McTwist origins explained: Where Shaun White got his moves
photo courtesy of Mike McGill
For those not involved in the skateboard or snowboard world, the word McTwist probably conjures up images of fancy milkshakes or some crazy, new dance move.
At least until Shaun White happened.
The U.S. Olympic star and Carlsbad native brought it to the forefront when he performed the move twice in a row, mid-air, to take home his second Olympic Gold Medal last week in Vancouver.
But his gold medal didn’t answer one glaring question – where did the McTwist come from?
Invented by a fellow San Diegan — skate shop owner Mike McGill — the trick is now a staple in skateboarding and snowboarding competitions.
“When Tony Hawk did a 900, it was a McTwist with another 360 degree spin. Rarely do I get credit from him, but I get props from Shaun White all the time,” said McGill, somewhat joking about his friend and fellow skate legend. “I was ecstatic Shaun was calling it the Double McTwist, and that he won the gold.”
McGill, who still owns and runs McGill Skate Shop in Encinitas, first landed the trick in 1984 at a summer camp in Sweden.
There were about 90 kids who skated there every summer and McGill was a few years out of high school.
“We pretty much did all the tricks we could do, so I thought about doing a 540,” he said, adding that at the time he could only do 180-degree spins out of the half pipe.
Realizing he needed to spin his body around one and a half full times after leaving the lip of the ramp, McGill knew he had to perform the trick a few feet in the air.
One day, he decided to go for it. Suiting up with wrist guards and hip pads, McGill tried the move for only 40 minutes before completing the full 540-degree spin and landing it on all four wheels. No one had a video camera.
This was 1984; pre YouTube, pre cell phones with video cameras, and pre cell phones period. The next day, McGill convinced skateboard legend and good friend Lance Mountain to bring his camera and take a sequence of his newly discovered trick.
Mike McGill developed the McTwist, which has become a standard move in skating and snowboarding. (Courtesy photo)
After seeing what it actually looked like himself, McGill started flipping his body over mid-spin three months later. “It just felt better and looked better,” he said nonchalantly. Teammate Rodney Mullen called it the McTwist. The name has stuck ever since.
Since then, the move has become almost a requirement for skateboarders and snowboarders to be able to compete at the highest level.
“After I did the McTwist in competitions, you had to do it to qualify and a lot of guys didn’t like me for that,” he said laughing.
Skateboarding is a bit different than snowboarding, and it’s easier on a snowboard to get more air out of the ramp and spin further since your feet are attached to the board.
With Shaun White winning the gold with two McTwists in a row, one can only wonder what the Double McTwist will turn into next Olympics.
“I’d like to see guys performing tricks on snowboards not strapped in,” said McGill. “The tricks would be ten times harder, but they’ll be able to flip their boards around as well their bodies.”
Skateboarders are already doing tricks where they flip their boards while doing McTwists.
Every time someone lands the McTwist or takes it to new levels, McGill’s phone starts ringing, e-mails pour in and fans start flooding his shop. Still very much entrenched in the sport and competing in master’s competitions himself, McGill gets the same excited spark when someone takes his trick to a new level.
“Creating is a big part of skateboarding,” he said. “Fortunately in our era, we created a lot of the tricks. Now the next generation gets to come out and they can put their own twist on them.”
Surely, no pun intended.