The history of Street Plant begins in 1984. That was the year Mike Vallely saw Thrasher Magazine’s “Street Sequence” issue for the first time and began skateboarding. Under the influence of that magazine, skateboarding transformed from something Vallely fooled around with and into something he could take hold of and pursue on his own terms. Not long afterward, he saw Black Flag play for the first time, and the foundation stones were laid for an ethos of skating that would last a lifetime. It was all sealed together Christmas morning of that year, when Mike got his first skateboard: A Sim’s Jeff Phillips “Breakout” w/ Gullwing Trucks and Kryptonics Wheels. Naturally, Vallely decorated it by cutting Black Flag bars into the grip.
For Vallely, the next year is spent skating in the urban wilderness of Edison NJ and the surrounding communities. Far from the sunny California locales seen in Thrasher, Vallely has to carve out his own concept of skating, taking what he can from the mainstream and adapting it to his environment while discarding what doesn’t. With no skatepark background to influence him, he develops a ground-up approach to street skating that is virtually non-existent in the professional skating ranks.
Vallely continues to skate and develop his own style of riding, often alongside friend and mentor Rodney Smith. Vallely also clocked hours at local legend Tom Groholski’s storied ramp, and his style further develops with frequent trips to New York City and interaction with the New York City skate community.
After a family move to Virginia Beach, Virginia, home of the legendary Mount Trashmore ramp and the epicenter of a thriving southeast vert scene, Vallely’s determination to create his own identity in skating strengthens. Alienated even from other skaters in Virginia Beach, he continues to skate his own way. In June, while skating in the parking lot of Trashmore after a pro vert contest, Lance Mountain and Stacy Peralta notice Vallely’s skating. They approach Vallely with an offer to ride for Powell Peralta. Vallely accepts. A few days later the Vallely family returns to live in New Jersey. The next month, the previously unknown Jersey street rat wins the NSA Amateur Streetstyle Championships in Oceanside, California. A few days later back on the east coast, Vallely begins filming the Action East: Along The Eastern Edge video, the first video that will showcase his unique and wholly original brand of skating. In August, he is on the cover of Thrasher Magazine.
In December of that year, on a trip to California, Vallely begins skating with fellow street legends Mark Gonzales and Natas Kaupas on a regular basis. Grant Brittain’s portrait of the three skaters fooling around, as well as the photos from their sessions, have since become iconic.
Vallely continues to skate for Powell Peralta and becomes a driving force in the intense evolution in street skating that characterized the second half of the 80’s. In May, Vallely’s skating is featured in a segment of Powell Peralta’s legendary video The Search For Animal Chin. Soon afterwards, Steve Rocco contacts Vallely about joining his “Hell Tour”. Vallely drops out of school and embarks on his first, but far from last, cross-country tour. At an early stop in Toronto, Canada, Vallely turns pro at a Vert contest. He gets last place.
By June of 1987, Valley is bouncing back and forth between New Jersey and California, where he often stays with Gonzales, Natas or Rocco.
After winning a pitched battle with Powell Peralta over the board’s graphic, Vallely’s first pro model deck is released in June of 1988. Powell Peralta’s Public Domain also premieres. Vallely is featured in a full segment in the video. With footage filmed in New Jersey, New York City, and Washington DC, the skating, locales, and Vallely himself were like nothing the world of skateboarding had previously seen. Raw, spontaneous and wholly distinctive, Vallely’s Public Domain part is an instant classic with immediate impact on skaters everywhere, especially skaters living outside of the industry-saturated confines of California. Vallely’s board, with its larger nose and street-inspired shape is a hit as well. Later that year, Vallely makes a permanent move to California.
Despite his success at Powell Peralta, Vallely quickly becomes disillusioned with the company’s corporate environment. Vallely quits Powell Peralta in January to help form World Industries Skateboards with Steve Rocco, Rodney Mullen and Jesse Martinez. Almost overnight, Vallely goes from being a top pro backed by the most successful company in skateboarding to being a rider for an unproven, fledgling independent skate company with few resources. Although the move seems shocking within the industry, with many insiders viewing Vallely as a troublemaker, skaters see Vallely’s switch as the result of creative differences, and the move forever brands Vallely as a pure skater.
After releasing his first two pro models with World Industries, Rocco and fellow World skater Rodney Mullen create a “Double Tail” design for Vallely’s next model: The Barnyard. A radical departure in deck shape, the “freestyle board on steroids” features a nose and tail that are almost identical in shape and size. It also features Vallely’s vegetarian messaging and groundbreaking graphics by Mark McKee.
Soon afterward, Vallely rides the deck in the final part in Santa Cruz Speed Wheels’ Speed Freaks video. The influential segment shows skaters the versatility and potential of the new design. The board becomes a massive seller, and the video part goes on to become a classic still passed around social media today.
World Industries is still an underdog in the skate industry, but, as skateboarding changes, the tide begins to turn for companies like World. In 1990, World’s Rubbish Heap video is released. Raw and even amateurish by the slick standards of Powell Peralta’s and Santa Cruz’s popular videos, Rubbish Heap, in terms of both its look and the skating it portrays, is a glimpse of the future. Vallely’s segment, once again has him on the streets of both California and New York City skating in a distinctive, spontaneous style that separates him even from his World teammates. Later that year, Vallely has a part in Speed Wheels Risk It video. As street skating begins to develop along technical lines, Vallely’s edit is characterized by its power, taking ollie grabs to new, tweaked-out heights. That summer Vallely embarks on his first ever self-booked tour, bringing along Ed Templeton, Chris Pastras and Felix Arguelles. Ed’s freestyle inspired tricks combined with Vallely’s style and power give skaters across the country an in-person view of the Yin and Yang of street skating at the dawn of the 90’s.
Once the underdog, thanks to changes in skating and savvy marketing, World’s small, independent nature puts it in a position to dominate a newer, much smaller skateboarding market. Ruthless, clique-ish, and unyieldingly trend-driven, the atmosphere Rocco’s practices are enabling is an uneasy fit with Vallely’s principles. Inevitably, Vallely leaves World. Predictably, Rocco retaliates by placing an advertisement in Transworld Magazine, which serves as nothing more than an attempt at character assassination.
Unsteady about remaining in the world of professional skateboarding, Vallely is convinced to join New Deal skateboards by his friend, Ed Templeton. For New Deal, taking on Vallely is a concession to Templeton, and they see themselves as Vallely’s exit point for professional skateboarding. Art director Andy Howell conceives the “Mammoth” deck graphic as a not-so-subtle nod to Vallely’s origins and impending professional “extinction”. For skaters, the graphic is interpreted as something else, as a symbol of stubborn resilience.
Later that year, New Deal’s 1281 video is released. Vallely has the final part. Placed at the end of a video characterized by next-level technical skating, Vallely’s powerful, pure style doesn’t come off as an anachronism, but as a vibrant alternative. Retirement falls off the agenda.
In 1993 the nature of professional skateboarding has radically changed. The backstabbing and industry sniping that has always existed behind the scenes suddenly becomes a marketing tool. A rabid focus on trick “progression” breeds trends and gossip like wildfire. The changes do not sit well with Vallely. Unable to make it as pro, Vallely becomes Team Manager and Brand Manager for Powell Skateboards. In September he moves his family back to his parent’s home in New Jersey.
As Vallely continues his role as Team and Brand Manager for Powell, the pressure to fade into the background and become a totally “behind the scenes” figure in skateboarding increases. Vallely still resists the urge to fade away. His presence and skating on Powell’s demo tours energizes the team and Vallely’s visible association with Powell, a company he so famously quit years before, lends the brand a roots legitimacy it hasn’t had since the end of the 80’s. 1994 also sees the release of Powell’s Suburban Diners video. As the hyper-technical trends in skateboarding begin to burn out, the straightforward, soulful skating Vallely performs in his segment seems prescient of a coming revolution.
As skateboarding begins to change, Vallely Moves to Santa Barbara to work at Powell. On the East Coast, skaters like Ricky Oyola and Matt Reason come to prominence, popularizing a style of skating that looks like a direct descendant of Vallely’s skating in Public Domain and other videos. Flowing the streets is on the rise, and soon, so is Vallely’s profile as a pro skater. In April, Vallely wins the first 1st Annual Tampa Pro Street Contest at Skatepark Of Tampa, standing out in a field of pro skating’s top pros and up and comers. Soon after, Powell’s Scenic Drive video is released. Vallely’s segment, conceived as a “farewell” edit, actually fits in lock step with the newest wave of East-Coast inspired street skating. Once again, Vallely’s skating makes a strong case that his career as a pro is far from over.
Powell Skateboards releases Vallely’s “Lightning Bolt” model which comes packaged with the VHS Promo Video showcasing Vallely’s unique and powerful approach to skating. For Vallely, the release signifies the beginning of a more focused and intense approach to his skate career. With all thoughts of “fading away” set aside, Vallely’s skating becomes more aggressive. The lightning bolt, partially inspired by Elvis Presley’s famous “Taking Care Of Business” symbol, will continue to represent the brand and mindset Vallely has created for himself, and his skateboarding over the course of his career.
Skating continues to diversify. Public skateparks that meld street skating terrain with transitions explode. Vallely begins riding for Black Label, a company that will come to personify the convergence of old and new, street and transition, power and finesse, shaping skateboarding in the new century.
Bolstered by the popularity of his video games, TV appearances, and general celebrity, Tony Hawk is able to draw large crowds and media attention with his “Gigantic Skatepark Tour”. A skater who has always considered demo appearances as central to his vision of pro skating, Vallely lobbies enthusiastically for a spot on 2001’s tour. After much effort, he secures a “guest” appearance on a few tour dates. Vallely’s intensity and dedication during the appearances electrifies the audience and his fellow skaters, securing him a permanent spot on the tour. His passionate skating and visible drive make his appearances one of the tour’s highlights. A new generation of fans are quickly connected to Mike V’s vision of skateboarding.
That year, Black Label releases the Label Kills video, a film that will become a massively influential cult classic. Vallely’s segment is unique and intense, less about tricks and more about relentless forward momentum on a skateboard. Capped off by an ollie over “the pit” at Mt. Baldy, the segment is one of the most unique in the video.
In September, The “Home Team” welcomes its newest member, Lucinda (Lucy) Vallely.
In 2002 the documentary film, DRIVE: My Life In Skateboarding is released on DVD, chronicling Vallely’s career and philosophic approach to skateboarding. The release is followed by a Television Series on Fuel TV, DRIVE: Notes From The Wilderness which focuses on the unsung heroes in the global skateboard community. Through DRIVE, Vallely gives the skateboard community a greater voice and broadens the horizons of skaters everywhere. The series airs for 3 seasons and is one of Fuel TV’s most popular shows.
After years and years of treading water in an ever changing skate industry, Vallely makes an appearance at the Tampa Pro Street Contest riding his signature “Street Axe” shape, a 9.5” wide, contoured deck that blends modern function with a classic, fish tailed shape. More than twenty years after paving the way for the modern “popsicle” shape with his “Barnyard” double tail board, Vallely is once again making a bold statement with the deck beneath his feet. Initially unsure about even skating at the event, Vallely winds up putting in a memorable contest run on the Street Axe and eventually wins the Best Trick contest with a burly nose pick on a six foot tall ledge into a quarterpipe. At age 42, it is clear his skating is still connecting with fans and peers.
Finally severing all ties with board sponsors, distributors, and other financial backers, Vallely launches Street Plant, a board brand 100% funded and operated by the Vallely family. Drawing on his own legacy for inspiration, and collaborating with legendary board maker Paul Schmitt in the creation of new designs, Street Plant is Vallely’s first endeavor with absolutely no outside industry strings attached. From creating the shapes to doing sales and packing boxes, Street Plant is about the Vallely family “Home Team” and their passion for skateboarding.
That summer, Vallely enters the X-Games “Real Street” contest. Already a dark horse, the edit he submits flies in the face of the contest’s normal conventions. There is no global spot hopping, no state of the art technical skating and not a handrail in sight. Instead, it features Vallely riding the streets of his own neighborhood in Long Beach, California. Rather than a resume of clips stacked to impress judges, it feels like a slice of Vallely’s normal skating life, a vision of a skater doing what he likes to do instead of what he has to do. The clips accessibility resonates with skaters and, in a landslide, wins the “Fan Favorite” segment of the contest. Once again, even in a changing culture, Vallely’s vision of skateboarding is connecting with those who matter most: The Skaters.
In 2016 Street Plant grew stronger and deepened its roots. New boards, apparel and accessories were released and the brand expanded into wheels with the Street Scoundrel line, but, more important was the way that the Street Plant vision solidified and strengthened. The Street Plant “Open Hearted” Tours found Mike Vallely, Kristian Svitak, and new Battalion Team Rider Joey Jett bringing Street Plant directly to the ones who matter most: The skaters. From the American heartland to the isles of Japan, the Open Hearted stops were not demonstrations or performances, but a series of real encounters, a chance to exist one on one with skaters, free of agendas, face to face, handshake to handshake. More than anything else, 2016 was defined by Street Plant’s supporters around the world. The Worldwide Battalion, online and on the streets, have made Street Plant a rallying point for the values Mike, Ann, Emily and Lucy have always sought to advocate: To Love and Support each other, to Pursue our Work and Dreams with Purpose and Passion, and to Do something Good with our Lives and our Time.