TEXT BY STUART GOMEZ
Mike Anderson comes from a radical family, surfing and skating run in the blood. His dad is a surfer; his brothers skate. He grew up in an environment that was perfectly suited for him to realize his dreams of traveling the world and skateboarding.
But it could just as easily not have happened—a youthful streak of stubbornness almost kept Anderson from making it this far. Urged by Krooked’s Van Wastell to send his footage to Deluxe for sponsorship, Mike just said, “I’m not gonna put together a sponsor-me video. Sorry.” Fortunately, Wastell was equally stubborn. He went around Anderson and put the wheels in motion himself.
Anderson’s reluctance was the result of some bad experiences dealing with industry types at an early age. A few bad seeds and he was over it. Thankfully, everyone else in Mike’s community saw his potential. Through the support of his local shop—Five Points—and his friends, Mike’s been able to use his Pro career to make a positive impact on others. His involvement with Loud Headphones has paved the way to partnering with the Let Them Hear Foundation, a group that provides cochlear implants for the deaf in poverty-stricken regions of the world. Being able affect someone’s life through skateboarding is a proud achievement for Anderson.
Frequent trips with Converse (hitting every continent except Antarctica over the years) have kept Anderson away from home half the year, and this month’s deadline for the upcoming Krooked video has likewise been keeping him busy. When he does get a chance to spend some time at home he will be with his family, including his six-year-old daughter and a menagerie of pets and farm animals, and this month, he’ll also be able to enjoy his new concrete backyard park (he tore down his old mini ramp recently and started pouring the concrete himself.) After a thousand rough concept sketches, Anderson eventually decided on a simple design that gives him room to push. The open layout allows space for radness to turn into chaos. After six years as a Pro, Anderson has managed to carve out a paradise for himself—with room to grow.
What are you working on these days?
Krooked video. The deadline is in October so we’re gonna go to New York and meet up with Mark Gonzales and film stuff. That should hopefully tie up the whole project.
Where have you filmed so far?
Converse has been really awesome and is letting me save a lot of footage from the trips I’ve been on. So my footage from Converse trips has been all over the world. It’s been insane! In the past year we’ve gone everywhere. I’ve gotten to save clips throughout those trips. And we went on a Krooked Barcelona trip and whatever other side missions I’ve rigged. It’s been good!
How do you decide which clips to save?
It’s just those ones. You just know! There are those things where I’m like, “I want this for me.” And they’re cool—they let me do that. And even if they’re not as good as some of the other tricks, just to me, I need that one.
How did you first get involved with Krooked?
Van Wastell. I was skating with him a lot and it was crazy that he took me under his wing because I fuckin’ worshiped him. He lived close to us and he would come around every now and then. We would trip out about how epic that dude was at skating! We became friends and he introduced me to a lot of people.
One day we were driving and he asked me, “Would you be down to get flow from Krooked?” I said, “Well, I buy their fuckin’ boards so yeah. Sure!” He told me to get my footage together and send it up to Deluxe. I’m like, “I’m not gonna fuckin’ do that.” Because I already did the sponsor-me thing as a kid—I rode for some weird little things through the years and I was done with that. I gave up on all that. I was like, “I’m not gonna put together a sponsor video. Sorry.”
So he contacted my buddy Benny and he got all my footage and he sent it up to him. I got a call from Deluxe and it was cool.
Did you not want to pursue sponsorship because you just wanted to skate…
Yeah, I had given up on the dream. I was over it. I was hooked up and dealt with certain people, and I thought that this was how the skateboard industry worked. I was like, “If this is how the industry is then I don’t want anything to do with it.” It’s fuckin’ wack. I had no idea that there was so much epic in the skateboard industry—I had just encountered a few bad seeds that just made me feel over it.
So how did you adjust from making up your mind about the industry to “I guess I have a board sponsor”?
Everything started happening at the same time. Tony Evjenth saw me skating a park in South Pasadena and he started giving me Matix clothes, then my buddy sent my footage to Scuba Steve without even telling me and he got me flowed from éS. All of a sudden, rad people were around me and everything started happening.
Krooked was filming the Naughty video in New York. I was just a flow kid but Van bugged them until Mark Gonzales’s assistant bought me a ticket. I wasn’t even gonna be in the video but Mark muscled me in! And I just showed up in the video.
How did Five Points Skateshop fit into all this?
They were my second house growing up; it’s where I bought my first skateboard. Dave and everyone there have always been family. What was cool was when I’d go to the shop it wouldn’t be the new videos that were playing—it would be Video Days or they would be like, “Have you seen this Planet Earth video?” All of those classic videos, like Savannah Slamma! All these rad old videos. Dave was like, “You haven’t seen this? Oh, you have to watch it!” He introduced me to so much rad skateboarding. It opened my eyes to a lot of skateboarders and skateboarding that I otherwise wouldn’t have seen.
That’s a really good example of the role that a shop should play.
If it’s a good skate shop and there are good dudes working there, that’s the idea. A good skate shop is there to sell skateboards and support the brands we like, but also to do something positive for the youth and the skateboard community. If a kid only listens to what the internet tells him or what his friends tell him he’s gonna get trapped. It’s hard to branch out.
Now kids have YouTube. If, in an interview, your favorite Pro skateboarder says Julien Stranger, you can just type in “Julien Stranger” and that’s pretty cool. But for me growing up, I just had VHS!
What were some other classic videos you watched at Five Points?
When I saw Video Days, that really changed my perception. That video had more of an impact on me—it had an impact like the first time I saw Thrill Of It All! The way you’re like, “Oh, you can do it like that!” Gonzales and Guy and Jason Lee… everyone’s approach was so pure and rad. And when Mark is carving around like he’s surfing. That video had a huge impact and I watched it ten years after it came out.
I saw TOIA and [Toy Machine’s] Jump Off A Building when I was a kid—I love Chris Senn’s skating. Video Days gave me that same little kid feeling of “Ohhh… that’s possible!” Obviously, ten to fifteen years later the impact it had on me was like I was a little kid again! I watched TOIA when I was seven and I was like, “Oh my god! What the fuck?” It’s the kind of skateboarding I can really appreciate.
Tailslide to noseblunt slide. Detroit, Michigan.
Tell me about your brother, Jake. He is quite a character.
We grew up skating together and then I became a teenager and wanted to do it on my own. He always skateboarded because of me and my older brother so there’s tons old photos of him in his diaper and his diaper smeared on the griptape. But when I became a teenager, years later, I could see that he really wanted to push himself. I got him flowed by Krooked—and everyone I was flowed by—for years. But when I saw that he could do it on his own, that he wasn’t just my little brother and that he was gonna be awesome, I just put my hands up and said, “You’re gonna create your own fuckin’ career.” And he’s done it. It’s epic.
People come up to me and say, “Oh, you’re Jake’s little brother?” “Fuck you, man!” But I’m proud of him.
Do you still have the miniramp?
I actually just tore it apart and I’m getting ready to pour concrete in less than two weeks. Converse has really helped out a lot but also my friends have really helped. My buddy Josh Matlock builds Grindline Parks sometimes and so he’s gonna come out with a few other Grindline guys and they’re gonna do the finished concrete. But I’ve done all of the pouring on my own so far.
What was your process for planning the layout?
I sketched like a thousand different things! And I really ended up going with the most simple of all my sketches. What I’m doing is I’m starting really simple and I want it to be very clean and look nice. I want to see how much I can get out of that, but I’m leaving everything open on the edges. I want it to turn into chaos! Some people are gonna be let down because they think I’m gonna make some crazy thing straight out the gate. Really, I’m just pouring a slab with ramps on each end and a couple of little China Banks-type things.
I grew up a street skater. I skate the streets more than I carve bowls and stuff. So I wanna be able to push, and there’s really nowhere to just push around where I live.
It seems like you’ve been on every CONS trip over the years.
For the most part. But the team’s getting bigger so I’m not on every trip now, which is kinda nice! [laughs] I’m home a little bit more now, but I know that some day I’ll miss every ounce of traveling. It is awesome, it really is.
Last year, we did a couple of really gnarly demo tours. We did a lot North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. And we’re to Australia in a month or so. I’ve been to Australia a couple of times with Converse. We just did Israel; and there’ve been a lot of random trips.
How much time do you spend on the road every year?
Last year it was half of the year. I enjoy it, but the only time I’m bummed is ‘cause I have a family and I have all the animals—goats and chicken and dogs—and nothing beats home. Home is the best place. That’s the only thing that’s a drawback: just missing home. But really, traveling is epic. It’s a dream! I dreamed it as a kid but the reality was that it wouldn’t happen. But it did. It’s happening.
And it sounds like you’re setting up a little paradise for yourself when you come back, too.
I’m trying to! That’s the idea: to hopefully have a little zone to skate and get a couple more years out of this.
You’ve been Pro for six years now. You’ve traveled the world and started a family. What’s been your proudest moment?
I’m part-owner of Loud Headphones and honestly, the coolest thing for me has been the work we’ve done with the Let Them Hear Foundation. They travel around the world in predominantly impoverished areas and they give poverty-stricken areas cochlear implants. These implants let people hear for the first time in their lives, or let’s them hear again. It’s a little device that they put in the cochlea.
We work with them and we went on a trip to Costa Rica last year. We met the families that were part of it and we actually sat in two surgeries and watched as to kids—Jose David and Sebastian—one was three and one was fourteen. We interacted with them when they were deaf and we were there for “activation day.” We got to see them hear for the first time and hear again.
How did that affect you as you watched the transformation?
It was insane. We didn’t pay for the whole operation but for every headphone sold we donate a dollar to the foundation. Just knowing that we were able to help with that through skateboarding, and that through our friends we did something to be a part of that, that was the moment when I was like, “Fuck yeah!” I will look back and be proud. That’s fuckin’ sick. Now I just want to do another one of those trips.
Hearing is everything—music, family, friends, laughter, animals—it’s everything.
Or just the sounds of skateboarding!
Yeah, a frontside grind or a tail scrape on a sewer cap. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about that. I notice little things and sounds all the time and I think: Fuck, we’re lucky.
Then again, there are people who are proud to be deaf. They’re born that way and they don’t want to change. Everyone’s got to do what they go to do.