Rob Dyrdek Goes BigFeb 13 2008 / Los Angeles, CA
Photo Galleries: Check out some photos of Rob & Big Season Three and Rob & Big Season One
Don't let the surface bling fool you: Rob Dyrdek is the real thing. A pro street skater since 1991, Dyrdek has made it his mission to go big at some of the best skate spots on Earth, collecting video footage and an impressive array of stories involving cops and security guards as tokens of his travels.
Jeff Tremaine – the (brains?) behind Jackass – helped convince MTV that Rob and Big could be the next Johnny Knoxville and Bam Margera, and he just might be right: Rob & Big debuted this month, with the pilot episode detailing the antics of the duo as they buy a new puppy together, use their new bulldog – aka “Meaty” – to meet women, and throw a house party with Three Six Mafia to celebrate.
Dyrdek’s other major project this year has been as director of Street Dreams, a fictional film in which he co-stars with skate sensation Paul “P-Rod” Rodriguez to tell the story of the hardscrabble life of an up-and-coming street skater.
Though he’s picked up some serious income from sponsors like DC, Red Bull, Silver Trucks, Alien Workshop, Reflex, and Spy Optic, Dyrdek says he’ll never give up street skating, no matter how great the hassle from cops and property owners. Of course, it helps that he’s found a few nice workarounds: In addition to bringing on Big Black to protect him from the perils of the street (including crack heads and overzealous security guards),†he founded the Rob Dyrdek–DC Shoes Skate Plaza Foundation and has so far built authentic street skating environments in Shreveport, Louisiana and in his hometowm of Kettering, Ohio that bear little resemblance to traditional skateparks but better approximate authentic street skating environments.
In an exclusive Lat34 interview, we go behind the scenes with the man responsible for the Rob Dyrdek/DC Shoes Skate Plaza Foundation, Street Dreams, and the new MTV series Rob & Big.
Lat34: You’ve been in the game as a pro skater since 1991, and I first heard your name when you were 12, so I don’t want to make it seem like you’re coming out of nowhere. But damn, 2006 has been a big year.
Rob Dyrdek: It’s one of those things, you know? I’d been working on the Skate Plaza stuff, writing this film Street Dreams, and getting the MTV show off the ground all around the same time, over a period of a few years. Everything just sort of came around to happen all at once.
Lat34: I saw the first episode of Rob & Big. I know it grew out of the wisecracks from The DC Video, but how did the whole MTV thing come together?
Dyrdek: After The DC Video, we started hanging out a lot more and doing different stuff together. Big and I raced the Gumball 3000 together in 2004, which is this huge rally car race in Europe, real outlaw run-from-the-cops racing, and we were in a documentary about the race called 6 Days in May, directed by Ruben Fleischer. Jeff Tremaine from Jackass came down and saw a screening of the film. He kept saying, “The two of you would make a great TV show,” and we all formed a partnership from there to bring it to MTV. What do you think of the show so far?
Lat34: It’s hilarious! From what I’ve seen, you don’t hold much back… can you share a good Rob and Big story not fit for MTV?
Dyrdek: There have definitely been some things they wouldn’t let us get away with, like a really good fireworks shootout we had in Indiana. I guess they didn’t want to be responsible for putting that on TV and having some kids go out and hurt themselves, which is something Jeff Tremaine has already been through the ringer with on Jackass. There’s also a scene in the first episode where I’m pulling him out of the pool in his jock strap. He has these two big meat flaps. I pull on them and poke on them and say, “Look at these meat cheeks!” We get to have a lot of fun on the show, but apparently “meat cheeks” is where the line gets drawn. But whatever: It’s more important to me to see the skateboarding portrayed in the right way.
Lat34: Speaking of which, let’s talk about your work with the Skate Plaza Foundation. I used to skate Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC a lot – a surefire bust at the time – and ever since I first heard about the Skate Plaza Foundation I’ve wanted to hunt you down and shake your hand.
Dyrdek: The thing is, it wasn’t even my idea. The concept of building our own thing inspired by the best street spots was something street skaters had been talking about for a long time, but it had become the epitome of “Why can’t somebody just do this?” Finally, I realized if it was ever going to get done, then I was going to have to step in and make it happen. It’s a simple concept, but now that I’ve been through it I can understand why it had never happened before. There’s so much bureaucracy! It turns out that if you want something done right you have to go out and do it yourself. Never in a million years would I have thought I’d end up teaching myself to do drafting, basically become an architect, draft it all out down to the millimeter, actually pencil the design myself, and help build something like this and see it through to completion in my hometown.
Lat34: When you say “bureaucracy” are you talking about resistance from the community or from the local government level?
Dyrdek: Both. But you know what’s even more frustrating? There’s bureaucracy even in skateboarding itself. The skatepark industry has become almost like its own good ol’ boy network, driven by all these old school style pool skaters building the big transition parks. I’m not anti-transition: I love skating tranny, and there are some great parks being built, but it had gotten to the point where nobody was stepping back and addressing street skaters in the design process. You can’t have every single park be all tranny, with maybe a little bit of a “street” section, when more than 80 percent of skateboarders are street skaters! It’s self-defeating.
Lat34: I have to laugh. To even be able to talk about a “skatepark industry”! You have to admit, it’s all come a long way.
Dyrdek: Oh, no doubt. But we need to step back now and address skateboarding on a different level, because the street skating environment has changed so much. I’m in the streets driving around forever, getting kicked out of spots, and having nowhere to skate. The reality of street skating is it’s all built on skating private property, and the private property owners have become smarter about using all the skate-stopper technology and building less skate-able architecture in the first place. What do you expect? The argument that they shouldn’t do it doesn’t exist. But that doesn’t have to mean we should let them kill off an entire style of skateboarding.
Lat34: Remember when all the drama was going down at Love Park in Philly, and the architect who designed the plaza came out in support of the skaters, basically saying he never would have imagined the space would become what it had become to skateboarders, but that it was more beautiful to him to see it reinterpreted in that way and to see it being used and loved, than to see it become just a place for businessmen to eat lunch?
Dyrdek: Yeah, that was amazing. But the reality on the streets is that most people are out to stop the kind of skateboarding I do. It is what it is. That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing, and we why did the documentary and why we’re selling the DVDs for four dollars, because we want to be able to put it in kids’ hands as a tool to take to their city to say, “This is what we want. This is what you need.”
Lat34: All this talk about building authentic street skating environments reminds me to ask you about the state of street skating at the contest level. Without disrespecting guys like P-Rod and Sheckler, who I know you’re working with on Street Dreams, can you explain why we’ll never catch you on the Dew Tour or why the X Games are behind you?
Dyrdek: Around 2001, 2002, 2003, I got kind of enamored with the idea that these contests could be a good thing for skateboarding, so I entered the X Games, the Gravity Games, and a whole bunch of contests. But it’s just the reality of our sport: it’s never going to be appealing to skaters to want to be a part of these massive engines that don’t necessarily respect the sport. I don’t hate on the pros that want to do it and get that money and do that whole thing, but there really isn’t any prestige in it from the perspective of the real skateboarding community. I’m not hating on the Dew Tour either – Mountain Dew is one of the sponsors of my film – but it’s still just a traditional contest with 60-second runs on a course that bears no relation to real street skating and has no real impact on it. I will say this: I am dumbfounded by how much money Sheckler is making on that stuff. It just baffles me. More power to him.
Lat34: I can understand why you don’t skate these contests, but where were you when Rally Car racing came to the X Games? You can’t just let Ken Block and Travis Pastrana have all the fun, can you?
Dyrdek: My car racing isn’t real in a way that I could go out and seriously compete in something like that against the real pros from Europe the way Travis can. The kind of racing I do is just like my street skating, you know, running from the cops kind of stuff. The Rally Car race at X Games looked like fun, but the Gumball races I’ve done are full-bore absolute mayhem. It doesn’t translate.
Lat34: I confess – I’ve always kind of loved Hollywood depictions of skateboarding, for the same kitsch reasons everybody loves the old blacksploitation and sexploitation films. Obviously you’re going for a different take with Street Dreams. What can we look forward to?
Dyrdek: My biggest thing with the whole project is making sure that it’s the first real skateboarding movie. Hollywood always steps in and cheeses it out to the point where our culture doesn’t even believe it is possible to do it right. Skaters don’t even trust that I can do it right! I hope to be able to prove them wrong. There is no outside force influencing the direction of this movie, because I put my own cash on the line to make it happen. I’m clearly being smart about it, trying to make a film that people outside of skateboarding can enjoy, but I’m also trying to make a huge part of it be that real skateboarders can relate to it. I’m hoping its crossover appeal will help educate people about what skateboarding really is.
Lat34: I heard you’re taking the film to Sundance.
Dyrdek: Right now I’m working to finish it 100 percent, market it, and take it to distributors. DC and I are going to take it to premiere it at Sundance with our own screening. Your boy P-Rod is the golden child, just an incredible actor. He’s obviously one of the best skateboarders alive. We were able to film some of the most insane skateboard scenes ever, strictly because it’s P-Rod, and it turns out he has acting chops too. I think it will give a very real look at street skateboarding and street culture, in a way that has never been done before.
Lat34: Street culture is where it’s at on pretty much every front for you. Yet you live in the Hollywood Hills. Explain.
Dyrdek: To me, that’s the beauty of it all. No matter what I do, how much money I make, where I live, or what kind of car I drive, the stuff I skateboard on is the same stuff that every other kid in L.A., every kid in the country, everyone all over the world is skateboarding on. It’s all about the streets and what you can make of the potential you find there. In skateboarding, you’re never bigger than the streets. We all skate the same streets, run from the same security guards, deal with the same problems. If you stand on some urethane wheels with some metal trucks and a maple deck, then you’re part of the same thing we call skateboarding.