Inside Sheep Hills: Shaun Butler

Courtesy of Ride BMX Magazine

Shaun Butler on the cover of Ride BMX Magazine in 1999.

In the late '90s, Shaun Butler was part of a new wave of professional dirt jumpers. Sponsored first by S&M, and then later on by Schwinn, Butler toured the pro dirt comp circuit (including the X Games) alongside the likes of Brian Foster and Todd Lyons, Josh Stricker, and was featured on the covers of Ride BMX Magazine multiple times at his local spot, Sheep Hills. Butler returned to S&M after leaving Schwinn in 1998, and eventually moved out of the pro spotlight, but for over a decade, the name 'Shaun Butler' was synonymous with smooth dirt jumping and the Sheep Hills scene. Although it's been some time since the BMX world has heard from Butler, he's still getting it done in the So Cal scene. Here's Goldie.

ESPN.com: What years did you consider yourself a Sheep Hill Local?
Butler: I probably considered myself a SHL from 1993 to 2003 or so.

Where are you originally from and why did you make the move to Huntington Beach?
I am born and raised in Fullerton, California and moved to Huntington Beach because I was always going out there to ride and Huntington Beach became the place where I hung out, rode and eventually met my wife, not to mention tons of friends.

At the time, what was your occupation and was it flexible with your time as a SHL?
After high school, my mom told me that If I was going to continue to live at home, I needed to work full-time or go to school full-time, so around the time when I started failing most of my college classes and goofing off is around the same time that S&M bikes began to give me a salary to ride. Then I just began riding full-time, dropped out of college and started traveling around the world racing and jumping.

Courtesy of Sean Parker

Shaun Butler at Sheep Hills in the late '90s.

It seemed that at any given time there could be huge amounts of pros in the area. Who was one of your favorites to watch ride back then?
I loved watching everyone ride back in the day because we were all pretty close and encouraged each other, but my all-time favorite rider back then and still is today is Brian Foster, plus we have the same birthday, June 29. I also loved riding with Troy McMurray, Mike Griffin, Midget Cory, Ricky Ratt and Chris Moeller.

Please give the readers an example of one of the kookiest things you ever saw go down at the trails?
People riding naked in the middle of afternoon in front of lots of people. Fuzzy filmed a TV commercial for Mongoose out there, bringing about fifty outsiders into our trails with cameras, telling us where we could and couldn't ride. We gave the film crew a little space and didn't kick them all out of our trails that day because we had love For Fuzzy. There are countless memories from Sheep Hills that I will never forget. In fact I had one of my two bachelor parties before I got married down at Sheep Hills. We partied and made a huge bonfire just like we did back in the day, it was unforgettable.

Did you sincerely like riding Sheep or were you there just because of the proximity of the "industry"?
I rode Sheep Hills because it was home, and for a while, it was a good place to learn new tricks and see new people show up, but it was difficult to keep up on all the work. We constantly had to put in work to keep the place up and running smooth because of all of the outsider weekend warriors that would show up and wreck the place. After a while, we got older and just gave up on the place and moved on to Hidden Valley until that got plowed. Then we moved to Slater, and then that got plowed, so we went back to Sheep. Now I show up at Sheep once in a while or go to the Orange Y BMX race track or just take a ten-mile beach ride to be on my bike these days -- whatever I can do to keep the cobwebs off and enjoy the special freedom of riding that darn BMX bike that I love so much.

If you have any last words on Sheep please feel free to include them here.
Sheep is legendary, but I just don't feel the same about it anymore. It's too much work just to clear the jumps, much less do tricks. But to each its own. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Sheep Hills, but it just isn't that fun to ride anymore, and I think that it seems far better on video then in reality. SHL forever!

THE SHEEP HILLS SERIES ON ESPN BMX

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