Corey Sheppard’s Newfound Love

Who would have thought Corey’s straight, new path would’ve been spawned out of Hellrose?

By Eric Stricker

When I first met Corey Sheppard, it was at a somewhat formal, somewhat private, Black Label Christmas party about a year and a half ago. The Label was premiering the first, not-yet-completed cut of Black Out, and a few friends and I were invited. As we walked in, everybody was being served their dinners. It wasn’t just that I was uncomfortable because I only knew a handful of people in the room, but more that I find it quite annoying when I’m trying to eat and there are people sitting at the table watching me. I almost felt like I was crashing someone’s party, but not in the I-don’t-give-a-shit-let’s-rage way, more like the whoa-this-is-the-first-time-I’ve-ever-met-my-girlfriend’s-entire-family-in-their-confines kind of feeling. Then I noticed Corey Sheppard and Ronnie Creager enter the private room, apparently in party mode as they made their way, along with the rest of their haphazard posse, toward Ragdoll’s corner booth. The thought of Corey and Ronnie amongst the Black Label team lineup seemed as out of place as I felt, so my social anxiety eased for the time being.

With time, and a few pints, that anxiety wore off completely, and I found myself engaged in a conversation with Corey Sheppard—a conversation about my hat. It was leather, it was mesh, it was hot. But what caused a commotion was that Corey really wanted to don it for the evening. I said no—or I tried to. Even though I have always been told to never let others wear your headwear, it didn’t bother me to let my new acquaintance showboat my leather mesh around for a bit. After all, with the entire room in plain view, there’s nowhere it or Corey could disappear to.

After ten minutes of baring my unruly coif, I figured Corey should’ve been content with my time allotment on the hat. But it wasn’t even five minutes ’til Corey was back at my table demanding my hat, and even offering up his passport as collateral. Seeing drinks being poured atop the heads of those seated at Corey’s table, I was a bit reluctant to give in, but it’s always easier just to see people content, especially intoxicated people. So after a little hemmin’ and hawin’, a handshake, and making sure I had that passport on lock, Corey was sporting a nice, new, leather ball cap for the remainder of the evening.

Another 30 minutes went by, and I was gaining comfort in my lack of a head covering when I looked over and saw Corey without my hat. “Oh great, Eric, you make such wise decisions,” was my first thought, but then, “It’s probably tucked away in the corner of the booth.”

When I finally approached Corey, he had no idea what happened to the hat, and he didn’t seem to care much beyond the fact that it didn’t appear to be anywhere in the direct vicinity: “I don’t know what happened to your hat.”

For a minute I actually thought he was trying to play me. He probably didn’t know I knew who he was, probably thought he’d never see me again and if he could just shrug me off for the rest of the night, he’d have himself this hat he seemed to want so much. I even questioned the suspect-looking people surrounding him. No one seemed to have any knowledge of the hat, but my paranoid self was thinking this whole disappearance was planned out like a well-executed mob hit. The only thing that Corey managed to forget was what still lay in my back pocket: his passport. I don’t really need a hat, but when you’re a Canadian and you’re in the U.S., you kind of need your passport.

As the night went on, I kept badgering Corey for my hat, and he eventually came to the realization that he had lost his passport. In his intoxicated state, he had completely forgotten he traded it to me. I sat there and let him freak out, hoping my hat would turn up, clutching my back pocket, knowing I was going to tuurn this guy’s night around in a few minutes when I refreshed his memory with the events of a few hours prior. It was almost a sinister thing for me to do, I almost feel bad, but I was extremely pissed at the time. I figured I had offered the guy huge generosity the whole night and he betrayed me at some level.

I ended up giving Corey his passport back minutes later, and about ten minutes after that, Paul Otvos walked out of the restaurant and he’d found my hat. Thank you, Paul.

The Corey Sheppard I first came to know is completely different than the Corey Sheppard today. Nearly a year and a half has gone by and Corey has found something that’s saved him in a sense, or at least put him on a straight path: painting.

It all started with a girl who lived in the Hellrose projects, where Corey was staying at the time. She had some extra paints lying around, and Corey picked them up, painted on some paper, and the rest is history. He knew he had some artistic talent, but he really had no idea: “I was always good in art class, but that was about it.”

Today he travels between his place in Southern California and his hometown Toronto, Canada. But the paints never leave his side: “I’ve been addicted ever since, painting at least five hours a day.” The phrase “I can’t stop” exists in a healthy connotation, as Corey splits his time painting and filming for the much anticipated, first in a damn long time, Blind video that will be featuring Corey’s first-ever full-feature video part: “Filming this video is mainly what I’m thinking about.”

With the Blind video and his more consistent coverage, Corey hopes to find himself a footwear home. He was originally a member of the first Circa pro team, but because visa problems kept him in Canada in the past and limited his coverage, Circa demoted him to flow. “I just quit. I don’t want to be on the flow team, you know? I want to find a shoe sponsor that wants me, ’cause I want to be comfortable, somewhere that’s home,” explains Corey. In the meantime he’s been getting shoes from IPath, Axion, and DC, but getting free shoes is the least of his worries: “I don’t have a problem getting shoes.” But if he did, that would be his only task as the rest of his sponsors (Blind, Hurley, Independent, Bones Swiss, Dragonetti, and West 49) fully take care of everything else.

Besides the shoe sponsor and video project, the only thing left on Corey’s agenda is his art. He’s already had one show and is looking to be part of numerous shows in 2004. He’s already done two graphics for his Blind pro models, and for that two to be four or six in the coming months would hardly be a surprise. Corey Sheppard is producing in everything he’s doing—quite a contrast to the unfocused person I first ran into that December night.

Even while interviewing him, I’ve never actually brought up the hat incident with Corey. I’m not sure if he remembers it was me that night, or if he even cares. But I do know one thing: Corey Sheppard has come a long way. And that just goes to show two things: 1. Do a little exploring to find out what you’re good at and what you enjoy. And 2. Never judge a person by your first impressions of them. You might just be completely wrong. I nearly was.