We met with Mikey on a warm summer day at his studio in Montauk, which is perched on top of the garage of an old family friend. The space is small but thoughtfully arranged, flooded with natural light and surrounded by a deck overlooking a quiet garden. It feels like a treehouse in a Wes Anderson movie. By any surfer's measure, it's pretty much the ideal escape from the exhaust fumes and potholes of New York City.
On the drive up Long Island from the city, we picked out a ripe melon from a farm stand, hoping to share it with New York's most famous professional longboarder. Perhaps Mikey likes melons so much he didn't feel like sharing, or perhaps he hates melons with a passion so intense he found the idea disturbing. Either way, the melon sat untouched on the table throughout our interview and was never mentioned again. We've been meaning to bring it up, but frankly we're too embarrassed...
As the three of us basked in glorious late-summer sunshine on the deck, we asked for the run down on Mikey's career to date.
Starting right from before the beginning, Mikey told us: “My parents met surfing Gilgo around 1970 and from there they got married. My dad was a very, very good surfer. He surfed in the East Coast surfing championships and the US Championships in Malibu in the 70s. He went on to become a commercial clammer. He was a bayman on the Great South Bay for twenty years before all the clams went away! So surfing was in my blood before I was even born.”
“I started surfing when I was twelve, kind of late in life, because my dad had tried to start me surfing very early and terrified me, scared me for seven years when I didn't want to go near the ocean! But we grew up on the beach - my dad was a fisherman so I was always around the water and on boats. It was actually more my mum that got me into surfing. She never really bugged me about it. I would just go hang out on the beach all day with her during the summer. Eventually I would grab the surfboard out of her garage instead of my boogie board. I took to it really fast. I did my first ESA contest when I was thirteen. I mean, I didn't do any good - I lost in my first heat!”
Julien and I were keen to learn more about the New York contest scene in the early nineties. “Doing the contests was so much fun! I couldn't go to bed at night. I was so excited. You got to hang out with all these kids you didn't get to hang out with. People like Tripoli Patterson. I was up first against Trip in my first heat and he smoked me! I could barely stand up on a surfboard. It cost about twenty five bucks to enter the contests but the scene was really hard to get into. I was fourteen when I did my first pro contest and I realized that I would never do another amateur contest again. I was like: "I just won eight hundred bucks! I'm never going to surf an ESA contest again!"
There used to be a really big pro longboard circuit on the East Coast. We moved to Florida when I was fifteen. In New York I would surf June, July, August and September, because there weren't wetsuits that fit me for the winter and even if they did fit me I was just a little kid, so way too cold! But when we moved to Florida I used to surf every day. Indialantic is the most consistent place in Florida. I did a lot of surfing in warm water, year round.
So, I stopped doing the amateur contests, but my aunt and uncle have always lived in Montauk, so I would drive up and stay with them for the entire month of September. I would drive up and I would bounce from all the contests. There was a contest in Jacksonville Florida, from there, Virginia Beach, from there, Sea Isle city in New Jersey, then the Unsound Pro which had a pro longboard division in Long Beach. And they all had money in it - it was a way to make some money surfing.
There were a couple years in a row where I think I won all of them! I would walk away with six or seven thousand dollars for the months of August and September. I also used to get paid by Shaun Thomson's company, Solitude. They paid me five hundred bucks quarterly. So that would basically pay for my gas and that was it! I had a nineteen sixty-nine El Camino. It was a full hot rod and got about six miles to the gallon...”
As idyllic as this sounded, like concerned parents we wanted to know if all this contest hopping meant Mikey was skipping school: “I graduated High School but I never went back. I finished out High School in Melbourne, Florida. I’d started school in New York, so I was a year younger than everyone and graduated aged seventeen.
I guess I won my first prize money when I was fifteen. Since then I've been a professional surfer for sixteen years.”
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