#579 But one thing that stays constant… | An interview with Shawn Mandoli

Shawn Mandoli Salman Agah
Deli Home Skateshop

Personally I loved the skateboarding of the 90s with its happy faces without any pressure towards the industry. One of my favorit heads was Shawn Mandoli and it happened to be that the first ever interview of my blog has been made with him so we could revive the last couple of decades when we haven’t heard about him.

There is this photo of a Real ad where Salman Agah rides you on the handlebar of a bicycle. That’s one of my favorite photos of all time, because it radiates that calm and happy atmosphere, which reminds me of the 90s when I’d started and had the best of my skateboarding. How was it for you then being a skateboarder?
It was amazing. We were young and able to skate for a living. It really was a cool time. That ad does speak to the whole vibe of the time. The evolution from just skating with friends to all of us getting sponsored and turning pro is pretty wild. I’m grateful to be where I was and who I was with at the time. I attribute any success I had in skateboarding to those I was friends with at the time. They made a way for me.

You grew up in the skateboarding of the 90s when there were a lot of changes in the industry in a couple of years. Do you remember riding egg shaped boards and micro wheels? How did they feel?
Yes, I remember. We were in it, so hindsight tells us that things were changing really fast. But back then it was “normal”, it was just skate life. You don’t really see what’s uniquely happening when you’re in it. You don’t notice the significance until you’re looking back at the era you grew up in. We wanted smaller boards, and smaller wheels because we wanted to flip our boards a lot. At the time it seemed rather functional, or common sense. The idea was: “The lighter, the better.”


„The lighter, the better.”

Typical setup of the era: egg-shaped decks and micro wheels | Ray Barbee – varial heel.

We know that era now as the “Golden era” of skateboarding. Did you realize the same living it? The importance of that era?
No, I didn’t see it, nor did I look at it that way. At times I was looking back at the 80s and how iconic and “big” those guys were. There wasn’t a lot of money in skating at that time in the 90s. It was small and it was a hustle. It felt good to be able to travel, skate, make videos, shoot photos, and just skate with your friends. But that was the perks. The perks of skating were not big contracts and agents. At least for me, skating was never a means to make a living. It was more of this lifestyle and culture I was a part of. There was meaning in what we did and how we did it, not in what we got from it as far as monetary success is concerned.

A lot of legendary skateboarders were involved in the beginning of your skate career. Could you please name a few? Who was the most influential?
I could go on and on about my friends and what they became in skateboarding. But here is a few:
I went to Middle School (5th-6th grade) with Tim Brauch. He could ollie higher than anyone in our school. Tim took me to one of my first skate contests and we both got 2nd in our divisions. Around this time I met Salman and Jason Adams, well before any of us were sponsored. Over time we skated a lot together. Me, Sal, and Jason were homies. We were the SJ trifecta. Haha!


San Jose

A whole article on SJ in Thrasher Magazine back in issue of February 1993.

I went to high school with Matt Eversole and Eddie Nemeth, and skated with those dudes a lot back then too. From 89 into the early nineties these guys were in the mix while i was in SJ.
During all this time I also met and skated with other dudes that came up in the industry like Paul Sharpe, Gershon Mosley, Tony Henry, David Graves, etc. These are all people that are from San Jose. There are so many other rippers but those dudes were notable in their own right.
Edward Devera and Spencer Fujimoto were pretty big influences on me early on too. They were my age, and they were rippers. We were coming up at the same time. I wanted to be like them. We were all little dudes too…like, I think I connected with these two a lot back then because they were so good at skating, we were close in age, and we were all short. Short dudes are cool. Haha!
Not to mention all the other skaters from different areas, but these guys I’ve listed are just the dudes from my city. They all did some rad things in skateboarding.

Salman Agah is known as the godfather of switchstance. Was it obvious that switch skating would be a new direction or a gate to a new level?
Salman was killing it man! Salman was and still is like a big brother to me. He really made a lot happen for me. Much love to Sally! Switch was just something new. I liked it, and I did a lot of switch stuff back then. Salman was an influence for sure. There was a lot I couldn’t do, so I figured that switch would help me make up for the fact that I couldn’t do late flips or late shove-its. I hated those tricks because I couldn’t do them. Switch was just this new category…so we stepped into it. Also, im goofy-footed but I am right footed. So, when it came to doing switch tricks my right foot was on the tail, so being that i’m right footed it gave me more control and power on certain tricks…I could do some switch tricks better because of that.


Salman Agah

The godfather of switch skating.

Do you think there is a math or key to every trick to unlock? Or there are no general rules and everybody has to discover the how-tos?
I’m more of a “feel it” kind of guy. But as I get older I think about it more. I think about the science of the trick nowadays more. But, if I don’t feel it, I look for something else that I’m feeling at the moment.

Do you remember what your average setup was back then?
7.5 width, Real board, Venture trucks, Spitfires.

Why do you think popsicle shapes have gained that much popularity?
It seems to be the best shape to do the tricks.


Video parts

Keith Hufnagel holds the frame for a fs shove-it.

What’s your favorite video part of your own? Are there any back stories for them?
I don’t have a favorite part. I’m not too into them. I never took them too seriously. Many people back then were really trying to build a part. I didn’t approach it that way. I wasn’t that intentional. With that said, I don’t see them as a “piece of work”, I see them as what was organically captured at that place and time. They are fun to do and to see the result, but I never had a trick list or anything like that. It might have been helpful to be that way as far as productivity is concerned. But i don’t see myself as a productive video part skater. I gotta feel it, and don’t like the self-imposed pressure of having to produce something. I want to enjoy it.

Let’s see your video parts:

Real | The Real Video | 1993.

This part contains a lot of switch tricks. Inspired by Salman or pulled by the era?
Yea, I was skating with Salman, and switch was kinda easy for me, it was a helpful alternative to not doing regular stance stuff.

NC Clothing | Montage | 1996.

I don’t remember if this part was released earlier or the 411 part, but for me this part had the most concept in it.
This was before 411 I think. I was honored to be in this video. It was a San Jose video, and i got to be in it, so I’m grateful.

411 | issue #17 | 1996.
(19:13 – 23:20)

This part was the most technical part skateboarding wise. And a testimony you told with a lot of courage, belief and enthusiasm.
I was in Bible College at the time. I skated a lot with the dudes from Long Beach, and Tuan filmed most of it. I was kickin it with Tuan a lot. I’ll be honest though, I’m never impressed with my video parts. There is always something about them that I’d like to be better at.

Real | Non-Fiction | 1997.

For me this part was a “Fun part”, no pressure, no concept so to speak. Like you said in an interview earlier (1): “I’d mostly just go skating and film what I happened to be feeling at the moment.”
Yea, we bombed hills and filmed stuff. It was fun. I stayed at Mickey Reyes house for a week and we filmed most of it that week.

There was an unreleased Venture video part too about which you said: „I was stoned in all of it. I used to smoke a lot of weed back then.” (2) Did you need that for your skate performance or was it just something that came with flow of the company of people you skated with? How could you stop? Why did you stopped?
It was just part of our lifestyle. Smoking weed was an everyday thing around that time. Once I encountered Jesus, I stopped all drugs and alcohol, I didn’t want to do it any more. Jesus set me free! That’s the first hard flip I filmed…I think it was 1990.

Any comments on these video parts?
This was a really cool time. I wish I had filmed more. I was stoked to do a hard flip and a switch tre back then in the first Real Video.


September 1994.

„Your lifestyle will be on the cover of a sports magazine.”

Thrasher Magazine cover  | War with Satan – Barbee & Mandoli on Christianity | September 1994.
As I know this coverage was told to you by a Christian minister earlier. What was the trajectory from that word until the realization of the cover? Were you involved in it by Phelps besides the interview part?
I had no involvement in it at all. When I saw the cover I was reminded of the word a received that it wasn’t my skating but my lifestyle that would be on the cover. And that is exactly what happened. I believe God orchestrated it as He said He would.

Was there then a very moment you remember your life was changed, made a turn and started to head towards an another direction?
Yes, summer of 92. I was radically saved by Jesus in my bedroom. I confessed Jesus to be Lord, asked for forgiveness, and He filled my heart with peace. I was changed that night. I started shouting “Jesus Saves” to everybody after that moment. Every interview or opportunity I had I was declaring the Gospel of Jesus!!! All my board graphics on Real for the most part were about Jesus and the Gospel.

As for your background: Are you from a religious family?
No. My childhood was dark and twisted. There was drugs, alcohol, sexual abuse, and perversion. I share in detail on Brian Sumner’s podcast (3) about it. Jesus saved me from the shame and pain of my childhood.


Jesus saved me.

My childhood was dark and twisted.

Were there any skaters who influenced your encounter with God?
Yes, Salman Agah did. He gave his heart to Jesus before I did. He doesn’t believe in Jesus anymore as he once did, but he definitely influenced me in the beginning of my faith.

When I saw Shawn Mandoli for the first time after I got out of prison, it was like we had kindred spirits. Now we serve as pastors together at The Sanctuary Church. We want to change the world with the love of Jesus Christ. He’s a great example of who we are to be as Christians and he still rips on his skateboard. It doesn’t get much better than that!” Words by Christian Hosoi (4). I suppose you met Hosoi beforehand?
Back in the early 90s when I was skating for Real we were at the Powell Skate Zone in Santa Barbara at a Pro contest. I wasn’t pro yet, and I wasn’t a Christian yet. I remember smoking weed in the parking lot with Hosoi. He doesn’t remember that moment, but I do.
Years later at Richard Mulder’s wedding I met him officially. He just got out of prison, and we immediately connected. That’s what he’s talking about in my Chrome Ball interview. Not too long after that we all went to a Christian Skaters Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We kicked it and he invited me to his church, The Sanctuary. When i got back in town I went there and ended up getting hired by his pastor, Jay Haizlip to be on staff. I became a pastor on staff there in 2009 and pastored there until January 2020. Christian hooked that up.

Could you please explain what is your occupation now?
While I was on staff at The Sanctuary Church I had two main roles. I was the administrative pastor. In this role I took care of all the business side of the ministry. I am a book keeper by trade, so I have extensive accounting experience. My accounting expertise came in handy with that role. I also pastored the LA location. Pastor Jay launched the LA location, which was much smaller than the main campus in Orange County, in 2012. Over time I ended up pastoring that location while still doing all the business/admin things. In October 2019, my boss and pastor at the time, Jay Haizlip, came into my office and said, “ I feel like God is telling me to give you the Sanctuary LA location. My wife and I prayed about it and launched out at Hopeland Church on January 19, 2020. So, I’ve been pastoring Hopeland since January 2020. Shout out to Pastor Jay for literally giving me this church. We are not organizationally affiliated with The Sanctuary. We literally started our own church from; we are a non-denominational church plant. We stepped out in faith, came up with a name, got all the business things together within 3 months after Pastor Jay gave it to us. We’ve been pastoring it ever since.


Jay Haizlip

Was not always a saint.

What was the chance in life to be involved in ministry through and with skateboarders?
Yea, it’s pretty wild to think about. I was just going to that church to smoke weed in the parking lot, and go in and skate. But through that ministry God touched me, and I’m a pastor now as a result. God knows what He is doing for sure. I’m thankful to be at that time and place. It literally changed my life forever. 

Did you feel the pressure to quit the skate industry or life led you organically in that direction?
I didn’t feel pressure to quit. I walked away from professional skateboarding in the summer of 1998. I was 23 years old, and only a pro for 5 years. I quit because I didn’t value the career aspect of skateboarding as much as I once did. I didn’t want to do it for a living anymore. I wanted to still skate, but not for a living. I wanted to develop some other skills, so I eventually got my Bachelors in Biblical Studies and an Associates in Accounting. I did a lot of skating and skate ministry after I quit my pro career. I traveled throughout the US, Egypt, Guatemala, Germany, Mexico, etc…it was all skating, but it was ministry focused. 

Did you ever regret it?
At times I’ve thought, “What if I never quit? What would have become of my life?” But I honestly don’t live with regret. It all worked out pretty good. I’m called to preach and pastor, skating is what I love to do, but I enjoy doing it for the love of it. I literally still enjoy it as much as I did as a kid. I skate every week, at least once a week i’m on my board at a skatepark somewhere in LA. It’s a part of my life, and actually Jim Thiebaud just sent me a box of boards and some wheels. Shout out to Jim!

Could you reflect your faith back then in any ad or board graphics?
A lot of my graphics were about God. The Real guys, like Jim and Jeff Klindt, were super cool about me creating my own graphics. The art department made it happen. I did a lot of different types of Christ focused graphics with scriptures too … .David & Goliath, Jesus on the Cross, Angels, Exodus 20:3, Breaking chains (which represents sin), etc. So, yea, I did a lot of faith-based graphics.

„…when I saw Shawn’s casual approach and how he wasn’t trying to fit in…” By Aaron Murray (5) Did it help back then not to conform to others?
The skateboarding culture I grew up around in San Jose was kind of “punk rock”. Meaning, our outlook on everything was something like, “We don’t care if you don’t like us, and we’re not going to try to be down with you.” So, as a result I’ve never tried hard to fit in with anybody. When I first meet someone, even if they are famous, I don’t fan out on them. Even if I am fanning out, I keep it inside and don’t show it. Haha…that’s just the mentality I adopted as a kid in San Jose. That’s what Aaron gathered from me when we first met I suppose.

Could you keep this approach? Does it help now?
It’s good and bad I guess. Good, because I do have a certain level of confidence in who I am and what I do. Confidence can be good in a lot of ways. But the negative side of it is that I can come across standoffish with some people too. People can interpret it as me being prideful or egotistical, and there very well could be some that in my attitude. Pray for me. Haha.

Now at your certain age or of your pastoring experience, what do you think are the challenges for people in their teenage years, 20s, 30s, 40s?
The same challenges that humanity has always had, sin.

The same challenges that humanity has always had: Sin.

We mentioned earlier up here, but from a different angle: “I’d mostly just go skating and film what I happened to be feeling at the moment.”
Do we need plans in our life anyway?
Yes, planning is good. But being spontaneous is good too. I like to flow when it comes to skating. It’s a “feeling” for me. At this age I still have tricks in my mind that I want to do, and I think about doing them, but i do more of what feels good when I skate. When I skate I like to improvise. I’m an improvisational skater, and always have been. When I do my finances I like to plan. As a pastor I do a lot of planning for my church. For my family and marriage I do a lot of planning on our calendar. But skating is a creative outlet for me. It’s an expression. It’s somewhat therapeutic. It’s where I get to flow with the wind and create things in the moment. Keep it flowing broski!

Do you think it is easier now to share your faith in a world where more or less anybody can share, especially via social media, ideas, views and beliefs?
It’s the same as it always has been for me. My motto is to live a life that exudes the quality of God’s kingdom and tell the world that Jesus Saves. Be bold. Don’t hold bad. Jesus is worth everything. Lay it all down for Him and leave the outcomes to Him. There is no other place I want to be than His perfect will.


I’m a skate rat

fs bluntslide with Cabs and mini wheels

„I’m a skate rat at heart who still just loves to skate.” You said in an interview. (6) I saw in one of your instagram stories that you have a resolution for 2023. to skate more. What is the role of skateboarding nowadays in your life?
I’m still a skate rat. I skate once a week. I pastor a church, I’m married, and I have 3 kids, so I’m busy. But skating is still a part of my life. I love skating just as much as I did when I was a kid. It’s also a legit form of exercise now that I’m older. I need the exercise. I’m tryin to keep myself from getting the “Dad-bod”.

Does your family support you in that?
Yes, my wife supports it. She knows I love to skate, and she knows it’s good for my health. She is down 100%! So, due to the busyness of my life I have to schedule it. My goal is to skate a few hours every week. I’m pretty consistent with that, and it works with my family and pastoral responsibilities.


The Mandolis

This couple will make your day!

How is the LA skate scene? There have been a lot of world famous skate spots in LA. Do you have the possibility to skate those spots?
It’s cool. I’m not all deep in the scene, but I do skate in LA every week. My church is on 1st Street in Boyle Heights, which is really close to Downtown LA. There are a lot of pretty well known spots that are walking distance from my church.

Do they feel special in a way they appeared in many skate videos throughout the history of skateboarding?
It’s cool to be around it, but i am born and raised in California. I’ve been us to skating spots my whole life that are well known.

I have to ask your opinion about skateboarding in the Olympics.
It’s all good. It’s definitely different than the skate culture I grew up in. I don’t hate it, but I’m from the 80s and 90s, it was a different scene then. I love to see how good these kids are nowadays, it’s rad to watch rad skating. Culture is evolving, changing, and morphing, for better or worse, it is changing whether you like it or not. But one thing that stays constant is the feelin’ I get when I’m shredding on my skateboard.


(1)(2)(4)(5)(6) The Chrome Ball Incident | chrome ball interview #52: shawn mandoli

Thrasher Magazine | The San Jose article | February issue 1993. p. 40-41

Thrasher Magazine | Cover | September issue 1994.

Art Of Skateboarding | Skateboard graphics of Shawn Mandoli at Real

(3) Brian Sumner’s Foolishness podcast | Shawn Mandoli – Abuse to Abundance

Jay Haizlip – The Sanctuary | https://www.youtube.com/@JayHaizlip

Hopeland Church | https://www.youtube.com/@hopelandchurch

Photo credits to: Tim Leighton-Boyce, Thrasher Magazine, The Chromeball Incident, Real Skateboards ads, Art Of Skateboarding

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