Erick Rodriguez explains how rollerblading saved him from a life of crime and why his video production skills are paying the bills.
To the ignorant, white, middle-class member of the general public walking down the street in Long Beach, California, one of the United State’s biggest maritime centres and a highly influential city within the global economy, Erick Rodriguez poses a threat. He is a young man with dark skin, saggy jeans and a sizeable collection of bright and sparkly jewellery on his person. Then there is that knowing smile that appears on his face with alarming regularity. He has a glint in his eye that insinuates he knows something you don’t, and it’s worrying. His appearance and demeanour pose the following questions: Is he a gang member? How did he afford those expensive accessories and did anyone suffer in the process of acquiring them? The Truth: E. Rod, as his friends know him, is not a member of any gang, but he very easily could have been.
“I come from a gang-affiliated family and if it wasn’t for my rollerblades I’d probably be gang banging too – or dead or in jail,” offers Rodriguez with such nonchalance that it would he appear he believes this to be a certainty. “I was never given a hard time though; my family were just kinda happy that I wasn’t out running the streets and that I was able to get along with a different crowd of people.”
Rodriguez grew up on the west side of Long Beach, one of the poorest areas of the city, and discovered rollerblading when he stumbled upon a random kid in his local area doing grinds. The pair struck up a friendship based on their fascination with rollerblades and the possibilities they presented. “I was walking home from school one day and seen a white kid in the middle of the ghetto with some Roces Majestic 12s doing frontsides on the sidewalk and was immediately hooked,” begins Rodriguez. “That white kid’s name was John Nunez and I will never forget him as long as I live, thanks bro! That was 14 years ago, so I would say I started around 1998 or something like that.”
Even though he has been involved with the sport for almost a decade and a half, it hasn’t been until recent years that Erick Rodriguez has made a name for himself within the industry, both as a skater and a talented filmer and editor, producing online edits for Razors, USD and his joint online venture with Rachard Johnson, 9to5 Mixtapes. E. Rod has known the LA rollerblading icon since his early teens, but it wasn’t until he took a bullet in his right leg within walking distance of his family home that the pair became close friends and formed a working partnership.
“I met Rachard and Franky (Morales) when I was like 14-years-old at a skatepark in Costa Mesa called RSA Inline. Years went by and I kinda drifted away from rollerblading and started hanging out in the streets more, then in 2007 I was shot in the neighbourhood I grew up in. A few days later, I got a call from Rachard while he was on tour in New York talking about he heard I got robbed for my jewellery and all kinds of crazy shit that didn’t happen. Long story short, he sent me some skates and is the reason I got back into it – shout out to my bro LARJ!”
Growing up in one of the roughest parts of Long Beach, Rodriguez has always been acutely aware of gang activity within his local area and his own family, but even though it possesses a prominent ugly side and is the place where he could quite easily have been killed had that bullet strayed a few feet higher, he remains adamant that Long Beach is a great place to live and believes it was only a matter of time before some of rollerblading’s most popular personalities set up home in his city.
“I was born and raised in Long Beach CA and that is where I live now,” he states. “A lot of rollerbladers started moving into the city a few years back – Chris Haffey, JC Rowe, Rachard Johnson, Coco Sanchez, Jeff Stockwell and a few others – so you’ll randomly run into someone while you are out skating. I honestly don’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to live here. It’s got great weather, dope skate spots, good kush, amazing taco spots and the beach, of course.”
Despite the fact that Rodriguez had to learn all of his tricks switch as a result of the incident which the police simply referred to as “a victim of crime”, he has managed to rise up through the ranks quite quickly since getting back into the sport only a few short years ago and now boasts a sponsor list that includes Jug Footwear, M1, Fenfanix, Renegade Bearings, Fifty-50 and Tri-State Skate. He just needs a skate sponsor to complete the list, and he is currently in the process of sorting that out. “As far as a boot sponsor, I got something in the works!”
In the past year, with the help of Rachard Johnson, Rodriguez has produced over 66 videos for their site, 9to5 Mixtapes, which includes profiles, montages, product adverts and teasers for his latest venture, BladerGang. Apparently the talented young videographer is in the process of compiling footage for a full-length video that will feature some of the world’s most recognisable pro skaters and a selection of gifted up-and-comers.
“Like it says in the first BG edit, ‘BladerGang is a family of rollerbladers all around the world doing what they love most’ and the idea came from Franky Morales, Julian Bah, Dre Powell, Rachard Johnson and myself. Then it became something I would have never imagined. The line-up for the video will include almost everyone’s favourite pros along with a bunch of really talented skaters.”
Last year Rodriguez released an online trailer for the sophomore Fifty-50 team video Juice 2, which is set to feature JC Rowe, Rachard Johnson, Anthony Williams and Jeremy Soderburg amongst others. However, since the teaser clip surfaced there has been very little indication that the video will ever see the light of day. According to the skater, the frame company is in the process of getting their product exactly how they want it before they involve themselves in the long and arduous task of creating a team video. “There’s a lot going on with Fifty-50 and the main focus at the moment is making frames before a team video can be made,” he says.
It would be reasonable to assume that, considering the staggering amount of output Rodriguez creates and the long list of companies that he has produced work for, that making videos for the rollerblading industry would be enough to pay the rent for his apartment and provide some form of financial stability. The fact that he strolls around with a huge, jewel-encrusted, gold crucifix around his neck at all times would suggest the same. However, it is his work outside of the industry that is currently paying the bills as he has recently been filming wedding videos and taking any commissions he can find in order to fund his numerous blading-related projects. “I have started doing all kinds of work lately other than just action sports,” he begins. “Unfortunately, rollerblading doesn’t pay enough to be able to make a decent living, so I use the skills I’ve learned in skating and put it to use in other areas.”
For the highly productive 27-year-old, it appears that 2012 is going to be even busier than its predecessor, with regular online edits to film as well as the forthcoming debut BladerGang video and his various responsibilities outside of rollerblading. For most people, that would be enough to stay occupied for the foreseeable future. However, Erick Rodriguez is not like most people. He operates on what he calls the “no sleep” routine, and is currently negotiating with an as-yet-unnamed brand to release another DVD. “I’ve been working on a few online projects along with filming for the first BladerGang full-length video and I’m currently working out a deal to put together a DVD for a company.” Could this be the same company that Rodriguez is also working towards signing a boot sponsor deal with? It looks like we will just have to wait to find out.
Aside from his immediate plans, what does the future hold for Erick Rodriguez? Where does he see himself in five year’s time? “I’d be 32 so hopefully skating the way Alex Miranda does and having just as much fun doing it, most likely working some type of video production job. I kinda live for the moment, though. No one is promised tomorrow so enjoy it while you’re here.”
E. Rod shout outs: Shout out to Wheel Scene for taking the time to check in with ya boy. Thanks to Armando Colunga for the photos, all of my sponsors that show mad love and a huge shout out to my BladerGang Fam (swagg swagg) WE OUT HERE! E. Rod 9TO5
Words: David McNamara Photos: Armando Colunga
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