Joe Brook By Joe Brook and éS Footwear
Words: Robert Brink SBC, Fall 2011
To celebrate the release of the éS / Joe Brook Square 2 colorway, a new photo book, showcasing the many years of éS and Brook’s friendship and work together, has been pressed.
There’s not a lot to say that Mark Whiteley didn’t handle in his introduction to the book, however, something needs to coax you to actually go get it so you can read that Whiteley intro, so here it goes:
Limited in quantity, but certainly worth the quest to acquire, “Joe Brook” is a collection of photos that, almost more than any other collection of skateboarding photos to date, accurately represents life on the road as part of a skateboard trip and life on the streets as a skateboarder—raw, unpolished, grimy, frustrating, beautiful, scary, bewildering, liberating and fun.
If you’ve been there, then you know. One look at any of these photos brings you right back. Whether it’s a dead bird similar to one you’ve ollied over while cursing the streets, or the random pedestrians who ask to try your board or inquire about how high you can ollie.
It could be a sideline view of a trick about to be landed, the collaborative tour van stench of cigarettes, beer, weed, musty carpet, street grime, sweat, dudes and body odor or the over-it-ness of your homie who’s sitting on the ground having a smoke next to his focused board after he didn’t get his trick. Regardless of the visual, Brook’s images effortlessly and unpretentiously capture the essence of it all.
Color, black and white. Portraits, action. Nature, city. Bangers, dorkin’. Life, death. Rain, shine. War, peace. Shoes, Joe Brook, skateboarding. Yeah, that’s what this book is all about—skateboarding.
Words: Robert Brink Thrasher, September 2011
Trevor Colden has been in your face lately. It’s his time to be. He’s 17, really good at skateboarding and under the wings of Jamie Thomas, Chris Cole and Heath Kirchart. You can try to deny him or make fun of his beanie or whatever you want. But the reality is, when dudes like those three step up and back a kid you never heard of, it’s inevitable—we, collectively, have been offered the opportunity to witness a next-generation ripper and his skateboarding come to fruition.
So how's the response been to your Emerica welcome clip?
Dude, people seem so psyched on it. I was super blown away. I didn't even know I was coming out with it until a few days before. I texted Miner asking if he needed footage because I’m filming for a legit Emerica part and he told me that my welcome thing was coming out and I was like, “Whaaaaat?”
How soon after did the shit talking follow?
I saw a couple comments on Hella Clips, but I don't give a shit. Sometimes it gets super harsh, but it definitely wasn't as much as I thought it would be. The only one I really heard about was after my Mystery part … that I'm a “Tom Asta clone.”
Because you wear a beanie and have long hair …
I guess. And the other one was, “The kid showers with his beanie on.”
Well that’s funny. It’s your lucky beanie, huh?
Dude, it WAS my lucky beanie. I lost it in Philly. I’m gonna get another one.
Can it still be a lucky beanie if it’s a new one of the same kind?
I hope so. I'm gonna wear it regardless.
How long did that triple set hardflip take?
The one where I eat shit in the video was the first time I went there. I got like six tries before we got kicked out.
So me and Mike Gilbert, the Black Box filmer, kept going every weekend after that and kept getting kicked out before we even got out of the car. I was kinda over it at that point but we went back a month later with Rhino and a couple other guys and it took me four tries. I was super excited.
What is it like having the entire Emerica team waiting for you to land a nollie crooks?
Oh man, I was nervous as hell. I thought I wasn't even gonna make it because there’s this huge crack and you need to pop like six inches earlier than normal and everyone’s just down there looking at you. I was like, “Damn, I better land this.”
Did you finish high school?
Nah. My family moved around a lot and it just got really complicated. I tried getting home schooled in eight grade but that didn't work out so I just started skating a shit ton and thank the lord it worked out.
Give me a quick timeline as to how you got to where you are now with your sponsors and living at Black Box.
My first legit sponsor was DC flow from a rep in Virginia Beach. Then I started getting Toy Machine boards from Mike Sinclair. At the time, the economy was super bad and they could only send me like, a board a month.
I met this Powell guy at a contest I won and he sent me a box with five boards in it. I was freaking out because I never got five boards in a box before. So I told Sinclair I was gonna ride for Powell and thanked him for everything. I went to California like a month later and stayed in Huntington Beach for a week. On the last day I was just like, “Dude, I’ve got nothing going for me back in Virginia, I’m staying here.”
The Powell TM was down so I called my mom. She wasn’t happy, but she understood where I was coming from. Maybe eight months later I sent my footage to Black Box and they were down to put me on Mystery, give me a place to live in San Diego and help me out with a little bit of money, so that’s how I started living at Black Box.
Is that when you began filming your Color Theory part?
Yea. Like a month after I got on. I was on Altamont flow and would always go up to Sole Tech. I started skating with Marquis Preston a bit and we talked about it and I sent in my footage. I got on Emerica flow in September—right after they finished Stay Gold.
Marquis told me your nickname is Carlos.
[Laughs] Those dudes call me that. They would always fuck with me because they thought I was Mexican. It used to piss me off, so of course they kept doing it. I was like, “Fuck you guys. I'm Hawaiian, Indian and white!”
Do you know you got on Emerica faster than anyone?
Dude, they told me that. I was so blown away—like in shock. My head was exploding. I remember they were telling me how Collin Provost was on the flow team for like four years. And I was like, “What the fuck, dude? He’s so good, so how the hell did I get on so quick?”
You wanna tell us the Cheesecake Factory story?
Oh my God. Yea, it was such a surprise.
So we went to the Cheesecake Factory after a long-ass day of skating in Denver for the Thrasher Skatepark Roundup. We all just got done eating and I was just chilling at the table and I see this guy bringing out this huge, awesome cheesecake with onion rings on the side. It looked like a birthday cake, so I just thought it was someone’s birthday. But the dude kept looking at me and I was just like, “What’s up man? That’s not mine. I think it’s probably for a dude at the other end of the table.”
And he just kept looking at me and sat it down in front of me. It said, “Welcome to the Emerica team Trevor Colden.” And I just … dude, I couldn't even talk for like ten minutes. Everyone was just clapping and stuff.
Dude, it was fucking awesome.
What was up with the onion rings?
Because I eat onion rings and fries all day. Like, wherever I go.
But you’re a vegetarian, right?
I used to eat fast food all the time and get these bad stomach pains. I got to the point where I just stopped eating meat and I felt better and liked it that way.
I thought it was a ploy to kiss up to Ed Templeton and get on the team.
And what’s with you and the chips?
I eat chips at every single gas station we go to. I try to eat as many chips as I possibly can.
But not candy?
I don't really eat that much sweet stuff. I eat chips mostly.
I’d say chips are more like a meal than candy is. Heath is managing your finances, huh?
Yeah, he's like a dad to me. I have my own bank account, but its under his name so if I overdraft I go straight into his account.
Watch out, he can cut you off!
Yeah, he probably could. He's the best dude ever. One time my debit card just kept fucking up and getting declined. I was going from state to state on a trip and at this one gas station they took my credit card and cut it up. I freaked out and called Heath, like, “Dude, I am so sorry. I think I just overdrafted. I don't know what the fuck happened.”
He was like, “Don't even worry about it. It’s your money,” and sorted everything out. I still had money in my account. I was just hitting too many gas stations and they thought it was fraud.
He told me all your charges are for chips at gas stations and never exceed $10.
Yeah, I never get a real meal.
What’s you're ideal gas station meal?
Two bags of spicy nacho Doritos and two Gatorades. Then I’m good for about an hour and I do it all over again.
You don't even get those pre-made cheese sandwiches or anything?
Nah those things are like five bucks!
When I was like 13, out skating all day and night, this one 7-11 by my house had two hot dogs, chips and a large drink for two bucks.
Dude holy shit!
I was killing it.
Best deal ever!
So how’s Heath as a second dad?
Dude, he's the best, I swear to God. I used to hear rumors that he was super strict, but he's the nicest dude I’ve ever met. I love going on trips with him because whenever we do a demo he's skating and fucking killing it.
Earlier you mentioned a new Emerica part …
A couple of the guys are filming full parts and Miner wants me to film one as well. I have a whole bunch of extra footage that didn't get used in my Mystery part and I'm gonna hit LA as much as possible so we can get it done.
Dude, I heard you re-grip your boards.
[Laughs] Yeah I used to re-grip my board every two sessions or so because I felt like there wasn't enough grip on it.
Once you ruin it in your head like that, you’re done.
If you think about it wrong, it’s just done. You gotta switch it.
Do you have a girl?
Should we also put out an announcement to get you a lady?
Nah. I don't want a girlfriend, but I definitely need to start hooking up with girls.
Don't worry, a couple more demos and it’ll happen.
So one day you’re a regular kid in Virginia and suddenly you’re living in Cali at Black Box next to a TF, on all these sick teams and making some loot from skateboarding …
It all just seriously came out of nowhere. It really did. I’m just so thankful and super excited.
Allen Ying is a Brooklyn-based skateboarder and photographer who discovered skateboarding at age 11. At 15, he borrowed a friend’s camera to take some pictures …
“At the time I was looking at skate mags a lot and was really impressed with the quality of the photos in them,” Ying says. “This was probably ’98 or ’99, when Philly was in TransWorld all the time. Seeing that stuff in the magazines kind of sold me on the idea of shooting skate photos.”
Shortly after came a leg fracture. With his newfound free time, Allen’s began shooting more. Then, at age 18, came the move to Manhattan to attend F.I.T. for a degree in photography.
Fast-forward to July of 2011. The entire skate community was introduced to the concept of Allen’s new baby, 43 magazine. And for the next month, we watched and donated in suspense as he, with the help of Kickstarter.com, attempted to raise a minimum of $20,000 to get the mag up and running.
305 backers and $23,583 later, on August 29, 2011—the mission was accomplished.
First off, congratulations on getting 43 funded.
Had you tried traditional funding for 43 before Kickstarter?
Yeah. I pursued all the advertisers. I spent a month in California visiting all the companies. I never knew this, but people plan their entire year’s budgets two months before the year even starts. It’s crazy. So I was coming in March trying to do something for mid-year and their entire budgets for the rest of the year had already been planned.
We got a couple advertisers in there but it wasn’t enough to put out an issue. I almost gave up, then decided to give Kickstarter a chance. That was a mission in itself, but it all worked out.
Before something like Kickstarter, if you wanted to start a business, you’d have to take out a big loan or find an investor, which, for one thing, who do you start asking? And the other thing is, what are they gonna want out of it?
Kickstarter lets you keep your vision and do it the way you want to. You don’t have to return the money, you just have to pay a percentage to them when you get funded and offer a reward or incentive for anyone donating.
Going into it, did you think you’d get the $20,000? It’s all or nothing funding, right?
Yes. If you don’t reach $20,000, you get nothing. I kept going back and forth in my mind. Some days I’d be like, “I don’t even know if this’ll work.” And other days, “No, this will work. People are gonna be psyched.”
People donated pretty generously it seems.
I’m pretty sure the majority put in $25 to have the first issue mailed to them. I think that’s pretty rad. it’s not just pre-ordering, it’s a donation with a pre-order. There were some prints were for sale as well so those got bigger donations.
So why a print magazine right now? Seems a bit risky.
I think it’s probably more important now than when there were too many magazines. Not to talk shit and not just referring to skateboarding, but there are so many magazines that are just terrible—they just shouldn’t even be around. And everyone looks at them anyway. But the ones that should be around should be a little more worth your while—worth keeping and having something decent to look at.
As far as I’ve seen, skateboard magazines play a huge role in the culture. It’s changing so much and a lot of the real essence that makes it awesome is kind of slipping away, skateboarding is so amazing, so to me, skateboarding deserves something better.
I think 43 is special. The minute you look at it and hold it you realize it’s more than just a monthly skate mag with the hot rider on the cover, the tour article, whatever dude with an interview inside because he’s promoting whatever video he’s in or just turned pro.
Yeah, that was just the media kit. A little 28-page thing we sent out with the photos we had available at the time. I really love those photos. There were only 200 of those media kits printed. About 100 were mailed out and the rest I gave to people that I need to show 43 to. Hopefully the copies that I sent out have an impact.
Reading the skate forums and stuff, it seems so many kids don’t even get magazines these days. Someone will scan a cover or interview and post it and kids will be like, “Oh sick, maybe I’ll go and buy that issue!”
Pondering buying an issue of a skate mag, versus having a subscription or definitely buying it, to me, is crazy. In my world you were supposed to have a subscription to every skateboard mag or somehow get it at the shop every month. Seeing this change was when I really began accepting the decline of print.
Yeah, it’s definitely sad. That’s a big part of why 43 is a free magazine. It’ll be there at the shop and you’ll see it and hopefully get a copy.
Mike Anderson’s recent interview in TransWorld was talking about how kids don’t have that experience of going to the shop and getting the local history from the older dudes and stuff anymore. It’s sad. And maybe that’s part of the problem.
I noticed a lot of skate footage in the Kickstarter clip. Is there going to be a digital component to 43?
My plan is to just focus on the print element and the gallery shows. So instead of a digital component, there’s an in-person component.
There’s definitely gonna be a website to let people know what’s going on, but it won’t be like a skate magazine’s website where they post about other stuff all over the Internet. It’s the kind of thing that I’m not just gonna force myself to do because that’s what other people are doing. I hate going to a site and seeing 20 things to flip through since the last time I was there. It’s like, “I’m not coming back here because I can’t keep up!”
You have on “old soul” mentality. You use film instead of digital; you started a print mag in 2011 …
[Laughs] Maybe. Obviously I use a computer for many things. A lot of things I see happening don’t really make sense, but everybody’s into it because it’s the new hot thing. But if you stop to look at it you’re like, “Wait a minute … this kind of sucks.”
To me, being on a computer all the time sucks. Computers are supposed to make everyone’s lives easier, but now most people are sitting in front of a computer all day in an office. In terms of life, that seems like a terrible way to exist.
Even in making this magazine—I’m not out shooting photos all the time like I used to be and it kind of sucks. Staring at a computer screen isn’t that dope.
Who inspires you in skateboarding photography?
Back in the day, Ryan Gee and Atiba really stood out to me. Probably because I only had access to TransWorld and they were covering so much of Philly. All that medium format film in those days—the 35mm and the square fisheye. I don’t know if I knew at the time that that’s what made it look so sick, but that’s what I think back to now. Like Wenning’s switch back 180 cover.
Does your affinity for that sort of thing lend itself to the very square nature of 43?
Yeah, that’s kind of a factor. I’m really into Mike O’Meally, Dave Chami, and Brian Gaberman. I miss when those guys were shooting film. But they’re doing a decent job with digital. It’s a new thing to get used to and I think it’s actually harder to have digital look as magical as film. Film is what made a lot of those photographers special for me.
Oliver Barton, John Bradford and Zander Taketomo are holding it down with medium format film. That extra thought process really helps a lot of photographers’ work and gives it a more magical feel and does the skateboarding more justice.
So is it harder to have your work stand out with digital than it is with film?
Probably. I don’t know. I try to not shoot digital anymore. I think it’s just a different thing; it’s learning it differently. I’m really impressed with all the European skate photographers. Generally speaking, I feel like European photos and magazines kind of make a lot of the American skate photographers look embarrassing. I look at their stuff and I suddenly don’t even like my stuff anymore, [laughs]. That’s why I hit them up to be part of 43.
There’s a strong eco-focus to how 43 is produced, correct?
It’s been this personal venture of mine—paying attention to things and making little life changes here and there to help the environment. So I was like, “Fuck, am I really gonna produce and pay for and redirect money towards this many thousands of pounds of paper?”
To me it’s kind of obvious to be conscious about and it’s another thing that hopefully shows that thought was put into 43. I’m pretty sure most of the people working at other magazines don’t really have the option to make those changes. They’d probably have to battle with some bureaucracy to do it. And there’s a certain amount of research that it took to figure out a lot of this stuff.
When can we expect issue #1?
I’m aiming for mid-October.
How do we get a copy? The local skate shop?
Yeah. It’s bi-monthly and going to about 500 shops across the U.S. and anybody who can’t find it can always write in and ask for a copy.
So you got this initial $20,000 to start 43, but what about maintaining down the line without another huge lump sum?
I don’t expect it not to be a challenge at this point. Everything worthwhile seems to be a challenge. But yeah, the $20,000 is to print a limited edition run of the first issue. I would have loved to do a lot more copies and everything but I think the $20,000 might be just enough to kick start the whole thing for the rest of the year or longer.
It’s funny you mentioned the “media risk” before, because in the art and fashion and photography worlds, I keep seeing new publications that are a lot more refined and people are super into it. And it’s sick. It’s not like you’re looking at W magazine or something full of ads. There are way thicker mags that seem fairly independent and people are paying $20 a copy for them, which is ridiculous. So I don’t know what part is a risk. It’s not like I’m the only one making an indie magazine in the world.
I’m referring to the shift from print to digital content. I think the gut reaction to seeing someone start a print mag right now is like, “Whoa! That’s sketchy.” We all have a special place in our hearts for print mags and we all want them to stick around, but there’s a reality to it as well and much of the industry is struggling.
That’s another reason 43 has to be extra good. To me, when somebody does something to please an audience or do what the audience wants … that’s a backwards approach to doing something. I think it makes a lot more sense to do what you believe in and what you can influence people with as opposed to just giving people what they want.
What are you up to, Ricky?
I’m at Starbucks. Just got some tea.
What kind of tea?
Orange chai something? I don’t know. I forgot.
I don’t drink coffee, only tea. So now I instantly like you.
I just wanted to come over here and get on the Internet because I don’t have it at my house.
Speaking of the Internet, your Facebook page lists your occupation as “private investor … ”
My homey’s trying to make some t-shirts and wheels and stuff so I’m gonna help him. It’s called “Take That.”
I saw the video part you did for them—pretty sick. So you loaned him some money?
You're a good friend. I noticed you’re way more popular on Facebook than Twitter.
I think I like Facebook more. I communicate more on Facebook. I don’t really communicate that much on Twitter.
Twitter is annoying.
Yeah. I’m about to delete my account.
What about all 500 of your followers? They might suffer without you.
They’ll have to follow somebody else.
You lived in a house that got foreclosed?
Yeah. It was a big skate house in downtown Long Beach. I guess our landlord wasn’t paying the mortgage. He didn’t even tell us about any of that. Then one of the housing people came by and was like, “Yeah, your landlord hasn’t been paying the mortgage so this house is about to be sold to the bank.”
And we were just like, “Damn.”
We got three months free rent until we had to be out, though. It was tight! But I miss it. It was cool with just a bunch of homies living there. Now I’m living with my parents at the moment.
I just saw the Will.i.am video you’re in.
I liked when Will is a black sperm.
Yeah and he comes out as a baby.
It was a cool video concept. I already knew they were gonna put his face over mine but I didn’t know it was gonna look like that. But I don’t know about that song. It’s crazy.
Then you slam doing a fakie manual on flat.
Oh yeah, I was falling on purpose. It came out sick though.
I heard you’re really into Auto-Tune music.
I’m not even sure what Auto-Tune is.
It’s the crappy robot voice in all the rap and dance songs nowadays.
Oh really? I didn’t even know that, but I’m not really into it.
How’d you get the nickname "Pretty Ricky?"
I have no clue. I think Paul Sharpe gave me that name. I was out at Phoenix Am in ‘08 and they suddenly announced me as “Pretty Ricky” before my runs. Once that happened they just started calling me “Pretty Ricky” all the time. It just stuck. I hate that name and they know it.
It’s usually never good when you get a nickname.
Yeah, I don’t like nicknames.
If you had to give yourself a nickname, what would it be?
Probably just Rick.
Can you tell the readers how to ball out on a budget?
Ball on a budget? Okay … first, if you don’t got an EBT card, go down to the county office, get one of those and stack up on some groceries. Make your own food and save you some money, rather than going out for fast food.
Also, just try to come up on beer from the homies. Get fucked up before you go out for sure.
Pre-gaming is cheaper.
Way cheaper. A lot of people can’t afford $15 drinks at the bar. I suggest you buy your own shit at the store.
You know how people get drunk and open up a bit? Like, I’m super scared to be on a dance floor at a club, but when I get hammered I start dancing and I look horrible.
I get more talkative with girls. I’m not shy or nothing, but once I have some drinks, I feel like I got more game with the ladies. I feel more smooth with it. I know a lot of people get more amped, but I just get more calm I think.
Why do you always go for white girls?
I’m not trying to just go for white girls, but I’m down for ‘em. I just think they’re more fun. I’m down for whatever. As long as they look good and are cool.
Jart is your first official board sponsor, right? You were a flow guy for a while before that?
Yeah, I was on Almost flow for about three years and nothing was really happening with that, so Jart was a good opportunity for me.
What’s it like nowadays being an am and trying to fully make a job out of skateboarding?
It’s really hard. I think it’s mostly about connects—the people you’re involved with. You need the skills too, but I think it’s just more about who you know. Just like with anything—like trying to get a good job or trying to make it in music, anything—you just gotta have that connect.
I just try to stay more focused on the skating rather than being in people’s faces too much. Sometimes I wanna just call my friends and skate. But when you start getting a little money, you gotta make sure you’re producing as much footage and photos as you can.
Photo by Big Rob
Did you know you have to go redo your switch flip at Hollywood High now that we saw how many times Andrew Reynolds landed his varial heel to avoid the gate?
[Laughs] I don’t know, man. I think I should probably just take it as is. I got beat up pretty bad before I landed it. That ground hurts. It’s really rough.
After the third try my heels really started hurting. They were taking a beating.
I actually got it pretty quick—like seven or eight tries. When I finally landed it, I was like, “Fuck this. I’m taking this one.” It was just a relief. I’ve thought about a few times, too, like, “I wish I didn’t run into the gate,” but the other tries took a lot out of me.
Was it more of a scary thing or just more difficult?
You know, my friend Derrick Wilson was skating it with me. He got the nollie heel that day. So it was cool to have somebody skate it with me. You’re just more amped, like, “Yeah, let’s get this shit!”
It was less worrying and being scared and more just cool to have a friend to skate it with me.
Your friend Dave Ashley told me you’re into the Boyz II Men look. Like fake glasses and cardigans?
Boyz II Men? Wow. That boy’s crazy. I’ve worn a cardigan before but never fake glasses. I’m about to bust someone up when I get over to The Armory. Talking hella shit.
He probably said that to me just to mess with you. Actually, a couple people told me your style reminds them of Jovontae Turner.
I’ve actually heard that before. I seen his part in Mouse. He’s dope.
You should look up his part in Love Child. Love Child?
Yes. It’s an old World Industries video. His part is incredible.
I don’t think I’ve seen that. I’m gonna have to check it out. Is it on YouTube?
Yeah. He has a mean big flip in Questionable too.
Does he still skate?
I think he’s into fixies. I don’t know much about him, other than that I wish he didn’t retire from skateboarding.
Yeah, I wish everybody would just keep skating.
What else are you working on these days?
Trying to collect some HD footage because Bones is coming out with an am video.
Oh sick. You love the word “swag,” huh?
Oh yeah. Me and my homies always fuck around with it. We’ll be like, “swag, swag, swag” all the time. We just say “swag” to everything, but we don’t really say it seriously.
It’s funny how many people actually do say “swag” in a serious manner. If you look on Twitter or Facebook, everything’s swagged the fuck out.
I know. I just think it’s funny because everybody says it. If I’m getting off the phone with somebody, I’ll say, “swag” and I’ll be out.
Have you ever heard that Lil B Ellen DeGeneres song? They’re just like “swag, swag, swag, swag” every three seconds.
Swag, swag, swag! Yeah, Lil B is crazy, man. All his videos are super funny. You gotta check out “Suck My Dick, Ho.” He’s like, just straight up walking around the mall chilling and all he’s saying is, “Suck my dick, ho. Suck my dick, ho. Swag, swag, swag.”
I’m so checking that out right now.
Yeah, it’s some super ignorant shit.
Ryan Sheckler: Paying it forward
Words: Robert Brink
Originally intended for 944 magazine in August of 2011, this piece never saw the light of day because the mag folded. Enjoy.
Sponsored at 6-years old and pro by age 13, it didn’t take long for San Clemente native, Ryan Sheckler (now 21) to reach the top of the game in skateboarding—and subsequently cross over to a mainstream success that 99.9% of his industry cannot fathom and most certainly won’t ever experience.
Sheckler was the youngest professional skateboarder to have a signature model shoe. He’s won multiple X Games gold medals, had his own reality show on MTV, achieved teen heartthrob status, sealed endorsement deals from Got Milk, Axe, Proactiv and more, scored roles in movies with the likes of The Rock and appeared on stage at a ‘Lil Wayne concert.
So what’s left when you’ve done everything there is to do before you’re even old enough to legally buy a pack of American Spirits?
Pay it forward.
And that’s what Ryan and The Sheckler Foundation have been doing for the last four years.
“In 2008 I wanted to donate my car to charity,” Sheckler says. “We held an online auction and raised $220,000. I realized in the process that we had a huge following who also wanted to help others. We knew if we started our own foundation, we could activate these followers and really make a difference.”
The Sheckler Foundation aims to create awareness and raise money to fund medical research that focuses on curing childhood disease and spinal cord injuries, as well as enrichment programs for kids in underprivileged communities.
“We want to let people, especially the kids of today, know that anyone can give back and that we all need to,” Ryan explains. “The world can never have too many people giving back.”
Since it’s inception, The Sheckler Foundation has partnered with organizations like the Rob Dyrdek Skate Plaza Foundation, Wings for Life, TACA, Road 2 Recovery, Bridger Hunt Fund, Tony Hawk Stand Up for Skateparks, San Diego Medicine Foundation, ARF, CCRF (Children’s Cancer Research Fund), A-Skate Foundation and Stoked Mentoring Foundation.
“We’ve done several different types of events over the years,” Sheckler explains. “The charity golf tournament and Skate for a Cause are two of our most successful and fun events. I really enjoyed our charity MMA fight as well. ‘Lil Jon performed and Jason Ellis turned pro that night. We are also planning on having a gala later this year, so I’m interested to see the outcome.”
Ryan is currently working on his Plan B skate video part, mostly likely dropping before the end of the year. It's got the lovers, haters and every online skateboarding forum lit up. But are there enough hours in the day to juggle the foundation and the skate career?
“Skating and giving back have always been a priority for me,” Ryan says. “At the moment, the video is the biggest thing on my mind, but I’m loving my life and doing what makes me happy—traveling the world and helping people through my foundation. It’s all a blessing so there really isn’t anything difficult to speak of. I don’t feel I’m juggling anything.”
Sheckler aims high. And with a track record of success like his, why not? “There are so many great foundations out there,” he says, “I’d like our foundation to go the route of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. And my hope is that everyone gets to experience what it feels like to give back because the takeaway is amazing!”
The Sheckler Foundation will soon be launching the Passion Project, which gives the Foundation’s community an opportunity to nominate a need and the Foundation will mobilize to help solve the problem. For more information and to learn how to get involved with upcoming events, visit www.shecklerfoundation.org.
Hilliard Sulpher’s Pursuit of Happiness
By Robert Brink SBC, Fall 2011
Prior to speaking with Hilliard Sulpher, his friends told me all sorts of quirky things about him to help make this article entertaining.
Things like how he’s nicknamed “The Hobbit” because he has hairy feet. About how he barfs a lot and how he’s into motorcycles. That he lived in the infamous Windsor Hut with his crew in Toronto. That he has a back tat of his last name (a-la Sheckler and TJ Rogers) that his parents bought for him as a Christmas present when he was 13. That his sister is a world-record holding professional jump roper and his mom makes the best nachos in Ontario and even parties with Hill and his homies.
But all that’s just fluff—the fodder you include when there’s nothing better to talk about—or when you’re filibustering—avoiding the large elephant in the center of the room.
Hill is currently residing in Windsor, Ontario. He’s 23 years old and knows what he wants from life—to just live and be happy.
Easier said than done. Such simple wisdom and aspiration always comes with a price. In fact, as Fight Clubbingly cliché as it sounds, sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to know that happiness is all you really want or need.
Hilliard is blue collar—straight up. From growing up skating the less-than-optimal streets of Detroit, to working landscaping jobs while trying to build a career in skateboarding, to unemployment and sitting in garages building motorcycles—he’s a far cry from the droves of privileged, home-schooled southern California kids born and bred in perfect weather and skate plazapalooza.
“It’s nice I guess but I’m not jealous of it or anything,” Hilliard explains. “I’m glad I didn’t have everything handed to me. My dad is a woodworker so I’ve been around tools building shit my whole life. It’s pretty fun. I just went to a union meeting for carpenter’s apprenticeship so I’m waiting on a call for that. I was fucking hurt all last year so I had to work. I gotta make money. I gotta pay the bills.”
And part of those bills, despite being sponsored by a small company called Change for seven years, was sometimes buying boards.
“It was weird being on Change,” Hill says. “It was my good friend’s company, so I hate to say this, but I stayed on longer than I should have. He didn’t have boards for a year. I was buying boards and stuff, living on a real tight budget, fucking riding hand-me-downs. And I break a board every couple days. Finally I was just like, ‘Fuck, man, I can’t pay for boards anymore.’”
After Change, Hill had a brief stint at Black Label through a distributor with the help of his friend and then-team manager, Dave Ashley. Then, recently, when Dave jumped to the Spain-based, Jart, the same opportunity arose for Hill.
“With Jart, it seemed like I might be able to find a home—and not with a distributor,” Hill continues. “I feel like I’ve found what I had with Change again—only with more support coming from the other end. Another deal sealer was that Bastien rides for them. Bastien is sick.”
So, about that elephant …
I caught word that Hill is diagnosed as schizophrenic. Instead of springing it on him during the interview and catching him off guard, I first asked his permission via email to discuss it. To my surprise, considering what pussies most skaters have become as far as speaking openly about their lives on record, Hill was down and embraced the opportunity to tell his side of things. He even thought it might be good to put out there so that other kids like him, or going through a similar situation, might relate a bit and feel better about their situation—that perhaps he could actually help others by sharing his story.
“I’m sure there are some people out there who think I’m fucked because I have schizophrenia—or that I’m a fucking kook or whatever,” Hill explains. “But they don’t know me. They can think what they want. I don’t care.
“I moved out pretty young—at 19,” Hill continues. “I was smoking a lot of weed. I was doing acid and mushrooms all the time. Not having a steady job and being fucked up all the time is definitely what brought schizophrenia out of me. When I wasn’t high, I wasn’t a happy person. I was really edgy. They say it’s genetic or something but I don’t know. I totally could’ve brought it on myself. I was lying and shit. Fucking trying to be a different person. I realized that everyone knew something was wrong with me. Everyone knew I was on all these drugs, smoking fucking five blunts a day to be normal—but that’s not normal. Everyone was acting different towards me and I thought they were fucking with me. I actually thought people were out to get me. My family and my friends were trying to tell me what was up and I’d freak out and start crying. I’d go to my friend Chris Quick and be crying, like, ‘Why are all these people talking about me?’ And he’d be like, ‘Listen, man, it’s not like that.’ And I just had to take their word for it. I believed and trusted everyone close to me. They knew something was wrong.
“I was in Vancouver and freaking out over the phone to my parents one day. They knew it was bad and fucking flew me home right away and got me in the hospital for a couple weeks—a straight-up fucking mental institution, like a psych ward. I hated everyone in there. But now I realize it didn’t hurt me. It only did me good. Whatever, it was just two weeks out of my life and it sobered me up. The weirdest part was actually being sober for two weeks. But the thing I hated about the hospital is as soon as you get in there, they give you all these drugs to make you a zombie—like not even a living human being. I knew that was wrong right away. That’s not fucking how it’s done. I’m not supposed to be knocked out 18 hours a day and eating a lot of shitty food. So when I got out I realized I could deal with it on my own. I told them I wanted the lowest dosage possible of all my medication.
“And once I was sober and my head was clear, I started remembering everything I said or did in the last couple years when I was acting all crazy. It all came back to me and I was like, ‘Why would I do this? And why would I do that? Why would I say that to this person? Why would I fucking rip this person off?’ I knew I had to skate and fucking get back with my friends and back to reality.”
It’s been about four years since Hill left the hospital and got back to reality. And, like so many of us over the years, skateboarding is the thing keeping him on track and his absence from it while in the hospital only made his appreciation for it grow fonder.
“After everything that happened, I knew I just had to skate. It actually fucking made me go way harder than ever. It just fucking made me wanna skate and get shit done. I knew that’s all I had. Everything got better. I learned how to control my brain. I filmed the best video part I’d ever filmed in my life. I had my Concrete interview. I was on a mission. You know the feeling—you skate—skating and being with the homies … it’s like a filter.”
Then, the injuries came. Last year Hill did both ankles in pretty good. He dislocated one last summer and popped it back into place himself. “Which is the gnarliest thing I’ve ever done,” Hill recalls.
Next, Hill broke his wrist, then two bones in his hand, which required surgery and five screws to fix.
“Ever since then I’ve been so scared. I’m just trying to get back into it, you know?” Hill continues. “It was just a rough year but now, I feel like I look at shit differently. I don’t want to jump down something and not be able to skate for a week. I don’t want to be under too much stress anymore with skateboarding. I’m just gonna be more conscious about how I skate from now on because I don’t want to get hurt. I want to skate everyday, so I’m just gonna fucking go fast. John Cardiel … he’s the fucking best ever. His skating, the way he skates, his attitude and shit, just everything about him is fucking awesome. I don’t want to roll up to a spot and be like, ‘Okay, what’s been done here?’ Then shoot a photo of this and that. I just want to fucking cruise and go really fast. I love street skating, just cruising. I’m really into filming lines and shit like that lately. That’s Detroit and Windsor—there are no good spots really—it’s really just shitty ground and fucking choppy ledges but it’s awesome. It’s seriously like a hidden gem.”
Maybe it’s not a bad thing that Hill’s skating changed a bit, considering some of his footage is reminiscent of mid-nineties Sub Zero “Real Life” or “Eastern Exposure 2 and 3” Oyola, Puleo, Gall and Reason Philly lines—nothing to scoff at one bit. In fact, many would argue that skateboarding could use a bunch more of that right now.
Hill draws inspiration from a non-skateboarding realm as well. People like his motorcycle crew, the Slimeballs, keep him going in the ways that skateboarding sometimes can’t. And when he’s off the board, chances are, you’ll find him in the garage, Simeballin’ out.
“They used to skate, but now they’re all married and have kids,” he says. “They just hang out in garages and work on bikes. I look up to those guys pretty hard. They’re just living it—just everyday people. They talk shit about the good ol’ days and they fucking chill in the garage and drink beers. I have a Kawasaki Vulcan 500 and I’m building another one right now with a good friend of mine. It’s like a cruiser but I’m building a ‘70s British chopper. It’ll be done in a couple weeks. I’m just wiring it up, putting it all together. It’s pretty fucking badass.
“I want to learn new things,” Hill says. “I want to learn more about bikes. I’ve been reading books and shit lately. I really want to learn how to weld and fabricate. I’m trying really hard to learn patience too. That’s key with a lot of things. I never try and rush anything anymore because that’s when the bad shit happens—even little things. If I’m rushing in my car, I’ll run a red light or get pulled over or something like that, you know?
“I’ve learned from my past with drugs and the hospital and stuff—but it just has to happen. You’re gonna learn it one way or another and that’s how I learned it. The wisest Slimeball I know once said ‘No drugs are easy— they’re all hard.’ And he’s right. I got burned pretty badly, but I also feel like I’m the best person I could ever be now. If that’s what it takes—getting burned to make you a better person—then I’m saying it’s worth it. That’s just the way I learn shit, I guess. I think everyone who knew me before all that, during it, and knows me now is probably pretty impressed and happy for me because I’m smiling all the time. I don’t worry about shit anymore. I just want to live—that’s it—seriously. I just want to live everyday and do whatever helps make me have a better life. Working puts me into a routine so I’d really like to get a job going again, but I still want to go on skate trips too. So if I do get into the union, I could go on a couple trips a year.”
“No one said life was supposed to be easy,” Hill says, “but if you fuck up—bounce back and get it together. Live and learn. Thanks to everyone who has had my back over the years, and all the sponsors and my friends and family.”
Festivus: Pro-Tec Pool Party 2011
Words: Robert Brink The Skateboard Mag, September 2011
There are two reasons I religiously attend the Pro-Tec Pool Party every year.
The first is for the free hot dogs. The second is to see Chris Miller win.
Although it’s difficult to comprehend why, while eating hot dogs, so many people feel compelled to tell you how gross and unhealthy they are.
It seems these individuals somehow believe they’ve obtained a vast catalog of exclusive knowledge (most likely through Google) about hot dogs that you, the feeble-minded swine and mustard eater, are too stupid and meager to discover or comprehend.
Okay yeah, we get it Mrs. Einstein. Hot dogs are made from leftover scraps of meat at slaughterhouses or some shit. They are full of sodium and preservatives and feet, intestines, assholes and mucus—all stuck together in a casing not unlike a latex condom or whatever. Ribbed, for her pleasure, of course.
Yeah, yeah, yeah … we know, Mr. disciple of Jamie Oliver—it’s gross. All of us uneducated, foolish, baby-palate-having peasants and our hot dogs are completely nauseating and naive and we’re all gonna die from hot dog-related illness.
Perhaps a segregation is in order? Hot dog and non-hot dog dining areas?
Why is hot dog consumption so offensive? What is it about the act of enjoying a hot dog that compels people to actually think their opinion on hot dogs is valuable and worth sharing?
If it weren’t for hot dogs, the world would be a beautiful place.
Eventually the hot dog plague will eradicate hot dog eaters across the globe and only glorious, healthy, invincible non-hot dog eaters will inhabit the Earth.
They will have parades and drum circles and tofu buffets to celebrate the lack of hot doggers on the planet.
And then, suddenly, out of the blue, an overwhelming emptiness will overcome them.
They’ll realize they have nothing to whine about to people who eat hot dogs and the revelation that their life has zero purpose will fill them with misery.
And the question begs to be asked: Why don’t people who like hot dogs walk around telling the non-hot dog eaters that they should eat hot dogs?
Because we don’t give a shit. We have better things to do. Like watching Pedro Barros and Chris Miller win the Pool Party. And witnessing dozens of other legendary pros rip the Combi Bowl a new asshole … after they eat their free hot dogs with a side of Cheetos.
Thank you Pro-Tec. Thank you for the amazing contest year after year. And thank you for giving the world a chance to see Chris Miller shine over and over. But thank you most of all for the free hot dogs.
The first few times I saw Oscar Loreto skate was at the Adaptive Action Sports X Games event in 2009 and 2010. Obviously, like most people would, I noticed he has no hands. But what I also noticed, was that he didn’t seem to care that it was an actual contest. He wasn’t gunning for a gold medal or anything, he was simply skating the course and having a good time.
As I got to know Oscar and we skated together more, I learned he was also missing half a leg, which blew my mind because he jumps down sets of stairs like it’s no big thing.
But you get over all that leg and hand stuff pretty quick and discover Oscar is down-to-earth and legit. He’s super mellow. He loves skateboarding and beer and film making. He’s not only an incredible ambassador for Adaptive Action Sports and amputees across the globe, but also an inspiration as a human being.
Skateboarding doesn’t need gold medals. But then again, if there are going to be gold medals in skateboarding, then Oscar deserves a few.
So what’s the word, Oscar?
Not much. I just left Element. They had a package waiting for me so I was driving back from Irvine.
How’d you end up getting hooked up with them?
Through Amy Purdy at Adaptive Action Sports. They sponsored her and she told ‘em about our team. I submitted my footy and then they started hooking it up.
Can you explain your physical condition to us?
The doctors call it a congenital birth defect. Basically, when I was still in the womb, the amniotic bands wrapped around my limbs and prevented development. So I came out with no fingers on my left hand and half a development of the thumb on my right.
And then you’re missing a foot too?
My left leg, below my knee. It’s not an amputation; I was just born like that.
At what point did you realize you were different than most kids and going to have a different kind of life?
Probably age 13 or 14. I realized I gotta do things the way I gotta do ‘em and sometimes it’ll work out and sometimes it won’t. From there I just learned to adjust.
What were some pivotal turning points in your life that made things easier for you?
I was pretty much an average kid. I’d always watch soccer games with my pops and I played for a little bit as a kid. But when skateboarding randomly fell into my lap was one of those moments. My cousin was doing it so I tried it and eventually kept going.
Then one time I saw an ad of Jon Comer doing a kickflip and his leg was coming off. That was the first time I’d ever seen anybody with one leg do anything that I really liked. I mean, I would go to the doctor’s office and see posters of a runner with one leg, so that kind of always inspired me, but seeing Comer in that ad was pretty tight.
Also, socially and in school, just learning to not care what other people think—to just worry about me and do my thing was a key thing.
One time in Tampa, Comer was opening beer bottles for us on his fake leg because we didn’t have a bottle opener. He’s the sickest.
I’ve skated with him a bunch. He’s awesome.
Did you have the same prosthetic foot before you skated as you do now?
No, I definitely had to change things up. They started me off with a foot that was made for everyday walking. Even running wasn’t a problem, but once I started skating and learning tricks I broke tons of prosthetic feet. The one I have now is finally perfect and doesn’t snap on tricks. There’s a spring inside—basically like bushings that mimic ankle movements. But it took years to figure that out.
And you have a prosthetic sponsor that helps develop those for you, right?
Yeah, they hook me up. I was gonna try to make a custom one but by the time I met them, they already designed one and I was the guinea pig.
Did you automatically start skating with your prosthetic foot forward? Evan Strong skates with his in back. Seems harder to get pop and board control that way.
I’m regular-footed and started that way right off the bat. I’ve talked Evan many times and it’s definitely is harder to get pop off your fake leg because you don’t have all those muscles down there to pop you. I didn’t learn switch for years because it felt weird with my fake leg back there—so I didn’t even try. Evan can skate tranny really well because he’s not doing that much popping.
Was there ever any consideration for prosthetic hands or is it easier without ‘em?
At this point it’s easier not to. My doctor hooked up this whole robotic hand and I was able to hold a drinking glass in one hand I still couldn’t do much with the other. I was too accustomed to using both hands to grab and do everything with.
Is it worse to lose your hands halfway through life, or be born without them?
Definitely weirder to lose them I think, because a drastic change like that would definitely fuck with you mentally.
Do you ever get to points of insane frustration because simple, everyday things take you way longer to do?
I’ve definitely gotten to that point lots of times. Trying to like, hang up a picture frame or something with a hammer and nail and all that bullshit. Or tying my shoelaces—I’d get so pissed off because it would take me 25 minutes. It would ruin the whole day. Like, I’d be late for school when I could’ve just tightened ‘em up and stuffed ‘em in my shoe instead of tying them. Little things like that, that people take for granted and do so easily.
What’s the harshest thing anyone’s ever done to you?
My tenth grade geography teacher was a dick. I don’t remember what he said verbatim but he was like, “What happened to you? What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be somewhere else?”
He was referring to the special ed. class. I didn’t expect that from an adult.
That’s gnarly. What do your hands have to do with …
My brain? Yeah, exactly. Sometimes people get weirded out. He didn’t even try to talk to me or anything.
So what’s the raddest thing anyone’s ever done?
My local shop used to be called Downey Skate and I submitted my sponsor-me tape and they called me back a week later like, “You’re on the team.” We started filming the next weekend. That was the raddest thing I’d ever experienced.
In 2007 we did the AAS skate tour and we got comped so much stuff. It was tight. That, and just the skate culture in general—the good vibes that everybody else brings.
So tell us more about Adaptive Action Sports.
Adaptive Action Sports is a non-profit that is trying to spread awareness and get more people who have disabilities involved in action sports. Amy Purdy is a snowboarder who founded AAS with Daniel Gale. I met them back in ‘05.
They recently voted me on to the board of directors and we’re trying to launch the LA chapter this summer. LA is a mecca for skateboarding and we’re hoping to get more people involved because there’s definitely a bunch of skaters out there with prosthetics.
We’re at a good place right now. I see nothing but progress. Element and Vans are backing us so the skaters are able to get some free stuff and we also get different donations here and there.
How can other people help AAS? By visiting our website. There’s a a donation tab. We apply for grants but they are hard to get. So it’s usually easier to get businesses and people to donate.
We got a grant from Balance Bar one year and did a road trip, which was dope. This year I’m trying to draft a proposal and approach RV companies and see if they would donate an RV for a summer tour.
Can AAS use support as far as prosthetic companies and skate companies donating product?
Yeah, definitely. It kind of varies with prosthetics though. For example, this one kid, Chris Gentry doesn’t use a prosthetic leg —he skates on his stump, which is a whole different game.
I get pretty hooked up with my prosthetics by Scope. I hear stories of kids in Texas or out east that get hooked up here and there, but it’s harder for them. Sometimes companies will hook a kid up who doesn’t have insurance because they are in it for the love of helping people. Others are more strict and go by the books and they’ll deny the kid.
I would love to see more companies helping out because I don’t think they know too much about this realm yet. But those who know us, they know that we’re just real skaters doing what we love and it spreads in a very positive way.
Obviously Aaron Fotheringham is gnarly—doing Mega Ramp double backflips and front flips … but who else is really killing it?
Evan Strong is gnarly. Rob Nelson … he introduced me to pool riding. There are a few guys that used to be on Adaptive back in the day and fell off because of an injury or just stopped skating. A guy named Chase and a guy named Gary Moore were pretty gnarly. I’ve seen YouTube videos of kids that skate with crutches who are pretty sick. We are trying to get Italo Romano out to California this year too.
You have a bachelor’s degree, right?
Yeah, in film and electronic arts. I want to do action sports stuff, maybe develop a show that will end up on Fuel or be a filmer for a skate company like Ty Evans does. Working on feature films, like a Spiderman movie, would be dope too.
Have you ever had any internships or lucky breaks where you’ve been on a set or met anyone?
A bunch of big names came through school and we were able to work on their sets. I interned for a television station in Commerce and I worked for a studio in Burbank. The show I worked on for three-and-a-half years was a home shopping art auction—like QVC. It got canceled.
I freelance right now. I shoot whatever I can get my hands on—weddings, music videos. I eventually hope to land a studio job at Fox or something.
Who are some of your favorite skate filmers and videos?
Definitely TransWorld. Jon Holland and all their videos are up there for sure. Growing up, I liked the simplicity of the skate videos like Zero’s Thrill Of It All and the Toy Machine videos. Just short and sweet—straight skating was always dope.
Yeah Right! was the first one I was stoked on with the graphics and the movie magic trickery. From there, with Spike Jonze leading the way, things developed and other people began integrating techniques from actual film making, like dolly shots and stuff. I like Fully Flared and I like that magnetic liquid stuff in Mind Field.
Is there an etiquette to shaking your hand? Should one go for the knucks or a shake, even though they are really grabbing your wrist and arm?
I don’t know. It gets kind of weird. I don’t judge people on it. I think the people that shake my hand but still keep eye contact are normal and seem more open-minded. But some people are surprised, like, “Oh sorry, I didn’t know.”
I don’t really have a preference. If they put out a fist I’ll bump the knucks. But a high five or an actual handshake is normal to me too. The weirdest is when they shake my hand but grab almost up to my elbow. I’m like, “Okay, thanks buddy.”
That’s what I mean … it can get weird.
It definitely can.
Who’s helped and inspired you the most?
I’d have to say my mom and my sis. My dad bounced when I was a kid so I only knew him for a little bit, but it was my family just telling me, “Yeah you’re different but it doesn’t mean you still can’t do things and excel in life.” With that instilled in me pretty young it just helped me and always made me think of the dopeness that can come out of any situation.