Photo: Sigurd Tvete

Paul Rodriguez Interview

Los Angeles, USA, 7/31/2009 by Sigurd Tvete
When Paul Rodriguez formally introduced himself in City Stars' "Street Cinema" it was fairly easy to see that this kid had a talent out of the ordinary. Now, eight years later, he can despite his young age already look back on a career that's longer and more successful than most skate pros will ever experience. A new father, the star of a feature film and the very-soon-to-be recipient of his third pro model shoe on Nike; Paul's the definition of "made it".
Hey Paul. How are you?
I'm excellent thanks, life's good! Why life's good? Most importantly; healthy, very healthy. I've got a good family, just had a daughter, all my family and friends are healthy. Those are the main reasons. Other than my career is in a great place right now; skateboarding's treating me very well. So in a nutshell that's why life is good.

Speaking of your daughter, how's your life changed since you had her?
Uhm, it makes me more aware of things, like in the house. You can't just leave a pair of scissors on a table, and you can't take your eyes off her since she might fall or find something to put in her mouth, so it make me always be aware of what she's doing to make sure she's OK. "Is there anything around her that could be dangerous for her", you know, just little things that you never used to think of before. Now I kinda have to tune into that real quick.

Do you have a lot less time now?
No, it's not so bad. My wife's a great mum, she takes great care of the baby. She's a housewife and when I go skate she knows I got to skate, got to stay on top of skateboarding, and I don't let nothing interfere with that. She's really good with that, but either way I usually skate then come home, then skate then come home. I probably have more time with my daughter than an average person that has to work at a regular job, since they have to be out all day and finally come home at night. You know, especially in summertime, I don't skate till night time because it's hot. I usually go to the skatepark at seven or eight O'clock every day pretty much. Unless we go to some street spots, in that case we go in the middle of the day, but if I'm just skating at the park I go in the evening time. So no, the time managing hasn't been too bad.

Do you skate your own TF mostly, or the new plaza?
I skate them both on the regular. The outdoor park's only been open a month, but I've been there four-five times since it's been open. It's just so hot right now that I go early in the morning before it gets too hot, but most of the time I just skate my indoor park, the TF, the warehouse, because there's not a lot of people there. I invite maybe a few friends at the time. It's a good place to practice tricks; I don't have to worry about if I fall that kids are going to be watching, you know. I can just practice new tricks in my own time and not have to worry about people criticising or just watching and all that.
The TF gives P-Rod the necessary tranquillity to perfect his already perfect switch kickflip.
Do you feel like people criticise you?
Maybe to a point. Not like criticise openly and tell me all the time, but you know when you're skating and there are kids out there. When I was a kid; and I would see one of my favourite skaters I'd watch them and be like "ooh, I wonder if he's gonna do this trick first try". You know, you just always wanna see how they're gonna skate so when you have some privacy you don't have to worry about falling and feeling silly. It's mainly more in my head that I think the kids are watching and criticising. But that's why I got my park because when I went to other skateparks, and there was a lot of kids, sometimes I had to sign a lot of autographs and things. Which I love, I always do autographs, but you got to have your time when you can practice, when you're not going to have interruptions and distractions, so you can focus and really get your skating in. Because if you're just always around a place where there are distractions eventually you might notice your skateboarding kinda... slipping.

Speaking of your plaza, what was the the process behind it?
It was kinda a group thing, Nike is working with this foundation that wants to refurbish a lot of run-down basketball courts, baseball fields, tennis courts, skateparks; all kinds of different sports. Me being one of the athletes with Nike of course the main focus was to try and get a good skatepark on. I can't take credit for the design, Lance Mountain really designed most of it, but I gave my input: I wanted it to be street focused, I didn't want it to be like a traditional skatepark with ramps and pyramids and everything. I wanted it to be stuff that the kids, and especially in LA because the majority are street skaters, that they could feel like they're skating at a place that didn't feel like a skatepark. They feel like they're skating a real spot, but they don't have to get kicked out, they don't have to get tickets. And the spots that are built-in are real spots that exists in other places that you do get kicked out of. It's good that they've recreated the real spots and put them in a place where you don't have to worry.

Are you happy with how it turned out?
Oh man, I love it, it's great. It's just real fun, I haven't heard anyone say anything negative about it. Lance Mountain did a really good job.

You mentioned street skating earlier, how often do you go street skating?
Uhm, I street skate all the time. Right now I haven't street skated as much, because there's a lot of contests so I've been skating a lot more park, just trying to get my consistency real good for the contest. But otherwise when there's not contest season I street skate all time.

Which contests are you focusing on?
Well the Maloof Cup just passed, where I didn't perform as good as I would have liked. But I'm also leaving next week for the Dew tour in Boston and then a week after that there's the X Games. Then there are three more Dew tour stops after X Games so until about October there's gonna be a lot of contests. I keep it in the states, I don't usually like to go travel for contests because I've already got to skate like ten contests throughout the summer, so if I was going to skate the contests in Europe, Australia or whatever I'd be skating so many contests and I wouldn't even have time to street skate. And that's my main focus anyways; to get my video part for the Plan B video.

How's that going?
It's going really good. We've been filming already for a good year and a half and I've got a good head start. I've got a lot of footage that I'm really excited about, that I can't wait to bring out, and we've got at least a year of filming left. There are a lot of tricks I've got ideas for that I want to be able to accomplish by that time, so I'm in a good place right now; I've got a good amount of footage, so I'm not in a hurry, I'm not in a rush. I'm not like "Aah, I gotta hurry up and get footage". If a trick comes to me I'm gonna think of it, I'm gonna go to the skatepark and practice it, and if I've got a spot I want to try it at I'll go there on the weekend and hopefully get it. That's kinda my process.

Your new shoe, the P-Rod 3, is about to drop. What was your vision behind it?
When they told me it was time to start designing a new shoe and asked me what I wanted my main thing was more board-feel. I wanted to be able to feel the board. I like my second shoe, but I still felt that it was a bit bulky, there was still a lot of extra material on it that we could have cut off or made it a little thinner. I wanted to make it thinner, closer to the board so I could feel the board better, but I didn't want to lose much cushioning. I like cushioning because I like to jump down some stairs, skate some rails and things so I like to have that sort of support on my feet. So I tried to find the happy medium for it.

Paul needs good cushioning - Nollie heelflip.
Photo: Sigurd Tvete
So you're more happy with this one than the second one?
Yeah, just like in my video parts for instance, I like to have each video part better and better every time. And the same thing goes with shoes, you know, I want to always make them better and better every time. So maybe when you make that shoe you don't notice things that are wrong, but by time then next shoe comes around you have ideas; "OK, now I've learnt with this shoe that I wanna have this new thing". So from the last shoe to this shoe I learnt that I want closer board feel, more flexibility and to have a little lower shoe so there's more ankle movement. So we basically just cut off all the extra material that's not necessary. I also wanted to have a nice look to it, a good style. I'm a big fan of hip hop music and I just wanted to have something that I'd feel excited to wear when I'm just hanging out chilling also. It's kinda hard to get that perfect combination, but... I really feel good about this one.

Who do you think this shoe will appeal to? Who will buy this shoe?
Uhm… I think that all skaters could really apply to this shoe. I can see your, like… basically I could see every type of skater skating the shoe. The type that skates big stairs, big gaps, the skater that skates mini-ramp, transitions. I think it’s the perfect blend. You know, if I skated vulcanized shoes I would skate vulcanized shoes just for ledges. But then when I skated gaps I would have to change into another shoe just to skate the gap and so I just tried to make these the one-stop-shop. When you put these shoes on you’re ready to go skate some ledges, ready to go skate a rail, ready to go skate manual pads, ready to go skate a park, so I’m hoping it’s going to appeal to all types of skaters, across the board.
Last time we interviewed you (in London for the Nothing but the Truth première) you were waiting for “Street Dreams” to come out. Now it’s just premièred right?
Yeah, it premièred last month. I’m very excited about it. It’s been three years since we actually finished it so it’s been a long time coming. At some points I was getting worried that it was never gonna come out, never gonna happen, and it finally just did. I’m very ecstatic; everyone who’s seen it and talked to me about it has said they’ve enjoyed it. Especially if they’re skaters because they can relate to the situations in the movie that the kid goes through, whether you’ve had problems at school, whether you’ve had problems with your girlfriend because she wants you to get a real job and quit skating or with your parents because you’re not doing well at school or getting arrested for skating. There are so many different, what you would call trials and tribulations, that anyone who’s a skater has been through at least one of them, if not all of them.

Have you had any acting offers since it premièred?
I’ve talked to some people, but at this point in my life I don’t get overly excited because at one point in my career when I was very young people would say “Yeah, I wanna do this movie with you”, and I’d get excited and go “Yeah, yeah!”. But now I’ve had so many people tell me so many things that never ended up happening and now I’m like “Ok, that’s cool. Alright”. So if it happens I’m going to be excited, if not; I didn’t get my hopes up. After this movie I talked with this director who made a well received LA based movie called “La Vida Loca” about 15 years ago, and she said she’s making a sequel and she’s got a part for me in it. So that’s something I’m loosely looking forward to if it turns out to be a real thing, a real reality. But at this point skateboarding is my main focus, because I’m still young, I’m still in my prime and I want to make sure that I use these years to the fullest ability, you know?

Do you want to pursue an acting career after skateboarding?
Yeah, in an ideal world I’d love to make a transition from a skater to an actor when that time comes. Guys like Jason Lee have opened the doors for that, and I would love to have a career as successful as Jason Lee has had in acting. I’d love to be just as successful in acting as I have been in skateboarding. If that happens it’d be awesome, if not I can’t complain. Life is already beyond a blessing, you know.

Did you have the same feeling at the “Street Dreams” première as, say, the “Nothing but the Truth” première?
Uhm, it’s hard for me to watch myself in a movie because when I’m watching and see myself talk and see myself doing… acting, I’m always criticising myself. I’m always like “Ahh, I wish I had another try I could have done it better”. If I knew then what I know now I would have been able to do so much better. So it’s hard for me to watch without an opinion, you know what I mean? I guess every artist or musician or athlete is kind of very critical of themselves anyway, so… It’s definitely a different feeling. I’m more confident in my skateboarding abilities than I am in my acting. When I come out with a part I’m pretty sure I will feel good about my part and that people will like it, but with acting it’s more like a shot in the dark, more like “Ok, I’m not sure I’m gonna like it, but I’m proud of it and stoked we did it and we’ll see what happens”, you know. If my dad’s impressed with my acting abilities? Yeah, it’s hard to say because he’s my parent, but he did tell me “son, it’s not because I’m your father, but I really think you have a great acting career ahead of you” and I think he was telling the truth, because since then he’s been really trying to make me focus more on the acting. But I just keep telling him that I have to accomplish more things in skateboarding. It’s just what’s in my heart right now.

Moving over to your shop, “Primitive”, how’s that going?
It’s going really good; this month marks our one year anniversary. It’s gone by so fast, and I just got our sales report and for the first year we did really well. Especially in this economy, we’ve been fortunate enough to keep the doors open, keep the employees paid, and that’s about it. I haven’t made any money back of it yet, but I’m in no rush for it because it’s a project of passion and love that myself and my partner have done. We just want to see it build up and get a good respectable name and, you know, I think everything will just fall into place after that. We have loose plans of opening more stores, it would be nice to open a couple of locations across the states or across the world wherever that may be, but right now the focus is just on building the brand and just making sure we’ve got a good costumer base. We’ve just opened up a webshop at PrimitiveShoes.com and it’s been a fun process. It was something I was very sceptical about going into it, but seeing the passion that my partner Andy, he’s the brains and visionary behind it, has for it I trust that he’s going to do a good job.

Let's wrap this up; Where do you see yourself in ten years?
In an ideal world I would love to have had the career that Eric Koston or Andrew Reynolds has had. Koston is exactly ten years older than me and is still going very strong. He’s still… the man, you know? I’m so excited he’s on the team now. He’s the reason why I am here today, because I grew up watching him so closely, trying to be like him, trying to skate like him. Him, Tom Penny and Reynolds really impacted my… my life. So much, more than they’ll ever know. So… I’d love to be able to have a long a career as Eric Koston or Andrew Reynolds.

Thanks Paul!
Thank you too.

Paul's third pro model shoe from Nike SB will be out in shops all over the world on the eight of August. Stay tuned from more coverage from our day with P-Rod!

Don't forget to check out the first:
P-Rod 3 test day photos
Both Paul and Shane O'Neill are stoked on the P-Rod/Nike SB plaza, designed by Lance Mountain - 360-flip.
Photo: Sigurd Tvete
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