Published on December 15th, 2021 | by Daniel Boyle0
2021 Footbag Joulukalenteri – Lynton Stephens Interview
This interview with Lynton Stephens I did as part of a university project in 2011. It links some of the earlier throwback posts, including the Australian Championships and Erik Chan’s archival action.
One of my ideas with this year’s calendar was to bring back some of the older days of the sport. Lynton was a big pioneer in terms of the Australian scene, and was one of the first high level players I saw personally.
Here are his answers to the questions from 2011.
What got you into Footbag in the first place?
Myself and a few friends used to play hackysack’ back at my high school. We went on for months, perhaps years, just kicking the bag around and I really enjoyed it. However one day I was bored in computing class so I started searching the internet for more information on hackysack and quite soon came across some videos of the best players in the world at the time, in particular Ryan Mulroney. This would be about 1996. I was immediately fascinated by the beauty and technicality of the sport and also how new and esoteric it was. There seemed to be a lot of possibilities for it and I started aspiring to get as good as the guys I had seen on those videos.
You were quite a pioneer of Footbag in Australia, did you know of any other players in Australia when you were starting out?
In Australia, not really. I got in contact with a few guys here and there (mainly by email) in the early days but none that made a lot of progress or stuck with footbag for several years. It was pretty much just me in 1996-97 and then Brendan Erskine started playing in about 1998, a few others as well. Within the region the New Zealand guys such as Adrian Dick probably got involved in footbag before I did however.
Do you play at all anymore and would you think about competing again at some stage?
I very rarely play now. Dan Ednie convinced me to kick the other day, twice in fact, but these would be the first kicks I have had for almost 2 years. I can still play ok but certainly not like I used to. I basically stopped playing in 2003 so I have lost an awful lot of ability since then. As for competing – definitely not! Unfortunately my body has suffered a bit of damage so I just wouldn’t be up to playing intensively anymore.
You’re now a bit of a diving/marine expert….what got you involved in that?
This actually goes back further than footbag. I became interested in seashells at about the age of 11 and I have basically been a total marine science nerd ever since then. I got my SCUBA certificate in about 1998 but couldn’t afford to do that actively whilst I was at uni, so I played footbag instead. After uni I managed to get my own set of gear in 2007 and I have now done about 130 dives, including some as deep as 40 metres. Admittedly this isn’t as much diving as I would like to have done, or should have done. I have a basic underwater camera, which I would like to upgrade, but I can’t claim much prowess in underwater photography at the moment. I am still involved (barely) with seashells since I do behind-the-scenes volunteer work at the Museum of Victoria. I have no formal qualifications I should add, I just taught myself mostly. Particularly since 2004 I have been able to learn a lot about the local fauna and in August 2010 I started attempting to research / write a book about the marine shells of the Bass Strait region. So far I have been able to compile a list of about 1150 species, including a few dozen which are undescribed, and accumulate over 6000 photographs. The text is about 20% complete and the images perhaps 30-40% complete. Unfortunately, however, there is a massive oversupply of graduates in my (extremely ill-chosen) field (pharmacy) so the last few years have been catastrophic for me financially and I am on the verge of quitting all involvement with this project and amateur marine science in general. It is still possible that I could be hired in a semi-professional capacity at the museum but I will have to wait and see and I am very much at the crossroads with all of this. It is a shame that so many things in life get short-circuited by not having enough money. Anyway I will see what happens. But I would continue to dive recreationally’ and I do have a broad interest in conservation, environmentalism and natural history which will probably stay with me.
When Sunil came to Australia, what sort of tricks was he hitting….what sort of tricks were you hitting at the time, and how did the encounter improve your game?
Sunil came to Australia in 1998. It is difficult for me to say what sort of tricks he was hitting. That was the first time I had ever seen live shred, even though I had been playing for maybe 1 1/2 or 2 years by that stage. Although I had seen a lot of video Sunil had an unusual style and some of his more high-level tricks probably went over my head. My best trick at the time was Witchdoctor if I remember correctly. He gave me a lot of advice about shredding but the most important thing was probably just the general inspiration of playing with someone better than me for the first time.
You never went to Worlds…do you regret not getting over there at all?
Well having heard about some of the fantastic experiences Dan has had, sure I regret not going to Worlds! I just didn’t ever have the cash at any stage really. But I don’t care about having never competed at worlds, rather it would have been the partying, meeting people, travelling and circle-shredding that would have been the best. Still we have had some good events here in Australia and New Zealand, and I did get at one stage (in NZ) to meet and shred with Ryan Mulroney who was at that time one the best 2 players in the world, so that was a massive highlight.
Do you pay much attention to the Footbag scene, in Australia or overseas at the moment? If so, what are your thoughts?
For a number of years I didn’t really pay attention to footbag at all. I was doing a lot of locum work, often in small country towns, so that disrupted my life quite a lot. So I got sick of that, in fact I have pretty much quit pharmacy altogether, and I will be staying in Melbourne for the near future. I must admit I like being in a big city, it suits my lifestyle and interests a lot better than country towns like the one I grew up in! Over the last few months I have been watching some videos on Youtube and as I said kicked a few times also. I have always enjoyed watching good footbag videos or live play and I certainly hope the Aus / NZ scene manages to grow.
Looking back now, what is your proudest achievement within Footbag?
Well really the best thing I got out of footbag was starting some good friendships which have continued beyond footbag, in particular with Dan Ednie. Brendan and I were actually friends before footbag. Also encouraging Dan when he was just starting since he eventually went on to become (and still is) a much better player than myself! As for my own footbag inventing moves was very satisfying. Blurriest swirl (assuming I was the first???) and Cataclysm would be my favorites.
Re: blurriest swirl – it is a harsh trick. I remember it clearly though, I was waiting around at Fed Square for someone and decided to try some `experimental’ tricks to pass the time. I was super surprised to get blurriest swirl on my foot 3rd try and hit it 5th try, so next weekend I got it on video. Same session I hit shooting torque for the first time.
There are some tricks I wish I had done but never got. e.g. Alpine Bladerunner (atomic ducking eggbeater) and esp. Beta Cataclysm. Also Beta Irish Creme, `Shooting Mobius’ etc. But hey its always gonna be like that I guess. Amazing how some of the best stuff you do isn’t on video either – heh! But the interview got me looking up some of the classic Vacek vids on youtube and they are still absolutely mindblowing…
My dropless routine from the X-Games is a good memory as is shredding with Ryan in New Zealand. But there are heaps of tricks / combos / days / parties / etc which are very memorable. Hopefully there will be some more players in Australia over the next few years.
You can see the playlist that Erik Chan has created on his Youtube channel below.
Footbag: 2003: Australia: Lynton Stephens: “lynton16”
Footbag: 2003: Australia: Lynton Stephens: “lynton15”
Footbag: 2003: Australia: Lynton Stephens: “lynton14”
Footbag: 2003: Australia: Lynton Stephens: “lynton13”
Footbag: 2003: Australia: Lynton Stephens: “lynton12”
Footbag: 2003: Australia: Lynton Stephens: “lynton11”
Footbag: 2003: Australia: Lynton Stephens: “lynton10”
Footbag: 2003: Australia: Lynton Stephens: “lynton9”
Footbag: 2003: Australia: Lynton Stephens: “lynton8”
Footbag: 2003: Australia: Lynton Stephens: “lynton1”
Footbag: 2003: Australia: Lynton Stephens: “lyntoncombo9”
Footbag: 2003: Australia: Lynton Stephens: “lyntoncombo8”