Stoked: The Rise And Fall Of Gator

Throughout the mid to late 80s Mark “Gator Rogowski was on top of the skateboard world. His style and charisma were unmatched. But as skateboarding fell off in popularity, vert was dying, and street skating took over. Having difficulty with this transitory period, Gator couldn’t adjust his skating and cope with his falling popularity. This is only the beginning of Mark’s demise.

Stoked is a chilling tale about Gator’s rise to fame, his crumble from hero to zero in less than a second, and his ultimate decision to cross the line and take the life of someone else.

Some people won’t like this film, and others will show this film to every teamrider simply as an example of what can happen in the disposable-hero department of skateboarding.

After seeing the documentary, I spoke with the film’s creator to find out why someone would want to tell the grisly tale of Mark “Gator Rogowski.

Interview With Helen Stickler

How or when did you become interested in skateboarding?

Mostly I’ve been involved in skateboarding through artist friends of mine. I grew up in Lexington, Kentucky. Being in a small town like that, anybody who did anything different--like who was into art or new wave or anything like that or skateboarding--we all just hung out together.

In college I had skater friends. I did a documentary about Shepard Fairey, who used to have a halfpipe in his art studio back in Providence, Rhode Island, and he was one of the first people to really tell me the story of Gator.

What made you decide to pursue the story and do a documentary on Gator?

Of my friends I talked to about it, nobody really knew what had happened. There were like a half-dozen different versions of the story that I kept hearing. I was really intrigued with how someone who was so successful and talented could just descend to that level to commit a crime like that.

Do you think you uncovered the real story with the documentary?

Yeah, I think I did. Another thing that attracted me to the story was that I felt like there was a lot more to it then just one guy flipping out. Cause Gator was such symbol for the 80s, and even someone who wasn’t in skateboarding could see that. Telling his story was also an opportunity to tell a larger story that more than just skateboarders could relate to and learn from. There’re so many things about it--the movie works on a lot of different levels. I felt like the story was also important because it’s about mental-health issues with young people. I think everybody knows somebody on medication or not on medication but needs medication. Back in the 80s nobody was really talking about that stuff, and here’s a perfect example of an undiagnosed manic-depressive that things went horribly wrong for. I thought that was kinda important to bring to light as well.

Were there any avenues you wanted to explore further but time or resources were limited?

I actually worked on it for six years and paid for it myself. It was a major challenge. There were a lot of things along the way that I got that were not available to me to begin with. Yeah, there’re probably a few things I could have kept doing.

Did you want to explore the mental-health issue in greater capacity?

It’s given about as much weight as the family situation is. I just wanted to show all the factors of it (Gator’s demise). I didn’t want it to be like the poster boy for mental health. The other thing, too, was I couldn’t really find any of his doctors or anybody. Since he was diagnosed post-arrest, he’s not someone who really benefited from adequate care.

Was there any particular message you were trying to get across to the audience?

No. I just wanted to put it all out there. I think the film is really objective. From the get-go I was like, “I’m not here to have a preformed point of view. I wanted to present as much informaation I could and then let the viewer decide. I feel like it’s a good launching point for dialogue. The feedback I’ve gotten is that people leave the movie with their friends and they talk about it for hours. I think that’s good. I didn’t want it to just have it be a message movie or just an entertainment movie. I think a good documentary should be good enough to engage conversation and should enlighten you as well--ultimately leaving things open. It should be a process of discovery for everybody who sees it.

The movie is playing at select theaters nationally and will be available on DVD in February 2004. For more information, go to