"What's a Guy Gotta Do?" The Clive Dixon Interview

BS0I4960 DZnewHe slayed Staples Center, tore down El Toro and defied death for the cover. These are just a few of Clive's stuntman accomplishments. He didn't do it for the money, but for the love. The money would've been nice, though. After years of raising the gnar bar, we wondered how could someone this obscenely good get stuck in the pro-flow swamp? From a flirtation with retirement to a new spot alongside Nyjah, Burnett investigates. As seen in our November '22 issue.

Clive hits us with another must-watch part of top-tier rips. Watch him set the stage for the harrowing tales below

So catch us up on what’s going on with Clive Dixon. How has your life changed recently?
Oh, there’s been a pretty dramatic change. I took probably the worst slam of my whole skateboarding career. I folded my ankle in half and had to get ankle surgery. I actually thought the slam was gonna be way worse—I thought I was gonna snap my entire leg in half. But I kind of saw what was happening and in a split second I took the second part of the slam with my forehead, so for a while I had a speed bump on my forehead.

CliveDixon PullQuote I thought I was gonna snap my entire leg in half
That sounds pretty gnarly. What exactly were you trying and what went wrong?
There’s this pretty big hubba that I found when Jason Hernandez was showing us some spots. When I was talking about it he was like, I don’t even think that’s a spot—probably because it’s tall and really long. I think it’s 22 stairs but they’re extended and it’s maybe chest high on me. And then the edge of the hubba itself is made from that aggregate concrete with the rocks in it, so it’s not a fine edge—there’s pebbles and stuff all over it. Mills and I went there at night with two grinders. We smoothed the edge down, lacquered it up and made it all good to go, then we returned a couple days later. I was gonna grind it, but the first try I was scared. I didn’t want to do the Kirchart from This is Skateboarding where he’s doing that line and he sticks at the top of the hubba and eats shit down at the bottom. That was what was going through my head, ’cause I dropped in on it and I ran my trucks over it but I was still like, What’s gonna happen when I hop up and put my weight on this? I didn’t really know if it was gonna grind or not. And then the first try I just got super hyped up and went really fast and grinded it first fuckin’ rip. I was fuckin’ stoked, dude. I was blown away that it all went well and that it actually grinded. When I got on the hubba everything kind of clicked and I was like, Oh, I’m grinding. This is going down perfect. So I landed it and almost just took the grind because I was so fired up. But then I was just thinking about it—I originally wanted to 5-0 the hubba. So I got into the zone again and went for the 5-0 and the first try I just touched the back truck down and put the front truck down after that and made the grind again, so I actually grinded it two times. And then I think there were two more tries, then I stuck the 5-0 down it. And it’s almost more painful for me to watch the stick than the slam because I’m as close as you can get without rolling away. I just barely fell off at the last second. And then the next try I let my guard down a little and I was like, Oh, I got this, no problem. I went at it and I think my angle was just a little bit off—maybe like ten degrees. I just got too on top of the hubba and had too much weight on my toe. I slipped off toe side about halfway down, but I still had like ten feet of hubba left to go and I was probably about ten feet up in the air. I came down with all that momentum onto my leg and saw my leg folding in and that’s when I kinda leaned forward and took the rest of the slam on my forehead. It was pretty brutal.

Mills Clive LA Photo Arias DZnewClock in to lock in

That’s crazy that you could even make that call.
It was a subconscious thing. It was so fast. It was like, Oh my God, I’m NOT gonna snap my leg. It’s fractions of a second, you know? ’Cause I touched down and then that all flashed through my head. I don’t know how it even happened so fast.

Well, this has come after a few years of some very heavy stunts that you’ve done over the years. What’s your motivation for something like this or the noseblunt slide on Staples Center? It seems like you’re looking for untouched terrain and just the biggest, craziest spots you can find—and you’re no 19-year-old kid anymore either, you know?
Yeah, it’s the combination of those. I like the untouched terrain and then I also feel like the tricks are more powerful when it’s on a bigger spot. With the noseblunt—honestly, I wanted to noseblunt Staples Center since I was a 15-or-16-year-old kid when I came out to California for the first time, ’cause that’s been my move since I was a kid, you know? I went to that hubba and I was like, Oh my God, this is the hubba. When noseblunting hubbas was my thing, I was like, This is the goal. So I had actually been plotting on that for over ten years before I did it. But this other hubba—yeah, like you said—no one had ever skated it. I think once it comes out people will realize what it is and where it is but no one had ever skated it and it’s just huge. It’s in LA and it’s something that hasn’t been skated, which is hard to come by. And with the 5-0, I knew I was gonna grind it. I landed the grind but then once you open the door for things like that, everyone’s got to try to get theirs. So I really wanted to get the 5-0 just to seal the deal like, That’s my spot. We made it skateable and handled business. But I fucked myself up.

Clive 5050 LA Arias DZnew
Untouched for a reason, Clive stomps a massive grind in LA

So, mentally what’s it been like dealing with this injury?
It’s been crazy ups and downs. Because for years I’ve been skating huge spots and I’ve never been in this position—never in my life have I not been able to walk. For two months I couldn’t walk, let alone skate.

What does that do to your brain and to your outlook on life?
It was pretty traumatic, especially ’cause the time when that was going on I wasn’t drinking—I was just like purely skating. I was on my skate shit so hard. And then when that happened, after the first week or so of coming to terms with not being able to skate for six months, I kinda changed the rest of my year. I still had so much energy, you know, ’cause I was doing so much stuff every single day—every day looking for spots, finding spots, fixing spots, skating, doing whatever. I was just constantly moving and I had to find other ways to put the energy into something else. And then another major impact was my girlfriend and I were planning on going and Airbnbing a month at a time in different cities across the United States. We actually had a place booked for Portland. We were gonna spend all of July in Portland and then come up with the next destination after that. But obviously ankle surgery and rehab and all that put the kibosh on our travel plans.

Clive Ollie Over Arias DZnewSpot hunting to make Rowley proud, Clive jumps the bar and takes the cliff     photo: Arias

After all the crazy stuff you’ve done have you ever thought, Shit, what’s a guy gotta do? Have you dealt with any frustration with not having a better sponsorship situation despite all that you’ve accomplished? 
Yeah, it has worn on me as far as wanting to be a professional skateboarder. It has kinda completely ruined that aspect of skateboarding for me—but never has that taken away from the act of skateboarding, because in its core that’s why I started skating. I love doing this stuff, I love fixing spots and I love people being stoked and seeing shit for the first time or seeing crazy shit. And I just love doing it—the rush that I get from it.

So you’re able to hang on to that positive feeling. Because as a kid, you know, that’s all we have, but then as you get older your motivations can change. I feel like with the timing of trends or whatever, it’s like, Man, what more can Clive Dixon do? It’s insane and it’s gotta be frustrating for you, right? 
Yeah. The most frustrating thing that I honestly ever heard in that regard was from a mutual friend of ours. He pretty much told me like, Hey, man, who are you? What’s your identity? You have boxes that you’re not checking off that don’t put you in a lucrative position. He was basically telling me that I wasn't marketable. That was pretty crushing for me as well, but fuck it. I don’t really care anymore.

CliveDixon PullQuote I kinda got hyped on maybe trying to be a pro skater again
So did you ever consider like, You know what? If I’m not gonna get to live my dreams then maybe I’m done. Did you ever consider giving up?
For sure. Like I said, not giving up skateboarding, but when I quit Birdhouse I was pretty much like, Fuck it, dude, I’m not gonna skate for anyone or anything anymore. I’m just gonna ride out what I have going on. And I wanted to film this part that was gonna be titled Magnum Opus and it was gonna be the gnarliest shit that I could fuckin’ possibly do. For two years I was planning on it. I was just hammering out the most insane skate tricks that I could do. And then, I don't know, different things happened. Obviously my ankle injury kind of put a pause on that. But some other things had come into my life where I kinda got hyped on maybe trying to be a pro skater again. But yeah, for sure there have totally been times where I’d be at a spot just struggling, like working on a trick for an hour and I’d be like, Why am I even fucking doing this? Yeah, those are just little tantrums that I’ve gone through, but at one point, for sure, I just really wanted to film this crazy part and then—not quit skateboarding, continue skateboarding, but maybe move on to different avenues.

Clive Dixon Smith Curve 750Front Smith for the spectator

So take us through your decision to leave Birdhouse. People who know you from King of the Road and from Saturdays would probably assume it’s a really tight team. 
There were a lot of things involved with that, but I think the hype of everyone’s friendship and the bonds we had through that team were while we were filming Saturdays. I gotta admit, that was some of the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. And for me it really worked. I still think that’s one of my best parts I’ve ever filmed and it was because we were having so much fun. We were just out there skating and the vibes were high. Everyone was stoked and pushing people in a positive way, you know? There’s a difference between pressure and motivation; we just had pure motivation. Everyone was great friends and it all worked. And then, I don’t know, life happens and people kind of went their separate ways and it just really wasn’t the same anymore. At one point I was like, Dude, I’m really the only one out here skating for Birdhouse who’s like fuckin’ skating. Like, no one else actually fuckin’ skates. And I was just like, You know what? I’m over it. Just to have my name on a board, that was cool. I did that thing and I was just at the point where I was like, I don’t really care anymore.

Clive Dixon PoleJam Arias DZAlways grindin’, seven Clives strong

Right. That must have been a tough one, though.
Yeah, it definitely was. But when I made that decision I told myself that I was gonna brew on it for a while, but once I made my mind up it was just done. I called Tony the next day.

What did he say?
He was kinda taken aback at first because he was like, Well, who are you gonna skate for? And then I told him that I wasn’t gonna skate for anybody and he was kinda like, That’s kinda crazy that you’d rather skate for nobody than skate for my brand. But then he was like, You know what? I understand where you’re at. I’ve been there before. He made the comparison to when he quit Powell and I thought that was really nice. He wished me the best of luck and that was it.

CliveDixon PullQuote Nyjah hit me up and was like, Yo, I really fuck with your skating
So the big surprise is you’re gonna skate for Nyjah’s new company Disorder. He’s obviously a divisive figure so how did you connect with him and what were your concerns going into this arrangement?
Yeah, so I’ve known Dominick Walker for years, since I was a teenager and he’s just one of my favorite people out there. When I skate with him it’s like the same as when I was skating with the Birdhouse fools back in the day—it’s good fun every time. And then when I made the post that I had quit Birdhouse—I was just kinda putting that out there to let people know what I was doing, not really with the plan to skate for anyone. But Nyjah hit me up and was like, Yo, I really fuck with your skating; I’m doing this board brand; I would love for you to be a part of it. And then a few months went by and I just ended up getting on some sessions with him and watching him skate that psycho shit. One of the core reasons why I quit Birdhouse was because I was getting no more motivation or I wasn’t being fulfilled in the skateboarding aspect anymore and I was like, Man, I know that if I was skating with Nyjah I could be firing up some crazy spots. We just started bro-ing down and kind of talking on sessions. I’m not gonna lie—watching that dude skate is fucking sick. It is unreal.

Well, you said your main motivation is just being super fired up and being out there getting thrills on giant spots, so that does sound like the guy. He’s pretty much on that same program.
Yeah, exactly. And I really had to sit down and think about it and it was like, Who am I kidding? This is exactly what I want. Then he approached me a couple of times and I just had the realization like, Yo, Nyjah Huston, the gnarliest skateboarder in the world—possibly who’s ever lived—is hounding me to get on his brand and to do shit and I was like, I should take this opportunity and make it happen.

Well, cool. Congratulations. So where do you go? What’s your short-term and long-term plans here?
So I have a full video part filmed, which is nice. That will be coming out in October or November, something like that. And then I probably have two months of physical therapy ahead of me before I’m skating, so Mills and I will get this part all figured out and dialed in. It’s weird finishing a part without being able to skate, you know? Normally in this position we have a timeline and see where I could possibly get an extra trick or two in or something that could help strengthen the part, but since I can’t skate all we’ve really been able to do is film B-roll stuff. But we came up with a theme and some art direction for the part and I’ve been working on that. That’s gonna be really cool, I think. I’m really stoked on it. Throughout this time that I’ve been hurt I’ve also been learning a little bit of Photoshop and graphic design and doing some other weird, funky art stuff. I’ve just been trying to be proactive and do whatever I can to strengthen this segment that we’re making.

clive dixon gap to lipslide 7 2021 brook 2000No Photoshop magic here, just our guy charging one of the nastiest bump to rails with a front lip

We’ve had the most volatile period in the last 50 years of American history and you had your whole world turned upside down. Are you at a distance to have any sort of takeaways, any lessons learned, any perspective or are you still in it?
I’m definitely still in it. With Nyjah giving me this opportunity to be a pro skater again, that’s definitely got me kickstarted into being hyped to skate again. And I can’t even skate at the moment but I’m more stoked now to skate than I have been in a long time, so that’s cool. But I don’t know—I guess just take it for what it is, you know? As a kid I had all these crazy dreams and ideas of where my life was gonna go and I’m in a completely different place now than what I imagined. Not that it’s a better or worse place, but I guess the takeaway would just be that you need to take the punches as they come.

Clive Dixon Boardslide 750Roll with the punches and slide through the curves,  Clive takes this boardslide for a walk around the block

Yeah, and find your happiness, joy and satisfaction where it comes, too.
Yeah. Phelps has the most perfect quote for it: “Skateboarding doesn’t owe you shit.” And there were definitely times when I maybe felt like skateboarding did owe me something because of all the gnarly shit I was doing. Through all the stuff that I’ve been through, it’s definitely been humbling. And like you said, it helped me realize the core root of why I do shit and why I love skateboarding. I would never have the friends and the community around me that I have if it wasn’t for skateboarding.

Yep, and at the end of the day, that’s all it is.
Clive Dixon DSC 7479 BURNETT DZ
No stranger to getting out of a jam, Clive pole vaults a canyon at Skip’s Ditch. Can't wait to see what hell you raise with the new crew
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