With a Relic of Skateboarding History


In the spirit of last week’s column on skateboarding comes another column on skateboarding. This past week Reader Weekly staff writer Paul Whyte brought to my attention that he had interviewed professional skateboarder Mike Vallely back in 1996 when he was just a teenager. Mike Vallely played a pretty big role in the evolution of street skating in the 1980s and 1990s and still continues to skate today. Vallely gave Whyte a little booklet titled “South River,” which was a collection of poems, songs and stories written by Vallely during 1993, 1994 and 1995. I was taken aback by the humility of a pro skateboarder doing an interview with a random kid from Wisconsin who was using it for a school project. At the time Vallely was team captain for Powell Skateboards. Also cool is the fact that Paul was able to keep the booklet intact and in possession over all these years.

Vallely was featured in “The Search For Animal Chin,” a timeless skateboarding video made by Powell Peralta in 1987. He went pro shortly afterwards. “Animal Chin” may be considered one of the most popular skateboarding videos of all time. He’s been in countless other videos and has been involved with countless other skateboard companies. His career spans 25 years and has left a serious impact on skateboarding culture. Aside from skateboarding Vallely is a musician, father and a professional wrestler. Vallely was also featured in the Tony Hawk Pro Skater video game series. The storyline in Tony Hawk Under Ground is actually based on Vallely’s skateboard career.

When typing “South River Mike Vallely” into Google we are left answerless. Vallely was born in Edison New Jersey and South River is just down the bend, it’s name probably stems from that. There are probably just a handful of these booklets in existence. It’s also important to know that Mike Vallely is known as sort of a tough guy in the skateboarding world. There’s a video of him on Youtube delivering a beat down to a group of a group of jocks by himself. He’s a big fella. However, the poems and stories within this 25 page booklet show a different side. One who loves his wife and daughter, his family and is also quite poetic. Here is an excerpt from the booklet titled “Someplace:”
In a town where young men inherit their father’s seat at the bar
And their one prized possession is a flexed muscle car
In a place where churches line the streets
And on Sunday they serve as sinner’s retreat
In a town where roads don’t go anywhere
And people drive in circle’s and don’t seem to care
In a place where children are forbidden to dream
And once a week their parents take them out for ice cream
In a town where cops referee domestic disputes
And firefighters start fires for something to do
In a place where the stars don’t shine at night
And no one’s looking anyway
In a town where you live until you die
And all the houses are for sale but nobody buys
In a place where kids start smoking in the third grade
And the only rite of passage is getting laid
In a town where the lottery jackpot grows
And nobody wins that nobody knows
In a place where generations plant but don’t sow
And children play under the refineries glow
In a town where the streets are alphabetized
And strip malls line the highway on both sides
In a place where the wind screams as it passes through
And no one hears it’s cry

Other poems in the booklet are about married life, family, Christmas, growing up in New Jersey, and living in California. Not a word is uttered about skateboarding. There’s a couple of short stories about his father who was a veteran. Vallely seemed to hold him in high regard and comes of as very traditional and conservative. It’s almost a privilege to peek back into history and see a book of emotional poetry wrote by skateboarding’s tough guy.

Skateboarding and it’s contents has a rich and evolutionary history that goes back decades. When skateboarding first came to fruition it was completely rudimentary; a two-by-four with roller-skates attached to the bottom. Those first skateboards, which were created by surfers to bring the surf to the streets sometime in the early 1950s, have transpired into a 6 billion dollar market with over 20 million riders worldwide. Mike Vallely helped pioneer skateboarding into the progressive force it is today by pushing the envelope and spearheading innovation. It was nice to be able to look at the 18 year old poetry written by one of the world’s most influential skaters.