Ryan Sheckler’s Ride To Redemption
How One Major Obstacle Forced An X Games Champ Into The Best Shape Of His Life
Ryan Sheckler is sitting on a foam roller, stretching his hips and prodding his hamstrings. We walk back and forth, across the gym at Naoka Fitness & Therapy, continuing dynamic stretches while he tells me about his new place of sanctuary. He is at Nakoa four days a week, no matter what.
“It’s just amazing to me that I’ve made it through 27 years of life and right now in my 27th year, I honestly can say I feel stronger, smarter, more connected to God, more connected to the world and more connected to my skateboard than I’ve ever been and the passion I have now is so real and so infectious that it transfers to my friends and it transfers to my family. It transfers to people that I meet because I try to stay calm and I try to love everyone.”
Sheckler, a living legend among skateboarders, is remarkably mobile for someone with multiple knee injuries, and an ankle full of torn apart ligaments. He is explosive through a round of squats and he pops off the floor and lands on a plyo box as softly as a ninja dropping out the sky.
For more than a year, Sheckler, who will headline Red Bull Hart Lines this weekend at Detroit’s Hart Plaza, has dedicated himself to building a body that’s ready for anything. He says he’s been in “fight-ready shape for eight months and not for any reason. I’m not training to sate a contest. I’m just training for life.”
Courtesy of Red Bull/Seun Trinh
Sure, maybe Sheckler is training right through Hart Lines, a contest that he masterminded to showcase the skate world’s top talent. But when he takes center stage in Detroit, he won’t just be showing off a stronger frame, he will be healthy – for the first time in a long time – both body and mind.
See, Sheckler’s commitment to training isn’t just about his body. It’s also a sanctuary for him. It’s a place where he can better himself every day and build consistency. And it’s a long way away from the dark days when he wanted to quit skateboarding – his passion for as long as he could stand on two feet.
There was a time when Sheckler lost his thrill for the board because of the pressure – from fans, from the media, from himself. He wanted to get away. For too long, he was waking up late, half-assing his training and ignoring his health both physically and mentally. And he was drinking too much.
“I turned into an alcoholic,” he told me just outside of the Naoka parking lot, pausing to assert that he had never said this publicly before. “I got caught up.”
Sheckler one his first X Games when he was 13 years old, the youngest gold medalist in X Games history. By the time he was 17, he had a reality show on MTV. He traveled on private planes, won skate contests all over. In 2015, he starred in Justin Bieber’s video for the hit song What Do You Mean? There were parties, lots of parties, and everyone wanted a piece of him. Sheckler was lost.
“And the alcohol flooded my brain,” he said. “It fuzzied my brain and it made me miserable. It made me hate myself. It made me hate skateboarding. I wanted to disappear, dude. I really wanted to disappear, take the money I had made and have no phone, no nothing and if you were my friend and you were in a five-minute radius and you could get to me, then that’s who I was going to hang out with. I kinda just wanted to disappear. That’s what alcohol did to me, man.”
Sheckler wanted a break. He wanted to enjoy the money that he had earned, the name and reputation he had built. And his training suffered. Sheckler woke up late. He loafed his way through workouts. He cut his skate sessions early when he couldn’t nail a trick down pat.
Sheckler knew he was off, clouded in a haze that liquor brings on and he did what young men do. He called his mom and flew home. She took him straight to a rehabilitation center. And Shecks began to start over. When he was ready to skate again, he hit it hard. But injuries hit back harder and Sheckler is no stranger to injuries. He’s broken his right elbow six times, blew up knees, shredded his ankle and broken his foot.
This time, he discovered he had a partially torn MCL and a fully torn meniscus in his right knee after skating at the Detroit demo before the Hart Lines last year. Sheckler had to do something different with his body. That’s when Sheckler paired with John Welch, a strength coach and a Cali boy, just like Shecks.
“He has the friends just like mine, half are in fucking prison, half are home, some are dead. That’s the same shit. We have all the same kind of homies. Everyone thinks these beach towns aren’t gnarly. They are frickin' gnarly. It is live. And it’s tight. But that’s why we’re so perfect for each other”
Sheckler’s agent Steve Astephen, was working out at Nakoa and suggested that Sheckler come in. On his first day, Welch saw Sheckler – now around 6 percent body fat – was soft and unmotivated. Except he was wrong. Sheckler was motivated and he proved it early.
“He gives it 100 percent whenever he’s in here and I throw all kinds of crazy stuff at him,” Welch said. “It could be Oly lifting on the platform or kettlebell work. It could be different kinds of metcons with med balls and sledgehammers. It could be different speed and agility work. And he’s in it. He doesn’t shy away from it.”
Courtesy of Red Bull/Seun Trinh
Our abbreviated workout started with back squats at a 135-pounds, with the addition of giant, steel ropes adding another 40 pounds to his rep. Each set of three followed a superset with depth jumps – essentially stepping off a high platform, landing quickly and popping up immediately to another high platform. With each landing, Sheckler turned in a different direction, dropping into a deep squat, the same way he would on his board.
We mixed in some medicine ball work — tosses and pushes — and moved on to the tornado ball that basically resembles a 20-pound med ball attached to a rope. The idea was to slam it, side-to-side, for 30 seconds. (And your obliques will be lit up for days to follow.) Welch wanted to concentrate on quality. But he tacked on a cardio circuit at the end. Three rounds of alternating between slamming a sledgehammer on a tire and sprinting on a Versaclimber.
His body is more resilient now – more responsive even. Welch said his ability is far beyond what Sheckler had when he was dominating skateboarding.
“John is the best skateboarding coach in the world right now,” Sheckler said. “And that’s all by accident. That’s organic. We’re coming up with our own workouts that people across the world are taking and using. Dude, we come up with the craziest shit in here. And it’s all stability for knees, ACL, MCL, everything a skateboarder deal with.
“You have to switch it up. Life is not going to be exactly how you have it thought. Everything changes so if you can adapt to small changes, big changes, minimal changes… it’s with life. My footwork turns into my brainwork.”
Red Bull Hart Lines, one of the most dynamic competitions in skateboarding with its one-of-a-kind course layout and contest format, returns to Detroit’s historic Hart Plaza. The action will air live, only on Red Bull TV May 13 at 12:30pm PST/7:30pm UTC. Red Bull TV is distributed digitally as an app across mobile phones, tablets, consoles, OTT devices, Smart TVs and online at www.redbull.tv.