Rodney Mullen

At first I couldn’t figure out what he did for a living. I thought he was one of those trust-fund babies. He couldn’t have a real job; he kept odd hours and always seemed to be lurking around his own house—pretty suspicious. I’d see giant boxes of shoes—dozens at a time. And literally stacks of skateboards. “This guy’s shady,” I thought. “He’s ripping off some factory.” Nobody wants a thief next door, so I kept my eye on him. A month later, I saw him sneaking behind his own truck while these skater kids stopped in front of the house—pointing. They asked me if that was Rodney Mullen’s house next door. I shrugged and told ’em to get the hell off my property. Bunch of punks—that’s what I thought about all skaters. Since then I got to know Rod. He’s a pretty good guy, but he seems a lot more like a thief than some “famous” skater.—John Schultz, neighbor

February 1, 2004

This spot was in a sketchy neighborhood, and I hadn’t been there since I got a warning from a local Crip. One skater already got Maced, and my usual filmer wouldn’t go there anymore. But it’s my favorite place to skate. The little kids make me laugh—attitude. They don’t care what color you are. I reeled off a few old tricks. They got big-eyed and loudest on handstands and 360s. They called me Tony Hawk, and I was scared to disagree. They wouldn’t beat up Tony Hawk, would they? My number’s gonna come up sometime. I cleaned out everything of value in my car and left my wallet at home, just to be safe. I warmed up nervously, waited for Seu Trinh to show up. Completely oblivious, he rolled up in his big Mercedes and carelessly strutted my way, waving around his giant expensive camera like he’s Dirty Harry. Terrified, I made him hide under the bleachers while he shot.

February 8, 2004

I had to relearn nollie 360 flips to keep the front end down for the Primo slide. It’s easiest to do them like a switch fakie 360 flip—stand backward. A quick burst, and you’re sliding every which way, like skimboarding. The board tries to slide from under you as soon as you hear the crack of the axles. If your shoulders aren’t directly over the axles, it whips out, like a rug getting pulled from under you. Land too hard, and you stick—waste of a good flip.

I filmed my first nollie 360 flip Primos until 3:00 a.m. on that morning. I made three sketchy ones, then the battery died on the first good make—anguish. The filmer juiced the remaining few minutes out of the other spent batteries. Panic. Then it just happened—stuck the best one of the night two minutes later. All I remembered was the sound, rolling away.

Had to call Seu and beg him to come shoot it. Hopefully he was just pretending to be asleep. Some girl whined in the background, “What freak calls you in the middle … ” She sounded sleazy.

“I’m doing him a favor—he’ll thank me later … “

Actually he’ll never want to shoot me again after this, but at least we’ll get the sequence. Besides, what if I wake up tomorrow and can’t do it?

After we got it, I dreamed about sliding all night.

March 7, 2004

American Taliban were in boot camp down the street. I have no idea what these kids were blowing up, but it was enough to set off car alarms every ten minutes. I flipped into a darkslide, about to throw it off, then BOOM! I swore they must have been using dynamite. A pack of giggling pyromaniacs scattered, leaping over fences, diving under cars like crazed hyenas. I instinctively hid until I saw the rest of them regroup when the smoke cleared. The most pathetic thing was when the cops finally did come, I’d probably be the only idiot left visibly breaking the law and get a ticket.

Some motions are meant to go together for combos, and this was one of them—accidental idea. Head up and aim to land with right shoulder back heel. The fakie manual wants to run on autopilot from the spring off the darkslide. Daewon (Song) would be laugng, asking me why I wasn’t fakie 360 flipping out. I suck at fakie manuals. I wish I had his skills. Plenty more variations ahead—an open door.

* Half-Cab crooks, nollie backside-whatever. Closest thing to nollie backside heelflip out.

March 9, 2004

The spot is outside a warehouse in North Hollywood. I get flashbacks of weekends driving Guy (Mariano) and Shiloh (Greathouse) around—seems like fifteen years ago. I was amazed at their talent, their awareness. They were so far ahead. Grinning little demons—always up to something. I had the craziest tour of my life with them. We got held at gunpoint in Connecticut. After another demo, Shiloh and J. Lee struck out with two goth girls in Virginia, ended up talking to the undead all night in their haunted house. Later in Chicago, my hotel room was ransacked by a ghost. I was too scared to go back alone, so Kareem (Campbell) went in—he’s not afraid of anything. Seconds later he came scurrying out looking as pale as me. We all packed up and left in the middle of the night. Good memories. I was still freestyling it, thinking my days were over. Life as a team manager: one minute you’re pro, the next you’re passing out Gatorade, holding pom-poms, and apologizing to hotel managers. I wasn’t ready for that. Things changed.

There are no obstacles in freestyle—you just look at your board. I’d never skated obstacles, so I had no idea how to gauge distances, when to ollie, et cetera. It took months to learn to look forward, to see where I was going. The first time I skated a bench, I kept plowing into it. Kids would see me at street spots and were in awe: “That’s amazing. I didn’t know Mullen was blind. And he still made up all that stuff … ” It’s been a long, humble road.

March 10, 2004

Water Session. Pat Rocco is the best! He found the guys who make “the bridge” in Star Trek and ordered this four-foot-by-eight-foot piece of glass for us. They put a small rim around it to hold water. He built a “stretcher” for it, and we hung the glass off a loading dock into the back of the delivery truck. The tricky part was getting it exactly level, so the water wouldn’t pool at one end. By Wednesday evening, we were shooting. The Windex was an accident. The glass was actually sticky, so I poured some on it to get it slippery. All the bubbles made it look like I was floating in space. Seu was underneath, in sort of a watery plywood coffin, lying on his back on the wet floor. He wouldn’t have time to catch a cold because I was gonna kill him right there. I tried to reassure him while the whole contraption creaked and flexed above him. “Everything is gonna be fine, Seu. Don’t worry.” I did my best to keep a straight face as I poured in another 100 pounds of water. He kept making me laugh. At the end of the night, I belly-flopped across it and almost broke my nose against the rim on the other side—too much Windex. Shooting should always be this fun.

Handstand flip to nose wheelie. Don’t try this.

March 11, 2004

I almost hemorrhaged doing a rotten handstand flip nose-wheelie. An hour or so is all I could take before it felt like blood was about to spurt out of my ears. I kept going back—four times so far. It started as a game—a little hide ‘n’ seek with the supermarket manager. “Next time it’ll be the cops,” he said, waving his chubby fist. It’s getting personal. The hardest part, aside from the psycho manager, was holding the nose wheelie straight. My front foot swung down like a golf club; it hit the nose hard and made me swerve—sort of fishhook. Sometimes I’d flip late, and it would bounce off the corner of the manual pad up into my face. I should get a mouthpiece—at least a bunch of bubble gum wrapped over my two fronts. I started staring neurotically at the edge of the pad as I rolled up in the handstand, which only worsened the fishhook. I had to settle with holding my head straight down and blindly counting one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi … then flipping on the fourth count, catching a peripheral glance. Sometimes I couldn’t hold the handstand straight and missed the pad completely—pathetic. If my fans could only see me now …

Finally got the footage. I wanted to throw a party for myself. I proudly showed Seu, who watched it, bagged on the camera angle, and had me do the whole thing over again for this dumb interview.

* Backside five-0 180 fingerflip. Desk job.

March 19, 2004

Before I skate, I juice up at a Starbucks by the beach—it’s mostly yuppie clientele. I’m the awkward, badly dressed guy with the funny walk and math book who’s ordered a large coffee by the “wrong” name for five straight years—what a goofy language. One day it finally happened: they hired a skater. In the bustle of a busy Saturday morning, he stopped dead and exclaimed, “You’re Rodney Mullen! I’ve been waiting my whole … ” The pretty girls in the low-cuts and green aprons stared, bewildered: “Who, that guy?” Needless to say, I’m terrified to ruin his good image of me. I guarantee that I’m shorter than he thought. Anyway, it paid off. That incident transformed me into “that cool skater,” and sometimes I even get free coffee with a Fight Club nod.

I know, the trick could’ve been better. It’s a demo trick. It was begging to go to wheelie. But Seu was more preoccupied on lighting up the place with his colorful “gels,” so he would’ve settled for anything. We had fun skating in the office, then we raided the warehouse and snagged a bunch of old one-of-a-kind production samples. eBay awaits …

March 22, 2004

My friend Beedle gave me a number to call. It belongs to an eleven-year-old skater with brain cancer. I was nervous, not knowing what to say. His father picked up. Tentative but excited, he passed me on to Austin, his son. We talked ten minutes or so, mostly about skating. We laughed about getting hurt doing stupid stuff, then wanting to exaggerate, telling people we did it going “big.” He asked me about some pros I knew. I lied and told him Jamie Thomas was cool (just kidding, Jamie). What an amazing kid—strong, already wise. His dad got back on the phone, even more excited than his son. “Don’t you dare come to our area without calling us. You always got a place to stay in our home,” he said. Salt of the earth. The call did more for me than it did them. I skated all night—finally stuck switch backside kickflip underflips. Something just clicked.

* Nollie flip underflip. Please, notice the beam.

April 1, 2004

Hollywood Boulevard—again. I filmed seven or eight different kickflip underflip tricks for Round III. Took forever. I’m on a first-name basis with some of the homeless folk and one remarkably insightful pimp from Vegas who makes more than I do. Between the locals and the tourists groping at Janet Jackson’s star, it’s impossible to get in more than a couple of tries.

A FedEx truck pulls over, and a thick bearded man hops out, making a bee-line for me. He stops, uncomfortably close: “In 1978 I saw you compete in Florida—I’ve been watching you ever since.” We reminisced for a few minutes, and he sped off.

Geez, I’m old. I was eleven, skating with surfers, dreaming of meeting pros, and making my way to California. That year Stacy Peralta mowed me down when I got in his way while doing a handstand at Kona, then picked me up and signed my board. I was too nervous to even speak.

A couple of years later, I would be staying at his house, riding for him. I never dreamed it would turn out like that. Those days seem the most real, somehow the most tangible. All these years of running companies, notoriety, et cetera, seem peripheral—secondary at best.

Skateboarding is what matters—and the few friends I’ve made along the way. Daewon keeps pounding away, while I strive just to keep up. When you push yourself harblindly counting one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi … then flipping on the fourth count, catching a peripheral glance. Sometimes I couldn’t hold the handstand straight and missed the pad completely—pathetic. If my fans could only see me now …

Finally got the footage. I wanted to throw a party for myself. I proudly showed Seu, who watched it, bagged on the camera angle, and had me do the whole thing over again for this dumb interview.

* Backside five-0 180 fingerflip. Desk job.

March 19, 2004

Before I skate, I juice up at a Starbucks by the beach—it’s mostly yuppie clientele. I’m the awkward, badly dressed guy with the funny walk and math book who’s ordered a large coffee by the “wrong” name for five straight years—what a goofy language. One day it finally happened: they hired a skater. In the bustle of a busy Saturday morning, he stopped dead and exclaimed, “You’re Rodney Mullen! I’ve been waiting my whole … ” The pretty girls in the low-cuts and green aprons stared, bewildered: “Who, that guy?” Needless to say, I’m terrified to ruin his good image of me. I guarantee that I’m shorter than he thought. Anyway, it paid off. That incident transformed me into “that cool skater,” and sometimes I even get free coffee with a Fight Club nod.

I know, the trick could’ve been better. It’s a demo trick. It was begging to go to wheelie. But Seu was more preoccupied on lighting up the place with his colorful “gels,” so he would’ve settled for anything. We had fun skating in the office, then we raided the warehouse and snagged a bunch of old one-of-a-kind production samples. eBay awaits …

March 22, 2004

My friend Beedle gave me a number to call. It belongs to an eleven-year-old skater with brain cancer. I was nervous, not knowing what to say. His father picked up. Tentative but excited, he passed me on to Austin, his son. We talked ten minutes or so, mostly about skating. We laughed about getting hurt doing stupid stuff, then wanting to exaggerate, telling people we did it going “big.” He asked me about some pros I knew. I lied and told him Jamie Thomas was cool (just kidding, Jamie). What an amazing kid—strong, already wise. His dad got back on the phone, even more excited than his son. “Don’t you dare come to our area without calling us. You always got a place to stay in our home,” he said. Salt of the earth. The call did more for me than it did them. I skated all night—finally stuck switch backside kickflip underflips. Something just clicked.

* Nollie flip underflip. Please, notice the beam.

April 1, 2004

Hollywood Boulevard—again. I filmed seven or eight different kickflip underflip tricks for Round III. Took forever. I’m on a first-name basis with some of the homeless folk and one remarkably insightful pimp from Vegas who makes more than I do. Between the locals and the tourists groping at Janet Jackson’s star, it’s impossible to get in more than a couple of tries.

A FedEx truck pulls over, and a thick bearded man hops out, making a bee-line for me. He stops, uncomfortably close: “In 1978 I saw you compete in Florida—I’ve been watching you ever since.” We reminisced for a few minutes, and he sped off.

Geez, I’m old. I was eleven, skating with surfers, dreaming of meeting pros, and making my way to California. That year Stacy Peralta mowed me down when I got in his way while doing a handstand at Kona, then picked me up and signed my board. I was too nervous to even speak.

A couple of years later, I would be staying at his house, riding for him. I never dreamed it would turn out like that. Those days seem the most real, somehow the most tangible. All these years of running companies, notoriety, et cetera, seem peripheral—secondary at best.

Skateboarding is what matters—and the few friends I’ve made along the way. Daewon keeps pounding away, while I strive just to keep up. When you push yourself hard, things dawn on you that normally wouldn’t. In that way, I have more in common with an inner circle of these riders than with my own family.

We taped aluminum sheets to the floor and made a wall—worried the idea wouldn’t work. Seu took the first shot, then smiled—it did. Made a good nollie flip underflip pretty quickly. Final shot of the interview so I ran around doing the victory dance. Seu tinkered with the flashes, climbed back up to his perch, and said, “Ready when you are.” Heartbreak. An hour later, still falling, wondering what was wrong with the first one. Finally he hopped down and showed me. It was 2:00 a.m., and I couldn’t see the difference. “Check out the beam on the wall. The first shot didn’t have one—this one has two!” Seu always adds some magic to make you look better than you really are.

Epilogue

I was forced to give up skateboarding a few times growing up—urged to do something “better” with my time, my life. Fighting for it cost me a lot as a kid. Each sacrifice made me reassess why it meant so much, whether it was worth all the drama. I recognized early on that my skating was my freedom. Now, 27 years of it has given me more than I ever dreamed. None of it compares to that freedom I saw from the start.

I know the stuff I do doesn’t fit in. I used to try, but I couldn’t manage it. It’s much easier just being myself. Now, I kinda like not fitting in. That’s what skateboarding is made of—outsiders and individuals. I belong here.

I still get a little starstruck around select pros, but I’m content with my peripheral place in skateboarding. I’ll carry the experiences and camaraderie with the friends I’ve made in it for the rest of my life.

= hard, things dawn on you that normally wouldn’t. In that way, I have more in common with an inner circle of these riders than with my own family.

We taped aluminum sheets to the floor and made a wall—worried the idea wouldn’t work. Seu took the first shot, then smiled—it did. Made a good nollie flip underflip pretty quickly. Final shot of the interview so I ran around doing the victory dance. Seu tinkered with the flashes, climbed back up to his perch, and said, “Ready when you are.” Heartbreak. An hour later, still falling, wondering what was wrong with the first one. Finally he hopped down and showed me. It was 2:00 a.m., and I couldn’t see the difference. “Check out the beam on the wall. The first shot didn’t have one—this one has two!” Seu always adds some magic to make you look better than you really are.

Epilogue

I was forced to give up skateboarding a few times growing up—urged to do something “better” with my time, my life. Fighting for it cost me a lot as a kid. Each sacrifice made me reassess why it meant so much, whether it was worth all the drama. I recognized early on that my skating was my freedom. Now, 27 years of it has given me more than I ever dreamed. None of it compares to that freedom I saw from the start.

I know the stuff I do doesn’t fit in. I used to try, but I couldn’t manage it. It’s much easier just being myself. Now, I kinda like not fitting in. That’s what skateboarding is made of—outsiders and individuals. I belong here.

I still get a little starstruck around select pros, but I’m content with my peripheral place in skateboarding. I’ll carry the experiences and camaraderie with the friends I’ve made in it for the rest of my life.

=