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
Riverslide Skate Park
One of Rodriguez's favorite non-U.S. cities to skate is Melbourne, Australia. "It kind of reminds me of America," he says. "It's close enough where you don't get culture shock, you can speak the language, same type of foods, and yet it's different enough with the accents and all the different brands." It doesn't hurt that the weather is nice and the people are beautiful. Rodriguez likes the city's biggest park, Riverslide, which boasts 1,800 square meters of surface with a focus on street skating. "Australia's skate population is probably similar to America's," he says. "They've got a lot of really great skateboarders coming out of there." [Riverslide Skate Park, Boathouse Drive, Melbourne VIC 3004, Australia]