If the articles in this 30th Anniversary Issue teach you anything, it should be that skateboarding has evolved leaps and bounds over the past three decades. It should also make clear that key individuals—pioneers—served as central catalysts to these massive advances. Ray Barbee’s addition to the Bones Brigade in ’87 and subsequent appearances in Powell Peralta’s Public Domain (’88) then Ban This (’89) represent some of the most critical junctures in our short history. On the heels of Steve Steadham, Ray cracked the façade of what had been more or less up to then a white-bred pastime. He also showcased some of the first conscious line-based flatground street skating ever. And unlike the neon glam beach volleyball styles of the ‘80s vert scene, Ray’s casual attire and cruising lines through LA sprawl set the table for city kids of all stripes and colors to make skateboarding theirs in the two decades and change since.   

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BITD: Carl Shipman, Extended Interview, April 2010 TWS »

Transworld SKATEboarding
Back In the Day:
Full Circle
Carl Shipman

Words Mackenzie Eisenhour
Edited Version Published: TWS April 2010

Scroll down past the image for the extended interview text before it got cut down for the magazine page. —ME

Skateboarding’s early 90’s Brit pop invasion, the one which included gnar boots imports like Rowley, Penny, Mouley and the rest, originally kicked off with 2 years and change of absolute carnage laid down by a young chap from Worsop, England by the name of Carl Shipman. After redefining the possibilities of the front blunt, cementing proper form on kickflips, frontside flips and tre flips, and providing a welcome hand at guiding skateboarding at large out of the XXL mustard/purple crevice in favor of the back-to-basics white tee and blue jeans era, Shipman’s meteoric rise was cut short due to INS woes just as he seemed to be getting warmed up. The following is his take on his two-year reign at the top, his feelings around his early exit, and his ultimate return from exile to the company that brought him Stateside to begin with.

How did you first get hooked up with Stereo?
I went to my first Münster comp with Flip in ‘93.  I was skating the outdoor park, and Jason (Lee) was there cruising around.  I did this frontside flip over the hip, and he came over to me and asked me if I’d mind doing it again.  I was like, “Yeah cool.” I skated in the comp and ended up talking to Jason some more after, and he was basically like, “Look, I’d be stoked if you’d like to come ride for Stereo.”  He told me about the company he and Chris (Pastras) were putting together – what they were doing, what they were about, the whole vibe sounded absolutely amazing—it just appealed. The Flip guys were cool about it, actually really cool about it in retrtospect, so I just went for it.

How was the first trip out to the States?
I’d just turned 18, got my own flight out, seriously not knowing anything, just trying to find my way around, and somehow got to San Francisco (Laughs). I came from a mining village in England, like rough, basically just drinking in pubs and stuff like that, and it was serious culture shock for me. It was f—king crazy. But once I got situated, I just didn’t want to leave, I absolutely loved it. I met the team, like (Mike) Daher and (Matt) Rodriguez; Ethan (Fowler) came on a bit later, and they were just absolutely amazing skateboarders to be around. Everyone just clicked.

Run down A Visual Sound (’94).
To me, it was monumental as far as video making went. Basically, you’d see a lot of the skateboard videos were you had your section, did your skating, and that was it. There was a lot of pressure involved with filming a part. But with Visual Sound it was basically about depicting the whole lifestyle you were living – like, let’s go to the coffee shop and have a coffee; or we’ll have a beer and then we’ll shoot some pool and then maybe we’ll go skate. It was about portraying the lives we chose to live. The skateboarding in that video, for me, is truly what skateboarding is about. It’s not necessarily about the hardest tricks. It was about the smooth lines, the style, and the feeling that got you wanting to ride a skateboard in the first place. There was never any pressure. It was just meant to be. They added the jazz, the still photos, the Super 8, and everything – it was just this whole package. Sometimes I put it in now and think, Jesus, I’m still absolutely stoked to have been a part of that, man. 

How about the Hubba (Hideout) front blunt? It was pretty much the gnarliest trick that had been done on that thing at that point right?
At that point, I suppose.  Now you see people just doing nollie heel crooked grinds down it.  They treat it like it’s a curb now, but it’s not.  It’s a huge ledge, over waist high, and rough as shit. That thing seriously broke me.  I remember sliding out and nearly smacking my head, just freaking out, landing on it a number of times. The make I seriously rolled out fully crouched. I wish I had filmed it.  I wish it were in the video, but I didn’t care at the time.  It was just that was the way it was for me. When I saw it on the Thrasher cover, I was so shocked. I’ve got it framed now.  It’s definitely an honor to be on a magazine cover like that.

Break down the Visa Incident.
I went to the Slam City contest in Vancouver.  I remember telling Deluxe at the time, “This could get sketchy; I don’t have a work Visa.”  When Canada let me in, it was sort of like, “Ah piece of cake; no problem.” I skated the comp, and on the way back, they just pulled me to one side and I remember seeing Drake Jones and the Real guys, just waving at me, going through passport control, and I’m thinking, I’ll be with you in a minute. Six hours of interrogation later, I realized that what I had long dreaded was now happening. They sent me back to England, and I remember having twenty dollars in my pocket getting off the plane thinking, “Shit, this is it, I’m never going to be in America again. It’s over.” When I look back on it, everything happens for a reason.  But at the time it completely messed up skateboarding for me. I was back in England for nearly two years, and it was hard to get all the footage that they needed or even get people to shoot photos.  It just didn’t work.

How did you feel about your Tincan Folklore (’96) part?
It was filmed in like two or three days of skating.  It was so rushed.  It wasn’t close to the quality skating that I wanted to be putting across. When I saw it I was pretty bummed. It was a tough time because I missed being out there.  I missed actually skating with the guys and trying to push myself. It was a tough time. I felt like my life had been taken from me.

Yeah, man.  I can only imagine.  You’re basically given this taste of your dream; only to have it stripped right back.
Yeah.  It messed me up with the other sponsors (DC, Droors, etc…) as well. Basically I started getting pissed off and thinking, shit I’m stuck out here, and they expect me to get all this coverage. I had people coming up to me saying, “You blew it.  You should’ve stayed in America,” but they didn’t understand it.  I couldn’t be in America. Eventually I just started hitting the Pub.  Honestly, I look at it all now, and it was probably the best thing that happened to me. I was already getting a bit wild before the Visa ban.  I met my wife here; she sorted me out (Laughs).  I settled down and basically enjoyed my life in a different way. But it was always there, in the back of my mind, the California Dream.  

How did you end up getting back on?
Dune (Pastras) invited my wife and I down to an art show he was having in London around ‘05.  Jason was there too; it was so amazing to see them after all those years. I couldn’t stay that long because I had work commitments, but it felt like we hadn’t missed a day. We kept in touch after that and eventually when they started up the Classics Division in ‘08, Chris asked me if I wanted to be a part of it. I don’t know how to explain it. It just blew my mind that they’d come back and say, “We’d like for you to come and skate for this again.” It was like all the same excitement came rushing back like I was 18. You know, everybody grows up and has kids, moves on to their own thing. But it’s like I’ve been out skating tonight, and I still have that same passion for it. Actually it’s almost stronger now.  It’s not about how good you have to be or any of that.  It’s just about how good it feels. That’s really all it ever should be.

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