The Ones: Paul Rodriguez
P-Rod talks risk-taking and the connections between basketball and skateboarding.
Words: Nic Dobija-Nootens
Photos: @HumphriesPhoto & @Cel.Jarvis
“The Ones” celebrates a new generation of defiant, talented individuals.
Paul “P-Rod” Rodriguez has irrefutably transcended skateboarding. He’s founded companies, starred in movies and is one of only four athletes to have 10 signature shoes with Nike. He even has a parking space with his name on it at Nike’s World Headquarters. Despite all of that, the living legend hasn’t let any of his success overshadow his love for skating. If anything, he’s used these achievements to continue fueling his relentless passion for the sport that made him.
As a kid growing up in suburban Los Angeles, Paul would routinely pick up and quit new hobbies rather quickly. So when he first asked his parents for a skateboard, they thought it would be just another fad. Little did they know, young Paul would spend hours mastering flatland tricks and challenging himself on the loading dock of his local supermarket. Soon, they learned that this “phase” would lead to him becoming one of the most sought-after pro skateboarders by the age of 18.
16 years later, Paul has redefined what it means to be a pro skater. For him, this means not just doing your job but handling everything that comes your way with professionalism. As an athlete, businessman and celebrity, Paul set new standards for what success, dignity and graciousness look like in skateboarding.
To this day, Paul has no plans of settling. As he’ll tell you, no injury, accolade or giant billboard with his face on it will keep him from perfecting those seemingly impossible tricks.
How was it collaborating with Air Jordan on two of your Nike SB shoes in the past?
It felt surreal because I grew up on Michael Jordan. I was never a big basketball player, but I loved him from a young age — what he represented, how he carried himself, what he meant to the culture and the work ethic. As I grew older, I understood those were the qualities I looked up to him for.
What do you think about bringing skateboarding into the Jordan Brand more visibly with this project?
It’s about damn time. Jordan has a lot of history in skateboarding. The Air Jordan I was the first shoe that adapted well to skateboarding in the ‘80s. When skateboarding was in its early phases, there were no skate shoe brands, and basketball shoes worked well for what the early skateboarding pioneers were trying to do. Here we are, and 30-something years later, skateboarding still embraces the Air Jordan I. It’s time tested in both basketball and in skateboarding.
What connections do you see between basketball and skateboarding?
They’re both accessible. If you want to skateboard, you don’t need to wait for a whole team of people. It’s the same with basketball; you can just grab a ball and go outside. For instance, I’m considered a high level pro, but I can be at any street spot and skate next to any other kid. The accessibility keeps you grounded and in touch with why you started.
How has it been coming back from the biggest knee injury of your career last year?
I’m about halfway through the recovery period, and I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m sneaking in a few little ollies. I’m starting to look at it as a blessing. Before I got hurt, I was still skating every day and enjoying it, but I was on autopilot. Since the injury, it’s re-sparked that inner fire of seeing if I can become better than I was before I got hurt. Maybe I can, maybe I can’t, but something about that challenge got me really fired up.
“Skateboarding was built upon that rebellious attitude, and now, it has become the culture.”
You took a pretty big leap to leave your board sponsor in 2014 and launch your own brand, Primitive Skateboards. Did that feel like a big risk at the time?
It was a big risk. It would have been safer for me to stay on the endorsement path that I was on and stay with the brands that sponsor me, but it wouldn’t have been as satisfying. The first couple years were touch and go, but we finally started finding our groove and becoming stable this year.
Now, we have good problems, like balancing skateboarding as the centerpiece while still remaining profitable. Making money is always a taboo thing to talk about in skateboarding, but we’re talking about being defiant here. Sometimes you’ve got to do what’s right for you.
You can’t live life constantly trying to satisfy everybody’s opinion. Skateboarding was built upon that rebellious attitude, and now, it has become the culture. It has become the thing that’s cool to do. So in a way, I’m being counterculture by going off the beaten path. At this point in my life, I’m okay with taking risks. I’m okay with knowing that not everybody is okay with what I’m doing.
The Air Jordan I High OG ‘Black/Red’ is available starting June 29 from SNKRS and select retailers.