Interview by : Jaime Owens
Don’t let the portrait fool you. Jack Sabback isn’t some slimy Russian dude that’s going to try and sell you a fake Rolex or try to get you to touch his creepy moustache. He’s actually a very low-key and mellow East Coast skater that’s surprised to be where he is today. Jack wasn’t gunning to be the next big name in skateboarding with all the fame and fortune. He didn’t send out countless sponsor-me tapes. He didn’t call up companies asking to be on flow. He just skated and it happened. Living modestly on what skating allows him and always cruising along the fringes, Jack always leaves us wanting more. There’s probably not a better way to go about it and that’s not suprising.
How old are you and where are you from originally?
I’m 26 and I’m from Charleston, South Carolina.
What do your parents do?
Ah, I don’t want to get into personal family stuff, man.
But it’s an interview. We’re trying to get to know you.
Come on, I don’t want to get into this.
It doesn’t matter what they’re into.
Are they drug smugglers or something?
Nah, they don’t do anything shady.
My father just retired and he and my mom are about to move to Honduras to continue doing medical mission work that they have been doing since I was a kid.
Alright then. Do you have any brothers or sisters?
Yeah, I got an older brother, Eddie, who’s 30. He just got out of the military.
Was he in Iraq?
Yeah, he did three tours. He did one tour in Afghanistan and two in Iraq. Yeah, it’s pretty crazy.
Is he done or can they call him back in?
Nah, he’s done and out for good.
How does one brother go into the military and serve three tours and the other brother is a skater living in Brooklyn?
Yeah, I don’t know. I’ve been trying to figure that one out for a while now too. It is what it is.
What were you like in high school? I picture you as a total nerd who’s friends with a lot of girls that think of you as just a friend.
I knew you were going to get into this.
Come on, were you a skate rat or, like, a bookworm?
Man, this shit sucks, dude. I just went to school and did my studies.
We’re you into chicks in high school or what? How were you with the ladies?
What do you mean, having braces, glasses and a mop on your head didn’t pull in the ladies at your school?
Where did you go to college?
I went to Temple in Philly. I got a BA in history.
Are you going to use that degree one day to be a teacher?
You know, after skating, who knows? I’ll probably go back to school and continue on that little path. You get the summers off. It’s not bad. I mean, I haven’t really thought about it. I’m just going to play it by ear.
So you’re just going to ride out the skate deal for as long as you can and figure it all out later?
Pretty much, you know. Why not? Yo, I sound like a real dick right now. [laughs]
No you don’t. We’ll make sure you sound good. So, did you always want to move to Philly or did going to Temple bring you there?
I think it was vice-versa. I’d always planned on getting out of Charleston and I did pretty good in high school. And I got a scholarship to go to college that paid pretty good, so that’s how I ended up going to Temple. At first, it was tough getting through it but I actually ended up liking school so… It’s been a while since I’ve been there but I did enjoy it.
Jesus, it sounds like you’re standing next to a helicopter right now.
Yeah, I’m kinda near a heli-pad. I’m in a bad zone right now.
Yeah, you’re in a bad zone. We’re trying to do an interview and you’re near a helicopter. If we have to do this over, it’s going to be your fault.
Well, I mean, it was quiet and then this helicopter showed up.
OK, back to the interview. You’ve been in the sponsored skate scene for a while now but you still feel like a new jack to me because you like to keep such a low profile and be an underground skater.
Well, I don’t think I’m comfortable with the whole “big-time” thing. Skating is skating and you can look at it like a job, but at the end of the day I don’t function like that. I don’t know. I mean, I got my ways of how I go about things and it’s definitely not the most productive, obviously.
How does a skater like yourself survive these days?
Well, I make enough money to get by. I pay my rent and car payment and the few bills I have to have a little left over but not too much. You know, it’s what I want to do and I enjoy doing it. And I’m not always going to have the opportunity to do it so I might as well do it while I can, you know?
So you’re comfortable living paycheck to paycheck?
No, it’s not that bad, but I’m definitely not buying a new car. It’s not like I want a new car, though. And I get to travel for free, so it’s the best.
Your roommate, Jonathan Mehring, said your living conditions are pretty trife. Like, you don’t have a window and the only power in your room comes from an extension cord from the living room.
Well, the main circuit breaker is out, but it’s not that trife. Who told you that, Jon? No way, man. Our house is nice. I mean, I have a little cubby. It’s real compact but it’s nice. It’s far better than some of these skate houses you know. It’s not even a skate house, which is good.
How come you never moved out to California like most skaters do?
I don’t know. I think all of the skating I was into was pretty much East Coast. I like going out to there, but I definitely don’t want to live out there. I’d just rather live in New York right now.
Did you get into the infamous “Haters Ball” attitude that a lot of East Coast skaters have?
Yeah, there is that but I just like what I like. I mean, I like skaters from the West Coast.
Are you really protective of your spots like a lot skaters are these days?
Well, it depends. I think I’ve gotten less so since I’ve moved to New York. I mean, if someone is my friend, I have no problem telling them where a spot’s at, but if some “John Rando” calls up, I’m not going to tell them. I don’t want to get my shit blown out. Not even photo or video-wise, just so it doesn’t become a bust, you know? Some people take it real seriously, but I don’t think that I do.
Are you glad that skating has steered away some from the “big” skating, and ledge and creative skating have made a strong comeback?
I like watching people skate the big shit but I’m not into doing it. But when it was big, I was in school just skating around, so I wasn’t stressing it. I was in Philly at that time too and you’d see that kind of skating there but not really. I’ve always been more influenced by the people I skate with than watching some “John Rando” jump down some handrail on a tv screen.
Are you bad luck for a company to stay in business? Rasa, Popwar, Earth all went down while you were on.
[Laughs] I don’t know, man, maybe it’s the glasses. Shit, I just feel lucky to be where I am.
Didn’t you get offers from bigger companies and turn them down?
Yeah, it’s a toss up, you know? I just want to be on teams with my friends. I don’t want to be on a team with a bunch of f**king strangers that don’t have anything in common with me besides us wearing the same logo and getting a check from the same company. I’m not really planning on making a shit load of money off of skating. Maybe I could have or maybe I couldn’t have. Definitely not happening these days [laughs]. There’s more to life than just getting money from a company.
So there isn’t one big, mainstream sponsor you’d like to have?
Nah, well, maybe Boost Mobile for the phone calls [laughs]. But I probably wouldn’t do it either. I mean, you grow up skating and it means one thing to you and you always thought of it that one way, and suddenly it changes to money, of all things, which is fair enough but…
How do you feel about the state of skateboarding these days?
Well, I just saw that Sheckler Proactiv commercial and was, like, “Come on, dude.” I mean, seriously, what was that? But I feel like it’s been the same since I was a kid. I try and just focus on what I like about it and ignore all the other stuff. There has always been lame ads and lame dudes. There just happens to be more of both now that skating has been established as a sport. Remember those CK One ads in SLAP?