It’s nearly dark by the time I track down Sebo. His fiancé, Elle, told me he’d be at the Venice Skatepark, but by the time I got there he’d already left. I find him back at his home, a studio apartment two blocks east of the world famous Venice boardwalk. He’s taking out the trash.
“Oh man,” he says excitedly. “I just had one of the best sessions of my life. It was like I couldn’t miss!”
“At the Venice park?”
“No, at Stoner, earlier.”
That’s Sebo. Even after having a long, satisfying session at one skatepark, he couldn’t resist sneaking in one more session at another park just before nightfall. I don’t ask, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d also filmed half a video part’s worth of street clips on his way between the parks.
Sebo’s an addict. There’s a restlessness that overwhelms him when he skates. He’s a “flow bot,” skating with absolute spontaneity and robotic consistency. Ishod, Wes, Evan Smith. He’s one of them. From tranny and manny to ledges and rails. Nothing’s planned and everything’s planned. There’s also an obsessive quality to Sebo’s skating. Once he starts, he can’t stop. It’s inspiring and mesmerizing to watch, as well as maddening.
One time, while skating Stoner Plaza, he mentioned a double date idea to me and skated off before I could answer. Ten minutes later, mid push, he asked if Thursday would work. I followed him and to say Thursday would work, but it wasn’t until later in the session that he continued the conversation. “What about sushi?” he said, before dropping in to land a trick over the bump to bump. We ended up just having dinner at his place.
Now, having locked up my bike outside his apartment, Sebo invites me inside and offers some wine.
Sebo and I made plans to skate the courthouse the day before, but he never showed. I later find out his phone had died. Not just the battery, the whole phone. Done. He won’t have a new one up and running until Friday, and it’s only Wednesday. In our world of social media, a few days without a phone is a near eternity, especially for Sebo.
Sebo pours me a glass of red wine and I sit on his couch. Much like he is when he’s at the skatepark, Sebo is constantly shuffling around his apartment, looking for something. I ask what it’s been like not having a phone for the last twenty-four hours.
“It’s been liberating,” he says, mid shuffle. Even with his back to me he’s talking, as if thinking out loud. “I’ve been thinking about everything differently. My whole day is different because I’m slowly realizing I’m living instead of showing people what I’m doing. I went to the grocery store and riding up I was thinking, I should show people that I’m going here, or show people that I’m getting this sushi sample, or show them that I have a ginger shot. Everything feels like I need to show everyone else. Which isn’t a bad thing, it’s part of what we do. It’s just been nice.”
Eventually, Sebo sits down on a small, orange chair and begins rocking back and forth rapidly. His studio is cozy. The walls are adorned with photographs and art, some of his friends’ pro model graphics, and other meaningful skateboards. Directly behind him is what looks to be a cabinet but is actually a queen size hide-a-bed that folds out from the wall. While his apartment is certainly an upgrade from the Chrysler Town and Country minivan he lived in for four years, Sebo has maintained his van life efficiency for fusing several living spaces into one.
Sebo stands again, offers me more wine, and we move out to the balcony. The warm Venice night air is inviting. While you can’t see the ocean from here, with the right wind, you can smell it. I’ve seen their balcony fit four or five people, but it’s more comfortable with just two at the rickety wooden table. The balcony floor is covered with an intricate but fading Lucas Beaufort doodle, remnants from a night of painting together before their joint art show earlier this year.
Sitting on the balcony, Sebo continues telling me about his phone-less day.
“This morning I was thinking, ‘How am I gonna get it fixed?’ I was stressing. Then there was a moment when I thought, this is dope. I’m just on an adventure and this is just me and I’m not thinking about anything other than what I’m doing. I’m living in the moment. It was just a good feeling.”
While social media has come to dictate much of what we do as professional skateboarders, Sebo takes an even more dedicated approach, one that is indicative of his obsessive personality. For most “working” skateboarders, social media is the medium in which we seek validation and retain our relevance. “How many views did I get?” “Who commented?” “How many followers do I have now?” We can drive ourselves insane with instant gratification at our fingertips. But for Sebo, social media is something else.
Sebo manages four different Instagram accounts, each designated for different interests and income streams. Of course, there’s @sebowalker, his verified “blue check” account with over one hundred and eighteen thousand followers, viral edits, daily photos, and interactive story posts used to share his life and appease his sponsors. Sebo also runs @walkerbrosco for a key fob company he started with his two brothers, Shae and Sky. The @sebosvids handle is essentially a throwaway video page, complete with re-edits, clips of his friends, and otherwise unused or recycled content. And lastly there’s @seboart, the account he uses to sell custom grip tape to his more than eighteen thousand followers. Full sheets and slices are listed for $20, but prices are often negotiable. Even though painting grip is a side hustle, a means for Sebo to supplement his income, it’s also a way for Sebo to personally engage with his fanbase.
“It’s awesome because I get to individually connect with and actually talk to each kid. A lot of times they’ll tell me a significant story that their idea correlates with, like a friend that passed, or their dog, or their son’s favorite cartoon character. So that’s been really special to have all those connections. Especially if I eventually get to meet them. One time on tour I showed up in a random city and someone came up and told me, ‘You painted a SpongeBob for me two years ago.’ When things like that happen, it’s so cool.”
Unlike most professional skateboarders I know, Sebo’s approach to social media is much more deliberate. He conceptualizes skatepark edits, knows exactly how he wants his NBD tricks filmed, and if there’s a session that happens to be unwinding at a skatepark or in the streets, Sebo will pick a song and begin editing in his head as he skates. I find myself continually lost and floundering with the social media stuff. One day I’ll think I’m posting too much, another I’ll think I’m not posting enough. Some days I think I’m doing it all wrong and should just give up. Sebo has it down.
“Do you feel pressure to post on Instagram?” I ask Sebo, considering how long he’ll be without his phone. By now his Story will be vacant, his Instagram following left hanging.
“I have personal pressure. My sponsors are probably shocked by how much I put out. I also want to be able to look back at things, treat it like a journal. But there’s something cool about not posting too. If you’re someone who doesn’t post, you become more mysterious and maybe even more yearned for by the media.”
“Which pros do you think do a good job with social media?”
“I like Daewon’s approach. He writes out longer things on Instagram where you feel like you really know what’s going on with him. Like, ‘It’s been a long week…’ or or ‘I had family stuff…’ A lot of it is just cool, wise words coming from a legendary skater. So as a kid, or just as another skateboarder, I read that and I’m inspired. I think it’s important to have an authentic mix where it doesn’t feel like the sponsor is telling you to post something. I think kids notice that. It’s nice to elaborate and share what’s really going on in your life. Kids can relate to that. They wanna talk to you, and just responding to them can be a big deal.”
I’ve come over to Sebo’s because I want to talk about video parts. This is a big year for Sebo. He had a part in the highly anticipated Lakai video, The Flare, which premiered in June, and he’s finished filming two more parts for full-length videos, the Krooked video, coming any day now, and Skate Rat’s Pump on This, an all VX project by his friend Shane Auckland. I’m curious to know what that sense of completion feels like.
“What does it mean to put out a video part today?” I ask.
Sebo sips his wine.
“Nowadays, you don’t necessarily get the satisfaction. Video parts can just get lost. I used to religiously watch videos. I would play the VHS of Sight Unseen everyday before I skated. I knew those parts backwards. Like Skate More, Skate More is one of my favorite videos ever. Mikey Taylor’s part. I played a game at my friend’s house where I sat with my back to the TV and said every trick to the song because I had it memorized. I sat there with my back to the TV and said, ‘crooked grind pop over,’ ‘tail slide across,’ ‘front crook the bench.’ I knew every trick to every part of the song.”
I ask Sebo about the reaction to his part in the Lakai video. Since it was a paid iTunes exclusive, it was less easily digestible for the skateboarding masses around the world.
“I got a crazy amount of positive responses from kids. A lot of direct messages. That felt good because I haven’t put out a part like that in a while. But at the same time, I wanted it to be so much better. There were so many tricks I didn’t get, so I still think about those. And everything I got I don’t think about as much. I want to keep putting out parts on the internet but film them rapidly so it’s fresh. Like ‘2up’ for The Berrics. That was pretty much the only thing I’ve ever put out where I was really satisfied with the work I put in and the tricks I did. It was filmed within a month or so and it came out quickly.”
“What else did you like about 2up?”
“I liked that I could use the whole skatepark, set it up exactly the way I wanted to. It was kind of like an art project, where I had 100% creative control. In hindsight, I would do it a little more creatively. This new one I might get real weird.”
As an aging professional skateboarder, I struggle with figuring out where to put my efforts when I’m healthy enough to skate. If I’m working on a video part, that part will maintain the majority of my energy and focus. I often wonder how kids coming up today view what’s expected of them and whether or not they think video parts matter. I see Sebo as someone who’s very in tune with the current times. He appreciates how to approach his career from all angles, realigning much of his own priorities to the more immediate, quick turnaround projects.
“How do you want to work on projects moving forward?” I ask.
“That’s where I need to figure out how to put out constant content, put out shorter parts more frequently. Have a concept around it. During the time I spent filming for those bigger parts I’ve felt less in the media and in the eye of the viewers. It’s awesome when it comes out, but I feel like if I’m on top of it, I can put out stuff way more frequently and feel good about it. If you have this many hours in a day, within a year, that’s a lot of time to be productive. Every three months I want to put out a part. Or every month have an idea, complete it, and just put it out.”
Sebo pours the last drop of wine into our glasses. Inside, Elle has transformed their living room into a bedroom, the queen bed now dominating the entirety of their hardwood floor. She’ll be going to bed soon and I can tell Sebo is tired.
“Who do you see as a model pro skateboarder?” I ask, hoping to tie up the conversation and not intrude on any more of their weeknight.
“I like Mark Suciu. Being so talented, his approach to skateboarding and life. Having gone through college while putting out some of my favorite video parts. ”
“That’s interesting, seeing as he’s not the biggest social media guy.”
“Yeah. I guess there’s a happy medium to the social media stuff. Maybe Ishod is the best. He puts out constant content. He’s always in the mags. He does the biggest rails, the biggest airs. He’s so good at skating and he just does everything right. He’s also working with social media, where a lot of pros make fun of Instagram edits, trap edits, crazy music, fashion. There’s probably people who say stuff about me making edits at the park. But for me, that’s a couple hours out of a day that I can generate a lot of positivity.”
“What other qualities in pro skaters do you admire?”
“Personally connecting to skate shops is important. That keeps it special. I try to do that with the grip tape art. I’ll plan giveaways with grip slices to go with Krooked boards. The skate shop is such a key component to the world of skateboarding. That’s where the community exists.”
Earlier in the evening, Sebo and I talked about where we see our careers going. We’re both twenty-nine years old, very near the big and scary thirty. While I’ve seen thirty as my career cap, Sebo sees it more optimistically.
“I wanna keep going for ten plus years. NPR said that for most athletes their prime is between their late twenties and mid thirties. You’re invincible when you’re eighteen, but when you’re older, if you’ve been doing that sport every day, if you’re healthy, drinking water and taking care of your body, you’re stronger. Every year I feel like I’m getting better. I’m constantly learning new tricks. I did a switch heel back smith this year and I’ve never done that before. Our generation can set the tone for the next generation. We’ll determine how long you can do this. Especially if you’re skating ledges and manuals, staying safe. I gotta get Hollywood sixteen and Santa Monica triple set out of the way.”
Chuckling, Sebo continues.
“It’s still the year of the huck. I said that four years ago, but it’s still now. Maybe at thirty-six I’ll start to think about the other stuff.”
I twirl my empty glass, thirstily eying the little bit of wine left in Sebo’s. He’s been doing most of the talking, after all. As he finishes his glass, he tells me some of his ultimate goals, regarding the “other stuff” that professional skateboarders often worry about.
“I want to utilize the connections I’ve made in skating to do more art shows and skate lessons with kids. I have a goal to do a camp for kids, where we can have days where we paint, days where we have guest pros come and share their stories, I think that could be really inspiring. I just want to be really active and incorporate art and skateboarding in every part of life.”
It’s easy to get lost in the vanity that social media propagates. The ego validation our phones offer us every single day. Professional skateboarding as a whole is sort of one big popularity contest, each of us starving to be liked, admired, and worshipped. It’s refreshing to see Sebo use Instagram as a placeholder for deeper connections he hopes to gain through skateboarding. It’s a way for him to manage superficial versions of these connections on a global scale. While he does enjoy it, he’s really striving to share his passions in person by teaching kids to skate and paint.
We hang out for little while longer, but with the wine all gone and his fiancé now cozily watching TV a few feet away from us, I take my cue to go. We make some vague “Let’s skate soon” plans, I say my goodbyes, and then I head to my bike which, thankfully, is still locked up outside. You never know in Venice.
On the ride home, I think about how I have no idea what I’ll be doing post skateboarding. If only I had Sebo’s clear-minded resolution for thirty-six and beyond. For the time being, I’ll just look forward to him getting a new iPhone. Those edits are fire.
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