East Coast Apostle: The John Shanahan Interview

Like any great pro,
John’s prominence rests on the backs of giants. His early-2000s gear and lines at Muni or Pulaski remind us of Josh and Stevie’s glory days at Love. Read up as Kalis talks to his protégé about getting cuffed by undercover cops and Shanahan’s surprising snow-skating powers—from the Nov '20 mag.

John Shanahan JapanAir UpstateNY shotby MikeHeikkila DZ croppedTravel ban be damned! You can’t keep Shanahan from flying—Japan in Upstate NY

What up, John?
Chillin’, just got back to the crib.

So what’s good? What are you filming for?
I’m working on a VX part for DC for the colorway that’s about to come out.

Kalis wrote the book; John revised it. See the references and the reboot in his new DC part

What shoe is it?
It’s an all-black Lynx with a pocket.

Oh, you got a pocket on the Lynx?
Dude, yea. Where the DC logo usually is, there’s a little stash pocket.

That’s tight ’cause you always rock the pants that got all them stash pockets.
Yeah, I’m hyped on how they came out.

John Shanahan dumpstersmith Chicago Heikkila 2000pxKeepin' the stash outta the trash, John's cargo stays safe while dumpster dipping—back Smith

I can’t wait to get a pair. So what’s the inspiration behind the shoe?
I just like pockets and shit. It’s kinda military inspired. It kinda looks like some combat boot-type shit. It’s all black with a little bit of 3M on it—it’s good materials. But yeah, it skates really good.

Damn, that’s what’s up. What other shoes have you been skating lately?
Sometimes the Kalis OGs or the Stevie OGs.

Oh, sick. So you like the more heavy-duty, super-long-lasting OG stuff.
Yeah, the bulky ones. That’s the best feel for me. It gets my confidence up when they’re kind of thicker on the bottom.

John Shanahan swbs180 Cincinatti Heikkila 2000pxBig shoes, bigger pop—switch back 180 over and in

Yeah, I’m backing that. I’ve got a theory with those bigger shoes—I feel like it allows you to skate longer and doesn’t hurt your feet or your knees as much.
Yeah, definitely. When you’re skating around all day it feels so much better to have some comfort.

So where are you living these days?
I live in Ridgewood, Queens.

I thought you lived in Brooklyn.
It’s literally a block into Queens from Bushwick, Brooklyn. The street that I live on is the cutoff.

John Shanahan heelflip Queens shotby MikeHeikkila DZ croppedGoing, going… gone! Heelflip past the fence, home run for Shanahan

How has everything been in New York since the virus?
It’s actually been pretty chill; it’s been really good for skating—less people and less traffic and shit. You can just pull up in the car to spots. There are less kick outs and shit.

Is it true that they have checkpoints for out-of-towners?
I’ve never actually seen that shit but I have heard a couple stories.

Oh, really? ’Cause last time I was about to go up there, I think Michigan was on the list and they said if you got pulled over or if they checked your ID and you didn’t have proof that you did a 14-day quarantine then you got fined like 500 bucks a day or something.
Yeah, it’s crazy. We just went on a trip. It was supposed to be to New York but there was that 14-day quarantine. Apparently they said they were gonna give out $10,000 fines for people who didn’t quarantine for 14 days, so everybody was shook so we just went to Washington DC and Philly instead.

Oh, that’s what’s up. How was Philly?
It was dope. We got some tricks.
SHANAHAN pullquote you can just stop in places you wouldn’t normally get to travel toDamn, I miss going to Philly, man. This is the first summer I haven’t been to Philly in I don’t know how many years. I’ve been doing a little Chicago stuff just ’cause it’s close to me. I can drive in and out but I haven’t been on that flying tip. Have you flown since all this happened?
Nah, not yet. Been doing little road trips and shit but it’s actually been pretty fun. I kinda like that better ’cause you can just stop in places you wouldn’t normally get to travel to—random cities and shit.

Yeah, that’s cool. What else has been cracking? You’re doing a jeans company, right?
Yeah, Pangea jeans. I just felt like I wanted to design my own stuff and have my own freedom to do whatever I want clothing-wise. So it’s just a little side project; it’s like a hobby.

John Shanahan ollie Harlem shotby MikeHeikkila DZHow many pushes does it take to get to the top of this bump to bar? Only John knows. Ollie

You had anything come out yet?
We did a couple t-shirts and I’m getting hats made, then I’m getting the jeans made but it’s kind of a process. Hopefully I’ll have jeans within a month or two.

Those will be cool. I’m sure they’ll be dope with the Shanahan-inspired designs. You always got some pretty cool shit you’re working on, cutting and pasting and doing all that stuff.
Thank you. Yeah, I’m pretty stoked to have this little project to get me hyped on skating and stuff, too.

You’ve been traveling the world the past few years. What are some of the best skate spots or scenes that you’ve really enjoyed?
A trip I really liked for the scenery and the skate spots was Sicily. It’s one of the sickest places I’ve been. We had a crazy Airbnb in the country but then you would drive and hour and you’d be at the dopest plaza—crazy marble, just insane spots. You would skate there half the day and then you would drive another hour and get to another insane plaza.

John Shanahan bs180 Manhattan Heikkila croppedBig backside 180 business on Wall Street
You know, with all the traveling I did throughout all the years I always felt best filming and skating where I lived, you know what I mean?
Honestly, I feel the same way. New York City is that place for me. I feel like I know everybody in the skate scene out here, I know the spots and I feel like that’s how you come up with the best shit to film—when you’ve been around the spots so many times you start thinking differently about them, you know?

Yeah. And I’ve even got to the point where I prefer watching video parts or footage from people who are skating in the area that they live. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love to travel and I love meeting all the people and skating all the spots, but there’s just something about somebody’s video part that’s filmed where they live.
Definitely, I agree 100 percent. That’s how you see how they live a little bit.

So you grew up in Pennsylvania, right?
Yeah, East Stroudsburg, PA.

Is that a pretty small town?
Yeah, it’s really small. It’s one of the closest towns in Pennsylvania to New York City. When you go through Jersey, it’s like the first one.
SHANAHAN pullquote It’s such a small town you gotta kind of learn how to be creativeWas it hard to get out of there? Or being a skater, was it natural to just leave and go explore?
It was actually a really good skate scene there. Every kid who skated was into skate videos and filming and shit. There’s a bunch of different small crews there who would always be filming their parts or just making edits and stuff. It’s such a small town you gotta kind of learn how to be creative—the skate spots there aren’t really even spots. So it kind of made it easier to film when I would go to the City ’cause I could try to skate on anything that was there, not just perfect spots.

John Shanahan nosegrind PA shotby MikeHeikkila DZFollowing strict backside nosegrind guidelines, Shanahan keeps his nose from scraping to appease the Skate Gods

Dude, that’s exactly how I feel ’cause I live in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the spots are rough. They’re rugged and they’re not the biggest spots or anything but they’re hard to skate and the ground is rough. I’ve been enjoying being back here because it’s almost like conditioning, you know what I mean? And then when I go to Chicago or Philly I feel so much better, so I fully understand that.
Yeah, also it’s pretty cool ’cause most of the kids I was skating with were older so they would drive out to Philly and New York City and shit like that so I could just tag along.

You been by the Brooklyn Banks lately?
Yeah, a little bit. We were there a couple months ago eyeing up the nine stair—the smaller one. There’s a big crack but I was gonna try to fix it and get a trick on that maybe.

Oh, so the nine stair is still there with the rail?
Yeah, it’s still there. It’s mad overgrown and dirty and shit but Kevin Bilyeu nollied it the one day, which was crazy ’cause there’s a huge crack in front of it.

John Shanahan gapFive0 Philly Heikkila 2000pxBump-assisted 5-0 on the Fire Department's turf. Insert fire emoji here

That’s cool. Do you get down to Philly and skate with Bilyeu and those guys very often?
Yeah, a little bit. Sometimes they come up here. I love skating with those dudes, though. It’s mad fun staying with Panebianco for like a week or so, try to film some shit.

What do you end up doing in the winter time? Especially now since you’re not traveling as much.
Usually I just skate through the winter. If it’s not snowing I’ll be out there in freezing cold weather, you know? I’m addicted to this shit. I can’t stop. Even if it’s mad cold, I’m gonna go out and skate.
SHANAHAN pullquote If we get a snowstorm I’ll be out there on the snow skateWhat’s up with the snow skating?
If we get a snowstorm I’ll be out there on the snow skate, too. It’s just mad fun. You still get the feeling of like—you can just run outside and fuck around. If you get a squad of skateboarders together that shit would be mad fun. Everyone will have fun on that shit.

Do you ever take your snow skate into the City and try to find stairs or spots that are super snowy?
Yeah. I think it was two winters ago, ’cause last winter we didn’t really get snowstorms like that, but I’d go over to the Banks and skate. I boardslid Blubba—just skated the main spots and shit.

No way. So when you land in the snow it doesn’t just whip out under your feet, you actually have some level of control?
Yeah, you could land shit but it’s actually mad hard. But yeah, we snow skate at the Banks and it’s fun. You would ride down the bank to get speed and then we set up a kicker over a bench and you can do flip tricks over it and stuff.

No way. You ever do a 360 flip on the snow skate?
Yeah, I have, off a little bump. Bump to can is next, bro. Wait ’til this winter.

John Shanahan SwCrook UpstateNY shotby MikeHeikkila DZSwitch crooks over the bar and through the Bondo. You thought we were gonna talk about his pants, huh?

Mike Heikkila told me that you and your friends put a lot of work into spots that you skate—like you concrete stuff, Bondo stuff.
Yeah, my friends Jake Baldini and Matt Andersen, they taught me how to do concrete stuff and be good with the Bondo, how to grind off stoppers and stuff. Those dudes put me onto that shit. That’s actually been motivating me to skate more because you put in all the work to fix the spot and you actually care about it, you know? Then once it’s fixed it’s like you gotta do something on there. In NYC, a lot of stuff’s blown out so trying to make shit skateable that hasn’t been skated in a long time is kind of worth it for me. It’s fun to be able to skate things that people look at like, Oh I wish you could skate that. So to actually put in the work and then you get to skate it, it’s even more rewarding.

I’m feeling that. I heard everyone calls you guys the demolition crew.
Yeah, the demolition crew. We’ll just show up and start fucking concreting the cracks in the ground before anybody’s ever even rolled up to it, just liberating spots.

That doesn’t sound like a demolition, dude, that sounds like a MacGyver.
Well, we destroy the chains at the spot, take all the stoppers off.

John Shanahan SwitchBStail Manhattan shotby MikeHeikkila DZHe’ll fix the spots and fuck ’em up, too—switch back tail for the demolition crew

You guys ever been busted for fixing something?
Yeah, kind of. We had a little run in with the cops in Cleveland, actually. We were getting too comfortable doing this shit and we started just hanging out. We’re grinding off all these skate stoppers. We were all hanging out, taking our time grinding shit off and Bondoing every crack. There were some people who were filming us from the rooftop of some condos across the street. We were like, Ah, whatever. They’re watching us. Who cares? But they called the cops so we got out of there. Then we went to skate this other spot. We were there for a few hours and some cops pulled up and kicked us out. They followed us to my car and were like, “Alright, who’s got the body filler? Where’s the body filler?” They knew what Bondo was. It was crazy. They said my car matched the description of some skateboarders who were destroying property on the train tracks and we were like, Fuck, they’re onto us. So we got caught up in some shit but we ended up getting off. They said they were gonna send us all these crazy fines and shit but they never showed up.
SHANAHAN pullquote Tell it to the Judge. We don't wanna hear that shitDamn, that’s crazy.
Yeah, they were like, “Where’s the skate stoppers? Where’d you put them? We know you’ve got all this shit in the car,” and we’re just like, “Nah, we don’t know what you’re talking about.” But they smelled the Bondo. Bondo has a powerful smell. We were trying to tell them like, “No, we actually fixed the cracks. That’s what the Bondo is for. We’re making it so you can’t trip on the cracks.” And they were like, “Tell it to the judge. We don’t wanna hear that shit.” I’m like, “Yo, we skateboard for a living,” and they were like, “You damage property for a living?” We were just like, Oh my God, these guys are fucked, man.

John Shanahan bsOvercrook Cincinatti Heikkila 2000pxBackside nosegrind pop out at a spot the demolition crew needs to patch

You ever been to jail for skating?
Not jail. I got arrested one time. It’s actually in the beginning of my DC Street Sweeper part. I was skating on top of this train station. There’s this glass bank with a little ledge on top. I was grinding the ledge into the bank and I landed it, then I came around to watch the footage and these two undercovers just stepped in front of me and were like, “Come here,” and they grabbed my arm and put cuffs on me real quick. I was like, What the fuck? They were like, “You’re coming with us.” They put me in the car and took me to a little precinct at a train station. But they just took my mugshot and fingerprints and shit and I got out in a couple of hours. That was the closest I’ve gotten to going to jail for skate shit.

Dude, I’ve been to jail for skating probably a dozen times.
Damn, really?

Yeah, man, but it was different in the ’90s. Dude, I’ve been punched in the face, put in paddy wagons, taken all over the city and put in jail. And every time you go to jail—or at least for me—you’d spend the night there and then they’d let you out in the morning and you’d go back to court and it was dismissed. The charges never stuck.
I had a court date and when I went they were just like, “What? You were skating? You’re good to go.” It was like, Get the fuck out of here. They didn’t even care.

John Shanahan gap2wallride QueensNYC shotby MikeHeikkila DZ croppedFederal agents came out with handcuffs while Shanahan was battling this wallride. If it were the ’90s they probably would’ve punched him in the face. Here’s to progress

How come you went to Chicago a month or two ago and didn’t hit me up?
Nah, bro, we stopped there on whim ’cause we were driving through. It was just one day, but I should have definitely hit you up. We were on a long-ass trip and I wasn’t thinking.

I’m two hours from Chicago. I’d have just been like, Oh yeah, I’ll be there.
Damn. I’m going back to Chicago in like a week so we’re about to link. We’re trying to get a little Airbnb going for a week to go film with Panebianco.

That’ll be sick. I’ll show y’all some of the spots that you might not have hit or whatever. I’m definitely gonna come down and heckle y’all.
Hell yeah.

John Shanahan Cover November 2020 Thrasher Magazine 2000pxEast Coast apostle John Shanahan jams history—gap to mega Philly bar in Brooklyn. Can't wait to see what he comes up with next year
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