SAN MARCOS, Calif. – 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 1/2-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 ankles.
While it’s great 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.