chrome ball interview #14: sean sheffey

chrome ball sits down with the boy king for conversation.

Alright Sean, they all begin this way… how were you first introduced to skating and what was the first real board you ever had?

I’ve been skateboarding on and off my entire life… I always had that wild instinct in me. But I took a real liking and interest in it when I was 13. Back in Maryland, I had grabbed a couple of my friend’s boards and I would go around to a couple of spots… just thrashing about as a young kid.

I used to buy my friends' used boards at the time… Mark Gonzales and various Vision and Schmitt Stix boards but when I was handed a magazine and was able to order one, I got a Santa Cruz Rob Roskopp.

Who were some of your favorite skaters growing up?

Mark Gonzales, Natas Kaupas, Mike Vallely, Steve Rocco, Rodney Mullen… tons and tons. Being out East and seeing the pictures, I think I liked about every skateboarder that was in the magazines and videos back then. Lance Mountain was really a radical skateboarding character. I remember seeing the McTwist for the first time and I just thought that was truly amazing so Mike McGill... The list goes on.

I was just influenced by skateboarding. Skaters had such a very unique form. The power and the strength… I just wanted to incorporate it into anything that I could possibly do. Bowls, quarterpipes, ditches and in the streets… I would just try to get an understanding and focus and maybe try to imitate and become that… just to get that feeling, ya know?

So you’re originally from Maryland, how did you end getting hooked up with the Shut crew? What was it like rolling with the Posse back in the day?

I had bumped into the Shut guys at an Ocean City contest. They all had such a really unique style… really up-to date. I didn’t know too much about them but I hung out with Alyasha a little bit and I remember he did some really rad graffiti on my board which really opened up a whole new type of artform to me… just wow. But that was as far as that went at that time.

A few months later, I was shop-sponsored and already pretty mature in my skating... I was getting rides with the older guys and doing well in the shop contests in the Virgina, Maryland-DC area and that kinda helped my name along. I was looking for sponsors… but not too forward.

A friend of mine by the name of Howard was from New York but living in my town and he kinda presented it to me like “Hey man, these guys from New York said you’re really doing it… you need boards or something?”

I was trying to push for some Cali sponsors but there were sponsors right here on the East Coast? These guys are really hardcore.
That team really sparked a nerve in me. I was really influenced by their skating and creativity. They were really flawless, clean skateboarders. Just fast and sharp but with really technical moves. Being around them was just awesome. And I just interested in their type of lifestyle.

So I agreed and talked to Bruno Musso… and I was really stoked-out super hard on him. Bruno was like “Let’s see what we can do, let me talk to the team” and a couple weeks later, I had a Shut Shark board which was truly cool… and from there, it went on .

Being part of the team was like truly being in a family. It still is.

Skateboarding used to be so different back then… essentially, you were like the underground East Coast secret. Everyone knew you were like one of the best out there… like backside 180ing benches in ‘89, nobody was doing that then… but you just weren’t in the magazines. How frustrating was this for you and for some of those other Shut kids that should’ve been large given the exposure?

No… At that point, you really had to take advantage of the opportunities and I’m not sure we did. There’s a business side, too. I see the guys who are more in tune to having filmers and photographers around and are in touch with their sponsors on a day-to-day basis. They are able to capitalize on that kinda thing.

That’s the situation I’m going through now where it’s a more constant part of my routine to be in touch with filmers and photographers so I don’t lose that commercial value or lose the magazine covers that sponsors really desire. You gotta keep everything covered to get the hardcore work. I didn’t understand that then but I understand it now… that these guys are out there handling business and getting covers because they are putting the time in to get it.

I remember being superstoked when you got hooked up with Natas and SMA back in the day… and your part in Reason for Living was so ahead of its time. Raw power. Had you ever even filmed before… I think you beamed the camera after every trick! Kind of a short clip but it really stood it… were you happy with the end result?

I was truly intent. I had no prior filming experience. Two friends of mine helped me out with it, Chris Hall and Steve Teagues. We did that in a couple of weeks. The guys at Santa Cruz asked me for some footage of my style and that was what we came out with.

Definitely an amazing part. So I gotta ask, what’s your favorite Julien Stranger story… I mean didn’t you name your firstborn after him?

Yeah, we did get that from Julien Stranger but also we were just trying to connect the names like a love patch thing… it was why we put the “a” in there. It was kinda like Julie and Sean… putting the name together as mother and father of the child. Which is cool.

But I was able to skate with Julien and Jim Thiebaud up in the City for a couple weeks and we had just a really good time skateboarding. Julien showed me around and took me down some hills. I remember we skated in pitch black and going down the fastest hills in the world, doing 180s and just staggering on… barely being able to keep our eyes open. Somehow we were able to make it down the hills though. It was truly just magical and amazing…. some of the fastest skating I’ve done to this day.

Now you had a few stand-out clips in Hokus Pokus which must have played a role in your eventually getting on Life down the road. How did your part in Soldier's Story end up coming about? Was all that filmed in a few trips out west?

I met Ron Allen, Matt Hensley and Mike Ternasky on a Cow Skates trip. After a few demos, Mike Ternasky ran it be my like “Hey, if you’re ever interested to skate for us out West, give me a call.” At that time, it was interesting but I was really satisfied with Shut Skates. So that went on for a while before I went to SMA and there was turmoil over there… so I called Ron Allen, who I had kept in touch with, and he told me that he was starting a new company called Life.

Ron said he would talk to Mike and when they finally called back, they said “Here’s what we can do for you. I have some money for you to travel, we want you to come out and stay with us for a while and get some footage. Depending on how the footage goes, you could be a very major part of the team.”

So how long did you film for Soldier's Story? Was it just filmed on a couple trips?

Well, just that trip. I stayed out there for two and a half weeks.

You did all that in two and a half weeks!?!


That’s even more impressive. So how was it blowing up like that after being underground for so long? And when did Plan B enter the picture?

It was great. I got to go on a trip to Europe with Chris Miller and Buster Halterman, which really took well. We got to go all over the UK... it was awesome. We spent a month there and then we went to Germany for the Munster contest, which was my first European contest, and that went well. I was very much recognized due to the video.

After that tour, things were going bad with Mike Ternasky and Tony Magnusson. When I got back, there was this contest in San Francisco and Mike already had t-shirts made to start Plan B. It really took well and I was able to ride that part all the way into Plan B and skate with the likes of Danny Way, Rick Howard, Sal Barbier, Matt Hensley and Rodney Mullen. An awesome team of skaters.

Plan B has always been a very elite squad, especially back then… was it pretty hectic being on such a high-profile team? I know Carroll used to talk about the pressure, calling it the “Bones Brigade of the 90’s”.

I believe that probably sums it up. I don’t know if it was that big cause I didn’t really see the impact as Mike would’ve living out West. But if so, that would be an amazing honor. But I don’t think it was THAT big.

We were up there though. We had the stigma for the name really hanging high. I think about it now and everyone was so hyped about it. It was great to be a part of.

What were some of your first impressions of filming with Pat Duffy? Dude came out of nowhere and overnight basically clobbered the world. I know you filmed with him a bunch during “Questionable”… did seeing him shake you up at all?

No way, he was just truly amazing. He was poetry in motion… just beautiful. Awesome and fresh and just a solid skater all over the board. Really skillful.

Skateboarding wouldn’t be where it is today without Mr. Pat Duffy.

Now I’m not sure if you want to get into this… but I’ve always heard that legend about Ryan Fabry…

That’s not important. He’s a great skater and there was just a little miscommunication and things just went a little too wild (laughs). I would like to say hi to Ryan if he’s out there and sorry for the b.s. in the past. God bless you. I hope you are doing well.

So talk a little about how Girl started...

We were having complications with Mr. Mike Ternasky and that was going on for 6 months beforehand. He was saying that if you can’t get any footage or you’re not willing to participate and work hard on your job then we’re going to retire you. So some of the older guys like myself were like “Hey, Mike’s not playing fair.”

These guys came up with the plan to leave. We didn’t like the way he was doing certain things and we’re going to create a new situation where we all had fun doing our own way of skating. Just enjoying skating for yourself. So it was presented and at the time, I was living with Greg and Mike Carroll when I was asked and said “Oh yes. Sure. Put me on.”

Was there ever any talk of Ternasky retiring you?

Nah, I got out before he dimmed the light on my name. He never talked to me about it face-to-face… but it was really uneasy there.

Now the Sheffey legend involves some pretty crazy shit both on and off the board back in the day… in addition to all the skating, there are all these stories like you palming Cliver’s head or getting chased by both fake and real cops while making Goldish… but what sticks out the most to me is you grabbing Method Man’s mic at that MTV thing (laughs)… why’d you do that? What was going on in your head? Were you trying to rhyme?

Very immature of me. Very foolish. I was little intoxicated and I got influenced by a friend of mine who lives in Texas… I was so impressed by the Wu-Tang Clan and their presentation that the MTV microphone… grabbing it and trying to keep it as a prized possession, as a trophy, was all I could think about.

But Meth was a whole lot stronger and really quick and I was so consumed by what he was doing… I had to bow down and let go of the mic. I got escorted out. They asked me to leave the area and I was no longer able to be apart of the concert.

So you were just trying to take it as a souvenir? (laughs)… they were mid-performance!

Yeah, I just had this little scheme to snatch the microphone. I didn’t know how offensive that was. That was my first experience with professional musicians. I’d never dealt with that before… but I got my first introduction and I now understand: never touch the Method Man’s mic.

I would definitely like to send love to the Wu-Tang Clan.

That’s amazing. Another legend I always heard, how come whenever staying at anyone’s house… why do you always sleep under the dinner table?

During my travels to Eric Koston’s house, sometimes the floor would have a couple more people than expected. I always thought that area (under the table) was the safest spot. Kinda out of the way from everything, ya know? Just easy to have my own little tent, so to say.

Makes sense. Now with all this stuff that was going on, when do you feel that things started to spiral out of control? Seemed like you were skating, just other stuff was coming increasingly more into play as well until…

I got hurt in like ’99 and at the time, I was used to healing with a little drinking. Not only did that prolong it, I also got into a little more of the fast life... but I was also still getting checks. I was foolish and allowed that to take over and started skating less. I never really trained to heal my injuries and I kinda felt lost in skating.

Then a situation came up where I was steadily raging and I got in an argument with the police. I got thrown in jail for the first time for a little while and then had to go on probation. I broke probation due to foolishness, just arguing outside and I got hit again. I was just kinda on-and-off probation… I was breaking the probation so they would clamp me down and lock me back in.

I never really got a fair start until this time. A good friend of mine and now teammate Jake Brown came up to me and said “Hey, we’re going to take care of you. You can work with me here at Laced. Blind Skateboards is also a possibility but you can’t drink and no drugs. I got you. We’ll take care of your food and your rent until you get on your feet and we’ll help you get a check. You can be on Blind Skateboards and Laced but you cannot drink or do any type of drugs. Are you with it?”

And I said “Yes, I want my life back.”

Yeah, I was wondering why the sudden Blind association but after Jake came at you like that, I have a new respect for both him and the company.

Yeah, it was very inspiring. It really hit me hard. Because before all that, I just couldn’t see it. I was just only thinking about partying… I just had my own habits, like drinking, weed and some of the extra stuff… I had to learn the hard way but by the will of God, I was able to still have my health and go back into training and have these conditions and a home when I got out to renew this lease and be a professional skateboarder once again.

And things definitely seem to be working out for you. Your Blind model is out now as well as that eS colorway you came up with. Glad to see it, man. So the next question deals with what you would want to say to some of the younger pros that seem to be on a similar path as yours. A lot of people have made the Antwuan Dixon-Sean Sheffey comparison…

I’ve been fortunate enough to meet Antwuan Dixon on a couple of occasions. He’s super-talented. He’s documented quite a bit of great footage and I wish things to continue for him and the blessings he’s been bestowed but if anything…he is a little wild and I pray to God that he is able to stop.

He’s working with good men. The team he has is great. I’m sure that anybody that has an organization that successful has to have good men in the background… I just hope he takes their advice and learns from them and learns from the other fellow sportsmen and artists who have lost while indulging in their own selfish fun… and that’s not necessarily for Antwuan but for anyone.

People indulging in that are hurting themselves but they can't see it because they’re enjoying it... because it’s high-pitched fun. But its just not as fun as a clean and sober life... Living life day-to-day and enjoying your surroundings. I mean right now, I’m sitting here looking at a blade of grass as I’m talking to you and its some of the best days of my life. It’s gonna go by and its natural and its understanding that its more than a beer or a cigarette or a joint.

I was allowed and presented as a child born onto this earth to live… not all that other stuff. Enjoy that. Its not a prison guard telling you when you can move or what you can say or what time I have to wake up. I’m very fortunate.

A friend of mine told me once that “it’s hard doing nothing.” And what he meant was that you don’t have to go out and party all the time. You don’t have to be with so many women. You have a normal life and enjoy it for what it is and things will go well for you.

One last thing, I’ve always dug your art… especially your graf-type characters and griptape art. You still keeping up with that? Ever considered doing more with that at some point?

Yeah, I’ve done some stuff… outlining some drawings and things but I’ve been concentrating so much on work and my skating lately that I think I just want to put that creativity into my skating right now. I’ve really been concentrating on that and its really working out.

But Laced has me on as a rider and also as a contributing artist… drawing and stuff… so I always have that option, too.

Alright. So after all that’s gone down over the years, what advice does Mr. Sean Sheffey wish to bestow on the world?

Just enjoy what you have. Stay fit. Respect the law. Save money. Pay taxes. Live life.

Great, man. Anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks to all my sponsors. There’s more to come from Sean Sheffey.

Special thanks to Sean, Brian Jones, Sebastian, Rob Brink and eS.


K said...

chops - props to you tracking down all the lost heroes of my youth.

does anyone else find it a bit weird that the original Girl team ended up having a lot of problems w/drink, drugs and fighting?

Keith said...

solid interview E. Well done.

I'm still curious if he had a falling out with Girl. No bro model. Nothing. That Jake Brown and Blind thing is pretty incredible. Amazing save.

Anonymous said...

Chops I can't decide if these Chromeball interviews are making the "professional" skateboarding media look dumb or lazy.

Real substance here. Good luck Sean.

Anonymous said...

Real sick interview. Sean had one of the dopest switch flips, and I remember being in high school and rocking the rolled up jeans - or at least trying to.

Really good to see that Jake Brown is taking care of him and put him on. Sean seems to have a different (and refreshing) outlook on life. You could totally see him raging back in his heyday. Glad he had that moment of clarity, and I wish him the best of luck.

PRodUct said...

Excellent work. Sheffey can be be quite intimidating - you got some great responses. Legend

Andreas said...

Amazing interview. Good to see Sheff back and doing well. Thanks Chops for these great interviews. Like said before, those are much more interesting and well prepared than most of the interviews in the magazines. All the best for Sheff.

rthdghuyfy said...

Wow! Mr Sheffey sits down for a talk. Great advice for everyone in the end of the interview (great interview by the way). He seemed like a very funny guy to be around, I remember in the end of Danny Ways part in Virtual Reality: That is the whitest black cop i have ever seen in my life. Ha ha. So stoked that Sean Sheffey is doing well and can't wait to see som powerful moves i the future. Sean Sheffey is the man and have been through more stuff than many. Crazy respect to the eastcoast legend with more raw power than most.
And for professional skatemedia nowadays, those magazines should be free, with 95% ads, trying to get skaters in the army and so on. Not stoked on that at all.

jason of oz said...

Love how the "Jocks" ad for Plan B had Sheffey sitting next to Fabry.

Anonymous said...

That jocks ad is dope with Carroll with his boxers hiked up. Shef has come a long way, I'm happy he's doing his thing.
Great interview Chops. So much substance and very thought out questions. Keep up the good work.
P.s. Saw a kid rocking the CBI nikes downtown the other day. Looking F-R-E-S-H!

cluglife said...

Wow. That made my week.


Cheaps said...

Stoked on this - made my day reading this. But what is the issue with Girl & Shef? Why indeed no bro deck?

Old School Sammy said...

Chops, you just keeping killing it on these interviews---I can see the coffee table book down the road on my coffee table in a year or two quite easily!

t.a. said...

I'm a little surprised by how articulate he is... humble too. I have much more resect for a man who takes the higher road (speaking about prison, Fabry etc) when he could've easily blamed others and aired business.

Comeback all the way.

Anonymous said...

awesome. i remember watching an old slam city jam contest from 1999 or 2000 and sheffey got into a fight with the security guard i think? anyway im glad hes doing good.

chops- you think we can see a jovantae turner interview anytime soon?

some poser said...

right on!

some poser said...

right on!

cousin harold said...

Well done for bringing up the Fabry thing, nice. Oh and yeah that Jake Brown thing is dope. I too have gained respect for him after that.
Keep doing what you do man.

Seabreeze said...

The baddest.

Anonymous said...

Sean was one of the coolest cats out in san diego.. He was cool enough to show up at my brothers art show and show support!! Laced, Sk8 Mafia 4 Life.. Rosenkranz

Gabe said...

I actually had the pleasure of being yelled at by Sheffey one time. He was telling me to "go faster" at a rail slide at UCSB when I was like 13. I did, and pulled it. It was good advice. Hope he comes back with a vengenance..

Anonymous said...

that dude is strong in so many ways.

chops, like the other guy said, you're doing the best work in skate journalism right now.

shef, your positivity is a total inspiration.

this is the best blog on the innernet.

Andy Howell said...

Amazing Sheff! I worried about you back in SD, and always admired you for your skating and kindness, even back in the Pulaski days! I'm glad to see the teddy bear back out and ripping, I'm sure. Always wish you the best!

Anonymous said...

Nice! Glad too hear Shef is alive and kicking. I got to skate with him at a demo in Canada in 94-95, cool guy, powerful skater.

Someone mentioned the Girl team being a bit wild. I was at Woodward in the 90's and I remember a couple of them who I won't name getting kicked out for let's just say some very questionable behavior.

LaRhonda said...

I too, am glad Sean is doing well and have really matured. He and I are elementary friends and he was wild and crazy back then. I wish I could get in contact with him now. Your friend from Clinton, Maryland.

Unknown said...

Huh, crazy shit. See skateboarders are usually the best people, its like a secret society where if you were a contributing member you are made for life.. too bad all these guys had to struggle with drugs. It sucks but it really is good to see they get to a point where the people that have been influenced by these guys are able to give back to help out their broken heroes. It just sucks that there are just rad people out there with absolutely no support system and when they fall on their asses or whatever they are pretty much forgotten..

Brendan said...

When I saw Sean was no longer riding for Blind, I was afraid he might have slipped back into some bad habits...Always thought getting him back on Plan B would be a no-brainer...and then this!
Made my day.