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

Bonus Interviews

Sal Barbier on Sean Sheffey:
Skating with Sean during the Life days was the best. He was a beast, he could go much bigger and faster than anyone and wasn’t afraid to try anything. That was his time, he was #1 in the streets.

The craziest thing you witnessed him do?
His massive backside ollies over long gaps were unbelievable. The double kink boardslide was groundbreaking. That’s the first time a double kink like that had been done. I remember Mike Ternasky took us there after we had been skating all day, he said he just wanted to show it to us to see if it was possible. We were pissed off that he would even bring us there because he always did that sort of thing. I remember we were in the van while M.T. was looking at it saying “F- this, why doesn’t he try it.” So we got out of the van and Sean gave it a try, he flew off his board all the way to the bottom and landed ass first on the last step. Sean then tried it again and landed rib first at the bottom of the kink, it would have killed anyone else, it looked like a Viking sword injury, but this is Iron Shef we’re talkin’ about here, so he just laughed it off and got back in the van. M.T. felt bad that he almost killed him so he though he could make it up to him by bringing us there the next day at 5:00 a.m. We took some gnarly slams going at it, I landed on my nuts and my face at the same time and I gave it a rest. Sean said he owed the rail one for the rib injury and won the battle. He slid that rail and it hadn’t been done before, that the kind of skating I remember most about Sean Sheffey, doing some dangerous groundbreaking shit, that’s how he always skated.

First time you saw him (H-Street days)?
The first time I saw him was at pro street contest in San Diego. He was there blasting massive backside ollies, backside grabs over the transition pyramid, while everyone else was having a hard time trying to just ollie grab over it.

Were you there for a lot of the Life stuff? 
I skated with him everyday back in the Life days, we were best friends and those were good times. I was there for a lot of the filming and watching him try what hadn’t been done before was really cool and also inspiring. He could get you try a lot of things you didn’t want to. Sheffey’s skating was special because he just did the things that hadn’t been done before. He had to pioneer a lot of the dangerous shit for it to become “the norm.” He helped everyone around him reach their potential because he would take it to another level every time he stepped on the board. A good friend, a great skater, and one hell of an x-party animal, stay up Sean, much respect. Your Friend SLB. —Sal Barbier

The photo and sequence of the first straight on rail. TWS, 1996.

Chris Pastras on Sean Sheffey:
Sean was just a beast. He looked like a gnarly College Football player at 15-16. The first time I met him he had no shirt on, was buff as f—k, had some crazy country high water cut off jeans, crazy hair or corn rows of some sort, and was flying through the air and ollieing everything in sight. I was super scared of him and was trying to stay out of his way, but then one time when we almost bumped he just kindly said “hey,” and asked me my name and where I was from. He was the nicest guy ever, and wound up being a strong man sidekick for years to come. The gentle giant. But don’t cross him, I was just glad I was on his team not the other one. He saved us from more than one ghetto experience that would have gone down much differently without him. I remember him taking on an entire housing project full of kids one time. And they backed down.

How did him getting on Shut go down?
Sheffey was a force of nature, straight up. If Powell, SMA or Vision, or any brand at that time would have seen him skate they would have immediately put him on. Sure enough when those companies saw him skate, they did. This was pre-internet so it took years to make a name back then. But Shef also just fit the Shut vibe completely—he embodied Shut skates. Hide your daughters, lock up the shed, the mutha-f’in Shut team is comin’. Van door opens and it’s a bunch of brothers, Hispanics, men like Jeremy Henderson, blaring rap music out of a boom box and skating like wild men. Look out! —Chris Pastras

Huge backside ollie at Fort Miley as seen in Goldfish (1994).

Reese Forbes on Sean Sheffey:
Sean is by far one of my all time favorite people to watch ride a skateboard. It’s amazing that through his natural talent he was able to invoke a spirit of originality for those that would follow and attempt to emulate his style. Fortunately for all of us there is only one Shef.

Nobody could haul ass from the other side of Pulaski and backside ollie the white wall like the Shef. He’s the man. His part in the Life video was such a game changer for me. Also in A Reason for Living—my friends and I broke the tape we rewound it so much.

I was lucky enough to see him skate at Europe/Canada contests in the 90’s too. And see him pull some of the most out of control/in control maneuvers ever. Specifically, rolling in switch on something that Burnquist would probably only do padded! (Vancouver) Only to switch backside flip over the pyramid. Insane. I think he was wearing a purple wig at the time too and alternating with a razor scooter. —Reese Forbes

Backside ollie from the early days back East. Circa 1990.

Greg Hunt on Sean Sheffey:
Before I knew Sheffey I saw him at a Cow Skates demo in Michigan with Matt Hensley, Barker Barrett, and a bunch of other guys. There were these two long parking blocks stacked on top of each other, maybe 12 feet long or so. Keep in mind this was 1990, so people were boardsliding, lipsliding and ollieing over them—maybe a backside lipslide at best.

Anyhow, near the end of the demo Sheffey cleared the crowd that was surrounding the course so he could get more speed to hit the parking blocks. But he cleared the crowd so far back that the only thing it seemed he might try was to ollie the parking blocks lengthwise, but that seemed impossible. Nobody had ever ollied anything that big. But all the sudden there he was—pushing full speed at the parking blocks, starting so far away that the whole crowd was standing transfixed.

And what he did then I’ll never forget. He backside 180’d the entire f—king thing. It was unbelievable. To this day I’ve still never seen anything like that. So that’s my first impression. Also, just before I arrived that day I heard he also no complied over a bike rack off the flat. Ever seen anyone do that? Me neither. —Greg Hunt

The Sean Sheffey Mixtape from Manolo. Footage circa 1991-2001.