Pioneer: Sean Sheffey, Full Interview—Power From The East

In the A Soldier’s Story (’91) part, I wanted to ask specifically about the picnic table stuff. The backside ollie, half Cab, and fakie ollie. Had you done that stuff before?
No. I was brought to that school in Gardena. We went to skate the hip and somebody ended up pulling out a table. I guess there were rumors of me, even back to the SMA days like: “Sheffey can ollie over picnic tables.” I had really given it my all sometimes and I had cleared ‘em before. But it was up in play now and this was time to prove that the myth wasn’t false (Laughs). I went at it and it happened like no other time. I took three or four tries and got the fakie ollie. Half Cab was like one or two tries I got it. The backside 180 came real fast too.

I don’t think anyone had done those tricks over picnic tables at that point. Did you know nobody had done it?
You know what. I was out in California at the tradeshow Mike Vallely was 180’ing the picnic table.

Frontside right?
Yeah. And I was trying them that day backside. His style—the way he would do it was so unique. He would ollie, and then twist over afterwards, whereas I was starting to turn before I even got over the bench. Mine were really early and I would snag a lot. So I learned how to do it from watching his that day.

Plus, they don’t have those little tables back East right? Those are only in Cali?
Right. The ones back East were huge in comparison.

Was that all in the same day?
Yeah. The whole thing was probably 30 minutes.

And the whole part was only two weeks?
Yeah. Yeah. We were going up to Santa Barbara and then coming back down to San Diego. That was on the way back down.

Sean’s Life ad for A Soldier’s Story. The silhouette of this became the VHS box cover. 1991.

Then the back tail and the backside lipslide—that was a little bigger table right?
Yeah. That one was like standard size. Which is still pretty big to this day as far as doing tricks on.

It has that tiny little bump but it’s almost non-existent.
Yeah. It’s called School W.

Had you back tailed anything close to that high?
No way. I had heard about the tables though on the way out. And I was telling Ternasky I wanted to get a good back tail on a picnic table. He was like, “I’m into it. Let’s go check out this one school and see what you think about these tables.” He took me to School W. I looked at it and was like, “This one is perfect. Off this bump.” He’s like, “That’s not a bump.” I had been dying to skate back in Michigan. At the time I would find the littlest bump and exaggerate the biggest ollie. I was fortunate it worked out. They were like, “You can’t even get off the ground on this thing!”

Did you do the back lip first?
Yeah. The back lip came really fast. But if it wasn’t for Ternasky I don’t think I would have been able to get the backside tailslide. It took over like 100 tries. We went back for like three days. I wanted to stop but he knew I could get it. That was rad though, because that sense of dedication and commitment stuck with me to this day. There’s stuff that I’m learning and trying now that if I never had that direction or that help, I probably never would have understood how to get there. Skating was so free. But to film something. I came up with this idea. My imagination almost got the best of me. But to have a team and a boss helping me go through with it changed everything.

Did you wax the table at all?
No. No wax.

Damn. When you rolled away from that one what were you thinking?
I didn’t know what had happened. It just spit me out and threw me off. Thank god I stayed on it (Laughs.)

The vegetarian back lip Life ad that Sean discusses later in the interview. 1991.