My first skateboard was a Sims Jeff Phillips Pro Model.
It was under the tree on Christmas Morning 1984.
That board was and is my favorite board I’ve ever had…
Because it was my first.
It’s the kind of thing one never forgets.
Because of that board and what it meant to me,
I always followed Jeff Phillips, the pro skater, a bit more
closely than I followed the others.
There was Hawk and Hosoi and then there was Phillips.
He was different, he was from Texas.
He skated more freely, spontaneously… everything
he did was big and he did it with intent. They weren’t
just tricks… They were statements.
In 1989 when I left Powell-Peralta to help form
World Industries with Steve Rocco…
It was the shot heard around the skateboard world.
I was 18 years old and unbeknownst to me,
about to make skateboarding history.
The very act of my leaving Powell-Peralta would give rise
to a revolution in skateboarding and the skateboard business.
Street skating would become the predominant discipline
in skateboarding and “The Big 5” — the companies that
had run the industry for years were over — finished.
Just like that.
Next to Steve Rocco, I became the most hated person
in the industry. I didn’t know what I’d done, I just
did what I thought I must… I just felt that skaters
needed to have a say in their own careers, and in their own
skating. How that would impact the landscape of the business of
skateboarding, lead to the death of vertical skating and to the end
of the careers of many vertical skaters was beyond me.
I didn’t have a plan or any intent of any kind in any of it.
I was just walking my own path… following my heart.
In the spring of 1989 I made my first public appearance
since leaving Powell-Peralta at a Pro Mini-Ramp Contest
in Hawaii. Right around that same time the first of what
would be a series of controversial interviews with me came out
in Poweredge Magazine.
When I showed up in Hawaii it was like I had the plague.
No one from the industry looked at me, no one talked to me.
I was there with Steve Rocco — and I’ll tell you what —
Steve had balls, or he was just insanely stupid.
Several people that were there that weekend from the industry
legitimately wanted him dead. No joke.
Because of that threat and because I was a pariah to begin with,
I was on high alert. I was there with Steve and he was my buddy —
So if anyone wanted to fuck with him, they’d have to deal with me…
I remember both Skip Engblom and Fausto Vitello
(both important industry figures) approaching Steve,
threateningly — And me standing by ready and
willing to smash both of their faces…
And they knew it — I’d take it as far as it could go.
Nothing happened but it was fucking intense.
It was a fucked up time… I was fucked up… Damaged goods.
But I still had heart… I was just a confused kid, I was hurt.
I just wanted to skateboard, I just wanted to have fun again.
But it had all become so intense and so complicated.
I was constantly on the verge of crying.
I remember I was sitting alongside the ramp while other skaters
were enthusiastically practicing. But I couldn’t skate —
I just didn’t have it in me. The thing I loved the most
was causing me the most pain.
I was just sitting there alone, feeling really bad
when Jeff Phillips walked up to me.
Hey Mike… You got a minute?
Jeff sat down next to me.
I just want to say, that I read your interview
in Poweredge and I really liked it. It takes
balls to say what you said. Anyway, I just wanted
to let you know… You’re all-right with me buddy.
He then patted me on the back and got up
and walked off.
Such a little thing… But I had to bury my face
in my arms so that no one would see me cry.
All these people hating me, blaming me, blacklisting me,
hurting me — And Jeff Phillips, who owes me
nothing, who’s very career has been jeopardized
by choices I’ve made, takes a minute to be a man
and offer a kind word to a kid when it was needed most.
Most of those people thought my career was over —
They never expected I’d survive it all.
They just thought I was Rocco’s little puppet
and that I’d hang from that string.
I always liked Jeff Phillips —
And then I liked him more.
After that I always looked for him…
We always said hello to each other.
He mattered to me.
He was one of the good guys.
When Jeff took his own life on Christmas Day 1993,
that hit me hard. It hurt me because he had been
so kind to me when he didn’t have to be…
It hurt me that someone so righteous could be hurting that bad.
And that I didn’t know — and that there was nothing I could do
to return the favor… It was too late, he was gone.
The tricks, the contest placings, the industry drama and bullshit
mean so little in the end. But the people we meet, those who touch
our hearts we will never forget.
And I’ll never forget my first board…
I couldn’t have picked a better one.