Just in time to hit the road with Duane "the Master of Disaster" Peters for his Glory Bound Skatepark Tour, Mike Vallely announced July 13 he's leaving longtime sponsor Element to flow on his own. Element is based out of Irvine.
Vallely's new company By the Sword is a partnership with skater and artist Jason Filipow (Obey, Nike, Hurley). Filipow, aka JRF, previously designed the cover art and logo for Vallely's punk rock band Revolution Mother, creating custom denim jackets for the band and other projects. He also created a slew of collectible one-off, silk-screened skateboards, posters and T-shirts for the band's one night tribute to Black Flag at the 2Headed Horse in Echo Park recently.
"It was just a celebration of skateboarding and some of the creative pursuits related to that culture," JRF told OC Weekly.
JRF designed the graphics for the Los Angeles-based company's first product, the "DIY or Die" deck--fitting since Vallely is backing the venture completely on his own dime. Products to come will include more decks, apparel, screenprinted posters and 'zines, JRF said.
To launch the new company, Vallely hit Joker's Skate Shop in Huntington Beach in early July, followed by a pool session to show off By the Sword's new DIY or Die deck.
"The DIY spirit that has driven me as a skateboarder and as a professional skater hasn't always lined up through the years with the reality of who my sponsors happen to be," Vallely said in a press release about his departure from Element. "It's always been something that has weighed heavily on my mind," Vallely said. "My own independence in skateboarding has been crippled at times by the demands and whims of my sponsors. I'm just not interested in that game anymore. It's simply time for me to put my money where my mouth is and to truly do my own thing."
Never one to pussyfoot into a new venture, the New Jersey transplant also joined forces with team rider and Landshark Wheels owner Kristian Svitak and Beercity Mike of Beer City Skateboards to create a new distribution company, Regulator Distribution. The company carries 1031 Skateboards, By the Sword, Landshark, Beer City Skateboards and Records, and D.R.I. Records and merch.
Known as one of the first street skaters--he started out on Powell Peralta and graduated to become on of the original Bones Brigade members (remember searching for Animal Chin?)--Vallely outlasted many of his Thrasher contemporaries.
Vallely's Web site has a "Mike V is Everywhere" section, and for good reason. He's been a human canvas for LA Ink maven Kat Von D, landed roles in the movies The Hangover and Paul Blart: Mall Cop, and filmed his own Fuel TV reality show called Drive.An all-around athlete, he occasionally competes as a wrestler at independent events. And most notably, he made national headlines in 2009 when he was arrested after an Anaheim Ducks game with footage splattering all over YouTube:
There were no postgame curbside kickflips on public property to blame. An overzealous Ducks fan tried to snatch a hockey stick out of Vallely's eight-year-old daughter's hands, a post-game gift from Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer. There were fisticuffs, an arrest, and charges filed and dropped, all adding to Vallely's notoriety.
We can only guess that in some small way that scuffle is what led to Vallely's other recent announcement: semi-pro hockey.
A lifelong hockey fanatic and quite-good player, Vallely signed a contract in June with the Danbury Whalers, a Connecticut Federal Hockey League team, making him quite possibly the first skateboarder--or surfer for that matter--to ever go pro as well in a traditional team sport.
But should we expect anything less from a 40-year-old punk who Transworld Magazine once called "an iconoclast among icons?"
So looking back, some of his comments at the Newport Film Festival premiere for Make it Count: The Element Story, ring ironically true, particularly since JRF told us the company has been in the works for two years with the bulk of it occurring during the last six to eight months. Someone at the Q&A after the film asked Vallely how long he thought he'd keep riding, to which he answered, until he dies.
The next question could have broke this story back then. What's in his future?
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Which, technically, is true. He explained, that's what he does, and with a cocky grin he added, "because I'm good at it." Let's hope he's good at running a skate company, too, or By the Sword will take on an entirely different meaning.
"So far, the response from the skateboarding community has been incredibly positive and we are very grateful," JRF said. "It seems that our perspective on skateboarding has really resonated with people." He is in his own element.
For more information about By the Sword, visit www.bytheswordskateboards.com.