I don’t know why but I always think that the UK is an unlikely destination for people to emigrate to, especially for Australians. However, Tirryn Nankivell has done just that. For the best part of the last two years he has been living, working and riding in London. He’s leaving for pastures new soon, so we thought we’d catch up with him before he goes. It’s been great having Tirryn here, he’s been a huge driving force behind getting the STFU rides off the ground, he’s become an honorary member of the British team and repped for us here at STFU London. It’ll be sad to see him go but enough from me, let’s fire some questions his way.
STFU: So, I guess we’ll start with the basic questions first. How long have you been riding?
Tirryn Nankivell: I started in 2009/2010 I believe. I know I was in school, I was in year 11 so I would say 7-8 years.
How did you get into riding in the first place?
Well, Brandon (Tirryns brother) actually did it before me. He aspired to be a clown when he was younger, he doesn’t want to do that anymore! Yeah, so after about a year I was just enjoying sports and he learned to ride it and I thought ‘that looks pretty cool’ so I just gave it a go, being the sporting kinda type. I learnt to ride it and then Brandon discovered a load of tricks on YouTube and found out there was the UNINATS competition in Wollongong in 2009. We all went along as a family because we didn’t know what a unicycle competition was or what the community was like or anything. So we had this family trip, Brandon competed, I met all the guys there, saw it all in real life and after the whole competition I was like; ALRIGHT! I’ve gotta go and make a decision. Do I wanna go and buy a really good unicycle or should I just kinda half-commit and just get like a Nimbus? It was between Koxx One and Nimbus. Koxx was like ‘Yep, I’m fully invested in unicycling’ and Nimbus was ‘I’ll give it a go and see how it goes’. I chose Koxx One and from that moment on, I got into all the tricks and haven’t stopped since.
Woah! The next question was going to be ‘How did you discover urban unicycling?’ but it sounds like you were thrust straight in and urban yooning was your first contact with the sport.
Yeah, exactly. Whereas I think most people might just see videos and kind of get it from there but for me; I saw all that stuff in real life from fairly early on. Obviously I did see some videos on YouTube but it hit me when I actually saw it in real life and I met the community and felt the special unicycling vibe and I was just like, SOLD!
You’ve kinda answered my next question there too.
(Laughter) I’m good at this!
You’re pre-empting me! What is it that you like about unicycling over other sports like football or something else?
Well to be honest with you I don’t feel like I chose it over anything. I didn’t just go ‘Alright, I need one sport, I’m going to do unicycling.’ I’ve done lots of other sports like football, cricket, tabletennis, tennis, yeah all sorts. So for me unicycling is just like another thing but what’s interesting is that I’ve kept unicycling over the past 8 years. I did football for a lot of that time aswell, I did chop and change between a lot of sports during that time, so I don’t feel like I picked it over another sport.
Obviously you’re an Australian living in London. What brings you to the UK?
I finished university and passed that ok and then had to do the career thing but part of me still wanted to travel. Australians are well known for their travelling, so it was kind of bugging me for a bit. I was scared that if I started my career back home I wouldn’t go and check out what was happening in Europe and America. When you’re in Australia, everything is so far away and you kinda wanna know what’s going in Europe because there seems to be so much happening over there, so much to do. So I thought ‘Alright, well why don’t we go and teach over there and see how it goes?’ So it was kinda like, ‘Well why not? Let’s go check it out!’ and it turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done.
In terms of unicycling, how does the UK scene compare to the Australian one?
Ough, good question! Well, the good thing about the UK is that it’s small. Even though people are living in cities or towns away from each other, you can actually meet up quite easily. However, in Australia, everything is REALLY spread out and so it doesn’t have as good a train network, so you’re flying to go ride or hoping that some people ride in your local area, which might be a few if you’re lucky. So in terms of actually being able to ride with other people, it’s probably easier to do here in London compared to Australia.
However, what’s interesting is that over here I feel like there’s a few riders who are actually riding but a lot of people who just ride… I think you summed it up when we were talking once before Edd. There’s a lot of riders, but not a lot of motivation and only a few people actually riding. Whereas back home there are a lot of motivated riders but less of them overall and very spread out so it’s hard to meet up but when we do, it’s really good vibes.
Obviously you’re featured in a lot of the Hippo videos. What’s your connection to the Hippo crew?
So, I’m not on the team but I guess you could say I’m a part of the Pretty Good crew. The Hippo and Pretty Good crew are separate but when we first started the whole Pretty Good thing, it was just a bunch of riders from New Zealand and I was from Australia. I’ve been to New Zealand 7 times. It’s kind of a long story but I’ll try and keep it short.
I went to UNICON in New Zealand in 2009/2010 and met a few guys from the New Zealand crew and got along with them really well. I went home after UNICON, having had an amazing time and few months afterwards I was still talking to a few of them and one of them was Steffan Safey and his birthday was coming up in December the following year. I said ‘wouldn’t it be funny if I actually flew to New Zealand for your birthday’ and I was kinda like joking about it but then I actually did, haha! So I went over for his birthday and took my uni and I met the rest of the Hamilton unicyclists there and they actually had a big group at the time. So yeah, I got to meet all them and I kept going back like every single year for five years or so. A few years later, after I’d been there a couple of times, I thought I’d go up and see Chris (Huriwai) and we’ll do a massive ride. So we all roadtripped up there from Hamilton with the guys and we just made a video and the Pretty Good group just kinda formed through that really. We started making videos together and just kinda made an annual one from there. So that’s how I got to know them, yeah.
A bit of a change in direction here, do you have a favourite rider?
Ohhhh, maann. Good question.
Erm, I actually don’t think I really do. I think everyone brings something unique to unicycling and everyone’s got such a unique style. You know, you see people who are really good on rails and you’re like ‘That is awesome and you’re really good at that, that’s my favourite thing about your riding.’ I think I have a favourite thing about every single rider, I feel. Whether it’s directly unicycling related or not really. That’s my take on it because everyone is awesome in the unicycling community, it’s hard to pick a favourite.
Awesome answer, I know exactly what you mean.
When it comes to tricks, when you’re learning something new does it come easily or do you really have to work at stuff?
Hmmm, yeah I think I really have to work on it and I think I definitely have to work on stuff a lot more now than I used to. I think when you start, it’s all quite rapid progression coz you’re really excited and there’s so many possibilities, so many different tricks, and there still are lots of possibilities left but I think when you start, you really put in the hours and you see that rapid progression. After a while though, and I think it happens to everyone, everyone goes through different phases where they might not ride for a while or they are maybe growing up and they get involved with work and studies and this and that, so you have a lot more priorities taking over from when you had a lot more time when you were younger. But for me, it definitely felt like nothing really came that easily. It’s always been hard work. I’ve always had to make a decision in my mind if I wanna progress, then I have to practise more and get outside my comfort zone and be consistent with it to actually make some progress.
Yeah, I’ve struggled with that my whole time riding.
Hey, you got crankflips man! I saw it, it was so good!
I think it was the environment I was in at EUC, it was just right.
Well, that’s the interesting thing, isn’t it? It’s amazing how when you start riding with people, you start landing things. It’s crazy. When we were riding with Dekky on a group ride, jump rolls had been a massive fear of mine. I’d always hurt myself on them every single time. And then Dekky was just trying them and I was like ‘Ok, I’ve been wanting to do that for a while, let’s try it now.’ Next thing you know, I’ve landed one in like 5 minutes. I’ve been trying that trick on-and-off for a couple of years and then you just go riding with someone and you just land it. It’s amazing what happens when you ride in a community.
Definitely! So what do you like most about riding in a community?
I think the first thing is that you’ll land a lot more tricks. You will. It gives you ideas of other tricks you could try that you just haven’t thought of yet. The next thing you know you could land it in a few minutes time or you could make some good progression on it and try it by yourself when you get home.
But also I think, just being able to meet other people in the community. Everyone that unicycles is pretty interesting and do some really, really cool things. I think it’s awesome how different that is in terms of everyone’s choices outside of unicycling but we’re all brought together by the unicycles and without that I don’t know if I’d ever meet a lot of these people in my day-to-day life. I’m so glad we’ve had that experience together, it’s given us the opportunity to connect. I think when you’re in that community and riding, it’s more motivation to ride aswell, because you can go and meet up with them. It’s also just a really good way of getting to know people.
You’ve been riding for 7 or 8 years now and in urban unicycling terms, that’s a looooong time. How have you seen unicycling change over the years since you first started riding?
Ooough, some really good questions going on here.
Ok, so when I first started, I remember seeing a 720 unispin as like BIIIIG. It was one of the big tricks you could do and you saw it in a few videos and you were like ‘Man, that guy can 720, that’s insane!’ These days, it just continues to increase. 900 is the new 720, you know, lots of people can do it and if you can do a 900 you’re really good. Just like at the time, if you could 720, you were really good. Obviously, bigger spins. Everything’s got a lot more technical and a lot more people are getting creative now because I guess, I dunno, maybe the unicycling community is starting to see limits, but then again people just keep coming along and breaking them anyway.
Mike Taylor for example, I mean I remember when people were just hopping over a metre and it was like ‘Woah, that’s crazy!’ and then some people were getting 120cm 8 years ago and people would think ‘Alright, that guy means business. He can jump really high.’ and now we’re at 150cm and I don’t think many people would have thought that was possible back then but now it’s kinda like, if I were to say to someone ‘Ah yeah yeah, Mike will hop 180cm soon.’ People might say ‘Nah.’ but that’s what we were thinking 7 or 8 years ago and look where we are now, so it’ll be interesting. I think they’re the major changes I’ve seen.
180cm would be craazy, dude!
Yeaah, I mean I can’t imagine it but then again I couldn’t imagine the uniwhip, could you?
So where do you think urban unicycling will be in another 8 years then?
Oh my goodness. Um, alright.
Another 8 years…
(Long pause – I actually thought the phonecall had cut out here)
Phwoar, I don’t really know. Man, so much could change in that time. Erm, I think the sport will keep growing overall. I think we’ll get more and more people into it. I think there’ll be a greater number of people who can ride. We’re already starting to see a new generation of riders coming through, which is really good. So overall I think it will continue to grow, I don’t think it will decline at all.
In terms of tricks, I think we’ll see a lot more technical and creative tricks continue and then maybe there’ll be another type of trick that no-one’s thought of or done yet really. Kinda like, you know how the uniwhip opened up a whole other set of ideas for tricks? I feel like there’ll be something else that will come. I have no idea what it could be but we’ll see. Maybe it could be Luwigs tricks that he was doing on the post. I don’t know, we’ll see.
I’ll ask you again in 8 years.
Yeah, we’ll find out if my predictions were right
You’re quite well known for your unique (sketchy) style. Any tips?
Depends what you want tips for! I’d like to know more about my unique style but it’s…I don’t know… sketchy.
So if you want to be a more sketchy rider, you’ve come to right place. I think the key is you’ve just got to be motivated to land the trick and not care about anything else. Your only focus is: Jump, do the trick, land back on. At all costs. My thinking is, if you land it, it counts. Which it does. I’m not concerned if I hop out or ride out because in my mind, it still counts. So that’s my advice if you want to ride like me. (Laughter)
You have an amazing vocabulary. How do you come up with some of your slang words?
Well, a lot of it kind of actually came from when I was a little bit younger at school, through other friends. We’d just come up with these words and they stuck around and then we started applying them to just every single situation and some of them worked, a lot of them didn’t. Those ones that stuck, I just continued to use. Depending on the situation I’m in and the people I’m around determines whether that comes out. It’s not like I’ll go into a job interview and I’m like ‘Oh boys, how’s it going? Are you ready to jog it in?! I’ll keep jogging the work, that’ll be sick. Sign me up, where do I sign?’ That doesn’t happen.
What I’m really impressed with is Eli Brills vocabulary. He’s on a whole ‘nother level. He’s got a whole other vocabulary and application, it’s really impressive. I broke it down technically once and I was explaining to him. My words, you just replace words with other words and it works but him; he changes words with other words but he also changes his sentence structure which gives him more variety points. So in a flatland battle, he’s definitely winning.
That would be an interesting battle. I love how Eli just drops it in subtly too, as if he talks like that the whole time.
Yeah, it’s essentially another language but everyone can still understand it.
Yeah, it’s a language you don’t have to learn to be able to understand.
Yeah, exactly. The thing is, I’m trying to practice, I’ve been trying to learn it and it doesn’t work!
I need to spend more time with Eli.
Lastly, if the whole world is a stage, where do the audience sit?
Err, well that depends actually. If you’re sitting in a particular part of the world, then where you are not is where the stage is. So wherever you go on your unicycle, the stage is always moving.
Yeah, so it always moves. Always.
So really the audience aren’t sitting?
No, they’re not. No, no, er, yeah. (Laughter) No, you’re on the stage and the stage is always moving. So like, if I go down to the Netherlands then the stage has moved to the Netherlands so the audience is in the Netherlands. If I come back to London, then the audience is there.
Ah ok, got ya. Thanks for clearing that up!
Finally, any last words? Shoutouts? Advice for other riders?
Yeah definitely. Alright guys, there’s a few things you need to know.
The first one is going to be regarding style of riding. I feel that there’s a lot of flatland going on, which is cool, I feel like there’s some street and there’s some trials. But you know what, I just want to say that trials is not dead! I don’t know who came up with that or who’s been saying that, I don’t think many people have actually been saying that, but probably a few years ago there were. But it’s definitely alive and there are a lot of people jogging it in.
Also, everyone asks me ‘What country’s the best at unicycling?’ That’s something which is really hard to judge but I want to give a big shoutout and recognition towards Hungary. Hungary is just producing sick, awesome riders. Not just people, we’re talking like big elite, world-class riders and they’re going hard. That’s the trials kingdom, so if you think trials is dead, you should go to Hungary and they’ll show you what it’s all about. I just wanna rep some trials there.
Thanks for that, man!
No problem, it’s been a pleasure.
You can check out Tirryns riding on the Pretty Good Youtube channel.