The sound of passing cars blares through the speaker on my phone until I hear a voice ask, “Can you hear me?” It’s Mikey Curtis, and he’s heading up to the mountains of Santa Cruz, California, to help his friend with some work for the day. If you don’t know much about Mikey, one thing to make clear right away is that he’s one stylish, all-terrain ripper on the Santa Cruz am team. Watch him skate and you’ll definitely see where his admiration for Dennis Busenitz and Emmanuel Guzman stems from. After recently tearing his ACL just over a year ago, and dealing with countless hours of doctor-recommended rehab and physical therapy, Mikey is fresh on a comeback and says he’s feeling (and skating) just as good as he ever has.—Brian Blakely
Photos By Dave Chami
Hey, Mikey, what are you doing right now?
Right now I’m just cruising down 17th Avenue going towards Sunny Cove.
What’s on your agenda today?
A little bit of everything— fixing my car, heading up to the Santa Cruz Mountains to help my buddy with some work. Just the day-to-day responsibilities.
How long have you been riding for Santa Cruz, and how did you first get hooked up?
I started riding for Santa Cruz in 2008, and Jordan Tabayoyon was the connection. He’s the one that hooked me up just from skating the Santa Cruz skatepark. He was working for Santa Cruz, and at the time I was getting flowed through Real and Jordan offered to pay me money as an amateur, so I kind of jumped on that pretty quickly and started getting some money flowing and going on more trips. But thanks to Jordan Tabayoyon, who now runs Arbor and a few other companies!
Have you always lived up in Santa Cruz?
I’ve lived in Santa Cruz most of my life, but I’ve bounced around quite a bit. I lived in Stockton around 2001/2002. I moved and lived in Arizona for a while in this small town right outside of Sedona called Camp Verde. Sedona is amazing, but I’m born and raised in Santa Cruz.
What’s your living situation like right now?
Right now I just moved out of my house a couple of days ago, so I’m just couch surfing around. Couch surfing and skating.
“THERE WERE LITERALLY PIMPS AND HOOKERS RUNNING THIS 7-ELEVEN—IT WAS JUST PRETTY GNARLY.”
Do you work a normal job, or does skating pay the bills?
It doesn’t pay the bills, but I’m investing my time and effort to get paid again. I tore my ACL recently, so I stopped getting paid the last couple of years, but they [Santa Cruz] still take me on trips, so I’m just still stoked to be a part of the crew. I just had a little tough time there; I tore my ACL and had to get that replaced.
That’s heavy. How long were you out?
I was out for like a year, maybe a year and a half. I just didn’t really want to fuck myself up again too soon, and I was just listening to my doctor, doing all my rehab, just going by the books, you know?
Are you still sort of recovering? I know those things take a lot time.
Yeah, I went to physical therapy like every single day. I was getting to be almost like 200 pounds and thought to myself, “Okay, you’re getting a little bit too big,” so I just started skating a lot more, lost all my weight. I feel like my skating and progression hasn’t slowed down at all. I just had to take a year off and heal due to a doctor’s advice.
Well, I’m glad you’re recovering. Are you working on any video projects right now?
Yeah, we’re currently working on a Santa Cruz video and the deadline is in October. We’ve just been going on a lot of trips—Arizona, Portland, SF, LA. And other than that I’ve just been meeting up with Carson [Lee] and [Dave] Chami when they’re available.
What’s one of the craziest places that skateboarding has ever taken you?
That’s a good question. There have been a lot of crazy places. Dude, all right, in Arizona we went to—it had to have been Prescott—it was the gnarliest 7-Eleven I’ve ever been to. There were literally pimps and hookers running this 7-Eleven—it was just pretty gnarly. I’m trying to think of something better, but that was gnarly.
In your opinion, what do you think separates an amateur skater from a professional skater these days?
I feel like amateurs just have more bite. They have more fire and that’s just how it is—they’re just here to be fired up. The ams nowadays are just fucking savage. And they’re only getting gnarlier.
A lot of people think there’s this age limit where a dude is “too old” to become pro or “too old” to still be an amateur—what do you think about that philosophy?
Well, didn’t Al Partanen turn pro at like 27 or something? I feel like a team is almost like a family, you know? Some have older ams that deserve it, but there are so many other new kids coming up so much faster and quicker that it’s hard to answer that question.
Is becoming a pro skater sort of the end goal for you?
Yeah, it’s always been my goal. I’ve had some life difficulties with things like my knee and I feel like I could be there—I’ve had plenty of video parts and stuff like that, all online, but still. But yeah, in my position, I’ve always wanted to be pro for Santa Cruz.
You’re definitely an all-terrain skater—you can flip in, flip out, you can skate switch, you can skate tranny, street. Where do you draw inspiration from for your skating?
I was really into Rick Howard and Mike Carroll’s style growing up. Busenitz. Emmanuel [Guzman] because he’s just a savage and goes fast. Jason Jessee from his style of skating vert and transition. Mark Gonzales. Even just my local friends like Matt Contreras.
What else do you do for fun besides skateboarding?
Riding my bike around town is good for me, taking a scenic route or barbecuing on the beach. Hanging out with my friends. My buddy just got this sick new car, a lowrider 72’ Chevy Caprice, so on the weekends we go cruisin’. It’s a pretty dope car. He just picked me up right now, but it’s kind of loud so I had him pull over [laughs].
Who are some of your favorite ams at the moment?
All of them.
Tell me an am who you think should be pro?
More Am Issue Interviews: