Mike Over Matter

We Have The Spots, Mike V. Has To Have The Tricks. All In Less Than 24 Hours. Straight.

Log on to mikevallely.com, and along with the greeting photo of Mike V. in an assumingly defined and intimidating stance, are the words: “Pioneer, Innovator, Legend.” Pioneer? Definitely. Innovator? Absolutely. Legend? With the “pioneer” and “innovator” monikers under his belt topped off with nearly twenty years of pro skating, I think we can all safely say Mike Vallely is a legend.The only problem is that most legends are defined as such well into their years out of the game. Without a “standard” video part in years, and mostly known for doing demos and skating a lot of transition lately, many might like to say Mike V. is “out of the game.” Hey, the guy is 35 years old, you know. All of which makes what is about to be proposed all the more ridiculous … and impossible?We’re about to take a supposed over-the-skateboarding-hill legend to as many unknown-to-him street spots in a single 24-hour period, and he’s gonna have to get as many photos as he’s physically able. But skating in the a.m.? And then the p.m.? And then the a.m. again? Will he possibly have the stamina? Or the tricks? And on a weekday when the bust factor is at its highest?As you’re soon to see, the impossible is indeed possible, and forget any “legend” bullshit, the true meaning of professional is about to be defined, because this is no ordinary “Day In The Life” of a professional skateboarder.

MIKE SAYS:I had hooked up with Seu Trinh to shoot portraits on two separate occasions. I had never gone skating with him, just shot some goofy-ass portraits. Both times he came by to shoot me Shiloh (Greathouse) was in tow. I really vibed off of Shiloh. We hit it off really well, and just talking to him made me want to skate. So that’s basically how this whole deal came to be.Shiloh and Trinh started talking about some good spots they thought I’d like up in Hollywood, and I felt so comfortable around them that I suggested we all hook up and go skating and knock all these spots out in one day. Trinh was tripping on the one-day thing, but Shiloh was into it and said it could be done easily. I was just psyched on good people to go skating with.I didn’t know what any of the spots Trinh was taking me to were. It’s not like I scouted them and planned what I was going to do at each one. I wanted this thing to be as spontaneous as possible … nothing was to be predetermined or planned out. It was just about going skating and seeing what happens.

Breakfast at Mel’s Diner On Hollywood and Highland/Seu Trinh Skate Camp, HollywoodArrive: 8:43 a.m.Leave: 10:15 a.m.

As Mike scarfs down his bacon, I can’t help but think about what his face would have looked like in that old World Industries Burger King ad instead of Jason Lee’s. A few crazy Tony Alva stories later (we’ll save those for the book), and we find ourselves at Seu Trinh Skate Camp, the home of Shiloh Greathouse. Mike’s extremely eager to skate with Shiloh all day, except Shiloh sleeps in and has “shit to do” all of a sudden. Mike is bummed about no Shiloh along for the ride in the vintage wood-paneled Wagoneer-it’s only Mike, Seu, filmer Mark Nisbet, and me.

MIKE SAYS:When Shiloh didn’t show up first thing in the morning I was bummed, not because I couldn’t skate without him or anything, I would just rather have spent the whole day with him. He gets me that psyched.

Spot Number One: Bank To Ledge, Sunset Car Wash, Frontside TailslideArrive: 10:27 a.m.Leave: 11:48 a.m.

The Gonz skated it at night and Greco took to it in the early a.m.-and for very good reason. Okay, so they were going straight down into traffic, but dodging the overabundance of Mercedes and Range Rovers driven by stuck-up, blond-haired, silicon-injected, Hollywood types ain’t easy. You got the traffic, the curb ollie, and the fact that this is the first spot of the day. And Mike refused to get loose before we got here: “I’ve been warmin’ up for twenty ars, man.”When things couldn’t possibly get more difficult, along comes a late 90s, Akransas-plated Mercury and parks in the direct runway. Out walks one female and two rather flamboyant males, one in an enjoi shirt and the other in an Element, both completely oblivious that part of their money spent on T-shirts is going into the man’s pocket across the street.

Mike makes the proper adjustments in his run-up, but all the commotion has the workers at the car wash neglecting the Beamers they should be drying off and peering over the wall and watching Mike skate instead. The owner of the car wash catches on and approaches, tries to kick us out, and I’m thinking the first spot is a no-go. Luckily Mike has a way with words: “Don’t you know how famous this place is? Ever seen your place in a magazine? Don’t worry, I’m fully insured.” A few more tries are allowed, just as long as the workers get back to the cars, and a few more tries are all that is needed, ’cause Mike rides away from the front tail almost immediately: “Sometimes you just get lucky on those rush jobs.”

MIKE SAYS:While skating the car wash banks this sick green Range Rover with black rims stops right in front of me and some blonde chick who looks a hell of a lot like Jessica Simpson (Why do I even know who she is?) is just sitting there with an empty road ahead of her, definitely checking me out. I make eye contact for a second and look quickly away when I feel the vibe. Sorry, Jessica, I’m happily married.

QUOTE OF THE SPOT:”Who is he? Is he your friend? Is he anybody? I didn’t know if you were some kind of paparazzi?”-Overzealous, nosey woman on Sunset about Mike. (Uh, yeah. I definitely am paparazzi with all these cameras I’m not holding. Chill, lady.)

MIKE’S AFTERTHOUGHTS:Getting that first trick was tough. I couldn’t get a clean hit with all the traffic. I really wanted to revert the landing but didn’t get around to it. It would have meant another half hour of dodging traffic and I was eager to get to the next spot.

VERDICT:One for one.

Spot Number Two: Bank To Curb, L.A., Frontside AirArrive: 12:39 p.m.Leave: 1:11 p.m.

Upon arrival to this rugged bank-to-curb that Rick Howard and Jason Lee have had lip-trick photos on (among others, and one that Phil E. would surely dominate if he hasn’t already), we’re greeted with a Cadillac that couldn’t possibly sit any closer to the curb up top. The convex curve of the Caddy door is nearly hanging over the bank and would make for a nice wallride if the owner’s son, a man in his mid thirties isn’t viewing from feet away. He doesn’t seem to have any qualms about the proximity of his mother’s car, even after Moms comes out and yells at us-but not ’cause Mike’s Destructos could push his 56s right through her passenger window, but because the owners across the alleyway are constantly calling the cops. Between the Caddy, the lady yelling, the Mercedes in the landing, and the cops potentially coming, Mike is still unshaken. Wish I could say the same for myself-especially with the owner of the Mercedes peering right through her steel-grated door at my back. Maybe she’s intimidated by the sheer number of us all, and all our gear? That’s what I’ll tell myself until Mike takes down this frontside air.

QUOTE OF THE SPOT:”You think you could move a bit faster?”-Mike V. to an in-the-way Trinh. Mike only has two possible directions to bail his board-at the Caddy or at Seu.

MIKE’S AFTERTHOUGHTS:I’ve skated this bank to curb one time before but mostly skated the lip. This time with the Cadillac being right on top of the lip I decided to go to the air-definitely happy with the results. The dude who lived in the house only let us keep riding because he said he’d never seen someone actually get airborne there before and he wanted to see it go down. Thank god Stricker was playing goalie with that wooden pallet or I would have f-ked up some lady’s Mercedes.

VERDICT:Two for two.

Spot Number Three: Flat BanksArrive: 1:22 p.m.Leave: 1:43 p.m.

Amazement takes over Mike as we roll up to the elevated flat bank spot that has been manhandled by Daniel Haney, SAD, Malcolm Watson, Muska, Lotti, Daewon, Haslam, Rodney, et cetera, in days past. With only two photos under his belt and not feeling a photo is probable in minimal time, Mike only has one thing to say: “Let’s get outta here-we have to get another photo before we treat ourselves to lunch.”

QUOTE OF THE SPOT:”If I had to come here for a demo, this would be fun as shit.”-Mike V.

MIKE’S AFTERTHOUGHTS:The flat banks would have been fun, but I didn’t really see a photo possibility. If we had some plywood and could have set up the hip jump like I’ve seen other guys do, I would have been all over it.

VERDICT:Two for three? If you want to be a dick, I suppose-being that he didn’t get a photo at a spot presented to him, but we’ll give the guy a break. Two for two still-no attempts at a photo here.

Spot Number Four: Convex Wall, LaBrea Ave., Frontside WallrideArrive: 1:52 p.m.Leave: 2:28 p.m.

Hmm, another spot involving a bank, huh, Seu? Doesn’t seem like we’re challenging this guy very much. Oh wait, but there is, once again, a quick curb to ollie up, even quicker than at the car wash. And where the wall meets the bank there’s a large hole, perfect for a wheel to fit into-and Mike’s does a few times, sending him smack dab into the wall. The curb, hole, and shape of the wall are the challenge, or maybe they aren’t, ’cause Mike’s got the frontside wallride within less than ten goes at it.

QUOTE OF THE SPOT:”We might keep this going all night and until the sun comes up, just so I can prove I’m better as the day goes on.”-Mike V.MIKE’S AFTERTHOUGHTS:The wallride spot was cool and was definitely a spot that I felt had more potential than what I delivered on it. The wallride was the most obvious option, and I didn’t want to settle for just a wallride. I thought the lip of the wall was potentially skateable but the run-up and the hole in the wall made things difficult. So a frontside wallride it was-the convex wall at least made it a challenge.

VERDICT:Three for three, but Mike’s Dunks are getting soft, time for some new shoes. After lunch, of course.

Lunch at Wahoo’s Fish Tacos On Wilshire BoulevardArrive: 3:01 p.m.Leave: 3:44 p.m.

Two or three years ago when skateboarding was a booming business, three skateboard magazines were housed within three blocks of Wilshire Boulevard-Big Brother, Skateboarder, and Strength. Wahoo’s was the spot the three staffs would often unexpectedly converge at and give each other long, cold stares. Nowadays, with two of the three out of biz and the one left having relocated further down south, Wilshire Boulevard is void of any skateboarding publications. It’s quite a sad thought really, but former Skateboarder Art Director Donny Miller still makes Wahoo’s his lunch spot-for today anyway.

QUOTE OF THE LUNCH:”Back in the day in Huntington Beach he’d always see me and (Ed) Templeton and say, ‘F-k that, where’s the Gonz?'”-Mike on Donny as we get in the car.

MIKE’S AFTERTHOUGHTS:Wahoo’s is always a good lunch spot-how Southern Californian of us.

Shoe Shopping: 118 Skate Shop, Hollywood BoulevardArrive: 4:11 p.m.Leave: 4:24 p.m.

Mike points out a building on San Vincente Boulevard, “I did some voiceover work for XXX in that office-it’s good to know Tony Hawk sometimes.” Yeah, it’s good to know Tony Hawk, but apparently Tony can’t get Mike shoes ’cause we’re on our way to 118 so Mike can purchase his first pair of skate shoes in years. As we walk toward the back corner wall of shoes, I notice no Chucks, no Dr. Js, no adidas Instincts, and no etnies Vallely pro models, but I’m assuming those would be out of the question anyway, given his recent departure from the company.

After debating between some Lopez Circas and some MJ Lakais, Mike picks up some Berra 4s and calls the clerk, “Gimme these in an eleven.”Knowing the indestructibility (and probable high eave: 1:43 p.m.

Amazement takes over Mike as we roll up to the elevated flat bank spot that has been manhandled by Daniel Haney, SAD, Malcolm Watson, Muska, Lotti, Daewon, Haslam, Rodney, et cetera, in days past. With only two photos under his belt and not feeling a photo is probable in minimal time, Mike only has one thing to say: “Let’s get outta here-we have to get another photo before we treat ourselves to lunch.”

QUOTE OF THE SPOT:”If I had to come here for a demo, this would be fun as shit.”-Mike V.

MIKE’S AFTERTHOUGHTS:The flat banks would have been fun, but I didn’t really see a photo possibility. If we had some plywood and could have set up the hip jump like I’ve seen other guys do, I would have been all over it.

VERDICT:Two for three? If you want to be a dick, I suppose-being that he didn’t get a photo at a spot presented to him, but we’ll give the guy a break. Two for two still-no attempts at a photo here.

Spot Number Four: Convex Wall, LaBrea Ave., Frontside WallrideArrive: 1:52 p.m.Leave: 2:28 p.m.

Hmm, another spot involving a bank, huh, Seu? Doesn’t seem like we’re challenging this guy very much. Oh wait, but there is, once again, a quick curb to ollie up, even quicker than at the car wash. And where the wall meets the bank there’s a large hole, perfect for a wheel to fit into-and Mike’s does a few times, sending him smack dab into the wall. The curb, hole, and shape of the wall are the challenge, or maybe they aren’t, ’cause Mike’s got the frontside wallride within less than ten goes at it.

QUOTE OF THE SPOT:”We might keep this going all night and until the sun comes up, just so I can prove I’m better as the day goes on.”-Mike V.MIKE’S AFTERTHOUGHTS:The wallride spot was cool and was definitely a spot that I felt had more potential than what I delivered on it. The wallride was the most obvious option, and I didn’t want to settle for just a wallride. I thought the lip of the wall was potentially skateable but the run-up and the hole in the wall made things difficult. So a frontside wallride it was-the convex wall at least made it a challenge.

VERDICT:Three for three, but Mike’s Dunks are getting soft, time for some new shoes. After lunch, of course.

Lunch at Wahoo’s Fish Tacos On Wilshire BoulevardArrive: 3:01 p.m.Leave: 3:44 p.m.

Two or three years ago when skateboarding was a booming business, three skateboard magazines were housed within three blocks of Wilshire Boulevard-Big Brother, Skateboarder, and Strength. Wahoo’s was the spot the three staffs would often unexpectedly converge at and give each other long, cold stares. Nowadays, with two of the three out of biz and the one left having relocated further down south, Wilshire Boulevard is void of any skateboarding publications. It’s quite a sad thought really, but former Skateboarder Art Director Donny Miller still makes Wahoo’s his lunch spot-for today anyway.

QUOTE OF THE LUNCH:”Back in the day in Huntington Beach he’d always see me and (Ed) Templeton and say, ‘F-k that, where’s the Gonz?'”-Mike on Donny as we get in the car.

MIKE’S AFTERTHOUGHTS:Wahoo’s is always a good lunch spot-how Southern Californian of us.

Shoe Shopping: 118 Skate Shop, Hollywood BoulevardArrive: 4:11 p.m.Leave: 4:24 p.m.

Mike points out a building on San Vincente Boulevard, “I did some voiceover work for XXX in that office-it’s good to know Tony Hawk sometimes.” Yeah, it’s good to know Tony Hawk, but apparently Tony can’t get Mike shoes ’cause we’re on our way to 118 so Mike can purchase his first pair of skate shoes in years. As we walk toward the back corner wall of shoes, I notice no Chucks, no Dr. Js, no adidas Instincts, and no etnies Vallely pro models, but I’m assuming those would be out of the question anyway, given his recent departure from the company.

After debating between some Lopez Circas and some MJ Lakais, Mike picks up some Berra 4s and calls the clerk, “Gimme these in an eleven.”Knowing the indestructibility (and probable high break-in time) of the Berra 4s and that we need to get about five more photos in the coming hours, I respond, “Put those on your feet, look down at ’em, walk around in ’em, and make sure you’re still into ’em.”

“I can deal with beefy,” are his only words back to me. A healthy shop discount and we’re out the door to the next spot, and Mike’s the proud owner of his very first pair of DVSes.

MIKE SAYS:

I quit etnies in November because they basically quit on me. They changed their marketing direction, and I obviously wasn’t a part of their plans. Maybe because I don’t skate for Flip, I don’t know. What I do know is I spent nearly ten years riding for etnies and never thought I’d leave. I didn’t really have a choice, though, they basically forced me to quit. I quit knowing full well where I was going-Element Shoes. Force me to pick sides and I will. Element still believes in me, and Flip, err, etnies obviously doesn’t.

Since the Element shoe program was in its infant stages when I left etnies, I found myself wearing all different brands of shoes: Nike, adidas, Vans … I did call one company I thought I liked in hopes of getting flowed some product while I was in between sponsors, and they flat out denied me. Whatever, thanks for nothing, IPath. So for six months or so I was buying shoes-it was rather liberating, really.

QUOTE OF THE SHOP:”It’s good to work your friends into your interview-hook up Berra. Now who wants to be responsible for lacing these things?”-Mike V.

MIKE’S AFTERTHOUGHTS:Settling on the Berras was easy. It was either the Berras or the Marc Johnsons. I like Marc, but Steve and I go way back.

Spot Number Five: Bank To Chain Link Fence, Los Feliz Area, Bean PlantArrive: 4:55 p.m.Leave: 6:35 p.m.

Let’s see here … no runway, contaminated run-off in what’s left of the no runway, diminishing sunlight, mosquitoes galore, a narrow bank, and a nipple-high chain-link fence-sounds like the perfect photo op!

MIKE SAYS:I wanted to axle smash the top of the fence-it was proving difficult with the poor run-up and all of that, but I definitely would have pulled it. I decided not to continue trying when Trinh didn’t feel like the photo would do the trick justice. So instead of wasting the twilight and heading to a new spot I did several footplant-style bank tricks that I dig. The best of the bunch was the bean plant.

VERDICT:Four for four-even though he didn’t get the truck bash, new shoes are doing nothing to hinder Mike’s skating. However, spots are dwindling, darkness has set, and we don’t have a generator. Mike sets up a new board like we’re actually going to keep skating, but morale is lower than low when Jason Hernandez, the only person in close proximity with a generator, is nowhere to be found. At this point we really need to be going home, kicking our feet up, and throwing back a cold one. After all, four photos in a day ain’t bad, right?Oh wait, Colin Kennedy lives literally right across the street, and even though he’s in the middle of filming Skate More, he graciously lends us his DVS generator and lights. “Just don’t let (Tim) Gavin know,” he says. And we weren’t going to let the cat out of the bag, but now that Skate More is a success, I think it’s okay. And hey, Mike did buy a pair of DVSes today.

Spot Number Six: All-American Burger, Pole Jam Into Sunset Boulevard TrafficArrive: 9:53 p.m.Leave: 10:25 p.m.

Traffic seems to be the theme of the day, and skating out of and into cars at 10:00 in the morning was much safer than 10:00 at night-probably the craziest time on Sunset. Shiloh comes along for the ride, but no board in hand-that’s like Spicoli without his checkerboards. Guess it’s strictly a motivational thing at this point.

MIKE SAYS:Finally Shiloh is with us. We got through the day all right, but now it’s on.

QUOTE OF THE SPOT:”This is the first time I feel I’ve accomplished something all day.”-Mike V.

MIKE’S AFTERTHOUGHTS:The first pole jam I ever saw was done by Felix Arguelle