Imagine if your entire life since you were 10 years old had unfolded in the public eye. Imagine if every embarrassing preteen phase you went through, every awkward teenage boast or claim and every terrible fashion choice was recorded in print or on video for any and all to see for all eternity. You get where I’m going with this. Ryan Sheckler has lived it. We have all watched him grow from the tiny little park rat with the helmet, the Most Vertical Primate, and the Flameboy setup to the bright-eyed bushy-tailed teenager with a cringe-worthy show on MTV and a Proactiv sponsor. And from there, we watched him mature into a tattooed twentysomething skate rat with the ability to catch Cab flips off the side of a small house. Through it all, Ryan will be the first to admit, he has made some mistakes. But he has also undeniably done a ton of things right. When I last interviewed him back in ’08, he was one of the most polarizing figures in the pro ranks, with hardly a question passing without mention of his show, random Internet hate (Double Pits to Chesty?), or rumor of other pros questioning his approach to skateboarding. Six years on, he has kept his head down, left MTV to the tween textaphiles, and simply skated his way past all the drama. When we last spoke in 2008, he had also just begun filming for what was then to be the imminently released Plan B video. More than half a decade later, El Toro or no El Toro—that video will finally have premiered worldwide by the time you read this. Welcome to the Ryan Sheckler Pro Spotlight.-Mackenzie Eisenhour
Photos by Mike O’Meally Oliver Barton
I heard you were in Japan and then flew on to Australia. Plus you were injured.
Yeah. Dude, it’s just been one of those things. I kind of expect to have some sort of little injury each year maybe. If you’re skateboarding, that shit happens. It can happen at any point. But the fact that it happened three or four days before a full-blown 11-day skate trip was such a nightmare. I figure I would just go and be the cheerleader—hype the dudes up if I can. I was just there for team support really. But it was still really fun. That was my first time to Japan. But flying from Japan to Australia for three days and flying home was definitely gnarly. My foot swelled up so crazy.
Oh yeah. On the plane that’s the worst.
Yeah. And it’s in a cast. So I had all sorts of anxiety on the plane just trying to rip it off. I really had to just calm down. It swelled up like crazy though inside the cast.
Last time I interviewed you was in 2008 and you had just started filming for this Plan B video. Is this the longest anybody has ever worked on a part?
Yeah, maybe. The crazy thing about filming for this long is that it hasn’t really been that long at the end of the day. It was just the fact that, as Plan B as a whole, we wanted to do a video obviously, so it was like, “All right, let’s make a video.” But then we lost dudes like [Brian] Wenning and [Jereme] Rogers, and [Ryan] Gallant, and then even Paul [Rodriguez]. Everyone was trying to film parts, and there were certain moments in time where it seemed like everyone was motivated and then it would turn into like, “Oh shit, I need footage for this, or I need footage for that.” It turned into me giving away like two minutes of footage for an etnies thing, or a minute of footage to something else. That happened a lot over that period of time. And at the end of the day I’ve only been really officially filming now for a year and a half or two years. We probably shouldn’t have said that we were going to put a video out that many times, but it’s skateboarding. Shit happens.
Plan B probably has such a high standard for a full-length video, too I would think. The old ones they put out were such game changers—it must be hard to measure up to.
Yeah. It’s been a trip. But everyone now that is actually a part of the video is working super hard. The parts right now are basically done. I was just up in LA all last week at my buddy’s house looking at it, and the video’s basically done.
“We probably shouldn’t have said that we were going to put a video out that many times, but it’s skateboarding. Shit happens.”
It must feel good to know you might be able to finally check this off the list.
Oh, man. It’s like the biggest weight off of my shoulders. And it’s so cool because I want to say by the end of next week my ankle’s going to be almost 100 percent. And there are still a couple more things that I want to get.
I know the big rumored one—not sure if you want to talk about it or not—but I know the El Toro backside flip still gets brought up.
[laughs] Yeah. I mean, it gets brought up a bunch. I’ve had a few tries at it and gone for it. It’s one of those things that’s like, “We’ll see.” I’ve got two weeks left, so we’ll see what happens.
You’re still dedicated to it? I think by the time people read this they’ll have seen the video. But that’s rad that you’re still going to go for it.
It’s one of those tricks that is just like… it’s fucking kicking my ass.
How many times have you gone there?
I’ve gone and tried it twice. I landed on it and exploded, ripped my asshole open, bent my truck—fucked that shit up. But it’s more of a mental battle for me. It will be done. One hundred percent sure—it will be done. I gotta just do it.
Is it almost like a burden at this point? You kind of claimed it. Or is it just a personal goal to conquer it?
It’s more personal. I don’t really care if… I’m not doing it for anybody else. It’s for myself. I’ve tried it. I’ve gotten defeated on it and I just want to tackle it. I know I can do it, though. That’s the thing.
Have you done other tricks on it—back 180 or kickflip?
No. I didn’t even ollie it. I just went straight for it.
That’s gnarly. It’s so high, right? It looks super big.
It’s big, dude. Yeah. It’s big.
Well, good luck. I hope it’s a done deal when people read this.
Me, too [laughs]. But if not, it’s still going to happen—whether for this part or not.
That 2008 interview was also the one where you talked about “shutting up the haters.”
[Laughs] I’ve come to realize you can’t make everyone happy.
At the time it seemed like you were viewed as the poster child for the mainstream/corporate-backed side of it, where as over the past six years you have been more of just a skate rat. Did you consciously shift directions after the Life Of Ryan [’07–’08] show?
I kind of get the same feeling. I don’t know. I’m born and raised a skateboarder. I’ve been skateboarding since I was two. I know nothing else besides skateboarding. It’s easier now to talk about the MTV show because it was a period in my life where I was a teenager, you know? I was a young, happy, dumb teenager that was traveling the world and living one of the coolest lives I can think of. It was easier for me then to pop off and say whatever and not really take a step back and look at what was really going down. I just attribute it to being young and learning.
“I didn’t feel like there was any other brand I wanted to ride for. There was this pit in my stomach. There was no way.”
It did seem like you kind of got the cool card at one point—whether from Phelps or whoever else. It seemed like people finally gave you a pass.
I get what you’re saying. I don’t know. I just turned away from the MTV show and I got back to just being in the skate world. I got to just skate every day, skate and put out footage. I think that helped.
I thought it was interesting, too, with how much the skate-shoe industry has shifted since ’08—you riding for etnies at this point, one of the last real skater-owned/run shoe companies that is able to compete with the big sports brands—it almost puts you on an underdog level now.
Absolutely. I’m super loyal; I’m loyal to all of my sponsors. I’ve been on etnies for almost 17 years now.
I can imagine you have gotten offers from some of the bigger shoe companies.
There was a little period not too long ago where we had decided to just sort of look at the offers that were out there. Nothing was going to happen, but we just wanted to see what was out there. We looked, and to be honest nothing else fit. I didn’t feel like there was any other brand I wanted to ride for. There was this pit in my stomach. There was no way. I love etnies. It’s my family and I’ll be there for life.
Are you down for the skater-owned deal? Do you think there’s a difference at all?
Yeah. I do. You can see it in the way that the company is run. I live in San Clemente [California], so it’s super easy for me to pop down to Lake Forest and see Pierre [Andre] and see Don [Brown] and see my team manager, Jameson, and go into the design room and see what new shoes are coming in, switch up some lines, or create a new sole. It’s so mellow, you just walk in and we’ve all known each other for like 16 years. We all have each other’s backs, and we just work so well together. We all skate. For me to jump into some new program with people that don’t skate or that I don’t know would be completely different.
I also thought it was cool that you got back on Volcom after losing them as a sponsor a few years back. That one, too, almost seemed symbolic of your journey. I heard it was sort of a big deal to you when you got cut from that team in the midst of that MTV stuff.
Yeah. That was brutal. We had some differences I guess on what was going on. Looking back, I guess it was for the better. We took a little hiatus. It was brutal, though, because all of the sudden I had the freedom to wear anything I wanted, but I didn’t want to wear anything but Volcom. So I was going to the store and buying Volcom clothes the whole time. But getting back on felt like coming back home.
Did they just call you up one day, like, “You’re back on?”
We had been talking for probably a year and a half. I talked to Remy [Stratton] and he mentioned some things. I told him I would just love to be back on, and after a while it just worked out.
In the last interview you also had the quote about “Crushing El Toro and Wallenberg.” I had asked about it and you said something like, “We already did.”
[Laughs] Such a cocky little kid, dude. Man, I was still a teenager I guess.
I have to ask, too, how was it seeing Paul Rodriguez leave Plan B last year?
It was crazy. Not in a bad way. Not in a great way either. We had traveled so much together with Plan B. We basically grew up together. I’m still the biggest P-Rod fan. I would take a bullet for him. He is the man and I love the dude. But he decided to try a different business venture and I can’t really take anything away from that. It’s his life and he wanted to do something different, he’s doing it, and God bless him—he’s killing it. Primitive is killing it and I’m so psyched for him. But of course, if you talk to me about not having him on Plan B… man, P-Rod was a lot of Plan B.
Was like the team losing Jordan or something?
I mean, kind of. It kind of felt like we lost our Jordan at the time. But he’s still the homie for sure.
“But it’s more of a mental battle for me. It will be done. One hundred percent sure—it will be done. I gotta just do it.”
What’s your take on the people leaving to start their own individual brands? P-Rod did it. Cole just did it.
I think a lot of dudes are kind of over all of the bullshit and just want to try something original. I think the people that started all of the big companies now all did the same thing for themselves when they had reached that point. But I think somebody like Chris is looking at it like, “You know what? I’m Chris Cole, I can do my own board company. I have this core group of followers and people are going to support me.” I think it’s awesome. It’s a really tough and difficult step to commit to something like that, but that’s how brands are born and that’s how they get built. It’s incredible to me. I love watching my homies succeed.
Is there still something to be said for being on a team, though, versus having like one dude/one brand?
Yeah, for sure. I still think there is. That’s why I’ll never leave Plan B. I love Plan B. I won’t go anywhere ever. I love that team aspect. Everybody on Plan B is family. We are family. From Felipe [Gustavo] down to the new young’un, Chris Joslin, who is about to just shut the world down.
That’s what I’ve been hearing. I keep hearing these gnarly tricks he’s got.
Oh my god. Whatever you heard, times it by 10. That kid is psycho—he’s crazy.
I feel like with Paul leaving, too, it’s almost a window of opportunity for Felipe to fill that spot.
Hell, yeah. Everything happens for a reason and it all works out. There’s no point on dwelling on anything like, “Why did this happen?” I think it’s absolutely an opportunity for Felipe. He’s got the same approach as Paul. I mean, some of his ledge tricks, I don’t even know the names for.
It’s kind of rad, there have been a ton of cruisier, raw street type parts and videos lately. It’s almost rad to have this Plan B video now with just full-on NBD shit.
Yeah, and I don’t even want to talk about Torey [Pudwill]. But Torey is a on a fucking mission. It’s gonna be nuts. The premiere is going to be so fun. Just all that weight is going to be off of our shoulders. We can let it all play out and then just go and start an entirely new project.
I did hear some rumors that PJ Ladd might not have too much stuff. Have you seen any of his stuff?
Honestly, I’m not too sure. I know that he has been filming. I know he has some stuff. I haven’t seen PJ in a while, not because of anything—he’s been on his mission and I’ve been on mine. I’m not sure, but we’ll just have to wait and see.
What do you think of Fucking Awesome? You and Jason Dill were teammates on etnies for a minute.
I think the name is incredible. It’s very bold. I got to hang out with Dill a couple of times on some trips and he was always tight.
Do you have a favorite out of the new independent board brands?
What’s that one? Is it Tired? Tired is tight, dude! I love their ads. That shit is so funny. I back that. Tired is probably my favorite right now.
After this part comes out, what kind of goals do you have? Is this a blank slate?
I would like to think it is. Start off the New Year get the contest season cracking again. Film a Sheckler’s Sessions and be in the streets. I look at it as not stressful skating. Like I can actually go out and film without having like, “Okay, I have this list of tricks that I need to get and I have this long.” I just want to go out on the streets and let loose.
All time favorite video?
Welcome To Hell [’96]. Jamie [Thomas] dude.
All time favorite part?
I’m a weirdo and I actually like watching bails. I feel like it just shows the effort and dedication. It tugs at my heart. Not the dude bailing but just that crazy mindset of like just not giving up. So I’ll say my favorite part is the Welcome To Hell slam section. I love how the flowers bloom and then it just goes into death slams. It’s probably the best slam section ever put out.
That’s funny. Nobody really does it anymore.
I think they need to bring back the slam section.
All time favorite skater?
Chris Cole. Always has been, always will be.
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