- How Do You Rebel Against Rebellion? Skating Legend Rodney Mullen Keeps Reinventing Himself
- A few of Rodney Mullen’s favorite things in the Wall Street Journal
- Silicon Valley Has Lost Its Way. Can Skateboarding Legend Rodney Mullen Help It?
Widely considered the most influential skateboarder in the world, Rodney Mullen invented the majority of the tricks done in the modern era of the sport. The street Ollie, kick-flip, 360-flip, the Impossible, and countless other game-changing tricks evolved from his unique and uniquely effective method of innovation. From the age of fourteen, Rodney defended his world title 35 times; his championship reign lasted over a decade, which is—and likely always will be—the most successful competitive run in the sport’s history.
Rodney left competition in the early 90’s and devoted his talent, imagination, and methodology to “street skating,” finding ways to incorporate handrails, picnic tables, and loading docks into new tricks. By 2002, he was voted Street-Skater of the Year by the leading publication, and dubbed the “Godfather of modern street skating” in Activision’s dominant videogame series.
A successful entrepreneur, Rodney co-founded World Industries, which emerged as the largest and most lucrative skate company throughout the 90’s, climaxing in its sale in 1998—then a subsequent sale, two years later. He holds two patents—Rodney studied engineering at the University of Florida—and has started multiple companies under the World umbrella.
In recognition for his creative contributions, Rodney was chosen for a Professional Fellowship at the Smithsonian where one of his signature model skateboards is on display. The National Academy of Sciences featured him in their 2015 study, Educating to Innovate. He was also called to testify before a California Senate Hearing on its Creative Economy.
Throughout his career, Rodney has graced innumerable magazine covers and been profiled around the world. In 2004, Regan Books published The Mutt: How to Skateboard and Not Kill Yourself his autobiography, co-written with Sean Mortimer. In the December 2006 issue of Los Angeles Magazine, the editors included Rodney in their list of 100 most influential people. In 2011, Cole Louison wrote The Impossible, a book on skateboarding as a whole, largely viewed through the prism of Rodney’s influence. Wired Magazine did a substantive feature on him in their February 2015 issue. Most recently, Rolling Stone, Esquire, and Vogue featured articles on Rodney for the release of his latest video, Liminal, in July 2016. It trended #1 on FB for days.
Rodney has been prominently featured in two internationally acclaimed documentaries: The Bones Brigade: An Autobiography and Waiting for Lightning. He has done skateboarding and stunt work in projects such as the HBO series John from Cincinnati and Ben Stiller’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
Rodney increasingly gives talks in forums such as Nike, Apple, Jet Propulsion Lab,GreyLock, TED.com, PopTech, O’Reilly Tech Conferences (Big Data and DevOps), USC’s Iovine & Young Academy, UVA Med School, and Wired Magazine’s 2015 BizCon. Rodney spoke before Condé Nast’s editors-in-chief at the request of Anna Wintour.
He still skates every day.
RODNEY’S SPEAKING TOPICS DESCRIBED:
Invention & Innovation | Risk & Resilience
Activision’s dominant video game franchise labeled Rodney as the Godfather of Modern Skateboarding. He invented most the tricks done in the modern era of the sport and from the age of 14, defended his world Freestyle title 35 of 36 times—an unparalleled record. Afterwards, Rodney “started over” in a different discipline; by 2002 he was named as the world’s most popular Streetskater by its most authoritative publication. His career is chronicled by myriad magazines and videos, as well as books, documentaries, TV (ESPN, Showtime, HBO) and film.
Rodney’s engineering background and his love for Linux & Open Source inspired him to relate the seemingly disparate subcultures of tech and skateboarding in a TEDx USC Talk which was quickly hoisted to the main TED board—exceedingly rare— then went viral. Subsequently, the tech powerhouse, O’Reilly Publishing brought him to their stages, prompting Wired Magazine to publish a substantive feature, Silicon Valley Has Lost Its Way. Can Skateboarding Legend Rodney Mullen Help It? Following that, California’s Senate requested him to testify at a Hearing on its Creative Economy.
Rodney addresses both Innovation and Resilience in entertaining, pragmatic ways by his actual skateboarding, including often mind-blowing footage from his peers. His ability to abstract and distill generalized concepts from both the practice and subculture itself, coupled with his ability to communicate them in coherent, often poetic terms gets him invited to academic and technical forums such as The Smithsonian, UVA Medical School, JPL, as well as USC’s Iovine & Yonge Academy.
Innovation through adaptation and reinvention is a central theme that applies to business, as well. Cofounder of the largest company in skating during both the early and late 90’s, he developed an understanding of product development—two patents in the process—as well as marketing. His experience with taking risks at both physical and entrepreneurial levels is what lead to such success at the Wired BizCom, UVA’s TomTom Founders Festival, and Nike. Most recently, the Wall Street Journal did a feature on him, as well.
There is a gulf between invention as opposed to translating it a broader to cultural acceptance—namely Innovation. Rodney’s unwavering commitment to the nuanced and often unforgiving ethos of the skate community is what maintains his beloved stature within it. Protecting and understanding the perils involved with maintaining brand integrity is largely what led him to speak at Anna Wintour’s private Editor’s-in-Chief meeting, and subsequent request from the president of Conde Nast’s office to address the broader company.
Apple is known for its unparalleled commercial success with the fusion of art, design and technology; Rodney’s talk for their marketing department was considered one of their best. Demonstrating this connection, his skating was recently shot in a fashion studio with a cutting-edge camera system; the union of artistic expression and technology was so pronounced that Vogue premiered it, trending #1 on Facebook for days. This nexus was so well represented that The Smithsonian brought him to MIT to discuss it on a panel with a physicist, roboticist, and a renowned artist.