Mike Vallely and Jason Adams first started skating together nearly 15 years ago, when they both got on Black Label. They've been friends ever since, and recently Adams became the first team rider on Vallely's newly minted Elephant Brand Skateboards. Adams says his pro model should be out in a few months.
"As a pro skater, Jason embodies everything that I love and value about skateboarding: creativity and style," says Vallely, 41 (who, by the way, is planning on competing in this weekend's Tampa Pro, with a pre-qualified semifinals berth from his 1995 event win). "Jason's one of those guys that when you watch him skate it makes you want to ride. That's pro skateboarding at it's best. Through the years I've always thought that if I ever had the opportunity to really do my own brand that Jason was a skater I'd love to work with. That he is the first skater to join Elephant is a true honor for me."
Just back home in San Jose, Calif., after his first Elephant filming trip, ESPN caught up with Adams to talk about saying goodbye to previous sponsor 1031 Skateboards, staying stoked through middle age, and keeping the lights on when times are tight.
ESPN.com: What went into your decision to leave 1031 for Elephant?
Adams: For one, I didn't leave for the Elephant. Here's what went down. When I got on 1031, I was at a place where I didn't know what I wanted to do. The whole bottom fell out of my sponsorship deals. Like 95% [of them]. All the years of being "pro," I always had that nagging voice in the back of my head saying it has to end soon. So when the economy took a [dive] and my skateboard money went away, well, I was seriously considering calling it quits. At the time, I just didn't have the energy to fight for my position. Honestly, I felt I shouldn't need to, but [with] ideals and reality ... well, you know. So [1031 founder] Svitak hits me up, says I can do as much or as little as I want to. I was at a crossroads. I said cool. [Now, in the] present day, well, I decided I wanted to do more. I wanted my spot back, so to speak. I didn't feel that 1031 had the means to help me do what I wanted to do. Nothing against them whatsoever! They are awesome. They are doing it for the love and that's radical! As far as Elephant goes, I talked to Mike V. and things just clicked. Long story short: I'm fired up to skate right now.
Why does Elephant seem like a good fit for you?
Me and Mike jive when it comes to things on all different levels. I really dig his direction for his brand. There's a refreshing sense of freedom on a number of levels at the Elephant. Bottom line, I have a refreshed exciting view on things right now. Feels good. It's been a while.
You're 38, with a wife and two kids. At this point in your skate career, what's most important to you?
You know, I finally feel confident now with my place. I've done my time. What's important to me is having fun on my skateboard again. Not getting caught up with the skateboarding world. Not feeling pressure to produce. I don't consider it a career. It's just what I have always done and is going to be what I continue to do. It's ingrained so deep in me there is no other way. I tried to step away, somewhat. But no go. I need the road, I need projects, I need to be out there.
How has this so-called great recession affected you as an artist and pro skater?
Well, I have a hard time calling myself a pro skateboarder. If I can ever pay all my bills from it again, maybe I'll call it that. But like I said, it's just what I do. So yeah, I guess it's affected my livelihood tremendously! Ouch! It still stings! As an artist, it's pushed me to hustle. Not always in a good way. I've been scraping by with art stuff. That said, I do things with the intent of a price point in mind. I take jobs whenever I can get them. So the majority of the time, it's not really what I want to be doing artistically, but it's what I can do right now. And unfortunately, I don't get out on my board nearly as much as I want to. Gotta keep the lights on, ya know.