In my world it’s not about videos or contests and never has been. I’ve flirted with both mediums as much as I’ve had to in order to sustain a professional career. But my true love, my reason for continuing to exist in this sport as a professional, is the road–touring, demonstrations, kicking it live.
From town to town, from state to state, from country to country, the opportunity to skate with and for the locals, to spread the gospel of skateboarding firsthand all over the world, is my driving inspiration, the main reason why I just won’t go away.
This is who I am. This is what I do.
The Garbage Man
Every summer hordes of companies and teams load into rented vans and hit the road, scattering debris all over the place. I look upon it as my job to be the garbage man, to clean up after these wanna bes, who, in their rush to be professional skaters, forgot to look up the word “professional” in the dictionary.
These so-called pros stumble from town to town, turning good skaters into pedestrians, or worse, Rollerbladers. I come in and see it as my duty to right the wrongs, to remind those in attendance why they started skating, what skateboarding has to offer, and just how fun and awesome it can be. When I come to town, I skate hard and long with a sense of purpose. and every demo–no matter how small or crappy the obstacles–is of the utmost importance in my book.
The Whole Package
I’ve learned through the years that the old adage is true: If you want something done right you have to do it yourself. That’s why I’m not just a touring skater when I go on the road, I’m also the driver, and I’ve driven every mile of every tour I’ve been on since 1990. In addition to that, I’m the tour manager, I handle all the expenses, checking into hotel rooms, and the per diem. I’m the roadie, making sure the van is loaded properly, that everyone’s in it, and that it’s gassed up and ready to go. I’m tour security as well–mess with my team or my van and you put your life and limb on the line.
The truth is, handling the driving and getting us from one place to another is something I truly enjoy doing, and because it’s not stressful for me, I do it without complaint. While the others sleep through the night, I go from town to town with my eyes on the road and my mind on my load.
In order to spread the gospel, the body has to pay, and mine has. Thirteen years of touring has taken a significant toll on my body. It’s a sacrifice. But it’s my belief that the more I bleed, bruise, and break, the stronger the message. I’m willing to put my body on the line to completely convince those in attendance that skateboarding is the thing to do, and I strongly feel that skateboarding’s future is worth it.
I’ve demoed with broken feet, broken ribs, broken wrists, and broken collarbones. There’s not a demo I’ve done where I didn’t get busted up or beat down in some way, and I’ve still always shown up for the next one. I’ve come to except the thrashing as a part of what I do and who I am. In fact, I’ve come to thrive on it; in my mind it’s a way of measuring my effectiveness and a tour’s success.
From where I’m standing, skateboarding is worthy of such glorification, commitment, and dedication. To me it’s a big deal and nothing to be taken lightly. I can remember being on the other side of the fence, watching the pros and dreaming of standing in their shoes. And I can remember being letdown by their prima-donna attitudes and their inability to seize the moment or rise above the conditions.In my mind, having those abilities is what make a pro a pro. And I swore to myself that if I was ever so lucky as to be in one of those vans, criss-crossing the country, I would never forget what it’s like to be sitting in front of the shop anticipating the arrival of one of my heroes, and the let down I experienced when they got there. Skateboarding is better than thatt, skateboarding deserves more than that. And maybe I live in my own dream world, but I see it as my job, my responsibility to make sure skating gets what it deserves from me … namely, a good, hard kick in the ass. – Mike Vallely