John Sawyer’s flatground tricks puts unique spins on classic moves and take them in new creative directions. After giving traditional sports the boot as a kid and discovering skateboarding he quickly got to grips with it and has been chipping away at learning new moves ever since. On top of his head-turning flatground lines, he’s also got interesting, fresh perspectives on skateboarding as the way he approaches it is clearly really different to most.

So when John hit us up, we had to ask him his thoughts on his skating, creativity and sponsors, as we were keen to find out the creative direction he plans to take it all next.

We were stoked to hear more about it and also that he was down to join The No Comply Network

Discover why he decided to call time on football and found skateboarding, learning to skate Seattle, his inspirations and influence from Rodney Mullen, Glen Fox, Leo Valls and Magenta, the impact Mark Suciu’s adidas Away Days part had on him, the way he uses technology to come up with new lines, his thoughts on his skate style and ambitions to push it further and his favourite skaters, videos, spots and music of all-time and more. Read it all below to find out for yourself.



John Sawyer: Shot for Gansett NY 



What’s your full name?

John Philip Sawyer



How old are you and where did you grow up?

I was born in Seattle, Washington, and I’ve lived there all my life. Right now I’m 20 years old. I’ve been going to college at Santa Clara University for two years since I was 18.



How did you start skateboarding?

My first introduction to skateboarding was through my uncle, Nick. He had skated for 30 years and grew up in Spokane, Washington. It’s a city that’s about 200 miles east of Seattle and it’s about a quarter of the size and so he was kind of on his own out here when he was growing up skating. There weren’t a lot of other people doing it and because of him my cousin also skates, so I had a bit of skateboarding in the family.

But I was a big football player when I was a kid, as in American soccer, of course, but I played football from when I was, I think, age three to about when I was 13, and it was all I did, every single day was football.

I played on club teams, and academy teams, practiced with my dad, and did street football on courts. It was my life. But then ultimately football got to a point when I was around 12 or 13, where it was ultra-serious in a way I wasn’t appreciating, and it was taking the fun out of the sport for me, so I wanted to find something new.

I wanted to find something different, but something that you know ideally I could have a fun time doing and excel at. I saw skating as having a lot of similarities to football and I wanted to find something similar so that some of my skills can transfer. So I saw that opportunity in skating and from the very beginning, I’ve been obsessed with it.



Who was in your original skate crew and where did you go skate?

So my uncle bought me my first complete setup from our local skate shop in Seattle called 35th North and then that same day he set it up for me and taught me how to put it together and then took me out to a basketball court that was just two blocks away from my house and tried to teach me how to Shuvit.

And that’s where I had my first day and I took some serious slams and I’m sure every skater resonates with this. Once you take some slams you get so invested and so I was like I’m not going to stop until I get this trick





What motivated you to pursue your unique style of skating?

There are so many moments, where it just got more intense I think. So I skated mainly at parks, and then took a pretty normal route for the first six months of skating, learning how to Kickflip, Heelflip, Tre Flip, and then, you know, two stairs, three stairs, four stairs, Boardslide, 50-50, you know all the fundamentals.

I was skating with my other friends. We were in seventh grade at the time, so we were 13. So I was on that route and then I saw a few Rodney Mullen videos and those completely blew my mind because that suddenly made skating much more accessible to me.

That’s because I feel like in my experience when I was starting out, I watched Vans ‘No Other Way’, which came out around then and I felt that the whole world of skating in it was so beyond my understanding but once I saw freestyle I thought, this is something I can do anywhere, it’s something I can do in my garage.





In Seattle, it rains nine months out of the year, so most of the time you can’t skate. So when I saw Mullen and the stuff he was doing, I thought I could do all that stuff in my garage and still progress and have fun.

So that set me off in a completely different direction from street. I went full freestyle. I was learning traditional freestyle tricks, like Primos, Caspers, Rail Stands, 50-50s.

Also because this was wintertime, it was just dripping rain every day. I was stuck in my tiny garage experimenting.

This was 2018, and then around April 2018, I was watching every skate video that I could, and then I came across some Magenta videos I enjoyed, in particular, Leo Valls and Glen Fox.





Those two guys blew my mind. That was my favourite skating that I’d ever seen. At that point, I think I was 14 and I think I watched every video on their YouTube channel within two days. Wherever I was, at home or school, on the computer open watching Just Cruise, over and over again.

I remember I filmed a clip a few days after I watched all that footage, specifically trying to emulate what Leo was doing.






I remember watching that footage and thinking okay, this, I like how this looks, it looks like something that you know looks close to football. It looked like these two worlds were finally colliding for me because in that type of skating, it’s quick foot but you can slow it down, so there’s a change of pace. So skating started feeling like the coolest thing ever.



Your lines are always unpredictable. Glen was the fourth skater to join No Comply. That’s rad you’re into his skating. Are there any other skaters who inspire you?

Yeah, I just want to go back to Mullen and emphasise how he and other freestyle skaters in the 70s were doing footwork forever and, I watched everything of him and them that I could. I could skate street freestyle, taking inspiration from the 70s, 80s, 90s, 2000s and 2010s.

But I wanted to base my skateboarding on absolute fundamentals. I wanted it to be rooted in fundamentals and to me, I saw those tricks as how I defined them in my head when I was a kid. It’s the board, my body and the ground, that’s it.

The moves I’m going to use are going to be simple. I don’t want to be complicated. I want to use simple things and string them together to make more complex expressions of movement, and so I wanted to emphasise just a Revert, a Body Varial, Manuals, Nose Manuals. I wanted to be able to look at skating across a horizontal plane and imagine the board, shifting up and down in all these directions and creating a bunch of spikes and lines, and I wanted there to be a lot of movement. But I wanted that movement to be created through the fundamentals of skating.

And so another aha moment happened to me when I was watching Adidas’ Away Days. This was also 2018 but it was a bit later, it was autumn of 2018, and I was watching everything they were doing.

I was watching Mark Suciu and I mean he’s incredible and he’s quick-footed so obviously I was a little bit more drawn to him than some of the other guys in that video. He was doing tricks like, Backside 5-0 Frontside 180 Out and I thought hey, I could do that on flat but where I would be thinking, it’s an Ollie to Manual to a Frontside Powerslide. That’s a Backside 5-0 Frontside 180 Out on flat, so a lot of it was translating tricks I saw in videos into combinations.





So I don’t know if anyone would notice that, but a lot of the lines I would do, especially when I was younger, would be stuff I would take from, let’s say, Mark Suciu’s Sabotage 3 Remix.





Then I would make them super simple, just doing them on flat and making it into all these, into Manuals and Powerslides and doing tricks out and stringing them together into a five-sequence line and then putting that out as a clip. So that’s how I started stringing combinations together.

Because I was taking tricks and moves from other people and other videos I always tried to watch any video I could of any skater from any era, like Shane O’Neil, or Gino Iannucci and attempted to string what they’re doing together, as it helped me to try to switch it up and do tricks that I would not normally do, instead of ones I love, like 360 Reverts.

I remember watching my clips and thinking I was doing too many 360 Reverts or too much of this or too much of that. How can I make it different? So I started making a list randomizer and putting in little combinations on this Python app. So I would take a list of five tricks. For example, a Frontside Revert, Backside Revert, Ollie, Manual, Shuvit and then I would randomize it 300 times and read out all the combos to see which ones resonated with me the most.



John Sawyer, Frontside Flip: Shot by Karsten Ferris



Cool, so you made your own digital skate dice, that’s a creative idea.

Yeah changing the tiniest things and then changing something else.



What’s your favourite trick by Rodney Mullen?

Rodney Mullen would do this stationary and rolling footwork sequence, in his contests. It evolved over time but he included it in nearly every run he did, I’d say, from 85 to when Freestyle died 91. So six years of doing this, and there’s one time he did it at a New Jersey demo, I think in 1986





He did a couple of Walk The Dogs to start and he started doing them slowly and then speeding them up with that change of pace that I love seeing in skating. He speeds up and starts doing 360 Reverts, but they’re basically 360 Pivots and then he’s doing the 360 Pivots into a 360 spin. He spins around eight or nine times, comes out of the spin, and keeps doing the 360 Reverts.

Then, in between the 360 Reverts, he does a Backside Revert, then a Half Cab Revert up to a Tailstall Backside Body Varial, switching his feet.

The board is in a Tailstall and he did a Backside Body Varial, so his left foot is now on the tail where his right foot was.

He does another Half Cab Revert Out, one more 360 Pivot and then another BS 180 Revert. Then Half Cab Revert, Nollie Shuv and a Backside Revert and then a Nosehook Impossible to end it.

He did this combo so many times but I always remembered that the crowd would never get too hyped on it compared to the other stuff he was doing, and I was always so confused because I thought this is the craziest thing he’s done in this whole run. So, I’d say that’s what sticks out to me.



Is there an edit that you made that drew a lot of attention to your skating or has it been gradual?

It was pretty gradual until early 2019 when I got a repost from The Berrics. That video was a compilation of stuff I was hyped on in the past couple of months and I was 14 or 15 at the time. That video got a huge reaction. I think there were a thousand comments and I’d 500 commented, oh, this is cool and then 500 were commenting this is terrible!

My dad films all my clips or most of them. So we see all this stuff together. We were both kind of like this is not a bad thing in the sense that people care. Whether they hate it or love it, they care about it, so that made both of us realise, okay, I might be onto something, and so once I got that I thought I’m gonna keep on doing this. Positive reactions are great but you can learn a lot from what people criticise as well, and through that edit, I learned a lot.



What types of skateboarding don’t you like?

There’s a lot of stuff I did that I look back on and don’t like. Combos I did and now I think that wasn’t the right idea.

But it’s like that for me and every skater, every skater, does stuff that works and that doesn’t work and that’s fine.



What inspired you to make your own skate edits and choose the music that soundtracks them?

It was pretty natural for me because in the football edits I would watch as a kid, all those clips would always have music.

It was that mid-2010s era when I was watching all those football videos that would always have music and no commentary or audio from the actual clips. So as a kid, who was going from football to skateboarding when I was posting my skating, it was a natural transition to thinking I’ll make like these videos and include music that way.

As far as the style of the music in particular, what I tried to pick out is stuff that has no lyrics because I always thought, my skating is kind of like music with no lyrics. It’s kind of just instrumental because there are no obstacles. So I thought that was a fun idea and that made me really interested in finding cool instrumentals that express an interaction between the skating and the music in the most effective way that it could.

A lot of that ended up being J Dilla and Madlib and others similar to them, there’s a lot of spontaneity in their beats and unpredictability.





That’s rad. Do you have any favourite musicians or musical genres?

My taste in music is completely different from the songs that I put in my videos. I listen to a lot of rap but I was a big Burial fan and I still listen to a lot of him. I like some more ambient stuff. Electronic stuff like Deadmau5 in particular. But yeah I definitely listen to a lot of different genres than what I put in my skate edits.





So are you looking to connect with skate brands in the future? I saw you did skate for a small brand called Mode. Are you still skating for them?

I’m still on Mode Skateboards. I get boards from them. Mode is the very first company I ever skated for. But I think you were also asking as far as a career what I wanted to do with skating?



Are you looking for other sponsors?

I would love to connect with brands in skateboarding 100 percent. I’ve been a Magenta Skateboards fan since 2018. I’d love to see what’s out there in the world of skating. I would like to offer something to the rest of the community in a more direct way because I’m just doing my own thing right now.

I’d love to be skating with crews and filming. I’ll be out in Europe, in the Autumn of 2025, for a few months studying abroad, so I’m hoping to maybe make some connections there. My skating definitely isn’t slowing down, it’s all I love to do. I do it every day and my obsession with it continues to grow and I just want to keep on getting better.



I’ve seen footage of you skating manual pads and ledges and clips of you doing more classic tricks. You could take your tricks on transition, that would be sick. But are you sticking to your guns with flatground or do you want to expand your skating on new terrain and obstacles?

Yeah, I think a lot of it is going to be based on what I feel like doing. I see both sides to it. There’s a lot on the street that could be pretty accessible, but at the same time, putting yourself in a box and in this case, making myself only skate flat, can create so many different things that I’d never thought were possible. So it’s a hard decision.

I skate street for fun or I’ll set up a traffic cone when I’m skating flat or whatever. I don’t think I’ve told many people this besides my friends, but I never really do flatground footwork style skating outside of filming. I skate everyday and I do regular flip tricks and Ollies and 180s, I do Ollie-based tricks every day on flat, that’s all I do.

As I progressed in skating when I was 15, I started trying to get really, really tech on stuff, and I think since then I started working more and more and more on all these Shuvits, 180s, literally just those tricks and so I want to get everything to a place that I believe is fundamentally sound.

What I can guarantee, though, is that I will try to pursue new ideas in the future as far as my street skating goes.



Ok, that’s cool, so most of the time you’re out skating you’re only doing regular skate tricks?

Yeah, totally standard tricks but for the past year, I’ve only skated Switch and Nollie though.



Why are you only skating Switch and Nollie at the moment?

The reason I only skate Switch and Nollie is because I want to drop my right shoulder, because I’m a regular footed skater, skating goofy footing when I skate Switch, so I’m mostly skating flat at the moment

Sometimes I’ll skate over a traffic cone, but right now I’m trying to get my shoulder to drop, to get rid of my stance, so I can get more explosive and get the board to come to my feet quicker, skate faster, and I think that all that starts with flat. I feel like I’m still trying to understand the fundamentals, and I know I could do a lot more but I want to take my time on the simple stuff.



Outside of footwork on flat, is there anything else you like to skate?

What I see when I watch other skaters, I look at how explosive they are, and that doesn’t just necessarily mean how high they pop, but it’s how fast everything comes together. So that’s kind of what I’m working on, and what I care about right now. Anything that can help me become a more explosive skater and so usually that’s setting up a traffic cone on flat and trying to do stuff over it.

I try to skate fast doing that and honestly, I skate a lot so I’m usually kinda sore. That’s why I end up skating manny pads because with Manual tricks you don’t have to do much movement or strain on your body.





Do you like skating stairs and rails?

It is fun. I’ve done some in the past.

I mean, I’ve hit my share of double sets and hubbas at the park and stuff. I’ve explored all the fundamentals for sure. Yeah, it’s so fun, but dude, I think what keeps me from it is, I see a lot of other skaters doing that. It makes me think I want you guys to do that and I can do this, and we can both put our stuff out there for people to enjoy and give them a wider range of things to look at.

I think that’s another reason why I’m content with what I’m doing and am not too concerned about making big changes to my skating right now and why I feel comfortable letting it go where it goes naturally.



You never see Daewon skating stairs or rails and his footage is always incredible, everybody doesn’t have to skate the same things. So, who’s your favourite skater right now?

I would say Antwuan Dixon. He’s just that good. I love explosive skating. So his skating is easily one of my favourites.





He has a one-of-a-kind style. What’s your favourite Antwuan Dixon Trick?

Yeah, it was at that DIY spot, where he did that Fakie Crooks, Fakie Flip on flat and that quick little push into that Switch Heel 5-0. His Fakie Flip is so good, it’s so subtle.





Yeah, Antwuan’s Fakie Flip was so casual, it’s like it didn’t even happen. I know you didn’t grow up watching full skate videos but what’s your favourite video part that comes to mind?

I loved The Nike SB Chronicles 2 video and Luan Olivera’s part in it and especially when he did that Switch Front Heel. Luan’s one of my favourite skaters too.





Also Tajah Davis. He would post a lot of Instagram clips five or six years ago, and he would post them wherever, in the park, you know. But his Switch Heel was the most explosive pop that I’ve seen. The way he does them. It’s incredible.



Who’s your favourite skater of all-time?

I’ve watched everything of Tom Penny that’s on YouTube. A lot of P-Rod. Ruben Spelta. I’ve also been watching a lot of Gustav Tonnesen’s skating and enjoying footage he puts out for a while.





Yeah, they are all rad. But who has your favourite style on a board?

Style is synonymous with all of those guys I previously mentioned.

Antwuan Dixon makes sense because he’s all style and structure.

Again Tajah Davis, seeing random clips of him, gets me hyped. Also, Ruben Spelta.

I also love Cory Kennedy’s skating. I mean I’m from Seattle after all, so I’ve watched everything he’s done too, he did so much.

There is also another skater whose handle is @onepunchbacon on Instagram. He had these Backside Bigspins where his back foot would pop, straighten out, his knee would lock in a completely straightened stance and his front foot would lift up and his front foot would be touching his back leg’s knee that’s locked while he was doing the Bigspin.

I just need to see one thing from someone and in my head they’re The Goat. And the way that guy did that Bigspin that way, into a bank, I just thought wow, this is so sick



Do you have a favourite local skate spot?

A good one is the parking garage in the University of Washington Campus, in Seattle, level 5. It has the best flat in all of Seattle and is my number one favourite spot to skate, that place is amazing.



You can’t beat the flatground at Southbank or at MACBA. Also Barcelona has some amazing flatground spots you should go and skate. Have you ever skated in the UK or around Europe?

Before I skated when I was 10, my dad who is a huge Arsenal fan, took our family on a trip to London for Christmas. We walked past Southbank and in the evening we were watching all the skaters. I didn’t understand what they were doing from memory because I was 10 and I didn’t skate at the time but I remember going to that spot.

I also really enjoyed skating at Le Dome when I visited Paris with my family and ideally, when I’m abroad, I’m going to be there again. I also now really want to visit Barcelona, solely because of what you just said.

I should be in Europe again from August to December in 2025 so I should take a trip there.





Dope. But in the meantime where are you skating the most right now?

I have really fun sessions at Milpitas skate park with all the homies there.

Also, there’s a museum in downtown San Jose. It’s got lights, it’s got ground, it’s got cover. So of course, I’m going to be there every day.



Is there anyone you want to give shout outs to?

I want to give a shout out to my friend Rashid. He and I started skating together. Well, he was skating a few years before me, but he was in my grade in middle school and high school. We still skate to this day.

Also, shout out to my friend Michael. He’s my college homie. He went to Santa Clara as well and we skated day after day after day when we were there. Shout out to all of the homies, also my clothing sponsor Gansett NY and to my dad for filming. I want to give a shout out to Greg Love RIP. He was a San Jose Legend and I skated with him a lot, the last two years while at college. Also, I have to give shoutouts to Terry and Jenny Synnott at Mode Skateboards.



Are you working on any new plans you want to mention?

I’ll be out doing what I’m doing and going out whenever I’m not hurt skating until I can’t skate. I’m doing an internship right now for a cloud software company, so I’m learning about all that and just seeing where that takes me as well and looking forward to the future!



Sick. Do you have any last words for people reading this?

As far as your skating goes, see where it takes you because you might not expect where it goes and the results of things you do can be entertaining and it’s interesting for you to see what comes out of what you put into it.