Rarely does a single part change what is deemed possible on a skateboard. Even more rarely does progression arrive in the form of a tomahawk dunk. Sean Sheffey’s part in A Soldier’s Story (’91) was basic street skating on steroids; a rapture of innovation based almost entirely on power, with enough charisma to feed a small nation’s electrical grid. During a two-week filming trip to California at age 17, Sheffey became the first to backside ollie a picnic table. The first to fakie ollie and half cab one. The first to back tail a full size table. The first to take street gaps into two-lane traffic range. One of the first to boardslide a double kinked rail. And later, the first to take late shove its big (’91) and the first to 50-50 a real street rail straight on (’96). He set the mold for the East Coast Powerhouse—since picked up by anyone from Reese Forbes and Huf to Brandon Westgate and went on to lock down marquis spots on Plan B, Girl, and now Blind. Mostly though—Sheffey was and is one of single the most legendary characters ever to set foot on a skateboard.
This is the full interview text from Sean’s Pioneer Column in our October 2012 Issue.
First good one was a Rob Roskopp 4. It’s the one where the monster is half way out of the target. It was like a maroon color, with fluorescent inset graphics of the monster face and hands. I was so overwhelmed by the graphics. That totally caught me. It was a trip because I really liked the first one where the hand was just reaching through. But they didn’t have those by the time I ordered it. But it was really cool because at that point I was already ollieing and the tail on that board was pretty significant. OJIIs and some Indys too.
What were some of your early influences? Did you always put a lot of power into your skating or did you see other people skating that way first?
I was skating with some of the Maryland locals. Wayne C., Julius, Victor, and some other guys. But they pointed me towards the real hot shots like Mark Gonzales. The first magazine I got was the Thrasher with Mark’s interview and him skating the Embarcadero. He was railsliding the high block and ollieing the channel. I think it was the one with Mike Vallely on the cover. After that I got pumped on Jesse Martinez and Natas Kaupas through some other friends. I got really into their styles and I would read up on those guys. I liked the way they contorted their bodies or had really good tweaks. Then the power they had in their ollies and basic grinds and slides.
Jesse (Martinez) definitely had that aggressive style.
Yeah. The wall rides were really thrashing and solid. I was intrigued with Jim Thibaud too when he did frontside wall rides off the launch ramp in Animal Chin (’87). I got more into the underground from there when I found out about Julien Stranger and how he was so hardcore, and really ahead with all the newest tricks, but with less coverage. I liked how he was punkish and against the whole idea of documenting everything. Instead he would just go out skating alone at night and do it in secret. So fluid and radical.
When did you first get to go to Pulaski in DC or Brooklyn Banks?
I was fortunate because I got sponsored by a shop after 8 months of skating. They had these contests there and I was already a good size for my age and would learn fairly quickly. I met a lot of skaters at those contests. We’d collaborate and talk about skating. One day a couple of guys, they were black skaters, came up to our local spot and were saying like, “ Hey, you’re getting good. You should come down and check out the hot spot in DC with us.” I was just like, “Man, I can’t go down there. My dad will kill me.” He was across the street at the meat market so I went and asked him. These guys were 17 and had cars and stuff. My dad was supervising 3 restaurants in DC at that point so he just told me to be careful. They introduced me to the marble there and the easier sliding ledges. We were out in the suburbs just skating launch ramps and maybe curbs. There was no real wax back then either, at least on the East Coast. So right there, going to Pulaski I graduated to the knee high standard ledges and learned boardslides and grinds and all that. Those guys were already ripping the benches.
Sean’s breakout part skating Pulaski in Santa Cruz/SMA’s A Reason for Living (1990)
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