Lost and Found | Carl Shipman
He came, he saw, he conquered. Then he was deported. A Euro pioneer, “Shipo” casually skated his way through two cult Stereo videos before disappearing for a (eight years long) minute. Now 33, Carl Shipman is back in Worsop, UK, where he has been a prolific dad. He also found how to wisely apply skateboarding to the construction business.
How did you first get sponsored?
I got sponsored by Vision, for vert, when I was 14. Then I hurt my shoulder so I started skating street a lot more. That’s when I started riding for Flip, in 1993, when it had just turned from being called Deathbox. There were no talks of moving the company to the US at the time, but basically this kind of skating [street] needed to be international.
How were you approached to ride for Stereo?
I went to the Mnster contest in Germany with the Flip guys in 1993. That’s when Jason Lee came and talked to me outside, commenting on some tricks I had done, and he pretty much asked me to ride for Stereo. I wanted to be away in America and stuff like that, so when the chance came about, I just grabbed it. I felt that the skaters on Flip were kind of different skaters than I was. Just gnarly. You gotta out do yourself to stay up with them at all times!
Plus Stereo turned you pro right away.
Yeah, because I had a board coming out on Flip, it had already been put into production, with some basketball graphics on it. But I don’t regret anything, really. Jason talked to the guys at Flip, so it wasn’t a sore end. Plan B had asked me to ride for them too but I stuck with Stereo. Plan B or Flip, their video parts are so incredible that I would have felt the pressure. I love to push myself on a skateboard, but not to the extent where it would have taken out the fun out of skateboarding, you know what I mean?
You were one of the first European street pros in the US, right?
Pretty much the first English guy to be over there at the time. It was weird. I think the only other guy was Curtis McCann, he rode for Underworld Element. He DJs now in London. That’s the last I heard of him.
Your part in A Visual Sound looks like you were living in SF full time. Was it the case?
I was on and off for seven years, staying from one to three months at a time. The SF part of the filming took probably a week, Tincan Folklore took maybe three or four days, just cruising about. That’s what I liked about Stereo, you never felt the pressure to throw yourself down 20 stairs.
You were picked for the original DC lineup, then you kind of disappeared. What happened there?
I went to the Slam City Jam in 1996 in Vancouver and they didn’t let me back into the US, giving me some crap for working in the US. They sent me back to England. That was it. It took 18 months for me to get my work visa. It wasn’t Jason or Dune [Chris Pastras], it was just the bigger guys at Deluxe dragging their feet to get me my work visa. It took money, lawyers, time…
In a sense, it wasn’t that bad at all cause I met my wife, and we started a family. I got four boys now, happy days. I think it’s the best thing that could have happened to me because I was skating a lot, and I wanted to go out. It was just the road to ruin. It made me realize that there’s more out there. Once I got back to the US, it was hard leaving my family. I came back with a lot of anger towards being stuck in the UK for almost two years, it just infuriated me. And maybe my heart wasn’t that much into it anymore.
When did you stop making a living from skating?
Hard to say. 1999, 2000? I rode for New Deal UK for a year or so, with some pro boards out every now and then. They gave me opportunities and basically I didn’t want the opportunities within myself. I had made a good enough living. Skating allowed me to buy a nice house. For other people it’s probably more of a dream, but to me personally, I enjoyed the responsibility and having somebody else to take care of and not be selfish.
Did you know what to do next right away?
No, but the past few years I’ve been doing scaffoldings. It’s a job that I really love. It’s like a shock to the system. You go from skateboarding to having to work really hard for a living, it’s manual labor that’s really hard. In the beginning, you don’t know what to do. You’re used to a jet-set lifestyle where all you do is travel and play and you take that for granted.
Does skateboarding help your scaffolding skills?
One thing you get from skating is that you’re not scared of heights, you’re not scared of walking on edgy things and being high up. ‘Cause you can be working on some poles that are a few inches thick. It’s what you get paid a good living for, cause it’s dangerous job. People die every year on scaffolding. It’s satisfying to come home tired at the end of the day and feel that you did something you’ve never done before.
Do your work mates know that you were a pro skater?
Yeah. The couple of people I work with, one skates, one’s a snowboarder. Sometimes they ask me about what Jason Lee’s like, because of his films. A couple years ago, I went with my wife to introduce her to Jason and Dune while they were doing an auction in London. We were all happy to see each other, it’s hard to stay in touch when you’re that far away. But now I’m back to talking to Dune on Facebook. There are talks of reissuing some boards.
How often do you skate now?
I start going like a couple times a week, maybe twice a week. It’s enough for me. I just go to the Sheffield skatepark and skate mini-ramps and quarter-pipes and stuff like that.
What was your last trick in a video?
I think it was in an English video by Mark Baines called Driving South.
Do you still have the frontside half-Cab kickflip?
Yeah, yeah. I mean, you don’t really lose your tricks. If anything now, I’m just a bit more wary. I’m thinking that if I break a leg I’m off work for a while, even if every now and then when I skate I can’t resist to do something stupid. It’s totally different now. But I’m starting to skate again a lot now, so who knows?