Clay Shank

Clay ShankI am a diehard skate nerd, and I have seen a lot of photographs and footage of skateboarders utilizing objects derived from nature.  In my 12+ years of skating I have carefully studied these rare occurrences because it always makes me stoked!  I know how well skaters have been able to adapt to natural terrain, and all the best pros seem to have struggled.  Clay Shank however had a bunch of boulders in front of him and he did bewildering things on a skateboard.  I saw it in person and I am still in complete awe.

The first time I met Clay we were at the Skatepark practically alone.  I did an all switch line and after I was done he yelled, “Was that switch?!”, to which I replied feeling cool and slick, “Yeah.”  After that I watched him skate and felt completely dwarfed by his tranny skills, trick selection, and haunting style.  To this day I have to say that he is my favorite person to watch skate Prescott’s Mike Fann Skatepark (close call with Eddie).

The things I saw Clay do during “Journey to Skate Boulder” was in many ways the best skateboarding I have ever seen in my life.  Personally I am a fan of technical skating, and sure there isn’t a single flip trick from Clay, but what I saw him do seriously changed the way I look at skateboarding forever.  Now get some deeper insight from the man, the myth, Clay Shank.

Journey to Skate Boulder from Samuel Coodley on Vimeo.

I know you have been all over the place Clay, where would you say is your point of origin and where do you call “home” now?
-I was born in San Francisco and grew up with a parent on each end of the Golden Gate Bridge. I travel a lot, but all trips start and end on the California coast.

Do you remember what made you start skating?  What made you keep skating?
– I started skating because my neighbors had boards and my dad would let me ride around on the hardwood floor of our living room. At four years old it was pretty obvious that the kids in huge pants who could magically ride their boards up the ledges at the square had the best thing going on in Mill Valley, so I put a lot of dents in our walls trying to learn how to ollie. I was real bad at skating for about a decade, but my friend Matt Paladino taught me how to butt board around my mom’s house on Potrero Hill, and we would explore the neighborhood bombing hills and sanding off the bottoms of our shoes. Once I got to high school and actually made friends with some of the teenagers who could ollie I got to wear a cast for a few weeks because I thought skating was all about trying to heelflip a five stair for three hours. Luckily the Dogtown and Z Boys documentary came out and saved me from that. Hippy jumps and power carves in the Sausalito night. My friend Simon Fitting and I got all longboarded out. We cut our own plywood decks and bombed big hills. Then I dropped into my first quarter pipe and was fully consumed. I went to college in Portland because I’d heard of the Burnside skate park, but I ended up in Prescott, Arizona and got to shred with the likes of Ed Nemeth, Lanny Kearns, Randy Colvin, Alejandro Walton, Ryan Cedro and others, and found that to be a fine education. The reason I keep skating is because skating doesn’t have a logical end. There is always something more to be done. Another trick, another hill. I’ve learned a lot from falling on the sidewalks of the world. And now I’m finding places I can fall in the wilderness. Who could ask for more?

Along with skating and filmmaking I know you write and sing self written songs. What were your first forms of self expression? Are any of your current forms more dominant than others, or does it all flow?
-My first forms of self expression were writing and drawing and talking back to my teachers. I’ve always dabbled with different art forms and hobbies, but skateboarding is dominant beyond fitting into these categories. I write a lot, I like cameras and spitting raps, but nothing flows like a lucky line at a skate park.

How did you and Sam meet and how did you guys start talking about film projects?
-Like everyone who arrived at Prescott College in 2008, I was aware there was a movie fanatic on campus, but I didn’t have a chance to know Sam personally until we took a screen writing class with Melanie Bishop. Sam is known for his enthusiasm, and we were both hyped on the class. We workshopped each other’s screenplays but didn’t fully collaborate on a project until this year.

What was your favorite part about your first short film with Sam, “Challenging Yourself at the Skatepark”?
-I like the cameos from the homies at the park. Sean Davis snuck that front board in there, so steezy, and you can recognize kids like Ryder Colvin and Kelty McCabe and all your favorite scooter boys as they watch me wondering why I keep changing clothes and shouting half conversations at no one.

Would you mind sharing the serious love and respect you have for those spots?
Sorry, but we’re in an exclusive relationship.

Were there any direct influences that sparked the conception of “Journey to Skate Boulder”?
-The original idea was to make it a Kickstarter as a kind of joke that might make money. I was living in a tiny town without much to skate, and some people wanted to build a ramp. I have always loved the wilderness of the Southwest for canyoneering and rafting and everything, but this year I was obsessive about finding skate spots in the rocks. Once I did, we kids still wanted a ramp, so I thought it would be funny to have a Kickstarter explaining the situation and saying we need money for a ramp because all we have to skate are these rocks, but of course the imagery would be epic and no one would ever feel sorry for us. But the ramp was built before Sam arrived.

Did you know Sam was moving when you asked him to film it?
-I asked him to film it long before he was moving. It wasn’t until he was moving that he could come through.

I know you scripted it out in your head and on paper thoroughly.  How much did the final project diverge from your plan?
-So much. I don’t remember who Dennis Hopper was quoting when he was talking about Easy Rider, but he said that 98% of the creative process is making your accidents work. I wasn’t planning on slamming so much, nor were we planning on rain and flash floods, but those things and others left us with all these epic shots we had to incorporate into the script. We cut a lot of stuff that didn’t work, and just by rolling with what happened the movie shaped itself.

Your body was pretty mangled when I last saw and heard from you, how well have you healed up?
-I’m just thankful that all my slams were caught on film and incorporated into the movie. My toe nail eventually fell off, but it’s growing back nicely. Thanks.  (I was supportive and suggestive about his toe.)

What was your favorite part of the entire experience?
-We charged it! We filmed for three days, edited for three days, and Sam was gone.

What did that final roll-in down the rock wall feel like?
-It felt great. That was the first time I’ve ever rolled down something I couldn’t climb up, and you know, it was an un-skated piece of rock that I hunted down in the wilderness, which was interesting. It took me a while to find the line down from the top, but I felt confident as I went over the edge. Then I felt like I was going faster than expected and flying towards a cliff. I bailed and didn’t ride it out the way I wanted to, but I knew the shot would work and was stoked to get on to the next.

Would you mind sharing the serious love and respect you have for those spots?
-Sorry, but we’re in an exclusive relationship.

Thank you so much for sharing your magnificent vision of skateboarding with us Clay.  Anything you want to say to finish off?
-Just thank you to anyone who took the time to watch the movie or show it to a friend. Special thanks goes to Jo Edmondson for providing her basement as our editing room and to Bill Muse for his tractor. Marisha, thanks for letting me me tie your boyfriend to the roof of my car and driving it. And Bud, thanks for your help on the shoot and for doing this interview. Until next time.

What was your favorite part of the entire experience?
-We charged it! We filmed for three days, edited for three days, and Sam was gone.

This video showcases many illegal activities. Since making it public, law enforcement officers have tracked me down and confirmed that I broke many laws during its creation, including the use of an off-road vehicle on protected lands. Skateboarding is illegal on the rocks shown in this film and punishable with severe fines. Some of these locations are sacred historic sites, and all are pristine locations of otherworldly beauty. Skateboarding can be damaging to these areas and offensive to both lovers of wilderness and certain religious groups. When considering skateboarding off-road please take the time to consider the laws of the area, the sentimental value of the location, and the damage you may be doing. As always, when traveling in wilderness areas, please practice Leave No Trace principles and remember to respect both those who came before you and those who will come after. -Clay Shank


Filed under Interviews, Uncategorized

2 responses to “Clay Shank

  1. Pingback: “Pancake Mamas” | So What is Skateboarding?

  2. Pingback: The Adventures of Clay Shank | So What is Skateboarding?

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