He Has Already Learned the Tricks of His Trade

Times Staff Writer

Five minutes into a conversation with Ryan Sheckler, it's easy to forget that he's only 13. As the youngest skater ever to compete on the World Cup skateboarding tour, Sheckler rules his domain.

Since turning pro last spring, Sheckler has won every major street competition he has entered, including gold medals at the X Games and Gravity Games along with two Vans Triple Crown titles.

Sheckler already has several Web sites dedicated to him that were established and running before Y2K. He has also been featured on television programs and played himself in a recent Scoobie Doo cartoon.

It's no wonder Sheckler sounds like someone who has been around the skating block more than once.

"I started skating when I was just 18 months old," he said. "I just started rolling.

"I began to stand up and doing tricks when I was 4 and when I was 7, I entered my first competition and I won in an age group for 7- to 10-year-olds."

Talk about living on the fast track. When Sheckler competes at the U.S. skateboarding championships this weekend in the LG Action Sports Championships at Fairplex in Pomona, he knows that all eyes will be on him competing against older, well-known skating champions such as 26-year-old Chad Muska.

But it has always been that way for Sheckler.

"We have known that Ryan had that special knack for a long time now," his mother, Gretchen, said. "We knew that once he started skating against kids three and four years older than him. But it really did not hit home until this year.

"When he went out and killed at events like the X Games and Gravity Games, it overwhelmed the whole family."

The Shecklers reside in San Clemente, but Ryan seems constantly on the move. Between competitions, he travels often to promote his sport.

His schedule got so crazy that his parents decided to take him out of school and home-teach him a year ago.

"The traditional school thing just wasn't working," Gretchen Sheckler said. "He would miss time and the homework would just build up. He was missing more time than he was in school.

"Now he's on an accelerated level. It's really been working out better for us than the traditional school system."

Sheckler got his start skating around his south Orange County neighborhood. Like everyone else, he always tried the tricks he saw on videos and in movies.

"I started studying how people did tricks," Sheckler said. "But I always had my own little style and began adding tricks to tricks."

Sheckler is expected to earn a six-figure income in this, his first year as a professional, and some of his signature moves are emulated all over the world.

Pretty soon, Sheckler expects company on the tour from younger brother Shane, 11. Shane has been skating for almost as long as his brother but has not made up his mind which sport he wants to concentrate on. He's also an excellent trickster on a bike.

And then there's Kane, 4. Although he's not skating yet, Gretchen Sheckler knows that may not last long.

"It's definitely a juggling act in our household," said Gretchen, who quit working a year ago to teach Ryan. "But it's worth it. We're there to support our kids."

They've been there for the bad times too. Sheckler has broken his elbows and feet more than a couple of times and sprained his ankles, arms and hands too many times to count. He has had two concussions.

"I just love to skate," Sheckler said. "It's always fun for me, even when I am competing. The Lord has been on my shoulder helping me out with everything that I do.

"I plan to skate as long as I still love it, which I hope is a real long time."

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