It takes way more than just incredible skateboard talent to maintain a career as a top pro. You’ve got to manage the pressure of video releases, contests, demos, tours and product launches—and do it all with a smile. Few pro skateboarders are able to balance this act better than Paul Rodriguez. CCS pinned down the man himself this month to discuss his thoughts on the summer contest circuit, the upcoming Plan B video and his newest shoe with Nike SB—the P.Rod 7. Here’s what he had to say.
Some pros talk about being in “contest mode” as soon as the big summer contests roll around. What does that mean to you? Where's your head at when you’re out there on the floor? It has to be a mental game, right?
Contest mode pretty much means you’re skating skateparks all the time and trying to work on being consistent rather than working on new tricks to film and take to the streets. And yeah, for sure, I would say it’s mostly mental. I try as best I can to shut my brain off. That’s really the mental part. I want no thoughts. And, of course, I get butterflies. Fortunately for me, I’ve been skating contests for long enough to where I’ve learned how to deal with it. You just try to focus on what’s going on in the moment, keep your head focused on your game plan, the tricks you want to do and try to not let your mind wander and start thinking negative thoughts.
How do you think the mentality towards big contests has changed overall for skaters? Where do you see this heading in the future? Is skateboarding headed toward traditional athletics or is it already there?
Unfortunately, it kind of is. With all these contests and all the opportunity they bring, my mentality has switched towards them. I remember when there was only one contest or so a year. I didn’t even think about contests. I didn’t care or worry about them. For me it was only Tampa and X-Games. I didn’t even think about getting into contest mode. When a contest came around, I went and whatever happened happened. Now there’s much more opportunity there.
You said, “unfortunately” about skateboarding heading towards traditional sport. Is there something sacred about skating that gets lost there?
I don’t think it’ll ever be fully lost, but it’s definitely different than when I grew up. I didn’t fall in love with skateboarding for competitions. I fell in love watching guys do cool, new and innovative tricks—street skating, watching videos, good style and all the nuances—the art side of it. Now with all the contests it’s just a different era. I’m fine with it and I enjoy skating contests, but there’s a part of me that definitely has that nostalgia for what I first fell in love with.
Are there things about skateboarding that won’t be able to be captured by traditional sports?
Absolutely. There are a lot of things about it. The real sacred part of it is the freedom and the creativity. There’s no rules in skateboarding. If I want to skate around in a handstand all day, I can. There’s no right or wrong. Some people may not like it, but there’s no wrong. If you have fun doing what you’re doing then it doesn’t matter what other people think. In baseball or basketball they have rules. You can’t go passed a certain line, there’s out of bounds or in Soccer you can’t touch the ball with your hands. There’s boundaries in traditional sports, but in skateboarding there’s none of that. If you think you can do it, then do it because you can. There’s also style. That’s key in skateboarding. Guys like Gino Iannucci, Tom Penny or Kenny Anderson—these guys have immaculate style. In traditional sports as long as you score all the time you’re considered good and it doesn’t matter if you look funny doing it or if you have a weird shot. As long as it’s effective you’re considered to be a good player. In skateboarding, you could do every trick in the world, but if you look ridiculous doing it nobody really cares. You can also do a lot of basic tricks, but if you do them really smooth and gracefully everybody loves it. Skateboarding has an art side to it.
On the topic of traditional athletics, it seems like so many skaters are fans of other sports. Do you have favorite athletes outside of skating that inspire you? Who are they and what is it about them?
Absolutely. You better believe I watch every boxing match that comes on and every Laker game. These days pretty much all my inspiration comes from outside of skateboarding— whether it’s music, sports or books. Guys like Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Kobe, Mayweather and Tiger—there’s a ton of guys that inspire me. For me it’s the mental aspect. All these guys are masters of their own mind. They play under the highest pressure and still perform at a high level consistently. That’s motivating. I want to learn how to do that.
The whole world is wondering about the Plan B video. Where are you with your part? Is it going to be a juggling act to finish while you're in contest mode this summer?
There’s a lot of talk around the video right now, but really we’re still just working on it. We’ve been working on it diligently and we’re not going to put it out till it’s right. I have some stuff that I’m really excited about and I definitely need more stuff, but right now I’m in the middle of all these contests and it’s not really my first priority. As soon as they’re over, I can switch back to street mode and put all my focus on filming. That’s how I’m approaching it. Torey has a serious part, Sheckler has serious part and Trevor McClung has all kinds of good stuff. Danny and Colin have been in Hawaii filming a lot at Danny’s compound. We realize the legacy the original Plan B left and how heavy we have to come through with this video.
Primitive has come a long way in a short time. What are your thoughts on how the brand has grown over the years? What have been some of your favorite recent projects?
That has been a blessing for us. We didn’t even know it was going to come to this level. Obviously we had big dreams and wanted it to be a cool brand, but we didn’t know it was going to be embraced like this. We just wanted to open a sneaker store and print a couple T-shirts, now it’s its own machine. We’ve done a bunch of cool projects with Nike, Oakley, The Hundreds, DVS and guys like Van Styles. They’re all my favorites because these brands were down to work with us. Everyone has been excited to partner with us and that’s the best thing that we could ever want.
Let's talk Nike a bit. How does the process of coming out with new shoe models work for you? What's the story behind the P.Rod 7?
It’s difficult to do something different or better when you find a shoe that you really like, but every year Nike wants a new shoe out and I’m happy to join in and work with the designers to work it out. That’s one of my favorite parts. With the P.Rod 7, we’ve switched up the look. The P.Rod 5 and the P.Rod 6 were kind of a play off of each. We wanted the Six to look like the older brother to the Five, but the Seven is a brand new shoe from top to bottom. It’s almost like an original Jordan mixed with a Dunk. It’s a lower shoe with a low profile. I’ve been skating in them for a while and I’m really excited about it.
Do you feel that Nike’s technology makes a major difference in your skate game? Any specific things you notice?
It helps improve your performance in the way of keeping your feet healthy. These days there’s a much higher level of impact and abuse your body and your feet take. Now it’s about preserving your feet, protecting those toes and protecting yourself from heel bruises. It’s about making the skating experience more enjoyable, but also about prolonging the skate experience so you can skate longer, more hours a day and for more years of your life.