Paul Rodriguez Jr. is having a good year. Since his first shoe dropped in 2005, he’s been a long time collaborator with Nike, and recently he unveiled his latest signature shoe, aptly called the Paul Rodriguez VI in the brand’s Skateboarding collection. Containing lightweight cushioning of Lunarlon that keeps skaters’ feet protected from impact without sacrificing any of the direct connection with the board, here, P-Rod fills us in on why the most important thing one can do is acknowledge their strengths…..and ride.
Life+Times: The Paul Rodriguez VI is the latest signature shoe in Nike Skateboarding’s collection. Tell me a little bit about the testing process that went into creating this shoe?
Paul Rodriguez Jr. The testing process, I mean, is not as interesting as some may think. We just, you know, we first we come up with a drawing that we like, that we sample it to an actual physical form, I wear it and I got skate. I skate it, could be one day, or I could skate it for a week or two. I come back and I work with Shawn Carboy, who I’ve been working with on the last few shoes, and I just tell Shawn “Hey, this felt weird when I was skating – can we do something about that?” or “This felt great but can we keep that but change something else?” I just skate it and tell him the things I do and don’t like about it. From there we change it, get another round of samples, I skate them, and we just go through that same process until I finally have nothing else to change and love it.
L+T: This has been described as the “ultimate modern skateboarding shoe.” What technological innovations went into creating this shoe?
P-Rod: Lunarlon is probably the star of the new shoe. This technology, and the fact that a company like Nike is so advanced in the shoe world, makes it very easy for us as skaters to innovate because it’s all right here, at our fingertips. We don’t have to come up with some hair-brained scheme or some marketing strategy to try and get someone to buy this – you don’t have to fool anyone into it. Try it for yourself and see that Lunarlon is the truth. It’s lightweight, super cushion-y, protects your feet, and allows you to have board feel and control. What more could you ask for? With skateboarding you just need a few things: A good looking shoe, foot protection, and board feel. That’s it, slam dunk, you’re ready to go! And Lunarlon is what makes that so easy.
L+T: On the same day that your signature shoe hits stores, you claimed the gold in the X-Games Skateboard Street competition with a best score of 86.00. That’s clearly a reason to celebrate. What did you to to commemorate your big day?
P-Rod: Wow, I didn’t even realize that my shoe hit stores THAT day. Wow! What I did after that was, I fortunately have an endorsement with Target and they had a big party planned for me, that they were throwing. I knew about it a month or two in advance but tried to put it out of my mind so that I wouldn’t feel like “Oh my god, if I do terrible, I gotta go to this party,” like, they’re putting on this party for me. I didn’t want to think those thoughts. After I was fortunate enough to win, it started sinking in like “Oh my god, I actually won AND they threw this party for me?” Then I went to the party and Ice Cube was there, my old Nike homie, he was there and he performed. Didn’t know that till I got there, it was a surprise performance, so that worked out beautifully. That whole week after, it was still sinking in, then I came up here to Portland and Nike had all this cool stuff prepared for me and, now after just realizing my shoe dropped that day, I just can’t believe how perfect that day worked. All the stuff that aligned and came together. I couldn’t have scripted it any better. I’m so grateful, so thankful and that’s why I think, out of any time I’ve won the X-Games, this time was probably the most special, considering that I’ve also been going through the hardest time, competitively, in my life, with kind of like being all over the place. Finally to secure the win, at the biggest stage, at the biggest contest for skateboarding as far as visibility goes, and then to have all this cool stuff that’s lined up with it . I can’t even believe it.
L+T: The Nike Paul Rodgriuez VI comes in a selection of colorways. Which one is your favorite? Why?
P-Rod: You know, I don’t have a favorite color way. I like these that I’m wearing – the blue and the black. Really, I don’t’ have a favorite color because every day is different. I’m fortunate enough that I ride for Nike apparel, too. I get a big box of clothes of all different colors, pants of all different colors, so I have shoes that are also of all different colors. I’ll just go into my closet and whatever I feel like wearing that day I’ll just be like “Oh, I wanna wear this shirt and these shoes would go great with it.” That’s kind of how I run my program. I don’t look at it like as an order of favorite colors. I love having variety and the choice of being to mix it up. I don’t necessarily like to wear the same outfits, same color every single day. Whatever my mood is, whatever the flavor of the day that I’m feeling – I’m fortunate enough to be blessed to do that.
L+T: What have you learned about yourself throughout creating shoes? What has been the most challenging part?
P-Rod: I’ve learned that you got to know what you’re good at but, equally as important or maybe more important, you gotta know what you’re not good at. Just because I’m a good pro skater, doesn’t mean I’m a good shoe designer, it doesn’t mean I’m a creative or know everything about everything. I’ve learned to stay in my lane. I’ve learned how to explain to the shoe designers what I want, what I’m looking for as far function and performance, and I can show them other shoes that I like, that I like to wear and that I like to skate in, but then, after that, I kind of leave it in their court. I understand that the reason why the leading shoe company in the whole world - and not even just in skateboarding – hired this person because they have faith and trust in this person’s ability to be a shoe designer. Just as much as they hired me to be a pro-skater for them, they hired him to design the shoes. So that’s something I’ve learned, give them as much information as I can – what I like and what I’m looking for – then let them pick my brain as much as they can and then leave it in their court and not be too overbearing about it. Obviously if it comes out, and there’s certain things I don’t like, I’ll say it and I’ll want to change it because that’s the way they work, like “Tell us anything you don’t like, tell us anything.” That will happen but, at the end of the day, the shoe designer’s a shoe designer for a reason. I just try to not step on too many toes and have respect.