Revolution Mother At The Catalyst
December 15th, 2014
Revolution Mother At Saint Rocke
December 13th, 2014
The Evel Knievel Factor
December 3rd, 2014
By Kyle Duvall
In our anarchic culture, it’s fitting that one of the most important figures in the evolution of skateboarding never set foot on a skateboard. Evel Knievel made a career flying through the air on motorcycles and, in one case, a rocket sled, but he became a legend by being larger than life. Mike Vallely has spent a lot of time fighting to keep Knievel’s legacy alive, and not just with the tricks he’s done on his skateboard, or even the Evel Knievel decks he’s released with his company, Elephant Brand Skateboards, but with the way he has lived his entire life.
“(Evel Knievel) didn’t just take on jumping motorcycles, he took on life. He was an outlaw, and when I say ‘outlaw‘ I mean he was a man who didn’t play by anybody’s rules… When he had it all he continued to be outlandish in his actions. His rise was just as great as his downfall, but even after things turned on him, he continued to live by his own rules,” explains Vallely. “A lot of why I skateboard, why I do what I do, it starts with Evel Knievel.”
Vallely traces it all the way back to his earliest days on a board. “In 1984, Edison, New Jersey might as well have been (Knievel’s hometown of) Butte Montana. I told my friend: ‘can you imagine jumping a skateboard off a ramp… I had no idea that that sort of stuff had already been happening… When I said it, what I was visualizing was Evel Knievel. I was telling my friend: ‘can you imagine taking the Evel Knievel approach to skateboarding?’”
“The Jackass mentality — These people credit him as an influence, but none of the stuff he gave birth to resonates the way he does. People do double back flips on motorcycles now and I don’t give two shits about that,” says Vallely. “I care about Evel Knievel… He birthed the extreme generation, he’s a superhero. What he did was so out there, so aggressive. Sure, there were people before and after him that jumped motorcycles, but who cares? They’re not Evel Knievel.”
A lot of that iconic impact has to do with when Knievel emerged on the American scene. It was the late 1960’s, a time when the country was deeply divided over civil rights, the Vietnam War, and a general shift in the attitudes of a new generation. “People were polarized, society felt like it was crumbling and here comes some guy wearing red white and blue and taking on all challengers and jumping his motorcycle, and, for whatever reason, that just kind of captured the nation and made everyone feel good about themselves.”
Knievel made a lot of money off his stunts. He claimed that he made $20 million from his unsuccessful Snake River Canyon jump alone, but he was also constantly crafting a persona that that was equal parts old fashioned American determination, and rowdy, uncompromising individualism. Knievel was just as famous for his crashes as his successes. Talk show legend Johnny Carson once referred to him as “The only man in history to get wealthy by trying to kill himself,” but Knievel never seemed apologetic for not making a jump, and every time the world was sure he had “learned his lesson” and that he was done jumping for good (as in the aftermath of his devastating failed leap over the fountains at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas) he would always come back and do something completely insane. Calling himself “The Last Gladiator” might have been grandiose, but he backed it up. If the fans were in the seats, he would take his jump, even when he knew the state of the ramp or his bike meant he probably wasn’t going to make it. He faced down death in tire-squealing pieces of performance art. In Knievel’s jumps, the idea of acting on your words was taken to theatrical extremes. Even in the malaise of the late 70’s and the self absorption of the early 1980’s, that persona captivated adults and kids, kids like the young Vallely.
“For me the daredevil aspect is not the thing I value most about skateboarding,” Explains Vallely, “In some ways, I don’t value it at all. I desired something deeper for myself and my skating, something more artistic, creative. So although, Evel Knievel did influence my skating in some ways, he more so influenced my character… It was his overall message of falling down and getting up. It was the ‘never give up’ attitude that really translated to skateboarding for me.”
Although his motivations have always been internal; the need for expression, the drive to creativity; without Knievel’s influence, Vallely might have never pushed his boundaries to a place where he could fully express himself. “The Daredevil aspect did help me conquer obstacles faster than my peers. That allowed me to get deeper into formulating my own ideas about skating. His influence has enabled me to accomplish the things I have accomplished.”
Every aspect of Vallely’s body of work, from his repertoire of tricks, to his interactions with the industry, have been characterized by his need for personal fulfillment. At the same time, anyone who’s seen Vallely at a demo can attest that there are few skaters in the history of the culture who work harder to put on a show for a crowd of fans. “I’ve skated with the best skaters in the world since 1986… When it comes to the demo environment, I’ve never met anyone who, like me, sees the demo as their element,” says Vallely. “It’s where I’ve made my career… Live, in person at the skatepark or the parking lot, that is how I’ve thrived and maintained a professional career. I don’t know that pro-skateboarding was ever built on the demo, the demo was always an extension of something else: contests, videos, the mags… My story is unique. I have used the demo to build my career, not to enhance the career. That is the environment where I’ve built my name, where my character has shown.”
So what reconciles that steadfast internal drive with the unwavering determination to put on a good show, whether its for a crowd of 5 or 5000? Vallely connects it to the Evel Knievel factor, and when he talks about it, he sounds a lot like Knievel himself.
“If you can’t actualize what you are about then who are you? When it comes to a demo or performance, you go as hard as possible and put it all on the line, at the end that makes the handshakes and the dialogue more meaningful. The audience sees someone who challenged everything in front of them and had the courage to take it on. You can talk, but unless you live it, it lacks depth.”
You don’t have to wear a red white and blue jump suit or ride a motorcycle to be inspired by the legacy of history’s greatest daredevil. Mike Vallely is living proof. Knievel’s entire life was an epic performance. There were the triumphs of fame and glory, and the tragedy of his later life, when settlements stemming from his assault on a biographer left him bankrupt and shunned, but a message of self determination and living a life un-compromised echo through the whole show. That’s what Mike Vallely has been given by the “Last Gladiator.” He’s seen his own fame rise and fall, seen business ventures live and die, and whether its switching skate companies, or making music, his personal choices have often been controversial. As Vallely continues to navigate his place in skate culture, the industry, and even film and music, Knievel’s lessons are always close by.
“What resonates the most about Evel Knievel is the message that you can fall many times in life but you’re never a failure if you keep trying to get up. That’s him in a nutshell.”
That’s not a legacy any skateboarder, or any human being for that matter, should ignore.
Pushing Forward: Chapter Two
December 3rd, 2014
Mike V is interviewed and featured in Chapter Two of Red Bull Skateboarding’s Pushing Forward…
Barnyard Hoodie and Ducks T-Shirt
November 7th, 2014
Now available from Street Plant…
Ships worldwide! Order here!
The Dream (1996)
November 1st, 2014
I wrote “The Dream” in 1996.
It was my call to arms, my mission statement for the skateboard industry
I took to the road throughout 1996 and 1997 and shared these words with
No doubt the skateboard landscape was changing at that time and I
At that time there were, as there always has been, opposing forces trying to steer skateboarding in opposite directions. I saw value then and I see value now in both directions, both ideologies.
It was my dream back in 1996 that skateboarding would be as meaningful to the next generation of skaters as it was to me when I first started out —
— Mike V
I have a dream.
It’s been a long road and a hard ride that’s found me here tonight
I have a dream.
I have a dream and it won’t let me sleep at night.
I have a dream.
I have a dream.
I have a dream.
In my dream, the skateboard industry is comprised of
In my dream, young people and their needs and their issues
In my dream skateboarding is a vehicle to broaden one’s scope,
In my dream the words: Skate And Create
In my dream I hear laughter and shouts of joy
In my dream skateboarding brings people together and keeps them that way.
In my dream there’s a public built skatepark in every town —
In my dream individuality is golden and celebrated
In my dream there is no quest for Olympic Gold
In my dream I see you standing there with your skateboard at your feet.
I believe in skateboarding.
I have a dream.
October 29th, 2014
In May of 2011, after having not skated for six months while healing up from a broken arm, I participated in the GORUCK Challenge, a serious test of physical and mental toughness lead by current and former Special Operations members. I wasn’t ready to skate quite yet, but I did feel the need to challenge myself in some real way. So, I bought a GORUCK Rucksack, loaded it full of bricks and joined Class 037 in Las Vegas for some 10 hours and 20 miles of Good Livin’.
Yes, it was physically and mentally demanding, but the real take away was a deeper understanding of how individuals, working as a team can accomplish so much more together — And a really nice rucksack.
In September of 2011, I joined some 50 other GORUCKER’s for the inaugural GORUCK Ascent in Colorado, where over a few days we trekked a bunch of 14-ers together. It was a really great time, completely off the grid.
If you’re looking to buy a bag, and you want the best and are willing to pay for it and support a company that builds their products in the USA and guarantees them for life… Checkout GORUCK.
Fistfight Volume 1: The CKY3 Fight
October 3rd, 2014
The story behind the story…
18 Page Booklet
Mike Vallely is a legend of skateboarding, a musician, and an actor. Daniele Bolelli is a university professor, a writer and the host of the Drunken Taoist Podcast. Despite the differences in their backgrounds, they teamed up here because they both approach life with reckless passion and to tell a story grounded in just that — High voltage passion.
On the surface, the story written here revolves around the infamous fight that turned Mike into the star of one of the very first viral videos. Ever since that day, Mike has been asked about what really happened in the fight, why it took place, etc. And for the first time, all those questions are answered here. But this is little more than an excuse for a much deeper tale — A tale of willpower breaking down all the doors that were being slammed shut in Mike’s face, of triumph over what doctors considered a career-ending injury, and of unyielding commitment to live life on one’s terms despite what everyone else is telling you. Ultimately, it is precisely the kind of tale that Nietzsche referred to when he wrote, “Of all that is written, I only love what a person has written with his blood.”
Purchase by clicking here!
About Daniele Bolelli:
Daniele Bolelli is a writer, martial artist, university professor and podcaster. He was born in Italy and currently lives in Los Angeles.
@dbolleli on Twitter
New Shirt From Violent Gentlemen
September 25th, 2014
Mike V and Violent Gentlemen have collaborated once again. This time creating a design to commemorate Mike’s beginnings in his home state of New Jersey, where he started skateboarding in 1984.
The shirt is available for purchase by clicking here!
Mike V Places 8th at DEW Tour / Brooklyn, NY
September 23rd, 2014
Mike V had a great weekend in Brooklyn, NY placing 8th out of 15 competitors at the DEW Tour Streetstyle event. Mike entered the event 26 years older than the events youngest competitor, and 14 years older than the next oldest competitor in the top ten. Not only does Mike V’s skating defy convention, it defies age. A crowd favorite from the youngest hardcore skater in attendance, to the oldest casual fan, Mike V continues to be a skater of and for the people.
Mike V’s 8th Place run:
Mike’s 360º Boneless over the car from his 3rd run. Photo: Jen Dessinger