Mike Vallely talks Real Street
It was a no-brainer to include the legendary Mike Vallely, who has nearly 30 years as a professional skateboarder under his belt and is credited as one of the forefathers of street skating, in our Real Street contest this year. It doesn't get much more "real street" than New Jersey's favorite son, Mike V. We caught up with Vallely, 44, to ask about his part, the helmet, his new brand Street Plant and more.
XGames.com: Throughout your career you've won your fair share of contests. Real Street is an entirely different sort of contest than skating is used to. What are your thoughts on it? What made you want to be involved? And how does it differ from other contests you've entered in the past?
Vallely: I was asked to be involved, and I took it as a great honor at this late date to be involved in something like this. I've never really valued competition as a means to an end for my skate career, but when I have competed, I have always tried to use the platform to communicate my skating and my independence in skateboarding. I think that's been the important message of my skate career and my competition career. When I have done well in competitions, it has always been on my terms. The free-form format of Real Street is conducive to my skating getting seen in its proper light. I figured it was a worthwhile pursuit, and so I said yes. But this is definitely the last competition of any kind that I participate in. Beyond this, I don't see the point. I think the video part I've created communicates that in some way, and it feels like a solid bookend to a competition and video career. I'm just stoked to have the opportunity to express that. I love the format.
What was your approach to filming this Real Street part, and how has your approach to filming changed over the years?
My approach to filming has been the same since the '80s -- out the front door and go. I've never made a head trip out of skating or documenting my skating or of trying to capture something on video that is anything other than what I do on a daily basis. My skating and my video parts communicate what I value about skateboarding. I don't think I'm any different than any other skater in that regard. Just maybe I have different values. I don't think there's a right way or wrong way about any of that. I can only do my way, and I respect all other styles and approaches.
How long did it take you to film this Real Street part?
It was filmed in several days over the course of several months. All of my best skating has been captured in that way. "Public Domain" was filmed in two or three days. "Speed Freaks" was shot in one day. For this, [director] Ted Newsome and I connected when we could, when we had free time and simply put down what felt right in the moment. Nothing was preplanned or premeditated. We just went out and moved through different environments in Long Beach, California, where I live.
Your Berrics Battle Commander part was super gnarly, and at demos, I've seen you do nearly every trick invented. What did you choose to take the more low-impact, cruising-through-the-streets approach as opposed to going "hammer time"?
I act in relation to the fire. The Berrics gave me certain options as far as lines, transitions and obstacles. I created what felt appropriate to that canvas. Demos are the same thing. It's an environment. I skate accordingly to the environment and how it speaks to me. I don't think in terms of "hammers"; I think in terms of expression. For this video, I didn't set out to purposely do something low-impact. What came out of the sessions is what came out of the sessions. It's honest in that way.
You're choosing to street skate with a helmet now. Is that ever inhibiting? I know most people aren't all that comfortable running with a helmet. Why are you opting to wear one, and do you feel it will have an impact on future street skaters?
I want to be on the right side of history. I have nothing to prove and everything to lose. Helmets are inhibiting only to aesthetics. I think having a major brain injury is more inhibiting than putting the helmet on. I've been lucky in my skating, career and life to come this far without suffering a serious head injury, and I don't see any reason to press my luck. When I started street skating in 1984, wearing a helmet was unthinkable. It didn't make any sense. But that was 31 years ago. I won't be stuck in the mud because of convention or the evaluation of others. I choose to go forward.
I was pretty stoked to see you filmed this part with our mutual friend Ted Newsome. Ted was such an integral part of skateboarding for so many years and took so many classic photos for TransWorld in the '90s. How hard was it to pull him back into skating to film your part?
I love Ted. And I feel he really captured my skating -- the essence of my skating. That's a talent in itself, and that's why skaters work with filmers and why that aspect of this competition is highlighted. Ted is a self-professed cinema hustler, so I don't think I had to pull him into anything. But really, it just felt right and made sense to both of us to do this together. I needed to work with someone who gets me and who could capture my skating properly -- to help me communicate it best. Ted did that and then some. I'm really stoked on that aspect and that connection in all of this.
You recently started a board brand with your daughter called Street Plant. What happened with Elephant? And talk about Street Plant.
Elephant had my fingerprint on it more so than any other company I'd ever been involved with previously, and that was its real strength. But it also had partners who didn't truly value that fingerprint, and so as things go in business, the whole arrangement became very convoluted with a lot of bad feelings on both sides. Since leaving Element in 2010, I have had a really tough time making a living as a pro skater and I have suffered some real financial hardships. I lost my house, my car, my belongings ... I went bankrupt. When I arrived at Elephant, I was greatly compromised financially, spiritually -- operating from a place of weakness. My partners took advantage of that injured version of myself. The company was sold out from underneath me, and I just could have nothing to do with it. I had to walk away. Luckily, my daughter Emily stepped up, slapped me around and convinced me to finally have some faith in myself as a businessman and approach my business as I've always approached my skating -- independently. It's the best thing that's ever happened to me. I've started the second half of my life, together, with my family. Emily was my real inspiration to take that leap of faith. It's amazing to know that all of the good you give to your kids will come back to you, sometimes when you need it most.
What's coming up next for you, Mike?
I am 100 percent engaged in running my company Street Plant on a daily basis; doing my podcast, The Mike V Show; working on new music with my band, Revolution Mother; and riding my skateboard when the inspiration is there!
To vote for Mike Vallely's Real Street video part, check out the X Games Real Street voting bracket.