SAN MARCOS, Calif. (AP) — Chris Cole didn’t get into pro street skateboarding for the money. The money happened to find him.
Cole has cashed enough six-figure contest checks and done well enough from shoe deals to afford a nice lifestyle for his family in a million-dollar house hidden away in a hilly, rural area of northern San Diego County, where rattlesnakes occasionally slither onto the property and coyotes howl at night.
A transplant from suburban Philadelphia, Cole likes the quiet. Having an 8.5-acre plot gives him a great place where he and wife Christina can raise their two kids, and there’s plenty of room for a $125,000 concrete skate park, where he practices tricks on rails, stairs, ledges and benches.
He’s the defending Street League Skateboarding champion and is favored to dominate this summer’s series.
Cole occasionally flies to China and other places to film videos of his tricks. A few years ago, he and some other skaters appeared in the video for ”Was It Worth It?” by Children of Bodom, a melodic death metal band from Finland.
”It’s a kick-ass living right now. If I had a kick-ass plan for when I grow up, then I’d be in heaven,” Cole said with a laugh.
The 32-year-old Cole is at the top of his career. Last year he claimed the $200,000, winner-take-all final of Street League Skateboarding. Earlier in the summer, he finally broke through with his first win since the series started in 2010, pocketing another $100,000.
Last week, DC Shoes released the Cole Lite II, his second signature skate shoe.
”That’s tops,” Cole said. ”You don’t buy a house on board sales. You buy a house with shoe sales.”
It’s a big status symbol for a pro skateboarder.
”It’s the pinnacle,” said pro skateboarder and MTV star Rob Dyrdek, who founded Street League Skateboarding in 2010. ”That idea of walking around with your own shoe is such a cool thing for a skateboarder. There’s a big divide between guys that have shoes and guys that don’t. Guys that have shoes are the true elite of professional skateboarding.”
Dyrdek gives Cole an edge over other top pro street skateboarders, including Paul Rodriguez and Nyjah Huston.
”As far as sheer rawness, technique, innovation and style, he’s up there with my number No. 1,” Dyrdek said.
Big money in skateboarding is a recent development, thanks largely to Dyrdek’s idea of building skate parks in arenas and having the world’s top pros go at it.
”This didn’t exist to a skateboarder for a long, long time,” Cole said of his lifestyle. ”My wildest dream of skateboarding was that one day I could own a Honda Civic. The baddest dudes in skateboarding had a Honda Civic. That was like, ‘Wow, these dudes are making money.’ It was like what they could afford. That was a really good car for a skateboarder.”
Cole said he skates for the love of the sport and doesn’t like seeing people doing it just for the money.
”Luckily, you get hella hurt skateboarding,” he said. ”So you can practice basketball all day and have your dreams to be a multimillion dollar player, but you’re not going to get broken out on the court, whereas skateboarding weeds them out, thank God. It’s a lot harder for somebody who doesn’t have the love for skateboarding to stay involved. When you get hit in the shin with that board, you have a decision to make.”
Cole said he knocked out a front tooth when he was in the seventh grade and did it again as an eighth grader. He’s ripped groin tendons and injured his ankles.
Cole pushes the limits and himself, doing tricks that few others can. One video shows him wiping out on the concrete 53 times before landing a 360 kickflip at an epic San Francisco skate spot, the Wallenberg steps. He wipes out 12 more times before landing the trick two straight times.
Cole won three straight Maloof Money Cup titles for a total of $300,000 from 2008 to 2010. The Maloof brothers, who at the time still owned the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, offered a $1 million bonus to any skater who won four straight titles, but the series folded.
Once Street League began, it took him into the fourth season to earn his first victory.
”Chris Cole was the most prolific contest skateboarder in history until Street League came along. Those first couple of years, he never got a win, which was pretty psychotic from our perspective,” Dyrdek said. ”He had come close so many times. On eight different occasions he had final trick to take the lead or win and didn’t land that trick.”
Last season, ”when it really mattered most, he put down the big tricks,” Dyrdek said.
Cole said he finally adjusted to the intense competition.
”I actually had to practice,” he said. ”I didn’t really like doing it, so for me to overcome that, it was like a real accomplishment. It was like acing a test or something.”
While it’s ”awesome” to get a check for $200,000, ”funny enough, I don’t think about it at all when I’m skating and I forget that it comes with money,” he said. ”I’m doing it because I have a little brother syndrome. I’m doing it because I want to be my best right then and I want that trophy. If there’s a trophy, I want it and I’m not ashamed to admit it. If it was an old boot that was a trophy, I want it. It’s a symbol of your hard work and you did your best that day.”
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