SKATES WITH A CAUSE
Words and Interview by Eric Hendrikx – Photography by Charlie Edmiston
In the 1940’s and 50’s, California surfers revolutionized “sidewalk surfing”, when there were no waves to surf, using wooden planks with roller skate wheels attached to the bottom. Then in the early 1970’s, developments of shape and design, including polyurethane wheels and maple plywood boards, fed their concrete cravings. And over the succeeding decade, pure skateboarders were born. Originators like Mark Gonzales, Tony Alva and Rodney Mullen flooded this new activity with a plethora of tricks, including aerials, grabs, street plants, and the “magic flip” —today known as the kickflip. And so began the art & bustle of skateboarding—today, one of the fastest growing sports on the planet.
Since its inception, an exponential blitzkrieg of significant skaters has fueled the progress of skateboarding. Such greats as Mark Gonzales, Lance Mountain, Natas Kaupas, Danny Way, Mike Vallely, and Tony Hawk resonated beyond the arena and into the mainstream eye. The list of athletes continued throughout the years, leading to a significant time in skateboard history, in 1993, when a four-year-old boy by the name of Ryan Sheckler, stood on a skateboard for the first time.
Young Sheckler had the bug. From that moment forward he became fused to his passion. The board became an extension of his physique and an amplification of his creative conscience. It transcended all that was important and provided all he needed to survive—His diet. His oxygen. His dreams. And as a result of relentlessly pursuing his vision, Sheckler turned pro at thirteen. He began competing in street skating and park contests in 2002 and has since taken home five X Games medals along with a long list of top block standings.
In most regards, Sheckler’s name is synonymous with professional skateboarding—child prodigy turned professional skateboarder, world-renowned athlete, teenage heartthrob, business owner, charity founder and TV star. His influential skills in the park and on the street have secured the respect of pros old enough to be his father and children nearly young enough to be his own. He’s a phenom in every sense of the word. And yet, the young San Clemente skater is obsessed with the task at hand—“Shecks” wants to go down in history as one of the greatest skaters who ever lived.
Even with many achievements under his belt, Sheckler still keeps a humble remembrance of the road he traveled to get there and who helped him along the way. He recently launched the Sheckler Foundation—to enrich the lives of children and fund programs that aid the health of action sports athletes. And from this honorable place bloomed Skate For A Cause—his annual event held at Etnies Skatepark of Lake Forest to raise awareness about skateboarding and revenue for charity.
During a swift recess from his heavy travel schedule, Sheckler shared time on a beautiful sunny morning to chat with Revolt In Style about his current mindset and upcoming events.
RIS: What’s going on Ryan? How are you?
SHECKLER: Awe man, I’m doing great! I’ve been surfing, skating, filming for my Plan B part and traveling a lot. I just got a new deal with Go Pro, and we just filmed a new GoPro commercial. A lot of good things have been happening. And we have ‘Skate for a Cause’ coming up in May. I’m really excited for that. A ton of people are coming out for it.
RIS: Where did you guys film the GoPro commercial?
SHECKLER: We went out to New York. I wanted it to be more of a rugged actual skateboarding piece. I really enjoy skateboarding in New York and I like the whole vibe there. We went out and skated in and around the town for three days. We never got in a cab. It was super fun and we tried to hit up all of the skate spots in New York. We got a big grand finale. It was super exciting and super rad that GoPro was down for it. I gave them my ideas for the video and they were stoked. It was a great way to kick off our relationship. It’s going to be awesome.
RIS: Sick. We also use GoPro cameras. So it’s been on a skateboard and under water. They’re really great.
SHECKLER: Yeah man, we’ve been taking it out surfing and filmed some really funny clips in the water. It’s awesome. It’s so crazy how good that camera is and how small it is. You can just throw it on anything, anywhere. And it’s basically indestructible. It’s such a rad camera.
RIS: Tell me about the Sheckler Foundation.
SHECKLER: Years ago I was invited to go to Texas with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. I met this sixteen-year-old girl Casey who had leukemia. She was the most rad girl ever. She was so positive. She just wanted to be outside. Her being at that skate demo was the greatest thing she got to do. She told me she just wanted to “live life”. Those words rang in my head. I thought, “Man, I’m living my life.” But there are a lot of people that are out there struggling. I wanted to be able to help those people. And I really wanted to be able to help children because they can’t help themselves. There are doctors who can help. But it costs money. We started thinking about it. And then we just started doing it. We started benefitting children with cancer and autism. The foundation is my heart. I have so much fun doing it. A lot of these kids have never skated before. But they’re into it. We’ll go skate around the park and they’ll laugh and their parents are so stoked because maybe they haven’t seen their kid laugh in over a week. It’s an eye opening experience and a way to give back. I really enjoy it.
RIS: We have a great relationship with The A.skate Foundation – attending, participating and promoting their events as much as we can.
SHECKLER: That s’ so awesome!
RIS: Why do you think skateboarding has such an incredible impact on kids with autism?
SHECKLER: It’s so crazy to me. I watched this show on Fuel TV called Surfers Healing. They took these kids that have autism out into the water, kids that had never really been comfortable in the water. And they got on these surfboards with experienced riders and had the most fun I had ever seen. I was so hyped after watching. I had to go out and skate. And then I thought, “Oh man, I’m going to go skate with these kids when I put on my Foundation event.” And it was the same exact positive experience as it was with surfing. It’s so new to them. It’s fun and you’re moving. Things are in motion. The wind is in your hair. There’s so much sensory happening for them all at once. I think it just vitalizes the moment. They love it. And I want to skate with all of them.
RIS: The show is amazing. That’s Israel (Izzy) and Danielle Paskowitz who founded Surfers Healing. Their son, Isaiah, has autism.
SHECKLER: You know, there’s an autistic skateboarder named Jimmy Carlin and he is one of the best skaters out there. He just skates. I don’t think that he thinks about anything else but skateboarding. He’s amazing. And if these kids can experience something like that with skateboarding, where they can do something they enjoy and love, it could be a new path for them.
RIS: Your next event, Skate For A Cause, is coming up on May 5th at Etnies Skatepark of Lake Forest. Why do you think Etnies is a great fit for this event?
SHECKLER: It’s a great fit because Etnies is a huge skatepark. A lot of people can come in and not feel crowded. They have plenty of room to give people the full experience of skating, contests, and all that. Plus the skaters can hang in different groups and have lots of different obstacles to skate. We love Etnies and the City of Lake Forest for letting us do this every year. And we are also going to branch out into other areas around the country to hold similar events.
RIS: Where would you like to have the next event?
SHECKLER: I like Kansas City and Florida. But I’d really like to give cities a chance to bring our event to them. They could tell us about their skate park, their community.
RIS: Your whole family plays an active role in your career and events. How are you able to accomplish so much together?
SHECKLER: Even though my parents are separated, my family sticks together. Kane and Shane come and volunteer. My dad gives is support and my mom handles how it all goes down. We all work together but I gotta give most of the props to my mom. She’s crazy with how she can set up the whole event. I travel so much that I don’t get to help as much as I’d like to. And she sets it up so nicely every time.
RIS: What can people expect at this year’s Skate For A Cause event?
SHECKLER: We’re going to have all of the pro skaters out for a couple of best trick contests on a few different obstacles. Then we do this really fun relay race around the whole park. It’s always super fun. There will be all the carnival activities and sponsors giving away free gear to kids. We give away a lot of signed skateboard decks in the raffles. It’s going to be a lot of fun. That’s the whole point.
RIS: In the past, the winners of the best trick contests have given their prize money back to the foundation.
SHECKLER: Yeah, I’m pretty sure everyone has given the money right back to our foundation. It’s really cool because it takes time away from their schedules to get out and participate. I respect all of the skaters so much for putting my event on their calendars. And I’ve seen them change when they come to the clinics and skate with the children. You can see the look in their eyes that they are stoked to be there. And that’s when the really good skating comes out, when it’s such a positive time.
RIS: Let’s talk about Street League and the Pro Tour coming up. How to you like the Enter ISX™ scoring technology used in Streetleague as opposed to more traditional contests that don’t reveal ranking until the contest is over?
SHECKLER: It was crazy skating Tampa with the scoring not instant. I kinda got used to that. I like both but I think I’m going a little bit more toward the instant scoring. I like that you can do your trick and instantly know where you stand. It can really benefit you when you know your score, because you know what it is going to take to advance.
RIS: It seems like the instant scoring is beneficial for the spectators because they aren’t left in the dark as to who is leading in the contests until it’s over.
SHECKLER: Totally. But as a skater, it makes you dig deep. You have to dig into your soul and pull out the shredder. It makes or breaks you.
RIS: In Streetleague there seems to be this amazing comradery not found in other competitions. You guys all seem to be having such an amazing time and really enjoying watching your friends skate. Does the level of competitiveness change when the vibe is like that?
SHECKLER: It’s the same level of competition. There is nothing about it that is different. It still feels gnarly every time I go out there.
RIS: Street skating has changed so much since the eighties, and seems to be evolving so much faster today. What big changes have you witnessed over the passed ten years?
SHECKLER: It’s nuts! Go to any skatepark in California. The skaters are shredding. All the gnarliest tricks are going down everyday in every park. It’s so awesome for me to see how massive skateboarding is now because the kids are taking it so serious. It’s so rad because at the end of the day, we end up with a bigger skateboard community and family of people that rip. When I was a kid we had to go buy skate videos at some skate shop or go to a buddy’s house to watch it. Now all the best skateboarding on the planet can be seen every day in every home on the Internet. Kids are watching the videos and then going right out in their front yard and learning the tricks on flat ground. It’s so sick the way it’s evolving.
RIS: If you were fourteen years old right now, what would you do to become a professional skateboarder with how things are today?
SHECKLER: If I had the bug, like I did when I started, I would watch every skate video, buy every skate magazine and be involved in skateboarding. I would just go for the gnarliest stuff and just go big.
RIS: How old were you when you started skating?
SHECKLER: I was four. That’s really all I’ve ever known. I got the bug to skate and I still have it.
RIS: Who is your skate hero and what kind of impact has he represented in your life?
SHECKLER: Danny Way. He’s the man. Danny has that non-stop will to survive. And he’s competitive all the time, every day, in everything that he does. As soon as he sees the green light, it’s go time. And he has to keep going until he finishes his job. He’s a guy who gets up from a broken ankle, goes back to the top of the MegaRamp, skates down it and wins. It’s things like that I reflect on when I wake up and feel like I can’t physically skate. I think of Danny Way and then tell myself, “You know what? I can skate today.” It’s powerful. I’ve gone on a bunch of trips with Danny and roomed with him. He’s got so much knowledge and is such a rad, rad dude.
RIS: Wow. It’s like you have a little Danny Way guardian angel on your shoulder at critical times in your life, telling you to go for it.
SHECKLER: Exactly. He’s been through all of it, seen everything, and he’s still killing it in many ways of life. He’s my hero for sure.
RIS: Tell me about the “I HATE SHECKLER” advertisements.
SHECKLER: I have the only screen print of that hanging up in my house. That came about when I felt like kids on the Internet were bombarding me. I didn’t care, but Oakley wanted to do this campaign. Someone in one of the meetings said, “I hate Sheckler,” and I thought it was perfect. We could go make shirts like that and screen print them and act like we’re selling them. It would be really funny to see what people would say.
RIS: Well it comes off like the haters are buying these shirts and you get the last laugh because they’re actually buying them from you!
SHECKLER: We were going to take it to that level and sell the shirts and donate all the money to a charity. But I got to thinking what it would be like to see all these “I HATE SHECKLER” shirts around and I decided against it. But my brother wears it every now and then.
RIS: Tell me about the controversy surrounding you skating the El Toro 20-stair.
SHECKLER: Nope. I’m going to let everyone think what they want to think. And when they see my video drop they’ll see what it’s all about.
RIS: How much time to you spend fighting off all the girls that want to be the future Mrs. Ryan Sheckler?
SHECKLER: Not much time at all. I don’t put up with it. Some of them are cool to hang out with. But I’m so focused on skateboarding and finishing my video part now that I haven’t really been trying to find a chick. My mind is completely absorbed with landing tricks and making this video the best I can make it.
RIS: Who is the hottest chick on the plant right now?
SHECKLER: I have no idea.
RIS: If you woke up tomorrow morning and you were Kim Kardashian instead of Ryan Sheckler, could you still kickflip the Costco gap?
SHECKLER: Hahaha! I don’t know man that would be insane. I can’t even really wrap my head around that.
RIS: When can we expect to see your full-length video?
SHECKLER: I’m shooting for December. I want to get it done and let people see it.
RIS: Thanks so much Ryan. We are super-hyped and grateful to share your words with our readers. Best wishes buddy.
SHECKLER: Awesome man. Perfect. Thanks for giving me the opportunity. I really appreciate it. Enjoy the day!