Isle Skateboards – Nick Jensen & Paul Shier interview

10.07.2023 Exclusive, Interviews

We caught up with Isle Skateboards owners & founders Nick Jensen & Paul Shier for a chat about the ‘Isle breakup’, riders returning, new additions, plans for the future and the concept behind the new promo, Dreamers among other topics. The accompanying photos are behind-the-scenes shots from Dreamers. New Isle boards are in shops this week.

Interview & photography: Kingsford

I think it’s fair to say people are curious about what’s been going on with Isle for the past two years. Paul, you touched on this in your Slam City Skates interview back in February 2022, but could you give us a run-down from your side of what’s been going on since members of the team decided to move on back in summer 2021?
P ­– Since I spoke about the subject a couple of years ago with Slam there have definitely been some changes. Nick and I spoke after the situation happened in 2021 and decided to keep working on Isle with a big help from our friend Jan Tomson. Although we did not have a team set up at that time, we planned to change our strategy a little and still continue to work closely together, producing products and taking our time in the transition. There was still an appetite for Isle from the consumer and our distributors so we carried on working as we have done for years now. 

We dropped a couple of seasons and it was doing well so we were looking at what our plan would be and how to start building a team again as we missed that part of the beating heart. It came to light that Atlantic Drift was not going to be a hard goods brand any more and as Nick and I had kept in contact with most of the team through all the process, we started to hear that Casper (Brooker) was riding for Baker, which got me so hyped for him, then a little later that Tom (Knox) was on Krooked too. I was so happy to see them land on solid brands.

Nick and I spoke and agreed to speak with Chris Jones, as we really wanted him back on Isle. At the time we had no other team riders so he was obviously curious about it but asked for some time to think on it. Following that, I skated with Sylvain (Tognelli) in Paris and we really reconnected and had so much fun skating together. He is someone that we have been very close with for many years and he is family to me. Once back in LA, I spoke to him and told him we wanted him and he came straight back. He then spoke directly with Chris and they were both in. We were so happy to hear they were down and suddenly we had a team of two.

I then asked Mike (Arnold) about his situation over some beers when I saw him in LA. I got the impression that he was enjoying the silence of not having a sponsor, which I respected, so it was left there and we drank a beer.

How did Kyron (Davis) riding for Isle come about?
P – Chris and Nick came with the strong idea of putting Kyron on the team. I am a huge fan of Kyron. He is a special skater. He really has no limits and such talent. I love his footage and he always surprises me. I hit him up in the early stages of Isle but it was around the time he got on Numbers so it was not to be at that time. After speaking with him, having a few conversations and then having him test out some boards, I am proud to say he is a part of Isle now. I’m so happy to be working with him and hanging with him more. One of his new boards is actually a remake of a graphic that Nick had already made for him when he rode for Numbers that never came out. I spoke with (Eric) Koston (Numbers co-founder) if he was all good for us to run it and we got the thumbs up. That would be the Clockwork Orange one. 

Shortly after that I got a text from Mike (Arnold) about getting on the phone. He had decided and was keen if we would put him on Isle. Mike is one of my favourite skateboarders so to us it was a no-brainer – we welcomed him with open arms. Then we were four: Mike, Kyron, Sylvain and Chris. A solid squad I am proud of. 

Are you on the lookout for more riders? 
P – Yes we are. We want to keep it small still, but a couple more would be amazing. 

Have you made any changes in how you approach running the brand?
P – I personally need to be better at my communication with the team. Being so far away (Paul lives in LA) for me is hard, but I need to make sure I am always available and doing what I can for them. Going on trips again – we did not do this enough before and this is going to change. Just being more proactive than we have been, listening and working closer as a team, creating content and doing a better job. Graphically we will still be top of our game as we always have been.

Nick, talk us through the concept behind the new Isle promo, Dreamers.
N – I was recommended a Thom Yorke album by my mate and was listening to it on the tube one day. It had this repeat loop to a track and weirdly I visualised people moving along the platform like Pac-Men. Lol. Anyway it made me think of how cool it would be to see people sliding along as if controlled by another logic. So I thought we should pull the skaters on ropes across streets.  Anyway this was an idea I had before all the stuff happened with Isle, about three years ago. 

When things started to come back a bit, I felt like this idea would work well, as if the skaters were all dreaming, half-asleep. When Kyron was up for being the new addition, it was clear to me that the team could be having this lucid and collective dream about Kyron getting on Isle. 

My wife’s sister Alice had started her solo career as a musician and her song The Other Side worked so well. This project has actually come together as if it was meant to be – it’s been really natural. 

How did James Coyle get involved as DOP?
N – Around the time Kyron was up for Isle, James actually emailed me saying he would like to work on a project with me. He was looking to do something outside of the other films he was currently working on. Like I said before, it all fell into place. I was literally thinking that day of making a film and who to work with. 

Can you talk a little about how you created the effect of people sliding across various surfaces in locations around the world?
N – I found a piece of wood and then attached skate rails to the bottom. I then cut a hole and put a rope through it. I did try to make some sort of pillow so the guys wouldn’t have to rest their heads on the floor. I think this contraption snapped halfway through doing Mike in Bristol. Unfortunately it tore a big hole in his nice Supreme jumper he was supposed to wear in a catalogue shoot the following week. I also wrecked Chris’ T-shirt and he said his neck was so tense from having to hold it just lifted off the floor. Like most things I do, they generally just about work in a budget way. I mean I wanted to keep the rope visible in all of the shots. I like things that feel handmade. Maybe next time the team would appreciate a bit more planning… And thanks Eliza for sewing up Mike’s jumper.

Nick, tell us about the latest board series. 
N – We have two artist series by artists Mark Alexander and Damien Roach, then the series I made with Jan Tomson that connects visually to the film. It’s images that I found, printed out then let go into a tank of water with black ink. I don’t know, it’s quite an angsty, psychological series – maybe a post-Isle breakup / Covid stress response (I started them over a year ago).

What is the plan with future series? Will you continue to work with different artists?
N – Yeah always, so long as they want to work with us. It keeps me so engaged as I love the crossovers.

What are your broader plans for Isle in the future?
N –Work harder, travel more, be on more walls, wider representation, quality product, smile, succeed, breathe. All go on a surfing holiday and watch Sylvain shred it up. 

Watch ‘Dreamers’, the new Isle promo, here.