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Professional Skateboarder, Musician and Actor Mike Vallely Keeps It Really Real

TIS: So what’s this I hear about you recently breaking your arm while playing with CT’s Danbury Whalers Hockey team?

MV: Yeah, I don’t really know what happened. I guess it’s just the way my arm hit the ice, and perhaps the padding I had on my elbow, and the fact that I was kind of standing still and my feet fell out from under me, so I didn’t have any momentum. It’s been hard to reconcile because I felt like the way I fell wasn’t that severe, like it wasn’t a fall that was going to damage to me. It was definitely a bum out.

TIS: Yeah, and that was your first league game right?

MV: Yeah. I had gotten to skate in a scrimmage game and had gone through about a week and a half of training knulla, and prior to that, I had training here in California for about two months. So it’s kind of a bum out for it to have gone down the way it went down, but at the same time it was also at a moment where I was actualizing a dream, so I find it’s hard to get too bummed about it. It was a very joyful experience as well.

TIS: Sure. So you mentioned training out in California and I’m actually out here in CT and wondered how you hooked up with a team from our here?

MV: Well I’ve been trying to get on a professional Hockey team for upwards of five years now. I’ve talked to a bunch of different teams through the years, and skated, and practiced with quite a few of them, mostly West Coast teams- a team in Fresno and a team in knulla. I had moved the dialogue far enough to where the teams were considering doing something with me from a marketing and promotional stand point, and they understood how much passion I had for the game, and that I could be someone who could help promote the game to people who wouldn’t normally be tuning in.

Basically it always came down to taking a roster spot. The teams wanted to do it, but by league standards, I’d have to be signed to a contract, and that’s where it became harder than we’d anticipated. If I signed a contract that meant someone else wouldn’t be playing. So through certain Hockey connections I had made, I was introduced to the owner of the team in CT. It was a brand new league, and brand new team. He came out to see me at a signing I did at Zumiez, and we met for lunch and talked and he said he was willing to sign me for a contract, and so that’s basically how it went down.

TIS: Cool. So switching gears, I grew up on Powell Peralta’s Bones Brigade and wanted to know what your experience was like during your time with them back in the 80’s?

MV: Yeah, I grew up on the Bones Brigade as well. The very first skateboard video I saw was the Bones Brigade Video Show and I’d always valued the Bones Brigade and Powell Peralta as the ultimate in skateboarding. So it was June of 1986 when I was asked to join the team, and it was a dream I wouldn’t have even dared to dream. I would dream of being a pro skater, but I never dreamt I’d be discovered by Lance Mountain and Stacey Peralta, who were two major heroes of mine, and be asked to skate for that team and be a part of their company. It was really heavy man. I mean so heavy and so unbelievable that we’re still talking about it, you know what I mean?

TIS: Absolutely.

MV: It was a long time ago but it was a heavy thing for me individually, in my personal life, I mean the fact that I had actualized this unbelievable dream. I think there was a bigger story happening there too. When I got sponsored, it symbolized a major change and a major shift in skateboarding. Through getting sponsored and becoming a part of the Bones Brigade and Powell Peralta, doors were being opened. The entire culture was shifting from ramps to street, and I sort of became a poster child for that. So not only did I get sponsored, but I was also put on this “pedestal” and this became a sort of sensation in skateboarding which hadn’t really happened before. It was a very intense time period in my life. I was fifteen years old and went from one day skating the streets in front of my house, to being a part of this team. I was based on the East Coast and was suddenly flying out to the West Coast all the time, and skating with guys I’d been watching in videos and reading about in magazines. It all happened so fast and was a really incredible experience.

TIS: That’s amazing man. I personally began skating back around ’85 and have seen tremendous growth in the sport, and that’s just an outsiders perspective. You’ve obviously lived it and been and integral part of it, so I wanted to know about your experience of skateboardings evolution, from a first-hand account.

MV: Well when you see what it’s become today, you realize that it’s still so very young, and it’s still got a long way to go. But yeah, it’s a sport, and these guys are athletes, and that’s the new language. That wasn’t the language when you and I started.

TIS: Haha, definitely not.

MV: Right, we didn’t call it a sport necessarily, and skaters definitely weren’t thought of as athletes, we were thought of as misfits, you know?

TIS: All too well.

MV: It’s just changed so much. Prior to Steve Caballero, Lance Mountain, Christian Hosoi and those guys, a pro skaters career usually lasted 2-3 years. Steve Caballero has been a pro skater for 30 years now. So when I came on board, Steve was already pro, but I became a part of a generation that had proved this wasn’t just a trend or a fad. I posted a video on YouTube a few days ago of a news clip from 1987. It was of a Bones Brigade demo in Florida and the reported said before airing the footage, “I heard there was a demo in town but I thought the fad had ended”, and so many kids are commenting on this video saying, “What is this guy talking about, a fad?” They don’t understand that at that time period, that’s how it was looked at. That may sound sort of minor, but to me that shows a huge difference in how far things have come.

When I started skating I had that twisted Sister video moment where my dad came in my room and said “WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE!?” and I said, ” I’m gonna be a pro skater” and he said “THAT’S NOT EVEN A REAL FUCKING THING!” (laughter). So I had to prove that it was real, and I’m not alone in that. There was a lot of us that had to prove it, though sometimes I felt completely alone in it, in walking down that path. I mean it wasn’t an easy path to walk down. I don’t think anyone really cares, or if the stories will ever be cool, but to get from 1984 to 2011, there’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears man. There were pro skaters in the 60’s and 70’s too, who were all very important as well. There was Torger Johnson who was a pro skater in the early sixties, maybe one of the first pro skaters, if not the first. He influenced Peralta and Alva and those guys in the 70’s, that’s how big of an influence he was.

Obviously we know how important the Dogtown skaters were, and are. It was so cyclical at that point, and it had been a trend or a fad, but it was those mid-eighties guys that were the generation that made it real. So to be one of those guys, a pioneer, it’s very rewarding. There’s a lot of people who champion you and that time period, and embrace it because it means a lot to them, but then there’s other people that really doesn’t give a fuck. So you get both sides, and it’s tough. It’s tough being an older skater now and being seen like that and not being appreciated for just being a skateboarder, being classified you know? A lot of times I have to take a mouthful of bullshit from some punk who doesn’t know what the fuck he’s talking about and I just have to laugh.

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