Rodney Mullen Hometown
Alachua County, Florida
By Sean Mortimer
If you look closely at Rodney’s recent coverage—the typical gnar tech we’ve come to expect from The Mutt—you might notice that the majority has been goofy footed. He’s spent the last two years in semi-seclusion figuring out how to erase his stance. (Not switch—we’re talking NO favored stance.) But The Mutt broke away from his intense regimen to talk with us about his memories of driving tractors and skating with the cows.
When I was 10 and started skating, I lived in Gainesville, Florida in a typical suburban neighborhood. Maybe three other people skated there. This was the surf days of skating, around ’77. It was also the pre-quarterpipe era and the skaters in the neighborhood built a mini-bank and painted a wave on it. They’d wiggle through the ramp pretending they were getting tubed. There were hills to bomb and curbs to go off. My mom had all these potted plants so I'd steal the pots and put them on the road to practice slalom. After a year, my dad built a little ramp for me.
Rodney in 1983.
I skated there for about a year and a half and then I moved out into the country—Alachua County, Florida. Our property had hundreds of acres and we raised cattle on it. One of my daily duties was doing hay. I grew up on tractors. The skaters in my old neighborhood were the coolest people and then I moved and it was just me and the cows and the three-car garage where I skated. I was always off to my own anyway, but it was hard being stuffed into a garage. That was tough, but you're a kid—you just roll with it.
Tank was a farmhand I used to do my daily chores with. He was a great guy. He was like a mentor and I’d show him new tricks. [Rodney showed him 360s flips after he invented them.] I said, “What do you think of this new trick?” He didn’t know what to say. How does he relate to it? He was just stoked for me and had this great laugh.
I skated the garage for a few years and then they built a skatepark in the city and I went there on the weekends. Going to the park on the weekends was cool, but I spent so much time alone as a kid that I didn’t know how to interact. But everyone was always nice with me. I skated vert but I wasn’t super duper great or anything. I just did handplants, varials, fastplants, halfcab boardslides, lipslides—stuff like that. My dad was a dentist and the deal was the first time I got hurt I had to quit skating. The first big slam I had, I knocked my two front teeth out. I was goofing around on a rainy day waiting for it to dry and I whipped out. [Rodney’s father made Rodney stop skating vert but allowed him to skate flatland if he wore safety equipment.]
Photos: Seu Trinh
Not a lot of people did flatland at the park—why would you? There was a whole skatepark to ride. I was the only skateboarder out there on this rollerskating rink that went around a little lake. An alligator found its way into the lake and it’d appear sometime. I was stuck out there with the rollerskaters during the roller boogie era. It was really weird back then.
Then my dad built an open barn and poured a cement floor. It meant so much to me and he put in really nice lights because I liked to skate at night. But they didn’t level the ground so there were all these crazy dips—right when you’re setting up to do something, you'd hit a dip and whip out. It would rain and there’d be puddles everywhere.
California represented absolute freedom for me. I had very limited exposure to a lot of things because of how I grew up. [Rodney’s dad was extremely strict.] Moving out to California wasn’t a goal—it was a dream. I was so stoked to come to California for contests that when I was there, I’d tape the radio station KROQ. When I needed a boost I’d play those tapes in the barn while I skated for the memories. KROQ didn’t always play the best music, but at least I had the feeling of being somewhere else. It was my own world out there in the barn, an escape. It was dark and then you had the bright lights and you felt like you were in space.
Mortimer wrote some books with Hawk, Mullen, Daewon, Olson, Vallely, Haslam, etc.
Hawk: Occupation Skateboarder