‘I did a lot of stuff for transworld and transworld business over maybe 15 years.’
There is not much info I could find on the internet about you. Are you keeping a low profile by choice?
Never really thought about it. If you mean Facebook or Twitter then yeah, I’ve never been into that whole scene. I’m on Instagram but I’m not sure how I feel about it. Half the time, I’m stoked and the other half I’m think about deleting it.
In my search I came across a character called Colonel Douglas Mortimer in Sergio Leone’s western movies, played by Lee van Cleef. Any resemblance?
More of a Manco fan. But I love those movies. I’ve re-purchased A fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good the Bad and Ugly multiple times on DVD, Blu-Ray and then 4K.
You were the editor of the Skateboarder Magazine. When did you took up the role and how did you get it in first place?
I can’t really remember when I started there. I’ve been writing for a few decades and it all blurs together. Maybe 1998? I lived in Vancouver and skated for Powell Peralta and moved in with Tony Hawk. We became good friends and I got to know his brother, Steve, who was the editor for Surfer magazine. Surfer had been around since the 1960s and they were the publishers of SkateBoarder in the 1970s. I had begun writing for some magazines and newspapers and when Surfer wanted to reboot SkateBoarder on an oversized annual basis. Tony, Steve and I jumped in and helped make it happen. We did two annual issues and then a few years later it went bimonthly.
Who were some of the people you worked with?
Over the years I worked a lot with Steve Hawk and Miki Vuckovich. Learned a lot from those two and they’re still close friends. I did a lot of stuff for Transworld and Transworld Business over maybe 15 years. Twenty years?
‘We always wanted to show readers a new perspective that they could carry outside of the skateboard world.’
What did you do at Transworld?
I wrote articles and did interviews, mostly ones I pitched to them. Other editors like it when you can offer something that is already formed.
What was your most memorable event working for mags?
Coming up with concepts that really connect with readers is the best. There are so many ways to deliver data and to huddle with creative people and find innovative and fun ways to get that done is fantastic. We always wanted to show readers a new perspective that they could carry outside of the skateboard world.
I am sure you have interviewed hundreds of people within the SB community. Is there one which was a complete disaster to do?
Not really because I was a part of that community and skated with everybody so it was like talking to your buddy or a buddy of another buddy. I did write this one piece for an art show on graffiti and the somewhat famous artist guy was all insulted that I was asking basic questions about his history even after I explained that I wanted direct quotes for the article. He kept telling me to watch this documentary on him and I was like, “I saw it, but I want some of your specific words on how you grew up.”
Why did you leave the mag businsess?
Got burned out on dealing with this one business guy who was near the top of the company.
There is this double ad with you and Tony for RAT BONES. I have two questions for you about that.
No. 1 – Why did they spell your name ‘SHAWN’?
Ads, in general are done at the last minute and the layout dude was probably pulling it off an early teamrider’s list. I never saw it until I got the mag.
No. 2 – Were you happy how much you progressed as a skateboarder?
More happy to just skate with friends and that never really changes. I’m more stoked that getting sponsored and being in mags and videos allowed me to meet some really awesome people that I’m still tight with.
You wrote three books all around skateboarding. Which one was the challenging to complete and why?
I think I wrote four, although one was a young adult version of Tony’s autobiography so maybe 3.5? Rod’s book was the most challenging because our editor quit her job halfway through and she really understood skateboarding. They hired temporary hacks and the publisher went through three of them before we finally published. Our old editor was really supportive and without her the book didn’t get the publisher’s marketing behind it. But, it’s still in print and selling twenty years later so that’s kinda awesome.
What motivates you to write a book? Apparently, you have to be lucky to just break even.
The best feeling that can come from writing is when somebody comes up and tells you how a book or article you worked on changed them for the better. If I have the opportunity, I always thank writers, skaters, musicians, artists when they create something that changes my POV.
If you could wish for one book to be done right now, what would it be about?
It would be about how the skateboarding way of approaching obstacles can change your life. The skate concept of “obstacles” as something that we look forward to in order to progress and challenge makes you a different person. Skaters look at a curb and instead of seeing something designed to stop you, they make it a plaything! At its root, skating creates its own value system, one outside of mainstream culture. Operating outside of mainstream culture is super valuable and life-changing. Not too long ago, I was hit by a speeding truck and flipped over it 1.5 times and landed on my head. Fractured spine, face ripped open, nose punched through my skull, traumatic brain injury. I was in a trauma centre and pretty fucked up. The medical system with all the numerologists, spinal surgeons and chronic-pain specialists was really pleased with itself and happy to leave me in a very subpar state of recovery. But I’d learned to operate outside the mainstream system thanks to skating and reached out to professional BMXer Mat Hoffman and pro skaters like Tony Hawk and Chris Miller and Ed Templeton and they all offered help in very unconventional ways. Stacy Peralta helped the most and really encouraged me to go renegarde and seek out different ways to see the accident and work with it. It has been super challenging, but, man, it makes me SO thankful to be a skater.
‘Rod’s book was the most challenging because our editor quit her job halfway through and she really understood skateboarding.’
This is insane. Thank for being so open to share this story. You just changed my POV. Can you give us an example how they helped you with an unconventional way?
Well, I have no memory of the time around the accident because of the brain damage, but it was the day after Christmas and I was hit next to the beach in Carlsbad, CA so there were a lot of witnesses. All my doctors and physical therapists were tripping that I had survived and were telling me to my face that I should have died, etc. But I somehow had a memory or some … strange experiences, let’s just say. I didn’t know what to do with them because they didn’t align with anything in my life and no doctor I ever met had even been hit by a truck. I needed people who had experienced similar shit, not simply read about it in a book at a safe distance. Hoffman had flatlined before and I knew a guy who was on an airplane that had crashed onto a highway and burned half the people on board before he was pulled out unconscious. Stacy had just lost his son as well and he reached out and basically told me to turn into all the trauma and see it as an opportunity instead of something unfair. He texted me saying he knew it sounded like crazy shit, but try to be open to the experience. Doctors were throwing all these drugs at me but I went cold turkey five days after the hospital released me so I could be aware and work on shit as cleanly as possible. Mind you, my brain was dented so that took a long time to work out and there are still issues. It sounds all sappy and sentimental when it’s translated to words, but when you’re beyond what the medical establishment can deal with … it’s good to have some guides.
What other projects are you working on?
I was working with Mark Mothersbaugh of the band DEVO on a musical, but I think that project might not be happening now. Not sure. A lot of people were involved and while we both loved it, but it looks like the producers were not so stoked for some reason. But, fuck it, working with Mark from DEVO! That music changed my life. Developing that friendship was life-changing for me and the work was super inspiring and you can’t always control what happens after you write the book or the musical or whatever so I just focus on the creative sparks. Mark just hit me up about contributing to an art book he’s putting out so I’ll be writing something for that. I’m also working with two producers on two documentaries, but they’re in the starting phases.
‘Stacy Peralta helped the most and really encouraged me to go renegade and seek out different ways to see the accident and work with it.’
Are you able to share what the documentaries are about?
One is about the history of alternative sports and the other one is about a pro skater.
What books are you reading?
Einstein by Isaacson. The Doors of Perception by Huxley. Inherent Vice by Pynchon. I always read multiple books at a time.
Last question: If you could interview one person, who would it be and why?
Einstein. Dude reminds me of a mischievous creative misfit. Reading about his curiosity and ability to visualize outside of “reality” reminds me of Mark Gonzales and Neil Blender. Wait … maybe Jimi Hendrix. Can I interview two people? Hendrix was just like them as well but used a guitar to translate his experience.
‘Reading about his curiosity and ability to visualize outside of “reality” reminds me of Mark Gonzales and Neil Blender.’