It shows is Yahoo Life’s body image series that explores the journeys of influential and inspiring individuals as they explore what body confidence, body neutrality, and self-love mean to them.
Ryan sheckler likes to push himself to his limits physically and mentally.
This is how he developed his skills and charisma at a young age, which made him a celebrity in skateboarding. He signed his first sponsorship deal with skate shoe company Etnies at just 7 years old, became the youngest X Games gold medalist at 13, and starred in his own MTV reality show at 16.
All great successes, which the now 33-year-old attributes to his “all or nothing” attitude, which motivated him to take risks as a young athlete in order to reach new heights. However, he also acknowledges that this mindset has contributed to some “serious” setbacks.
“My body wasn’t prepared to handle the trauma I put into it,” he tells Yahoo Life.
The show Life of Ryan portrayed some of the ups and downs of the skater’s early career, including the reality of being a teenage heartthrob, dealing with personal relationships, dealing with his parents’ separation, and injuries that he feared at the time would end his career. “When I started getting injured, I was definitely afraid that my sponsors would drop me and I thought: Oh, it’s over,” he says.
However, these were ultimately minor obstacles compared to the ones he faced after the show ended in 2009.
“I had a drinking problem, I had a pretty bad drinking problem,” he says. “And that contributed to my inflammation, which caused injuries to take much longer to heal than they should.”
Sheckler’s alcohol abuse had a huge impact on his mental health, as he felt “sluggish” and “depressed” when drinking. However, the experience of being “out of tune” with his body was the most damaging to him as an athlete.
“I drank [alcohol] “I ate excessive amounts of fast food, I didn’t drink a lot of fluids, I drank tons of soda, and I just poured junk into my body and then expected my body to perform at its best,” he says. “You can’t have both.
He was admittedly “pretty ignorant” that he was not prioritizing his health or that doing so would result in the corresponding consequences in the form of physical injuries and mental health issues. But it was difficult to display that kind of foresight in a sport that both encouraged and satisfied the rush he always sought.
“Am I abusing? [my body]?” he thinks out loud as he talks about his two decades (and counting) of skateboarding. “Yes definitely. But it’s like that, I like it. I like this feeling, I like the fear, I like the adrenaline.
He also appreciates being present in these feelings, something he couldn’t do while drinking.
“I don’t think my injuries are a coincidence. I think they always came at a point in my life where maybe I wasn’t very present and needed a reset,” he says.
His biggest restart to date came when he entered rehab for the first time in 2016 to get his problematic alcohol consumption under control. He then suffered one devastating injury in 2018 and experienced a relapse in 2020. He ended up seeing both as challenges that he would overcome and look back on as lessons rather than mistakes.
“I’ve experienced a lot of pain, I’ve experienced a lot of love, a lot of success, a lot of failures. “This is exactly what I needed to be here,” he says, relating it to his life in which he is now sober, married and raising a daughter to whom he wants to pass on all the wisdom that he has gained from his life experiences – all while continuing to skateboard. “There is no better feeling in the world than knowing that you have conquered something for yourself and are not doing it for someone else. And that’s just always been my life.”
He knows it’s true: “I’m coming back,” which he proved with his latest Red Bull TV documentary titled Roll away. “I will always come back stronger, and I will always come back better.”
When asked how he feels in his body today, “the simplest answer is: in harmony,” he says.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s treatment referral hotline at 800-662-HELP (4357).