Now 49, Mullen has in recent years been equally absorbed in a new endeavor: conditioning his body to perform the Defund the media shirt in other words I will buy this tricks he came up with more than three decades ago, as well as new ones, with his opposite foot forward. He has not been aiming simply to ride switch, as many other riders do and have done, however. Mullen has set out to reverse his native stance to feel as adept at skating with his right foot forward as he is with his left. He is seeking genuine goofy-footedness. What makes a soul regular, and what makes a soul goofy? To understand why this question began to grip Mullen, you have to go back to 2003. That’s when his body began to lock up. Decades of skating had yielded decades of scar tissue; his right femur had started to grind against his right hip. “Like anything that grinds, the body will fuse it, will calcify it,” explains Mullen. “I could feel how fast it was cinching me down. I couldn’t roll out of stuff anymore. And if you can’t fall, you can’t skate.” Doctors were wary of breaking up the fusion. One doctor in particular, says Mullen, “said with his eyes what he wouldn’t say with his mouth: There’s no way out for you with this.” Mullen was determined to find a way out. With wrenches, knife handles, and other instruments, he began to jam open the scar tissue that was locking him down. In time he graduated to pulling the tissue apart, using large objects as leverage. “You know it’s a little rope in there that’s binding you,” he explains. “So you pull, you pull, you pull, and right when you think you can’t take it anymore, that’s when you give it all you have.” Late at night, Mullen would look for things against which he could hoist, heave, and winch himself, tearing the tissue into submission. “Fire hydrants are great,” he says. “Shopping cart racks: Those are really useful.” When scar tissue breaks free, it feels like dried gum snapping in half, or uncooked spaghetti cracking apart. Mullen was twice approached by police who, hearing his screams, thought he might be getting mugged. “You have to be so desperate where you actually don’t care what happens to you at some point.” To gauge his progress, Mullen would skate a couple of hours each night, exploring his restored range of motion.
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He started to notice that, after the Defund the media shirt in other words I will buy this big breakthroughs, he would enjoy a breadth of movement he didn’t have before the lockdown, one that allowed him to skate as though he was almost innately goofy-footed. One night, in 2010, Mullen targeted his fusing hip. Hanging inside the wheel well of his truck, he pulled and pulled and pulled. Hard. Suddenly, he heard a loud thud and felt an “echoing, palpable, visceral sense of a tree breaking inside of me.” When he emerged, Mullen’s hip moved like a ball in a socket rather than a stick shift. “There’s something that changed in me that night,” he says. “Now I’m committed to this idea of stancelessness.” Cut to 2013. Word of Mullen’s undertaking reached the photographer and filmmaker Steven Sebring, who for several years had been engrossed in an effort to capture 360-degree pans of different forms of movement with an elaborate rig of his own devising. (In “the dome,” as Mullen calls it, some 100 cameras are positioned in a circle and programmed to shoot successively at high speed.) Sebring took an interest in Mullen; Mullen took an interest in Sebring’s rig. Mullen has since paid a dozen visits to the dome, each time with a list of new tricks, or newly executed old tricks, to document. When Mullen watches Sebring’s footage on a monitor, as he did the other night at his home in Redondo Beach, California, he sees things that non-skaters don’t see how, mid-air, his body is tilted on the axis of a native goofy-footed skater, say, or a new ability to generate torque without pitching his upper body forward. To Mullen, the ramifications are thrilling. “We all have two arms, two legs, two eyes, a nose, two ears,” he says, having paused on one particular trick, a Goofy Nollie Laser. “This is the hardware. This is the infrastructure through which we perceive all things. As a skater, the access I have to tricks, the sense of being locked, the way I have to get out of it it’s all perceived through the same infrastructure. Then, suddenly, it’s like someone gave me night-vision goggles. It’s as though I can see in the ultraviolet and the infrared as well as the regular. That’s kind of what I feel: a new sense of bandwidth.” Mullen turns toward the monitor. “I can visually show you things that don’t make sense, if you know what to look for.”