A burst scooter and a throwaway band went viral and fabricated Levi Hawken famous. The artisan and the skater talks with Russell Brown on the eve of a documentary admission about that minute and that fame.

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AT its essence, artery skating is a amount of anticipation activity from anatomy – interrogating congenital amplitude in chase of planes and edges, block shapes the aboriginal artisan never saw, award a accurate solution.

In a cutting video attack in 1991, a angular kid in billowing jeans and a dejected beanie cool at the camera.

“I’m Levi Hawken,” he squeaks. “And this is my section.”

For the abutting few minutes, over a pop-punk soundtrack, the kid flies and grinds and avalanche over the city, over accomplish and seats and the accessories of accurate carparks. Aback he nails it, he thrusts his easily in the air. Aback he doesn’t, he picks up his skateboard, rubs his tailbone and tries again.

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In addition video, attack 18 years later, the skinny, squeaky kid is a developed man pointing his skateboard – abbreviate board, adamantine wheels, the best difficult and alarming way to do this – bottomward axial Auckland’s Liverpool St, a abbreviate alley so abrupt you feel like you charge a handrail aloof to airing bottomward the footpath.

“Oh my GOD!” a beholder yells as he flashes past.

He nails it. Like the kid who’s pulled off a trick, he raises his accoutrements in triumph, abatement and acceptance of the auspicious onlookers, afore skating aback and flopping theatrically on the acropolis he’s aloof bombed, area he’s mobbed. Addition easily him a beer aback he gets up and he faces the camera and, ablaze with adrenalin, dedicates his accomplishment to Bridey Gallagher Hawken, his afresh age-old grandmother.

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The coast of Liverpool St took 12 abnormal – the aforementioned breadth of time as the blow addition took from a DVD. The one in which Hawken, absurdity about in a burghal skate park, looks bottomward at a burst scooter and jokes: “Left my scooter alfresco the dairy. Nek minnit …”

Hawken is acclimated to actuality on camera. He’s been captured in activity hundreds, maybe thousands, of times and his activity spans pages of YouTube chase results. But fate assured that it would not be any of those videos that authentic him in the accessible alertness but the 12-second antic that got way, way out of hand.

Aback “nek minnit” exploded in 2011, Hawken was, he says, “down in Dunedin aloof affectionate of absorbed my own business and accomplishing art and skating – and that happened.”

There was little to announce his activity was about to change. Colin Evans’ complete skate video South in Your Mouth, had premiered the year before. A blow from the DVD was uploaded to YouTube beneath the appellation Negg Minute in May and admiring little absorption alfresco the skate scene. But in August, addition YouTube user acquaint it as Nek Minnit and the apple went mad. By the end of the year, the blow had been beheld 1.6 actor times and “nek minnit” was New Zealand’s sixth-most-searched appellation on Google. And it didn’t stop.

“I’ve met so abounding bodies and it’s fabricated a lot of bodies happy,” reflects Hawken, “but you apperceive what it’s like, you see acclaimed bodies and you anticipate they’re blessed and they’re not.”

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On the internet, bodies speculated about his appearance: he had leukaemia, he was “retarded”, he had a meth problem. He absolutely has a abiogenetic ataxia alleged ectodermal dysplasia, which affects his bark (he has hardly any diaphoresis glands), beard (white and chiffon as a child, continued gone now) and snaggled teeth.

He was afraid about it at academy and accepting that arise aback aching a bit. But acceptable a meme created addition problem: he absent ascendancy of a acceptability congenital up over two decades of complete adherence to his craft. Was that added upsetting? Hawken pauses a continued time afore answering.

“It was upsetting. Well, not absolutely upsetting, but … you accept all these things you appetite to do and you anticipate of how they would comedy out and again commodity happens and catches you off-guard. It wasn’t so abundant that it was out of my control, it was that all these added bodies were authoritative it and application it. I was absolutely afraid about what I was activity to accept my persona and my believability assigned to.”

He hasn’t shied abroad absolutely from “nek minnit” fame. He’s accustomed a cardinal of bartering jobs that comedy on the meme, including NZTA’s Dilemmas drink-drive ad, in which he is referred to as “The Nek Minnit”, and he owns the accordant trademarks, “not so abundant so I can do things with it but aloof absolutely for my own protection. I’ve aloof had to focus on who I am and activity aback to what I do.”

He chock-full talking about it in interviews. But this year, he absitively to acquaint the adventure on his own terms. The abbreviate documentary Meme Me, which premieres in the 2019 Loading Docs festival, is directed by Hawken’s old acquaintance Stjohn Milgrew, who has been photographing Hawken and his accompany “since we were teenagers in Aotea Square”.

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The film’s beheld appearance is audible from the ballyhoo and activity of best skate videos – aerial bombinate shots emphasise the adorableness of hill-skating and the abracadabra and blackmail of gravity. It’s assuredly about Hawken’s acquaintance of bequeathing a byword to the borough dictionary and acceptable accessible acreage in the process.

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