Gallery: The San Clementean [5 Images] Click any image to expand.
by Bill Thomas
He’s made a couple of movies. He’s traveled to some of the most desirable spots on the planet. He’s seen both the underside and over side of the U.S. His face graces the covers and the pages of numerous magazines in his sport. He’s done demo videos with the veteran stars of skateboarding, including Tony Hawk. He has more commercial sponsors than he really needs. His autograph is a hot item among his contemporaries. A difficult skateboarding maneuver is named after him. He’s on planes so often he has to be home-schooled. His email inbox receives more than 700 messages a week, mostly from females. He’s competed in over 70 skateboarding contents. He’s also among the top three competitors in the world. And he’s only 14-years-old. Who is he? Local San Clemente resident – Ryan Sheckler.
I first encountered Ryan in September 2002. I was rounding a corner by the stage at the first Skateboard Tournament at San Clemente’s Steed Park Ralph’s Skate Court. A huge surge in crowd noise was followed by a small figure of a boy souring out of one of the skate court’s bowls off into space with a skateboard miraculously attached by nothing on his feet, over the stationary wrought iron fence, and landing right in front of me. The board tumbled to the side.
“He can’t do that,” I said to myself. “Not only was it impossible; it shouldn’t be allowed. Kids shouldn’t jump over fences.”
The boy immediately rose, grabbed his skateboard and ran back into the skating arena. The next thing I knew, he had done it again. This time he landed squarely on his board with a confident look of satisfaction. Naturally, he won the open sponsored skateboard contest with incredible demonstrations of skill and agility. His brother, Shane, did pretty well, too. I think he also beat everyone at his 8 to 10 sponsored age level. Later, Ryan performed another unbelievable leap on his skateboard, careening down the curvature of a bowl, speeding up the other side, and clearing the head of a live, 6’3” contest official. I have a picture to prove it.
This San Clemente-based skateboard competition didn’t launch Ryan’s career. It had already started. He’d been skateboarding since before he learned to read. Starting at four, he had learned to perform the difficult kick-flip by the time he was six. Spending the next several years sliding on rails and kick-flipping skateboards so often and with such skill that, by 10, he had already gained several major sponsors and was entering contests featuring veteran skateboarders more than twice his age.
After three international competitions already this year, Ryan is in second place in the World Cup Skateboarding (WCS) standings with 1,550 points. Rodil Junior of Curitiba, Brazil is first, with 1,990. Most recently, Ryan placed third, June 3-6, in the street finals of the Mountain Dew National Championships in Cleveland, OH. With a score of 87.50, he was just a whisker behind second place Kyle Berard of Virginia Beach, VA (87.75). Champion Rodil Junior was first (88.25). (Perfect score is 100). At the Globe World Cup event, Feb 14, Melbourne, Australia, he took fourth; in Vancouver, Canada, Sheckler was 3rd. He’s so busy with appearances and video making; he’s skipping the upcoming international skateboarding events in Dortmund, Germany, and Prague, Czechoslovakia. His next domestic contest will be the X Games, Aug 5-8, in Los Angeles.
In a skateboarding competition, each contestant is customarily allotted 60 seconds to complete an individual routine of intricate jumps, flips, railruns, and tricks. Each is graded on such factors as degree of difficulty, finesse, grace, and overall performance. Contestants are given two to three opportunities to demonstrate their abilities and receive an overall rating.
What do skateboarding experts write about him? Here are some examples: After the Gravity Games, writer Tracy Anderson, identifying Sheckler as “The little man with the big tricks” wrote: “The 13-year-old prodigy blew the crowd up today with his clean airs (jumps), ultra-fluid lines, and his endless trick-combination creativity. It (the contest) was Sheckler’s from the get-go, scoring high on his first run and holding the lead the entire three-round contest. With an impressive silver chain bouncing with each jump, he coolly busted trick after trick, including in this third run a backside lip slide to kick flip 180 alley-oop, and a couple of lofty transfers over the midsection.” In skateboard jargon, this is pretty great stuff.
Sheckler is featured in an ad for World Industries. In May 2003, Timothy Nickloff wrote under the heading: “Sheckler Youngest Ever to Win World Cup Skateboarding Professional Contest in Vancouver, Canada.” “…his first place finish at Slam (the arena) has not only earned him the recognition as one of the youngest skateboarders to win a pro contest within the WCS, but in skateboarding history, as well. With powerful, consistent skating that almost seemed on tap, Ryan busted out with two completely different runs in the finals that were flawless. From massive kickflip Indys out of the quarter and over the box, to back flips down the silver rail and frontside flips over the pyramid, Ryan’s small frame showed the confidence, power and style of a veteran pro.”
In Thrasher Magazine’s April 2004, edition, Michael Burnett wrote: “Moms love him, punks hate him, and – with the pads, money, movies and benihanas safely in the past – most everyone else is waking up to the fact that Ryan Sheckler may just be the next big thing – The Prodigy.”
A web-based report recently stated, “Ryan Sheckler retires from skateboarding…14 long, hard years of skateboarding and Ryan...has decided to call it quits…’done it all,’ says a beleaguered Ryan.” It was April 1, 2004, April Fool’s Day.
By age 12, Ryan had a variety of sponsors, including Sobe, Volcom Clothing, Tensor Trucks, Nixon Watches, Almost, Oakley, Boost Mobile, and Yamaha Motorcycles. He had appeared in motion pictures, commercials and television spots, played two separate roles in a major film, as a principal actor and as a stunt double in a costume representing a skateboarding chimpanzee, MVP 2, Most Vertical Prima released as a video in 2001. He also had a role in the movie Grind and appeared as an interviewee on television and cable, including Fox Sports, NBC, ESPN, ABC, MTV, and local Cox Cable.
Additionally, he shot four commercials and appeared in countless promotional appearances and skateboard demonstrations. He’s featured in scores of articles in newspapers and magazines, both endemic to his sport and mainstream – including the LA Times and Orange County Register, Sports Illustrated for Kids, Thrasher, Nickelodeon Magazine, Big Brother Magazine, Sports Illustrated, and Skateboarding Magazine.
Where has Ryan competed? Overseas, his event stops have included Australia, Portugal, Canada, New Zealand, Spain, Germany, and Denmark, proving that, indeed, skateboarding is now an internationally recognized sport with competitors from all over the world. Among his U.S. appearances are Santa Monica, Venice, San Francisco, Florida, Arizona, and Colorado, as well as the X Games.
By age 13, Ryan had won more than 50 skateboarding trophies including the California Amateur Skateboard League in his age group. With few additional amateur events to conquer, no wonder he turned professional.
In the Globe World Championships in Germany, July 27, 2003, he was in first place until the finals, where he suffered a severe fall during practice. Later at the LGS Skateboarding World Championships, he placed first, with a flawless first run, becoming the youngest world champion in skateboarding history to win that event. Additionally, he was the youngest skateboarder to win the overall Van’s Grand Triple Crown in the Gravity Games in September 2003, with three perfect runs, and last August, he won a gold medal in the X Games held in Los Angeles.
2003 0verall Vans Triple Crown Winner. Ryan practices 22 hours a week on his own backyard course, which includes a half pipe, tabletops and several grinding rails. He’s even developed a trick called the “Sheck-lair,” an Indy kick flip. Although he loves junk food, his mom makes sure he takes in lots of protein and good carbohydrates. This year, Ryan was home-schooled because of his eight-month travel schedule, finding it harder than real school. He studied during and between trips with his mother constantly monitoring his work.
Ryan has just finished Tony Hawk’s Underground Two for Activision, a video game. His whole family, mom Gretchen, dad Randy, Ryan and brothers Shane and Kane are preparing for the late July arrival of the MTV Cribs film crew, which invades the homes of sports and movie celebrities to film episodes showing what their lives are like.
Gretchen Sheckler, indicated that skateboarding changed her family’s lives, “Once Ryan started getting sponsors at the age of eight, and began moving up in skateboarding ranks.”
The whole family is now totally involved, and she’s become an authority on the sport. Ryan’s dad, an engineer, has two successful electronic companies but enjoys being involved with Ryan, even keeping his own hand in the skateboard world by manufacturing grind rails for fun.
Shane is an avid skateboarder following in his brother’s footsteps. Kane, as yet, is undecided; right now, he likes bicycles and motorcycles. Ryan will attend San Clemente High School from next August through January, and, when the international skateboarding season begins in February, he’ll return to his independent study program. He enjoys all types of sports besides his current professional pursuit, and likes to hang out with his friends. No matter where in the world his daredevil travels take him, Ryan Sheckler always looks forward to coming back to San Clemente.b