In 1997 I was 19 years old and living just this side of broke here in SLC. My buddy and I rented an apartment downtown, and were enjoying some newfound freedom. At that point I was snowboarding regularly and skating rarely. I would push around a bit, but the kids I had skated with earlier on, had given up almost entirely. Partying was prevalent in my life, and with no one else to skate with, I began falling away from the streets. I was ticketed at the U of U benches a few months prior for “leaving the ground” on a skateboard, and was definitely losing motivation. Then I met Shane Justus.
photo courtesy of Mike Murder on Flickr
He started working at the same shitty bagel shop where I was at the time. Immediately I was impressed with the kid. He was super mellow, and full of stories. Shane had a quiet confidence that very few people possess. He introduced me to Redman, he made me want tattoos (my memory is still locked on the day he showed up with the faceless Virgin of Guadalupe on his forearm), and more than anything else, he made me want to skate again. We worked together for some time before he even knew that I skated. Admittedly I was a little intimidated by this guy that I knew was on a killing spree in the streets of SLC. I didn’t want to be that “Iusedtocould” dude, and Shane was the shred.
When I finally told him my reasons for not rolling around as much anymore, he wasn’t impressed. I remember him smoking American Spirits out back, and telling me to “stop making excuses.” I was caught up in the fact that I didn’t have a group of friends to go skate with, that I wasn’t as good as I used to be, and that beer was too delicious etc. “None of that means anything” he’d say. “You don’t need a crew, you don’t have to be good, you just have to want to get out and push.” Shane was right. He pressed me to get back to what was fun about skating. Why I started skating.
Aaron Ohrt photo courtesy of Mike Murder on Flickr
He made me realize that I started skateboarding simply because it was fun. It didn’t cost much, and I could go at it alone. For many years I was an only child of a single mother. Fresh out the door in Burlingame CA with a “latch key” around my neck, I would see the world from a different angle, and make loads of friends in the process. I was able to witness some early days at EMB. I was exposed to music and people that have impacted me for my entire life. I had built an identity that would imprint my future until the day I died. The reality is that it’s impossible for me to “quit” skating. Everywhere I drive I see spots. I put lines together in my head from curb cuts and banks without realizing it’s really even happening.
Skateboarding will always be a part of who I am, and when I almost got away from that, Shane Justus ensured I would never forget. For those of you who knew Shane, you understand exactly what I’m talking about. Years after working together I would see him at parties or around town, and he would always catch a high five. Shane and I were never close friends by any stretch, but that’s what’s so amazing about him. You didn’t need to know Shane well in order for him to have an impact on your life.
We miss you Shane. Thanks for everything.