Before pro street skateboarder Paul "P-Rod" Rodriguez nabbed four gold medals at the X Games and appeared virtually in Tony Hawk video games, he was learning flip tricks on the loading dock of Albertson's Supermarket in his native Northridge, CA. "When you're a beginner anything can be a skate spot," he says. That was the mid-nineties. By the age of 14, Rodriguez was popping eyeballs as a street skater with a future. At 17, he went pro. Now 27, Rodriguez is a figurehead in the sport with a long list of video credits, a signature shoe with Nike, and a reputation for giving back to the community.
We caught up with him at the reopening of Coleman Oval skatepark in New York City's Lower East Side, where he told us about his favorite places to skate around the globe. His experience gives us insight into more than just the best ledges, stairs, and rails: It tells a story of counterculture and authority in wildly different regions – and it reveals that street skating, even as it's embraced by the mainstream, will always have a home somewhere between vandalism and art. Start Gallery >>
Photo: Jeremy Berger
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
Being a street skater means finding the most exciting places to practice tricks. Sometimes those places happen to be public buildings. When Rodriguez started skating outside his own neighborhood, he went to the Department of Water and Power in downtown Los Angeles, home of some of the most famous marble ledges in the world. "The best marble that slides like butter," he says. "Like ice." The only problem here is potential run-ins with the authorities. "We call that a hit or miss spot because sometimes you can skate for hours and leave on your own will, and sometimes they get you in two seconds. If you got any time to skate there you savored it." [LA DWP, 111 N Hope St # 1221, Los Angeles, CA 90012]
Credit: George Rose / Getty Images