chrome ball interview #148: sean sheffey (2021)

chops and sheff sit down for more conversation. 

photo: kanights

So, how does a Maryland native end up in the very New York-centric Shut posse? Was that your first sponsor?

Yeah, Shut was my first big sponsor. 

I remember being out in Ocean City one summer for a contest, the Eastern Skateboard Association Championships. A bunch of skaters from New York had come down and suddenly, I was seeing all of these Shut Skates guys flying around. Just super good skaters. Shut was pretty new at that point and doing a lot of cool things that I hadn’t really seen before with a skateboard company. It was very New York and everything had a graffiti-type of vibe to it. Super raw. You just didn’t see that back then, everything was so California. But that contest was basically the start of all this.

Back in DC about six months later, I ran into a friend of mine who was down from New York. He was wondering if I was sponsored or anything. And while I was definitely interested in something, all of the companies were out west back then. So, he started talking to me about Shut and what they were all about, because he knew those guys. And from having seen them that past summer, I was super interested. 

He ended up giving me Bruno Musso’s phone number and said that I should try to get some boards… kinda explaining how it all worked, because I didn’t really know yet. 

It felt like a cool move to keep things local and on the East Coast, instead of trying to get a sponsor all the way out in California. New York City wasn’t too far and felt like something I could do. I could just hop on the train or whatever. And these guys were already interested in me, I should take this opportunity and look forward. 

So, I ended up talking to Bruno and it was cool. I was into it. He asked me what size and shapes I liked to ride and a couple of weeks later, I had a Shut Shark. Not too long after that, I was officially sponsored by Shut Skates. 

photo: thomas

Were you going up to New York a lot prior to Shut? 

No, I’d actually never been up there before I got on Shut, but it was always one of those places that I looked at from down in D.C… like, “Wow, that place looks rad.” 

So, after I got on Shut, I started taking the train or a Greyhound up there all the time. Skating around and meeting new people. Crashing on different people’s couches or whatever. That was a great time, man. Very exciting and new.  

How would you describe riding for Shut from the inside? Was it still super diy hand-cut boards at this point?

Shut was pretty intense but I think I got on the team right after all that had changed. They had a warehouse and a little office going by then. But I’d heard about all that stuff… selling boards out of duffel bags. I guess they’d just be carrying boards around to sell sometimes. I actually loved that about them. 

I do remember seeing them hand stamp boards with the Shut stencil. Just a press stamp in green on that natural wood finish, no finish or polish. Super tough. I remember everyone wanting one of those decks because they looked so raw and handmade. I loved that stuff.  

Shut was successful because it not only had its own style, it was also like a family. Rod and Bruno were like our best friends. And they also knew how to pick the right guys to ride for their company. I mean, that team was incredible! So many future legends. There wasn’t a guy on there who wasn’t fantastically creative. Rad and athletic skaters, but who were also super down-to-earth and cool. Not trying to be overly aggressive or charge. 

photo: thomas

You had a lot of early coverage at the Brooklyn Banks. Any sessions or memories stand out down there

Just the contests. They were always having contests down there that were a bunch of fun. And I remember Thrasher having a few photos shoots there, too. That’s how a lot of my first photos came about.

That was just the spot. On the daily, whenever I was there, the Brooklyn Banks were always the meeting point. And you just knew that you were always going to end up down there somehow, whether you were planning on it or not. Because it was one of the top spots to hit in the city. It could get a little crowded at times, but that’s just because it was so much fun. 

An early classic, what about that doubles ollie with Coco? 

That’s a Bill Thomas photo, right when I first got on Shut. I had come up from Maryland and I’m pretty sure Felix took us to that spot. He was super into it and actually got us all hyped to skate there, too. Just because it looked tough and had a bunch of stuff to skate. 

I remember ollieing that gap first and then Coco got it shortly after. But we just kept doing it and after a while, it felt pretty good, so we tried it together for the photo. Wanting to make something cool happen and willing to commit. I thought the photo turned out amazing. It came out in a Thrasher calendar, which was awesome. But no, that definitely wasn’t planned or anything. It just kinda happened. Like I said, I’d never even been to that spot before. Just an idea we came up as we were skating.

photo: thomas (kanights?)

And that backside 180 ollie over a full-size bench at night? 

Yeah, that was another shoot with Bill Thomas. That was a little later on. Shut was in full swing by that point. We were really trying to do our thing... and that’s how you did it back then, by getting in the magazines. I was starting to get a little more recognition, too, and wanted to keep that momentum going for myself as well. 

That photo was just another product of typical New York sessions back then. Everybody’s skating and pushing each other. Stuff starts flowing and you start trying more and more things. All of a sudden, something clicks, and boom! 

I owe the City a lot for things like that. To this day, that’s one of my favorite photos.

Super ahead of its time. When was that? 1989? 

It was probably before that even, like ‘88. 

But I can’t take all the credit, especially in that era. I had all my teammates pushing me with Rodney and Bruno lining things up to make it happen. They were a big part of that era. Influencing me and getting me to where I wanted to go. 

Sure, it was stuff that I was working on. But the City has this energy that’s just magnetic and magical. I did my best to put it all together, but it was the Big Apple that really made that photo happen. 

I can probably remember everything I’m wearing in that photo, too. Getting in the magazines was such a big deal back then, I wanted to be cool with everything I had on. Because I had on some Vision Street Wears. The pants were Stussy, which a friend of mine gave me. They were this really cool color. Then I had a black-and-white Shut hoodie on. And that hat was from a local ski shop back in Maryland.

But that bench was perfect, if you could figure out how to get to it. It was only thigh-high, not waist-high or navel-high like they typically are… even though it looks 10-feet tall in the photo. We just happened to find the perfect obstacle, obscured and out of the way in downtown Manhattan. I mean, where else are you gonna find something like that? Unreal. 

photo: thomas

talked about you really making an impression at the Long Beach tradeshow on your first trip out to California. Like, no comply boardslides on legit handrails? 

Yeah, I used to do those. I’m not sure if there’s any footage, though. There weren’t as many video cameras back then.  

Word is spreading, and I’m sure you’re getting a lot of offers at this point, right? What kept you on Shut?

That’s the thing, I really wasn’t getting many offers from other companies back then. Not that I would’ve left or I wasn’t loyal, but there really weren’t any offers for me to even have to think about. It was never really an issue. 

The thing about Santa Monica Airlines, which I did end up leaving Shut for — Natas was everybody’s favorite. If you knew anything about skating, Natas was the man. And that team was just the best back then. I happened to have a friend who used to talk to those guys a lot. So that was my initial connection, then they came through Maryland on the Cadillac Tour and I got to skate with them. That went well and we stayed in touch after that.

Around this time is when Shut started working with Cow Skates. Getting our boards pressed with full graphics and being distributed by Jimmy George out in Ohio. And that’s when I went out to the Long Beach tradeshow with Barker, Rodney and Bruno. This was back when tradeshows were big events and everybody would be there. I got to meet up with the Santa Monica Airlines team again and skate with Natas, Jim and Julien Stranger.

That day is one of my favorite sessions ever. Because I was out in California for the first time and skating with these heroes of mine. It was so rad. We skated this bus lane that stretched around the civic center for like, two hours. Going back and forth with tricks, feeding off each other’s energy. Just having the raddest time… which probably stuck in our minds later when the possibility of my riding for Santa Monica Airlines came up. 

Yeah, how did SMA happen?

I started nagging Natas about getting on the team. Because he was already giving me Etnies, that was the connection. He was hesitant at first, because he knew my switching over from Shut might make some people mad. He was friends with Rodney and Bruno and didn’t want it to look like he was out there trying to snatch their guy. But I just kept nagging him about it. 

“If you really want to do this, I can be there for you. But I really want you to be sure about it.”

My mind was already made up. I’d thought about it a lot, actually. I was so impressed by everything going on over there, I just wanted to be on the team. That was my dream. 

Finally, he goes, “Well, if this is really your dream, man… Fuck… alright.”

And that’s how I got on Santa Monica Airlines. I pushed at Natas until he let me on. 

Guys were already starting to leave Shut by then anyways. Felix had left for World Industries. Billy Waldman. Shut was kinda breaking up, unfortunately. And I think a lot of us were getting a little bit ahead of ourselves. Looking back on things, I know I definitely was. 

All these years later, while I’m proud of everything I’ve accomplished in my career, I wish I would’ve stayed on Shut. As a good business decision and learning experience, I wish that I would’ve stayed and helped it grow. Because I think it really could’ve exploded. It had so much potential. I was just young and distastefully hungry about the things I wanted to do. It was super selfish on my part… me, me, me. 

I let things get to me and wasn’t really thinking things through. Not that I had touched drugs yet, but I was drinking a little bit. I had gotten into a relationship with my ex-wife and we got the pregnancy thing going. We got married… which, I honestly think it was my potential for a New York-to-California connection that made me seem more attractive to her. Like, “Oh, he’s hot! I gotta keep him!” (laughs)

It was just an intense time. I was at the age where I wanted to see where I could get in skateboarding. And in order to do that, especially back then, it meant having a sponsor in California.

photo: yelland

How’d Rodney and Bruno react to your leaving?

I mean, those guys are really cool… but they’re also from the city. They’re not gonna go crazy, but at the same time, they’re gonna tell you how they feel. 

I remember them saying, “Bummer, for sure. As a family, we are really hurt. But if this is what you really want to do, good luck. Are you sure about this?”

“Yes, this is what I want.”

“Whatever. If you ever need anything from us, we’ll be here for you. But please know that this hurts, Sean. Goodbye.” 

What’s wild is that I’d actually been trying to get sponsored by Santa Cruz prior to riding for Shut. I was talking to some guys over there through my shop sponsor, but stopped pursuing that to ride for Shut and keep it East Coast. But Santa Cruz was in the works. They were about to send me some boards when I cut out. Like I said, Shut wasn’t that far away. And I was so young and hungry, I needed to see that physical evidence.

“Oh, the boards will be here next week? These guys must really like my skating. Let’s do it!” (laughs)

So, when it came back around again, this time through Santa Monica Airlines, it just fit perfectly with where I felt I needed to be. 

photo: schubert

You not only had your big debut in Reason for Living around this time, but also a bunch of clips in Hokus Pokus as well. 

Well, the Hokus Pokus stuff came about through a Cow Skates tour we did with a bunch of riders from different companies. That’s where I first met Mike Ternasky, Matt Hensley and Ron Allen. We were all on that same tour together. The plan was to film it all for a video, that’s why all that demo footage exists. That was the first time I ever really filmed… and we filmed a lot for that, too. 

I’m not sure what happened with that project. I heard they didn’t have the budget to put it out the way they wanted to, which is why Ternasky ended up dropping a lot of that stuff into Hokus Pokus. Like my mute grab transfer, the frontside tailslide to fakie, and that backside 180 50-50 to half-cab out. 

There’s also footage of my first backside 180 over a trash can in there, off flat. I still remember that night, we’d just gotten in from a demo and decided to go skate out in front of the hotel for a little bit. We borrowed a trashcan from inside and went to work. Matt Hensley, Ron Allen and Barker Barrett started talking me into trying backside 180s over it, which felt good to be pushed by these guys I respected.

I look like a blur in the footage, just some guy with fro-y hair flying through the shadows, but I was really proud of that one. I didn’t want to let those guys down. Plus, you didn’t have too much diversity with tricks over stuff back then. Straight ollieing over things was the norm. Going backside over a garbage can felt very progressive for the time. Ollieing the height of the can and then twisting 180 over it felt like a big deal. 

But yeah, I remember working with those guys specifically on that one, which became a trick I would do a lot in the early part of my career... like the bench photo we talked about earlier. I was just a maniac with the backside 180 and backside tricks, in general, after that night.

My filming for Reason for Living was a little bit later, after I got on Santa Monica Airlines. I remember talking to the O’Brien brothers, who were running the Santa Cruz team back then. They were in charge of the video, too, and the plan was for Santa Monica to have a big presence in there. They asked me to film some stuff for it and I definitely wanted to make that happen. Santa Cruz videos were a really big back then. 

I remember talking to Natas about it and he was really smart. He was stoked they had reached out to me directly because that meant they were interested in me. That I was no longer just one of “Natas’ guys”, they were interested in me specifically playing a bigger part in the overall corporate strategy. 

“You really need to focus on this video, Sean. This is really important. I know we’re hardcore street skaters and we just do things on our own, but this is a great way to really showcase yourself in a project that’s backed by the company. This can really make an impact, way bigger than contests. Don’t take this lightly.”

The problem was, I didn’t have a camera. Luckily, my friend Steve Teague hooked me up with Chris Hall. Because not only was he this really good technical skater, he happened to have a camera, too. 

So, I met up with those guys and we filmed my part in three days. Just skating around D.C. We didn’t really know what we were doing, but we hammered it out. Filming a bunch of stuff before heading back to Steve’s house and editing it all together… the rest is history. What we sent in is pretty much how it is in the video. 

I was pleased with how it came out. I only filmed for three days but I feel like that’s how skating was back then. You typically didn’t get very long to film. You had your tricks, you filmed them, and that was it. 

I really liked that clip at the FBI Center with the backside 180 50-50, half-cabbing back around to grind before coming off. It’s real twirly and whoopty but I went really far and was a lot of fun to do. It felt like 10 or 11 feet long… that’s what I was trying to do with my skating back then. Just going as far as I possibly could. Trying to take out entire blocks. 

photo: ogden

I recently saw an unpublished photo of you doing a melon over the Venice hip in the SMA days…

Yeah, somebody posted it the other day! I was stoked on that! 

That was taken on my second trip out to California. I’d gone to check out the Del Mar Pro contest, and from there, I went and met up with Natas. That’s actually when we finalized the swap from Shut to Santa Monica Airlines. I was staying at Natas’ house, and, of course, the Venice Hip was high on my list of spots to hit. 

I was supposed to stay out there for a couple months but after a week or so, I found out that my girlfriend was pregnant so I had to rush back home. We actually had a lot planned for that trip and I was really hoping to use it to level up things in my career, but I had to leave early and take care of things. That was that.

So what happened with SMA? I always heard that you and Julien found out about Natas’ leaving while on tour somewhere?

Well, things were going rad. I had moved to Michigan to be with my girlfriend, where she’s originally from. She had been living with me in Maryland and when we got pregnant, she wanted to move back home. I remember her telling me this and I’m just thinking to myself, “Oh no, you’re not just gonna go up there alone. Here I come!”

I had to watch the baby, you know? Shit was already pretty haywire with the situation, as you can imagine with us being so young. But we always said that if she got pregnant, we were going to keep the baby. So yeah, I moved to Michigan… sitting over there, doing Dad watch. All good. 

In the meantime, Santa Cruz was taking care of things. Handling our business for Santa Monica and lining up demos. We get the call that Julien and I will be heading up to Nova Scotia in a few weeks for some demos. Go and get it done. 

So we both fly up to Canada… and right away, the distributor guy who’s hosting us says, “Hey, we heard that Natas is meeting with Rocco on a $100,000 yacht to make some kinda business deal. That Natas is about to leave Santa Cruz and start his own thing with Rocco.”

Honestly, we didn’t pay it much attention the first time we heard it. Just another rumor, you know? But we kept on hearing it from all these different people, all week long. 

Finally, Julien’s like, “I’m tired of hearing this, man!”

He wants to call and confront Natas… which, I’m thinking to myself, “Shit, this is getting pretty gnarly. I don’t know if this is something we should be doing.”

But Julien was relentless. 

“We gotta call and find out!”

“I don’t know, Julien…”

“Nah, Natas is the coolest. He’ll understand. I just want to get this out of my head. Because everybody up here seems to think it’s true. And I know Rocco. He’s always trying to get these little business deals going. He even told me that if I wanted to do a company, he’d be there. If he’s saying that type of stuff to me, he’s definitely saying the same stuff to Natas. We gotta stay close to this or we’ll get left behind.”

He started to make sense. Because if Natas really was leaving, I wanted to know. Where would that leave us? How are we gonna eat? 

So Julien calls him up. He’s on the phone downstairs and I’m on the other phone upstairs. And you have to remember that Julien and Natas have been good friends for a long time, so they can really talk to each other.

Right away, Natas is like, “I’m not sure what you guys are talking about, but this is kind of a problem that you guys are calling me up to talk about something like this. It’s kind of disrespectful.”

There was a strange vibe going on and Julien was getting more and more angry, until Natas finally just broke it down for us. 

“You know what? Yes, it is happening. That’s the plan but nothing is totally concrete yet. I’ll talk to you guys about it when I can, I just can’t really tell you anything right now.”

“No way! You were just going to leave us behind?”

“No, I wasn’t. But I also can’t say for sure that I can bring the entire team over with me, either.”

I get what he’s saying now, but at the time, we both felt really let down. I mean, Natas is a man and he’s his own person. If that’s what he wants to do, so be it. We just didn’t want to get blindsided. That’s some pretty valuable information. And finding this out when we did gave us time to have more of a choice in what we were going to do. 

How’d Life come about? 

Well, after that Cow Skates tour, I had actually stayed in contact with Ron Allen. Just talking on the phone from time to time about skate stuff. 

I never got Ternasky’s number, that felt a little disloyal to Shut. I didn’t want to be seen as too close to this other guy, you know? Because Mike had said a few things on that tour, like, “If things don’t work out with you and Shut, just let me know. I may have something for you here at H-Street. If Shut’s your thing, do it. But if you ever want to come out west…”

I always kept that in the back of my mind, just in case. And I already had Ron’s number anyway, we could make that connection with Mike, if need be. 

So after I got off the phone with Natas, I immediately called Ron and told him the situation.

“Dude, I gotta get something going. I have the family coming!”

“Well, I’m working on a new company called Life Skateboards. It’s my thing, through H-Street, and I want you to be a part of it.”

I had no idea about any of this. I had called to hopefully get on H-Street! But right away, respectful of my connection with Ron, I was down.

“You’ll be one of my go-to dudes. Any time you want to enter a pro contest, you’re going. You can travel around, do demos. I got you.”

“Yeah, Ron! I’m ready!”

“Let me call Mike and run this through.”

He calls me back in 15 minutes. 

“Boom! We got you on the team! I got you $1,500 a month. There’s a contest coming up in San Francisco that we want to bring you out for. You’ll stay with me. After that, we’re gonna start filming for a video. We’ll make plans to have you back out for that, too.”

I was so excited, man. Because I was only getting $200 a month at Santa Monica. This was a drastic increase. And I was already looking to move out to California. This just felt like the right move. It was time. 

Riding for Life was good because it gave me a foundation and the structure I was looking for. Something to call my own.

Do you think Natas was going to ask you to ride for 101?

You know what? Years later, he told me that he was going to. After he looked at the books and the paperwork, there was room for both me and Julien to have come along. He just didn’t know at the time we called him. He wasn’t sure what all he could afford yet. 

If we would’ve just chilled out for a minute, the whole 101 thing would’ve actually worked out for us. But because we happened to be together on that trip with all these people talking, things worked out differently. 

How would you describe your relationship with MT? 

Amazing. So much of what I have in my life right now is an extension of how Mike worked with us. I feel like Danny, Colin, Pat and I all relate to things in the same way mentally because of what Mike instilled in us. To always do your best, that’s still a big part of my lifestyle and my way of thinking. Yes, I learned a lot from Mike. 

Sure, he was could be “a boss” at times, but he could also be your coach and often your best friend. He always had our best interests in mind. It wasn’t just a business thing with him. Yes, he paid us a lot… and in that respect, he did have us in the palm of his hand. We were always going to give him our total attention. But he really worked with us. He was writing our script to become not only better professional skateboarders, but better humans as well. Teaching life values and getting us to consider the thought process of being more productive. He was always an intense dude. 

What role did he play in your Life part? Didn’t you film all that in two weeks? 

Yes. And that right there is where you can foresee Mike’s vision, making that a reality with T-Mag. 

To this day, I still can’t believe I was able to get that much skating done in such a short timeframe. That’s the productive influence of Mike Ternasky. He was the medium, like Obi-Wan Kenobi. Just a sick lifeforce. Working with so many great skaters and bringing together all of this creative talent to produce these amazing things. It worked beautifully. 

He loved to put his energy into making you see your potential. Letting you shine. He thrived on that. Like how he worked with Ron on Life Skateboards and boom, it exploded. He knew how to combine the concept with the right guys. Just amazingly talented skaters, like John Reeves and Kien Lieu. John Deago, Noah Salasnek… 

Brennand Shaboobie. 

Brennand Schoeffel, yeah.

But did he have spots already lined up for you? How’d that work? 

Yeah, because I’d never been down there before. He just drove me around San Diego to all of these different spots to hit. 

We did a little road trip first, up through Orange County and LA to Santa Barbara. That’s where we met up with Kit Erickson and Frankie Hill, who lived up there. I was able to get a good foundation for my part on that trip, then I just worked off that with more stuff once we got back to San Diego. 

It’s funny because I never really knew where we were going or what I was going to skate. Yeah, I’d seen some of the spots in videos or magazines before, and sometimes they’d describe stuff to me before we got there. But I was mostly just doing things as the ideas came to me.

What was your mindset coming into this trip? Because even though you’re only 17, this was your big opportunity to deliver on all those years of people speculating. Did you realize this at the time or were you just out having fun?

Oh, I was very serious about this trip. Hopeful and very determined, especially after things had fallen through on my last trip out to California with Santa Monica. I knew that this was my way into the industry. This was what I wanted, plus with a family on the way… whatever I could do, I was going to put it out. I was there to show that I was up to the challenge. To do my best and get it done. 

Something I always think about… one thing that I didn’t get done for that part is a cab backlip on the six stair at Santa Barbara. The little round rail out front that had been sessioned a lot in videos? Mike had actually planned on me getting that for the part but I wasn’t even in the ballpark back then, unfortunately. 

On a handrail? That’s insane! I know you got those variations on that curb…

Yeah, we got the curb stuff after I couldn’t get it on the handrail. Mike was like, “Well, if we can’t get it here, that’ll just be something we work on in the future. Let’s go skate this curb and call it a day.”

That stuff on the curb was just to show the trick. 

What was your process with that backside 180 over the island? 

In a way, it kinda started back at that SMA Cadillac Tour demo in Maryland. Like I was saying earlier, the backside 180 was a big thing for me early on in my career. I was doing those a lot. And when SMA came to town on that tour, I backside 180’d a large box, which caught a few people’s eye. 

I guess this was something that had been talked about for a while. So, once I got out west to film for Life, Mike and I actually drove around to find something that was roughly the same size as that box.

Once we found that island, Mike asked me, “Do you think you can recreate that backside 180 ollie again with this?”

“Well, it’s one of my favorite moves. I don’t see why not, but let’s check it out and warm up first. Hopefully I’ll be able to ride away from it.”

Right away, I’m ollieing over it. Popping over it good with not too much of a problem. 

“Yeah, I think I can get it, Mike.”

It wasn’t too hard... At the time, I remember wondering if it was even legal to film that for the video. I guess that’s just how I think, I can be a little critical. That wasn’t something that I would’ve filmed on my own. Not at all. But if Mike thinks it’s cool, I guess it’s cool. So yeah, Mike definitely made that one happen.  

You didn’t like your backside 180 over the island?!?

Not at first, but I think the biggest thing about that clip is how it was filmed. I can see and understand the impact it had, but I also think that highlights the difference between Mike’s creative ideas of presentation versus the skater doing the trick. I just didn’t see it the way he did. 

I enjoyed doing it but I don’t know if I would’ve wanted to highlight it as much as he did. Maybe because I couldn’t get that cab backlip clencher on the handrail, he slid that in its place? I’m not sure. It’s what he had to do for the sake of the video and his business. 

You just have to work with the footage you have. I couldn’t get the cab backlip. The backside 180 would’ve been great leading up to that trick in the edit… or maybe it’s just as valuable? I don’t know. In my mind, it’s not, but other people seem to think so. Let’s just go with it. 

It worked out. And I love that clip. But no, I don’t think I would’ve ever filmed that if it wasn’t for Mike. It just seemed so flat and long, but Mike knew how to capture it and bring it to life. 

Wasn’t the boardslide down the SD Museum double-kink also Mike’s idea? 

Yeah, and to this day, that’s one of the gnarliest challenges I’ve ever had to overcome.

That was totally Mike’s idea. I remember him randomly taking Sal and I to that rail one day. He goes “I’ve been thinking a lot about stuff like this. I don’t know how many guys will be into it, but you two seem to have the board control for it. You guys should really start thinking about these kinda rails.”

I’m not sure what Sal’s thought process was but I’d never even seen a rail like that before. I just remember thinking to myself, “Jesus Christ, he wants us to skate this?” I was freaking out. 

But we both agreed to skate it. With Mike paying us, it was our responsibility to at least try. It’s not like we could just chicken out of it. And it would be awesome to do something like that.

We end up going on that filming trip to Santa Barbara the next day, so I’m not really thinking about that rail… but it’s definitely in the back of my mind that we agreed to skate this gnarly thing. And a day or two after we get back to San Diego, Mike brought us back there at night to get to work. 

That thing was just a nightmare, bro. Sal and I were trying to play it cool, but we were both scared. I remember us both standing up there, going back and forth with each other, like, “Oh fuck… Shut up, dude! Don’t freak out! This is serious!”

It was like we’d been let loose with Jason and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre after us. 

Finally, I decide to give it a try… like, “Alright, here I go! Goodbye!” (laughs)

I didn’t even know how to skate it, I just knew that I had to make it all the way to the end. And those first couple of times I hucked myself onto it, that thing kicked my ass so far away from it. I thought it was just the worst thing ever, dude. 

Sal didn’t even try it that night, but I gave it four or five tries and got banged up pretty good. I had to stop. 

Mike’s like, “Are you okay?”


“Alright, let’s go. We’re coming back in the morning.”

I remember Sal and I hearing that… like, “Fuck”. (laughs)

I was staying with Sal on that trip, sleeping on his floor. And I had hit my rib pretty bad. I don’t think I realized how bad it was at first, because there was so much energy and focus on getting it done. But even that night, we hardly got any rest because we just knew what was waiting for us in the morning. 

Mike shows back up at 7:30am.

“Are you guys ready?”

We take our showers, jump in the car and stop by 7-11 for some coffee. Just trying to get ready for this battle that we know we’re about to face. But once we get there, we suddenly have a whole different perspective on it. Now that it’s morning and the sun is out, it seemed much more possible. And right away, we go to work. 

I started trying a few different ideas of how I could stay on the rail. Figuring out a method where I stayed on the side of the rail during the initial down, rocking over once it went to flat and then just staying on top until the end. And within six or seven tries, it worked. 

In the meantime, Sal had also started to hop and was really getting it going… until one attempt where he missed his ollie. The footage is in the video. It’s not as bad as it looks, he caught himself, but it definitely rattled him. 

After I made mine, we asked Sal if he wanted to keep trying it… because we were running out of time. The museum was about to open. 

“Fuck it.” (laughs)

He called it quits, which I always wished he would’ve gotten it, too. It was such a battle, I really wanted us both to walk away victorious. He had it but it’s just one of those things where a little complication jarred him.

It tends to get overlooked, but your nbd backtail ender on the picnic table was no joke, either. Had you ever skated “Cali” picnic tables before?

I had, actually. I know what you’re saying but yes, I skated some picnic tables with Mike Vallely on that trip out to Long Beach with Shut. I remember us going over to Gardena school, which was a hotspot at the time close to World Industries. That was my first introduction to that height of picnic table, the medium-size ones that they only seemed to have out west. I was able to get used to how they slid and everything then, which got me thinking about stuff I wanted try whenever I came back. The backlip and backtail were two things that I knew I wanted to try and luckily, I was able to get them both on footage that next trip out there.

Out of everything in that part, what are you most proud of? Because Soldier’s Story really did change your life.

Honestly, what I love most is that I was even able to do it all in such a short window. To get the whole video experience and for it to come out as good as it did. I feel like more than one individual trick, the whole thing works. Even the footage that I don’t necessarily think too much about, people will bring up and it makes me proud. 

Jamie Thomas would always bring up the footage in Santa Barbara where I’m skating a little flatbar off that podium. A quick ollie up the platform, lipslide on the rail and pop off early. I always liked that clip because it felt more functional and creative. Stuff like that took some thought to come up with, much more than just doing a big trick over something. And it’s equally hard in its own way. It was rad for Jamie to bring that up to me, not everyone does. 

I’m proud of the bangers, of course, but more so just getting through that life experience. Wanting something so badly and accomplishing it. To have the last part in the video, especially as a black skater. And then for the whole team to agree to have my silhouette on the cover? It just felt complete. Because by the time it was over, I had given it my all, man. I was done. That was the best I could do at that time.

Did you know that MT was going to edit your part with the Ennio Morricone music and the spot previews? 

No, I don’t remember him telling me anything about that before seeing it. And I have since heard that Danny Way was actually in there a lot, helping Mike edit my part, too… which makes sense. I can definitely see some Danny influence in there. Danny actually had a lot to do with the Life video. 

What about Ron writing a biographical song for your part? Did you have any idea that was in the works?

I had no idea, and it was so amazing to hear. Not only was it awesome that Ron performed a song for my part, to write a song about me? That’s crazy. It meant a lot to me at the time and has only grown even more special to me over the years. 

You mentioned the cover, how did that By All Means Necessary portrait go down?

That came more from my link to music and hip hop. I’ve always been a big KRS-One fan, which that was one of his early album titles. Also, I’ve always had a great appreciation for Malcom X, where that phrase originally came from. That’s really where it all stems from. 

Mike had Daniel Harold Sturt shoot some portraits of me one day, specifically in black-and-white. And it was definitely Mike’s idea to highlight the hair. Mike was always super into my fro-y hair… pick the hair out and flop it around. That’s what we came up with. 

They asked me to write a little something for the ad, which is where the KRS-One/Malcom X angle comes into play. That was the direction I wanted to give it. 

I guess your Ice Cube/Amerikkkaz Most Wanted ad for Droors was on that same tip? 

Yes, it was that same music influence. I guess that ad could almost be seen as the next step, in a way. Damon Way and Ken Block originally came up with that idea. I always loved that album, and dressing up like Cube was a lot of fun. I think they put a t-shirt out with that on it, too. That one came out great.  

photo: niko

It wasn’t long after Soldier’s Story that Plan B started up, did you know that Life was gonna be so quick? How was Plan B brought up to you? 

No, I never would’ve imagined that Life was going to be so quick. I was expecting to be on Life for a long time but I’m not even sure if it lasted a year. Maybe the old H-Street guys already had an idea, but with my being so new to the company, I had no way of knowing. 

Suddenly, the bosses weren’t getting along anymore and things were starting to split. Ternasky came up with a list of guys he wanted to take, and once again, Steve Rocco was involved. Mike wanted to expand and start something on his own, out of World Industries. 

I think it was after I had filmed for Soldier’s Story that Mike told me about possibly starting a new company. Maybe filming for that video was Mike’s way of scouting me out and seeing what I all could do? I don’t know, but that’s when he asked me about coming along with him. He ran down the list of guys who were also going to be on the team and it sounded incredible, so I agreed. 

I always liked T-Mag but Mike was really who I’d been working with. That’s where my connection was. 

photo: Bobshirt

I loved your early Plan B graphics with the Sheffey Book and all the troll stuff. Where’d that come from? 

Mike made all that stuff. I guess he had gone off my hair again, as well as my skin color. Just the overall vibe, you know? A little more animalistic, doing your own thing. Trying to make everything a little more cute to give it a broader appeal. The Jungle Book was cool but yeah, that and the troll stuff was all Mike. I understood what he was going for and I was okay with it. I thought it turned out great.  

Now the slick bottom with the collage, Mike and Carl Hyndman had asked me to gather up some photos of stuff that I liked... Pictures of my family and R.E.M. Malcom X and Mark Gonzales. That was all stuff I was into and we were able to put it all together for a pretty cool graphic. I think Mike put a troll in there as well. 

Was there pressure for you to skate more tech with Questionable? 

No, it was kind of the opposite. That style of skateboarding opened up so many new possibilities, man. Using your board as a portal to progress and advance your skills in all new ways. It was so different from what we’d been doing. Suddenly, we were all pushing for something new that was still being figured out. 

It was cool for all that to coincide with starting Plan B because it felt like a completely new experience. Not only was my sponsor different, skating itself was different. I had all these new teammates with this incredible range of talent, and we’re pushing each other to learn these very new tricks. Incorporating these skills into our individual styles and seeing what all we could come up with. It was exciting.

photo: niko

Granted, you were the god of late-shuvs, but how’d you feel about pressure flips?

I liked late shuv-its because, like backside 180s, it felt like a new twist on the ollie. 

Pressure flips were never really my thing. I like them as a trick, but I wasn’t really skating with the guys who were actively exploring that stuff. They never really made an impact on my process or how I thought about skating. I’m pretty sure the only pressure flip I could do back then was a switch backside one… And this was back when people had every type of variation imaginable! That was really the only one I got into. 

Was that weird for you as this powerful skater and suddenly, the trend is slow and low freestyle?

Yeah, but it was something different, you know? Everyone was coming up with all these new variations of stylish boardwork. You never know where that stuff can lead. Learning how to pop, scoop and scrape your board to make it do different things, instead of that same overused ollie technique. This stuff truly felt next level. 

There were a bunch of tech kids out there, keeping that style of skating strong and steady. I always thought it was cool. Because the bigger types of skating can get kinda fearful, you had these heads out there doing something different. Focusing their energy on this smaller type of skating and really putting it into play. And people really responded to the super tech stuff back then. It never felt lesser.   

What about the frontside 360 ollie at the Ingraham Bump? 

Honestly, that was one of those times where I kinda had to make something out of the spot for the day. That’s what I came up with. Because I’d actually gone there to try something else and I couldn’t do it. There was no chance of me clearing that little alleyway, which was what I was originally concentrating on. That never came to be. 

The frontside 360 wasn’t my original plan, it was just something that I had to settle for. And even then, it was almost impossible to get the full 360 over that thing. 

I’ll be honest, I didn’t really like that spot. That thing was pretty wretched to skate. 

And “La Schmoove”? Was that your song choice?

Jovontae Turner actually turned me onto that song. He brought it in to play one day, asking me if I’d ever heard of them before. I hadn’t, but as soon as he played that song, I went out and got that CD immediately. I instantly fell in love with it. 

So when Mike asked what song I wanted for my Questionable part, I had to choose “La Schmoove”, you know? Because the real got nothing to prove. (laughs)

Everybody always had so much to say about music back then. All the riders and even Ternasky himself, we all had strong opinions on every song being used. I was probably the most easygoing about it. Yeah, I was pretty picky about what I skated to, but I didn’t worry about what everybody else was doing… it all felt good to me. Music was just another way to highlight everyone’s personality. 

jake the janitor

What about the vibe of skating rocks? Where’d that come from?

People were skating that spot a lot back then, just a little warm-up spot down in Mission Beach. There was an island with a rock we used to goof around on… 

We were just out and about that day. The camera happened to get put on me and that just popped in my head, you know? Something to say for the camera. Nothing serious. 

And Pinky Tuscadero?

I got Pinky from Happy Days. My hair was full-on pink at the time. That was just the vibe, you know? Having fun out under the California sun. 

Once again, Jake Rosenberg happened to shine his camera on me and that’s what I came up with. Pinky, Pinky Tuscadero.

I always thought she was a hot-ass chick. Beautiful women are always one of my favorite things to think about when I’m chilling, so that’s where my head went. Jake put his camera on me and I had nothing else to say. My hair is blaring hot pink. Let’s just go with it. 

I was just a natural tweaker, man. Not that I had touched tweak yet or anything. Just a young and cocky professional skater, tweaking in front of the camera. Getting the good skate vibes going, my mentals just shot out. A little artistic and with all of that success… because I felt like I was a star at that point. I was just gone, man. (laughs)

I was heavily into my Cali vibe, for sure. 

I don’t know how much you want to get into this but we’ve all heard the Ryan Fabry story around this time. He spoke about it in his interview with me. Do you want to give your side of things?

There was just some miscommunication there. Things had just got a little too out of control. Too wild. Ryan was a great skater, man.

How was it a miscommunication?

It was just a bad situation for me and my wife. Like I said, I was definitely young and cocky at the time, feeling the California vibe. I should’ve been home more, instead of always being out, goofing off. I lost step and the homie slid in. That’s basically what happened, you know? 

I was still a bit immature at the time. I found out and Ryan and I got into it a little bit… then I had Rick and Danny stand in as we tried to talk after all that, but Ryan didn’t really have a chance to give his side of things. We kinda ended his career, which is shitty, but there was no way he could’ve stayed on the team. That wouldn’t have worked. It was just a bad situation. 

Nothing more really came from it. I’ve seen Ryan a few times since then. We’re friends now, I hope. I actually saw him in Vegas a few years after that and we finally got the chance to really talk about things. And Vegas is his hometown. If there was going to be anything more to come from it, it would’ve gone down then but I got out of there unscathed. He’s from there. If he was still pissy about how things went, he could’ve got me jumped. 

Like i said, I interviewed him a few years ago and he clearly knows he fucked up. Because yes, he was an incredible skater, but that incident largely defined and ended his career. Not to mention that you were his friend.

I mean, that’s good stuff right there. Shit, man. We were just young and foolish. That’s all. It shouldn’t have went down like that. I should’ve had my stuff together. Inviting a teammate into my house to stay with my family? I should’ve been there. But where was I? Down at the beach, 30 miles away. Goofing off. Playing around. 

At this point, I can say that I’m starting to enter into a phase where I lost some crucial years by goofing around and not being responsible. I can only blame my own actions for letting some of the negative things that happened creep in through the door. I wish I was smarter back then… none of that stuff would’ve ever happened and some things would be different. Yeah, I was skating a lot and progressing, but I still needed a stronger direction that would’ve molded me into a better man, with business and everything else.

But how old were you? 18?

I was 19, yeah. Young and immature… and I don’t know if I was prepared to deal with all the success I had achieved so quickly back then. It’s what I wanted, for sure, but I don’t know if I really knew what all that would involve. It is what it is.

Did you have the same hesitations about filming for Virtual Reality that a lot of the other riders did? 

No, I was pumped to put out a new part, actually. 

I mean, there’s always pressure with trying to make something as good as you want it to be. To make the part you have floating around in your head. Complete and without getting injured. But Virtual Reality wasn’t so much a timing issue for me, I was feeling more pressure with just trying to figure out new things to film. 

Mike always wanted to have the best company in the industry. The best riders. And because we rode for him, that was the standard we had to live up to. It became our mission, too. But he was always very clear about this and was something we knew going into Plan B. That’s just how it was going to be. 

…I don’t want this to come off like we dominated everything, but we were very elite. One of the most amazing teams in skateboarding. That’s why we had those Fantastic Four graphics and Star Wars graphics. We thought that we were out of this world. 

Plan B was like a family. It was bond. We had team meetings constantly and everyone knew what everybody else was working on. Skating together all the time and floating out ideas to the rest of the team. And because the team was so close, you didn’t want to be caught slipping. You always had to be on your game and producing, because you really had no excuse not to be. You didn’t want to let these guys down.

It could be a bold proposition to have on your mentals, especially over a long period of time. Constantly thinking about what to do in order to be the best. As a team, it was great. It felt amazing because we were successful. But on the individual level, you did feel that kind of pressure. Because it was up to you to live up to this thing. There’s always doubt if you can accomplish what the group is setting out to do. I think after a while, that just kinda spilled over and guys started wanting to do something different. 

Talk to me about ollieing little Julien in the car. 

That was just something that Julien and I used to do while waiting for Jake to show up at the house. Just as a little warm up, practicing my ollies. We’d be out there playing and I’d ollie over his little buggy to get him hyped. I had actually done it the day before, just messing around. Next thing I knew, Jake’s asking me to do it again for the video.

“Mike wants to film you ollieing Julien in the car. Do you think you can do it again and I’ll record it?”

Word had gotten around. So yeah, we went ahead and set it up. It was on right away and I took care of it in a couple of tries. The rest is history. 

Honestly, I wasn’t so sure about filming that for my part either, but it’s work. My boss is telling me to do it so I guess I better do it. 

How is it doing that same ollie 20 years later for Blind?

Oh God, that was pretty heavy, man. I could barely get it going! I even had to use a bump this time. It felt way different... a little stiffer. It was kinda sad, you know? Because like I said, it used to be a warm-up. Fuck, have things really gotten that bad for me? (laughs)

It worked out, though. It felt more casual this time around because Julien’s not a little kid anymore. Less sketchy. And it’s definitely more cartoony than the original footage, but I think it came out amazing. I was so stoked that my son agreed to do it, too. I was happy to run that. 

That came from Douglas, Boyle and Weiss. They came up with that idea.

What about your switch tre ender for Virtual Reality over the greyhound bump? I always heard that was a battle. 

Something I’ve learned over the years is that when you’re working with other people, it’s a process. I’d actually done that trick over the bump before, but when it came time to get it on footage, it’s different. Because there’s another person involved, there’s a different energy being exchanged. It’s no longer just you and your board. You’re working with someone else now, too. It adds another dimension. And if something is off — whether you can’t concentrate, the filmer isn’t focused, or whatever — it can be awful. It can switch something up that you’d normally do within a few tries. Suddenly, you’re looking at 50 or 60 tries. Just because your mind isn’t as in-line with the session as it would be if you were skating by yourself or with your bros. That’s just how it goes sometimes. And it’s always something I try to be aware of as I’ve gotten older. 

But yeah, I was stoked on doing tricks with length at the time. That’s what I was really concentrating on back then, doing technical tricks with distance. And that switch 360 flip felt pretty next level for me. 

It was cool because your footage prior was always so power-based, Virtual Reality really saw you getting technical.  

I owe that to my teammates. They got me thinking in that way and were patient enough to let me learn all that stuff. Because that tech stuff can take a lot of time to figure out. It’s not just popping and ollieing over something. Something like a switchstance 360 flip is totally different and requires a different set of skills. But I think that I was able to get it done pretty successfully.

How did you get involved with starting Girl? What made you decide to leave Plan B? 

The guys just wanted to do their own thing, man. To get on a different schedule than that Plan B expectation we were talking about. I feel like it was that, along with the guys just wanting to make their own moves. Looking out for their own future. 

I was living with Mike Carroll in San Francisco at the time and had been hearing all the stuff they were planning. It sounded cool so I asked to be a part of it and got the okay from everybody to move in that direction.

photo: thompson

Was it difficult leaving Ternasky after all you’d been through with him? 

I’m not so sure I was thinking too steady back then. But like I said, I was actually living with one of the guys who was going to play a major part in this new thing, so it was easy for me to go that route. It was all so close to home. Going the Girl route felt like the smart move.

Yeah, Girl was going to be out of L.A and we were up in San Francisco, but it still felt close due to the Mikey connection. Much better than having to figure out how I was going to continue working with Plan B on my own, all the way down in San Diego. 

Plan B was already starting to feel distant to me by that point as well… which is partially on me, too. That could’ve been my fault. Like I said, I wasn’t thinking too steady and now I’m all the way up in San Francisco. I’m sure there was some miscommunication. 

How was shooting the Goldfish intro up there with Spike? Was that all run-and-gun out there?

No, Rick actually showed me some plans that he had designed out. Some ideas of what all they were thinking to film for it. We just worked it all out together, getting a little order going for the day in how to shoot it. That was fun… I remember getting water all over me from the fishbowl. (laughs)

I loved your delivery guy in Chocolate Tour, too. Did you like filming that kinda stuff?

Oh yeah, I loved filming that stuff. And I was super pumped to have my own character in the Chocolate video. Whatever it takes to brighten up the video, I was down. Even if its wearing some crazy shorts and the whole thing, let’s do it. 

Because they had asked me if I wanted to try something comedic, I ran through a couple of different characters I had floating around in my head. That’s what we landed on. Just having fun.

"Ain't got all day, it's hot out there." A follow-up from my recent interview with Joey Pepper, any truth to the rumor you noseslid the window sill by the Pine Street Bump?

No, I don’t think so. That sounds pretty sick, I’d definitely remember doing that if I did. I wasn’t really doing many noseslides when I was living in San Francisco. I could do them, I just wasn’t that into them yet. 

I’ll let him know. Talk to me about your backside flip cover at Miley for Transworld.

We were just sessioning at Miley and fortunately, there happened to be some photographers there. I don’t know if those photographers had come with us or not, because I don’t even really remember shooting any photos that day. But it worked out, that photo looks great. Shot through the bars and everything. 

And it was a cover, too! That was a total surprise to me. I had no idea, man. But I guess they were able to turn those photos in and Transworld liked it so much that they put it on the cover. Super cool!

photo: yelland

That’s a Thomas Campbell pic but I know Tobin also shot some amazing photos of you ollieing over the big hip there. I have to imagine that being more of a project, right? 

Yeah, that was Tobin and I coming together on some photos, trying to peak out above the rail. I definitely remember that day, because that wasn’t an easy one at all. That hip is way steeper than the other one and I remember getting pitched out a few times that day… I think there’s some footage of that in a video. But the photos turned out amazing. 

Those photos really showcase the griptape art you seemed to be doing a lot of back then, which I always loved. 

Yeah, I’ve always been interested in doing art and graffiti. Back in the Shut days, I remember Alyasha doing some really rad graffiti on my board, which opened up this whole new platform to me and it just went on from there. I remember doing some artwork when I was on Life that got used for things, which was always super cool to have that kind of input.

Actually, I got some artwork going now. I have some stuff in the works for Plan B that should be coming out soon. 

Can’t wait. Where’d the idea for those over-the-top handrail 50-50s come from? I don’t think you get enough credit on that one. 

That mostly came from my good friend, Rick Howard. I remember him pitching it to me one day as something I might want to try. That he thought it might look cool. And once again, Rick’s the boss, so I’ll see what I can do. 

I’m pretty sure that I had thought about it before but wasn’t sure if it would work. I was afraid that it would be too drawn out or dramatized, you know? That the concept of ollieing over the back wouldn’t translate. But I always liked Rick’s style so anything he thought was cool, I knew would work. He’s really the one who gave me the go-ahead, that I should realistically start trying it. 

“You should do that. Your ollies are looking good enough to where popping over the back like that would probably work out.” 

It took me a year or two of really focusing on it before I finally got it the way I wanted. There was one that I really liked early on at PB Middle School. I’m in some shorts and some black-and-white Sals. I thought that one came out really good. 

photo: skin

I think Skin shot that. 

Yeah, it wasn’t much of a rail but I like how he shot it from behind, really capturing the idea of ollieing over and down into it. The weightless commitment that trick requires to get through it. 

And then you did another one for your Mouse ender…

Yeah, that one always felt a little odd to me. I don’t think it looked nearly as rad but was much more difficult. That rail is about 3 steps longer than the PB Middle School one… a little more sketchiness appeal to it back then. It was a little tougher to land but I like the other one better. 

You went back and got the switch tre at the San Diego bumps again for Mouse… this time in a line with a switch flip. I love that footage because you’re clearly stoked there. But was it always going to be a line?

Yeah, that was the plan. 

I was just excited, man. Anytime you have tricks work out in front of the camera, it gets you pumped. 

To come back and get that same switch 360 kickflip, but now in a line, felt super good. It’s rad to demonstrate your progress like that. 

photo: rosenberg

Gotta ask, you had that heelflip centerfold at the San Diego Double-Set in Big Brother and there was also a switch flip down it for a Girl ad. Was there every any footage of these? 

No, just photos. And I’ll be honest, while I came close, I never landed either of those. Those are bails. 

I think because I had battled both of those tricks for so long and had come so close, they ran the photos with the thought that I’d end up getting it. Because I actually stuck both of those, I could just never roll away on the landing. I think they just said, “Fuck it. Keep it moving.”

It’s unfortunate for the hardcore skaters, but rad for skateboarding and business… and that’s the way it works sometimes. (laughs)

Meth vs Sheff. Tell me about your infamous run-in with the Wu-Tang Clan. 

Yeah, that was at an MTV Festival. I’d been drinking and smoking weed and I got a little disoriented. All of a sudden, I came up with this scheme to snatch the Method Man’s mic… not because it was his microphone specifically, I just wanted an MTV mic to take home as a souvenir. Because it was all dolled up with the MTV logo and everything, looking super cool. For some reason, that’s all I could think about: Grabbing the microphone out of his hand and running away with it. Kinda like a trophy or something. Very foolish of me.

A super wild experience, for sure. Meth was a lot stronger than I expected. Really quick, too. It was like a cowboy lassoing a horse, man. He knew what he was doing. There was no way that I was gonna be able to get that out of his hand… I had to let go and I got escorted out. 

That was just a bad idea. I definitely hadn’t thought that all the way through. But all things considered, it ended up being alright. That could’ve gone really bad for me but I was able to get out of it safe. 

Luckily, the Wu Tang guys are smart and know how to deal with fans. I’m sure they deal with that kinda stuff all the time and knew enough to realize they didn’t have to overplay it. The little skater guy wasn’t much of a threat to them. Because those guys are from a pretty rough side of town. They don’t take no B.S… I remember them saying that I should be thankful that everybody knew who I was. 

But they were really cool about it, almost like a big brother-kinda thing. Telling me to ease up on the sauce…

The Sheffey mythology is strong from back then. I remember Tim Gavin telling the story of waking up to you cooking steaks at 4 in the morning with a spear?

I don’t remember the spear. 

I do know that we used to hang out with Dave Duncan a lot. Dave was always coming by the house to chill and he loved steaks. He’d either have some steaks or we’d go get some. I don’t recall that night specifically but he probably had a lot to do with the cooking steaks, for sure.

…but I don’t remember the spear.

photo: dawes

What about your habit of living underneath people’s dinner tables? You did that at Koston’s house and a few others, right?  

Well, I was originally sleeping on Eric’s couch in the living room, but the sun would end up shining through the window every morning. Being under the table would kinda block that light for me. Because we were never going to bed until the wee hours of the morning. It was never long before that sun was gonna start blasting through the window, I just wanted to sleep. So under the table I went.

Makes sense. 

Plus, it’s a good place to hide out and sleep without being in everybody’s way. Being under the dinner table gave me a little seclusion. It felt a little more private, like being in a tent or something. 

What about that infamous blue wig? Where’d that come from? 

Are you familiar with Matias Ringstrom? Well, a lady friend of his had given it to me at a rave in downtown San Diego. I put it on, just messing around, and it was a lot of fun. I loved wearing it and she wanted me to keep it, so I did. 

I ended up bringing it with me on a trip to Canada for a contest. Just as a little accessory. Skating the course with this crazy blue wig on… That thing really caught some people’s eyes, too. Just a wild time, man. 

So, you kinda disappeared for a while after Chocolate Tour... 
And then to come back years later, no longer on Girl but as part of Blind. 
What all happened there? 

Well, I hurt my knee in ‘99. And as a way to pass the time while I was recovering, I got some turntables. I wanted to start making music, which basically put me in hermit mode for a while. Just learning how to use the turntables at the house and constantly going on these little music missions, buying a lot of vinyl. 

With my past injuries, I was used to healing with a little drinking, but I was getting more and more into that fast life. I was starting to develop habits, none of which were helping my injury get any better. Unfortunately, I was moving on with some extra stuff to where it went from just being a party thing to really using. I was foolish and allowed it to take over… but I was also still getting checks. I was lost and I couldn’t even see it. I thought I could handle it. 

Steadily raging, I had a couple of aggressive run-ins with police officers trying to escort me out of places. I got a few drunk and disorderly conduct charges, which led to some time and probation. There were some violations, due to my own foolishness. Arguing and stuff. I was kinda on-and-off probation for a while… then I would break probation so they’d clamp me down and lock me back in. It all just added up to losing a bunch of time and a bunch of money. It was a very unproductive time in my life. 

I did a few years here and there, which got me off the board. Three or four years. I just kept messing up and lost my status as a professional skateboarder. I can only blame myself. I wasted a lot of time. 

Luckily, I was able to connect with Jake Brown and Blind after I got out. That’s when everything started to work out again for me. 

There was definitely an understanding at Blind. We never really talked about my drinking and drug use, because I was doing so well, but they were very aware of it, of course.

I don’t think they ever had to talk to me about it because I was always upfront about everything. I think that everyone who is involved with me knows that I have to stay away from all that or I’m going to have trouble. But as long as I take care of myself and skate as hard as I can, I’ll be alright.

photo: gregsie

Good luck, Sean. And I love you back on Plan B. How’d that come about? 

Some old friends of mine approached me about it, wondering about my overall situation in skating. The conversation led to them asking if I wanted to be back on the Plan B team... and absolutely! To get that kind of love and care offered to me from an old sponsor that meant so much to me, it really felt great. 

For Danny Way and Ryan Sheckler to even think about me in that way, and make me an offer with the approval of the rest of the guys? Because I had been working with Ryan for quite some time now on Etnies, I was able to get support from the younger guys on the team, too. The whole thing has put so much into perspective for me. It’s been great.

Any new projects we can look forward to from you? What’s next for Sean Sheffey?

We actually just started working on a video. We’re trying to get it done by September, so yeah, we got some stuff going on. I’m definitely going to have some clips in there. 

Can’t wait to see, man. As we wrap this up, having now gone over 30 years of skateboarding for this thing, what do you see as the proudest moment of your career and your biggest regret? 

My proudest moment? Every bit of it, man. Everything that I have experienced in skateboarding has been a blessing. I don’t have any regrets because you know what? I’m still able to go skateboarding almost every day. I’m about to head out the door right now and go to the skatepark. And at my age, it doesn’t normally work that way. I have to thank my sponsors here: Plan B, Independent Trucks, Etnies, XYZ, Elenex, Nixon, Grizzly Grip, Diamond Supply, and Bones. For me to have the opportunity and support to do this, through so many lifelines that have been given to me, I can’t thank you enough.

Thank God that I have found sobriety and balance. Now I can truly say that I understand what balance is. As a kid, I never even thought about this concept as it relates to life, but it’s so important. I think the first time that I’d ever even heard it mentioned was by my friend Jovontae Turner. He would use it a lot, actually. But for some reason, it would never even register in my brain back then. I just wasn’t listening. 25 years later, it’s one of the biggest influences in my life. Finding the right balance of things helps keep you focused and leads you to healthier living, which in turn, helps those around you do the same. 

It’s taken me a long time to figure that out, but I think I got it now. 

Thanks again, Sheff.


alaero said...

So sick. Massive Sheffy fan.

Anonymous said...

Awesome interview : )

Anonymous said...

Sheff!! Thanks so much, Chops.

Anonymous said...

Is this an all new interview? When did it take place?

Anonymous said...

One of my original favorite skaters... This is awesome to read. I was hoping to see the sequence of him no-complying into the little plaza thing from the coco double ollie spot (51 & park). Thrasher published it maybe 5 or 10 years ago... but I can't find it.

Mcidraque said...

great stuff

SW33TS said...

Nothing but love for Sheff. I met him during his down period when I lived in San Diego. He would show up to spots once in a while, skate them better switch than anyone could their normal stance and keep it moving. I ended up giving him a couple rides after sessions. Stills highlight to think back that one of my early heroes ended remembering my name from a couple sessions. He is a good dude and I am glad he found his footing.

i_love_patinar said...

Once again another great interview! This one is pretty amazing, Sean part in the Life video was a big influence in my skating growing up and he was always one of my favourites. In 99 in my country (Portugal) i got to be the lucky guy taking Sean, Keenan, York, Castillo and Skin Phillips (Chico was sent back to LA because he didn´t had a visa to get in Portugal) to a couple demos and spots for a week. In one of the last days coming from a spot in a town 40 min south of Lisbon, Sheff grab the van steering wheel while i was driving going 100 kph and stars shaking it almost killing us all. Thank god keenan scream at him and he stoped hehehe.
Great to see him doing good!!!

Brock Landers said...

I got to see Sheff a lot in NJ in his very early Shut days. He was absolutely incredible back then - pretty much just as powerful as you see in Soldier's Story. It was hard to believe that he was only like 16!

I'm glad you brought up the technical skating possibly being at odds with such a powerful style. I always felt that as great as he was all around, it's kinda too bad that the small wheel/tech dominance detoured the direction he was going.

cole cash said...

Thanks so much for the interview. Been a huge fan of Sheff forever and stoked to read he got that life balance sorted. Super inspiring. That photo of him and Coco is a timeless masterpiece of what street skating is.

Anonymous said...

a true king on the board , thanx for this interview !

Chris Kwote said...

Awesome! Sheffey is super rad. I found this interview after watching Questionable.

Such a powerful style and I like his tech skating too. The switch tre at the end of Virtual is so perfect. Cool you brought that up.

Most of my Girl boards were Sheffey boards. I can't believe how skinny that shit was back then. 7.5 haha.

Super nice dude too. He's liked and commented on my scratch videos on instagram.

I was stoked to hear he was back on Plan B. To me the best shit ever was the Virtual Reality crew. 4 out of 8 ain't bad.

J Ho said...

What an amazing gift to skateboarding, Sheffey is! He was a huge influence on me when I was coming up, I always appreciated his style on and off board. Stoked to see him happy, healthy, and still in the game he loves! Thanks for the interview.

kk said...

Long live The Chrome Ball Incident. Just the best thing on the internet in my opinion.

In these days of instant-content-overload a well produced Longform interview is pure gold. Total respect for constantly setting the standard so high - these things take a ton of work I'm sure.

Nothing better than setting aside 30 mins for a deep dive into skateboard culture and history told by those who made it.

Keep up the good work. Thanks Chops!

Humberto said...

Sean’s the dude! Always great to run into him from time to time. Thanks Chops for this! Gracias!

David Bieth said...

That interview was amazing, thank you. I met Sean Sheffy at a Plan B demo way back when. I had his collage graphic and held it up and (a bit intimidated) was like, “hey Sean!” Dude just came over and sat next to me and talked to me like it was no big thing -he was such a nice guy. After a minute, he just got up and did the most perfect half cab late shove-it off the side of a wedge ramp first try. Thanks Sean.

Anonymous said...

Great interview. I saw Sheffey skate at the old Seattle skatepark under the space needle in maybe 1996 or 97 back when it was just shitty metal ramps. He skated switch the ENTIRE time. never once a regular push or anything... except when he transferred over the fence out of the park off the 6 foot quarter pipe. What a legend

Coco Crisp's Afro said...

Thanks, Sean for saying "hi" to a dork hanging out at EMB in 1993. It was cool and inspiring to see a humble pro.

Anonymous said...

Skated with Sean way back in '88. Saw him Ollie over a canyon onto a flat handrail board slide in downtown Silver Spring. Still the sickest thing I have ever seen on a skateboard all these years later.

Anonymous said...

It’s incredible the life he’s lived & is still in incredible shape physically & mentally, proof what a strong man he is.
I’m so curious what his home life was like growing up because I’m sure it influenced how he was but he overcame it. Not a lot of people are mentally/psychologically able to do that! Sheff is the s%#*!!!!

Nattie Dap said...

Yay...His kid was a racist threatening asshole to me at Venice park- he must hate his mom?