Ryan Sheckler was skateboarding’s first wunderkind. At just 13 years old, Sheckler won an X-games gold medal, despite competing against globally-recognised pros in their late teens and 20s. His immense talent at a young age earned him an MTV show ‘The Life of Ryan’, and from there, he was catapulted to stratospheric heights of fame.
Since then, Ryan Sheckler has continued to be a mainstay within skateboarding, having recently launched his own skateboard brand, Sandlot Times. We chatted with Sheckler about his company, his sobriety, becoming a dad, and a bunch of other cool stuff.
You’ve been in the public eye for so long. Now with like hindsight, are you grateful that you were thrust into the life you had? Or do you wish you were just a normal skater kid without fame?
I think there were moments when I thought I wanted to be like a normal kid that went to school and just got to skate when I wanted to. But then if I really looked back at it, I’ve been so blessed to be able to be a professional skateboarder, especially the way it happened. I grew up with adults since I was about eight years old. I learned a lot about what to do, and what not to do during that time. It was a life-changing experience, for sure.
It wasn’t until I was about 21 that I realised, man, I never really hung out with kids. Up until about fifth grade at school is when I hung out with kids. That’s why I enjoyed school. I wasn’t really too concerned with what classes I was taking. I kind of knew from a very young age that college was not something I was interested in at all. I knew I felt a certain way on my skateboard, and I just knew that my life would be dedicated to skateboarding.
So in some way, shape, or form, I knew I was going to be something in skateboarding, whether it was starting my own business or being a team manager. It turned out I was able to actually like skate and compete and do well in events. And then came the MTV show. That was crazy. And now it’s come full circle now where I run a skateboard brand called Sandlot Times.
I’ve got two kids [riding for the team] that are seven and eight years old. So I’m in that position of like, the older guy that has the Groms with me. I have a little bit more – actually, I have a lot more life experience, especially in the skateboarding world that I can show these kids. I can show them what not to do in skateboarding, beyond just tricks. I’m not worried about the tricks, I’m just worried about the extracurricular activities that you know, the kids can get trapped in. So I can say, “Hey, I went down that road. This is what happened to me.”
I think there are a lot of people who would have crumbled in your situation. A lot of young people who became famous have crumbled. But you turned out well.
Bro, the mountaintop was right there. I was right at the edge. I toyed with that edge. I was living like it was never going to end, and eventually, I developed a problem with alcohol. That really almost took me out completely. Mentally I was completely finished. There were times when I didn’t want to skate anymore. I didn’t want anything anymore. I wanted it to be over. I didn’t know if I really wanted to be alive. I wouldn’t say I was suicidal, but I didn’t know if I wanted to be alive.
Looking back on these things that I’m talking about, they weren’t even a big deal. Alcohol creates these monsters in your mind and turns a normal situation that is totally manageable into an unmanageable, unfathomable, crisis in your life.
The money definitely didn’t help because the money attracted people around me to not tell me the truth, not telling me that I had a problem because they wanted to continue to party, continue the ride, and I was the one that was paying for it. And I don’t blame anyone. I don’t blame anyone at all. This was all my doing for sure. And when I needed help, the people that really loved me came in and helped me and allowed me to see that I was messing up.
My life has just been up and down and sideways and all over the place and then looped around. And you know, I’m finally in a place now where like, I think the calmness of my life comes from believing in Jesus Christ wholeheartedly. I do Bible study on Wednesday. I hit church Wednesday night, and then I hit church on Sunday. And in the middle of the week, Monday and Thursday, I’m going to program meetings for my alcoholism.
I’ve lived a full life and now I’m in a very beautiful position right now to be of service to others. I can get out of myself and pour myself into not just skateboarders but also other people that are struggling with alcohol, or even those that are just questioning what’s going on in their lives.
I realize that God’s allowed me to experience all of these things in life, all these ups and downs, and all this pain so that I can be a sounding board for a lot of people that do have questions. I’m definitely in a better place now than I’ve ever been.
It sounds like you’re entering a new chapter of your life. You’re also about to have a kid. How do you feel about that?
Yeah, I got a little girl due in early March. I feel really great.
I was talking about it with my wife, and we were talking kind of about bucket list things. She’s a little younger than me. And she wants to travel and I’m down, but I’ve traveled my whole life. I’ve traveled so much that it’s not really the most appealing thing. So she asked me, what’s on my bucket list? And I don’t have anything on it, except to be a dad.
That’s a life experience that I’m ready for. Mentally, and financially, we’re ready. I’ll do it to the best of my abilities, and I’m stoked. It’s a little baby girl. I have a lot of friends that are girl dads, and they say it’s epic. We just had our halfway-point ultrasound. She’s healthy and the size she’s supposed to be, so that’s all we’ve been praying for.
And how did you know your wife was the one when you met her? Was there any doubt that she could be using you for fame or money, like the people during your party years?
That’s a good question. I think it had to do with the way we met. You know, we met walking our dogs in opposite directions on the beach trail in San Clemente. That’s a place where I can actually disconnect from the world and be super present. And it’s the same for her. When I saw her, I had this overwhelming need to talk to her. I didn’t know what it was. So I talked to her…and she wasn’t very interested. Then I gave her my phone number, and she never called me. I was like, alright.
I couldn’t stop thinking about her, and I saw her again, pretty much at the same spot, walking her dog That time, I asked her if I could have her number because she wasn’t calling me. And then from there, we just went super slow. I could just tell she wanted to know who I was as a person. She didn’t know who I was from TV or anything, and she didn’t really care either when she found out. That was pretty cool.
You just launched your skateboard company, Sandlot Times. How did that come about?
I had reached a point where I was thinking about my legacy in skateboarding and I wanted to be able to make my own decisions. I want to come up with designs and have a say over what direction the brand is going, what kind of music we’re putting out with our parts, what type of skaters we’re bringing on, and the overall message of the brand. I just didn’t have that type of control at previous companies that I rode for.
I was just at a time and place in my life where I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I just knew I needed a clean slate. I needed to be free. And so that’s what we did with Sandlot Times. It’s only been out for, I don’t know, six months, and we sold out of our first round of boards, which is rad. We have a good thing going.
I saw you recently collab’ed with Avril Lavigne. How did that come about?
Yeah, Avril’s a friend. She was doing her merch line and she wanted to do boards, so I helped her out. We ended up printing like 5000 boards for her, which was rad. That’s what’s awesome about having your own company. We don’t have to go through a bunch of hoops and talk to 15 different people to try to get that done. It was one phone call between us and her team, and then we did it. I was stoked that we could be a part of what she’s doing, she’s rad.
Tell me about your organisation, the Sheckler Foundation. What are you guys up to over there?
The past few years, man, we’ve been doing as much as we possibly can. COVID was gnarly. We weren’t able to tour around as much during the pandemic, but more recently, we went on a big tour and we were able to give a bunch of $10,000 grants to adaptive athletes.
We’ve also been raising money for kids in schools, and children’s hospitals. We really just kind of do a reach out and see who needs help – it doesn’t have to be an action sport. The [Sheckler] Foundation has been around now for 16 years. And we just continue to donate. We just continue to donate and continue to try to be a little bit of help in communities and you know, we’re still a relatively small foundation, but we have been around for a while so people want to work with us, which is rad. We love it.
Lastly, what’s on the horizon for Ryan Sheckler?
There’s a lot we’re working on. We’re working on Sandlot Times, getting ready to drop some new graphics and some apparel. I’ve got a skate video coming out with Red Bull that I’m working on, and then next year, I’ll have a baby. So that’s super rad.
I’m trying to get the house ready for all of that and make sure the wife is happy and eating right and hydrating, doing what she needs to be doing. And you know, just staying on top of my program staying on top of my connection with the grace of God, and I’m just really ready for pretty much ready for anything that comes my way. That’s where I’m at. We’ll see what comes my way. I think if you’re open and ready, beautiful things happen.