When Paul Rodriguez looks at a guard rail, a set of stairs or a concrete bank, he doesn’t see features of a modern urban landscape. He sees a canvas on which he and his skateboard can paint.
“I think of it as more as an art than a sport,” Rodriguez told Fox News Latino.
The son of renowned comedian Paul Rodriguez Sr., the 28-year old professional skateboarder has been a fixture in videos, magazines and the pro tour since he was 17. Despite being one of the sport’s dominant stars for over a decade, the Mexican-American skater still finds a creative outlet every time he steps on a board.
“I just want to keep elevating the craft,” Rodriguez said. “Uplift the culture.”
Much like Rodriguez, the sport of skateboarding has matured in recent years, branched out and found a wider audience. Once thought of at its worst as a fad like the yo-yo and and at best a counterculture inhabited by stoner surfers and punk rocker, the sport has in recent years gone mainstream with big name companies like Nike and Red Bull vying to sponsor top pros and contests regularly being featured on network channels.
While some pros scoff at skateboarding’s shift into the mainstream, Rodriguez saw it as an inevitable movement and has played his cards accordingly.
“Some skateboarders don’t like it. They’re anti-mainstream,” Rodriguez said. “I’m for it. I saw [the sport] heading that way.”
After 11 years at it, Rodriguez has not only developed himself as one of the world’s best but is recognized as a pioneer for Latinos who are now prominent in the sport.
“It’s just a good chance to show people that there’s other possibilities for us,” Rodriguez said. “I’m honored for sure. I don’t put myself any higher because of it. I’m fortunate.”
Rodriguez downplayed his role in diversifying skateboarding, opting instead to promote the sport among Latinos. Modern skating is traced back to a number of early pros in the 1970s, including Mexican-American Tony Alva, and street skating was popularized in the 1980s thanks in large part to Mark “The Gonz” Gonzales who in seen as the influence for all of today’s technical tricks.
“I think it's an easy access sport. Unfortunately people from Latino culture don’t come from privileged access,” Rodriguez said. “It’s kind of an independent type of sport.”
As for how much longer he’ll continue skating, the jury's still out. He's not counting the days.
“As long as I have passion for it. As long as I’m in love with it.” Rodriguez said. “I just hope that day never comes.”
Rodriguez has recently been on tour on the Street League Skateboarding World Championship tour.
The event showcases 20 of the best skaters in the world and this Sunday at the Prudential Center in Newark, a champion will be crowned. Rodriguez – along with other top pros like Nyjah Huston, Chris Cole and Sean Malto – are in the running to take home the top prize, valued at more than $2 million.
“I’m loving the competition. It’s taking skateboarding to a next level,” said Rodriguez. “The pressure is really that you have a small margin for error. Right here and now.”
Sounding like a serious entrepreneur, he welcomed changes in the sport.
“Before this I was motivated by innovation, I still am. But I love competition,” he said.
Follow Victor Garcia on Twitter @MrVicGarcia