"There's nothing more ridiculous than seeing yourself in a video game." Those are the words of pro skater turned fashion icon turned reality TV star turned movie star Rob Dyrdek, the influencer behind everything from DC shoes to Rob and Big to EA's Skate series.
Thing is, while Dyrdek is so meticulous about his look in real life, he couldn't believe his all-black outfit in the original Skate video game.
"After Skate, I was so annoyed because my clothes in the game were so boring," he tells me, shaking his head to the point his diamond chain swings back and forth around his neck. "So when they asked me to come down to do the shoot for Skate 2, I was so methodic about putting my outfit together with a bright blue sweatshirt that I'm just happy I'm finally going to have the look I'm going for. I needed some color."
And while he's been used by EA as a consultant to the game, he gives the creators at Black Box the credit for their skating knowledge. "For Skate 2, I'm here for more story development and getting the story more in line with what I'm trying to do in moving the sport forward. There are a lot of parallels to what I'm trying to do and the game, but when it comes to the actual gameplay, Black Box is the most thorough, intense, skateboarding team. They approach this game wondering what the most hardcore skateboarding critic is going to think of it, and they made the perfect skate game. There is never something I can suggest that they haven't already thought of."
High praise from a man who has become a pop culture phenomenon in his own right. Even if you didn't know the name before Rob and Big, everyone knew the DC brand, and now as he expands his role into the polygonal world of Skate 2 and the movie world as a pimp in Righteous Kill, there are only bigger things in store for the man who won his first skateboarding competition at age 11, only 24 days after first learning how to skate.
ESPN: What does it mean to the hardcore skating community that EA has been able to capture, not only the skateboarding, but the culture in Skate and Skate 2?
Rob Dyrdek: To me, it's so appreciated. You've got to understand, we know what kind of impact something like Tony Hawk made to mainstreaming skateboarding. To a lot of people, without that game, they might never of known about skateboarding. The problem was, it didn't quite give you that pure skateboarding experience. One of the best things to me about Skate is that if you play this game from beginning to end, you just got a complete education on what skateboarding is. With the technology and the way the controls work, the way you flick the stick to do kick flips is exactly how you envision doing them in real life, so even without a board, you're getting mentally educated on how tricks work. You have to remember, when we were kids, it was about sliding on the ground. We didn't have anything like this game to open our eyes to the possibilities of what can be done until the videos slowly started coming out.
ESPN: How does someone win their first competition 24 days after they learn to skate?
Rob Dyrdek: God's plan. I got so good so quick that I was messing around on a board one day then I finally bought my sister's boyfriend's board and it was all-day everyday for about a month. Then they told me they were going to some contest and asked me if I wanted to go and I was like: "Let's do it." I won that contest and the rest is history. I turned pro five years later. I was at the World Championships in Germany when I was 16 years old. I quit high school to be a pro skateboarder out of Ohio, which is just asinine, but it was meant to be.
ESPN: How did your shoe designs help change the skateboarding culture?
Rob Dyrdek: I think more than anything, by carving out its own footwear, the skate style became its own thing. For me personally, I feel like myself and Ken Block and DC paved the way by taking on the first athletic style skate shoes. I remember when we were the first ones to do nylon laces on my very first pro skateboard shoe. I was so paranoid, I had nightmares on how the laces were going to work and how DC was going to be out of business. But instead it exploded and opened up this whole new genre. Here we are ten to fifteen years later and it's a monster.
ESPN: What were some of the big influences on your early designs?
Rob Dyrdek: You gotta understand, back then we had our skate shoes, then we'd take them off and we'd have our chill shoes. So more or less, I'd take my inspiration from the chill shoes I loved to chill in, but I wanted to make a pair you could actually skate in. That's pretty much the essence of where DC started, then as we became more focused on material and technology, that's when it really exploded.
And for a while, I just became obsessed with it. I think at one time, I designed one-third of DC's entire line. I love shoes. I really do.
ESPN: One of the DC videos online shows you guys shooting hoops while on skateboards just making some of the sickest shots I've ever seen. How much of that video is real?
Rob Dyrdek: People are always asking me if that is real. Let me tell you, this video started as a joke, but then became an obsession as everyone was trying to make the hardest possible shots. My particular one, I did a frontside boardslide across a rail, shooting the ball while I was sliding. It took me three days, two hours a day to do it. People are always asking me if that's real. Man, I put blood, sweat and tears going through that. It's so real, and I think, so underappreciated, because it's such an interesting twist on skateboarding and a skateboarding park. Besides, this is DC shoes, we don't have money for CGI. What we do is real. We're old school, even if it takes three days to make a basket.
ESPN: There are a bunch of no-skate zones in the game just like in real life. Why do you think so many cities view skateboarding as a criminal activity?
Rob Dyrdek: Our proving grounds are the urban plazas, the school grounds, and business parks of the city and as much as we don't like it, it is other people's property.We try to act like we're just having fun, but we are damaging other people's property. For me, part of one my big movements is building authentic street environments for skateboarding. One big thing I'm doing this year is a foundation called the Safe Spot Skate Spot, more or less giving kids a safe and legal place to skate. I'm hoping to build more of these skate spots and not skate parks.
It is what it is. I'm a professional skateboarder. I'm in movies, I'm in TV shows, I'm in Skate 2, but I'll leave here tomorrow, and I just learned a new trick, a switch tail to a backside tailslide, so I'm going to go to this ledge behind a grocery store in Calabasas and try to film it for my video. That's just what I do, and I only have about a half hour to forty-five minutes before I kicked out. So make no mistake, with all this, with everything that I do, I still get chased by cops. I don't run like I used to, and now they're all fans, but part of what you need to understand is that my television show was just a take on my life. Me hiring a big security guard because I kept getting kicked out by cops all the time, it was a joke, but it's a take on our sport. It's still 100% illegal to this day, so part of my movement is to try and educate cities about the sport while at the same time building places that are legal to skate.
ESPN: At least the cops don't sweat you as much anymore.
Rob Dyrdek: Oh, they sweat me, they just ask for a photo before they kick me out. I'm not even kidding. Luckily for me, every cop has a daughter who is a huge fan. [laughs] It is what it is.
ESPN: Did you think Rob and Big would take off as big as it did?
Rob Dyrdek: I didn't really have expectations, just because I was working so hard to make sure that each episode was so ridiculous. It's almost like a wave, it slowly comes on then all of a sudden it gets so big that you can 't go anywhere. It's weird.
ESPN: How did you get involved in Righteous Kill? Dyrdek, De Niro and Pacino?
Rob Dyrdek: I'm so honored. I feel so blessed. I get to play this pimp named Rambo who chokes a chick out and then I get shot in the head. I had a very minimal amount of lines, but I had to lay there one day for like six hours dead while De Niro and Pacino knelt over me reading their lines. I had my eyes closed and it felt like I was sitting in a theater listening to a movie.
I didn't even really speak to them on the set, but then one day I got a call and it was Bob De Niro's assistant telling me that Bob really wanted to talk to me. I was like, who is this? I totally didn't believe it, then all of a sudden I get a call and it was De Niro. He told me how he was sorry he didn't get a chance to say goodbye to me when I left the set, then he told me how his kids were fans of mine and that they wanted to come meet me. So I had them come over to play video games. Now, I play video games, but I'm not that coordinated, but his kids came over and played Skate like the most professionally skilled gamers. I don't have that type of coordination, but they were pulling off the sickest combinations.
ESPN: What do you see as the next step for skateboarding as it continues to evolve/
Rob Dyrdek: I already know what it is. I have it laid out. I just did my first feature length skate film, it's called Street Dreams and it comes out in January. And then my biggest thing is, we don't have a true competitive format for street skaters to shine. Action sports isn't motorcycles and skateboarding and BMX. Action sports is motorcycling and BMX. Skateboarding is skateboarding. There are only two million total participants in all other action sports in the United States, but there are thirteen million skateboarders. When you choose an athletic alternative to organized sports, you choose skateboarding. There are ten million street skaters, and the stars of skateboarding are these street skaters, and until they have the proper venue to showcase their skills where the mainstream can appreciate them, that's my next big move. I'm developing a league I call the Street League where you come up through the streets and you make it to the league. I'm building these urban environments where these kids can showcase their skills and I know the mainstream is going to fall in love with these dudes. They are like half rock stars and half athletes. It's incredible.
ESPN: How do you see yourself these days. Do you see yourself as a celebrity, that entrepreneur, or do you still see yourself as that skate rat?
Rob Dyrdek: Let me tell you a story. I'm losing my mind this week because I haven't skated for like a week and a half. I have deals, I have meetings, I have a new show coming out, but I am losing my mind because I haven't been able to make the switch tail to the back tail for like three and a half weeks. I haven't even been able to try it for the last week and a half because I haven't even been skating. I've been so stressed out that I'm dating this celebrity girl who had a big show premiere, but I couldn't go because I had to go skating. I made that trick last night and now everything is right in my life. To a skateboarder, you can never replace what it feels like to learn a trick for the first time. No matter what happens, that's the only true thing that makes me happy. So there you go, true skate rat till death.