2020 has been hard to believe. With everything that’s happening, it seems a little strange to think of Go Skateboarding Day, a time for celebration, being only a few days away. If you’re like us, then you not only wish that you could go skate with your buddies like you used to before Covid, but given all of the awful things we’re seeing on the news, you probably also wouldn’t mind contributing some good to the world while you’re at it.
This is why we were excited to connect with Mike Cohen, owner of LifeValet and volunteer with Boards for Bros. A longtime NYC resident and recent Florida transplant, Mike is using Go Skateboarding Day (even during a pandemic) to raise money to buy skateboards for kids who can’t afford them. Mike linked up with us from Miami to explain his background with Go Skateboarding Day and how it’s a chance to give back and spread some positivity.
Thanks for letting us be a part of your awesome work, Mike.
What’s up, Mike? Can you give us a little background on yourself and your involvement with skateboarding?
Hey, what up Sellerdoor, and thank you once again for your time on this.
I grew up in Jersey and lived in NYC most of my life and now reside in South Florida. I’ve been involved in skateboarding since I was 6 years old in New Jersey which is a long time now considering I’m in my 40s. I’ve been working in the skateboard industry for 25+ years – mostly on the East Coast doing retail, wholesale and marketing. I used to work for Zoo York Skateboards and then in 2006 I had the fortunate opportunity to run the legendary skateboard brand SHUT Skateboards for 14 years, and I’m still involved with them to this day. I also have a sales agency called MACSALE5 that reps SHUT, RockStarBearings, HitBalm CBD, SSCY Bags and Chapman Skateboards. While working in skate in NYC for so many years, I was fortunate to be exposed to so many talented skaters, musicians and artists in the industry and community which led me to pursuing what I thought was recreational for me and turned into a professional skateboarding photography career.
Mike, back in New York City. Photo: Wise Guy.
And you work with the nonprofit Boards For Bros? What do they do?
The Boards for Bros organization is simple: it helps provide skateboards for kids that do not have the financial means and access, as well as providing them with basic instructions.
My work with Boards for Bros started with volunteering with some group lessons in Brooklyn through my good friend Chris Miller of Dunno Skateboards and Boards for Bros. I had recently made the transition to South Florida, and since I’ve been down here, I’ve had the opportunity to continue volunteering for them. Their headquarters is at The Skatepark of Tampa, and I had the pleasure of volunteering at the Tampa Am and Tampa Pro events, which was such an amazing time. Thank you, Michelle Box (who runs B4B) and Brian Schaefer!
Originally, you did an “Adult” Go Skateboarding Day in NYC, right? What’s the story there, and how did it evolve into this project with The Sellerdoor?
Adult Go Skateboarding Day started out as a way for a small group of New York friends to bring Don Brown’s vision back to its essence. We organized our skateboard community to help out and sponsor the day. It was our way to take back the streets and skate from spot to spot without permits, hitting up our favorite dive bars and DIY spots. As it evolved over the years, we incorporated art and music shows into the evening, and we also hooked up free skateboard lessons for adults in the morning.
The lesson portion of the day was actually my favorite part. We had such a wide range of skill levels from people wanting to step up their ollies to people standing on a skateboard for the first time. We had a dude who skated bowls/transition, but he never street skated and wanted to learn a few tricks. That dude was 72 years old and progressed every year!
There’s something about teaching skateboarding that brings a tremendous amount of satisfaction, but teaching it to adults and helping them overcome their fears takes it to a whole ‘nother level!
The crew during a “Adult” Go Skateboarding Day lesson. Adults of all ages, even up to 72!
So, how does this fundraiser work, and where will the money go?
With Go Skateboarding Day approaching and a lot of people practicing safe social distancing, LifeValet (my production company) was looking for new ways to work with Boards for Bros to raise funds and awareness for skateboarding.
So this fundraiser is pretty simple, I started asking a few of my friends to donate 1 photo. I ended up getting a stronger response than I expected – we have 25 plus photographers participating and will be adding additional photos and photographers.
We will showcase the photos online through The Sellerdoor on the LifeValet page for 90 days. People will have the opportunity to purchase as many photos as they want with all proceeds, after printing costs, going to Boards for Bros.
You have a wide range of photographers in this fundraiser. I’m sure that you have many favorites, but would you pick a photo that you find particularly intriguing and share its story?
We have a huge list of photographers that range from people who just shoot for fun to professionals. Some of them don’t skate, but they are huge fans of skateboarding.
One of them, Janette Beckman, has been shooting photos professionally for a long time – she’s done album covers for folks like The Police and EPMD. While she doesn’t skate, she has one of my favorite photos in this project. We connected at a Vans Vault store in NYC where she was speaking on a panel along with Martha Cooper and others. She posted a photo on Instagram of a dude doing an invert at the Brooklyn Banks but didn’t know the skater’s name for many years. I chimed in with the help of my friend Bruno Musso to let her know the skater’s name was Ian Frahm. She was working for the Daily News, and it was a lifestyle piece on skaters from way back on July 6, 1986. This particular photo is one of my favorites mainly because it has connected me with a new friend.
I am psyched and privileged to be working with so many talented photographers for this project and looking forward to when we can all hang out at a gallery for the live, in-person version of this exhibit.
Ian Frahm, July 6, 1986. Invert at the Brooklyn Banks. Photo: Janette Beckman
Aside from supporting this fundraiser, how can people connect with you or Boards for Bros if they are interested in being involved?
I want to thank everybody for making this exhibit possible, and if you want to support Boards for Bros beyond buying a photo you can also donate used or new skateboard equipment to us. Also, please feel free to contact Boards for Bros or LifeValet> directly.
Thanks again, everyone!