Terrible Happy Talks - Shannon Farrugia
Doing anything outside your normal routine, every week for one hundred weeks in a row, is a massive undertaking. It requires enthusiasm, commitment, sacrafice, motivation and passion. All those mentioned attributes, Shannon Farrugia has in spades. He recently just published his 100th podcast, under Terrible Happy Talks, in as many weeks. For those who haven't listened it is in Shannons words -
"A podcast about the human journey. An eclectic collection of weekly conversations with inspiring people who are brave enough to share the time-line of their life so far…Experiences, challenges, and hopes for the future. Skateboarders, surfers, alcoholics, permaculture gurus, authors, photographers, artists, health enthusiasts, athletes, educational leaders, activists and beyond…"
Shannon is a devoted Father, a school teacher for over a decade, a skateboarder, surfer and all around legend of a human. We turned the tables on him and had a long form discussion about why do a podcast, being a teacher, growing up as a skateboarder in Nowra, his favourite guests, meditation and even how Salmon Agah's shoe flying off at a skateboard demo in 1992 was influential.
Why he chose to do a podcast:
Why in short, is i was so fucking sick of the wrong people having a voice. And I don't know if I'm getting the right people to share their voice, but it's just the people that I think should have a voice in this world. As opposed to these empty influencers who aren't really spreading good information. That's what primarily got me going with it.
I was also in a really lucky position where I was working in a really diverse and interesting community. I was living in Bali and working at this sustainability focused, international private school called the green school. It was after the first six months. I went, "this is such a unique like community of people. I've got to start a podcast". I got to hear their stories and their journeys because they've got some interesting shit to say.
It was the full spectrum of our society. Like some of like literally the wealthiest people in the world to just like people like me who were just a teacher at the school, earning a teacher's salary. But everyone in the community, like, especially the other teachers that I worked with, they all had their own shit going on. Like they were either like writers or artists and definitely activists. A lot of them were published authors, entrepreneurs, hedge fund bankers, Hollywood actors and Olympic athletes.
And I was just like, you know, I've got access to these people. I'm just going to talk to them. So that's, that's how it started. Plus I love podcasts. Like I just think as a, from a media perspective, like podcasts are literally like the best way to give an individual a platform where they can really get their point across and, and really get the information out there and say what they have to say.
How much is edited?
I do very little editing deliberately. I don't want to be polished. I want all the shit in there. I only really need to edit if a person asks. Like they say "take that part out because that could hurt this person." I don't want to hurt anyone. I actually wrote down values for the podcast. And the main one is, "the guest is gold", which means I'm not trying to make anyone look bad or anything like that.
I don't go through and edit out all the little umms and ahhh, like some, some other podcasts do. Thats because I know for me personally, when I listened to something, I just want it to be real. I think all us humans have this voyeuristic aspect to us where we just want to feel like we're sneaking and look at or listen to something that we shouldn't be listening to. But when I hear something that's like super polished and the person's got a super good radio voice and I switch off. I'm like ugh, I don't want it to be polished.
I think with my teaching background, and I didn't realize this till later, especially like being a health and PE teacher, when I teach theory lessons in those subjects it isn't necessarily black and white, like in maths and science. It's often group discussion based and I have to facilitate discussions with the class. Sometimes it's about sexual education, drugs and alcohol. We talk about relationships. We talk about just personal wellness and mental health. I guess over the years that has made me ok at being a facilitator which helps in a podcast.
I was thinking about our mutual friend, Jarryd Rees, who I just I've got a lot of respect for him, even though he's so much younger than me. I was his high school PE teacher. And at the time it was early in my career, you know, I was probably insecure about my ability to be a teacher. Also learning how to manage groups of teenagers, which is like a real skill.
I always felt very conflicted because I hated school and I hated teachers and I hated feeling like I was controlled, but then I went in to being a teacher that's how I was. We went in hard as I've got to control these kids, you know? And it's funny, like I did it to Jarryd, and I really identified with Jared even when he was at school. Cause he was a skater kid. He was one of like probably one of the handful of skater kids at the whole school. That, that was me at school too. So there's was like three or three of us at school that were really skateboarders or maybe four. And we were the outcasts, you know, and if I had a teacher that showed any interest in skateboarding, I was just, was like, I worshiped him. And here I was a now teacher and then acting like a dick head teacher to skateboarders, exactly what i hated. Jarryd actually taught me a lot through our interactions. He made me have a wake up call. Which was that i didn't want to be that kind of teacher.
I'll never forget the first person I seen skateboarding, his name was Hamish Kylie. He was riding a skateboard up and down his driveway on his knees and i just went, "oh fuck. That's amazing." I was like i've got to get a skateboard. And then my parents got me one for Christmas and it was a veryflex freestyle board, it had rails on it and didn't even have a nose. It wasn't great but it go me obsessed.
Unlike Per Welder and Rodney Mullen i did't want to freestyle. Then my dad got me my first proper skateboard from the skate shop in Nowra. And it was a Lance mountain Powell Peralta and it had boneite in the layers of the ply which did nothing haha. When it got wet it just turned into soggy wheetbix.
I used to skate around Nowra, when i was around 12, and into town by myself. There was a crew of skaters and they were all older and kind of dodgy. They were like sort of like surfer skater dudes. So was skating with them and one day we're all skating this three stair in the middle of Nowra. And this guy from another crew, John Guthrie's goes, " you're you're with us now, come skating."
I was younger than all of them, so i always looked up to them and in a strange way still do. Part of that crew was Duncan and Cam Gooseff. Like most skate crews have that one person who is a bit better than everyone else. That was just Cam straight straightaway.
I just want it to be accepted by those guys so bad. Like i said before i still do which is crazy as I'm in my forties. I was being influenced by them and I wanted to be like them. We all just loved skating so much, did it so much and went as hard as we could. It was a special time for skateboarding.
Duncan and i would always truant school on Thursday afternoons and travel up to go skate Unanderra skatepark. It had the mini ramp that was dug into the ground that was the best at the time. We spent so much time there that it really helped our skateboarding.
Another quite profound moment was at a contest at a Kmart carpark in Nowra in 1989. Some dude rocks up with all the gear on and starts doing these Russian boneless's, where you jump through your board back and forth. I was like, "No way! That's crazy! How the fuck do you do that?" And he's like, "you do it like this." That guy was Adam Lingard. A lot of love would always come out of the Wollongong crew for us even though we weren't from there.
I also think that's the benefit of skating with people from different areas, they bring this different flavor. It's like" Oh wow they are doing that!" Otherwise we were just trying to copy everything in skate movies. At that time you don't have to copy the skate movies exactly.
Our crew went to a skate contest at the Horden Provillion in 1992 that was probably put on my SDS. The MC was the well known photographer Mike Omeally and Salman Agah turned up to put on a demo and nearly skated the whole time switch and really consistent. I remember Cam freaking out and saying. "I've gotta get as good switch as that!" I wanted to do everything Cam did so we all just started skating switch too. Salmon was doing switch backside 180s over a traffic cone and one attempt he fell and his shoe came flying off! We realised didn't have his laces done up at all. I was like, "fuck! that's what I'm gonna do!" At the the time i use to choke the shit out of my tongue with my laces. So from then it was all about loosening up your laces. I also still get some my pleasure out of doing switch backside 180s too.
Favourite Gong Skateboarders
I think people can smell bullshit a mile away, but they can also sniff authenticity a mile away as well. People aren't stupid and they want authenticity in a world full of bullshit. When i think of that someone like Ty Jeffery comes to mind. Like I think he's my new favourite skater. I even love that he calls his account Skate Fiend because of the way he skates, he does look like a fiend. He just wants it. Same with Kieran Woolley when you watch him skate. Like he just wants it too. People want to see that man.
I've just gone skating that's how I've just dealt with things going on. I really think if it wasn't for skateboarding, you know, it has stopped me from delving to deeper levels of depression and anxiety, in certain times in my life. When things were hard and i was depressed i could of gone deeper into levels of maybe substance abuse, but I didn't want to because I knew I wanted to get up tomorrow and go skating. It would pull me back a little bit from, from destroying myself those ways when I was feeling shit.
So it's escapism, it's being alone. That's what it is. Even if you're at a busy skatepark and there's people everywhere it's being alone. Its not really the act of it because I'm not that good,I'm not landing a lot of tricks, but I am obsessed with just being in my head with a trick and just that process of breaking it down.
To me its better than meditation. Skateboarding's better than meditation, man. Cause I'm really bad at meditating. I've always struggled with meditation because I can't sit still, I'm probably self-diagnosed ADHD. Skateboarding exhausts me physically and I need to be exhausted physically.
So that's why like when I tried the sitting meditation, I tried for years and I just can't do it. But now the meditations I do around Wim Hof breathing where you're deep breathing and then you're holding your breath. So there's a real physical component and it can be physically straining to your body, but also focusing your mind. And that has just fundamentally been the biggest game changer for managing my moods and emotions and the, the steam train of thoughts that plow through me constantly that exhaust me, that lead me to anxiety, feelings of depression or feelings of resentment or creating scenarios in my head that don't really exist.
I haven't missed a week and I did set out with a plan. I mean, originally the plan was, I'm going to produce 10 episodes in 10 weeks. And then I did the first 10 and I was getting like five listens in episode. And it was probably like my mom and my wife of the time. It was hard work and i was nearly going to give it up until episode 10 who was with Michael Klim the Australian Olympic swimmer. The episode wasn't the greatest as i was still figuring out audio, there was a pool pump noise, his maid was also cooking in the background. However he shared it on his social media and the listens went up a lot.
Even though its hard work and i was unsure at first if i would keep going each conversation was just giving me so much joy and I loved it. Like for example my first ever guest, who was Charles Mugarura. He is permaculture expert from Uganda. Who's purely just teaching the Ugandan farmers how to grow their own food without the use of pesticides or chemicals. So they can feed their families and maintain the soil, not to make money or anything just so they grow their own food. But on that first podcast, and this was at the green school and mind you, the green school attract really interesting people who come and visit. And I didn't realize he was kind of a big deal in Uganda and he used my podcast as a platform to announce that he would be running to be the youngest Ugandan president.
I'm sitting there going "holy fuck." Then he used that link and he shared it on all these profiles. He was on l Ugandan international new directing people to the podcast. On the podcast he tells his life story which he was war orphan.I get emotional thinking about it. His mom was killed in crossfire, in civil war in Uganda. And he grew up in as an orphan, but I'd been hanging out with him for a week before that facilitating a permaculture course at the green school. I just knew him as this most happy joyous guy from Uganda and he tells me his story and it's gnarly. And he's like, and I'm going to be the fucking president one day. And I was like, well, there's something to this.
Yeah, it just amazes me at some of the guests that have been on, you know? When I originally started it I just want to speak to skaters and surfers, but then I really quickly realized that I'm not a skate or surf podcast. I'm just a person that happens to be a skateboarder and likes to surf, so when i have those guests on it just comes out naturally. Like the Dylan Longbottom episodes was just fucking amazing, but again, the interesting aspects of his interview were not even about surfing. Like when he lost a $100,000 camera on the set of Point Break 2 at Teahepoo.
What he gets out of the process
It's therapy for me. Because in those moments when I'm talking to someone for an hour or two hours, I'm not thinking about myself. I'm actually thinking about someone else. Because I spend most of my life thinking about myself and my own shit, my own problems. So yeah, it's therapy. It gets me out of myself and I in some small weird way, I feel like I'm being of service. I want to put something in to the world for free to people.
I do have a sponsor called Indosole who help me out. Which has been really nice, but I mean, it's not like I'm making any money out of the podcast. I just feel like I'm giving something out there and and maybe spreading a little bit of positivity or hope or inspiration. The main thing that gives me satisfaction is that I hope that I'm making someone feel less isolated in how they're feeling.
I just think mental isolation is the most dangerous thing for anyone. And I think we are more isolated than wherever I've ever been considering the access that we have to each other. So the human contact has reduced dramatically even before the pandemic. So I just think we need to reduce isolation and the feelings of isolation. And if, and if you're feeling isolated and you identify that you are feeling isolated or you're isolating, like it's a dangerous place to be, and people need to acknowledge that and you need to reach out and you need to pick up the phone and talk to someone.
So I think as i get older I talk more openly about my shit and my feelings. Which does make you feel vulnerable and I think a lot of dudes don't do it because they're scared of being vulnerable, but I really do believe as cliche as it is, vulnerability is strength. Like it's power. It's fucking like you're a pussy if you don't make yourself vulnerable.
Listen to the whole conversation here: