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
Shenzhen's Marble Waves
We all know about China's fastest-growing economy, its sometimes tepid relationship with the U.S., and the country's harsh treatment of activists and dissidents, but who knew it was such a great place to skate? Rodriguez recently went on a trip to the port city of Shenzhen. "Everything is made of marble – the ground, the ledges, the stairwells – so the whole city is one big skatepark," he says. "Marble is cheaper than plywood, apparently." The choicest spot is a series of marble waves in a park downtown. Surprisingly, authorities rarely crack down on skateboarders. "They don't even know what to make of skateboarding," Rodriguez says. "They just think, 'Who are these crazy Americans throwing themselves down stairs?'" [Downtown Shenzhen, Shenzhen, Guangdong, China]
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