INTERVIEW BY ANDY ROY
INTRODUCTION BY TODD PRINCE
PHOTOS BY BRUCE RODELA
The first time I ever heard of J.J. Rogers was through Joe Lopes when we were hanging out in San Jose. Lopes would tell me stories about how fucking gnarly he was, like “Hey, JJ can do frontside 50/50s to fakie” and I’d be like “There’s no fucking way. That’s impossible!” (Remember this was around ‘88). Lopes brought him to S.J. to skate the Kennedy Warehouse, and sure enough “Bam!” the cocksucker did it right in front of me. I remember I spit on him and we became friends right then. He asked to move in, and I said yes, and my girlfriend cried. Through all the years of punk rock, raising hell, death of vert, you name it, we became the best of friends. To all the skateboarders who came and stayed with us over the years at the Eleventh St. Punk House, you know what I’m talking about! Throbber killed the vert, mini and the street. Fucking Man Style, J.J. is the Paul Bunyan of skateboarding, no shit, he really is. I’ve seen his Blue Ox. Even though my bro might have the morals of an alleycat sometimes, he loves his whiskey, beer and chew, but most of all his daughter, Myla Ross. I really hope that everybody that reads this gets the chance some day to skate, fish, and just raise hell with the man, because Throbdaddy is one hell of a guy. Skate Hard Retard. – TODD PRINCE“I was always in trouble, but when I got that in-between-report-card-time when my mom said I could go ride, I’d hit it as hard as I could. “Do or die,” like Ben Schroeder says. Take the hipper. You just have to do it.”
Okay, we’re going to get all the good stuff. When did you start skateboarding?
My dad bought me my first skateboard in 1976. My dad is a surfer. He still surfs now. He called himself a hot-dogger. He’s rad. He wore Vans and all that. In 1976, he bought me a Makaha skateboard with clay wheels. He got me into skating and he was stoked like, “This is my kid!” I went to the beach with my dad and then I left with my mom. That’s how I got here, if you know what I mean.
I do. When did you start to know that skateboarding was your deal?
It was around ‘81. I was in sixth grade. That’s when I knew it. It was like, “I’m doing this. This is the rest of my life right here.” I was skateboarding. In 1980, I remember I had a badass Redline BMX bike. It was top of the line shit and I traded it for a Red Dog Dogtown skateboard with Variflex Trucks where the kingpins came out the front of the truck. The board was broken in half, so the dude was some stoner dude and he had put a strip of metal down the board and the metal kept it in one piece. I traded a $500 bike for this $10 broken skateboard. I was like, “I’m skateboarding and that’s it.” That’s when I gave up everything else and started riding.
Where did you grow up?
Hayward. San Francisco. Bay Area. East Bay. San Leandro. It’s Joey Lopes turf. Joey Lopes FOREVER!
Who did you see growing up that was gnarly on a skateboard that you looked up to?
Joey Lopes was my mentor. My friend Vince Rodriguez was our homeboy. I remember I went to this ramp that this dude Darren had in Castro Valley, CA. East Bay. We were kids from the ghetto. None of us had money. We’d wake up on Saturdays at 5 o’clock in the morning and everyone would get together like, “Where are we going to go ride?” We skated Darren’s ramp, which was a little vert ramp, 9-foot tall with a foot of vert and 8-foot trannies. When I was 11 or 12 years old, I remember going there and Vince showed up, but I didn’t know it was Vince. I thought it was Joey Lopes. Vince has that curly hair and Lopes had curly hair too, and I had only seen Lopes in the magazine. We go to this vert ramp and it was Vince and this other dude Mondo. Mondo showed up and he’s like, “I’m Steve Steadham.” I said, “Dude, you ain’t Steve Steadham.” He’s like, “Yeah, I ride for Motorbuilt.” I’m like “No way. I’m at Joe Lopes’ side right now.” And it wasn’t Joe Lopes. It was Vince. He was just dropping in and killing it with backside airs, frontside airs, lien to tails, inverts, and all this shit. About an hour into the session, all of a sudden, these dudes showed up and it’s like “Damn, that’s Joe Lopes right there.” I was a little kid and I had just seen him in the magazine and I’m freaking. I was just the kid going, “This dude rips. Lopes is killing it.” The ramp had PVC coping and it was 4-foot wide and he was killing it. That was my first introduction to a dude in the magazines.
Joe Lopes is forever. He’s a great person to have as a mentor. I remember skating with you guys and he would snake everyone. He’d look right at you, when you’d have your board out and he would take the run. That was the deal.
He was the coolest dude. He was my mentor. One day when I was 12 years old, I went to his ramp. I remember my mom took me there. It was crazy, but we grew up with hippie people, so she just hung out. I get there and it’s the session of a lifetime. Tommy Guerrero was there. He was riding for Madrid. Free Beer, the punk rock band, played. I was psyched. Tommy Guerrero is a year older than me, but he seemed 20 years older than me because he was so rad.
Who was there skating?
It was Bryce, Fish, Phelps, and this dude we called Horseface because he had 64 teeth rather than 32. This dude had a grill on him. Kevin O’Connor, a badass East Bay ripper, was there. It was all of these rad Northern California dudes and I’m this little 12-year-old kid. I was scared.
Did they know that you could skateboard?
Yeah. It was 20 minutes of sitting on the end of the roll-in because I was too scared to drop into Lopes’ ramp because it was so big. I was like, “I ain’t gonna do it.” I would sit there and sit there. After about 20 minutes, I pushed off and rolled in. It was roll in, invert, kickturn, kickturn, sess slide, kickturn, kickturn, fakie ollie, kickturn, kickturn, frontside air over channel, kickturn, kickturn, get out. I was like, “Whoa.” Lopes was stoked! He was like, “This little kid is rad!” My mom was sitting there telling him about how carrot juice is so good for you and I’m all, “Shut up, mom! They don’t want to hear about carrot juice!”
Good ol’ moms. What was your first trick that you learned on a ramp?
The very first trick I learned on a ramp was an invert. I could do an invert before I could do a backside grind. My aunt lives in Visalia and I went out to visit her and my uncle Dave. He builds guitars and mandolins, and he had all this plywood at his house. My uncle Greg is my homeboy. We hang out. I’m like, “I want to build a ramp.” So my uncle Dave helped us build a quarterpipe. It was four-foot tranny, 12-foot tall, right to vert. I was like, “I’m going to learn handplants.” I learned handplants and that was it. I could not do anything on a ramp, but I could do a handplant. That was my first trick.
What was the first skateboarding road trip you went on with Joe Lopes?
I was 17 or 18 years old. I hung hard with Joey. Bod Boyle and Steve Douglas came from across whatever ocean they came across and made it here and those dudes hung out at Lopes’ all the time. We had a payphone at my high school and I’d call over to Joey Lopes’ house. I still know the phone number to this day. It was a really cool time for me because me, Bod and Douglas would ride Joey’s ramp every day after school. I’d call them and be like, “Hey, I’ll be there.” I’d go down to the BART train station and panhandle money so I could get the 60 cents to get to their stop. I’d go over there and we’d skate the vert ramp all night. Joey just took me under his wing. I’d just graduated from high school and Joey goes, “Hey, we’re going to go to L.A.” I was like, “Who’s going?” He was like, “Me and you. We’re going to L.A. You got any money?” I go, “Yeah. I’ve got like $100.” He said, “It doesn’t even matter. You’re coming with me. Let’s go on this trip.” I was like, “Alright.” I sold my car for $100 so I could go with Joe. Money didn’t matter. He’s like “Let’s go. Let’s do this.” He introduced me to all the people that were in the magazines like Neil Blender and Mike Smith.
Where did you guys go?
Our first stop was that big vert ramp in Fallbrook. It was a huge ramp. We got there and Steve Douglas and Lopes were talking to Schmitt about me. They were like, “You have to check this dude out.” I got there and that tranny was so big. I sucked. I couldn’t even do a rock n’ roll. I couldn’t pump it. It was ten and a half foot transitions and I dropped in and I couldn’t do it. Whatever. I had a good time and that day was crazy. Chris Miller, Jeff Grosso, Ben Schroeder and Jason Jessee showed up. It was just rippers.