SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Utah native Mike Plumb has been and seen it all thanks to his skateboarding ability and eccentric personality.
Better known by his fans in the skating community as “Lizard King,” 36-year-old Plumb has been all over the world on promotional tours and competitions, building a brand and a following as one of the sport’s most daring and loudest names.
While trips to China, Japan, and Scotland stand out – he also enjoyed a year living in Australia – Plumb says his hometown will always hold a special place in his adrenaline-addicted heart.
“My favorite place to go skating is Salt Lake City, so I don’t know if that’s like some hometown love thing or it’s just like nostalgia for me, but every time I go back there, I’m just so hyped,” he tells ABC4.com from his home in Los Angeles, just hours after returning from a trip to Estonia.
Getting from the streets of Salt Lake to the covers of skateboarding magazines and in videos played in every skate shop in the world, as well as a part in a wildly popular video game, Electronic Arts’ Skate 3, wasn’t as glamourous as Plumb’s life may seem now.
For two years, he lived under a dining room table, eating Top Ramen for most meals, while trying to make a name for himself in the skating community.
“It was the best-worst thing,” he laughs while remembering his semi-transient housing situation after hitching a ride to Los Angeles as an 18-year-old to pursue a career in skating.
Even though he wasn’t exactly living in the lap of luxury, Plumb was committed to finding a way to make his passion for skating his career.
“I once I got here, I never left,” he says. “I was like I’m not leaving until this is like what I do for a job.”
Eventually, it all came together. After two years of crashing under a piece of furniture – and more than likely, hitting his head on the underside of the table when waking up more than once – Plumb had his breakthrough moment. He had been taken on a few trips with other established professionals and had made all the right connections and friendships while working on his craft and it all paid off on a trip back home.
One day, while taking his friend, pro skater and entrepreneur Eric Ellington, around to his favorite spots in his favorite place, Salt Lake City, Plumb was offered a sponsorship to ride for one of Ellington’s newest brands, Deathwish.
“That was like the moment where I was like alright, my childhood dream is like officially here,” he recalls.
Despite his many trips around the globe, it seems like many of the most defining moments in Plumb’s life have happened in Salt Lake City. He got his nickname and in a way, his professional moniker, from Tully Flynn, a local skateboarding hero, while he was an over-excited kid, running around and flying off of obstacles “like a little psychopath” at Guthrie Skatepark in Cottonwood Heights.
“He just walked up to me, called me ‘Lizard King,’ and then just started talking to me,” Plumb explains. “I kind of thought he was a little bit crazy. I was like, looking at my friends I was like, ‘Is this guy crazy or something?’ I’ve been the Lizard King ever since.”
Now that the Lizard King has grown his empire worldwide, he’s amazed at how far the skate scene in Utah has come. He laughs that since his 13th birthday party at a poorly designed and uninspiring skatepark in Farmington, the accessibility to a decent park in Utah has exploded.
“I feel like the people that are in that in Utah realize that it’s like an action sports place,” Plumb states. “Between the mountain biking, the snowboarding, I think that they just realized that skateboarding is the next thing that’s going to be a part of all that so they put a lot of money into it, which is so sick.”
Acknowledging he looks more like a “heathen,” than what most outsiders would imagine a Utahn would resemble, Plumb still proudly carries the title of SLC’s best skateboarding tour guide. When he’s not taking fellow pros around his favorite spot, the campus of the University of Utah, getting chased by security from staircase to staircase, Plumb is showing his friends his favorite local eateries. Getting a Crown Burger with fry sauce is a must when he’s in town, Plumb asserts.
After all, despite all the fame and fascinating experiences he’s had during his skateboarding career, Plumb is still a local at heart.
“I’m a total Utah kid,” the Lizard King boasts. “It’s like the most scenic, amazing place, you can get anywhere you want, and within like 20 or 30 minutes, you’re in the mountains. There’s rad bars, there’s amazing food. I think people just think it’s like this little box, but there’s no box here and we’re a part of the world.”