Sometime last year I chatted to professional skateboarder and MTV personality Rob Dyrdek for a skateboarding magazine in Australia. For one reason or another the write-up never saw the light of day and instead of leaving it to gather dust in the murky depths of My Documents, I figured I may as well stick it on here for those who care. I’ve redrafted the original copy to try and bring it up to date a little, and all information was correct at the time I spoke to Rob. Enjoy.
By Oliver Pelling
It’s no secret that people are quick to hate in the world of skateboarding and despite Rob Dyrdek’s attempts to use his success to give back to the skate community; he still has his fair share of haters. “Skateboarding can be so bitter and shitty. Kids are like: ‘Fuck everything!’ you know what I mean?” laughs Rob. “All I keep doing is bigger and cooler shit for skateboarding, but no matter what, there are always going to be motherfuckers that want to hate.”
Rob’s frustration is evident and considering the amount of time and money he’s spent giving back to skateboarding, it’s easy to see why. The Ohio-born 37-year-old has spent millions of dollars building skate plazas as well as creating street spots with his Safe Spot Skate Spot initiative. “When I did the first skate plaza dudes were like: ‘That aint real street, that shit’s whack!’ he says. “It’s like what the fuck? Finally someone builds a free plaza for kids to skate and you’ve got to find a way to hate on that? If you actually love to skateboard, then you love them. That’s it.”
Rob also leaves a Street League legacy in every city the competition passes through by using the obstacles from the contest to build brand-new skate parks. “I come into the city and there’s all this hoopla and hype and I want to get the city excited about the fact that we want to build stuff for the kids,” he says.
Needless to say, it would be impossible for Rob to give back to skateboarding in such a massive way if it wasn’t for the celebrity-status (and the money that goes with it) he’s achieved. Rob knew for sure that he wanted to be a professional skateboarder just 28 days after he started skateboarding, when he won a local contest and Neil Blender gave him a G&S board. “To me, from that moment on it was just a countdown in my head until I became a professional skateboarder,” he says.
G&S were Rob’s first official sponsor, but when the Alien Workshop set up camp in his hometown of Ohio and offered him a spot on the team, he knew exactly what he had to do. “It was like destiny,” he says excitedly. “It was set in stone. Then it was just a race to California, so I quit high school and moved straight out there.”
By the age of 16 Rob had turned pro for Alien Workshop and become one of the founding members of the team. The Workshop’s Memory Screen was Rob’s first real video part, in which his ability to slay handrails and nail the more technical tricks (that had only just started to come into fashion) impressed skateboarders worldwide.
Rob’s career then boosted into the stratosphere off the back of the ‘Rob and Big’ skit in the epic DC Video in 2006. “I hit 30 and I might as well have been on the edge of retiring, then I just exploded into some complete other universe!” he says, with that trademark Dyrdek energy. What followed was a reality TV show that netted over 70 million viewers for the first season and catapulted the pair to overnight-celebrity status.
Reality TV has its downsides though and Rob was concerned that people wouldn’t take him seriously if he carried on with the show. “Towards the end I was just over it,” he says solemnly. “It was a bit of a joke and as fun as it was I just didn’t want that to be what I was known for.”
Going from a professional street skater to MTV personality in such a short space of time would be a weird transition for anyone, but Rob insists he knows how to handle fame. “I embrace it but I also know how to avoid it,” he says. “You can do it to a degree but it’s not what drives me. I don’t love being famous, I love what this success has allowed me to do and the doors it has opened to create cooler and bigger things.”
Street League Skateboarding was born out of Rob’s belief that street skating and skateboard contests had evolved into two entirely separate things, with the contests not accurately reflecting what the skaters wanted. The payout Street League pros get just for competing is huge, with skaters that place in the 20s still getting around $10,000-$15,000. It’s Rob’s vision to ensure that modern day pros get paid what they deserve. “All of a sudden with the big TV exposure over the last few years guys are making millions and that’s the way I think it should be,” he says.
One particular stunt Dyrdek pulled on Fantasy Factory stirred up a fair bit of debate and shit-talking in the skate community and Rob was quick to quash was whether or not that Monster tattoo was real. “I thought it would be really funny,” he laughs. “Then I didn’t really have an exit strategy. I never said it wasn’t real and I never addressed it ever again I just thought: ‘fuck it!’ I just knew that it would make everybody in the industry lose their minds. In the end it was just like: ‘C’mon man, everybody knows me better than that! You know that shit’s funny’.”
Rob also strongly believes that his TV shows and the fame they have given him allow him to do more for skateboarding that he ever could before. “What it’s done has given me this immense amount of leverage and exposure where I’m really able to influence things and raise a lot of money with my foundation to help build tonnes of skate parks,” he says. “Instead of being this random street skater, I’m now this TV guy that everybody knows, so I’m able to manoeuvre on a much grander level.”