Last week, I skated Carmel Valley Skate Park with Spencer Nuzzi. We sat on the bleachers for a bit. He ate a toasted sandwich and drank something with a million little chia seeds floating inside. We talked about growing up, transplanting to Southern California, and how his sport and outlook have changed over the last few years.
But mainly, we just laughed. It’s something about his personality. He’s incredibly light, and he has a passive passion for his sport.
Of course, his self-proclaimed signature is goofy, both in stance and persona. I can attest to this. Spencer Nuzzi is goofy, and it’s pretty great.
Nuzzi is a professional skater, who began garnering attention as a pre-teen. He graduated from Canyon Crest Academy in 2010, and he still lives in Del Mar.
Something of a child prodigy, he gained sponsorship from local shops at an early age, catching the eye of a couple industry veterans and ultimately forging his way onto the Birdhouse team.
He did all of this before he was old enough to drive.
At 9 years old, Nuzzi met Tony Hawk at a book signing in New Jersey. I asked if he had a picture.
He quickly pulled it up for me on his phone — readily available. Nuzzi was living in New Jersey at the time, and the photo perfectly marks that awkward, sincere youth paired with pinnacle stardom. Again, read “goofy.”
While living in New Jersey, Nuzzi’s family was regularly vacationing in San Diego.
It was on one of these vacations that Nuzzi was introduced to Willy Santos at Willy’s Workshop in Penasquitos.
“In many ways, it all started with Willy,” said Nuzzi. “I gave my sponsor tape to his brother, JR, when I was visiting. When I moved out here, Willy put me on the team and gave me a board that same day. I still have it, actually.”
As Nuzzi’s skateboarding career began to show promise, his parents relocated the family to San Diego. Nuzzi became a regular at Santos’ shop, and he grew close to the veteran skater.
Santos was instrumental in growing the young skater’s career and carving his resume.
He helped Nuzzi attain sponsorship with several brands, including Arnette Sunglasses and Birdhouse Skateboards. By 15, he established his place on the Birdhouse Flow team, working under and traveling with Tony Hawk.
“It was crazy traveling with Tony. We were a bunch of skaters in five star hotels, eating steaks right next to businessmen. We got some questionable looks. But it was great. My mindset at the time was Pro-Skater. I was both hooked and obsessed. Grateful for everything, ready to prove myself.”
His infatuation with professional skating never dropped.
But it did shift in focus.
After six years of riding for Birdhouse, paying his dues, Nuzzi began to assess his path.
“It was at the Phoenix-Am. I didn’t place. It was like 120 degrees — normal summer I guess. We’d driven from California to Arizona, and we were on our way to Kentucky next. Being on the road so much, and the stress and pressure attached to the skating…it didn’t make sense to me. I knew it wasn’t for me, and for the first time since I was a kid, I felt over it. That’s just not who I am.”
He came home thinking a little differently, seeing a little differently. It wasn’t overnight, but it was quick. As he veered away from the competitive, pro-circuit, all of these new elements of skating materialized for him. And it was powerful.
With the mental shift, Nuzzi replaced his efforts toward finishing school. He’s started coaching high school skateboarding. And he’s becoming Stone Brewery’s primary aficionado and unofficial IPA expert.
He’s skating more than ever now. He’s filming constantly. And his active coaching brings it full circle.
“School has been taking over most of my skate time. I want to pursue a career in merchandise marketing. In the mean time, I’ve been filming a ton for the Ride Channel (YouTube’s Skateboard Channel). Maybe one day, you’ll see me with my own show! I’ve also been coaching the Torrey Pines and Earl Warren skate teams. I get really stoked on seeing my team progress. And they even show me some new tricks here and there. I’ll ride this whole skating thing out as long as I can. It’s what I love.”
As we left the bleachers, and made our way into Carmel Valley Skate Park, several kids immediately greeted Nuzzi.
He stopped and chatted with each of them. He complemented their skating, offered advice when necessary, laughed with them.
Even when he’s not coaching, Nuzzi is a positive force with his passive passion and composure.
But he keeps it light and he keeps it goofy.
And I like that about him.