Ahead of the launch of his 10th signature shoe, we caught up with the legendary skater Paul Rodriguez aka P-Rod in London to talk about getting started, his growth as a skater, what he looks for in a shoe and hip-hop.
Lets get started, where are your favourite spots to skate in London?
To be honest I haven't street skated too much in London recently, probably not since 2001. But the place I had a lot of fun would be Bay Sixty 6 - I was skating that back when it was the PlayStation Park, also Southbank of course.
Can you talk about the first time you got on a skateboard – were you a natural or was there a learning curve?
It was definitely a steep learning curve, I wasn’t a natural. I felt like it was calling for me, but it was still hard, just getting the first ollie is the hardest. Once you get the ollie down it kinda breaks open the new opportunities. But I definitely wasn’t just naturally gifted, I would probably say after my first year is when I really started learning faster. I needed to understand how the board works and all the basics, and then all of a sudden the doors blew open.
I was really in love with the board. With skateboarding a lot of people tend to give up before they make it through their first year. It’s really tedious early on, you make little to no progress each day. In any other sport, like basketball, you may not be Michael Jordan or Kobe but any person can dribble a ball and shoot it. But with skate boarding just to be able to stand and roll takes a lot of time and practice to get comfortable. Following that is turning, pushing and the ollies. Once you get past that first year though, it’s like Pandora’s box opens up and new treasures are found every day.
How proud are you of the work you've done with Nike in the last decade?
Oh man, so proud. It’s literally my life’s work. It’s actually been 13 years since I signed, at first the shoes came out every two years and then it moved on from there. But I’m so proud, something about the number ten makes me be very reflective and look at the journey of coming here. I say it’s my life’s work as I’ve been skating 20 years and 13 of those have been with Nike.
The only other athletes to have as many signature models as you are Jordan, Kobe, LeBron and Durant – all basketball players. How does it feel for you to be opening those doors for skateboarding?
It feels unbelievable, basketball is worldwide and always in the spotlight. The guys are also superstars and they are amazing athletes in their own rights. It makes me trip out because skateboarding is a sub-cultural type thing and compared to basketball has a very tiny audience. So for me to come from something with a lower stage of visibility and work my way into the ranks with these guys - I can’t even understand how it happens, I’m thankful every day. It just shows what can happen when you are passionate about something and dedicate yourself day in, day out through the good and bad times. Over the course of time, whatever it is can be accomplished as long as you stay steady at it.
Would you say your skating style has changed since you first worked with Nike 13 years ago?
I’m sure it has, but it’s hard to pin-point in what ways until you are removed from and reflect back. When you’re a kid you’ve got a smaller body, then you grow up stronger so you can push faster, pop higher you learn more tricks. I like to think I’ve evolved but built off the platform that I always was, not changing in style, but adding to the platform evolving and maturing my abilities. Hopefully, I’ve got smoother and improved in my balance and have more precision.
Working with Nike have you been able to evolve your skating style through designing your own signature shoes?
When you have a great product it becomes an extension of your body. When I’m skating I’m not even thinking it’s separate from me - it’s one with me and I’m trying to be at one with my board. That's the mark of a truly great product in my opinion because it’s not meant to be doing the tricks for you, it’s supposed to facilitate and allow you to express yourself.
What role does music play when you skate?
A major role. 99% of the things I do, whether it’s watching TV or listening to music I rarely ever do it for entertainment purposes. If you catch me watching TV I’m usually watching a documentary or something that will inspire me to go be better at what I do.
I find hip-hop really resonates with me and makes me want to be better at my craft. For instance Jay-Z is my favourite artist – he’s my hero. I listen to the human being and what they are talking about. If I can take what they’re saying and relate the wisdom to my world applying it to myself that's all I care about – I try to draw inspiration from anything I put into my mind and my body.
Did you hear about the new Jay album 4:44?
I’m very excited. In my opinion, he’s only getting wiser and got more life experience. The things he talks about may not be relatable to the same person he was, but it’s because he’s an honest human and evolving. That's why I feel he doesn’t run out of material, he just continues to speak on his experiences.
You’ve got a 2Pac board, what does 2Pac mean to you?
We actually just re-released that board, it originally came out two years ago. We did an official license with the 2Pac estate, we got the blessings from the great people. 2Pac is a very polarising figure, he was the one who made me think reading was cool. I was watching his documentary ‘Thug Angel’ when I was 19, they were talking about how he was reading constantly. At that time I was a skate nerd, a high-school dropout and didn’t ever read a book. I was watching just like, “2Pac reads? That's incredible, it’s so smart”e’s the reason why to this day I’m an avid reader.
From Pac, I draw a lot of courage. I might be in a skateboard contest when I’m feeling nervous, I put on Pac track on that makes me feel empowered. It’s the way he speaks with so much passion coming from the heart - he’s hearing the beat and letting his heart pour out on the track.
The Nike SB P-Rod 10 is out now over at Nike.com and select retailers.