Rodrigo TX Pro Spotlight

Words and photography by Oliver Barton

The road that climbs the mountain to professional skateboarding is an undulating causeway of daring stunts, incredible athleticism, and intelligent power moves. It’s also littered with the remains of torn ACLs, manipulating girlfriends, hangovers, and broken promises. It’s an arduous path that many attempt but few overcome. For many who conquered the challenges and bask in the glory of endless product, lavish filming trips, and the occasional opportunity to sign an underage breast, the path was navigated with planning, preparation, and a bit of good luck. Then there are skaters like Rodrigo, who didn’t realize that they were on a road at all-they were just out enjoying themselves on a Sunday stroll and stumbled upon a nice view. The Skate Gods birthed them with GPS navigation. They don’t have paper chains that lead to hammers, and they don’t build their own spots; they just grip it and rip it. And everything else takes care of itself …

When was the first time that you saw a skateboard? Did you get bitten by the bug right off the bat?

I was so little the first time that I saw a skater, I thought, “Man, that might work for me,” but it was just to play with like a toy car. I was young, probably like seven. But when I saw it, I told my mom, “I want one, I need one!” So she got my brother one. We would play with it together, but we were too little to stand up. Finally, she got me one of my own, but about two months later we moved out of our apartment to another building. She was bringing stuff up to the new place and we couldn’t get everything upstairs in one trip, so we left some of the stuff downstairs; the skateboards got left down there, and when we came back to get them, they had been stolen-that sucked. There was nothing we could do about it, and we weren’t going to be given new ones.

I didn’t have a skateboard again until I was about twelve. I was walking past a gas station, and an old friend I hadn’t seen for a year had a board and could stand up and everything. He had been my homey at school, but he moved away for a while and had just come back. I didn’t know that he had come back. I was too little, I wasn’t going to call him on the telephone or anything, so it was cool to see him. We talked for half an hour and tried to stand on his board, so that made me want one again. He told me he had some in-line trucks, the real narrow ones; he got those and I got some bearings and wheels-I don’t remember how, but I got them. The thing that I was missing was a board.

The only thing that I owned was an aquarium, so I sold the aquarium and went to get a board with the money. When I got to the shop, I realized I didn’t have enough money to buy the griptape, but I was so excited I thought, “F-k it, I’ll just skate without griptape.” I went down to this park called Roosevelt; I still go there every time I go back to Brazil. Anyway, me and my homey went there, and I was the only one without any griptape! No one said a thing-I was just a little kid. There were over a hundred people skating there-it was crazy back then. Now if you go there, you might see fifteen people skating, but back then it was big: “Oh, you skate? You gotta go to Roosevelt.”

Since that point, did you ever put the board down?

No, that was it. I’ve skated ever since then.

How did you learn what tricks were possible on a skateboard?

I learned from my friends. Back then, one homey had five friends who were barely starting to skate, but they each knew a trick. One of them knew how to do a 180 and another knew how to do a kickflip, so we learned from each other. We’d see people at the park doing tricks, too, but we were always too scared to ask them how to do ’em ’cause they were the big guys and we were twelve.

When did you start checking out videos and magazines?

It took me a while to watch my first video. There was this guy in his car, and he saw me, stopped, and gave me a skate mag called Tri. It’s crazy because he said, “Yeah, I’m a pro skater. I’m going to Canada to the Slam City Jam.” I didn’t know who he was or anything, and I still don’t, but I was tripping because I didn’t know that they even had skateboard magazines. That’s how I know how long I’ve been skating, because I still have the magazine, and it was that magazine that got me really into skating.

In Brazil, it seems like there’s a pretty big competition scene. When did you first get involved in that stuff?

When I was thirteen, I was at this flatground park skating around, and this guy I’d never seen before came up to me. He told me he had a company and wanted to film me to show his business partner the footage-then maybe he could give me some boards or whatever. He filmed me doing some flatground lines-that was all there was, flatground-and then he showed it to his partner. His partner was down, and he started to take me to contests. The first one I entered I got fourth, and the next time I entered I won. After that, every weekend I had to go. All the contests were pretty close to my home at first because I was still little, but I started to go far away when I was fifteen.

How old were you when you entered the Mystic Cup in Prague?

The same age, I was fifteen.

How did you make it out to Europe?

I had a shoe sponsor at the time, and they really believed in me. They said they’d buy me one ticket to wherever I wanted to go-America to skate or Canada to enter the contest. I was supposed to go to Canada, but I didn’t get my visa, so I went to Europe. The shoe company hooked up the ticket and the visa, my board sponsor gave me a little bit of money, my truck company gave me a whole bunch of trucks to sell, and off I went.

Adelmo helped me out so much at that time; I was young, and I didn’t speak any English. There were a bunch of people traveling, but I didn’t know any of them. I went to the contest, and this is what’s crazy: I remember that I had 50 dollars, and usually to enter the contests it was 100, but this one was 50. So I had to make a choice-either I use the 50 dollars to enter the contest and not have any money left for the rest of the week, or I chill with the 50 and go back to Brazil in one week. I decided to keep the money and just skate the course but not the competition. Danielle Bostick came up to me and asked me why I was not entering-I didn’t speak any English, so I had to get my friend to translate for me. I told her, “Yo, I don’t have no money,” and she said, “Tell him it’s cool. He doesn’t have to pay.” The rest is history.

Was there any point when you thought that you had won?

No way, not at all. I was just skating, and then I made it to the semifinals and then the finals. They started calling the names, and I thought maybe I might make some money you know, that would be nice. Then they got to third place, and I thought that they had forgotten me. When I got first, I couldn’t believe it.

So, six months later, and you’ve gone from nada to Prada. You’re out filming with people who you had only seen in magazines and videos before. Was there a lot of pressure or did you not really realize what was going on?

Well, here’s the thing. After the European contests, I went to America for a week because I got invited to New York for a contest. That was when I got on The Firm and everything. After that, I went back to Brazil. French Fred told me that the à‡S flow team was going to have a few tricks in the video. It was Daniel Cardone, Javier Sarmiento, and I think Jake Nunn-we were supposed to have two tricks each. I filmed three tricks and went back to Brazil not expecting anything. When I was home, I got a call from Fred, but I still didn’t speak any English, so it was weird. I don’t remember how we managed to talk, but he told me there was going to be an à‡S filming trip, and I was thinking, “Didn’t I already get my tricks?” I didn’t know if they were thinking of putting me on, but I went anyway.

It was two weeks in Paris and two weeks in Barcelona. I was going to go back to Brazil at the end of the filming trip to stay in Brazil for a month before going back to Europe for the contests. At the end of the filming trip, Fred said, “Maybe you should just stay out here.” He was psyched. I still had school, though, and my mom didn’t really care, but my pops was down on it. In Brazil, your dad has to sign a paper to let you out of the country if you’re under eighteen, and he said he wasn’t going to sign it again if I didn’t do well in school. I was stressing-I knew I had messed up school, so I decided to stay anyway.

I went to Lyon with Fred, just the two of us for a month, filming every day. There were some people there from Clichà‡-JB Gillet skated a few days, but most of the time it was just me and Fred. He was down, and I was lucky to meet all these people who were down for me even though I couldn’t really talk to them. They all made me feel really comfortable. I just kept filming and figured out that I would stay away from Brazil until I was eighteen because I knew my dad was strict and wouldn’t sign the paper again.

Fred showed me all the footage and was really psyched. He said he’d see if he could get it in the video. I hurt my ankle and went back to Brazil for a while, and when I came back, I only had a week or two to film. Fred told me that I was going to have a part, but I hadn’t seen much of the footage, so I didn’t know what to expect. It was so quick-I wasn’t working on a video part, I just filmed and that was it. There was no pressure. If they had told me that I had to film a part, I would have been stressing. I was already tripping because I’d go skating with Rick McCrank and Eric Koston, and I didn’t know if I was there to watch or if I was bugging them or what. It was crazy because we’d go to where they wanted to skate, which were spots pretty different from what I was used to skating. I just thought, “Well, I’m here, I might as well skate.”

What was it like coming back to Brazil after such a big, fast change?

It felt the same. All my friends who skate in Brazil, all my homeys, they go to work and only skate on the weekends, so it was fun-they were just psyched for me. We never tried to go anywhere with skating, we just all skated together. It was never like, “We gotta do this!” I was just the one from the crew who got lucky and made it.

Did your parents understand what was going on at the time?

No, not at all. I remember one time I told my mom, “Next year maybe I’ll compete professionally.” I didn’t know if I was going to get a board or anything, but after Prague I couldn’t really go back to skating amateur contests in Brazil. My mom was like, “Why is that? You should just stay amateur.” She doesn’t really know anything about skateboarding, she just didn’t want me to take it as a profession. She just wanted me to take it like a toy.

So what happened next?

Well, I went back out to Europe, and people were all joking like, “When are you going pro?” I’d see Lance (Mountain), but I don’t know if I was even thinking that I might turn pro, and I couldn’t ask him, anyway, because I still didn’t speak any English. Then one day he said, “Hey, I’ve got something to show you,” and he opened this little book, and he showed me two graphics with my name on them.

You and Javier Sarmiento have been pretty inseparable. You could definitely use the phrase “brothers from different mothers.” How did you meet him?

Well, I had seen him at the comps in the summer, but neither of us spoke any of the same language, so we just kind of said what’s up, shook hands, and that’s about it. Then one December, he came to Brazil with Joe Brook and Anthony Claravall. Lance had given them my number at my mom’s house, but when they called, she couldn’t understand what they were saying. She had to get someone from the shop downstairs who spoke some English to talk to them. I got a message to say that they were in town, but weeks in Paris and two weeks in Barcelona. I was going to go back to Brazil at the end of the filming trip to stay in Brazil for a month before going back to Europe for the contests. At the end of the filming trip, Fred said, “Maybe you should just stay out here.” He was psyched. I still had school, though, and my mom didn’t really care, but my pops was down on it. In Brazil, your dad has to sign a paper to let you out of the country if you’re under eighteen, and he said he wasn’t going to sign it again if I didn’t do well in school. I was stressing-I knew I had messed up school, so I decided to stay anyway.

I went to Lyon with Fred, just the two of us for a month, filming every day. There were some people there from Clichà‡-JB Gillet skated a few days, but most of the time it was just me and Fred. He was down, and I was lucky to meet all these people who were down for me even though I couldn’t really talk to them. They all made me feel really comfortable. I just kept filming and figured out that I would stay away from Brazil until I was eighteen because I knew my dad was strict and wouldn’t sign the paper again.

Fred showed me all the footage and was really psyched. He said he’d see if he could get it in the video. I hurt my ankle and went back to Brazil for a while, and when I came back, I only had a week or two to film. Fred told me that I was going to have a part, but I hadn’t seen much of the footage, so I didn’t know what to expect. It was so quick-I wasn’t working on a video part, I just filmed and that was it. There was no pressure. If they had told me that I had to film a part, I would have been stressing. I was already tripping because I’d go skating with Rick McCrank and Eric Koston, and I didn’t know if I was there to watch or if I was bugging them or what. It was crazy because we’d go to where they wanted to skate, which were spots pretty different from what I was used to skating. I just thought, “Well, I’m here, I might as well skate.”

What was it like coming back to Brazil after such a big, fast change?

It felt the same. All my friends who skate in Brazil, all my homeys, they go to work and only skate on the weekends, so it was fun-they were just psyched for me. We never tried to go anywhere with skating, we just all skated together. It was never like, “We gotta do this!” I was just the one from the crew who got lucky and made it.

Did your parents understand what was going on at the time?

No, not at all. I remember one time I told my mom, “Next year maybe I’ll compete professionally.” I didn’t know if I was going to get a board or anything, but after Prague I couldn’t really go back to skating amateur contests in Brazil. My mom was like, “Why is that? You should just stay amateur.” She doesn’t really know anything about skateboarding, she just didn’t want me to take it as a profession. She just wanted me to take it like a toy.

So what happened next?

Well, I went back out to Europe, and people were all joking like, “When are you going pro?” I’d see Lance (Mountain), but I don’t know if I was even thinking that I might turn pro, and I couldn’t ask him, anyway, because I still didn’t speak any English. Then one day he said, “Hey, I’ve got something to show you,” and he opened this little book, and he showed me two graphics with my name on them.

You and Javier Sarmiento have been pretty inseparable. You could definitely use the phrase “brothers from different mothers.” How did you meet him?

Well, I had seen him at the comps in the summer, but neither of us spoke any of the same language, so we just kind of said what’s up, shook hands, and that’s about it. Then one December, he came to Brazil with Joe Brook and Anthony Claravall. Lance had given them my number at my mom’s house, but when they called, she couldn’t understand what they were saying. She had to get someone from the shop downstairs who spoke some English to talk to them. I got a message to say that they were in town, but I don’t think that I knew who they were by name. Javier tried to talk to me the most, and we both were trying to film for 411; I think he had a Rookies and I had a Wheels Of Fortune. We both skated together. It was crazy-we’d be trying almost the same tricks at the same spots, and it was cool.

So you’ve influenced each other quite a lot then?

Well, he’s influenced me a lot. He’ll always be telling me, “What are you doing with your life?” if he sees me skating a rail or something (laughs)! But I don’t know if I influenced him-you’d have to ask Javier.

Do you still make it back to Brazil a lot?

Yeah, for sure. Twice a year.

It’s got a reputation for being pretty sketchy-kids in the streets sniffing glue, car jackings, City Of God-style favelas. How accurate is that reputation?

It’s a true picture, but I think that wherever you go in the world it can be sketchy. It just depends how you act.

What’s the sketchiest thing that’s happened to you in Brazil?

Well, I’ve seen a lot of people get robbed-many just in the traffic. You’ll see people run up to the cars pulling guns. To me, that I remember, I never got robbed face-to-face. I mean, I got a car stolen there once, but I parked and walked to the bakery and when I came back, it was gone. They never pulled any guns or anything like that. To me, the Moroccans in Barcelona are more sketchy, but that might be because I’m not from there. It depends, if you go to Brazil by yourself, it’s going to be sketchy because you don’t know how to act.

It’s not really the best place in the world for skating by any means. Why are there so many good Brazilian skaters?

I think a lot of Brazilian skaters just try harder. I don’t want to sound like I’m saying everyone else is lazy, but that’s how it is. We call a lot of Brazilian skaters guerreiros, which means warriors. Whatever they do, they’re warriors.

Whenever I see you in Barcelona, you’re always off skating with locals on your own mission instead of sticking with the group that you might have traveled out there with. What are some of the benefits of following your own path like that?

Well, I’m a skater, but I still want to live my life like I want to live it. When I’m in Barcelona, I feel like I’m a real skateboarder, just like a little rat skating, you know? To me, that’s the best feeling in skating, and Barcelona is where I get that feeling the most. When I’m there I just want to stay as long as I can because it makes me feel like a skateboarder.

For someone of your stature in skating, you’ll run some pretty ghetto setups and you’re sleeping on people’s floors when you travel a lot of the time. What’s that all about?

That’s just kind of me, you know? When I get back to the States, I get kind of spoiled-new shoes, always skating new boards because I can. But if I don’t have them, it doesn’t matter. My mom always says to me not to get used to living the high life because one day it’s not going to be there anymore and you’re going to fall down really hard if you get too used to it.

You’ve got some serious pop. What’s the secret to your snap?

(Laughs) There is no secret-just skate a lot. The more I skate, the more I feel the board. That’s it.

How do you learn new tricks? Do you see a trick that you like and try to figure it out in your head, or do you just let it happen naturally?

Well, that’s a hard one, because sometimes if you see someone doing a trick and you want to learn that trick, you might try to do it the same way and it won’t work. So it depends-sometimes you just have to go with the flow and let it happen naturally, or just leave it alone, like maybe I’m just not meant to do this trick. Then a month later you might try it again and it’s easy. I guess just go with the flow.

Is skating better underground or mainstream?

I think it’s better more hardcore, but as soon as you take it as a job, it’s better mainstream because you’re putting ten years of your life into it. It’s hhard to explain, but if you have ten years of just memories, it’s going to be good. But then what are you going to do afterward? You can’t get a new job with your old memories. You got to go a little mainstream, but not too mainstream.

What skaters are you feeling at the moment?

Hmmm. I like a lot of different people right now. At the moment, I really like Dennis Busenitz. He seems like he can really have fun, and he really seems like he can skate. I wish I could skate like him. I like Dylan Rieder a lot, too-and JB Gillet. There’s a lot of people.

What are your plans when skating is done? Will you go back to Brazil?

Yeah, back to Sa_ Paulo. I seriously don’t know what I’ll be doing in the future. If I try to think about it, it gets me really paranoid! I’m trying to learn to live way more in the moment-plan the future, but don’t put too much pressure on thinking about it. If you get caught up and you don’t live it now and everything that you do is for the future, it’s not going to be good for you.

don’t think that I knew who they were by name. Javier tried to talk to me the most, and we both were trying to film for 411; I think he had a Rookies and I had a Wheels Of Fortune. We both skated together. It was crazy-we’d be trying almost the same tricks at the same spots, and it was cool.

So you’ve influenced each other quite a lot then?

Well, he’s influenced me a lot. He’ll always be telling me, “What are you doing with your life?” if he sees me skating a rail or something (laughs)! But I don’t know if I influenced him-you’d have to ask Javier.

Do you still make it back to Brazil a lot?

Yeah, for sure. Twice a year.

It’s got a reputation for being pretty sketchy-kids in the streets sniffing glue, car jackings, City Of God-style favelas. How accurate is that reputation?

It’s a true picture, but I think that wherever you go in the world it can be sketchy. It just depends how you act.

What’s the sketchiest thing that’s happened to you in Brazil?

Well, I’ve seen a lot of people get robbed-many just in the traffic. You’ll see people run up to the cars pulling guns. To me, that I remember, I never got robbed face-to-face. I mean, I got a car stolen there once, but I parked and walked to the bakery and when I came back, it was gone. They never pulled any guns or anything like that. To me, the Moroccans in Barcelona are more sketchy, but that might be because I’m not from there. It depends, if you go to Brazil by yourself, it’s going to be sketchy because you don’t know how to act.

It’s not really the best place in the world for skating by any means. Why are there so many good Brazilian skaters?

I think a lot of Brazilian skaters just try harder. I don’t want to sound like I’m saying everyone else is lazy, but that’s how it is. We call a lot of Brazilian skaters guerreiros, which means warriors. Whatever they do, they’re warriors.

Whenever I see you in Barcelona, you’re always off skating with locals on your own mission instead of sticking with the group that you might have traveled out there with. What are some of the benefits of following your own path like that?

Well, I’m a skater, but I still want to live my life like I want to live it. When I’m in Barcelona, I feel like I’m a real skateboarder, just like a little rat skating, you know? To me, that’s the best feeling in skating, and Barcelona is where I get that feeling the most. When I’m there I just want to stay as long as I can because it makes me feel like a skateboarder.

For someone of your stature in skating, you’ll run some pretty ghetto setups and you’re sleeping on people’s floors when you travel a lot of the time. What’s that all about?

That’s just kind of me, you know? When I get back to the States, I get kind of spoiled-new shoes, always skating new boards because I can. But if I don’t have them, it doesn’t matter. My mom always says to me not to get used to living the high life because one day it’s not going to be there anymore and you’re going to fall down really hard if you get too used to it.

You’ve got some serious pop. What’s the secret to your snap?

(Laughs) There is no secret-just skate a lot. The more I skate, the more I feel the board. That’s it.

How do you learn new tricks? Do you see a trick that you like and try to figure it out in your head, or do you just let it happen naturally?

Well, that’s a hard one, because sometimes if you see someone doing a trick and you want to learn that trick, you might try to do it the same way and it won’t work. So it depends-sometimes you just have to go with the flow and let it happen naturally, or just leave it alone, like maybe I’m just not meant to do this trick. Then a month later you might try it again and it’s easy. I guess just go with the flow.

Is skating better underground or mainstream?

I think it’s better more hardcore, but as soon as you take it as a job, it’s better mainstream because you’re putting ten years of your life into it. It’s hard to explain, but if you have ten years of just memories, it’s going to be good. But then what are you going to do afterward? You can’t get a new job with your old memories. You got to go a little mainstream, but not too mainstream.

What skaters are you feeling at the moment?

Hmmm. I like a lot of different people right now. At the moment, I really like Dennis Busenitz. He seems like he can really have fun, and he really seems like he can skate. I wish I could skate like him. I like Dylan Rieder a lot, too-and JB Gillet. There’s a lot of people.

What are your plans when skating is done? Will you go back to Brazil?

Yeah, back to Sa_ Paulo. I seriously don’t know what I’ll be doing in the future. If I try to think about it, it gets me really paranoid! I’m trying to learn to live way more in the moment-plan the future, but don’t put too much pressure on thinking about it. If you get caught up and you don’t live it now and everything that you do is for the future, it’s not going to be good for you.

. It’s hard to explain, but if you have ten years of just memories, it’s going to be good. But then what are you going to do afterward? You can’t get a new job with your old memories. You got to go a little mainstream, but not too mainstream.

What skaters are you feeling at the moment?

Hmmm. I like a lot of different people right now. At the moment, I really like Dennis Busenitz. He seems like he can really have fun, and he really seems like he can skate. I wish I could skate like him. I like Dylan Rieder a lot, too-and JB Gillet. There’s a lot of people.

What are your plans when skating is done? Will you go back to Brazil?

Yeah, back to Sa_ Paulo. I seriously don’t know what I’ll be doing in the future. If I try to think about it, it gets me really paranoid! I’m trying to learn to live way more in the moment-plan the future, but don’t put too much pressure on thinking about it. If you get caught up and you don’t live it now and everything that you do is for the future, it’s not going to be good for you.