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    Battallion Rider
    The hot shoe, glue footed, street scoundrel from New Jersey himself. In 3 decades as a professional skater Mike Vallely has made his name by changing the way people skate, and built his reputation on his passionate advocacy for individuality and creativity in skateboarding. You’ve all heard the stories. The realities are even gnarlier. At the bottom of it all, though, Vallely has always fought to put skateboarding and skaters first. With Street Plant, For the first time in his career, Vallely has cut all the strings that come with the title “pro skater”. No sponsors, no corporations, no limits, no boundaries. Street Plant: 100% skateboarding from 100% skateboarders.
  • Street Plant Pop-Up Shop w/ Mike Vallely at Sk8 Supply in San Diego, CA.

    December 9th | 12PM – 3PM

    5151 Santa Fe St. C
    San Diego, CA


  • w/ Professor Schmitt. Photo By: Rob Wallace.

    We are NOT content to just pick our Board Shapes from a catalog. Each and Every Board we make has to have a Spark of Inspiration, a Story, a Reason for Existing. We are NOT interested in the mass-identity of Skateboarding, nor in the supply and demand culture of the mass-marketing of Skateboards. To us, Skateboards aren’t some soulless product you buy at the mall. They aren’t just some means to an end. They are an end in themselves. They are Alive and have Spirit. We work closely with Professor Paul Schmitt on Every Board we Shape for the perfect blend of Flavor and Function for Fun! It’s important to us to make sure that Every Board we make comes from Someplace Special, because we know they are all going to Someplace Special.

    Thanks For Your Support!

    Mike Vallely

  • 09/28

    Before they celebrated him as an athlete,
    they called him a geek
    He was that weird, lanky kid
    obsessed with Skateboarding
    A total nerd, a loser

    Even the skateboarders hated him
    He was different, a freak

    In an age of style, he focused on tricks
    For that, they spit in his face
    But he was resilient

    1985, Del Mar Skate Ranch:
    They tried to break him
    But instead they made him
    Opposed on all sides
    He Skated through the gauntlet
    And he came out on the other side
    The Greatest Skateboarder in the world

  • Mike Vallely in the Garage w/ Rizzo. Photo: David Ratunuman.

    After two weeks on the road, I have returned to Garageland.
    But I am NOT back to “the grind” and “the hustle”.
    I find those expressions to be offensive and lacking Sincerity, and they have NOTHING to do with what Street Plant is.
    To “hustle” and “grind” is to compete, and there is no Freedom in that.
    Business is NOT the “art of war” it is a Presentation of Values.
    Street Plant is an unfolding from within, a Dream being Lived!
    We are NOT chasing after anything — We are simply Following Our Bliss!
    Nothing about what We do is a “grind” — It is Fun!
    Nothing about what We do is a “hustle” — It is an Honest Expression of Our Love for Skateboarding!
    Maybe these are just plays on words, but to Us, the distinction is Important.
    The World does not need “hustlers” — It needs Soul Entrepreneurs!
    People who Love what they do, who have a Sense of Positive Purpose, and who pursue their Work as its Own Reward.
    There is Great Value in that for the Individual, and there is Great Value in that for Society.
    Yes, We Work Hard to Actualize Our Dreams.
    But we are NOT forced out of bed in the morning by an alarm signaling the start of a race.
    We are awoken by a Love for Life and for the Work at hand.
    This is NOT just our business, this is NOT just our company, this is NOT just a means to an end.
    This is Who We Are!!!!

    100% Independent Skateboarding for Love, for Fun.
    No rules, no divisions, no schools.
    Just a Skateboard as a Paintbrush and the World as an Empty Canvas.
    Skate. Create. Enjoy!

    Mike Vallely

  • Street Plant started as a Dream, on the streets of Edison, New Jersey in 1984.
    I Dreamt of a Skateboard Company that was a Dialogue.
    I Dreamt of a Skateboard Company that didn’t just make stuff, but Made A Difference.
    I Dreamt of a Skateboard Company that was a part of a Community of People, brought Together by Love, Passion and Positivity.
    I Dreamt of a Skateboard Company that saw Skateboarding as an Elevated Art, beyond sport or competition, that was Open and Welcoming to All.
    Every day, my Dream is Being Lived
    Every Day, my Dream is Coming True!
    I’ll keep Dreaming.
    You keep Dreaming too!

    Thank You Alex Hellings and the #StreetPlantBattalion Worldwide for Your Support, Love and Dreams!

    Pictured w/ Kristian Svitak, Mike Montgomery, Joey Jett and Alex Hellings on Alex’s Backyard Garden Ramp.

    Mike Vallely

  • Footage from last year’s Open Hearted Midwest Tour 2016 w/ Kristian Svitak, Joey Jett and Mike Vallely.

    Filmed By: Mark Nisbet.
    Edited By: Ted Newsome.


    Passion Relapse (Due out Jan. 2018)
    SofaBurn Records

    Music Provided By:

    SofaBurn Records” target=”_blank”>SofaBurn Records

  • Happiness Is A Mode Of Travel!
    Now Filling Prescriptions!

    Anti-Depressant Street Axe
    (OG 9.5 Street Axe Shape)

    9.5 x 32
    Wheelbase: 15
    Nose: 5 7/8
    Tail: 7

    Every Board comes with a Personalized Prescription from Dr. Vallely’s Prescription Pad!

    Filmed & Edited By: Rob Wallace.


    “Edger Chaos”
    Passion Relapse (Due out Jan. 2018)
    SofaBurn Records

    Music Provided By:

    SofaBurn Records

  • Garageland. Photo: Rob Wallace.

    A midlife crisis became midlife Transcendence, through Love.
    A Love for Skateboarding, a Love for DIY Ethos and a Love for Family.

    Encouraged by the Love of my Family, I went back to the Sources of my Joy (my Family being one of them) and I Reconciled and Reconstructed my Life by bringing all three of them Together into one Vehicle of Consciousness and Life: Street Plant.

    I had to make a pilgrimage to the depths of my own Heart, my own Soul.
    Back to the place of my Fascination, my Imagination and my Dreams.
    This is where my Life began when I was 14, and where I was Reborn at 45.
    Where my Life is Fulfilled.
    The way out was the way in.

    Street Plant is a 100% Independently owned and operated Family business.
    We exist to Support, Service, Inspire and Empower our customers – Skateboarders – The Freest, most Unique and Creative people on the planet – By making the highest quality Skateboards and Skateboard accessories.

    100% Independent Skateboarding for Love, for Fun.
    No rules, no divisions, no schools.
    Just a Skateboard as a Paintbrush and the World as an Empty Canvas.

    Skate. Create. Enjoy!

    Mike Vallely

  • Footage from last year’s Open Hearted East Coast Tour 2016 w/ Kristian Svitak, Joey Jett and Mike Vallely.

    Filmed By: Mark Nisbet.
    Edited By: Ted Newsome.



    “Shrunken Heads”
    “Charm Offensive”


    “Loud Underneath”

    Music Provided By:

    SofaBurn Records

  • 06/22

    A Movement away from hype towards Substance.
    A Movement away from despair towards Action.
    A Movement away from industry towards Community.
    A Movement away from tradition towards Optimism.
    A Movement away from image towards Character.
    A Movement away from culture towards Individuality.
    A Movement away from distinction towards Connection.
    A Movement away from effect towards Cause.

    Skating, Creating and Enjoying w/ Kayne Hayes at the Crescenta Valley Skate Park in Glendale, CA. Photo By: Rob Wallace.

  • Born into a concrete jungle,
    A synthetic prison.
    Bound by asphalt, powerlines and right angles.
    Lost in the overwhelming crowd of hunters and gatherers:
    Hunting for parking spots,
    Gathering worthless possessions.
    Trampled in the sweating scramble for profit and domination.
    A slave to the clock.
    But through a crack in the asphalt glacier,
    Something new appears:
    Street Skating.
    The redefining of Everything.
    The Bloom in the wasteland.
    A Street Plant.
    Skate. Create. Enjoy.

  • 06/03

    I traded their conference rooms for the Kitchen Table.
    I traded destiny for Freedom.
    I traded branches for Roots.
    I traded trust for Knowing.
    I traded fear for Dignity.
    I traded contracts for Peace of Mind.
    I traded obligation for Sincerity.
    I traded artificial for Authentic.
    I traded despair for Action.
    I traded distinction for Connection.
    I traded general demand for Poetry.
    I traded culture for Living.
    I traded security for Independence.
    I traded acceptance for Self-Respect.
    I traded industry for Family.
    I traded sponsorship for Honor.
    I traded their boys club for the Garage.
    I traded sacrifice for Love.

    Love. Photo: Rob Wallace.

    The word – Love – being written on all of our Boards is simply about Personalizing Every Board, Touching Every Board that passes through Garageland, and Imparting some Good Energy onto / into them. It’s an idea, a Good Thought — to send the Boards out with Love and Kindness. The Recognition that the Person who receives the Board IS a Person, not a faceless consumer, but Someone Connected to us through this small interaction, and Someone that we Value Greatly.

    Mike Vallely

  • Open Hearted Texas Tour (2017)
    w/ Kristian Svitak, Joey Jett and Mike Vallely.

    We came from Florida, Brooklyn, Portland, San Diego, Pittsburgh, Long Beach and Japan to meet in Houston, TX — Open Arms and Open Hearts. Our Common Ground: Art, Music and Skateboarding. From there, well, Anything Is Possible!

    No corporate initiative or marketing strategy, just Friends Coming Together to Express their Love for the Peaceful Arts: In-Tune-Ment. What started as a Dream has become a Community: The Street Plant Battalion.

    Once Houston was pinned on the map, we reached out to Friends in Austin, Dallas and Wichita Falls, TX as well, with a simple idea: Skate, Create, Relate and Enjoy! And this became the Open Hearted Texas Tour 2017.

    Much Love and Thanks to the Street Scoundrels Houston Chapter, Josh Yelley, Tommy Luna, Dan Panic, Apparition Skateboards, 4DWN, Deviance Skate Supply and EVERYONE we met and spent time with on our tour. Thank You for Your Love, Support and Friendship!

    Filmed & Edited By: Rob Wallace.


    R.RING “Cutter”
    Ignite The Rest

    Music Provided By:

    SofaBurn Records

  • Sitting on curb with you
    In a sea of asphalt
    Under a grove of street lights
    Illuminating the night

    Into the wee hours
    Sweat drying
    Blood congealing
    Our Parking Lot Sanctuary

    Just you and I, Talking Deeply
    While they sleep
    As a few cars pass by
    Going nowhere

    The strip mall blues
    Answered with chipped concrete
    Splintered wood and urethane graffiti 
    Out here Night Blooms Something Real

    Sitting on a curb with you
    Talking Deeply
    Our Parking Lot Sanctuary
    Flowers of the Street

  • Street Plant Japan Tour 2016
    w/ Kristian Svitak, Bigfoot and Mike Vallely.

    Filmed By: Mark Nisbet.
    Edited By: Ted Newsome.


    Quailbones “A Tip To Trick The Tide”

    M Ross Perkins “Annie Waits in a Dream” (Instrumental)

    The Light Wires “The Bees Are Dozing”

    Music Provided By:

    SofaBurn Records

  • 04/15

    The first time I met Jay Adams
    I was living in Huntington Beach, CA.
    It was 1990.

    I didn’t know who he was.

    He came to my house with Tony Roberts.
    He said he wanted to meet the kid
    who had told the skateboard industry to Fuck Off.

    That was me?

    He was crouched on the sidewalk,
    outside my Lake St. condo —
    Like a great warrior, relaxed yet ready.

    He eyed me up and down.
    I was scrawny, bad skin, shy.

    I could tell I didn’t live up to the image.

    He looked wild.
    Completely untamable.

    I didn’t understand what he wanted,
    why he was there.
    He made me uncomfortable.

    He shook my hand like it meant something.

    Later, Tony tried to explain to me who he was,
    why he had wanted to meet me.

    I didn’t get it.
    I didn’t care.

    In 2009, I was vacationing with my family
    on Oahu.

    We traveled to the North Shore to eat
    at Cholo’s.

    As we were being seated,
    I noticed Jay Adams carrying chips and salsa over to our table.

    He was a bus boy.

    I kept my head down, I didn’t want to be recognized.
    I didn’t want him to see me, seeing him.

    By this time, I knew all too well who the hell he was
    and having him bus our table didn’t live up to the image.

    He recognized me.

    He crouched down next to my seat —
    Like a great warrior, relaxed yet ready.

    He told me how much he loved my show DRIVE on Fuel TV
    and that what I was doing was in his estimation “the real deal.”

    He shook my hand like it meant something.

    It did.

    It meant something to me.

    He went back into the kitchen and came back
    with a bowl of guacamole.

    He discreetly slid the guacamole onto our table and kept walking
    as if busy or distracted by something else.

    Jay Adams had just flowed us some guacamole.

    It was one of the coolest, most meaningful things that has ever happened to me.

  • Skate. Create. Enjoy!

    At Street Plant we Value the Art Of Skateboarding, and so we put the Artist First. We could never make logo boards, blanks or “team boards” because we believe that a Skateboard Deck is a Canvas for the Artist and that it should be adorned with Artistic Expression and Infused with Purposeful Energy. Where so much of the Art in Skateboarding has been suburbanized through the corporate filters, we are seeking a Deeper Connection with the Artists that we work with, to design Skateboard Graphics that Inspire Creativity and that Elevate the Senses.

    In that Spirit, every now and then, we host a Garageland Art Jam, to let the Artists we work with cut loose on some Hand Painted designs. Very early on, Greg Higgins was the catalyst for these Sessions, and so it was great to host him here in Garageland once again for another Jam Session.

    Watching Greg work, having close proximity to the process and getting to dialogue with him throughout these Sessions has been a real Honor.

    Greg Hand Painted 10 different Boards on this visit and they are all available for purchase now. For more information or to purchase one of these Boards please email me here: (SOLD OUT)


    Thanks for your support!

    — Mike V

    Video: Rob Wallace.

    Music: Mr. DNA By R.Ring w/ Kristian Svitak.

    Music Provided By:
    SofaBurn Records

  • Arigato. Photo: Rob Wallace.


    For years and years I had this reoccurring day dream.
    That one day I would truly own my very own Skateboard Company, and that I would run it out of my Garage.
    That I would somehow remove myself from the parasitic world of brands, sponsors and promoters and the oppressive commercial culture that they cling to.
    That I would find the hole in the fence, and leave the small gray ghetto of the industry, filled with the endless broadcasting of self congratulatory noise, and step out into a Wider Reality where there is no sweating scramble for profit and domination, and no need for distinction.
    I dreamt that I would one day Create My Own Destiny, By Myself, For Myself, and that I would cut a path that was clear, away from the misdirection and evasions of corporate initiatives.

    I dreamt of a Skateboard Company that had a Positive Purpose.
    I dreamt of a Skateboard Company that Connected People.
    I dreamt of a Skateboard Company that was a Sincere Dialogue.
    I dreamt of a Skateboard Company that was Open Hearted.
    I dreamt of a Small Flower pushing up through a crack in the concrete.
    I dreamt of Street Plant.

    Thank You and Much Love to the Street Plant Battalion for helping make this dream come true.

    Mike Vallely

  • 03/11

    jason adams copy

    As the 90’s came to an end, a band out outlaws came together and the Label Kills era began.
    No one personified that time any greater than The Kid, Jason Adams.
    It was anything goes, and Fuck You if you don’t like it.
    Today we see a lot of skaters riding in that spirit and skate brands built upon that ethos — It’s an option and it’s beautiful.
    But in 2001, it was unlicensed, unsanctioned and exactly what Skateboarding needed.

    The Kid

    He rode out of San Jose, California
    Just another kid out on the trail
    And although he was reserved and shy
    With his trusty skateboard at his side
    Anything in his path he would assail

    Now, times were slim throughout the territory
    But The Kid rode on just the same
    And the wire came alive
    With the legend of his ride
    Townsfolk everywhere spoke his name

    He never answered to the pundits
    And he never set out for the fame
    He followed his own radar
    That’s what made The Kid a star
    East and West of The Rocky Mountain Range

    One day he was captured by a posse
    Bounty Hunters cornered him up in those hills
    They focused their lens on him
    And that’s where a new era begins
    One we all know as Label Kills

    He rides out of San Jose, California
    Just another kid out on the trail
    And although he’s reserved and shy
    With his trusty skateboard at his side
    Anything in his path he will assail

  • 02/23


    The first time that I saw him
    It was as if he had just materialized
    An animation moving through the parking lot
    Mythological, untouchable
    His limbs like paintbrushes
    His board a puppet on strings

    He invited me to join him in a jam session
    He carried me in his rhythm
    I felt his radiation

    The second time that I saw him
    He carved a maze out of the concrete
    And dared me to follow him
    I took to the path earnestly
    And where I lost the trail
    He would reemerge and usher me onward

    I felt privileged to dance behind him
    To study his choreography
    To linger in his shadow

    The third time that I saw him
    The weather had changed
    New pedestals were being erected
    He mocked the passing storm with indifference
    In a sort of spontaneous performance art
    He tuned way down, where no one could follow him

    Where others became frustrated and confused
    I paid close attention
    I knew I was in the presence of a genius

    The fourth time that I saw him
    We became friends
    He opened up his world to me
    He let me hang out where no one else could belong
    And he ran up a several hundred-dollar phone bill on my dime
    Then pissed himself laughing on my parents couch

    He lived on the edge of insanity
    Inspiring me daily
    And writing the future with each breath

    The fifth time that I saw him
    We were both survivors of something
    He was gracious to my wife and daughter
    But his eyes were still wild
    And as we stood together in some new arena
    I simply thanked him

    I thanked him for what was
    I thanked him for what is
    I thanked him for what will be

    He’s the poet that wrote our masterpiece

  • Garageland. Photo: Rob Wallace.

    Garageland. Photo: Rob Wallace.

    No investors.
    No partners.
    No parent company.
    No ceo.
    No managers.
    No meetings.
    No vip’s
    No velvet ropes.
    No agents.
    No lawyers.
    No boy’s club.
    No compromise.
    No surrender.
    100% Independent Skateboarding.
    Never Comply!

  • Kristian Svitak, Mike Vallely, Joey Jett. Oceanside, CA. By: Rob Wallace.

    Kristian Svitak, Mike Vallely, Joey Jett. Oceanside, CA. By: Rob Wallace.

    At its best, Skateboarding is unorganized, unsanctioned Play.
    But the skate-media and the skate-industry place image and competition above Fun.
    In the name of “skate-culture” they present a monologue of short sighted corporate initiative.
    A “lifestyle” that comes with an entrance examination.
    You have to pass the test to enter their small, gray ghetto where they worship technique, reward conformity and create distinctions.
    The megaphone has been hijacked by those who seek to own and devour.
    It’s the decay of anything substantive in Skateboarding.
    It’s the dumbing down of Skateboarding.
    We believe there is a Better Way!

    We seek to Create and Inspire!
    We value Skateboarding as an Uplifting and Meaningful pursuit that ALWAYS pushes FORWARD, beyond and outside of the institutions and organizations that have accumulated around it.

    We believe that Skateboarding is an Uprising, an Insurrection Against the judges,
    the rule books and impersonal corporations.
    A True Revolution in Action.
    Not this sorry version of defiance that the skate-media continues to shill.
    What may have been natural and warranted some 20, 30 or 40 years ago, is now just a tiresome pose. The core of “skate-culture” is stagnant, it’s the past.
    We want to participate in the Never-Ending-Now!

    We have a Passion for Skateboarding.
    We believe in Creative, Expressive, Fun Skateboarding.
    To us, Skateboards aren’t some soulless product you buy at the mall.
    They aren’t some means to an end.
    They are an end in themselves.
    We are Product Driven, we are People Driven, we are Values Driven!

    Come as you are!
    No rules, no divisions, no schools.
    Just a Skateboard as a paintbrush
    and the world as an empty canvas!

    With Open Arms and Open Hearts, we’ve come to Play!
    Onward, Together, We Ride!

  • There Is A light

    First there was Elvis.
    Then there was punk rock.
    And then, there was Morrissey.

    Like a ten-ton-truck Morrissey came crashing
    into my life in 1987.

    The first Smith’s song I ever heard was,
    There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.

    Please don’t drop me home
    because I haven’t got one, anymore.

    This was how I felt.
    I was 17 years old and completely
    alone in the world.

    I fucking hated jocks, frat boys, worthless mobs.
    Groups of people with their group identities.
    Assholes, all of them.

    I never belonged in a locker room.
    I never trusted people who needed a crowd.
    A social justification.
    The need to be a part of something.

    Hoist me from the herd.

    I left team sports behind for skateboarding and punk rock music.
    I left skateboarding and punk rock music behind
for MY skateboarding and Morrissey.

    I didn’t want to eat what they told me to eat.
    I didn’t want to drink what they told me to drink.
    I didn’t want to do their drugs.
    I didn’t want to dehumanize women like they did.
I didn’t want my life interpreted for me by others,
or defined by any standards but my own.

    My social awkwardness, my shyness, my sensitivity
    and my struggles as a young professional skater,
    tortured by my art (my reason for living) colliding with commerce,
    it all found a champion and a defender in Morrissey.

    Heaven knows I was miserable and it felt good.
    Better than being one of them.

    Meat was murder, pretty girls made graves and
    that joke wasn’t funny anymore.

    Morrissey’s solo record Viva Hate landed
    in 1988 at the toughest time in my young life.
    And in some sick and twisted way,
    it helped me through.

    Every day was like Sunday
    and every night I fell asleep to
Viva Hate in my headphones.

    When Kill Uncle came out in 1991, I was nearly 
21 years old.
    I went on a cross-country drive alone
    with just this one cassette tape.

    From California to New Jersey, across the US on
    Interstate 40, and back across on Interstate
    70, I rode with Morrissey.

    Through the desert, to the Grand Canyon,
    through Oklahoma City, Fort Smith,
    West Memphis and the Great Smokey Mountains.
    Up the coast, to my hometown.

    I was born here.
    And I was raised here.
    And I took some stick here.

    Into Pennsylvania, through Columbus
    and Indianapolis, across Missouri and Kansas
    into the Rocky Mountains and across the
    Continental Divide.

    It was just me and Kill Uncle.

    Sing Your Life.
    Sing Your Life.
    Step right up to the microphone and
    name: All the things you love.
    All the things you loathe.

    The sun would rise and the sun would set
    and I would drive on.

    Soon, marriage, kids and bouts
    of maturity would come crashing in like
    a double-decker-bus and Morrissey and his
    music faded away, into the background.
    I had my own poetry to write.
    And the years rolled on.

    And though perhaps it would seem that
    Morrissey and his music couldn’t last,
    I can tell you now, truly:

    There is a light and it never goes out.

  • No One Taught Me How To Skate

    No one taught me how to skate.
    I figured it out myself, for myself.

    There were no short-cuts, no trick-tips,
    no camps, no schools, no leagues,
    no parks and no standard.

    Just me and my board.

    And before I had my own board
    I begged, I borrowed and stole.
    I did whatever I had to do to ride.

    I was driven by necessity.

    There was no end in view.
    No career path.
    Just the moment, and the concrete
    unfolding in front of me.

    There was a quality and a feeling
    of action in every movement.
    Emotional content.
    Each moment a meditation.

    I didn’t skate to turn pro.
    I turned pro because I skated to skate.

  • Phillips

    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?

    Yeah man.

    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.
    Fuck them.

    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.

  • Stacy Peralta

    He wasn’t the first professional skateboarder
    But he was the first to give real substance to the title
    And then he found others that he could mentor and encourage
    And he formed a Brigade of talent, character and positivity

    And as his Brigade did the circuit
    Amassing trophies and accolades
    He was in their corner — A manager, a coach, a friend
    But his dreams went beyond the moment
    Into the future

    He picked up a video camera and he shone a light
    Focusing in on what he valued
    And on what he believed in
    Fun, creative and expressive skateboarding

    And these videos were distributed like contraband
    Transmitting secret and vital information
    Easily decoded by teenagers who hadn’t yet
    had the misfortune of growing up

    And through this, his Brigade grew
    Out into the backyards and the streets
    of little towns and cities all around the world

    Searchers all of us
    And the search was also our destination

    We were skateboarders
    And we knew who we were because he had the insight
    to frame the very foundation of our identity
    And he laid that foundation with love and care
    And we became better people for it

    He wasn’t the first professional skateboarder
    But he was the first to give real substance to the title

  • Vallely Heart & Fist. Photo: Rob Wallace.

    Vallely Heart & Fist. Photo: Rob Wallace.

    When my first Pro Model Skateboard came out in 1988, it had great significance. A lot of Heart, Blood, Guts and Soul were channeled into the making of that Board. For over a year, I fought every inch of the way, mile after mile, against great opposition to make the Vallely Elephant a reality: My Reality. I was 17 years old and I stood in unflinching defiance against my mentors, heroes of mine, to make sure that Board was EVERYTHING that I Dreamed it should be. It was like I was putting out a record, my very first record, and it had to be perfect. This wasn’t some generic product you could buy at the mall, this was My Pro Model Skateboard — It Meant Something. It had to Mean Something. That’s the whole point.

    The subsequent releases were informed by the same ideals: Do The Miles, Seek The Truth and Present a piece of Art that has a Premise and Soul. Elephant On The Edge, The Barnyard, The Snake, Animal Man — There was nothing superficial about these Boards, they all came from a Deeper Well of Inspiration. My Boards were an outlet for my Whole Energy. That’s what a Pro Model Skateboard is to me: An Instrument for Fun and Creativity that has a Heartbeat, Spirit Breathed into it and a Story to Tell. That has Always been my ideal.

    When we started Street Plant two years ago, we knew we were building from a legacy that deserved to be honored and respected but more so desired, by it’s very nature, to be carried Forward, to inform New Art, New Ideas and New Energies. And now, two years into this we see it unfolding: The Powerfully reworked classics by Bigfoot, the emerging Poetic Art of Yusuke Tsuge and the Soulful Touch of Greg Higgins on Graphics like the City Pusher and Heart & Fist. This is who we are and what we stand for: The Art of Skateboarding.

    The Time is Now Again!

    Mike Vallely

  • Emily & Mike in Garageland. Photo: Rob Wallace.

    Emily & Mike in Garageland. Photo: Rob Wallace.

    Two years ago my daughter Emily and I set out to create a Skateboard Company unlike anything we had ever seen or experienced before:
    One with a Positive Purpose, with an Optimistic Point Of View, one with a Backbone.
    One that Believes in and Stands for Passionate, Creative, Expressive, Fun Skateboarding.
    One that is Product Driven, People Driven, Values Driven.
    One that seeks Connection, Inspiration and an ongoing Positive Dialogue.
    One that, instead of just making stuff, seeks to make a Difference.

    And every day here in Garageland we put our Philosophy into Action:
    1. Love and Support Each Other.
    2. Pursue our Work and Dreams with Purpose and Passion.
    3. Do something Good with our Lives and our Time.

    Street Plant is a 100% Independently owned and operated Family business.
    We exist to Support, Service, Inspire and Empower our customers – Skateboarders – The Freest, most Unique and Creative people on the planet – By making the highest quality Skateboards and Skateboard accessories.

    100% Independent Skateboarding for Love, for Fun.
    No rules, no divisions, no schools.
    Just a Skateboard as a Paintbrush and the World as an Empty Canvas.
    Skate. Create. Enjoy!

    Much Love and Thanks to ALL of our Friends, Family and Supporters Worldwide: The Street Plant Battalion!

    Thank You for being in our Dream and for letting us be in yours.

    With Open Hearts we Push Forward!

    Happy New Year!

    Mike Vallely

  • The City Pusher. Photo: Mark Nisbet.

    The City Pusher. Photo: Mark Nisbet.

    We are at a special time in our lives.
    What direction we go is completely up to us.
    Don’t ever think it’s not.
    The miles are ours to do.
    There are no shortcuts to Endurance.
    Real Life can’t be put in the microwave.
    The City Pusher goes Forward.
    One Push at a time.
    Past the ghosts and shadows.
    Summoning Strength.
    Seeking Light.
    Finding Beauty.
    Forging a Vivid, Positive Trail.
    The City Pusher keeps Moving.
    Keeps Going.
    Keeps Pushing.
    And Never stops.

  • Time Capsule

    Our Work, Our Art, Our Lives are a daily demonstration of Our Values.
    Social media, our online presence, is a microcosm of our lives and of our world.
    What we project here isn’t fiction.
    It is a truth that reverberates and it has far-reaching effects.
    What we say here about ourselves, what we say about others,
    is what we say about the world we live in.
    Every day, every post is a Time Capsule.
    A memo to ourselves and the Universe.
    It all accumulates.
    And it is either a terrible burden that we must shoulder
    or a Beautiful Blessing that Elevates us.
    Manners Matter.
    Love and Kindness are Paramount.

    Most people are decent people.
    But the other ones, the few exceptions,
    seem to grab all the headlines, to grab all the attention.
    I refuse to look.
    With my Values as my barometer
    I put on my Bravest Face and I narrow my focus.
    I seek the Positive, the Good.
    I reject the negativity.
    I don’t go trudging through the wastelands of depravity.
    I till the soil at my feet and I try to plant something Meaningful every day.

    You can’t fight the fire while you feed the flames.

    — Mike Vallely

  • The City Pusher. Photo: Rob Wallace.

    The City Pusher. Photo: Rob Wallace.

    At first the world contracts
    It’s just you and your board

    And then as you begin to Push — Forward
    The world expands to the wide view
    of the world coming at you


    This is where we quiet ourselves

    Where we find fitness and stimulation
    without looking

    A bit of Light between the tunnels

    Keep Moving

    Keep Going

    Keep Pushing

  • The Ramp In The Woods

    We heard about a ramp in the woods
    By the Brunswick Square Mall

    Under the guise of being normal teenagers
    seeking social rituals at the mall
    Kevin’s mother dropped us off
    She said she’d pick us up in a few hours

    We were not seeking social rituals
    We were seeking a ramp in the woods

    We walked in one door of the mall and out another
    Across the highway and into the trees

    Through the bramble, where there was no path
    We cut our way using our boards as machetes 

    A hazy dusk descended upon us
    Seeping down through the autumn trees

    We were lost and about to give up
    When we heard it, faint in the distance
    The now unmistakable sound of urethane on plywood 

    We started running in the direction of the sound
    Into a clearing
    And there it stood
    Shining in the imminent darkness
    Like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow
    The ramp in the woods

    One lone skater stood on the small deck of the ramp
    He hadn’t been expecting us
    But he was glad we’d found him
    Grateful that there were seekers

    With reckless abandon
    We took our first ever rides on a ramp
    Beaming light and warmth
    into the cool darkness surrounding us
    We could see our breath
    And steam rose off of us
    And it seemed right

    The riddle of the ramp we had no ability to solve
    We were just glad to be lost in the enjoyment of the question

    Back through the black trees
    Across the highway
    To the false glow of the shopping mall
    We returned
    Initiated and forever changed
    By what seemed like a dream

    The ramp in the woods

  • The Future

    The Future of Skateboarding wears a Smile and greets us with Open Arms.
    It says: I don’t care where you’ve been — All that matters is where you’re going.
    The Future of Skateboarding isn’t rolling around in broken glass in the gutter, or self-congratulating itself behind velvet ropes.
    It’s dripping sweat at the local skatepark, it’s pushing with purpose down the street and it’s helping a new skater learn to drop in.
    The Future of Skateboarding is not driven by corporate initiative.
    It grows outward from its participants and it’s the participants themselves who light the road ahead by opening shops, starting their own brands and taking care of their own.
    The Future of Skateboarding cannot be found between the covers of a magazine, amidst the commercials streaming across a screen or downloaded into some static space. It’s outside, breathing the fresh air and seeking new terrain.
    The Future of Skateboarding has a Gentler Touch but a Stronger Grip and Always seeks Elevation.
    It values kindness, respect and humility and fosters those qualities in its participants.
    The Future of Skateboarding is Open Hearted.
    The Future of Skateboarding is Fun.
    The Future of Skateboarding in Now!

    Photo: Mark Nisbet.

  • Tonight I Ride

    Tonight I ride
    A sense of mission
    Tonight I ride
    Seeking substance over style
    Tonight I ride
    Outside of all condition
    Tonight I ride
    Just because it makes me smile
    Tonight I ride
    Away from mass production
    Tonight I ride
    Emitting inner light
    Tonight I ride
    Earnest in this moment
    Tonight I ride
    And everything is right

    Art by Greg Higgins.

  • Subliminal

    Out of the wilderness
    And into the future
    Closing the gap
    Potential becomes Actual
    The wolves will circle
    Many of them will be disguised as sheep

    The door opens
    And the ride begins
    Off, into a world of fire you go
    And they will always be there
    With their interpretations
    But you will have to work your life out
    for yourself

    Absorb the good, reject the bad
    Maintain your independence

    Adversity will be waiting for you
    And it will pounce
    You will fail, you will fall, you will break
    The door will close
    But even after the most violent rainstorm
    All plants grow

    Art: Mueller Studios

  • Download the song: Street Scoundrels, We Ride for FREE here!

    Performed, Recorded and Produced by:
    Alex Story

    Drums Recorded and Produced by:
    Paul Miner at Buzzbomb Studios.

    Vocals, Guitars and Bass:
    Alex Story

    Brandon Pertzborn

    New / Adapted Lyrics:
    Mike Vallely

    Street Scoundrel Art:
    Crab Scrambly

    Video Animation, Editing:
    Rob Wallace

    Additional Footage:
    Mark Nisbet

    Skate Among Us!
    Join the Street Scoundrel Street Fiend Club.

  • 05/21

    Is there life after crystallization?

    After the concrete foundation has been laid,
    inspected and confirmed by the highest of authorities
    Does life stand a chance?

    Once the foundation settles and cracks
    could something new arise?

    Could a small flower take root in the darkness
    and poke through?


    Up, out and into the light.

    We must continue to ask questions.
    We must continue to seek.
    We must continue to create.

    Street Plant.

    Mike and Emily. Garageland. January, 2015. Photo: Rob Wallace.

    Mike and Emily. Garageland. January, 2015. Photo: Rob Wallace.

  • 100% Independent Skateboarding

    Street Plant is a 100% independently owned and operated family business.
    We exist to support, service, inspire and empower our customers – Skateboarders – The freest, most unique and creative people on the planet – By making the highest quality skateboards and skateboard accessories.

    100% Independent Skateboarding for Love, for Fun.
    No rules, no divisions, no schools.
    Just a Skateboard as a Paintbrush and the World as an Empty Canvas.
    Skate. Create. Enjoy!

    — The Vallely Family

    Art by Greg Higgins.

  • Nailed

    When the skateparks shut down
    due to insurance reasons,
    the sporting good companies bailed.
    Of course they did.
    But let’s make one thing clear:
    Skateboarding never died.
    Only corporate interest in skateboarding died.
    Skateboarders pushed on.

    From the rubble of the skatepark era,
    the Thrasher Magazine era was born.
    The Rise of the Big Five.
    These guys weren’t skaters.
    They were however, true skateboard supporters, at least initially.
    From San Diego, to Costa Mesa.
    From Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz
    to San Francisco.
    They might have all hated each other but they worked together and
    they got shit done.

    But then, as it goes, it all went to their heads.
    They grew mullets, they bought bigger buildings and they took themselves a little too seriously.
    They started to think that THEY were skateboarding.
    It took an ex-used car salesmen to bring them all back down to reality.
    But by then, the party was over.

    Now, the children of the Big Five:
    They were kinda clueless.
    They weren’t as smart as their Daddies, they were way less organized
    and they didn’t play well together.
    So, when ESPN came to town they just simply bent over.
    And they’ve been bending over and over and over ever since.

    In time, skateboard company owners were replaced by CEOs.
    Skateboards began to be manufactured in China.
    Skateboarders on the streets became consumers.
    Mangers, agents, lawyers and bean counters infiltrated the front lines of
    skateboard culture.
    Professional Skateboarders glad handing politicians, celebrities
    and Entertainment Executives became the norm.
    Skateboarding went into the shopping malls — Into the mainstream.

    Kill the spirit, drag the carcass around and extract every last penny from it.
    That’s what the mainstream does.
    Homogenize and standardize.
    The Johnny-Come-Lately’s will ride that broken horse
    till it collapses then sell off it’s parts.
    When you’re at that party, a VIP, it seems like it will never end.
    But it will.
    That’s okay.
    Those of us with a foot nailed to the board will push on.
    We ride the permanent wave.

  • 04/08

    Do Good

    We have a simple philosophy here in Garageland:

    1. Love and Support Each Other.
    2. Pursue our Work and Dreams with Purpose and Passion.
    3. Do something Good with our Lives and our Time.

    Thanks for your support!

    — The Vallely Family

  • The Golden Autumn of 1984.

    The first Black Flag song I ever heard was
    Rise Above.

    It was September 1984.

    Don Bruno and Keith Hartel made me a mix-tape
    that would change my life.

    Rise Above was track number 1.

    Jealous cowards try to control

    Try to stop what we do
    ’cause they can’t do it themselves

    In Keith’s basement my hair was sheered off.

    I went home and bleached my jeans.
    My parents and siblings cringed.

    The next day at school I went from
    blending into the gray walls to being
    a threat — A target.

    I quit the wrestling team and
    started skateboarding.

    My life got tougher and I liked it.

    Laugh at us behind our backs
    I find satisfaction in what they lack

    On October 19, 1984
    I skipped school and piled-in
    with the other punks —
    Into Mitch Gurowitz’s car.

    We rode out of Edison —
    Flipping the school off as we
    passed by — Bound for Trenton.

    City Gardens.

    Punks from all over the state
    and region were camped out
    in the parking lot, outside of
    their cars, waiting for dusk —
    For the doors to open.

    Waiting for Black Flag.

    Some punks were skating
    around the back of the venue.
    We went over to investigate.

    Keith says — You should see
    this kid on a skateboard.

    Some punker pushes his board
    towards me.

    I step on it and start thrashing.

    A crowd gathers.
    My first demo.

    I knock over a tar bucket and do
    a boneless over it.
    Jaws drop.

    I push at it again.
    This time for a 180º.

    I feel the eyes of the gathered crowd
    move from me to something behind me.
    I land the boneless facing where
    I had just come from.

    Henry Rollins is walking down the street
    carrying grocery bags.

    He makes eye contact with me.

    Yeah man!

    The crowd parts as Henry wades through.

    No one can believe it.
    Henry acknowledged me.
    Acknowledged my skating.
    The parking lot is abuzz.

    The sun goes down and the doors open.
    Punks pour into City Gardens
    and the room is charged.

    Black Flag hits us like a clenched fist.
    Like a runaway freight train.

    Greg Ginn, Bill Stevenson, Kira Rossler
    and Henry Rollins.

    It doesn’t get heavier.

    Something explodes in my brain…
    An awakening.

    Whatever I do in my life, for the rest of my life,
    must be done with this kind of intensity.

    We are born with a chance
    And I am gonna’ have my chance

    The stage clears, the hall empties.
    The floor is littered as if a tornado
    had just come through.

    I walk towards the merch stand.
    I buy a Slip It In T-shirt (that will get
    me thrown out of school a few days later)
    and a Henry Rollins chapbook entitled 20.

    Henry’s book affects me.
    I’d been secretly writing poetry for years.
    It would be secret no more.

    I get it.

    Living is expression.

    MY Skating
    MY Music
    MY Writing
    MY Life

    I buy the My War LP at Vintage Vinyl
    in Fords, NJ. I listen to it in my room
    endlessly. The most significant record
    I’ve ever purchased.

    Black Flag
    My War
    The Golden Autumn of 1984.

    I can still feel it.

    Rise Above
    I’m gonna’
    Rise Above

  • Turn Them Off

    Something from within
    A flower pushing up through the asphalt
    Supple and tender
    But then
    The phone starts ringing
    Hey Kid,
    There is pie is in the sky — Don’t you know?
    The trivialization of everything
    Plucked and put on
    Locked up in a box
    Pressed between the advertisements
    A microphone thrust in your face
    Velvet ropes and VIP Passes
    Dead at the root
    You can’t just change the channel
    You have to turn Them off
    Kill the life support
    And breathe your own free breaths
    You don’t need their permission

    Art: Mueller Studios

  • Revisiting And Reconciling A Definitive Video

    By: Kyle DuVall

    Of all of his video parts, it is Mike Vallely’s segment in Public Domain that has followed him closest over the decades. The Public Domain segment has become more than a string of tricks on tape, more than a time capsule of 1988. Its impact has transcended generations of skaters.

    “Just the other day, a young skater told me he had been talking about what street skating was all about at the local skatepark,” comments Vallely, “and someone there told him: ‘you just need to watch Mike Vallely’s part in Public Domain’. He told me he went and watched it and that it was eye opening, that it had a real impact on his skating.”

    Public Domain has been a part of Vallely’s everyday reality for almost 30 years. “Ever since Public Domain came out, almost every single day someone has talked to me about it,” says Vallely, but when the video premiered in 1988, the reaction to the now legendary clip was far from enthusiastic.

    “At the premiere, every time a new segment would come up, the crowd would just go crazy” Vallely recalls. “When my name came up on the screen, it got the loudest cheer, the loudest bursts of anticipation of the whole night, but once my part started, no one cheered. There was no highlight moment. It gave nobody the opportunity to jump out of their seats or exclaim anything. When the part was over, I ran out into the street and I nearly started crying.”

    Vallely’s initial perception of that video part would end up widening a rift between himself and Powell Peralta co founder/video director Stacy Peralta. The end result of that rift would echo across Vallely’s entire career as a pro skater, shaping the way skateboarders and the industry perceived him ever after. It took time for Vallely to realize and reconcile what Stacy Peralta was doing in Public Domain. Now, Vallely sees Public Domain as the purest expression of his skating ever captured on video.

    “Stacy Peralta has always gotten the short end of the stick from me in my speaking on my past and it is completely unfair,” says Vallely. “(In Public Domain) Stacy Peralta knew me better than I knew myself. He understood my skating better than I understood it. He captured my essence. The skating that is in Public Domain is my skating today, it is a representation of how I’ve always skated. No video part after Public Domain was really necessary.”

    But, that night at at the premiere, an 18 year old Mike Vallely couldn’t see what was crystal clear to Peralta: that Vallely’s worth as a skater was much greater than his impressive bag of tricks.

    “I felt like he didn’t capture my trick skating,” says Vallely. “He just had me moving, moving, moving,” explains Vallely. “It was almost edited as we filmed it and so little of that footage is pre-meditated, so much of it is just ‘go Mike go’.”

    The other Public Domain parts, such as the famous “Rubber Boys” street sequence with Ray Barbee, Steve Saiz, and Chet Thomas (who pulls an ollie impossible down a drop, 2 years before Ed Templeton would make the freestyle trick a street staple), were edited in a standard trick/cut/trick format that emphasized technical maneuvers. Vallely’s segment, however, was more flowing and much more lyrical, with long takes and the camera following him (or trying to follow him) as he moved.

    “I had pioneered a lot of those tricks seen in some of the other parts. I had that technical approach to my skating as well,” explains Vallely. “I felt like my trick skating was not documented. In light of some of the excitement about Chet and Ray’s part, I felt kind of like: I got ripped off.”

    In retrospect, Vallely sees something very different. “At the time we were filming the part, I was hoping, after all those moments we were filming we could go back and I could go: ‘now I can try this single trick, and this single trick’ and when Stacy said ‘no, man we got it!’ I thought to myself: ‘No way! We don’t have it!’ But we did. We had it. A few more technical maneuvers, would they really have stood the test of time? Would they really have mattered?”


    Vallely wasn’t the only one who failed to see what was really being portrayed in that clip. The immediate feedback from his professional peers was just as negative.

    “After the whole premiere was over, Natas Kaupas came outside and said: ‘oh man, that sucks, you must be bummed…’ The initial reaction of myself and everyone at the premiere was that this was a great letdown. This was not the video part that anyone expected. Most of my friends thought it was horrible. They skated with me and they knew what my abilities were and how much I was on the cutting edge of technical skateboarding. They put stock in that and when they saw the video they felt like that wasn’t captured.”

    In hindsight, it’s ironic. Vallely’s legacy, from showing up in Speed Freaks riding a squared-off, double tailed deck, to his winning entry in the 2015 X-Games “Real Street” contest, seems built on defying everyone else’s expectations. As such, his view of Public Domain has radically changed over the years.

    “There was no holy shit moment, in Public Domain, but isn’t that sort of true of my entire skate career? My career, like the Public Domain part, is this moving thing. There is no one moment. In 1988, I was looking towards the future as I saw it, but I was really lucky to have Stacy Peralta standing in my way. I didn’t realize it, but I wasn’t really a part of that fleeting future of skateboarding and Stacy knew it. That wasn’t me. What Stacy captured in Public Domain was timeless. Some skaters have a career that is kind of like a highlight reel. Sure, I could have a highlight reel edited together of what I have done on a skateboard but it would never truly represent my skating. Public Domain is what represents my skating.”

    It was not just the skating in Public Domain that wound up being influential. The portrayal of Vallely himself would go on to have a huge impact. The introverted, acne-scarred kid shying away from the camera was someone very familiar, and, in spirit, very close, to most kids who chose to ride a skateboard in the 1980’s. Even if they couldn’t ride like Mike Vallely, they saw themselves when they watched his part. The young Vallely, however had just as much trouble reconciling the personal image projected in Public Domain as he did with its portrayal of his skating.

    “There is an awkwardness and a shyness about me in that part that doesn’t fit with what you think about when you think about any type of athlete or celebrity or professional skateboarder,” says Vallely. “I saw the video, I saw how awkward and off putting I looked at some moments. I had acne, and I had this sort of limp wristed style with the way I held my hands, and I wasn’t aware of it until I saw it on video. When I saw it I was devastated, I thought: ‘I look so alein. I’m making skateboarding look timid.’”

    Vallely-June '88

    But, out in the streets, among the skaters, that sort of vulnerability had a much different and much greater meaning.

    “When I started traveling around, I saw kids with shaved heads and army pants skating around emulating that style,” recalls Vallely. “My peers, pro skaters, were turned off by it, how alien and how awkward I came across, but that is who we were as skaters. A lot of pros presented themselves as pretty boys at that time. They accepted the idea of the pro skater as rock star, but it wasn’t true to the reality of a lot of us who skated,” explains Vallely. “Eventually, I realized that Public Domain helped give people a voice, a freedom to be as awkward as they were. People were thinking: ‘he’s a pro skater and he looks like that and acts like that?’ It was liberating. People have told me since the eighties: ‘you meant so much to me because I felt like a weirdo and I was watching a Bones Brigade video and there was this weirdo starring in it’. The thing is, I didn’t want to be the weirdo.”

    The way his segment was set apart in the video was Peralta doing Vallely a great honor. The fluidity and relentless movement of the camera and the way Peralta interjects footage of his own skating into Valley’s part, through Vallely visiting the Smithsonian Museum, clearly shows a respect and deep understanding for Vallely’s place in the ongoing history of skating. For Peralta, skating had started in the streets, and Vallely was part of a new wave of skaters taking them back. Seen in that context, the way Vallely’s Public Domain part is put together, and Peralta’s presence in it, not just as a director, but as an actual skater, presents Vallely as a natural heir to Peralta’s own legacy.

    “The care and love Stacy Peralta put into that video part, that he would put his own skating in with my skating, that is a great honor, but when it happened back then I was like: ‘this is messed up. Can you believe that?’ I was a kid. I was a dumb kid…” Vallely comments. “What Stacy captured in Public Domain was timeless. That’s a gift he gave me. He valued me and my skating so greatly that he would single me out, and he cut in his own skating to tell this greater story of the history of skating through my part. That is crazy he gave me that. Now I am glad he did it the way he did, and I feel the need to apologize for my reaction to that video when it came out and the kind of grudge I held for many years about it. In the end, as we stand here to today I am just so thankful, so thankful for Stacy.”

    He’s even come to terms with the infamous “run through the graveyard”.

    “I loved Stacy Peralta’s storytelling in his videos Video Show, Future Primitive, Animal Chin; I would have killed to star in any of those videos, but when it came to my skating, I had my own vision, and when he said: ‘Hey, I want you to pick up your board and run through this graveyard…’ instead of thinking: this is Stacy Peralta, this is a Bones Brigade video, I was like: hold on a second, I don’t want to do this… I held so many bad feelings about Public Domain for so long, but the end result is that Public Domain lives and it tells its own story and it is much greater than that moment. I have no problems now about running through the graveyard, I think it does add something.”


    In essence, for an 18 year old Vallely, the choice to powerslide down the road not taken in Public Domain did not seem like his own, it felt imposed by Stacy Peralta, and that was at the heart of so much anxiety, anxiety that would eventually become public. The passage of time, however, has told a different story for Public Domain. What remains is the vision of Vallely barging through an environment that combines rundown city streets, empty urban plazas, and some of the most famous monuments of our nation, into one landscape. The legacy Peralta crafted, even if it was unknown to a young Mike Vallely, was one of liberation through radical re-definition. It is a vision of a kid on a skateboard, not changing the whole world, but changing his world and the world of his fellow skaters. That vision has endured not because of some single jaw-dropping trick or line. It endures because it is about what skateboarding meant in 1988, and what riding a skateboard will always mean.

    Kyle DuVall has been writing about skateboarding almost as long as he has been skateboarding.

    See Also:

    Public Domain Uncut

  • The First Push

    The first push
    The asphalt passing underneath
    The infancy of my education
    Absorbing all with no attachment
    Like the first born man
    Conforming to nobody
    The meeting of the heavens and concrete
    I linger long in this moment
    And I will return to loiter here
    for the rest of my days
    The anti-depressant

    Art: Mueller Studios

  • 01/26
    Photo: Sierra Prescott. Los Angeles, CA. 2015.

    Photo: Sierra Prescott. Los Angeles, CA. 2015.

    Burn it.
    The body feeds the mind.
    A physical philosophy.
    A poetic willpower.
    A moving meditation
    Forged through muscle and heart.
    Transforming the body.
    Transforming the character.
    Breathing ecstasy into life.
    The body feeds the soul.
    Burn it.

  • "Finding the Light"

    I have battled depression my entire life
    Skateboarding was the first thing that truly made me happy
    Just being on my board, it was everything to me
    My Bliss
    But the world it seemed didn’t want me to be happy
    The world wanted me to answer to convention
    To most of my peers, teachers and family members
    skateboarding was an epic waste of time
    Why pursue something that had no end game?
    The necessity of a social justification for everything
    that I did was constantly thrown in my face
    My smile wasn’t enough
    My satisfied soul had no value
    And when I rejected the systems impersonal claims upon me
    I got my ass kicked over and over
    Who was I to hold onto my own ideals?
    At every turn there was someone trying to
    frighten me off from My Bliss
    To beat it out of me
    Wanting me to concede to misery, mediocrity and the mundane
    To accept doom and depression into my heart and soul
    As a superior authority
    I refused
    I had to
    It was life or death

    Art: Mueller Studios

  • Miss That Boat 2

    There was a time before VIP’s, velvet ropes and red carpets.
    A time before corporate sponsors, chain stores and Chinese Manufacturing.
    An idyllic time before managers, agents and lawyers pounced on the fledgling careers of skateboarders.
    A time before every moment stunk of short sighted corporate initiative.
    A time before money was king.

    Let’s Miss That Boat Together… Never Comply!

    When you search for things that can’t be found
    You lose yourself and you lose your ground
    When you set your sails for diamonds and gold
    You lose all of the precious things that you hold

    I’m not gonna get on that boat
    I’m okay being left on the coast
    A buried treasure somewhere at sea
    It means absolutely nothing to me

    All the beauty and worth that you carry
    Is the only beauty and worth you will find
    You can travel this world forever
    But the only treasure is your independent mind

    When you search for things that can’t be found
    You lose yourself and you lose your ground
    When you set your sails for diamonds and gold
    You lose all of the precious things that you hold

    Art by: Greg Higgins.

  • Into The Wilderness

    Hawk versus Hosoi
    It was all just a bunch of noise
    I couldn’t really relate
    I just wanted to skate

    Flipping through Thrasher Magazine
    That became their only screen
    I couldn’t really relate
    I just wanted to skate

    I went off into the wilderness
    All alone to follow my bliss
    It was the greatest sensation I’d ever feel
    Not of trust or faith but to know what’s real

    The superficial was held up on a pedestal
    But it was some place deeper that my eyes dwelled
    I didn’t care about the NSA
    I just wanted to go outside and play

    Pushed up against a measuring stick
    I skated on in spite of it
    There was no team, it was not a sport
    Give me the streets, you can keep your court

    I went off into the wilderness
    To define my own idea of success
    It was the greatest sensation I’d ever feel
    Not of trust or faith but to know what’s real

    Art: Mueller Studios

  • One year ago.

    The scavengers were chased off.
    The broken promises were made whole.
    The dream was restored.
    The spirit was reclaimed.

    Pushing up through the cracks in the asphalt
    A small flower in the street.

    1/5/15. Garageland. Emily and Mike. Photo: Rob Wallace.

    1/5/15. Garageland. Emily and Mike. Photo: Rob Wallace.

  • Garageland

    Welcome to Garageland.
    Where Skateboarding is Art, a Continuum.
    From Sidewalk Surfing in the early 1950’s
    to Dogtown and The Bones Brigade.
    From the East Coast Street Invasion of the mid-80’s
    to the Baggy Pants and Small Wheels of the 1990’s
    to Modern Day DIY.

    The format is simple:

    The Skateboarding that influenced Mark Gonzales and Natas Kaupas.
    The Skateboarding that Mark Gonzales and Natas Kaupas influenced.
    And Mark Gonzales and Natas Kaupas.

    Bullshit Detectors on High Alert!

  • (w/ apologies to Robert Frost)

    Two roads diverge in a gray city
    And not sorry, I will travel neither
    One of steam-rolled corporate providence
    The other of gutter-level cheap defiance
    And be one traveler, here I stand
    And I look down both as far as I can
    But I will not choose the lesser evil of the two
    Neither road speaks to me

    I believe there’s a better way
    So a new trail I shall cut
    With my values, my dreams
    and my independence intact

    Two roads diverge in a city, and I—
    I’ll take neither and accept neither circumstance
    And that is the difference
    That I will make
    For myself.

    Skate. Create. Enjoy!

    2 Roads

  • By: Kyle DuVall

    Evolution Of Shape

    Start with his first pro model for Powell Peralta in 1988 and follow history forward to today’s line of Street Plant decks, and it’s easy to see that Mike Vallely has a unique perspective on the last 30 years of deck shapes.

    “I started skateboarding in 1984 and, even then, skateboard design was already behind when it came to the real life application of what us kids were doing out in the streets,” Vallely explains. “In 1986 when I started skating for Powell Peralta, I drilled the nose of my Lance Mountain board back so that I could actually use it for tricks. Stacy Peralta tripped out on what I was doing trick wise and the fact that the boards he was making were too slow to adapt to what we were doing on them.”

    In ’88, when Vallely’s first pro model was released, most “street” boards were still scaled down vert shapes with flared tails and rounded or pointed noses. Vallely was hoping for something different with his debut deck: a real “street” shape. Powell Peralta, however, was not quite ready for what he had in mind.

    “When I put out my first pro model in 1988, the nose was considered big by the standards of the day. I actually wanted an even bigger nose but Powell Peralta saw it as too much of a risk in the market place.”


    It wasn’t Vallely’s perfect vision of a street deck, but the Elephant was still significantly different from the other big sellers in the Powell line. Not only was the nose longer than the norm by a couple of inches, but it was squared at the end, mimicking a shape pioneered by another street innovator, Neil Blender. The contours also gave the deck a pretty consistent width from tip to tail. There’s no deep inward curve into the rear truck area, no fishtail shape to the tail.

    With the benefit of hindsight, one can even see hints of the most influential deck Vallely ever rode in that less-than ideal Powell deck: The Elephant’s squared nose and blunt tail, its subtly curved but relatively consistent width down the rail are both prescient of what was to come; Shave off the Elephant’s money bumps and tack on more nose and you’ve got something close to the legendary World Industries Vallely Barnyard.

    Slow to react to innovations in the street, the double-tail Barnyard, however, was a board that could have never happened at Powell Peralta.

    “World Industries was smaller and nimbler and more in tune with what was happening in the streets,” recalls Vallely. “And so, working directly with Steve Rocco and Rodney Mullen, we introduced the Barnyard Board in 1989.”

    The Barnyard, which became one of the highest selling skate decks of all time, was not the first to introduce a “double tail” design, but it was the the first board a pro skater was wiling to stake his name on. It was also a slight refinement of the simple “Two tails stuck together” concept of previous “double tail” boards. More rounded tail edges, a slightly ovoid shape through the rails and a slightly shorter nose which allowed more power when popping from the front foot in switch and nollie tricks, all helped make the Barnyard a key step in the future of deck shapes.

    “I was going out on a limb design-wise by putting my name on that board” says Vallely. “There were symmetrical boards before it but this is the one that stuck, that people remember. I rode it hard and proved it to be functional but I never really thought of it as anything but another fun shape. I never imagined it would become the prototype for the industry standard popsicle.”

    Center Spread 1990. Barnyard.

    But by 1993, the revolution kickstarted by the Barnyard really had dead-ended with the standardization of deck shapes into the modern, straight-railed, symmetrically shaped “popsicle”. Alternate shapes became all but nonexistent for the next decade.

    “I continually wanted to remain open and creative with board design but very few brands were willing to gamble,” says Vallely.

    To be fair, the popsicle seemed to work quite well for everyday skaters and for Vallely. Nevertheless, by the early 2000’s, Vallely, and some of his peers at Black Label were beginning to seriously think about alternative deck shapes.

    “When I started skating for Black Label in ’98 it was an awakening for what was to come,” says Vallely.

    Label Teammate Jason Adams soon began riding the first tapered nose “punk point” boards the industry had seen in a decade. Jeff Grosso’s enduringly popular shovel nosed shape was in the mix. Old innovations were being repurposed. Vallely was taking notes, but when it came to his personal skating, it was not quite time for experimentation.

    “I was in a very high performance mode during that time and completely unable and unwilling to mess with what was and had been working for me, what I had been riding since 1995: the popsicle.”

    However, time on the road observing the broadening demographic of skating at the beginning of the 2000’s convinced Vallely that maybe the time had come for substantial experimentation.

    “When I started Vallely Skateboards in 2003 my intention was to create a line of shaped boards very similar to what I’m doing now with Street Plant,” explains Vallely, “but I hit a roadblock with my partners and my distributor, who didn’t want to gamble on such a concept. When that brand folded and I ended up riding for Element there wasn’t even a conversation to be had… It was a popsicle and you’ll like it.”

    The undercurrents that Vallely had picked up on in the early 2000’s had only grown stronger by the time he parted ways with Element. When he started skating and developing decks for Elephant Skateboards, re-issues of old shapes and “old-school” and “cruiser” boards were becoming common (and profitable) once more. When Vallely created Elephant’s flagship shape the “Street Axe”, it was about more than cashing in on a trend. The Street Axe, even with its 9.5″ width, deep curves and large flared tail was a shape that demanded to be shredded.

    “Originally, it was supposed to just be this cruisey kind of shape,” admits Vallely, “but it had this energy to it, it became something else.”

    Intentional, intuitive, or just coincidence, what Vallely and Paul Schmitt had crafted with that first Axe was definitely way more than just another cruiser. Modified from an old John Grigley shape, the Axe became Vallely’s signature stick. He rode it at the 2012 Tampa Pro contest and in several video edits for Elephant, and, although he was switching from shape to shape at the time, The Axe seemed to personify where his skating and his mindset were.

    Pure, direct, powerful: The Street Axe was the ultimate functional street machine for an alternative movement on the rise in skateboarding. It was a cruiser you could get expressive on.

    With its inward curves at the front and back truck, The Axe, even with its hefty 9.5” width, was tailor made for 8.5” trucks. This meant that it was incredibly agile for a board with a 15” wheelbase. The flared 7” tail gave The Axe the pop of a street board even while rolling wheels big enough to take on chunky pavement. The curves also made it incredibly light for a 9.5” deck.

    That 9.5” width gave The Axe stability and a lot of extra real estate you could keep your feet on when slashing out of a slappy or bringing in a sketchy wallride. The curved rails and extra large size also made it great for one of Vallely’s signature tricks: the boneless. The outward curve in front made for a very comfortable grab, and the width at the forward truck provided a solid landing spot when stomping the front foot back down. It practically begged you to bend down, grab a rail and plant your foot.

    The Street Axe soon accumulated a cult following and it became evident to Vallely that the Axes out on the street were being used for much more than coffee cruising and beer runs. When it was time for The Axe to evolve, Vallely took his cue not only from his own experiences with The Axe, but from the video clips and photos The Axe’s devotees shared with him via social media.

    “The changes to the Street Axe are inspired by the direction skaters were taking it in the street,” explains Vallely. “It’s a response to what I was seeing.”

    One of the biggest changes is in the new Axe’s nose. An inch and a half longer than the original Axe, the new Axe’s nose is big enough to slap into a stable nose slide or twist into a crooked grind. More real estate beyond the front bolts also makes for more comfortable nose manuals, not to mention more forward sliding room for popping and tweaking ollies.

    The wheelbase has dropped as well, a full half inch, from 15” on the original to 14.5”.

    Street Axe 2015.

    “I have always adapted my skating to what I’m riding, and respond to the board whatever it is,” explains Vallely. “But, for me, personally, I felt that a 15” wheelbase was a bit limiting, and making The Axe more maneuverable fits in with where people were taking it.”

    As nice as it felt to have that extra room when coming out of a sketchy wall ride or bringing in a boneless, the full 9.5” width of The Axe might have been just a little too much of a good thing. The new Axe’s 9” width still gives plenty of landing room and stability, but makes the board a little more agile for expressive skating and even more open to flipping. At 9” the inward curving shape at the trucks still makes it compatible with 8.5” hangers. The wide, solid 7” fish tail of the original Axe is tightened up as well, but just a little. The new Axe’s tail is an eighth of an inch shorter and a bit narrower, but still maintains the squared, shape of the original. This means the pop is powerful, and a tiny bit more vertical, but just as stable and dependable when you drive your foot down.

    The new Axe also boasts a different concave with a deeper and more rounded front foot area for more comfortable foot placement and a bit more catch on the side for flicking a kick flip.

    Photo: Mark Nisbet.

    Photo: Mark Nisbet.

    For the new Street Axe “Engineered For The Streets” is not just a slogan. Trimmed of the previous version’s affectations and made more functional, the Street Axe is now leaner, meaner, and more focused; A board that merges expression, inspiration and innovation. It’s the “Barnyard” of shaped decks: a radical shift inspired by where skateboarding is going and where it has been.

    Where are you going to take the new Street Axe?

    Kyle DuVall has been writing about skateboarding almost as long as he has been skateboarding.

  • By: Kyle DuVall

    Although the Woolly Mammoth graphic that adorned Mike Vallely’s first New Deal pro model in 1991 started out as an homage to his past and a joke about his future, over the years it has come to represent much more.

    New Deal Mammoth. 1991.
    New Deal Mammoth. 1991.

    New Deal Mammoth. 1991.

    “New Deal was very apprehensive about signing me. They only signed me because I was such good friends with Ed Templeton,” Vallely explains. “The thinking at the time was: ‘this is the New Deal. You’re the old deal, but they wanted Ed to be happy so I guess they thought: to make Ed happy, we’ll put this dinosaur on the team. So Andy Howell’s idea for the graphic was like this: ‘Dude, you’re extinct, and this is probably your last pro model, we should poke some fun at you…’”

    New Deal Ad. September, 1991.

    New Deal Ad. September, 1991.

    For a skater who was always intensely involved in advocating his own graphic ideas, it might seem odd that Vallely would accede to the concept. Then again, the sentiment portrayed was not completely out of line with Vallely’s own feelings in ’91.

    “I was sort of given the Mammoth graphic, but at the same time there was no rejection on my part. Inside I knew better about my skating, but, in another way, I couldn’t really argue with anybody. At the time skating really was changing. The idea for the board didn’t come from me, which was rare at the time, but when I saw it I embraced it.”

    If extinction was the intended theme, Vallely’s skating during his short stint at the Deal combined with the image that actually wound up on the board, ultimately put the graphic in quite a different context. Sure, the mammoth was an extinct creature, but in it’s world, a world of saber-toothed cats and cave bears, the mammoth was the ultimate survivor. With its scroungy fur, imposing tusks and swinging trunk, artist Greg Higgins rendering of the mammoth conveys strength, not surrender. It’s half-lidded eyes are focused directly to the front. It looks ready to charge ahead, not lay down and die.

    Vallely’s segment in New Deal’s “1281” video would definitively turn the tables on that graphic’s original theme. Positioned at the end of the video as a sort of swan song for an outmoded 80’s hero, Vallely’s powerhouse edit didn’t come off as a retirement party, but as a statement on a new era, an era of old and new, technical and aggressive all coming together under New Deal’s sun.

    “Every era I was involved in, every video I was involved in, I continued to press and plead my case and try to prove every time that a broader style was going to have a place,” says Vallely. “As much as people would write me off on paper, when the videos came out it would always be ‘oh shit!’ I think the 1281 part turned out to be a pretty damn good part. It was distinctly different from everything that was happening at that time, and I think that’s what made it work.”

    The skating Vallely was actually doing might have been better represented in the Mammoth’s top graphic, a design which combined a native american symbol Vallely interpreted as meaning “burning forward” with the New Deal sun logo.

    Burning ahead or not, Vallely’s tenure at the Deal was doomed to be brief. The 1281 segment was his only video part, the Mammoth the only board from his time at New Deal that anyone remembers. Still, both the skating and the deck had real significance.

    “1281 may be the real departure point for me,” says Vallely, “The point where I went from being on the front lines of the cutting edge to just pushing my own skating without it being bookended by the times”.

    After ’91 professional skateboarding was increasingly being funneled into a very distinct direction, a direction with clear stylistic benchmarks for “legitimacy”. Progression only “counted” if it was progression down one particular path. How high you could ollie didn’t matter if you couldn’t flip off both ends of your board as well. By ’91, for many skaters, doing what came naturally, especially what came naturally for Mike Vallely, was either a statement of dissent or signifier of obsolescence.

    “It’s not that I wasn’t progressing. My skating was just going in its own direction,” Vallely recalls. “I’ve never been “anti” anybody’s skating. I really vibed off of what people like Armando Barajas and Ed Templeton were doing and I always sampled what was interesting to me at the time. I did get into some nollie flips, flipping in and out of tricks, but I’ve always found my way back to my own skating. Some of that stuff stuck, but most of it didn’t.”

    Ollie on a Mammoth Prototype Shape. From the pages of Transworld Skateboarding Magazine. 1991.

    Ollie on a Mammoth Prototype Shape. From the pages of Transworld Skateboarding Magazine. 1991.

    If Vallely was taking an alternate path, the board he took it on was both a callback to 80’s concepts and a glimpse of things to come. The Mammoth graphic was one that would have looked equally at home spray painted on a subway car or inked on the pages of a comic book. Greg Higgins art, with its cartoon and graffiti influences was undeniably at peace with the graphic concepts Andy Howell was pioneering at New Deal, but with its connection to Vallely’s past history of board graphics, it didn’t seem forced, like many of the street-art inspired graphics imposed on other veteran pros at the time. Even though it was Howell’s concept, Higgins’ execution made It look like something Vallely might have come up with himself.

    “It’s real telling how people react to it today,” says Vallely. “It’s a real meaningful graphic to people who were skating at the time. I get great feedback on it, that and the shape is a real great shape.”

    At a hefty 9.5” wide, with a blunt shovel contour in the nose, the Mammoth embodied aspects of the 80’s boards that skaters like Vallely used to pioneer street skating, while still embracing contemporary functionality. The generous length of that shovel nose made it ideal for slapping into noseslides and popping off nollie tricks, and it’s round-edged tail was pure early 90‘s. The board is wide in the front pocket, but its taper to a skinner tail and rear truck area was a precursor to the contours of the “popsicle” and “football” designs on the horizon.

    Street Plant Mammoth.

    “That shape is real telling of how I was still engaged with what was happening with board shapes at that time,” says Vallely. “I could have continued to skate that ’91 shape for the rest of my career. That is the shape I ride right now.”

    Past, present. Today, yesterday. It all came together in the Mammoth back in ’91 when old and new were fighting it out for dominance on the streets. Now, in 2015, with old school and new school embracing each other in a big ol’ bro hug of bonelesses and no-complies, the Street Plant Brand Mammoth may be more relevant than ever. Either way, one thing is certain: extinction is not on the agenda.

    Kyle DuVall has been writing about skateboarding almost as long as he has been skateboarding.

  • By: Kyle DuVall

    Ask Mike Vallely why he wears a helmet when he skates and you’ll get an obvious answer: He wears it to protect to his head. But to skaters conditioned by a culture of branded “defiance”, that simple answer never seems to be enough. The act of protecting one’s own skull from potentially life-threatening injuries has too often become something that requires convoluted explanations and apologies. Putting on the helmet before going skating… Any kind of skating, was a step that, even Vallely, a man with nothing to prove to anyone, had to grapple with.

    “As a street skater I have always challenged myself, always questioned everything, set out to destroy barriers,” explains Vallely. “Wearing a helmet now is an evolution of those ideas.”

    Los Angeles, CA. Photo: Sierra Prescott

    Los Angeles, CA. Photo: Sierra Prescott

    Helmets have been worn by skaters since the beginning of skateboarding, so what’s the big deal? To see it clearly you have to pierce the smoke and mirrors. The real question the culture has to ask itself, the dilemma at the bottom of the helmet quandary is not “why wear a helmet?’ it’s “why don’t we wear helmets?” When you really unpack that question, a lot of the reasons seem pretty thin and some of those objections are outright contradictory to what we all think we value.

    A little history review can put it in perspective.

    Rewind back to the golden age of skateparks in the late 70‘s: at Big O, or Upland or wherever, the helmet was a non-issue. If you wanted to ride, the insurance policies and the dude at the gate said you had to strap one on. It’s just what you did.

    When the parks died, the brain bucket lived on in the backyard vert session. Photos from those days show ditching the park rules didn’t mean ditching head protection. All those legends were padded up on the plywood. The wild west of backyard pool sessions were usually helmet free affairs though, and when the the rank and file of skating poured into the streets in the late 80’s, the helmet got completely left behind.

    Part of this had to do with the fact that the safety gear that kept skaters safe when bailing on transition did little to protect skaters from the direct impacts and joint twisting injuries that were most common in street skating. With the ollie in its infancy, the low-to-the-ground nature of the basic street repertoire made the probability of banging your head pretty slim.

    As street skating evolved, however, blowing it on a rail or landing too far back barging some stairs made severe blows to the back of the head a real possibility. The “rules” that had been established, on the other hand, were solidified, and they dictated “no helmets”. Gradually an expression of freedom had become a commandment of orthodoxy.

    “I can relate to not wearing a helmet,” Vallely explains. “To skaters the helmet has come to represent authorities and pad nannies and rigid skatepark rules. When you talk about wearing helmets, skaters have a knee jerk reaction. It is in their DNA, it’s a part of who we are. Those roots run deep, but they’re also very archaic. This culture has moved forward.”

    When Vallely applied the values of total freedom and open expression to all the reasons skaters don’t sport helmets on the street, what he saw was a reversal of context.

    “There were years where I was playing a minor, sometimes even a major role, in developing that defiant part of the street skating psyche. At different times that sort of counter-culture to the counter-culture was really meaningful to me… But eventually things like that become imitation, people imitating something that came about in a real moment. It’s just putting on an outfit, and at this point that outfit doesn’t include the helmet.”

    Never a man to be ruled by the dictates of fashion, the reasons not to wear a helmet evaporated for Vallely. “What the culture values, I have never used that as a guide.”

    Bean Plant: Los Angeles, CA. Photo: Sierra Prescott

    Bean Plant: Los Angeles, CA. Photo: Sierra Prescott

    Other changes in skateboarding made the hardcore anti-helmet attitude seem even more irrelevant. “The new generation, they aren’t getting a skateboard in their teens now,” says Vallely. “They get a board when they are 4. It’s a different world. I’d rather be on the right side of history at this point in my career than being the guy that thinks: “I’m going to shred this without any helmet!’ and then getting carried away on a stretcher in a coma.”

    “I’m not a different skater. In terms of how it felt wearing a helmet, it was weird for a couple minutes, then it didn’t matter. It was a hiccup. I put on the helmet, I got used to it, and then life went on. It’s other people’s perceptions that need to be challenged. As soon as those are challenged, it becomes a non-issue.”

    Ultimately, though, the decision to helmet up was personal. “I’ve gotten feedback already that it’s making a difference to people, making a difference to parents when they talk to their kids, but the ultimate decision is for myself. Like I said, I want to be on the right side of history, not just because of my place in skateboard culture, but because of my place in my household. I didn’t need that concern of ‘I could have done something to prevent an injury’. I could no longer justify to myself not wearing a helmet.

    I had to ask myself some tough questions. I answered them, and then I put the fucking helmet on.”

    Kyle DuVall has been writing about skateboarding almost as long as he has been skateboarding.

  • By: Kyle DuVall

    In 1995 skateboarding was at a crossroads, and so was Mike Vallely. Street skating was beginning to emerge from years of increasingly narrowing specialization. East Coast influences and general discontent with a style of street skating that might be better termed “spot skating”, were re-introducing free flowing diversity into the culture. Flow was back, along with wider boards, bigger wheels, and an increased mindfulness of style. The idea that getting from point a to point b could be a session in and of itself was on the rise.

    Pushing Forward

    For Vallely, a man for whom professional skateboarding was not just an occupation but a mission, 1995 was the year he was supposed to “retire”. Even though his skating was as passionate and creative as ever, and his efforts had re-vitalized his sponsor, Powell Skateboards, presence in the culture, the conventional “wisdom” of the industry still dictated that it was time for Vallely to fade into the background, or fade away altogether.

    “In 1994-95 I was being told my pro career was over. Pro skateboarding was an expression of who I was, my identity,” says Vallely. “I always thought pro skaters were people who can communicate the bliss of skateboarding. I’ve always thought I did a good job at that, so I considered myself a pro even when a lot of people thought I was over.”

    Among all the noise and turmoil, Vallely produced a video part that was more than a simple catalog of tricks. Vallely’s segment in Powell Skateboards’ “Scenic Drive” video expresses a substantive point of view. There’s a whole philosophy embedded in the edit, and, although it was never as influential as Valley’s seminal parts in videos like Speed Freaks or Public Domain, it may be the one edit that says the most about Mike Vallely himself.

    “That Powell era symbolizes a time when I started really deciding how I wanted to present my skateboarding,” says Vallely. “I was claiming ownership over my own skating. Before that video part, I was still skating my own way, but it was more of an unconscious thing, I would just do it. In the Powell era I was becoming more conscious of why I was doing it.”

    Vallely’s segment in the video is titled “Death Vallely”. Perhaps no more than a throwaway pun on the surface, considering the pressures on Vallely at the time, the comparison of his video part to a dried out, arid wasteland synonymous with death attains a bit of significance.

    Pushing Forward

    “In ’95 I had a young family and no future prospects. My peers didn’t respect me, my boss was telling me to hang it up. I was feeling depressed. It was a bleak time. The only time I felt good about skateboarding was when I was actually riding a skateboard.”

    The first clips we see are of Vallely skating one of the big European contests. As the massive crowd cheers, Vallely pulls 3 tricks over the street course’s pyramid, including a huge kickflip up on to the deck from flat. These opening shots are images of a man in his element, going all out, feeding off the crowd and amplifying their energy. This is the glamorous side of the pro skate life, and Mike V appears to be thriving in it.

    The footage then fades into a montage of bleak images from Vallely’s hometown of Edison, New Jersey and the surrounding areas. Dilapidated buildings and cryptic street signs are superimposed on scrolling footage of a mural that states, “you’re a stranger here.” Underneath the images you hear the ragged harmonica solo that starts Bruce Springsteen’s “Johnny 99”, the song which scores the whole segment.

    Next we see Vallely pushing down a seedy urban sidewalk, characteristic intensity on his face. The surroundings seem unclear. After that montage of images, the viewer’s first instinct is to assume he is in New Jersey. Wherever it is, the scene could not be more different than the preceding one, with its cheering crowds and flashing cameras. Still, Vallely seems totally in his element, maybe even more in his element, even when he slams hard on his second trick, a huge frontside wallride on a steeply angled wall.

    Pushing Forward

    The scene then cuts to Vallely going hard down another strip of urban sidewalk. Although a careful viewer might notice Southern California palm trees in the background, it’s as anonymous a strip of urban concrete as the previous clip. Vallely pops some big ollies and boardslide transfers a big telephone pole on the side of the road and pushes on. The majority of locations that follow are equally mundane.

    “Nothing was planned out, I didn’t have spots,” Valley says. “Most of the places are not even locations, we’d just be going down a street and I’d just say ‘park here’ let’s go skating down this street.”

    There are still a few familiar locations sprinkled in the edit, but in an era of celebrity skate spots, the segment conspicuously avoids all the fantasy terrain skaters of the time might expect to see.

    “The reason I was not at the L.A. Courthouse was because everyone was clamoring for the L.A. Courthouse,” Vallely explains. “It was at that time when you’d get in a car, hear all the noise, see a pic in the mag and then everyone wants to emulate that idea ‘Hey we gotta go to this spot and get this trick…’”

    There are a few shots of Vallely sessioning an indoor vert ramp, and one looping line at Seattle’s Seaskate Skatepark, but even the clips in prominent locations show a skater out of step with the mainstream of skateboarding: His line through a Camarillo school campus avoids familiar rails, stairs and benches. When Vallely approaches a trashcan tipped on its side for ollies, he just rolls on through it. As characteristic a moment as one could find in the edit.

    Pushing Forward

    Johnny Oliver’s videography helps give the skating a solitary, spontaneous feel. The camera either has the filmer struggling to follow Vallely flying down the sidewalks, schoolyards and back alleys, or alternately, shooting him from a distance, as if the skating is something happened upon by a bystander. This, combined with editing that utilizes quick fades instead of hard cuts between shots gives the part a feeling of an ever-forward drive. It’s a slice of Vallely’s skating, not a cherry picked, pre-planned “highlight reel” of Vallely’s repertoire. It’s raw and spontaneous, while always stylish. Vallely doesn’t seem to be sessioning, he’s skating. Skating hard.

    “Around this time I got a call from Stacy Peralta,” Vallely recollects. “He wanted to interview me for some segment he was doing for MTV. While I was talking to him I started getting kind of philosophical about skating and I think it kind of gave him pause. He asked me: ‘Mike, do skaters still drive to a spot, get out of the car walk up the stairs, put their board down do a trick down the stairs, then walk up back the stairs and do another trick?’ I said, ‘yeah, that’s pretty much what skateboarding is now.’ He thought about it for a second and said ‘Yeah, that’s NOT skateboarding.’ It rubbed him so wrong that that was the currency of the day. Once videos and mags become trick catalogs, you lose the culture and the bigger picture.”

    The closest the edit comes to resembling “session” footage, is 4 or 5 tricks Vallely pulls off the embankment of a dilapidated, square swimming pool, but even then the tricks are broken up into two separate segments. Whether it was by design or a coincidence of the limitations of contemporary video cameras, the images are murky, as if, somehow, every clip was shot on a perpetually, overcast day. This, combined with the spare, often indistinguishable spots Vallely is riding, make it seem like he’s skating miles and world’s away from California’s eternal sunshine and fantasy-level skate spots. The whole part is about Vallely moving ahead, never staying in place, yet never actually trying to get anywhere. A journey that is the destination.

    “I was never, have never, and will definitely never be part of any kind of ‘skate crew’,” says Vallely. “I never had the ‘high five’ mentality in my skating.”

    That cryptic statement: “You’re a stranger here…” echoes through the whole segment. Pushing through barren cityscapes, floating through vacant skate spots, Vallely does seem to be a stranger, but a stranger from what? Is the “here” the sunny, skate paradise of Southern California that Oliver and Vallely have portrayed as bleak and rugged as any New Jersey industrial sprawl? Is it the larger cultural space of pro skateboarding? A place where an idealist like Vallely has always fought to maintain his identity and values?

    “Honestly, It was all of it” says Vallely. “The skate industry, what the ‘competition’ was doing… From the day I got sponsored I’d never felt like I had been part of any of it. I knew that my skating was built to do the distance but all I ever heard was that it was played out. In 1995 I was supposed to be done, but I had my own ideas about that.”

    Predictably, there is no small element of bleakness in the part, and it’s heightened by Vallely’s music selection, Bruce Springsteen’s “Johnny 99”. Springsteen’s connection to Vallely’s New Jersey roots is obvious, and in the post “Video Days” 1990’s, picking an obscure pop song over a Hip Hop or Punk track was nothing new. Unlike other pop tracks used in the era, Vallely’s was made without a sense of irony. The song is dark, spare and anthemic, a song about a man with his back against the wall with no options. It exists in lock step with all those muddy shots of lonely streets and empty cityscapes. Rarely has song and skating been more in sync in a video part.

    “In a lot of ways,” Vallely explains, “I was projecting bleakness into the bleakness.”

    Pushing Forward

    But ultimately, the desperation is trumped by that ever forward drive, the repeated, even repetitive, images of Vallely charging through empty spaces and flying over everything in his way. That statement in the first moment of the edit “You’re a stranger here…” still echoes. Vallely is a stranger in the empty California streets, a stranger in an industry he has helped sustain, a stranger in the culture he’s had such an influence on. But Vallely’s skating in the edit is in defiance of those feelings. In those moments, on his skateboard, pushing, riding, attacking whatever comes under his wheels, Valley can never be a stranger. As long as he is moving forward on his board, Vallely is exactly where he’s supposed to be.

    “At that time the only way I was able to ‘push forward’” Vallely recalls, “was by pushing forward on my board.”

    Beyond what was going on with Vallely’s career at that moment there is a much bigger theme in play in this slice of skating. If the disposable commodity that is the skate video part can ever be said to present ideas, then this one presents a very important one.

    “I wanted to talk about grabbing your board and skating everywhere. That is the main idea I’ve tried to present in my skating. I saw all these guys doing the daily meet up, sitting around, then driving around trying to find a spot to film a video clip, all the effort to document tricks at all these spots most people don’t have access to. It’s kind of elitist to me. It’s more prominent today, but it kind of rubbed me the wrong way even back in the 90’s. I saw the motivation behind it; go get a trick for the magazine or for your video part: document, document, document. Is skating becoming something you spectate now? Or is it something you participate in. My idea is that it is something you participate in.”

    In a world where kids enter skateboarding with the monkey of documentation clawing at their backs, and parks create whole breeds of skater who never drop urethane outside the perimeters of the local municipally funded skate playground, these are essential ideas, ideas too often lost by virtue of their simplicity. Whether you just bought your first set up, or you’re one of the greatest skateboarders of all time, the streets, any streets, are always out there, and they’re where you belong. In school, at work, at home, even at the skatepark, you may not fit in, but out there, you’re never a stranger.

    Kyle DuVall has been writing about skateboarding almost as long as he has been skateboarding.

  • Beyond Influence: Rodney Smith, Tom Groholski, And Jim Murphy

    By: Kyle DuVall

    In skateboarding, as in life, influence is cheap, but inspiration is priceless. Moves can be copied from magazines, styles can be imitated, but influence that cuts deeper, influence that goes straight to the soul, is something else.

    When Mike Vallely started skating in 1984, influences were a little harder to stumble upon, but even in Edison, New Jersey, influences like the 1984 “Street-Sequence” issue of Thrasher Magazine found it’s way into his hands. Seeing that landmark issue of Thrasher ignited a powerful spark in Vallely, but the inspiration needed to stoke that spark into a blaze that would change skateboarding forever couldn’t be shipped in from California. It had to come from closer to home.

    Mike Vallely, Edison, NJ, 1985. Photo: Don Bruno.

    Mike Vallely, Edison, NJ, 1985. Photo: Don Bruno.

    3 legendary east coast skaters: Rodney Smith, Tom Groholski, and Jim Murphy, all played a part in stoking that fire. Each impacted Vallely in a distinct way, but each contribution was equally vital. Their influence extends through 3 decades of skating and right up to the present day. It extends beyond tricks and style, and into the intangibles of Vallely’s personality, and world view.

    Influence. It’s precious and priceless. But it can also begin with the simplest of things. In the case of Rodney Smith, Vallely’s first skateboarding mentor, lifelong inspiration started with nothing more than a friendly greeting from behind the counter of a skate shop

    “In 1984 a new skate shop had opened up in this big mall near me,” Vallely recalls. “It was actually a combination skate shop/bikini shop, and It sounds funny now, but at the time going into this big mall and into a skate shop was very intimidating. I remember being so nervous walking into that shop with my friends but as soon as we stepped in there was the guy behind the counter greeting us in such a friendly way, just asking ‘hey guys, what’s up’, just being cool and welcoming. Welcoming us into skateboarding. That was a big deal. That guy turned out to be Rodney Smith.”

    Smith, best known now as co-founder of Shut Skateboards and Zoo York Skateboards, was already a fixture of east coast skateboarding when Vallely met him. For Vallely, Smith’s combination of encouragement, wisdom, and foresight would make him a mentor in the truest sense of that oft-overused word.

    “Rodney Smith, was the first person I could tell felt the same way about skateboarding that I did. I determined pretty early on that pro skating was the greatest opportunity, the greatest conduit I could have in terms of getting other people to discover the type of energy and pure love and passion that I felt for skateboarding. Rodney recognized my passion early on and realized it wasn’t at a pedestrian level. It was deeper.”

    Mike and Rodney. 1998. Photo: Reda

    Mike and Rodney. 1998. Photo: Reda

    Spiritual support was not the only thing Smith would end up providing to the young Vallely. In a time when skate parks were virtually non-existent and the aesthetics of street skating were just beginning to exploit the potential of public spaces, a big part of rising to the top was simply having access to inspiring terrain. Even though Vallely’s home town was just a 40 minute train ride from the vast asphalt playground of New York City, without Rodney Smith, Vallely might have never explored it.

    “The New York of today is not the New York I grew up with,” Vallely explains. “When I was a kid in the 70’s and 80‘s you didn’t just go to New York to “go” to New York. It was still a pretty gnarly place. I’d go there to see hockey games with my dad or the circus, but when you went to those things you didn’t stay after they were over.”

    It was Smith who first took Vallely to skate in Manhattan, introducing him not just to terrain like the legendary, Brooklyn Banks, but to the New York skate community. “The first time I went in to New York with Rodney changed everything.” Vallely explains. “The next day I was a 100% better skater, and it wasn’t just the access to terrain, it was being around other skaters. After that, every week we were hopping on the train, sneaking on, getting into New York however we could.”

    Recognizing and encouraging Vallely’s talent was one thing, but Smith was also wise enough to recognize Vallely’s gifts in the context of a future that was just barely beginning to unfold. Smith was one of skateboarding’s true visionaries, a man who not only saw Vallely’s potential, but the potential of street skating as a movement.

    “Rodney came up from the bowl and skatepark culture of the 70’s, and, in some ways skateboarding, in terms of the tricks, was already passing him by, but he was still a street skater,” says Vallely. “He understood that the streets were an open playground and that’s where skating could really have freedom and find its own way. The backyard ramps helped keep skating alive, but kids like me, we weren’t going to be ramp skaters. We couldn’t just skate two days a week when we could get to a ramp and then leave the pads in the garage the rest of the time. Rodney saw that. He saw a path that didn’t exist yet.”

    Rodney Smith, Edison, NJ, circa ’82. Photo: Steven Willis.

    Rodney Smith, Edison, NJ, circa ’82. Photo: Steven Willis.

    Indeed, in 1984, the idea of any sort of professional presence for street skating was brand new, and even that small presence was centered around refugees from the skatepark culture. “There were street skaters out there, but to a lot of the guys doing it it was just something they did when they were kicked out of the skateparks. Even when it became its own thing it was still kind of joke to those guys,” Explains Vallely. “I may be the first pro skateboarder without a direct surfing or skatepark inspired influence. There was not a career path for me when I started. I wanted to be the first east coast pro street skater. Being a professional skater, period, was not even a proven career path, but that’s what I wanted to be, a pro street skater. How could anyone support that? My parents couldn’t. My teachers couldn’t. There was no coach at the recreation center who could. But Rodney Smith could. That’s why his influence on me is so huge. He understood that street skating was the future. He not only had the vision to see what was coming, but also the vision to see that, not only could I be a part of that change, but that I could symbolize it. He saw what I could bring to skateboarding and he reminded me of it over and over. And every time on that journey that I got knocked down he picked me up.”

    It’s an influence that has never left, one that extends to approaching dilemmas and thinking ‘what would Rodney do?’. “That way of thinking,” Vallely says, “is so ingrained it’s not even conscious anymore. It’s just part of me. ”

    Rodney Smith’s hands-on mentorship may have helped Vallely understand that his dreams were attainable, but it was the quieter, more removed influence of New Jersey legend Tom Groholski that helped Vallely take control of that dream once it started to happen.

    As a top vert pro in the 80’s, Groholski wasn’t just a hero to east coast kids, he was a community resource. His backyard ramp was an epicenter for the whole east coast skate community. Unlike the private training facilities of today’s top pros, Groholski’s ramps were open to anybody, but that didn’t mean Groholski was out there cheerleading the local skate rats.

    “In the early days, I don’t think I ever skated with Tom Groholski at his ramp,” Vallely explains. “Tom’s dad was always out there supporting the kids skating in his backyard but not so much Tom. Tom never went for the hype. All these new faces running around in his yard. He couldn’t be bothered. He had his ramp and he skated his ramp out of necessity, not to sell skateboards to the new generation. The fact that we rarely ever saw Tom made his skating much more meaningful to me. His absence carried weight for me.”

    An internationally known pro for one of the most popular companies in the world, Vision Skateboards, Groholski’s career was as defined by his introversion as it was by his trademark lip tricks. Predictably, Vallely’s personal relationship with Groholski was quite different from his relationship with Rodney Smith.

    Tom Groholski, North Brunswick, NJ. Photo: Matt Padulo.

    Tom Groholski, North Brunswick, NJ. Photo: Matt Padulo.

    “Tom’s ramp was open to the public on Wednesdays and Saturdays, so after I was sponsored, I started skipping school and going to Tom’s ramp every Wednesday with my friend Kevin for probably 2 months straight before Tom even acknowledged we were there,” Vallely explains. “We were out their skating, and all of the sudden he just came out and was like ‘hey guys, what’s up. You want to go skate the Barn Ramp?’ We just couldn’t believe it. Tom Groholski was going to take us to the infamous Barn Ramp. We’d been there before but not with or as a guest of Tom.”

    So, was that the beginning of a close bond? The first step in a tight relationship with Groholski playing Yoda to Vallely’s scabby Skywalker?

    Not quite.

    Valley laughs recollecting what happened next. “Tom had a pickup truck with a camper shell on the back. We threw our stuff in and my friend hopped in the back of the truck, and I went around the front to sit shotgun. When I opened the door Tom looked at me and said: ‘nah…both you guys ride in back’. It was like we had passed some initial sort of test for Tom, we had gotten to the point where he would take us to the Barn Ramp, but we hadn’t gotten far enough to sit in the cab of the vehicle. ”

    After that, Vallely was accepted into regular skating sessions at the Barn Ramp with Groholski and some other locals, but Groholski remained a distant presence. His impact was still considerable, however. “I was in the streets most of the time,” Vallely says, “ but his presence was in my skating even when he wasn’t. On that trip to the Barn Ramp, we stopped at a convenience store, and I remember to this day that Tom bought a Dr. Pepper and some Spree candy. For years after that I had to drink Dr. Pepper and eat Spree whenever I skated.”

    Tom Groholski, North Brunswick, NJ. Photo: David Padulo

    Tom Groholski, North Brunswick, NJ. Photo: David Padulo

    Vallely certainly emulated Groholski’s lip tricks on curbs and took stylistic cues from Groholski, but it was Groholski’s attitude toward the skate industry and his apathy for the fame that came with being a pro that would wind up making the most enduring impact on Vallely.

    “I don’t know that I ever fully understood Groholski’s skating until after I got to California and saw him skating in a contest. I remember seeing him up there skating so hard with all the other pros around him, and it was beautiful but at the same time it was also sad. Here was this guy putting everything he was into his skating, because skating was all he knew — The contests and everything else were not really him but he was out there trying to make it work because he had to skate. He just had to, and the contests and magazines and sponsors were how he could keep doing it.”

    Groholski, for all his introversion and general apathy for the business of skateboarding would deeply impact Vallely’s own goals and perspective once he achieved fame and success. Groholski showed Vallely that he could navigate the fame and demands of professionalism without losing his roots or compromising his own nature.

    “I remember once when I was with Powell Peralta, Stacy Peralta asked me if I could talk with Tom about possibly joining the team. Lip tricks were getting popular and I think Stacy wanted a “lip trick guy” for The Bones Brigade. So I went up to Tom while we were skating at the Barn Ramp and mentioned it, and Tom just laughed at me. The Bones Brigade? That was a job. Say what you will about Vision, but they let Tom be Tom and left him alone, and that’s what he wanted.”

    For Vallely, the casual way Groholski shrugged off an opportunity to hook up with the legendary Bones Brigade wasn’t about ducking success, it was about defining success, and that attitude molded Vallely’s own perspective while riding for Powell Peralta.

    “When Powell Peralta sponsored me in 1986 I was like the “Great White-Trash-Hope” — The kid that had the look and ability to communicate street skating to middle-America and beyond. I was what THEY were looking for — A messenger, someone they set out to manufacture and control. I had all of the characteristics to sell street skating naturally, in how I skated and in my passion and my desire to share and express it, and I had the nurturing and encouraging spirit that I learned from Rodney Smith. But I also had all of the defiance and disdain for the business that Tom Groholski had. I was both the right guy in a sense and the WRONG guy. I was going to be no one’s puppet. Not Stacy Peralta’s, not George Powell’s — No one’s.”

    Anyone who has followed Vallely’s skating knows how much he has taken Groholski’s inspiration to heart, both in good times and bad, but it took Vallely 20 years before he knew if he himself had left any sort of impression on his distant inspiration.

    “In 2002, when people were really just beginning to rediscover and pay respect to older skaters, I got invited to this ‘Old School Skate Jam’ event at the Simi Valley Skate Lab. I didn’t intend to skate at the event, but I went and the one guy I was really hoping to see was Tom Groholski,” Vallely explains. “When I got there Tom was one of the first people to walk up to me. He came up and actually asked me to sign an autograph for him. I couldn’t believe it. Groholski wanted MY autograph. This was back when I started signing my name with the lightning bolt, but I was too self conscious to put that on an autograph for Tom Groholski’ but Tom was like: ‘Where’s the lightning bolt, you got to put the lightning bolt on there…’ I was so stoked that after that I had to skate. It was such a validation to realize after all those years this guy who was so reserved with praise and with his words respected what I had done, respected my contribution. I’ll never forget that.”

    Tom Groholski, Cedar Crest, VA. Photo: Grant Brittain

    Tom Groholski, Cedar Crest, VA. Photo: Grant Brittain

    Groholski’s actions and attitude gave Vallely an example of an un-compromised path and the importance of roots, but another legend would help keep Vallely’s feet planted on the ground as he walked that path. Jim Murphy gave miles of inspiration by never giving Vallely an inch. Pro models, Thrasher spreads: these were all weight on the scale, but Murphy showed Vallely, sometimes harshly, that the greatest measure of respect has to be earned the hard way.

    “The first time I met Jim Murphy, he was extremely nice, very welcoming,” Vallely remembers. “Rodney Smith introduced me to him. Jim was going to college at the time, and I remember just being really impressed by how smart he was, and by the fact that, even though he was riding for Zorlac and could have been out in California and been a part of that scene, he chose to stay in New Jersey and get an education.”

    Murphy’s skills as a skater, even when he was removed from the pools and vertical terrain he was most proficient on, were no less impressive to Vallely that night.

    “That first night we went to the New Brunswick spot with the stage and the embankment that I skated in Public Domain, Jim was actually the guy who showed me that spot. He skated the bank like it was a quarter pipe, doing all his vert maneuvers on the embankment, and he just ripped — Laybacks, footplants. I remember he did a blunt on the bank and my friends and I couldn’t believe it. He absolutely killed that thing. He was the best skater in the session. He was a great skater all around. Maybe he didn’t have the ollie power, but his ability to adapt, he just ripped.”

    Jim Murphy, Edgewater Park, VA. Photo: Jason Oliva

    Jim Murphy, Edgewater Park, VA. Photo: Jason Oliva

    Murphy eventually went pro for the storied Alva team, and as Vallely rapidly rose into the professional ranks, Murphy’s relationship with Vallely changed.

    “I don’t think it is right to say Jim became ‘standoffish’ exactly,” Vallely recollects. “It was more like: ‘OK kid, you’re a hotshot, but you’ve got to pay your dues. We’re not going to bow down to you because Stacy Peralta gave you the nod. I remember this one time when we were skating the Barn Ramp, Jim went up and did a huge Finger-Flip Lein To Tail, and his tail smacked the coping so hard and just made the loudest, gnarliest, sound and I was so stoked that I just screamed as loud as I could, I couldn’t help it. Next thing I know, Jim rolls up on the deck and gets in my face and tells me: ‘Hey kid, you ever do that again you’re out of here. We don’t do that here. It’s disrespectful.”

    Jim Murphy, Barn Ramp. Photo: Ben Cornish

    Jim Murphy, Barn Ramp. Photo: Ben Cornish

    A skater who has always stressed openness and acceptance, even in his early days, it seems strange that Vallely would have put up with such treatment without pushing back in some way, but for Vallely, the context made all the difference.

    “Part of it was just what Rodney Smith had ingrained in me about respecting professionals and veteran skaters,” Vallely explains. “Jim made things tougher and that kind of stuff, the hazing in a sense, rubbed me the wrong way on one level, but I totally respected and appreciated it on another. No doubt, Murphy and people in his position were extremely threatened not just by me but by what I represented, but the tough love was coming from a good place outside of that threat. They saw value in me and saw that I was going to go somewhere. The tough love was actually the proper sort of attention to help me develop. If you really disregard somebody you’re not going to waste the energy to even be harsh with them, you are just going to be oblivious. I registered with Jim or else he wouldn’t have bothered. It kept me grounded. Beyond that, guys like Jim really did have something to protect. They saw themselves as caretakers of a scene that was changing, they were preserving something in a time when so many new faces, new faces who had not been through the sorts of dead times they had been, were coming into skateboarding. They had every right to be protective”

    Murphy provided a great deal of seasoning for the raw street kid from New Jersey, but that wasn’t the only way Murphy inspired Vallely.

    “I skated with Jim at the Barn Ramp mostly, but there was another epic session out at Magic Skatepark, which was this 1970’s style asphalt snake run in Pennsylvania. It was just one of those all day skate into the dusk sessions, and just being around Jim that day was a true privilege. Being around people who live and breathe skateboarding, guys like that, you just bask in it, bask in just being in their presence. Jim Murphy couldn’t Ollie? Who cares. He fucking ripped. It was a privilege just skating with him. I always felt I got better just being around him.”

    Jim Murphy. Photo Grant Brittain.

    Jim Murphy. Photo Grant Brittain.

    Jim Murphy, Tom Groholski, Rodney Smith: without their presence, Vallely’s legacy in skating would probably look quite different. There’s no doubt his bag of tricks would.

    “Look at my skating, my trick selection, my approach and you’ll see it.” Vallely asserts. “I pay homage to the people that mattered to me every time I step on the board.” That holds true for Valley even when paying homage doesn’t line up with what’s ‘acceptable’ to the mainstream. “Back in 2005, I did the Thrasher ‘King Of The Road’ contest as part of the Element team. At the beginning of the contest (Thrasher Editor) Jake Phelps came up to me, looked me in the eye and said “Mike, man, you can’t do layback airs, you shouldn’t be doing that trick, it’s lame, that trick is banned Bro…’. I just laughed. Tom Groholski does layback airs, Jim Murphy does layback airs and I do layback airs. I always keep certain tricks in my skating. I do these tricks with love and respect to my heroes whether they are ‘cool’ or not. The umpires of cool don’t have a say in how I skate, they never have and they never will.”

    Mike, Layback Air at The Barn Ramp, 1985. Photo: Mike Spotte.

    Mike, Layback Air at The Barn Ramp, 1985. Photo: Mike Spotte.

    “Rodney Smith, Tom Groholski, Jim Murphy — All of these guys are still involved in skateboarding. They still skate. These guys were not part-timers. These guys were never going to quit. They were going to adapt and always find a way to skate. That is what you understood they were all about when you were with them. They were heavyweights, they were the real deal. You can be influenced by people, you can try to copy what they do, but heroes, guys like them they didn’t just influence me. They inspired me.”

    Inspiration. Close. Personal. Real. For Vallely It’s worth more than a million magazine pages. Worth more than can be measured in video files and board sales. Influence fades. Inspiration lasts forever.

    Kyle DuVall has been writing about skateboarding almost as long as he has been skateboarding.

  • 01/14

    The first time I saw Kristian Svitak Skate
    I was Moved by what I saw, by what I felt
    Like Rodney Mullen or Tony Hawk I realized I was
    in the presence of someone who HAD to Skate
    This wasn’t the mere exploitation of some fine tuned ability
    This was Something Deeper

    He doesn’t just do tricks
    Svitak Skates
    Or maybe another way to say it is:
    EVERYTHING that he does on his Board is a trick
    No Moment on his Board is wasted
    When Kristian pushes — It has Meaning
    He drops-in and kick turns with Purpose
    You watch him assault the streets and every inch
    of asphalt and concrete is covered with Intention
    It makes you want to Skate Harder
    It makes you want to put all of yourself Into your Skating
    That’s what the best pros do
    Inspire us

    Svitak 1989

    Kristian’s Love for Skating Shines Through
    And you realize in watching him
    that he is still the young kid that fell in Love
    with Skating and that would Never Stop
    And he hasn’t and he won’t
    Since day one he has faced his Life and his Skating
    head on with a shit eating grin
    and a defiant middle-finger
    Just the way it should be done
    Svitak is the Real Deal

    I’m truly honored to have one of my all-time favorite skaters, Kristian Svitak join me on this Journey: Street Plant!

  • Emily and Mike. Photo: Rob Wallace.

    Street Plant is a 100% Family owned and operated business. My daughter Emily and I manage and oversee all aspects of the company. Our Fingerprint is on every design and every single product passes through our hands on its way to you.

    When you support Street Plant you directly support The Vallely Family.

    We are not going through any middlemen and we are not just another brand under someone else’s umbrella, helping to sustain someone else’s overhead. We are completely Independent.

    Street Plant seeks to encapsulate my entire career and creative output from Skateboards to apparel to Music to publications. What was, what is and what will be.

    My days as a mercenary or partnering exclusively with other companies to deliver my products or having my creative output filtered by others is over. Street Plant represents my Vision, Ideas and Passion Unfiltered.

    Thank you for your continued support on this journey… The best is yet to come!

    Mike Vallely

  • The Barnyard

    By Kyle Duvall

    In 1989, World Industries released the Mike Vallely Barnyard “Double Kick” or “Double Tail” deck. It was the first professionally endorsed symmetrically shaped deck, and the first to rattle street skaters out of resigned complacency with scaled-down vert shapes. Designed by Rodney Mullen, bankrolled by Steve Rocco and ridden in a legendary video edit by Mike Vallely, the Barnyard is the universally acknowledged forerunner of the modern, elliptical “popsicle stick” shape, and one of the most important deck designs in the history of skateboarding.


    By the end of the 80’s, skateboarding was changing faster than even skaters knew it. Street skating was well into developing its own complicated vocabulary of tricks and styles and, in the parking lots of America, concepts from freestyle like shove-its, kickflips, and varial-flips were fully infiltrating the repertoire of the average skater. 180-no complies and step-off shove-its were mandatory. In the elite ranks, skaters were probing a whole new frontier of nollie variations and even basic switch skating. Despite all of this, the boards everyone was riding were still based on the curvy, square-tailed, noseless paradigm of the mid 80’s vert stick. Boards were shaped to move in one direction, and any extension to the deck that went beyond the edge of the front base plate was largely considered a waste of 7-ply maple.

    By 1989, it was obvious that skaters needed a board like the Mike Vallely Barnyard “Double Kick” model, but most were too afraid to admit it. All those flat ground varials, shove-its, and 180’s made putting a line together on a traditional board a complicated exercise in calculating what position your board would be in and when. The noses on those shaped late 80’s decks were so drastically different from the tails, skaters usually had a whole separate bag of tricks for each end of their board. Switch skating, which was just being conceived, was mostly hypothetical thanks to those stubby noses, and nollies, although pulled with some success by the likes of Andy Howell and his peers, were mostly a ground-skimming novelty. Deep down, everyone knew that a board that worked equally well going in either direction would simplify skateboarding and open up new possibilities.

    Double kick boards had been released prior to the Barnyard, most notably Vision’s “Double Vision” deck, but none were a success. Some of this was due to a lack of refinement in the designs. The first double kick shapes were basically standard concave boards with a full-length, traditionally kicked tail at both ends. A larger part of the problem was a paralyzing fear of the new, in this case the radically new. Even when the advantages of symmetrical shapes were obvious, no one seemed to be willing to be the first guy in their crew to put their foot on one, and no pro wanted to put their street cred and deck royalties on the line by slapping their name on something so radically different.

    Barnyard Kendall Park

    It took the converging talents of skating’s greatest provocateur, its most innovative intellect, and one of its most uncompromising individualists to really break the symmetrical concept to rank and file skaters. In retrospect, it seems unlikely anyone but the trio of Steve Rocco, Rodney Mullen, and Mike Vallely could have pulled it off. A product of freestyle skating, Steve Rocco was one of street skating’s earliest advocates. Although not a talent on the level of Mark Gonzales, Natas Kaupas, or Tommy Guerrero, Rocco was, nonetheless, a forerunner when it came to mutating early 80’s freestyle into modern street skating. More importantly, he was a tenacious advocate of street skating, using his company, World Industries, to satirize and provoke the vert dominated skateboard industry, which often saw street skating as nothing more than a novelty. When Rodney Mullen left Powell Peralta to ride for World Industries, the company gained a rider whose technical skills both on and off the board gave Rocco the ability to take on the establishment with weapons more powerful than name calling and satirical advertising. A gigantically influential skater with a formidable analytical mind, when it came to the future of street skating, Mullen was not so much ahead of the curve as he was the engineer of it. Seeing freestyle maneuvers, many of which he invented himself, filter into street skating, Mullen was in a unique position to both predict and shape the future. He soon realized what would ultimately serve street skaters best was a larger, more refined and rounded freestyle shape, or, as teammate Vallely described it: “a freestyle board on steroids.”


    As incredibly talented as he was, Mullen couldn’t have put the concept of the symmetrical board over on his name alone. Street skaters may have been breaking themselves off every day to make tricks Mullen had invented years before, but they still saw him solely as a freestyle skater, and pointless prejudices toward freestyle meant, ironically, many skaters saw Mullen as irrelevant to the style of skating they aspired to. In retrospect, it’s unfair and shortsighted, but the “Double Tail” design needed another standard bearer to become a success.

    Enter Mike Vallely, the perfect skater to push something radical and innovative into skateboarding’s mainstream. It wasn’t just that Vallely was one of the most popular skaters in the world in 1989, but he also had a reputation as one of skateboarding’s most outspoken and intractable personalities. Vallely had left the biggest skateboard company in the world, Powell Peralta, to ride for the fledgling World Industries, and the consensus on the street was that he had left his spot in the legendary Bones Brigade solely over artistic and creative differences. In an era when skateboarding was still nurtured by the ethos of punk rock, giving the middle finger to skateboarding’s equivalent of the “in crowd” and throwing in with the kids shooting spitballs at the back of the class established Vallely as a rider who was not only extremely talented and creative, but one who would not compromise for any amount of money. In skaters’ minds, Mike V. would never put his name on some contrived gimmick board. Vallely’s street cred was impermeable, and it would take that sort of integrity to get skeptical street rats to even consider the wildly divergent design of the Barnyard double tail board.

    Barnyard Prototype Sweden

    Initially, even Vallely took some convincing. The first time he rode the prototype, he made sure no one was around to see him skating it. He didn’t want to be seen riding it, but, true to his reputation, once he rode the shape and discovered its potential, he didn’t hesitate to get behind it. Vallely wasn’t content to simply put his name on the design and ride it the same old way either. He quickly integrated the advantages of the “Double Tail” design into his own style. This was on full display in Vallely’s legendary segment in Santa Cruz Speed Wheels’ 1989 “Speed Freaks” video. For the first time, skaters saw, in full motion, what one of the greatest street skaters in the world could do with a double-tail design. Vallely integrated varial tricks, shove-its, and nose manual variations right alongside his trademark gigantic ollies and tweaked grabs. The edit not only showcased the creative potential of a double-tailed design but also showed that a blunt, linear shape did nothing to hinder a riders ability to skate with style. At first glance double-tailed boards like the barnyard, which lacked the streamlining curves of the vert-inspired shapes of the 80’s, couldn’t help but seem clunky when compared to the sinuous sticks sitting next to them on skateshop walls. The Speed Freaks part laid that idea to rest forever. Valley’s skating was not simply innovative, it was seamlessly smooth. The segment is still a classic, endlessly re-shared by veteran skaters on social media. Beyond the skating itself, the clip’s role in showcasing the Barnyard board, a board which would help determine the future of skateboard design, was enough to solidify it as one of the most important video parts of all time.

    The Barnyard became Vallely’s biggest selling board. Shops could not keep it in stock. In the wake of its success, the industry couldn’t help but re-think certain tried and true elements of board design, and the design innovations of the Barnyard deck went beyond its double-tailed shape. Unlike its predecessors like the “Double Vision” deck, the Barnyard was more than just two tail ends of a board stuck together.

    The concave profile of the Barnyard was a radical departure from the norm. Spurred by the success of H-Street Skateboards and their deeply bent “hell concave”, deck manufacturers were locked in a sort of concave arms race in 1989. Everyone was striving for the deepest pockets, waviest rockers and steepest kicktails and noses. As technical freestyle tricks began to cross over into street skating, the deep concaves that locked a skaters’ foot in place actually became an impediment. More and more, tricks required skaters to get their feet off and back on the board within a fraction of a second. Mullen was one of the first to recognize this and, inspired by freestyle decks, he designed the Barnyard with a subtler, shallow concave and a flatter and shorter tail profile. Because of this concave, the board’s “pop” was quicker and the shorter point of contact between tail and pavement meant the board was at a shallower angle in relation to the ground when the tail hit. This meant less force was needed to boost the skater into an ollie. The quicker, less powerful pop also opened up the possibility of subtler application of force when popping the tail, allowing more control for technical tricks. The shallow kick also meant that, on the other end of the board, it was easier to make contact with the ground when using the weaker, less coordinated “front” foot to pop a nollie or a switch ollie. This innovation would turn out to be crucial in advancing both nollie and switch tricks.

    The Barnyard’s eye-catching art, which was both a stylistic departure from the deck art of the time as well as a strong personal statement for Mike Vallely, would turn out to be nearly as influential as its shape. Created by Mark Mckee, the graphic, which featured a cavalcade of cartoonish farm animals frolicking free in the eponymous barn yard, was both a reference to George Orwell’s novel Animal farm, and an expression of Vallely’s strongly held belief in vegetarianism and animal rights.

    “The original concept I had for the graphic was of a folksy looking farm setting…” recalls Vallely “Like a Warren Kimble painting. The ‘Please Don’t Eat My Friends’ concept was meant to be more serious and heartfelt than a cartoon character painting it on a barn. I was not thinking ‘Animal Farm’ at all… That was how Rocco interpreted my idea, clearly, for the better. I understand that now but at the time I felt like he was making fun of my beliefs.”

    Barnyard Top

    When the Barnyard hit skate shops, deck graphics were still dominated by the refined skulls and aggro images of Powell Peralta’s boards, the magnificently detailed, and often grotesque, works of Santa Cruz’s Jim Phillips, and the new-wavey neon artsiness of Vision’s skateboards’ graphics. The juxtaposition of the humorous, even cute cartoon animals, with a more serious subtext of animal rights, was not merely distinctive, but massively influential, becoming an early example of a style of graphic that would dominate deck art for the next decade. Graphics that combined graffiti or animation inspired imagery in depictions that collided childlike themes with dark or taboo subject matter would define 90’s skate art.

    “Mark McKee brought Rocco’s idea to life and in the end it was hard for me to argue with it.” says Vallely. “I’d never seen a board like that before. The colors, the lines — It was a departure from everything that had come before. I’d argue that the graphic had a greater effect on the future of skateboarding than the shape, but that’s just me.”

    Still, the Barnyard didn’t revolutionize skateboarding overnight. Despite the massive popularity of both the deck itself and the accompanying merchandise, there was no immediate switch to double-tailed decks. In fact, even Vallely’s own follow up to the Barnyard was not a “double-tailed” design.

    “I didn’t believe that the Barnyard was the new measuring stick. To me it was just another board. No one was thinking revolution. We were just trying to design a viable option. The Barnyard was radical and I liked that, but, as versatile and functional as it was it didn’t strike me as the new standard. I didn’t think: ‘I’ll never skate another board but the Barnyard again.’ ”

    Of course, there were a few imitators in the immediate aftermath (most notably an ill-conceived and generally unpopular Tony Hawk double-tail by Powell Peralta), but the Barnyard, like many other innovations, was just a little too ahead of its time to change everything instantly. Skaters weren’t quite ready to completely abandon stylish shapes for full functionality. Others had trouble adjusting to the new shallow concave and kicktail. Popping a Barnyard with the kind of force one applied to the hellbent tails of other boards of the time usually resulted in a low, uncontrollable ollie if not a full on bail. Some skaters made the adjustment with great success. Others didn’t have the patience. Subtler influences on board design, however, were evident immediately. Deck manufacturers and skaters started paying more attention to the nose of the board. Noses got much longer and blunter. The rail lines of boards became straighter; deep curves and money bumps began to disappear in favor of straight lines or slight angular tapers. Concaves gradually became less cavernous and tails began to flatten out.

    By 1993, these mutations had culminated in the establishment of the capsule shaped, freestyle inspired, symmetrical “popsicle stick” that has dominated skateboarding for two decades. Looking at the Barnyard now, with its fat width and blunted nose and tail, the indispensable connection to the standard shape of today seems less obvious, but a closer examination shows the important concepts are all there: The symmetrical nose and tail, the parallel lines of the rails, the restrained concave… The Barnyard wasn’t the end of the line in board design, but it showed what was not only technically possible, but economically feasible in the market.

    The extent of the Barnyard’s influence is inarguable today, but not without controversy. For many, the Barnyard’s part in creating the now standard deck shape is the first rueful step in an ongoing homogenization of skateboarding. A skate culture where every board on the skate shop wall has the same shape is a less interesting one for some, no matter how well those shapes actually work. Others see the eventual dominance of the symmetrical “popsicle” as a prime contributor to the waning popularity of vertical skateboarding. No matter what side of the argument you stand on, from a purely technical standpoint, the concepts put forth in the Vallely Barnyard “Double Tail” eventually lead to the most diversely functional and popular skateboard design the culture has ever seen. The next time you put your foot down into a nose slide, pop a nollie that goes more than an inch or two off the ground, or do anything switch, pay a bit of respect to the Barnyard, the deck that helped get your board where it is today.

    Kyle DuVall has been writing about skateboarding almost as long as he has been skateboarding.

Mike Vallely
Date Of Birth: June 29, 1970

Hometown: Edison, NJ

Current City: Long Beach, CA

Skating Since: 1984