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Through nearly 30 years of awesomely gruesome crashes, flips, spills, and bruises, Ryan Sheckler has built an immortal skateboarding empire—one 30-second video clip at a time.
It normally takes one step out of bed for the skateboarding icon to be reminded that for each successfully viral backside flip came dozens of fails that have led to his medical list that includes multiple ACL and MCL tears, broken bones, torn ligaments, concussions, and countless blood-dripping gashes.
Fortunately, despite his lengthy injury history, the Red Bull athlete, now at age 34, is proving that he can still nail the landing. These days, however, skateboarding comes second to family life and fatherhood. Sheckler’s proud of what he’s overcome to get to this point—from his injuries to his documented bouts with alcoholism and drug use.
At the same time, Sheckler says he hasn’t fallen off too far from his days of teenage dominance, when he won X Games gold at age 13 and went on to star in his own MTV show, Life of Ryan, in 2007. Now it just takes a little more preparation.
“I wake up sore every day,” Sheckler says. “I don’t feel like my 13-year-old self at all—my 100 percent right now is like, 90 percent of what it was then. There’s residual stress on my body from everything I’ve done. It may take me a second, maybe an ice bath to get my mind right, I go work out and just do the day. And then I’m fine. But I don’t think I’ll ever feel 100 percent again.”
Now sober for nearly four years, Sheckler still puts in the board work, and is still in search of his next great video moment. His prolifically unparalleled skateboarding career was chronicled with a recently released pair of Red Bull produced films, Rolling Away and Lifer. The films highlighted some of Sheckler’s most memorable skateboard moments—both the highs and lows.
”Skaters will continue to push the limits of what’s possible, and that’s why this was such a labor of love. This is my statement as a skateboarder,” he says.
With the physical risks associated with the sport, skateboarders aren’t necessarily known for their longevity. However, it’s been more than three decades since Sheckler first got up a skateboard at the age of 4, and is still going strong. Sheckler attributes his durability to a consistent workout program he’s stuck with since high school. “I’ve to keep this armor on so that I can bounce off the concrete and not be as affected as I would be if I didn’t train,” he says. “So, I’ve been training since I was 16, and I honestly think that it’s helped the longevity of my career.”
Sheckler’s routine has him hitting the gym about four times weekly, with his trainer. When he’s on the road, he’ll even incorporate his skateboard into his workouts, performing ab rollouts and glute bridges when he’s not hitting a kickflip. When it comes skateboarding-specific training, the objective he says is to work on improving his lateral movement.
“I need to be able to have power when I land on the ground in whatever position I am which is never straightforward,” he says. “So we do a lot of directional training and a lot of weightlifting.
Now that his competition days are for the most part behind him, Sheckler is now able to focus on a Winning Strategy that consists of a formula of family, fitness and faith—as well as fatherhood as he and his wife Abigail are the proud parents of 5-month-old daughter, Olive. Having balance in his life is a welcome blessing, he says.
“The main thing would have been my relationship with Jesus Christ,” Sheckler says. “I wish I would have found that a younger age just to see where it would’ve taken me. But maybe then I wouldn’t have gone through everything that I’ve been through to actually have this story of redemption in my life. But it is what it is, it’s part of my story. I’ve been sober for three and a half years now and life’s become way more manageable. Not easier, but manageable.”
RYAN SHECKLER’S WINNING STRATEGY
1. Use Your Story to Inspire Others
I think by telling my story, there could be some ears that it could fall on, and it may help that person. I think at the end of the day, you realize that too, at this level that I’m at, it wasn’t done just by myself. There were so many people involved who believed in me and helped get me to this level. I think naturally for myself, I just want to see if maybe my story, and my trials and tribulations can help someone else get through something that they’re either going through, or it could be motivating in the sense that they start really pursuing a sport or an activity or an art form that they’re interested in, but maybe haven’t had the push or the motivation to do it.
I think there’s power in expressing what you’ve been through to get to the level that you’re at, and to do it in a way that kind of takes the ego out of it, where it’s not like, look at me, look what I’ve done. It’s more like, Hey, this is where I’m at and this is what it took to get here. If you care, cool, if you don’t care, cool. This is my life, and this is what it is.
2. Don’t forget the Bad Times, Even the Hard to Watch Parts
It may depend on what I’m watching, but sometimes it’s hard to watch myself. I’ve already lived that moment, so I don’t really need to see it. But when it’s a project of the caliber of “Lifer,” “Rolling Away,” and all the Red Bull videos, it’s kind of cool to be able to see the progress and like, actually remember what the tricks were. It’s cool to remember what that day was like when I was there.
The documentary is a little bit gnarlier in the sense that it brings up some emotions that I’ve pretty much had to do therapy to get past, but I’ve done so much work in my personal life that when I see the crazy falls and where and I’ve broken bones, that’s a little gnarly. I’ve never really gotten used to that. But it reminds of why I do what I do. It reminds me that I still love this enough to keep pushing through that. It also reminds me that those injuries are just a blip in time—what’s done is done. I’m good, I’m chillin’ and moving forward, and my life is going straight. Watching them is a good reminder that gnarly things happen, but you can move past them.
3. To Nail the Landing You may First Need to Crash
All of the tricks in my videos definitely took at least 20-plus tries, and that’s the low end. Some took at least 100 tries, most of them nobody will ever see. It’s days and days of tries for like, a 40-second clip. To some people, that makes zero sense. To me, it makes all the sense in the world. It’s just how you view it.
It’s not just about skating, it’s about life too. Life doesn’t happen on the first try. Sometimes you might get really lucky. You get an opportunity, and boom! you get it the first try, but that’s not always realistic. Anything that I’m doing that takes more than one try, I know it’s worth it. If it happens really fast and really quick, I’m stoked, but I also realize that maybe I didn’t put enough effort into [the idea].
I’ve gotten a lot of growth from multiple attempts at life —and multiple attempts at failing. Failing fires me up, whether it’s in business, skateboarding, something I’m doing in my relationship that I need to fix—but you don’t want too many fails in your marriage. But you know, there’s some that happened every once in a while where I’m like, OK, cool. I totally understand that, that I need to not do that. And I’m just not scared to fail. I’m not scared to fail. So it makes the success of what I’m trying to do that much, much better and fulfilling.
4. It’s OK to Live in the Now
I meditate mostly in the early parts of the morning. I’ll wake up and go outside and just take five to 10 minutes and just breathe. I’m just in a state of gratitude, grateful to be alive and awake, to be moving and have a family.
I kind of go through a gratitude list of why I’m thankful, and most of the time when I’m in a state of gratitude, any problems that arise are manageable. It’s not really the end of the world. And most things that come my way nowadays are very fixable. So, I don’t have to look over my shoulder. I don’t have to worry about what I did the day before. I don’t live a life like that anymore. I used to when I was 14. And I definitely worried about what the next day held because I didn’t remember what my behavior was the night before.
Now, I’m not worried. I don’t think that far ahead. I wake up, kiss my wife. I pray to be guided through the day. And then I kind of just go I have a routine: I eat breakfast, I make coffee. I go work out or handle anything that I need to handle at my office, and I kind of just let the day flow. I don’t think too far ahead—that gets me in trouble. And I definitely don’t think in the past—what’s done is done. Tomorrow’s not promised. I have found that being present in that way allows me to deal with life on life’s terms. And I don’t feel like life’s happening at me. I just feel like life is happening.
This is something anyone can incorporate. It’s like, do you want to do that, though? I think it’s a simpler way of life—but don’t get me wrong, I don’t do it perfectly. Some days. I know for sure when I’m not present and I’m thinking about something else—that can stress me out. Just know however, that it’s going to be fine. It’s going to be what it is. It is what it is. Do I think people can benefit from living in the moment? For sure. But it’s something that needs to be practiced. And yeah, you got to put some time into it.
5. Don’t Preach, Instead Explain from Your Experience
I don’t think people respond well to being told what to do—I definitely didn’t. I didn’t respond to, “Hey, don’t do that!” You tell me not to go do that, and I’m going to go do that to be defiant, and also because now, I’m curious if it’s possible that if what you say is gonna happen will happen.
All I can do for this generation that’s coming up and for anyone who I’m mentoring is to explain what happened to me in this circumstance that they’re about to go through or what they’re thinking about doing. If I’ve been through it, all I can do is share my experience. You can take from it what you want. I can’t tell anyone what to do. And that seems to be working for me because I do have experience. I’ve been at this game for a long time. I’ve been with a lot of different companies. I’ve been all over the world. And I do have experience in pretty much every aspect of skateboarding this new generation has been put up against. So for me it’s not about yes or no, it’s about what happened to me. Take it how you will.