(Featured: Sidewalk Magazine & Nike Skateboarding ‘Skate Basics Guide’, Fall 2013.)
Shane O’Neill is one of today’s most interesting professional skateboarders. Growing up in Melbourne, Australia, Shane gained worldwide recognition with his pro-debut video part in 2010. With a flawless style, he constantly pushes the limits of technical skateboarding. Whether it’s combining a flip into a grind, or just adding a little bit extra, Shane’s footage is guaranteed to make jaws drop. Shane’s sponsors include Skate Mental, Fourstar Clothing, Thunder Trucks and Nike SB, who he is currently filming a part for in the upcoming ‘The SB Chronicles Part II.’ Shane also frequents the comp circuit where even under pressure his abilities excel; taking first place at this year’s Copenhagen Pro and being one of the few to place 1st at a Street League Skateboarding event (Kansas City, 2012).
So, how did you get into skateboarding, how long have you been doing it?
I got into skating through a kid in my neighbourhood, he had a board and was 5 or so years older than me, I was 10. He ended up quitting skating and he gave me his skateboard, it was an old Birdhouse or Hookups board. I just started rolling and slowly learning more about skating. Now I’ve been skating for 13 years.
Did you have any other interests when you first started?
Not really, just kid stuff. Probably the regular, I went to school, Aussie football. I dunno, not really interests just stuff you do as a little kid.
So did you take to it quickly or did it take a while for you to really get into skating?
It was pretty slow for the first year. I’d ride around the neighbourhood, just learning how to push and stuff like that. I’m not sure how long it was… maybe like 6 months… 6 months to a year was when I started to Ollie and learn tricks. I was super exited, everything went from there.
What was it like growing up as a skateboarder in Melbourne, are there a lot of places to skate?
Melbourne was good at the time, there was a skatepark in the city. I think I went down there twice, then a park got built a little closer so I would catch the train there with a couple of friends. We just skated there. There weren’t that many skaters around apart from in the city, so I didn’t need to know anyone that I didn’t already know and there weren’t any sponsored guys. I just had a good group of friends. Then as I started learning more tricks we’d get a crew together and go into the city filming.
Did you prefer skating street or park?
Well I didn’t skate a skatepark until probably a year of skating, maybe more. I just street skated every day after school. I’d go skate a school or go to some stairs because there were no parks close to me; I would go to skateparks on a weekend. Nowadays it’s different, I’ll skate parks during the week and then go to street spots on a weekend.
Have you always had a more technical side to your skating?
Not always, I guess since I started skating I always wanted to learn new tricks. Then after a certain amount of years when you’re skating every single day, you do all the regular tricks. So you try and flip into a trick or out of a trick, or into and out of manuals, it looks cool and you get stoked. I just like doing new tricks. Even nowadays there are so many tricks that I could’ve done 5 years ago but I’ll do it at the park; its rad that I never did it before. I’m just into that sorta progression.
What is it about the more technical side to skateboarding that you like, as opposed to jumping down stairs or transitions?
I actually love skating transition, it’s really fun. But when I’m filming a video part I prefer to go with street footage. I do like skating stairs, I skate stairs all the time, you get a different kind of rush from it.
You said how you like to flip in and out of tricks, is that how you approach learning new things?
Yeah pretty much, I try and add things together. Maybe a trick I used to do a lot and then a new flip trick I learn. For my video parts, I try not to have them too crazy and do too many weird tricks, but not simple things, just stuff that works. When I’m skating a park or filming a clip I’ll just go for whatever feels fun.
Because of your style of tricks, you are compared to legends such as Deawon Song and Rodney Mullen – How does that feel?
Yeah that’s crazy! They do and have done things that are un-comprehendible to pretty much every skater. It’s just them in their own category. Deawon’s manuals and Rodney’s…whatever he does, all of it’s just amazing. To be compared to them, it’s just…like…no way! (laughs)
Who do you get stoked on nowadays and who do you skate with?
When I’m not travelling, pretty much just Paul (Rodriguez), Torey (Pudwill) and Mikey Taylor. There are so many fun places to skate in L.A. and we all live in the same area. I skate with those dudes nearly every day. If I was in Melbourne, I’d skate with the guys I grew up with. I try to as much as I can, every time I go back I skate with the same dudes I did when I was 14.
What’s it like skating in Street League? How do you handle the pressure in that type of competition? Does the pressure help in any way?
When I first went into it I’d just gone pro so I was kinda nervous. This year it’s been really good, all the parks have been fun. The level of training you get from skating there really helps you progress. It’s fun, but its hard trying crazy tricks every attempt.
Is it tempting to play it too safe and stick with certain go-to tricks at Street League?
Yeah. Personally I want to do different things but when it comes to the last section it’s always pretty big or difficult in some way. So you have to do go-to tricks. I love the energy and it’s cool that you have to be so consistent. You gotta land 4 out of 6 tries, so sometimes you have to stick with go to tricks when it’s down a big set or rail or hubba.
As a frequent member of the ‘9 Club’, how rewarding, or weird is it, to see a hard trick celebrated to that extent?
I’m down for it because you don’t get that on average day out skating. But if I do a trick I get a high score for, I’m stoked enough that I landed that trick. If it’s an 8.9 or something, it doesn’t mean anything to me, it’s not gonna change my mind. I’m just stoked.
How is skating in Street League different to being out filming for a video part.
The difference is, in Street League, you have to try to be consistent. It gets really hard because of how good the other skaters are, you gotta be so concentrated on the contest.
So do different things get you motivated?
Yeah, way different, I love street skating. I love skating the contests but there’s so many I’m trying to do well in, it takes some time away from street skating. What really matters is street skating.
The way I look at it, I have all this stuff going on like filming video parts and travelling to different places just to skate what I wanna skate, so I’m not gonna take it for granted.
Would you rather be out with a crew, or just you and a filmer? Do you get more motivated with friends?
I do if it’s like a mission, I’m happy cos there’s a bunch of people and we’re all having fun. Just filming whatever comes at the spot we go to. If I have specific spot and trick in mind, I like it mellower, so I can get it done and then hang out with everyone. I don’t wanna get stressed out and have people wait it out for me.
‘The SB Chronicles Part II’ what’s been the schedule for an average day of filming?
I’ve only been on one trip so I haven’t filmed with everyone. Before the last Street League I’d only been filming mellower stuff, so I basically said leave me alone for a month or two because I want the best footage out of it. Straight after Chronicles I’m filming a Thrasher part I’m super stoked on too.
I don’t really know apart from Ishod. He’s killing it, like really killing it! I haven’t been skating with many of them, like I said I only went on one trip. I know that they’ll get good footage and everyone in the video is sick!
Have you ever worked hard for a trick that doesn’t get used in an edit, what does that feel like?
That doesn’t really happen that much. I feel like it happens way more the other way around, when I’ll do a random trick and that’ll get used and I’ll be like “I didn’t want that.” (laughs)
How does filming an ender come around? Do you have a usually have a trick in mind?
When it gets to the end it usually depends on the footage I have.
So if you don’t have the right trick would you go out just to film an ending trick?
Yeah for sure, if it comes down to it. If it’s blatantly obvious that’s the trick I’m missing I usually think “maybe it’d be cool to do it this way”. I’m trying not to film too many things and making sure I’m stoked on what I get being in the video. I’ve been trying to get more quality over quantity, instead of just having a 7 minute part with a bunch of bullshit in it (laughs). But they’ll probably still be a few tricks like that in there (laughs).
Thinking about how far you’ve progressed as a skateboarder, was there one moment when you went from being someone who enjoyed skating and had just mastered a kick flip to someone who realised they had a real talent for skating?
I don’t think about it too much but one of my friends brought it up the other day. He’s almost turning 40 and we’ve been hanging out for probably 10 years now. He said “can you remember what it was like when you first caught a tre flip every try?” Like, damn it’s crazy that it comes to me easier now. It doesn’t really answer the question, but it brought to my attention that you really gotta make the most of it.
Does it still feel just as good doing the basics, like rolling down the street and landing a nice kickflip?
Yeah, it feels better than ever really! The more you skate, you get new perspectives on control of your board and it feels way better. When I was rolling down the street and did a kickflip back in the day, it felt awesome. Now it feels just as awesome, but I have more control over doing that. I love the same things I loved as a kid. I have days where I’ll just be doing the mellower stuff because it’s fun.
Any last words of wisdom for kids just starting out?
Just to skate and have fun. Try to appreciate things more than imitate them. You might have a favourite skater, like Eric Koston is my favourite skater. I’ll watch him and think “damn that’s amazing”. I’ll watch all the different things he does and just really appreciate it. I’m not gonna try and skate differently because he does, I do it the way that feels good to me. Kids need to realize that you don’t need to be doing anything apart from just having fun, it’ll work out, regardless.