The Kickflipping Magician Of Santa Cruz – Zoltan The Great
“I’ve had ten stitches in my arm and lip, broke three ribs trying kickflips and have been stabbed in the eye with my board and couldn’t see for three days”
Zoltan Torkos: does that name ring a bell?
He was the first bloke to ever stomp a surfing kickflip way back in 2011 for Volcom’s kickflip competition. He won $10k for it.
Back in 2011, Zoltan wasn’t quite a household name, but a name, nonetheless. Seven years later, he’s trying varials, fingers flips, pop shuv-its and just about every other type of absurd skate-esque trick feasible on a 6-foot block of fibreglass; he’s even giving surf lessons in Santa Cruz that you can book here.
We admire the relentless determination of Zoltan: he’s a fourth generation magician, bases his surfing solely on tricks not meant for surfboards, and with his appearance in the Drag film, our curiosity was piqued in what exactly is on the 37-year old magic man’s mind.
Mr. Torkos may have a “full Hungarian name”, but it turns out Zoltan is Californian born and bred and is about as core as surfing comes – despite kickflips being anything but ‘core’.
Stab: Zoltan, how’ve you been? Tell us a little about yourself, how’d you first get into surfing?
Zoltan: My father immigrated after the Hungarian Revolution and my mom was an Italian Scotch-Irish magician living in Monterey Bay, but my older brother Rigo was the one who got me into surfing initially.
How young were you?
I first started boogie boarding as a really little kid, then in junior high I started surfing everyday and skateboarding more. Before that it was all baseball and magic shows with my mum.
Ahh, we’ve seen some of your magic videos, but let’s talk about that kickflip first. When did you first try it?
I really wanted to do airs because of skateboarding and was trying them since I was 12. At 14 I started doing 360’s, pop-shuvit’s are tried barrel rolls too.
I actually landed my first kickflip at 17, way before the Volcom competition one. My friend, Carl Reimer knew that and said I could be the first to get it on film, so I went hard as hell at it.
Carl was my best friend, he was one of the best surfers and influenced me to do airs. He told me to do the kickflip and said it would change my life. The night he told me that, he was gunned down. Murdered. I never saw him again…
So when I landed it, I dedicated the kickflip to him.
Woah, that’s heavy, sorry for your loss. Is #PullTricksNotTriggers dedicated to Carl?
Yeah, it’s focused on influencing the youth to pick up healthy hobbies like surfing and skating, instead of violence and other criminal activities they can get wrapped up in.
It’s not about anti-gun really, but rather anti-violence.
Did you have many injuries doing the flip?
I break almost every board I surf on my face doing them. I’ve had ten stitches in my arm and lip, broke three ribs trying them and have been stabbed in the eye with my board and couldn’t see for three days.
It sucks. And aside from the injuries, as soon as I get used to a board, I break it and have to start all over again.
How many do you typically land now?
I probably land about one a session and up to three sometimes. Best is when I’ve landed two on one wave. The conditions affect it too, when it’s windy and rough, you end up hitting yourself with the board a lot.
I’ve been working on a varial flip, kickflip to sexchange and a 180 kickflip at the moment as well.
Do you have a board sponsor? Or do you have to cough up cash for every board.
Yeah, I’ve got two: Watermark Surfboards and Drag.
Alright let’s talk about competitive surfing. Do you think it needs to keep progressing, perhaps towards more tricks?
People should work on what they want, I think. Like in skateboarding each skater has their own style and the same should go for surfing. Doing the same thing all the time is boring, that’s why I want to try different tricks.
Do you watch the WSL?
Not really, I don’t watch other people surf much because I forget what I’m doing with my own tricks. I don’t want to jade my own path.
I do look up to dudes like Vince Collier, Miki Dora, and Richard and Dave Schmidt though.
Do you think there’s a standout ‘best surfer in the world’ at the moment?
Not really, I see it like a moving force – like the ocean – where there’s many people leading charge, not just one individual.
Alright, tell us about your surfing lessons you run? Get many asking how to kickflip?
It’s going great, I do surf lessons with Richard Schmidt. Not a tonne of people actually ask in the lessons, but I do get a bunch of people asking in messages and emails though.
I’m trying to go pro in underwater basket weaving too…[laughs].
So, what is the secret to the surfing kickflip?
Lead a non-judgemental life and watch lots and lots of Bugs Bunny cartoons.
Skateboarding helps too I guess, cause it gives you the consistency to try the trick over and over again. Where in surfing you only get the one shot usually.
Does being a magician help at all? [Zoltan is a “4th generation magician”]
It’s an unbelievable feeling performing magic and has taught me anything is possible in surfing too.
I’ve still been performing at the surf camps I teach at.
I want to land new surf tricks, break the usual surfing rules and rock and roll. Just have to stay away from the haters, it matters who you hang out with in this world.
Lastly, tell me about the ‘mullet’ you’re rocking.
It’s a haircut from my ancestry, just me trying to get back to my Hungarian and Mongolian roots…[laughs]
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