High-level technical skate tricks are taking over the industry. Recent footage of global ranking leads will prove this point. Nyjah Huston, Pedro Barros, and Luan Oliveira will have you do double-takes even on the slo-mo cam with the intricacy and finesse they put into their craft. Days of treating skaters less than athletes have long gone, and a new era of highly trained skaters have come into play.
Now, they are treated no less than your next NBA or NFL star. Skaters are now decked out with multi-million mansions in Laguna beach, appearances on Hip-hop artists’ music videos, lucrative shoe deals with major international brands, and quantifiable and commercially viable following through social media. With the Tokyo Summer Olympics 2021 heralding skateboarding’s grand debut, the legitimacy is cemented.
But at the cusp of this transformation, skaters manifested in the many dimensions the sport offer. After all, skateboarding rose to popularity not only through the athleticism but also through the aspect of style and art. This is where William Spencer has taken the sport and made it into his own. Today, he’s known as the real-life Spider-man.
Caption: William Spencer, as Spider-man’s stunt double, walks us through on the life of skateboarding’s only stuntman.
‘Just do it’
When William first started trying to learn how to skateboard, he was unfortunately not very good at it. His older brother, Shad Spencer, was the first one to pick up the sport and he was quickly inspired to do the same.
“I remember taking forever to learn to skate and to learn not to be afraid of everything, but my big brother was not afraid at all… I just learned that being afraid didn’t get me anywhere and I would have to just push through things that scared me,” William told About Sports of his initial fears in skating.
Caption: William Spencer gives us a rundown on how he crafts his performances on the board.
Growing up with a trampoline and inching every day to the black belt in Wado-kai karate he now possesses did, however, eventually contribute to the flips, sense of style, and awareness of what body movements looked good that now comes naturally to him.
As for the unique kind of skateboarding he exhibits, he credits it all to nothing less than his innate style.
“The way I skate is the way I skate,” he tells ESPN in an interview.
William tells us that he highly credits the fact that he skates alone to the development of his unique style. According to him, it was because of this that he developed naturally and through his own imagination.
“No one was there to tell me it was wrong or stupid,” he says. “I feel really lucky that I was able to experiment on a skateboard and not care what people think of it.”
This cadence transcended even as he first put on the map through his video called ‘Hollarado.’ It was through this film where he nailed a front-flip down 10 stairs at Civic Center Park in Denver that he became known as the ‘Mile High Ninja.’
Caption: William Spencer’s bit in ‘Hollerado’ the skate film.
“[Michael] Burnett (from Thrasher Magazine) actually came up with that [nickname] for the interview. I’m sure he thought that was hilarious, but it actually stuck. I don’t use it, but everyone else seems to,” he says.
Not long after his debut in the skate industry, it seemed as though there was a burgeoning career on the rise for William.
With his days of fear long behind him, he is now more frequently caught channeling Shia Labeouf yelling ‘Just do it’ to get past his fears to execute a trick.
In the same breath of fearlessness, he moved to California to do what he knew what he wanted to do– expand skateboarding into other realms.
Becoming the ‘Real-life Spider-man’
Coming from a small town in Denver where his older brother had already made his name in the skateboarding industry, he explains that he needed to climb out of his brother’s shadow and make his own way to burst through the scene. The catch? He did not actually believe he was good enough to make it.
“I don’t think I could do anything good enough on a skateboard or with skateboarding to get sponsored at all,” he says.
He eventually got sponsored by their local shop because of his dedication to excel in the sport. However, as he reached that goal, he already had his sights on the bigger mountains to climb.
“California seems like more of an adventure,” he said.
From there, he went on a trip from Colorado to California to see what the world had in store for him.
“I knew no one in California when I moved there,” he says.
In the beginning, he was fortunate enough to be able to stay with two friends who were able to hook him up with a try out for a Batman Begins live show at Magic Mountain.
By the time he was doing the show, he had moved out of his friends’ place and into his car. He would also couch surf or simply pay people to allow him to stay so he would not have to go back and forth between California and Colorado.
Despite his persistence, however, the gigs he was landing were not enough to keep him afloat in California. He explains that he would make money in Colorado so that he can spend it in California with the hopes of ‘making it.’
His big break came when he got the call from Vic Armstrong, the original Indiana Jones’ stunt double. They asked him to audition for a role but he was still in Colorado and not in proper form to make the trip to California again for an audition.
This call had already slipped William’s mind when he received another one asking him to just go straight to the warehouse.
“I couldn’t imagine because I had missed the audition and everything,” he said.
It was that day that he was introduced to Andrew Garfield. He and the rest of the film making team were watching William’s clips during lunch break when the thought of a skateboarding Spider-man came into fruition.
“He’s like ‘I think I would be a cool character choice if Peter Parker skateboarded in this version of the movie,'” William says.
“I think you skateboard the way that Spiderman would,” Andrew told William.
William Spencer: Spider-Man’s Skating Stunt Double
From there, he was cast as the stunt-man in ‘The Amazing Spider-man’ movie. Because of his resemblance to Spider-man height and weight-wise, he was eventually upgraded to Andrew’s own stunt-double.
He was eventually cast again as a key stunt double for ‘The Amazing Spider-man 2,’ but with the doors of Hollywood finally open to him, his skate/stunt work quickly gained traction. As of now, he has also done stunts for blockbusters like ‘Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials,’ Project X, The Kids Are All Right and popular TV series’ like ‘Fear the Walking Dead,’ and ‘CSI: NY.’
“You look around the world and you’re like, ‘Man, this place could be less boring if we all tried to do what we want to do just a little more,” William says.
This was the notion he applied to everything. He explains that he came from a lack of natural talent for skateboarding, yet, through his hard work and dedication, he was able to build something that was uniquely his in the sport.
William Spencer as the ‘Skate Ninja’
According to him, the climb towards achieving something means a lot to him and the work that goes towards his craft or anything else in life for the matter makes it all the better. He mentions Jackie Chan as an example.
“[Jackie Chan] has two tictacs in his hand and he somehow pops it into his mouth. It looks random and it looks like he just decided to but you definitely know he doesn’t do it every try. I’m more intrigued by skateboard tricks that are like that,” he says. “It’s not just the novelty of it. It’s also the fact that it shows humanity. It’s weirdly deep which it doesn’t need or have to be, but it shows your capabilities and that you can do pretty much anything you wanted.”
Williams adds that he is not the type to do anything dispassionately either. He would rather give his all to achieve something perfectly, rather than do a mediocre version of getting the job done.
“I just want to do it in a full performance; I want it to be well-rounded or just not do it… Hopefully, I’m getting to be an all-around artist in the things that I make,” he says.
With this kind of ambition and dedication to his craft, William has paved the way for other skaters to explore more creative alternatives to contests to thrive in the skateboarding industry.
“I’m William Spencer and you might know me from skateboarding on the internet. I do stunts doubling for movies like Spider-man. Hopefully, I’m getting to be more of an all-around artist in the things that I make,” he says.