Eight-time X Games medalist, four of which gold, and all-time legendary skateboarder, Paul Rodriguez‘s career accomplishments have taken him around the globe. Known to fans simply as P-Rod, his laid-back, west coast personality heats up on the board as he’s one of the fiercest competitors on the planet. Calling Los Angeles home, Rodriguez’s global skateboarding perspectives are hard to match.
— — —
Read the interview highlights below, or listen to SCP Radio’s full-length podcast:
— — —
Mike O’Keefe: Los Angeles’ diverse architecture and proximity to the beach were part of the reasons why skateboarding was born and continues to thrive in the city. Describe LA’s atmosphere and beauty a bit. How did you like growing up there?
Paul Rodriguez: Well, LA’s atmosphere is constantly sunny, constantly blue skies — relatively clean air, crisp air — palm trees, lots of green. Yeah, and then you have the coast — the beach — lots of beautiful people running up-and-down the beach. I don’t know, it’s just an ideal atmosphere and loved growing up here. And, I don’t know if I intend on ever moving away from here.
MO: When did you first step on a skateboard? And, how did the culture and area you lived in have an impact on your career?
PR: I first stepped on a skateboard somewhere around October-November of 1996. And, at first it was just to test it out and then I would watch the other kids at my school skate. So, for that Christmas I got my own skateboard, and that’s when I really went to work on actually considering myself a skateboarder. The culture influenced me in my area, because I saw a group of skateboarders there in California, you know where I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, and that interested me.
The fact that the weather is good year-round allowed me to be outdoors a lot and skate to where I didn’t have to ever stop it for long periods of time. You know there was never any big rainy season, like I wouldn’t be able to skate for months at a time. It was just always a go. So, that allowed me to stay in love with skateboarding.
MO: What are some of your favorite city to skate? And, how do urban skate spots differ internationally?
PR: Some of my favorite spots to skate, or cities to skate, would be Barcelona, of course, in Spain. The style of architecture they have there really lends itself well to skateboarding. The materials they use for the ground is usually really nice, level tiles — smooth, maybe granite tiling — granite ledges, which grind and slide really well. They have a real laid back kind of attitude where they don’t really mind if people are skateboarding too many places, which is good.
I also like China, because they basically built everything out of marble, which is like the best material for skateboarding. Best for rolling on, best for grinding, sliding. They just have an abundance of marble — granite, as well. And, you know, skateboarding is kind of foreign to people in China, so they don’t know what to think of it. They don’t really kick us out too much — harass us. Those are my two favorite places to skate abroad.
MO: When you have down time and are looking for a personal getaway, do you look to relax on a beach? Or, are you more active looking for a little adventure?
PR: Now this may sound like a non-answer, but for me when I have downtime I spend it riding my skateboard. Not a big beach guy. I don’t necessarily mind a little adventure, as long as it involves my skateboard. But, for me downtime is more like when I don’t have to do obligations involving my career, meaning tours or signings, appearances or competitions. When all that’s not going around I still skateboard, but I skateboard at my own time, at my own places of my choosing and work on the things I want to work on. So, for me, that’s my downtime and that’s how I like to spend it.
MO: How does skateboarding and travel fit together?
PR: Well, for me, skateboarding and travel are forever intertwined, because really the only reason I travel is because I skateboard. I’ve seen a lot of the world because of skateboarding. It’s taken me to a lot of places I never thought I’d have a desire to go to when I was a lot younger. And, I’ve got to see lots of different cultures and lots of different walks of life — try different foods, and just see how people live life across Earth, and it’s been interesting, it’s been great.
MO: In many ways skateboarding is about overcoming obstacles. Whether it’s learning a tough new trick or figuring out how to best hit a feature. What life lessons has skateboarding taught you along the way?
PR: Yeah, skateboarding really teaches you a lot. I mean, but just the stuff that I can pull of the top of my head is it teaches you persistence. It gives you tenacity, because in order to get to a certain level of ability you have to fail so many times. But, it teaches you to get back up and try again, get back up and try again, get back up and try again. And, you learn that after a while it dawns on you that if I just keep trying something enough times eventually the outcome I’m looking for will happen. So, once you understand that it’s harder to give up.
Life is kind of like that. If you have a certain aim or goal in life, doesn’t mean it’s always going to happen the way you plan it out to be. But, you start to understand that if you just keep approaching it and keep trying, and you know the whole term of the squeaky-wheel-gets-the-oil-type situation. You have to keep attacking whatever it is you’re going for. Eventually, you’ll win that battle. So, that’s kind of what I’ve picked up in my personal experience.
MO: Everyone has a list of places they haven’t seen yet. What are three destinations you still have to hit?
PR: To be honest that’s not really something I’ve thought about, but I guess I’d like to see the pyramids of Egypt. That would be cool. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Colosseum in Rome. Easter Island would probably be pretty interesting to see. So, I guess I’ll go with those things.
MO: When arriving at a new location, what is the first thing you try and do?
PR: Take a shower. I usually like to take a shower when I get off an airplane after traveling for 12-plus hours, or however long the flight was, when I’m a little bit jet-lagged. First thing I like to do when I get to the hotel is take a shower and then it’s go eat. I want to try the local food and see what it has to offer.
MO: What effect has seeing and experiencing different cultures had on you? How has it broadened your perspective of the world?
PR: It’s hard to put it into words what effect it’s had on me, but it’s definitely allowed me to appreciate the differences in cultures, and I guess have tolerance. I don’t think I was an intolerant person before anyway, but just taught me to tolerate. I don’t like that word tolerate, but it just taught me to understand different people’s cultures, perspectives and how they live life. Even though we all live differently, we all are the same. We all need food to eat. We all need to breath air. We all have the same emotions. We all have love. We all have sadness. We all have people that are close to us and we care about. Our basic makeup and our basic needs are all the same.
So, it causes me to be baffled why people hate each other, why different cultures hate each other, or there’s racism, or there’s religious differences. At the end of the day we all float along in this big, black, empty space on this dirt ball, and we all have the same basic needs: air, water, food. We all need it. We all laugh when something’s funny. We all cry when something’s sad. We all have people in our lives that we love. We all have things that upset us. We all have things that make us happy. It’s all the same. We just happen to do certain things a little differently – eat a little bit of different food, speak in a little bit different tone. But, at the end of the day we’re all on this planet together.
MO: Lastly, when’s the next vacation and where to?
PR: The next vacation? I haven’t even had the first vacation yet. So, I have no idea. Never taken a vacation that I’ve planned out, done on my own. Like okay, “I’m going to go this destination. I’m going to get a hotel and stay for ‘X’ amount of days.” I’ve yet to do that in my life, and I don’t know where I would go if I were going to plan one. So, I’ll keep you posted.