Words by Kevin Duffel, portrait by Dave Chami
One of EMB's grand ambassadors, Henry Sanchez was one of the most innovative street skaters in the early '90s. Blowing up alongside Tim Gavin and Guy Mariano on Blind in '92, Henry all but disappeared in the mid-'90s. But after a standout comeback part in the legendary Sight Unseen in '01, and a short stint on DGK, Henry's now seven years deep working as an auto body tech in Sacramento, California. Happily married with a kid on the way, it looks like he's doin' just fine, too. Here’s the extended version of the interview that ran in our 30th Anniversary issue.
Where are you living at nowadays, and what are you doing for work?
Sacramento, California. I'm an auto body tech. We restore automobiles—paint and bodywork.
What got you into that?
Well, when I quit skating, I was kinda worried about what I was going to do after skating. I was in my late twenties and I didn't know how to do anything except skate. So I saw these cheap trade school classes online. I just picked the one that I thought would spark an interest. And when I went, I fell in love with it. That was around seven years ago, and here I am today doing it. The greatest thing about it is you can never learn it all. It's like skating. It never ends. You can never master it because there's always new technologies—the technology that's coming out in tomorrow's cars is always changing, so you have to be ahead of the curve.
“The greatest thing about it is you can never learn it all. It's like skating.”
What kind of cars do you usually work on?
My love and pride is in the hot rods, because they have to be better quality for car shows and stuff. But the money is in the insurance jobs where you bang 'em out really quickly. I basically do both. If I did a bunch of hot rods I'd be broke [laughs]. I do hot rods on the side and then I do the insurance jobs at work.
What's the raddest hot rod you've ever worked on?
Probably a 1947 Hudson, but I'm also working on my Mustang—it's a 1964 and a half. They're really common, but it's cool because everything's cheap and there are parts everywhere for them; you don't have to search in some dude's backyard to find parts.
Have you ever worked on other skaters' cars?
I did Matt Rodriguez's car a long time ago, but I didn't really know what I was doing at the time [laughs]. But I gave him a hell of a deal. If I were to do his car now, I'd do it super good. I haven't really done any skaters' cars. I wish someone would hit me up, because I know how to do a lot of stuff.
Well maybe after this interview you'll get some calls.
Yeah, that'd be nice [laughs].
Have you been skating at all since your part in Sight Unseen?
Actually I skated for DGK for a little bit. And then I had an ankle injury, so I had to avoid certain tricks. So I was skating switch, trying to make it work. But I had to drop a lot of my tricks because of my ankle, and then it just got held up from there. And then I had some attitude issues with Stevie [Williams], and in hindsight it was pretty much all my fault, so that didn't work out. So I just stopped skating. I just gave up on it. But about four years ago I started back up for a little bit, just for fun. I recently just got a box from Stevie—a DGK box—and I've been skating a little bit, but I don't have a lot of time to do it. But it's still fun. I have a little spot by my house. But the thing that sucks is that when you go through these phases where you quit for a number of years and then try back up, it's like starting over, like, "Damn, I can't even tre flip, but it's not that hard." You get so frustrated. But if you keep at it after like two weeks you're doing tre flips like nothing. But that first day, I can't even stand on my board [laughs].
Here’s that Sanchez part from Sight Unseen.
So going back to the early '90s, do you think skateboarding would be the same if EMB never existed?
You never know that. I don't want to say it could be or it couldn't be. Anyone could've done that, or maybe they were doing different stuff and it could've gone in a different direction. I do think a lot of the stuff we did though definitely contributed partially to the direction of skateboarding. Back then if you were good, you were a pioneer. Nowadays if you're good, you're just good. There are so many guys who are good and it's so mainstream now, so there are so many more guys doing it. So back then we kinda had it easier than they do now. Nowadays you have to do some crazy stuff to make a mark [laughs].
“Back then if you were good, you were a pioneer. Nowadays if you're good, you're just good.”
Who do you think was the most influential back from those days? Or who your favorite to watch?
My favorite? Probably Mike Carroll, Matt Hensley, [Sean] Sheffey. There are so many dudes. Basically Hensley and Carroll were my top two guys. Mike Carroll was a huge influence because he was there every day, whereas anyone else who was close to that was in videos and I never saw them. So Carroll had an extra influence on me. It put a fire under my butt to get good. I was like, "Oh shit, I wanna get good like that." And then Hensley, when I saw him skate, I just thought it was rad how original he was, and the angles that he brought to tricks, just how creative he was and how raw it was to see him backlip some of these benches with Doc Martens on. I just thought that was really cool, and still do.
What was it about EMB that brought everyone together?
Well, it was easy. It was very trouble-free. We didn't have to meet up at a certain spot and then catch the bus here and there and get kicked out of places all day. It was just a place that we could go, and you were guaranteed you could skate there all day. And so once it started getting known, we all started going there every day. And then it just snowballed. It got mad crazy, in a good way. There were a lot of negative things too, but that's just people being young—like board jackings and stuff like that. But anywhere you have a bunch of people congregating in an urban environment like that, that stuff just happens. But as far as the skating, Embarcadero was cool. More so than the immediate attention it got, it was cool to just hang out with the guys. The feeling you'd get every day. We were young, we didn't have any responsibilities, and it was like our glory days.
Do you still stay in contact with any of those dudes, besides Stevie?
No, not really. Sometimes if I got to the city [San Francisco], I'll call the guys up and see what they're up to. A lot of the guys got out of skating. The ones who are still in it are the obvious ones that everyone knows, like Chico [Brenes], [Mike] Carroll, [Mike] York, Karl [Watson], and all those guys. That's another thing that's cool about Embarcadero too: a lot of guys didn't make it, but so many guys did. It's so awesome when you look back at it. You've got Mike and Greg [Carroll] hustling out, Nick Tershay balling out, Karl owning his own company, York owning his own company. It's pretty awesome, so I'm proud of all those guys.You were around when skating was pretty much dead, so it must be kinda crazy seeing how big it's gotten now. What's your take on what skating's become now with all the big contests and money involved?
Well, I think that if a guy's consistent enough and good enough to enter those contests and do good, more power to him. What I don't like seeing is these companies that were surf from day one getting into bed with all these corporate companies, or trying to emulate them in any way. It just kinda takes away from the experiences that I had where we were closing out corporate brands and all the outsiders before. So now when people embrace them, I'm just like, "What the hell's gone wrong with it?" But then again, that kinda stuff is inevitable when it gets big. There's a good and a bad, I guess.
Henry’s part from the ’92 Tim & Henry’s Pack Of Lies video is still insane. It raised the bar high back in the day.
This being the 30th Anniversary issue, what's your best memory of skateboarding over the past 30 years?
Probably one of my best memories is when I was at the TransWorld premiere for Sight Unseen, and people were cheering for me. I thought that was pretty cool, because that reminded me of all the good, the bad, and hushed all the doubts I had. It was a big pat on my back, saying like, "You doubted yourself for so many years. Everybody doubted you, and here you are. You're showing everyone you can still do it." And that's one of the reasons I liked that video part more than my Pack Of Lies video part. When I filmed Pack Of Lies, that wasn't even the hardest I could've skated. I could've had a way better part. But when it came to Sight Unseen, I kinda knew from past experiences what to do, and what not to do, and I really tried my hardest. It was special to see all these people cheering for me after all I'd been through. And it was a TransWorld video. So that felt special to me.
“It was a big pat on my back, saying like, ‘You doubted yourself for so many years. Everybody doubted you, and here you are. You're showing everyone you can still do it.'”
The world wants more Henry Sanchez. When's your next comeback?
I don't know. I'd have to have some time to skate and get my balance back. But the good thing about the way I skate is I don't have to be all consistent. I can just work on certain things and then just kill myself with others [laughs]. It'll be a good trick, but I won't be doing it third try like Nyjah Huston or something [laughs]. More like 300 tries. He's super crazy.