15 Things You Didn’t Know About Mike Vallely
words: Adam Salo
1. It was at a Del Mar vert contest in the ’80s when Mike Vallely really got shook.
“Halfway through my run,” Vallely says, “I got pitched off the wall in a weird way.” Chris Miller was judging that afternoon, and quickly announced that an earthquake had just hit. “You gotta give the guy a rebate,” he shouted. And so Vallely became the only skater ever awarded an earthquake rebate run.
“It didn’t help,” Vallely admits. “I’ve never been able to put a good vert run together.”
2. As a young am, Vallely once tried out for a Mc-Donald’s commercial that could’ve paid $10,000.
“The director shouted, ‘Skateboarder, do your thing,’ and the other kids were all staring,” he remembers. “I could feel my face turning red. Eventually, I did a ho-ho sad plant and everybody goes nuts clapping and screaming. I walked out of the room and then started to run. I ran so far. Things were happening too fast and I had to remove myself completely.”
3. When Vallely quit Powell at a tradeshow in ’88, it was due, in part, to a T-shirt he chose to wear and one he chose not to.
“Powell was promoting Ban This, and we were all supposed to wear military-style T-shirts,” he recalls. “I rolled up with a Ramones T-shirt, and Stacey Peralta takes me outside and starts cussing me out like, ‘Why are you wearing a Ramones T-shirt?’
“I took off my tradeshow pass and threw it in his face. I told him I couldn’t do it any more and I quit. It went a lot deeper than that but that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
4. Vallely was the first pro skater to endorse a street board with a double-kick shape.
“Rocco used to talk about switchstance all the time,” Vallely says. But Rocco’s words didn’t hit home for Vallely until his next session with Mark Gonzales. “We were skating street in ’87 and I noticed Gonz’s pop wasn’t quite right. He was doing kickflips that were rolling on the ground. Then I realized he was skating switch. It really got into my head.”
Soon after, Vallely had Rodney Mullen design him a symmetrical board shape. His World Industries “Barnyard” model is Vallely’s all-time best seller.
5. In 1992, the pressures of running TV Skateboards in a floundering industry got the better of Vallely.
“We were finishing our summer tour, and I was getting sicker and sicker. I was actually crapping what looked like charcoal briquettes,” Vallely recalls. When he finally went to the hospital, he was told he was lucky he hadn’t died; he had a severe bleeding ulcer brought on by stress and had lost a huge amount of blood.
6. A die-hard hockey fanatic, Vallely played in a celebrity hockey game at the Staples Center in ’02. Jeopardy host, Alex Trebek also participated. At one point, Trebek skated over to Vallely and asked, “How much are we f**king getting paid for this?” Vallely had to remind Trebek that the event was for charity.
7. Vallely’s been listening to Black Flag since he was 14 and considers the band’s music the most important he’s ever heard. So it was quite an honor when Black Flag founder Greg Ginn called to ask him to perform as a singer in Black Flag’s reunion concert in ’03. Mike sang lead for the entire “My War” album on stage.
8. Vallely loves pretzels. He actually loves a specific brand and flavor: Bachmann’s Butter Twists. They’re only available in the Northeast, so Vallely special orders cases at a time to be shipped to his home in California.
9. A huge Bruce Springsteen fan, Vallely once waited backstage to meet The Boss at a concert. He was recognized by Springsteen’s right-hand man, Terry McGovern.
“Terry said, ‘I know you, my grandkids love you,’” he recounts. Vallely offered to bring some boards to an upcoming concert for McGovern and Springsteen’s families. They struck up a friendship and Vallely was given a special pass. The pass allows him all-access back stage to any Springsteen concert free of charge.
10. Vallely has logged serious road hours. He once drove solo from Edison, New Jersey, to Huntington Beach, California, in 43 hours without stopping to sleep or eat.
“I just had water, anger and a destination. It’s just how I am,” Vallely says.
11. Vallely was known as a longtime vegetarian and vegan through the ’90s. According to Jason Rothmeyer Vallely broke from his strict diet while on the last day of a Black Label tour in 1999. He didn’t want everyone to make a big deal about him chowing down on some meat, so he had Kristian Svitak go inside a Wendy’s and buy him two chicken sandwiches which he devoured in the van.
12. According to Ed Templeton, Vallely claims that a big wind caught him when he was a boy in New Jersey and he flew over his house. Vallely offers a different tale.
“I didn’t fly over my house,” he clarifies. “There was a wind storm. Everyone says I’m lying—but I swear to God, dude—I was 5 or 6 and the wind grabbed ahold of me and took me out over my front yard, and I flew a good 20 feet in a circle.”
13. Vallely once won $100 from Rocco (notorious for his wagers) by taking him up on a bet to eat every piece of food mentioned in a McDonald’s jingle. He ate all 35 items in one sitting.
14. The car Vallely grinds in Rubbish Heap was actually a rental paid for by him and Spike Jonze. In the video it looks like Mike is skating down the street and randomly grinds the trunk of some unsuspecting rich guy’s Crown Victoria. To this day Mike gets asked about it.
15. Vallely’s trademark lightning bolt is actually a tribute to one of his all-time idols, Elvis Presley.
“I like the ’70s Elvis,” Vallely says. “Sure he was a little overweight, but all he cared about was touring to please his fans. I really like the costume, the cape, the fact that he was putting on a show.” Vallely identifies with that showmanship. “I’ve made my career doing demos and touring like him,” Vallely says. “His motto was TCOB, taking care of business, and his s
ymbol was the lightning bolt.”