Mike Vallely: the fearless street skating maverick

Skateboarding
Mike Vallely: one of the pioneers of street skateboarding | Photo: Red Bull

Mike Vallely was born on June 29, 1970, in Edison, New Jersey, to Art and Mary Vallely.

As a youngster, he participated in Little League Baseball until, one day, aged 14, he discovered the world of skateboarding after borrowing a board from a friend.

For the 1984 Christmas, his parents gifted him a professional Jeff Phillips signature model skateboard.

In his early riding years, he chose the streets as his main playground but soon, he was already testing his skills on steep ramps.

His favorite spots were New Jersey's Barn ramp, Tom Groholski's vert ramp, and New York's Brooklyn Banks skatepark.

Mike Vallely, December 1984: riding a Jeff Phillips Sims board with Gullwing trucks, Sims Two-Tone wheels, and the Black Flag bars logo cut into the grip tape | Photo: Vallely Archive

The Ride to the Top

In 1986, the teenager moved with his family to Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he met the local skate team, Subculture, at Kempsville High School.

Mike entered contests and developed his talent at his neighborhood's launch and quarter-pipe ramps for a short period.

His outstanding street skating skills drew the attention of Neil Blender, Stacy Peralta, and Lance Mountain during a professional vert competition held at Mount Trashmore Park.

Seeing Vallely's worn skateboard, The Bones Brigade and Powell-Peralta riders and entrepreneurs gave him a new deck and offered him an amateur sponsorship deal with their brand.

A few months later, the New Jersey skater won the amateur division at the Oceanside Street Attack in California.

The victory ignited a series of media coverage on Vallely's rise to the top.

Mike Vallely, mid-1980s: a skateboarder with a punk rock attitude | Photo: Vallely Archive

The Double-Kick Skate Design Years

In August, Mike V landed the cover of Thrasher Magazine. The shot featured Vallely performing an eye-catching sad plant.

The golden year of 1986 would not be concluded without an appearance in the legendary skate video "The Search for Animal Chin."

Also, one of his most horrendous injuries occurred during this period after hitting a curb with his face. The result was a split chin and lips, an open forehead, and an obliterated face.

Vallely had reconstructive surgery on his nose, which was broken again around a dozen times throughout his career.

On May 31, 1987, just three years after picking up skating - and punk rock music - for the first time, Vallely became a professional skater while participating in Toronto's Skate Wave vert contest.

The new year saw Mike launching his maiden Powell-Peralta skate model featuring an elephant, but in 1989, the rider left the company.

With World Industries, the regular footer releases the famous double-kick design featuring a shorter tail than the nose and a mellower kick inspired by Vision's The Double Vision Deck.

Both models contributed to the future industry standard - the popsicle skateboard.

In 1991, Mike V joined another iconic skate company - New Deal Skateboards - and experienced a failed attempt to make TV Skateboards a thriving, long-lasting brand with Ed Templeton.

Templeton eventually decided to start his own company and named it Toy Machine, and Mike Vallely returned to Powell Skateboards for four years.

In 1998, after riding for Transit Skateboards, he signed a deal with Black Label Skateboards.

In 2002, the New Jersey skater unsuccessfully tried to launch a new company - Vallely Skateboards - but the venture closed in 2003.

World Industries Barnyard: the famous double-kick design that defined the popsicle skateboard

Hockey and Fights

The next seven years were spent riding for Element Skateboards before a third short-lived business experience named By the Sword with Jason Filipow.

Later, he rode for several brands, including Iron Fist Clothing, Tork Trux, and Servant Footwear.

After leaving Powell-Peralta, Valelly founded Elephant Skateboards (2011) and Street Plant Skateboards (2015).

He is also a huge fan of hockey. In 2010, he signed a professional contract with Federal Hockey League's Danbury Whalers. But on his first game against the Brooklyn Aviators, Mike V broke his right arm.

In the 1990s and 2000s, he got a lot of media attention for getting into controversial fistfights to solve disputes.

In one of the most popular videos of the early internet days, Mike V attacks four youngsters who mocked him and his friends.

"This was just my way of letting people know that if you come after me, I will respond," he once said.

"If you can only speak the physical language, or you're someone who's threatening or being aggressive toward me, I can speak that language too, and I am going to come back at you." 

Mike Vallely, 2021: performing a wallie layback mute in Des Moines, California | Photo: Red Bull

The Punk Rock Personna

Vallely has been in punk rock bands since he joined Resistance in 1985. He was also the lead singer for Mike V & the Rats (2001-2005).

In 2003, the skateboarder was invited to sing at Black Flag's reunion gigs. Ten years later, he appeared on stage in Australia, took Ron Reyes' microphone, and told him to leave.

Vallely ended up singing the last two songs of the set. Two months later, he was officially announced as the lead singer of the California band.

In 2013, the sidewalk surfer also formed Good for You with Greg Ginn.

Besides Black Flag, he is also a fan of Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Presley.

Vallely's trademark lightning bolt is inspired by The King's "Taking Care of Business" (TCB) logo featured in Presley's jewelry.

Black Flag, 2019: Mike Vallely performs in Denver, Colorado | Photo: Creative Commons

An Animal Rights Advocate

The power skater is one of the playable characters in "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4" and "Tony Hawk's Underground" video games.

In February 2010, he announced his "Mike V: Do or Die - Skateboarding" mobile game for iPhone and iPod Touch.

In 2021, Mike Vallely was inducted into the Skateboarding Hall of Fame (SHoF).

He has a few nicknames, including "The Hot Shoe, Glue Foot." Watch him shred the streets on "Public Domain" (1988), "Black Label" (2001), and "Mike Vallely: The Professional" (2004).

Mike V married his wife Ann in 1992. The couple has two daughters - Emily (1992) and Lucy (2001) - and lives in Des Moines, Iowa.

The skater-musician is an animal rights advocate. He became vegetarian and subsequently vegan after watching a documentary on endangered African elephants when he was only 17.

How do you pronounce Mike's surname? Val-luh-lee. He has a younger sister, Amy, and an older brother, Joe.

Vallely is 5'9'' (1.79 meters) and weighs around 190 pounds (86 kilograms).

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