving out there and it felt natural and now I’m there and it’s great.

What are the plans for the rest of the year with adidas and beyond?
I really have just been focusing on the Adidas video, it’s a huge thing. We’ve got a full length video that we’re working on and the whole team is going to be in it. It’s a big group of guys right now and it’s really great to get these trips worked out. I went to Spain in March and then I’ve been doing little trips and seeing certain members of the team, like to Miami in late March and then to Portland in April. When the summer started I got into going on more trips like Mexico City, Paris and London. That was great. We’re all going in for this video and I’m really stoked.

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Josh Davis

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