Paul Rodriguez has always been a street skater. Since acquiring that first $200 paycheck as a kid, he has been competitively pursuing his dream.
It was not the need to take risks or the opportunity to impress girls that initially drew him into skateboarding. It was the love of the game and an obsession with being the greatest he could possibly be.
Rodriguez was raised by his mother in a nice little house in the suburbs of Northridge, California, where he could explore anything he expressed an interest in. If he wanted to do karate, she put him in karate class. If he wanted to play baseball, she put him in little league.
“No matter what I did, even if it was karate, I believed I was going to be the next Bruce Lee and make movies. If I played baseball, I wanted to be Nolan Ryan, the best pitcher, the best baseball player in the world,” Rodriguez says. “I dedicated myself to anything I ever tried and for a year or two I did everything really intensely until I got completely obsessed with something else. But skateboarding was the one thing that just felt so interesting. My attention never strayed from it.”
Before discovering skateboarding, he was just a kid running around the neighborhood with his friends. Even before he learned any tricks, he knew he was going to be a professional skater. He has been dreaming about achieving success in the sport since he was 11 years old. And while he has achieved success and fame, he still feels like he has not made it.
“I still feel like I’m not successful, like I’m still striving for those dreams,” Rodriguez adds.
The upcoming Street League DC Pro Tour fueled by Monster Energy will give Rodriguez the proper platform to showcase his competitive drive against the absolute best street skateboarders in the world. Street League was founded by Rob Dyrdek in 2010 as part of his ever-growing empire. This year highlights a new scoring potential along with expanded, custom street plazas and the occasion to see new competitors on the roster. With more prize money up for grabs and added terrain underfoot, athletes with compete for more than $1.6 million across four events.
“I’m not trying to sound cocky, but I believe I have the abilities to be an opponent of all these guys,” Rodriguez explains. “I’ve earned my spot to compete with the best of them. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t going there to try and win.”
The course will give Rodriguez the landscape to try some new tricks and innovate on the fly. It is not like basketball or baseball where you already know what the setup is going to look like. A week or two before the contest takes place, competitors are emailed a rendering of the course so they have an idea what they’re going into but it isn’t accurate enough to illustrate just how big or small an obstacle is.
“I always keep certain tricks in mind before arriving but allow myself a loose plan to make alterations when certain dimensions are not how I imagined them. You may come up to an obstacle that works perfect for you or you may approach a course that you feel intimidated by but that is what keeps it exciting! Sometimes you do something you have never done before just off the sheer strength and momentum of the excitement in the air. You just go for something big,” he says.
Rodriguez is a huge supporter of Street League because of his relationship with Dyrdek. They have been friends for more than 10 years.
“I trust that he truly has the sport’s best interests in mind. I believe in Rob and will always support what he’s doing,” Rodriguez adds. “He is a visionary, turning his dreams into a
reality. I have respect for him as a skater and respect for his mind. It is an immense blessing that I have been able to be around this guy since I was 15 years old. I mean, I grew up watching Rob skateboard and learning from him. Everything he’s always talked about achieving he is now living.”
For whatever reasons, Rodriguez has a lot of dreams and goals. It never ends. He can go up and up the ladder and find that prime area but no matter what, no matter how much he accomplishes, chasing his drams is fun. It is all part of the process.
Professional athletes do not always have the luxury of being sponsored by one of the world’s top brands, but Rodriguez is one of Nike’s few Signature Athletes. He is currently getting ready to launch his sixth signature shoe and establishing an entire line of clothing.
“I’m very pleased and blessed to be a Nike Signature Athlete,” he says. “I hope people will enjoy wearing the clothing I am designing. I get to design jeans, pants, and shirts just the way I want them. My line of clothing can be found anywhere Nike SB is sold.”
Nike was not even sponsoring skateboarders when he first started skateboarding. So, as you can imagine, when they started building a team and asked him to join, it was an opportunity he could not pass up.
“It’s really amazing that they recognized me, and I was on their radar. It’s such an honor and I still slap myself all the time,” Rodriguez explains. “No one tells you that you have to get up to skate at 9 a.m. It was insane. I do not know anyone who has not grown up owning a pair of Nike’s. For something that has been such a big part of your life and they are finally calling you I so surreal. It did not even sink in until a while after. My first pair of shoes were baby Jordan’s. It really hit me when I saw a sample of my own shoe and my name was next to a swoosh. I remember feeling lumps in my throat and crying tears of joy. It was such a beautiful feeling.”
For many skaters, just being able to ride for a nice little skateboard shoe company or brand would be like conquering the world. No one ever expects to get a phone call from some folks over at Nike offering them a deal. According to Rodriguez, Nike treats him well. Back in his early days of touring with the brand before the recession hit, budgets were unlimited. Imagine that!
“We had room service, parties, drink, anything!” Rodriguez exclaims. “It was unlimited. No one said a word. Not a care in the world. We were busy being young and taking advantage of the good life. From Brazil to Australia to China we were pampered! I got to live like a true star, a real athlete, and that was something special.”
Looking back over all the years he has been skateboarding, Rodriguez says that what stands out the most are the early years before he was ever sponsored. It was just him running around with his friends. It was pure passion. He would watch skate videos every day.
Everything he did was skate related. Thinking back on those days, he remembers being in front of his house waxing the curb with no idea of where his passion would take him. He used to fall asleep at night dreaming about going pro.
Rodriguez even has his own private 9,000 square foot skate warehouse in Canoga Park, California. This project was a collaboration between Nike SB, Target, and CA Skateparks. It features a hybrid of Skatelite wood material and concrete with a ramp, small bowl, hubba ledges, and a raised stage area. The warehouse is decorated with framed pictures of his close friends and old couches from his mom’s house. Frequent visitors include pro skaters Jeremy Rodgers and Terry Kennedy.
“Now we don’t have to worry about getting kicked out,” he says laughing. “We never used to have the luxury of practicing in peace to get down a trick. In the past, we would drive around Los Angeles all day trying to find a premium spot.”
If you have ever found yourself on the path of working toward achieving your goal and need some advice, Rodriguez is definitely someone worth taking advice from.
“If you have a dream and you stick to it and work hard enough, you can absolutely reach it. Do not let anyone twist their idea of what your life should be like upon you,” he says. “When you have that burning passion within, it makes no difference what other people say. All you must do is believe in you. That is all that matters. Do not let anyone push their agenda on your one and only chance at this life. If you do, you’re going to grow up and realize you can’t get those years back.”
At this point, Rodriguez’s career is taking off. He is hoping to continue going hard for at least another nine to 10 years. He tells me that it is all about balance and finding time to incorporate family into his hectic schedule, especially spending precious moments with his daughter, Heaven.
“Honestly, I just skate. I do not think about the politics. I cannot stand it anymore. I do not even think about what is cool or not. Some people are going to love what I am doing, and others are going to hate. At the end of the day, it makes no difference to me. Others should do the same.”