Paul Osicka

Photos/text: Mark Losey

Paul Osicka is like a cult-hero in flatland. You might go for two years without seeing him ride, but you’d still know he was out there evolving his riding into somthing beyond belief. An interview with Paul has been long overdue, so this month we made plans to get things done in a parking lot somewhere outside of Chicago.

A few days before I left for this trip, Paul called and said he was feeling sketchy. He really wanted this story to come out positive and inspiring, but he didn’t know if he was in the right mindset to do that. When we did the actual interview he agonized over every question, and the resulting answers reveal an interesting person who is a lot more than just another guy on a twenty-inch bike.

How long have you been riding for Standard?

Six years.

High-speed plasticman. photo: Losey

How did you get on Standard in the first place?

I went to a New Year’s jam at Rampage skatepark shortly after the “A Few Good Men” video came out and I think Rick noticed how much I had progressed since the video, so he offered to help me out. He started sending me shirts and little things I needed like axles and pegs, and it slowly evolved into where it is now..

How did that lead up to having a signature bike Standard Tao?

I guess you could say I intimidated him into it. I gave him no choice…

Did Rick come to you or did you go to him with the idea?

I went to him with it. It didn’t happen for years after I went to him. It took a long time to actually happen. It was an idea in my head for a lot of years, and I guess he finally got around to it.

Did your bike come out exactly like you wanted?

Yeah, it did, actually. It took such a long time to come out because I wanted it to be just right. I think it came out really nice.

Riding-wise you’re doing a lot of front wheel stuff and you’ve got two front brake levers. What started you down that path?

I’ve always been into front wheel stuff. I guess there was a point where I totally went over to front wheel stuff. And the double-brake thing, it just seemed like it could help me do a lot more things and open more doors. I’m all about making things easier on myself (laughter). Flatland is challenging enough. I don’t need to make it any harder on myself, you know?

How much time do you put in a day on your bike.

Um, around five hours¿sometimes more, sometimes less.

Is your day completely based around riding?

Yeah, totally.

Has it been that way for a long time?

It has been for a lot of years.

What does your family think of that? Do they understand that it’s just what you love to do?

Yeah, most of them. Some don’t, others do. Some of them have supported me and some of them haven’t. I only associate with the ones that are supportive (laughs). I basically cut the other ones out.

No handed spin. photo: Tedd Nelson

The tricks you do are completely different than the stuff other people are doing. Is there any specific direction you’re trying to take, or do you just get an idea and bring it to life?

Yeah, there’s so much that hasn’t been done yet, and I try to do things that haven’t been done. I try to stay away from things that are being done. I think everyone should try to do that.

Is that to progress the sport of flatland or just personal progression?

Yeah, it’s more personally fulfilling to come up with something and make it happen. It’s a lot harder to do that. It’s so much easier to see something done and tn learn it. Anyone can do that. And when I see other riders doing things that are similar to what I’m doing, I try to steer away from it. I’ve stopped doing so many tricks that I started… I would see someone else do something like it and I would totally stop doing it because I like to be different, I guess.

A lot of people’s goals are to learn tricks and to get them wired, but you learn them and then move on. Does that sound about right?

Yeah, I guess I get bored. There are so many things I want to learn. I don’t like to get stuck on anything. I just want to progress.

There are riders who ride your signature bike, dress like you, and do some of your tricks. Do you take that as a compliment?

No, I hate those kids. They should die (laughs). I’m just kidding.

That’s pretty rad that kids want to be like you.

That’s how kids are. That’s how I was, and that’s how kids are.

Are you psyched that kids want to be like you?

Yeah, how could you not be?

Who were the riders that influenced you?

Kevin Jones, Chase Gouin, Chad DeGroot and Kerry Gatt. I think Edgar Placencia inspired me more than anyone. There are a bunch of street and ramp riders that inspire me, anyone with their own style. Joe Rich and Luc-E John Englebert, Dave Freimuth, Brian Castillo, and especially Rick. That guy is constantly inspiring me.

Do you play around on ramps and street at all?

A little bit. I go through phases where I ride more street, but lately I’ve been riding flat more.

Is riding street a release from flatland?

Yeah, it helps to break the monotony. Flatland can get monotonous. Street is fun. Playing on ramps is fun, too. I just never went that deep because I don’t want to thrash myself. I need to ride flatland every day. I’ve hurt myself before and it’s seriously the worse time in my life. Being off my bike, it’s like hell. I try and avoid that shit.

If I don’t ride my bike for a long time I start to get antsy.

Yeah, it doesn’t take long for me to get antsy.

You won the very first ESPN contest. Why did you decide to stop going to them?

I guess there are a few reasons… I don’t know how to word it (pauses). Contests are lame, I hate them… (Laughs) No, they’re not lame and I don’t hate them. They could be different and they could be better. I guess if I had to go to them I would, but it seems like I’ve been doing all right without going to them.

Like if you had sponsorship-pressure to go to contests?

No, like if I didn’t have a sponsor and if I had to make that money to live off of I would do it, or at least give it a try.

Some riders use contests as a sort of validation to their riding. That’s not what riding is for you at all?

No, it’s ridiculous to think that because you win a contest you’re the best or something. You can’t gauge a rider by that, you know? Three minutes in front of people and cameras shows how dialed you are, but that’s not what flat is about to me. Flatland is whatever you want it to be. It’s not only about competing with others to feed your ego. It can be a transformative practice. In it’s purest form it can be used to channel energies that expand awareness. The force of your awareness actively defines the universe around you. When you love something you put your life into it and as you work hard you build karmic energy. It’s like any path with heart is worth the energy.

How long were you in Long Beach?

Too long.

California is a lot more weather-friendly than Chicago. What brings you back here?

I guess I got tired of California and I just wanted to change. I might end up going back there again. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m just here for now. I have family and friends here. I guess that’s why I came back.

Do you watch videos or keep up with the mainstream flatland scene at all?

I occasionally see a video. My friend will get a video and I’ll watch it. I’m not really up on shit, though. I’m not really in the loop.

Do you have any desire to be in that loop?

It’s cool to see. There are some riders out there that I like to watch¿the creative ones¿and I like to see things that are different. It’s good to see something that is unexpected, but a lot of it is like the same old stuff.

Who are some of the riders you like to watch?

I think Martti Kuoppa is probably my favorite as far as flatland goes. I’ve always liked to watch Chad ride. Chase is good to watch. Definitely Kerry, he’s probably my favorite rider to ride with.

Everyone has this perception of you riding alone. When you were living in North Carolina earlier this year did you ride with Kerry a lot?

Oh yeah, all the time. I totally like riding with Kerry. I like to have a partner, it definitely helps. There are not a lot of people that I feel comfortable sharing with. He’s definitely one of them. There are a few others I can ride with. I don’t have a thing where I have to be alone all the time or anything. I definitely like riding with people. I guess I’m just picky.

Do you think the general riding community misunderstands you?

I don’t think anyone really thinks about me, so there’s nothing to misunderstand (laughs). Like, I’m a rider and I ride, and what else is there?

You’re working really hard on your part for the new Standard video.

Yeah, it’s been a while since I’ve had a video part, so I want to make it good. I’m hoping it comes out as good as I think it will.

After the video is out, will you be doing those tricks any more?

I doubt it. I might keep a couple of things, a couple techniques, but I’ve got too much other stuff on the back burner that I want to focus on.

Does that mean stuff you’ve played with before?

Yeah, some things that I’ve already learned and a lot of things I haven’t learned yet.

You’ve been doing your own tricks for years, but before that were you doing all of the pinky squeak and whiplash stuff?

Yeah, I learned all the basics. I learned all the hitchhiker crap, all the normal rolling stuff, all the mainstream flatland stuff. It’s good to get a foundation when you’re starting, but there’s definitely a point where you need to start thinking creatively, because there’s so much out there that hasn’t been done.

Do you think there are back wheel tricks in your future?

Just manuals.

More innovation from Osicka. photo: Tedd Nelson

What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about flatland?

I guess the one point that I want to make to the reader is that flatland is not gay. Flatland is like the coolest thing, and… I forgot the question (laughter). People don’t really see it for what it is because of the way contests are structured and the way the media portrays it, you don’t really see it for what it is. I think it’s all about being creative and being sexy, and that doesn’t really come across in contests and magazines.

Definitely not the sexy part (laughter). Out of the tricks you’re doing now, what took the longest for you to learn?

I guess the no-handed spin probably took the longest.

Was that something you weren’t sure was possible?

I knew it was possible. Before I even tried it I knew it was possible.

So you obviously think there are a lot of tricks yet to be done.

Everything. It’s barely been tapped into.

So the people who say that it’s all been done just need to open their minds a bit?

Hell yeah. People have been saying that since the beginning. That’s ridiculous to think that it’s limited. It’s definitely unlimited. Anything can be done.

Are you into helping find a better way for flatch it. I’m not really up on shit, though. I’m not really in the loop.

Do you have any desire to be in that loop?

It’s cool to see. There are some riders out there that I like to watch¿the creative ones¿and I like to see things that are different. It’s good to see something that is unexpected, but a lot of it is like the same old stuff.

Who are some of the riders you like to watch?

I think Martti Kuoppa is probably my favorite as far as flatland goes. I’ve always liked to watch Chad ride. Chase is good to watch. Definitely Kerry, he’s probably my favorite rider to ride with.

Everyone has this perception of you riding alone. When you were living in North Carolina earlier this year did you ride with Kerry a lot?

Oh yeah, all the time. I totally like riding with Kerry. I like to have a partner, it definitely helps. There are not a lot of people that I feel comfortable sharing with. He’s definitely one of them. There are a few others I can ride with. I don’t have a thing where I have to be alone all the time or anything. I definitely like riding with people. I guess I’m just picky.

Do you think the general riding community misunderstands you?

I don’t think anyone really thinks about me, so there’s nothing to misunderstand (laughs). Like, I’m a rider and I ride, and what else is there?

You’re working really hard on your part for the new Standard video.

Yeah, it’s been a while since I’ve had a video part, so I want to make it good. I’m hoping it comes out as good as I think it will.

After the video is out, will you be doing those tricks any more?

I doubt it. I might keep a couple of things, a couple techniques, but I’ve got too much other stuff on the back burner that I want to focus on.

Does that mean stuff you’ve played with before?

Yeah, some things that I’ve already learned and a lot of things I haven’t learned yet.

You’ve been doing your own tricks for years, but before that were you doing all of the pinky squeak and whiplash stuff?

Yeah, I learned all the basics. I learned all the hitchhiker crap, all the normal rolling stuff, all the mainstream flatland stuff. It’s good to get a foundation when you’re starting, but there’s definitely a point where you need to start thinking creatively, because there’s so much out there that hasn’t been done.

Do you think there are back wheel tricks in your future?

Just manuals.

More innovation from Osicka. photo: Tedd Nelson

What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about flatland?

I guess the one point that I want to make to the reader is that flatland is not gay. Flatland is like the coolest thing, and… I forgot the question (laughter). People don’t really see it for what it is because of the way contests are structured and the way the media portrays it, you don’t really see it for what it is. I think it’s all about being creative and being sexy, and that doesn’t really come across in contests and magazines.

Definitely not the sexy part (laughter). Out of the tricks you’re doing now, what took the longest for you to learn?

I guess the no-handed spin probably took the longest.

Was that something you weren’t sure was possible?

I knew it was possible. Before I even tried it I knew it was possible.

So you obviously think there are a lot of tricks yet to be done.

Everything. It’s barely been tapped into.

So the people who say that it’s all been done just need to open their minds a bit?

Hell yeah. People have been saying that since the beginning. That’s ridiculous to think that it’s limited. It’s definitely unlimited. Anything can be done.

Are you into helping find a better way for flatland contests to be run?

I plan to, I really do. I want it to be big enough to where riders are making a living off of it, you know? It’s definitely good that people can do it for their living and I want it to stay that way. I want it to get bigger¿and then other times I think it should die. F*** ’em (laughter). No, I’m definitely wanting to at least offer my help because I think it could be done better to where it really shows what flatland is about, and I think it could be interesting to the TV viewer.

Thanks to riding you’ve got to do a lot of traveling. Does anything stand out as a fun trip?

I’ve had fun on all my trips. I just love traveling. The best part about this whole thing is meeting cool people that are as into it as I am. I’ve flailed around the East Coast, the West Coast, and Europe and I’ve met a lot of cool people that got me stoked on riding.

I saw a drawing you did at you apartment. What other stuff are your into when you’re not riding?

I seriously have nothing else going on in my life (laughs). I have a girlfriend. I hang out with her, I ride, and I sleep. Seriously, that’s pretty much it. I don’t have a life outside of that.

How much longer do you see yourself continuing like that?

As long as my body holds up.

Have you had some injuries over the years?

I f***ed up my knee and my ankle and I had a couple surgeries and a lot of pain. I barely rode my bike in ’97. It was the lowest part of my life, but I guess a lot of us go through that, it’s just something that happens. I can definitely say that it brought me to a whole new level of appreciation for riding.

Is there anyone that you want to thank?

I want to thank my mom for the encouragement and support, my girlfriend for putting up with my riding addiction and the crazy hours I put in as a result, Rick for endless support and inspiration on all levels¿he made a huge difference. Kerry for being my bro and inspiring me, Matt for being my homey, anyone who has ever let me crash at their place and Drew’s BMX for the help. I want to thank my sponsors Standard, Nema, Greg Walsh at Primo, Sun rims, Dia Compe, Grand Cycle, and especially the soul riders out there evolving us to new levels. Peace.flatland contests to be run?

I plan to, I really do. I want it to be big enough to where riders are making a living off of it, you know? It’s definitely good that people can do it for their living and I want it to stay that way. I want it to get bigger¿and then other times I think it should die. F*** ’em (laughter). No, I’m definitely wanting to at least offer my help because I think it could be done better to where it really shows what flatland is about, and I think it could be interesting to the TV viewer.

Thanks to riding you’ve got to do a lot of traveling. Does anything stand out as a fun trip?

I’ve had fun on all my trips. I just love traveling. The best part about this whole thing is meeting cool people that are as into it as I am. I’ve flailed around the East Coast, the West Coast, and Europe and I’ve met a lot of cool people that got me stoked on riding.

I saw a drawing you did at you apartment. What other stuff are your into when you’re not riding?

I seriously have nothing else going on in my life (laughs). I have a girlfriend. I hang out with her, I ride, and I sleep. Seriously, that’s pretty much it. I don’t have a life outside of that.

How much longer do you see yourself continuing like that?

As long as my body holds up.

Have you had some injuries over the years?

I f***ed up my knee and my ankle and I had a couple surgeries and a lot of pain. I barely rode my bike in ’97. It was the lowest part of my life, but I guess a lot of us go through that, it’s just something that happens. I can definitely say that it brought me to a whole new level of appreciation for riding.

Is there anyone that you want to thank?

I want to thank my mom for the encouragementt and support, my girlfriend for putting up with my riding addiction and the crazy hours I put in as a result, Rick for endless support and inspiration on all levels¿he made a huge difference. Kerry for being my bro and inspiring me, Matt for being my homey, anyone who has ever let me crash at their place and Drew’s BMX for the help. I want to thank my sponsors Standard, Nema, Greg Walsh at Primo, Sun rims, Dia Compe, Grand Cycle, and especially the soul riders out there evolving us to new levels. Peace.