Transworld Skateboarding
COCI No. 10
Check Out/Check In
Robbie McKinley
Jan. 1999, Vol. 17, No. 1

Bowing out gracefully in skateboarding is a pretty rare thing.  It happens about as frequently as tech/progressive skaters with good style can also skate fast (The Gino Trifecta). Enter Bob McKrooks. Living and skating in West LA during the mid to late '90s, I watched Robbie rise from our Hot Rod skate crew peer to one of the most sought after ams on the planet. After Tim Dowling released Listen in 1998, Robbie was quickly snatched up, first by Blind and DVS—then by Girl and DC—the absolute gold standard of sponsors circa late '90s/early '00s. By the '00s, It seemed all but inevitable he would be spending the next decade as a top pro alongside Carroll and Koston, all the way up to and including his part in Yeah Right! ('03). However, FF to '06 and Robbie was driving down to the Crailtap HQ in El Segundo to tell Rick Howard he was leaving skateboarding (for a living) to go back to school. Bobshirt covered the details of Robbie's path in a detailed 2010 interview so this builds on that. For edition No.10 of the COCI, we proudly present Robert McKinley.

The Check Out page. Switch nosebluntslide. Photos: Ortiz. TWS Jan. 1999.

Bobby, what's up? You ready? Should I send you the page? Do you remember it?
The switch noseblunt on the table right? I had the button up blue Blind shirt in the portrait.

Yup.
I'll break it down for you real quick from memory. I'm wearing blue Daewon Song DVS's. Enrique (Lorenzo) board with DVS stickers all over it. I'm wearing green Chocolate cords and a crispy black tee. Fuck yeah, Mach 10 switch booger slide baby.

Nailed it. Is that Mar Vista?
That's Sepulveda School. Remember the one that had the bank-to-bench along the north side?

Oh yeah. They had repaved it right then or something. It was the spot for a second.
I don't know if it ever made it into videos, they were a little weird.

I think Ed (Templeton) had a kickflip front 5-0 180 and some other stuff on it in Jump Off a Building ('98).
Well go Ed. Chris Ortiz shot the photo right? I was just trying to go as fast as possible that way I could switch ollie across like half the table. That way if shit didn't work out I'd at least clear the table. That was about the time I learned that trick. I was doing them at Venice from the front of the graffiti pit block.

Oh yeah, you had the Listen (98) line that opened with one across the bench.
Exactly. So this was kind of the next step up for that trick. I don't think there was a plan to shoot a Check Out or anything. I don't know.

Nollie back heel the SF Library gap for a Big Brother intro page. Photo: Dimitry. Sept. 1999.

Where you about to get on DC right then? In the sponsors they don't list DVS.
I was getting flowed DVS, and then because Axion was at World/Blind I started getting Axions. But at some point DC came along too. I really liked DVS' shoes better just because they were smaller and not as bulky. But DC at the time was such an amazing sponsor to pick up—just the team and it was a bigger paycheck too. But I'm always curious what would have happened had I stayed on DVS.

All your boys were on DC though, AVE, Wenning, etc…
Yeah. It did seem like the right choice. To be honest though the only shoe I skated on DC was the Manteca. I remember them sending me shoes and I couldn't skate them. They were like moon boots. Even the Lynx shoe, just the shape of the shoe was weird to me. Before that I only skated Excels—like all black, suede, slimmer shoe—that was my deal. I wanted the board feel. When I found the Manteca I must have skated hundreds of pairs.

Those puffier DC shoes are coming back now a little. They reissued the Lynx and the Legacy.
Yeah. It all comes back around. At one point I had skated so many Mantecas I started spray painting small parts of them. Like paint the toe white or something. I would use masking tape and section off certain parts.

Switch back 180 for a DC ad. Photo: Blabac. TWS Photo Annual, 2002.

I asked the other Hot Rod locs about Jonah (Hill) and Mid90s. Any good Jonah stories?
I watched the movie solo. It was a pretty literal description of my childhood. They took a few liberties here and there but as far as the skating, the Courthouse scene, talking to the bums, jumping fences and all that was super on point. Even the little party was almost exactly like the shit we used to do.

Yeah, we'd bust out our best Polo fleece jacket and try to hook up.
Exactly. The music too was perfect. As far as Jonah I just remember him coming in and (Dan) Druff would always be like, "Jonah the Jew" and Jonah would do that little kid laugh, kind of embarrassed. I saw him at the Rod (Hot Rod Skateshop) maybe right after Superbad ('07). He had already moved to New York and he had slimmed down a bunch. I was like "Jonah what's up dude? I saw you in that movie. That's rad you're doing your thing." He was still cool then and then funnily enough when Mid90s premiered I got a weird email to my old yahoo email address saying like, "You are invited to the premiere of Mid90s… Log in for VIP tickets etc…" I never responded and I'm not even sure if he sent it but if he did, thanks Jonah.

You pretty much told your story for the Bobshirt INTV in 2010. But can you nutshell deciding to quit Girl to go to real job land?
I got to weird point where I just felt stagnant. I don't know. I just woke up one night freaked out. Looking back, maybe I should have gotten my shit together and maybe given it another year. Put all of my effort into it. But the way that everything worked out was cool too. It could have been way worse. I think it just panned itself out the way it was supposed to. You don't want to be the dude just trying to hang on for dear life. I'd rather just cut the chord and move on.

Nollie heel at UCLA during the Yeah Right days. Photo: Colen. Skateboarder Mag, March 2002.

Was the transition hard?
The transition from paid amateur skateboarder to working a full time job was pretty brutal. There was definitely a moment of, "What the fuck did I just do?"

I reread the Bobshirt interview this morning. You broke it down pretty well. Basically how you felt like you were letting Rick/Mike and them down.
When I went to the (Girl) warehouse to quit, I had called in and gone down there to talk. We were in the back in the skatepark, just me and Rick and he's like "What did you want to talk about?" I told him the whole thing and was basically just like, "I don't want you guys to be bummed on me." He was like, "Nobody is bummed on you." But I'm sure they might have expected more, and I probably expected a little more out of myself.

They might have been stoked on your honesty too though.
Maybe. I was packing a box right after that and Rick was like, "Maybe we should give you a board as a send off or something." I didn't know how to take it. He was kind of joking around but I think he was serious too.

That's kind of heavy. Turn pro right when you quit.
Yeah. It might still have been cool but at the time I didn't know what to think. You never got a board but here's one to put on your wall later. I was man am supreme at the time. I blazed the trail for all future man ams.

Classic Crooksy. Switch crooked grind. Santa Monica Post Office. Photo: Blabac. TWS Aug. 2000.

Today you do user interface design for Hewlett Packard?
I'm a consultant for HP. Been there about a year now. I love San Diego. LA was kind of a nightmare after a while. San Diego is just smaller beach cities. I try to skate but I get hurt. I pulled my calf muscle. I warmed up for about a half hour, was having so much fun, then tried to kickflip up the Euro gap on like a regular board with cruiser wheels. My leg buckled and then it tightened up. Went to the doctor finally and found out I pulled the muscle.

What about sobriety? You want to talk about that one?
I've been off and on now for two years. But it's better. You feel healthier. It's a better way of life. Early sobriety is a hard transition to wrap your heard around. So I don't future trip. I do the one day at a time and who knows, ten years from now I might relapse—I might relapse tomorrow. But I doubt it. Everything is good right now—work's good, relationship is good, health is good. Everything is good—at this point in time I'm cool with life—so I want to keep it like this.

Closest thing to a crooked grind on a surfboard?
Oh jeez. Probably the Air Reverse. I don't know about right now but for a while every surf video was like a million Air Reverses. Basically you do a frontside 180 in the air off the wave but right when you land fakie you turn it back. Surfing's funny though. They have all these different rules. Like right when I started watching surf videos I'd see these dudes do like the same trick—like a backside 360—but they would do like four in a row at the same session. In skating that would just be like unacceptable. Even if you're (Andrew) Reynolds—you can have like two or three frontside flips in your whole part. But after a while I looked at it differently. Basically they look at it more as what you did in that session. It doesn't matter if you repeat the same trick. It's more about what the dude did at that session on those waves.

Switch nosegrind 180 down the Fairfax High steps as seen in Listen. Photos: Ortiz. TWS May 1999.

Maybe because the wave changes vs. in skating the obstacle is always the same. The crooks was on time out for a few years it seemed but now coming back hard with Tiago and late 90s revivalists. Slide or crooks for 2019?
The slide reigns supreme forever. I mean a back tail is timeless. That will never change.

Top 5 Hot Rod employees?
Matt Solomon, Dan Druff, Chris Casey, Tim Bruns, and Leonard Trubia. Those dudes were rad.

Best Girl/Choc/Crailtap video?
Mouse ('96) by far. That's not even a question. I don't think there is any debate. A lot of people go right to Guy (Mariano) too but I was a huge Koston fan so for me that was my favorite part. Everything—the song, his skating—the opening line, that Mar Vista line, all of it.

Best '90s/'00s DC shoe?
All black Manteca.

 


Scroll down for a few more Robbie gems:

Robbie’s Blind intro ad. TWS Jan. 1998, Vol. 16, No. 1.

 

Robbie’s Girl intro ad. Switch 360 flip the Venice street gap. TWS June 1999, Vol. 17, No. 6.

 

Switch heel caught way the fuck up there. Photo: Broach. Strength Mag, Jan. 2003.

Follow Robbie on Instagram: @coorslightyear
Stay Tuned for more COCIs.

Previous Check Ins:
Forrest Kirby
Rob Welsh
Guy Mariano
Jason Carney
Gino Perez
Ron Chatman
Tony Cox
Simon Woodstock