LISTEN TO RYAN CLEMENTS!
Words by Ryan Clements
Mike Conneen Tribute
Are you feeling sorry for yourself today? Did something not go your way? Maybe your parents gave you a hard time.
If you’re a bit older, possibly you and your spouse got into an argument about something trivial. Or you could have taken a
hard slam on some rough pavement. Man, that’s nothing. I know this. I know this because I know this guy named Mike Conneen.
I’ve actually known Mike for several years...not too well or anything, but I knew the guy enough
to talk to him on the phone every once in a while. I would see Mike at various skateboarding-related functions
around Florida, like Surf Expo, contests, and so on. He would come over to Tampa a couple of times per year for festivals
like Gasparilla and I’m sure that he’s visited a few Tampa Ams and Tampa Pros in the past decade.
I remember him calling me and saying, “We’re coming over to the night parade – party with us!” He and I probably had
a drink together at some point, and although I can’t actually recall ever skating with Mike, I knew he was a skateboarder.
I ended up recently finding out that he started skating at a very young age. You can just tell sometimes, and
Mike always came off to me as a real genuine dude. I’m now sorry that he and I never shared time together skating.
We all start somewhere... Mike got hooked young
I hadn’t heard from Mike for about a year or so, until he started emailing me about six months ago.
I was stoked to get an email from him and remembered exactly who he was. But something in Mike’s life had changed drastically.
Things would never be the same for him. There was something Mike had to tell me. He traded his four-wheeled piece of
7-ply maple for a new set of four wheels. Mike is now in a wheelchair. More specifically, he’s a paraplegic.
Fate reluctantly handed him his destiny one evening when he crashed his four-wheeler. It was October 23, 2003
and Mike was only 27-years-old at the time.
This was taken on the street course at Surf Expo in January. I said to
Rob, “My friend here is going to roll in on the quarter-pipe so I want you to shoot it,” as I was pointing to Mike.
Rob gave me the old, “Are you f@:*ing serious?” look. Mike climbed up the ramp on his own, using only his arms, and
we handed him his wheelchair. Although it was pretty much the perfect way to lose my job at Expo, I still thought it was the right decision.
And it was...Mike rolled away perfectly.
As terrible as they sometimes may seem, things happen to us for a reason. This is something I believe.
If I didn’t, I would be bitter, angry, and frustrated with the world, and that’s no way to live.
I feel that Mike knows this better than I do, or better than all of us for that matter. I was sad at first – I didn’t
know what to say or how to react. Should I bring it up with him? Would it be okay to ask him questions about the
entire ordeal? I was very curious, so I mentally put myself in his place and came to the conclusion that
it’s okay to ask, because if that were me sitting in that wheelchair I would want to tell my story.
And when I talk to him now, which is more frequently, I see that Mike has something to share with all of us.
His appreciation for life is on a different level than any of us can imagine.
Skateboarding is in Mike’s blood. He may not physically be able to skate, but he still wants to roll,
feel the transition, and have the wind blow on his face. I got to hang with Mike at Surf Expo in January.
I could just tell that he was stoked to be there, appreciative of everything he still has, and aware of the opportunity
he has to share his experience with other friends, both new and old. This one goes out to Mike. Much respect to
him for being as strong as he is. So the next time you get pissed because you can’t land something, or if you
take a hard slam and get right up with minimal pain, think of him. Because I know that he would willingly take
100 of those slams to be able to stand on a skateboard again.
The impossible was huge back in the day
Stepping up to the feeble grind
If you’re interested in reading more about Mike, here’s his site:
Mike Conneen's MySpace Profile