|(Posted 5/21/2004) |
(By Brian Sabella, Saryeville New Jersey * Suburban. Edited by Josh Rabinowitz for SkateboardDirectory.com.)
On a humid May afternoon professional skateboarders Mike Vallely *, Charlie Wilkins and Stacy Lowery * are in mid-demonstration at the skate park in Sayrevilleís Kennedy Park when someone yells "Do a back-flip!"
Vallely stops, cocks his head.
"Who said that?" he demands. Silence.
"You do a back-flip," he says and pushes on.
Mike V, as he is known, isnít one to respond well to the notion that a professional skateboarder is a trained monkey, existing to fulfill some PlayStation * 2 ideal of stuntman heroics.
Vallely comes from a different era, one in which there was no X Games, and Tony Hawk * wasnít a household name. A time when a skate park was something you saw in a magazine, but could never actually imagine having in your hometown.
In the mid-í80s, skateboarding was a cult phenomenon, years away from mainstream acceptance, and to be a skateboarder meant being a frequent target of abuse in the hallways of your local high school and the streets of your own town.
"Guys our age, we kind of paved the way," he said of skateboardingís mass acceptance in a phone interview while headed for his tourís next stop in Richmond, Va. "But itís still not an easy road."
The 33-year-old Edison native is one of the most revered and influential skateboarders of all time. His career launched in 1986 * when, at the age of 16, he was discovered and signed up by Powell Peralta * Skateboards, then arguably the biggest name in the business.
Along with the likes of Mark Gonzalez, Natas Kaupas * and Jason Lee * (who recently relaunched his skateboard company *, Stereo, after taking several years off to establish a successful career as an actor), Vallely was a key innovator and originator of street skating in the late í80s and early í90s, and over the years his rigorous work ethic and uncompromising individuality have earned him a one-of-a-kind spot in the pantheon of skateboarding greats.
For Vallely, skating is pure expression, as necessary as breathing.
Sport? Maybe. Highly personal art form? Without question.
"Thatís what I look for in anybody who does anything ó are you passionate about what youíre doing?"
His style seamlessly blends the more soulful, surf-oriented styles of decades ago with the more technical, big-stunt orientation skating has evolved toward.
"I get the Ďyouíre old schoolí thing all the time," he said, "but itís not about old school/new school. Itís just about skateboarding, and it comes from my heart. Old school is just where I came from."
One thing that is definitely new school is the abundance of skate parks in municipalities across the country.
"I remember never having anything like that when I was a kid," Vallely said. "You couldnít imagine that anyone would ever care enough. Itís just great to see communities doing these things."
Vallely found the Sayreville skate park, one of the few outdoor concrete parks on the eastern seaboard, to his liking. "Itís well-designed, itís got a little bit of everything. It felt nice to be there," he said.
Although he has lived in skateboardingís epicenter of southern California * for years, Vallely isnít content to stay put. For nearly 20 years, he has been an ambassador for skateboarding on a grassroots level, logging endless miles and hours on the road (documented in videos like "Drive," "Stand Strong" and "Sponsored"), bringing skateboarding to out-of-the-way towns most pros have never heard of, sometimes even in the dead of winter.
Along the way, heís cultivated his other passions as well, publishing his poems and stories and fronting the hardcore/punk rock outfit, Mike V and The Rats.
Recently, he self-published a collection of poems, entitled "Dusk Like Fire," and The Rats will self-release their latest record, "The Days," shortly.
The do-it-yourself ethic is part and parcel of the skateboarding and punk rock scenes Mike V came from.
"It comes from picking up a skateboard," he said, "before we did, we were just hanging around, but then all of a sudden youíre self-empowered. We made our own magazines, screened our own T-shirts."
And he hasnít slowed up any. He said he still spends "well over half the year" on the road, spreading the gospel of skateboarding.
"There are a lot of pro skaters who make a career just doing contests and having photos in the magazines, but I believe in kicking it live. I could never just sit on my couch all day."
Mike V has always stood out as an individual in a sport that, for all of its counter-cultural cachet, can be just as rife with groupthink and conformity as anything else. One of the things that keeps him going is the drive to combat the negative stereotypes and images associated with skateboarding.
"Theyíre just trying to sell product," he said of the industry that often engages in selling those very stereotypes and images to youth. "Unfortunately, the industry isnít looking out for them. Itís probably one of the reasons Iím still out there as a professional skateboarder. One of the things Iím very concerned about is, whoís going to pick up the torch if I leave."
A self-described family man who lives with his wife and two young daughters in Long Beach, Calif., Vallely is determined to show kids the path of positivity.
"Skateboarding was my answer to drugs, to alcohol, to partying, to getting in trouble."
This article was originally entitled "Skateboard legend spreads positive word
Edison native " and was found at http://suburban.gmnews.com/news/2004/ 0520/Front_Page/049.html
Search this site for more about Mike Vallely Speaks Up Skateboard *