Ever see a death-defying stunt and wonder, “How did he practice that without getting killed?” By peering into the layered nature of practice through the lens of what high-level pro skateboarders do, we’ll investigate how the nuanced way in which they go about it can be the biggest determinant of success— especially at groundbreaking levels. Tuning the dynamic balance of the analytic methods by which we learn with the internal sense or feel for the whole of what we’re learning is an art, specific to the individual as well as the task. The better we tune our practice, the more practice will make perfect.
Rodney Mullen is widely considered the most influential skateboarder in the history of the skateboarding. The majority of ollie and flip tricks he invented throughout the 1980’s, including the flatground ollie, the Kickflip, the Heelflip, and the 360 flip are regularly done in modern vertical and street skateboarding.
Despite Alan Gelfand’s justifiable fame for inventing the ollie air (Gelfand’s maneuver being primarily a vert or pool oriented trick) Mullen is responsible for the invention and development of the street ollie. The ability to pop the board off of the ground and land back on the board while moving has quite likely been the most significant development in modern skateboarding. This invention alone would rank Mullen the most important skateboarder of all time.
John Rodney Mullen was born August 17, 1966 in Gainesville, Florida. Rodney began skating when he was 10 years old. His father opposed his desire to skate, but he agreed to buy Rodney’s first skateboard on January 1, 1977, on the conditions that he always wore safety pads and he quit skating if he were ever to be injured.
Rodney’s first sponsorship came through Bill Murray, owner of Inland Surf Shop. Using a Walker skateboard, Rodney entered the Boys Freestyle Contest in 1977 at Kona skatepark in Jacksonville. He placed third, but that was enough to attract the attention of skateboard manufacturer Bruce Walker. Rodney was immediately sponsored by Walker Skateboards.
For the next three years, Rodney claimed first place in every contest he entered. He went on to win nearly 30 contests, mostly in Florida. His success culminated with another win at the Oceanside Nationals in California.
After placing first at the Oasis Pro competition in San Diego, Rodney began his professional career with the Powell-Peralta Bones Brigade in 1980. Throughout the decade, Rodney Mullen invented countless skateboarding tricks, including the flat-ground ollie. Although The invention of the flat-ground ollie was arguably his most significant addition to skating. It also allowed Mullen to further innovate the sport: the Kicklip, Heelflip, and 360 Flip are just three of his most popular tricks, all of which became standard tricks for street and vert skating. He appeared in Bones Brigade Videos in ’84, ’85, ’87, and ’88. Rodney also appeared in the 1988 film Gleaming the Cube, alongside actor Christian Slater.
In 1992, alongside Steve Rocco, Rodney Mullen created World Industries. Throughout the 90’s Mullen was featured in numerous videos, including World Industries’ Rubbish Heap (’89), Plan B’s Questionable (’92), Virtual Reality (’93), and Second Hand Smoke (’95). Some recent videos include the Rodney Mullen vs. Daewon Song series, Globe Opinion, and Almost: Round Three.
In 2002, Rodney won the Transworld Reader’s Choice Award for Skater of the Year, and started up the Almost skateboarding company. In 2003, he wrote an autobiography titled “The Mutt: How to Skateboard and Not Kill Yourself.
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