Lizard King in Bristol
Lizard King is what your grandma sees when she thinks of a skateboarder. Hand tattoos, wild eyes, an impressive alcohol tolerance, once cleared Bob Burnquist’s huge mega ramp without any pads in the midst of a comedown. That kind of guy.
However, all of that stuff is secondary to his skating. Moving from Salt Lake City to California in 2004, he got his break on Deathwish and has since risen up to become one of modern skateboarding’s most iconic names. The fact he goes by Lizard King rather than his real name, Mike Plumb, might help with that a little, but it's his part in Baker Has a Deathwish—and every video, shop promo, and piece of tour footage he's been featured in since—that's really responsible for where he's at today.
I met up with him in Bristol during the Supra team's recent UK tour to talk about skating, painting, and Mormonism.
VICE: Let's get the most important question out the way first—is Bristol better to skate than California?
Lizard King: Dude, it's sick. Everywhere we've been to has been fucking fun. It kind of sucks skating in front of shit loads of people, but other than that it’s fun. Everyone seems to be killin' it; kids seem to be having fun.
Good to hear. So why Supra? What are the perks compared to other sponsors?
Umm, free shoes and money? [Laughs.] No, it's pretty cool. Our team is, like, full of just rock stars, so it's pretty epic. There's not many other teams on the planet like ours. I think we're kind of like the last one standing of a legendary team. I think we came together as one; we all get paid or whatever, but at the end of the day we're all homies.
We got Chad Muska, Erik Ellington, Stevie Williams… fucking Lizard King! But then our amateurs and other pros are all so well rounded and so legendary; there are so many different styles. There's still the best and the gnarliest, but then also the coolest and most stylish. Supra's more like a lifestyle than a brand.
Do you think skating still has the kind of relevance to young people as it did in, say, 2001, when Jackass was the biggest thing on TV and everyone was wearing Blind hoodies? People have the internet and online gaming now.
I think it’s bigger than it’s ever been before. All that shit's only made it so fucking accessible and way more mainstream. Everyone knows about skateboarding now; back in the day it was like you'd wait—fuck—a couple years for a video to come out, and then you'd sit at a skate shop watching it a hundred times, wishing you had a copy of it at home. Now you just type in someone’s name on the internet and you fucking own the video. It sucks. It makes skating cool in one way, but makes it suck in another, because everyone expects so much more now. Skateboarding's hard on you—mentally, physically, everything.
Lizard King for Supra
Do you think that helps motivate you, though? The fact that you can now see people from all over doing the craziest shit?
Skateboarding's so personal, though—no one person really skates like another, so I feel like there's a lot of individualism in skateboarding. You can always go to the same spot, but no one's ever going to do the same fucking thing. And even if you did the same trick as someone else, it’s never going to look the same. That’s why skateboarding is the shit.
You're saying it has a kind of inherent level of personal expression to it.
Exactly. It's like if you give two dudes a canvas and a bunch of paint and ask them to paint the same thing—it's not going to look alike. They're going to be completely different paintings; everyone has their own outlook on it.
What about the money?
At the end of the day, it’s like, you don't skate for a living for free. If they didn't pay people, no one would do it. And why should they?
What would you be doing today if you weren't skating?
Fuck. I like painting and doing weird shit, like building stuff. I used to be pretty into climbing and biking. But yeah, probably painting, dude.
What do you like to paint?
Just weird shit—whatever I can come up with. Some days it's like weird faces getting chopped up, and other days who knows.
What are your thoughts on the plans to convert London's Southbank park into a shopping plaza?
Fuck—I mean, don't close that shit. Legendary spots are legendary and they will always be. I think spots like that should always be there. You might as well turn it into a massive dildo.
Solid point. How do you unwind on tour?
Oh my god, I feel like the shenanigans always continue—one thing after the next. Fuck, as long as it keeps going, y'know?
Is that your biggest fear, the day it ends?
Yeah, I think about it all the time. I'm 29. Eventually it ends, but I hope not for a long time. The last thing I want to do is end up trying to figure out the fuck I'm good at besides skating.
You've just had a kid. How do you balance touring and skating for a living with family life?
You live like a rock star and act like a rock star, but you aren't one. At the end of the day, you're not. You don't get paid like one, and you don't live like one, but you can try. But no, I think it mellows it down, and I think it makes skating cooler; you're actually skating for something, not just yourself. I've got a kid to feed and a family to fucking take care of.
Is there added pressure?
Pressure in a good way. Like when, you know, you have to perform, but you also want to. If anything, I think I care more about skating now more than ever.
How was it growing up in Salt Lake City? I can't think of many other pros from there.
It's awesome, man! There's so much shit to do, like ride bikes, rock climb, fucking skate and snowboard. It's such an extreme-sports place. It's such an awesome place to grow up. There are so many options to try and to get good at that you're probably going to be good at something.
Did you ever consider converting to Mormonism?
No. Hell no. I got family that are Mormon; they're fucking lame.
OK, let's have a few quick-fire questions to finish off. Any rituals before a comp or a demo?
A Burger King junior meal. You always gotta come in light.
The tattoo you're most proud of?
They called my grandpa “Grandpa Gator”, so I got this gator on my arm with a little hearing aid. He passed away just recently, but he used to give me money when I was a kid. He was kind of a dick to everyone but me. For some reason me and him got along. Favorite city to skate in?
Salt Lake. Hometown rules.
Which way do you vote?
Neither—that shit's bullshit.
Hmm, Havarti cheese is my favorite. Kind of sweet but tangy.
Finally, today's the summer solstice. What are your plans for the evening?
Breathe. Just fucking take a deep breath and realize that I’m still going.