by Mackenzie Eisenhour

Paul Rodriguez is a person who has deep faith in the path destiny has laid before him. That path has whooshed him through some of skateboarding’s biggest companies, hottest spotlights, biggest accolades, and unfettered financial riches. However, his love for progression and passion for self-improvement have never been dampened by the soft, warm cloth of success or the perilous bite of ego. Paul’s strength comes from the inside. His satisfaction with riding a skateboard is enough to keep him in perpetual motion. With a Plan B revival video looming over skateboarding like an atomic pinata, Paul sat down with TransWorld SKATEboarding and laid bare the inner workings of his mind.

1. When does being a professional skateboarder become a full-time job?
Well, definitely there are times where a skateboarding career can get in the way of the skateboarding. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and what I do, but I think before you launch yourself into being pro and dream about being pro, you might not be thinking of all the time you’re going to be away from home on tours and doing demos. You might not be thinking that you always gotta shoot an ad or do something. Before you really get in the game, you’re just thinking, “Dude, these guys get to just wake up every day and all they have to do is skate all day long. All day, every day. I can’t wait to have that.” Well, it turns out there are responsibilities, obligations, and requirements. You sign contracts to divide your time between a certain group of companies. That’s when it can really become a job.

2. Do you carry around an agenda, a little Blackberry or something with all your appointments?
No. I’m pretty much technologically illiterate. I seriously just got e-mail three weeks ago. I’m pretty good on a cell phone, though. But I’m unorganized. I have my manager and she keeps on my ass about all the things I need to do. It can seriously be overwhelming otherwise. They organize my schedule, but every once in a while I’ll get a call waking me in the morning like, “Hey, you’re gonna be down here today, right?” And I’ll be completely clueless like, “What?” and they’re like, “Yeah, I told you about this three times last week, man.” Sometimes you seriously can’t remember one day to the next because there’s so much going on.

3. Do you ever feel pressure in all the situations you’re expected to perform?
Some days I do. Maybe if I’ve been out filming or something the day before and I’m sore or something. I’m really my own worst critic, though, at demos and contests. If I’m having a bad day, I tend to make it so much of a bigger deal in my brain. I’ll be like, “Oh man, that’s it. I’m over. It’s all downhill from here. I ain’t as good as I used to be.” Just stressin’ over the littlest thing. Sometimes it gets to you and you just have to calm yourself down and realize bad days are gonna happen regardless.

4. I feel like you, specifically, are expected to perform every time compared to some other dudes who can kind of chill at a demo. What do you think the reason for that is?
Well, basically, I did it to myself. I’m the one who chose to take certain opportunities that arose, and maybe other people might have chosen not to take them. They way I see it, I’ve been given a bunch of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and it’s insane to me the things that keep poppin’ up. And then when they pop up, I just see it as too good to let pass by. You’re basically given these gifts and you got to step up and grab them while they’re there. But yeah, along with that comes the pressure. I’m sure musicians and people like that experience it all the time. Like you had a big hit record and everybody expects you to come with that same heat you had on the first one the next time around. But what most people don’t realize is that in between, you started getting paid and getting comfortable in this lifestyle. Prior to that you were just running on your hunger and dreams to makit.

If you’re not careful, you can definitely slip. I’ve seen it happen to a few friends. You start getting comfortable, a little lazy, start thinkin’ you don’t have to skate as much or practice as much and next thing you know, before you even realize you can fix the problem, it’s already gone. Thank God, I’ve caught myself at those times and just reorganized myself and kept my motivation to skate up.

5. Was there a specific moment where you realized you weren’t just motivated by the hunger to make it anymore? When did you have to get your motivation from something other than that dream?
Yeah, definitely. Pretty much after I turned pro and definitely after I got my pro shoe. Growing up and wanting to be a pro skater, that’s what you set your sights on the whole time like, “I got to get that board.” Then you get the board and it’s like, “Okay, I got the board, but now I gotta get that shoe.” You’re workin’ on that goal and you finally achieve it and you’re high off life for that first little while, but then eventually it dawns on you like, “I did it, I’m here. Where do I go know?” And that’s the hardest part. That’s when you have to dig deep and realize that the whole time you had your eyes on the prize the real thing that will motivate you once you have the prize is the same thing that motivated you before you ever even thought about being pro-progression and the love for skateboarding. And that’s something you’ve got to do for yourself.

6. Was that a moment of clarity for you?
Well, from the outside looking in at the industry, you think, “Damn, all my favorite skaters, all the pros, man, they just must be havin’ the life-skating all day, every day.” Then you finally get in the bubble and you realize damn near half the population only skates when they need to get a photo or when they’re on crunch time to get some video footage. When I saw that, I was like, “I never want that to happen to me.” Once I realized that it put things in perspective, I was like, “F-k that.” You can still catch me skating flatground outside my house, and I’m still skating the spots I grew up skating. You can’t lose touch with what got you started because you won’t even notice as you switch from being a kid in awe of your favorite skaters to being somebody else’s favorite skater. You can’t lose touch with that skate rat you were.

7. How difficult was the decision to leave Girl and how did that transpire?It was definitely a tough decision for sure. Those guys were always super cool to me. Plus, skating with (Eric) Koston after growing up with him and being my favorite skater was amazing, too. At one point, I was on all the exact same sponsors as Koston and I was so psyched like, “My favorite dude helped me out and got me to where I want to be.” It was a great experience. Then with the whole Plan B thing, I got a call from Danny Way, a legendary person, trying to resurrect a legendary company, and he’s telling me about the guys he wants to put on, and I was just like, “Are you kidding me?” I was with this crew of dudes that he wants, he can’t lose. Also, it was this opportunity to become an owner in the company and become more of an entrepreneur and have a say in the way the company went. At Girl, I would have been out of place asking for that kind of pull because I wasn’t there from the beginning. With a fresh start like Plan B, everybody has input in the company decision-making and everybody is an owner within the company. With most companies, they sort of ask the riders for input, but it’s more like a courtesy. With Plan B, it was agreed that we would be the ones making the decisions, it would have to go through us to happen, and we have to give an A-okay to everything that happens.

8. You talked about once-in-a-lifetime experiences that you couldn’t pass up. Obviously Plan B falls under that category, was Nike the same deal?Phew. Yeah. The Nike one to this day trips me out. Especially when I go on tour with those guys. It’s ridiculous-just the treatment and how cool everybody is. But yeah, when I got that call, the thing that really made the deal was that they would give me a shoe. At first they just wanted to put me on the team. No one had had their own shoe yet on Nike and I was about to get a shoe on à‡S, so I wasn’t sure. Like I said, having my own shoe was one of my dreams growing up-you want that board and you want that pro shoe. So when they eventually came back and told me they where willing to give me a pro shoe I was like, “Really? All right, let’s do this.”

9. What is your fondest memory of Kareem Campbell and the City Stars days?Oh man, those were like the epitome of my skate-rat days. We were just skating night and day. Reno trips. That’s all I gotta say-Reno trips, man. I can pretty much guarantee if you ask any one of those dudes what their biggest memory was, it would be our Reno trips. Caine (Gayle) had this friend out there named Eric Lanto, who basically just runs Reno-knows all the hook ups, all the shops, all the spots. Caine used to live out there, and so we started heading out there on road trips and we would just find tons of unseen and untouched spots. We ended up going back every few months and just finding more and more spots. Me, Spanky, Devine (Calloway), Mikey (Taylor), and Justin (Case) were all so little and we would just keep going for hours. It was so loaded with spots, sometimes we’d go ’til the sun rose.

10. What did it mean to you to be skating to Guy Mariano’s Video Days song in Street Cinema?Yeah, that one was a surprise to me. I took it as a compliment from Kareem, obviously, knowing it was Guy’s song. I was pushing for the Outkast song that came on in the latter half of the part (laughs). When it came on at the premiere, I was pretty stoked, though. It was an honor.

11. How old were you when you saw the first videos like Questionable and Virtual Reality?I probably saw them all around like ’99 or 2000. I always had a lot of older dudes and friends around me who would always drill me like, “You gotta see this video” or “What do you know about this guy?”-kickin’ the knowledge to the youngsters. So I always had those dudes around getting me interested in these older videos and explaining to me why it was important. I would see those Plan B videos and I could understand that the skating was super gnarly, but it was actually more gnarly than I understood because all the stuff in those videos is the absolute first time any of it had ever been done. I didn’t realize that those dudes were like the test dummies for what’s going on now. Once that kind of sunk into my head, it was pretty shocking.

12. What kind of lessons do you take away, at 21, from your child-star years?I’ve found over the years that the best thing to do is just not to force it. At least for me, a lot of times I come away disappointed because I’ve just been trying something way too hard. Basically, what I try to do more and more is just take things a little easier, skate spots that I want to skate, have my friends around, and just let things happen without forcing them. My one friend is always filming-we just skate, and usually something just kind of naturally evolves out of it. I find for me personally that that’s how things turn out best-just let things happen a little unexpectedly.

13. Is that kind of how 2005′s Forecast video came together?Yeah, exactly. That wasn’t planned out at all. Ever since Yeah Right! (’03), I had been skating and filming, accumulating footage and eventually I was just sitting on all this footage-like three or four minutes. None of the companies I rode for were about to put out a video, so we started kicking around the idea of making one. At first, I was just like, “Man, I don’t know anything about making a video.” Like, I didn’t have faith in myself. But eventually Syndrome (Distribution) just came through and said they were down to back it. My roommate at the time (Nigel Alexander) had been editing all the sulous-just the treatment and how cool everybody is. But yeah, when I got that call, the thing that really made the deal was that they would give me a shoe. At first they just wanted to put me on the team. No one had had their own shoe yet on Nike and I was about to get a shoe on à‡S, so I wasn’t sure. Like I said, having my own shoe was one of my dreams growing up-you want that board and you want that pro shoe. So when they eventually came back and told me they where willing to give me a pro shoe I was like, “Really? All right, let’s do this.”

9. What is your fondest memory of Kareem Campbell and the City Stars days?Oh man, those were like the epitome of my skate-rat days. We were just skating night and day. Reno trips. That’s all I gotta say-Reno trips, man. I can pretty much guarantee if you ask any one of those dudes what their biggest memory was, it would be our Reno trips. Caine (Gayle) had this friend out there named Eric Lanto, who basically just runs Reno-knows all the hook ups, all the shops, all the spots. Caine used to live out there, and so we started heading out there on road trips and we would just find tons of unseen and untouched spots. We ended up going back every few months and just finding more and more spots. Me, Spanky, Devine (Calloway), Mikey (Taylor), and Justin (Case) were all so little and we would just keep going for hours. It was so loaded with spots, sometimes we’d go ’til the sun rose.

10. What did it mean to you to be skating to Guy Mariano’s Video Days song in Street Cinema?Yeah, that one was a surprise to me. I took it as a compliment from Kareem, obviously, knowing it was Guy’s song. I was pushing for the Outkast song that came on in the latter half of the part (laughs). When it came on at the premiere, I was pretty stoked, though. It was an honor.

11. How old were you when you saw the first videos like Questionable and Virtual Reality?I probably saw them all around like ’99 or 2000. I always had a lot of older dudes and friends around me who would always drill me like, “You gotta see this video” or “What do you know about this guy?”-kickin’ the knowledge to the youngsters. So I always had those dudes around getting me interested in these older videos and explaining to me why it was important. I would see those Plan B videos and I could understand that the skating was super gnarly, but it was actually more gnarly than I understood because all the stuff in those videos is the absolute first time any of it had ever been done. I didn’t realize that those dudes were like the test dummies for what’s going on now. Once that kind of sunk into my head, it was pretty shocking.

12. What kind of lessons do you take away, at 21, from your child-star years?I’ve found over the years that the best thing to do is just not to force it. At least for me, a lot of times I come away disappointed because I’ve just been trying something way too hard. Basically, what I try to do more and more is just take things a little easier, skate spots that I want to skate, have my friends around, and just let things happen without forcing them. My one friend is always filming-we just skate, and usually something just kind of naturally evolves out of it. I find for me personally that that’s how things turn out best-just let things happen a little unexpectedly.

13. Is that kind of how 2005′s Forecast video came together?Yeah, exactly. That wasn’t planned out at all. Ever since Yeah Right! (’03), I had been skating and filming, accumulating footage and eventually I was just sitting on all this footage-like three or four minutes. None of the companies I rode for were about to put out a video, so we started kicking around the idea of making one. At first, I was just like, “Man, I don’t know anything about making a video.” Like, I didn’t have faith in myself. But eventually Syndrome (Distribution) just came through and said they were down to back it. My roommate at the time (Nigel Alexander) had been editing all the shop videos and all my sponsor-me tapes since we were kids, so he knew a thing or two about that-he wasn’t like Ty Evans or nothing, but that wasn’t really what we were shooting for anyway. Like it wasn’t gonna be some thematic breakthrough skate video. We were just like, “F-k it, we got footage, there’s a whole bunch of kids in the valley that got footage, so let’s put it on a tape or DVD and get it out there.”

14. Did it feel good to see some of the relatively unknown guys like Mikemo Capaldi and Ronson Lambert get hooked up after that?Oh dude, yeah. It’s awesome when you can share your success with your friends. When you’re successful, it’s kind of lonely. You almost feel like an asshole in certain aspects-like it feels like you’re constantly rubbing your success in your friends’ faces or something. So it’s super cool to be able to create opportunities for your friends who might be super talented but don’t necessarily have the money and backing of sponsors to get themselves seen. We put it together and Nigel worked night and day editing that thing. We were real happy with it in the end.

15. Talk about your relationship with God.To me, God is my everything. It’s my foundation, you know? He’s gotten me over a lot of humps and hurdles and made me realize that certain things aren’t as important as they seem when you’re stressing out, because when you’re dead, gone, and nothing but a pile of dust, it doesn’t matter how much cash you made or how many of this or that you had. It helps me realize that things aren’t always in my hands. If I didn’t have that kind of faith, I would be the fool thinkin’ that this is all me doing it and get all cocky. I’d probably be some knucklehead who everybody would hate if I didn’t have faith. If this whole skateboarding thing just crumbles, I’m going to accept that that’s what God planned for the better and move on. I’m thankful for every day.

16. What was the first video you saw?The first video I actually saw was one of the old H-Street videos. I don’t even know which one. But they still had the huge-ass boards and steep kicktails and everything. One of my skater friends had an older cousin who used to skate and he was all, “Oh, you guys are into skating, you gotta watch this, dudes.” The first video I actually bought was Interface. I was feeling Stephane Larance in that one. Chany (Jeanguenin) and Richard (Angelides) were amazing too, but Stephane just had that smooth steez.

17. Who was your guy coming up?Like I said, Koston and Tom Penny were the dudes I was like goo-goo over. I tried to be both of them at the same time. My friend Nigel, who made Forecast, was the one who turned me on to Penny when I was like fourteen. He had made this tape of any footage Penny had ever had, from High Five (’95), Uno (’96) to anything in 411 and everything else all piled into this one tape. It was like an hour and a half long. I used to watch that thing like every day for a year. I finally met Tom when I rode for à‡S. I remember I was in my hotel room and the team manager comes and knocks on the door and he’s like, “Hey, Tom’s down in the lobby, you want to come meet him?” I was just like, “No, I can’t.” Getting super nervous, my heart started beating super fast and when I finally went down, I remember shaking his hand like so retarded, full sweaty palms, and I couldn’t stop staring at him, but I didn’t want to weird him out. It was so ridiculous. I sat there studying his every movement. It was hilarious.

18. How do you handle your finances? Do you have an accountant?Yeah, I would probably be in big debt right now if I didn’t have someone managing my money, making sure the taxes get paid, and that all the bills are paid on time. I’ve started setting aside some retirement funds and planning for down the line but nothing too crazy. I realize that professional skateboarding can be a short ride-maybe ten years at best.

19. Do you have any personal heroes outside of skateboarding?Probably the one person I’m