December 20, 2011
A Skate Sesh with Mike Vallely
“Want to go on a skate mission after the rain clears?” the email from Mike Vallely read. I checked it twice.
Stumbling to respond, I tapped “Absolutely. When and where?” on the screen of my broken iPhone and pushed send.
I met Mike V. at the Goruck Ascent in early September after growing up watching videos of him skate places like the Brooklyn Banks and his parts in the various iconic skate videos like, In Search of the Animal Chin. For those unfamiliar with Mike’s body of work, he’s been a pro skateboarder for 25 years and has worked on a handful of other projects ranging from a cameo in The Hangover to a career as a semi pro hockey player. Few are cut from his cloth. On the Ascent, we chatted for a few hours while hiking on an especially grueling two day summit. Back at base camp, we exchanged contact info and then went our separate ways.
Last week, I made my way back to LA and looked Mike up. We exchanged a few emails and settled on skate mission in his hometown of Long Beach. Meeting at Mike’s house, we hopped into the Syncro with veteran filmer Mark Nisbet and set out to one of Mike’s favorite spots, a bank on the LA River.
Parking the van a few blocks away, we locked up and headed towards the spot, crossing a bridge before dropping down past a corrall of horses. After a few pushes, it was evident why Mike was still skating after 25 years of trials and tribulations in a sport notorious for burning people out. He has the energy of a teenager, easily ollieing over a curb with three boards in his hands and a backpack on. I caught my back truck. Every block or so, he looked back with a genuine smile, making sure I hadn’t been jacked by a vato or- more likely- caught my front wheels in a gap in the pavement. It didn’t look like a job.
Regardless of the vocation, it’s inspiring to see someone doing the thing they love and making it work. Mike is certainly is.
Mike was kick flipping this thing. No problem. It’s as wide as my surfboard.
This river, if you could call it that, eats skateboards and smells like a dirty hot dub. It almost got mine.
Mike is working on a new board project. He showed me some of his shapes. They looked great and I can’t wait to shred one of them, albeit in no manner resembling Mike.
Kicking and pushing, doing my best to catch up.
After stomping a head high wall ride off the quarter pipe onto the bank, Mike skated over to his pack and checked his phone. Seeing my window, I took a few pushes and pumped up the bank backside, some five feet bellow Mike’s wheel marks.
“Hungry,” he asked looking up.
“Lets roll, it’s always good to leave this place with dry boards.”
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