There is a “Paul Rodriguez” Venn diagram. One circle represents people ages 44 to 104 who hear the name Paul Rodriguez and think of the actor and stand-up comedian; the other represents those under 31 who hear the same name and identify it with the three-time X Games golden boy in street skating. Those 32–43 are in the middle; they know both the funnyman and his son, Paul Rodriguez Jr., the skater.
Junior is a prolific pro skateboarder with many credits, but none more impressive than his name being the fifth ever to be on a pair of Nikes. That and his father’s prideful bon mot: “My son’s giving me competition. He’s the bomb. He’s good-looking, talented, and doesn’t ask me for money.” We caught up with younger Paul Rodriguez as he skates out of his father’s shadow and makes a name for himself as his nickname in the skating world: P-Rod.
INKED: So where did P-Rod come from?
Paul Rodriguez Jr.: As embarrassing as it is, I gave it to myself. I had a friend named Spanky and a couple of other friends in the skate industry, and I always wanted a nickname so I took it upon myself. Believe it or not, I didn’t even know who A-Rod was when I came up with it. I was watching MTV and they were calling Jennifer Lopez “J.Lo.” Then I wondered how my name would work like that and I thought that “P-Rod” sounded funny. A little bit later I went on tour in Canada with City Stars and when I got there I was like, “Sup guys? P-Rod’s here!” And they were laughing and asking me what that is all about and I answered, “I’m P-Rod.”
At first it was just a couple of guys who would call me that, and then one time I was doing a signing at a store and a kid came up to me and said, “Oh, it’s P-Rod!” That’s when I noticed it was more a known thing.
Speaking of names, you aren’t really a Junior, right?
Yeah, my dad got to be a name with Paul Rodriguez, even though my grandfather was Senior. And it just got so complicated that calling me Junior was just easier.
What was it like growing up Paul Rodriguez Jr.?
For me it was normal because I had nothing else to reference off of. My dad was on the road all the time so I only saw him once a month. When he came home we would go golfing or to Disneyland, and if he was playing a show somewhere close I would go with him once in a while.
Did you learn anything applicable to skating from seeing him perform?
Either consciously or subconsciously, over the years I have been taking notes on how he is with his fans. I always value fans and people who are into what I am doing. I always make sure to be grateful and be good. Without fans you are nothing.
Do you feel that you have a good connection with your fans?
Back when I went on my first big Nike Europe tour in Holland this kid asked me to sign his leg, and the filmer with us showed me the tape later where the kid said, “I’m going to get this tattooed!” And I was like, Wow, that’s crazy. Then he sent the photo of the tattoo and it was insane. That wasn’t what I got into skateboarding for, but when it happens it feels good.
Did your dad buy you your first skateboard?
Sort of. I bought my first board with Christmas money that I saved up.
What made you first want to skate?
In the end of 1996 into ’97 I was going to a new junior high and there was a whole crew of guys who would skate before and after school. I was super fascinated by it; I would sit down and watch them but I was a really shy kid—I didn’t talk to anyone—so it took me a while until I met them, but they sparked my inspiration.
So did you start skating to fit in or because you thought it looked fun?
What drew me toward skating is that I couldn’t figure out how you flipped a board. I was fascinated that someone could jump down stairs flipping their board and grind on a rail or ledge and keep the board stuck to his feet.