Sonny Rodriguez

Sonny Rodriguez

SONNY RODRIGUEZ
INTERVIEW BY DAN LEVY
PHOTOS BY MRZ AND DAN LEVY

Sonny is one of those skaters who rides with full intent and is driven by conquering terrain that most skaters would look at as impossible to ride, yet for him is only there to provide the opportunity for new lines. He does not give up until he rides away and his victory is something he celebrates with valor. Sonny is one cool cat and his sarcasm is somehow engaging and not offensive and he knows how to make fun out of life. He is not afraid to work hard to get what he wants, which is perhaps an inheritance from his father who is one of the most legendary hot rod builders of modern time. In what will soon be a familiar name in skateboarding, we are proud to present, Sonny Rodriguez. – WORDS BY DAN LEVY

Where were you born?
Fullerton, CA. November 2nd, 1998.

What got you into skateboarding?
I’ve always been skating. My mom has pictures of me skateboarding before I can even remember.

Was this before you were walking?
[Laughs] No. It was probably when I was four or five.

What is your earliest memory of skating?
I remember my parents taking me to Indy park. That’s the local park that I skate, the Fullerton Skatepark. I just remember going there when I was really little. I didn’t even know how to skate yet. I was just gooning it, like a little kid. I was just into it. I was hyped on Dogtown and stuff like that.

Does anyone in your family skate?
No. I’m the only one in my family that actually does skate.

How many siblings do you have?
I have one older brother. He’s a year and a half older than me.

I know your dad is into the hot rod thing, but you didn’t get into that?
It never really interested me. I’d rather be out running the streets skating.

What’s your favorite stuff to skate?
I like to skate backyard pools, DIYs, ditches or anything that’s out of the way. I mostly skate pools.

Do you like to build stuff?
Yeah. The first thing I ever built was Salamander’s and then the homies and I made a little ditch spot.

Tell me about growing up. Did your parents support your skateboarding?
At first, not really. They just didn’t think anything of it.

Tell everyone about your dad.
My dad was born and raised in La Habra and he grew up broke. He started building hot rods and VW’s and Karmann Ghia’s and all that and now he owns his own business and he’s one of the top ten hot rodders in the world. They’ve written books about him and stuff. He came from pretty much nothing and made a big name for himself, so that inspired me through life and helped me out. It’s like skating. You start from zero and work your way up to where you are.

That’s rad. Do you know how to work on cars?
In my garage, we work on our dirt bikes and build stuff. I know my way around stuff.

What do you want to do after high school?
I don’t know, maybe concrete.

You want to be a skatepark builder?
Yeah. That would be pretty cool. I already know my way around concrete a little bit. It’s pretty cool and it involves skating. Even if skateboarding doesn’t work out, I can still do concrete and build things.

I know you built stuff at Butler’s and you helped at Salamander’s.
I helped a tiny bit at Salamander’s. Ben Butler has been teaching me how to build with concrete. When he builds, I go over there and he tells me what to do and I pretty much handle it, like troweling and all that good stuff.

That’s rad. Who are your favorite skaters that you look up to?
When I first started skating, I looked up to Cardiel and Tony Trujillo and all the Anti-Hero dudes like Frank Gerwer. I thought they were all tight. I was super hyped watching their videos before I’d go out and skate. I like all the Creature dudes too. I like the Overlord crew, like Navarrette.

Do you skate vert at all?
The only vert I ever skated was probably the combi. That’s about it.

What about street stuff?
A lot of my friends are street skaters, so I’ll go out and skate street and mess around and try to hit little baby rails. Every once in a while, I’ll throw myself down a set, no more than ten stairs.

What’s the worst slam you’ve ever taken?
At Chino, I dislocated my wrist, like hand on top of my arm, all bad, and it was a 40-minute drive back. They drove me to my house while my arm bones were inside my palm. It was the worst pain in my life. I couldn’t even cry. I felt like I was going to throw up. I got to my pad and my parents drove me to the hospital and I had to wait there for another hour. Then they brought out this huge needle and stuck it all the way into my arm twice. After that, they put me in a medically induced K-hole with Ketamine. I had an extremely bad trip. Everything went black and I started seeing shit that I never thought I’d see. They said I was still screaming in my outer body experience because my body was still reacting to them pulling my arm back. I can’t even explain it. For a whole year after that, I couldn’t even think straight. Every decision I made was just different. I didn’t really feel like myself for a long time after that. Even my skating was messed up. Every single thing you do, you think about something horrible happening and you see it vividly in your head.

Whoa. That’s trippy. Are you afraid of hospitals now?
No, not really. As far as how bad things go, that was at the top. It could be the worst. I already got that over. A couple of summers ago I rolled my ankle and thought I broke it and I wasn’t even tripping that hard because I’d already been through the same thing but way worse.

What a crazy experience. When I skate with you, you do some pretty insane shit, but you never seem to lose your cool. What do you think keeps you so mellow, but makes you just kill it?
I don’t know. If I’m trying to film a trick or something, I’m pretty hyped on it, depending on what it is. After doing it so many times, sometimes I’ll just get over it, but I just want to land at least one. Then I’ll land it one time and then after that it will be like, “Okay, cool. I already landed it. I already know what the whole trick is like so I can knock a couple more out.”

Once you get it, you get it. What do you think is more important, style or tricks?
Well, anyone over time can learn tricks, but style is your whole lifetime of skating. That’s what your style is and what it represents. Kids put on pads and their dads push them down a fat vert ramp and they learn tricks, but they never get style. They’re just learning. They’re not adventuring out and going skating and doing their own thing. I feel like style is something that comes to you on your own. It’s what you do on your skateboard. It’s not pushed on you by somebody else.

What is a typical day like in the life of Sonny on the weekend?
I wake up kinda late and I check my phone to see if anyone hit me up or I’ll hit somebody up to go skate or I’ll go hang out with my friends.

What do you think about school?
It’s pretty whack, but it’s cool to go socialize with people, besides at the skatepark.

You do good in school though.
Yeah. I try. I’m pretty smart and all, but I have a hard time doing my work. I can’t really sit down and read a book. I’ll be at home and I’ll just want to go to the skatepark.

Who are your favorite people to skate with? What’s your crew?
It’s most of the homies at the skatepark. During the summer, we’ll show up late afternoon and there’s already like 20+ homies there, like Fullerton locals. I just hit them up and say, “Do you want to go skate? Let’s go somewhere or do a night session. I got $5 on gas.” We’ll just go shred and kick it and eat and do whatever.

What is your favorite place, outside of Fullerton, to skate?
I have to say, hands-down, Washington Street. I’ve only been there twice, but both times were just great. It’s fun. It’s like San Pedro on steroids. I like San Pedro too. I like DIY’s.

You like to travel and find stuff to skate. Is that one of your favorite parts about skating?
Yeah. Last summer, we used to go skate the river beds. We’d hit up the homies and half the time we weren’t even skating. We were just finding new places and skating new spots. I hit up Google Earth and wrote down a list of addresses for pools. It’s pretty cool. I have a tight crew. A lot of people that I know are kind of like loudmouths, so I wouldn’t invite them. They get all butt hurt and stop kicking it with me, but that’s what I have to do.

[Laughs] That’s been happening since the ‘70s for everyone that’s been skating pools. You can’t blow out the spots.
Yeah. Out of all my friends, I have five people that I kick it with on the regular that I would take to hit a new pool I found. I had this pool down the street from my house that was not good at all. It was an Anthony cancer square, so I would take my homies there. I would be like, “I got this pool. Don’t say shit. Let’s just go skate it.” We’d go skate it and I’d wait a week. I wouldn’t really take them to any other pools for a whole week. I’d just wait. If I heard one little thing about them going back, even if it was a chill time to go back… if they went back and didn’t hit me up, they were cut automatically. I’ve done that with a few homies. It was kind of like a little test. That’s the only way I figured out that I could find people that I could trust to keep things a secret, not be like, “Oh, let’s go late afternoon and smoke weed in the backyard and make a bunch of noise and break shit.”

So you’re like a general. You’re like the leader of the pack. What kind of music do you like?
I like punk rock and old school rock and death metal. I like Slayer, Suicidal Tendencies, Reagan Youth, Black Flag, D.R.I. and all that good shit.

Do you skate to music?
I used to skate to music, but now I just love the sound of my board. I like revert skating every trick. I like to hear it. Listening to my board helps me out. If I know I’m not in full control, I can hear it when I’m reverting on my board, when I pull out of something.

You can hear the way your wheels are sliding and you know when to lay off on pressure.
Yeah. If you land something sketchy, you can hear your wheels kinda fishtailing out. When you land something and you hear that slide, you know it’s just not on point.

Do you ever play music?
I started playing the guitar a little bit and then I just got over it. I have a guitar and sometimes I’ll get all into it and play it for like a week and then just give up.

What’s your absolute favorite thing about skateboarding?
Being free. It’s not like team sports. You just do it on your own. At the same time, you’re with all your homies that are hyping you up and you’re hyping them up. I like to learn new things and go to new places.

In your dream skate sesh, who would be there and where would you be?
It would have to be Navarrette and Lance Mountain and probably John Lucero too, and Cardiel, Tony Trujillo and Frank Gerwer at a backyard pool, all random. It would be like, “Oh, what? You’re here. That’s what’s up. Just session.”

Everyone just happens to be there. What’s your favorite pool shape?
I’d probably say a left kidney. Most of the kidneys that I’ve ever skated have been left-handed and they seem to be the easiest for regular. I’ve only skated a couple of right-handed kidneys and they’re okay, but it wasn’t really happening for me.

Do you prefer frontside stuff or backside stuff?
I suck at backside. I can barely back D, I can barely back 50. I can do backside grinds. I pretty much don’t have much backside.

Well, you’ve got backside wall rides in full pipes.
[Laughs] Yeah. I guess I do. I just learn everything frontside, so I’m pretty hyped on the frontside thing.

What else do you do besides skate? Do you have any other interests?
I like guns. [Laughs] I have a couple of guns and I like to go shoot. It’s fun blowing shit up. I like to shoot my 12-gauge. I’ve been riding dirt bikes my whole life. It’s fun to ride with your homies in the middle of nowhere, just mobbing it.

If you were to give any advice to somebody starting off in skateboarding, what would you say to them?
Never give up. When you take a hard slam, you’re not going to feel the pain for more than a couple of minutes, if you get right back up and try again and land it.

There’s all this multi-generational stuff going on right now. You can skate with Tony Alva who is 57-years-old and little kids at the same time. Does that trip you out or is that totally normal to you? What do you think of the older generation and the newer generation skating together?
It’s pretty cool because the newer generation looks up to the older generation. I think it’s cool. It’s old school. At the same time, the newer generation will never know what it was like because they’ve never done it on their own. They’ve always looked up to somebody. Back in the day, those people did what they wanted to do. They didn’t have any guidelines. It was like, “Do whatever you want on a skateboard.” Back in Tony Alva’s day, it was like, “I want to be myself and do what I want.”

That’s true. They didn’t really have any rules yet or anyone to look up to except surfers, but they were definitely pioneering their own shit in skateboarding.
Yeah. It was a totally different thing. They kind of turned skating into a form of surfing I guess. It’s cool as shit. It’s like yesterday when we went to go skate that pool. So many people there weren’t even skaters. They just came to post up and they were kind of lurking it, but they were still down for skating. Half the kids there probably didn’t even skate tranny.

Then those two kids showed up and it was the first pool that one kid had ever skated, and the kid grinded it.
It’s super sick. That one guy there was super down for pools and he was just naming them off left and right. He’s just some random dude. That’s what’s so cool about it.

One of the things that I like about skateboarding is the people you get to meet.
Yeah. When we first got there, we didn’t know them. They were strangers to us. If you don’t skate, and you meet random people somewhere, it’s not like you’re going to instantly click up and be buddies. When you’re skating and you go to the same spot and you’re interested in the same type of skating, you’re instantly like, “Sick, dude. What are you doing next weekend? Let’s go find another pool and skate another pool. Let’s go scope this one out. Let’s just skate.”

The brotherhood of skateboarding is this universal language. It’s epic that you recognize that. Those kids were mad cool.
Yeah. They even cruised out later on.

They were like, “What’s up guys? We love skateboarding.” It’s weird because if you were there without a skateboard, they would have probably messed you up.
Yeah. It would be like, “What are you doing back here?” If you have a skateboard in your hand and there’s an empty pool right there, they’re hyped on it.

Skateboarding is cool like that. Okay, guns, food, skateboarding. Do you have a girlfriend right now?
No, not at the moment. I’m single right now.

What do you think about Instagram and Facebook and shit like that?
I don’t have a Facebook. Actually, my email got messed up and the homie logged out on my Facebook. I still have one, but I just don’t use it. Instagram is cool. It’s like, “I’m at this spot right now. This is sick. This is what went down.” It’s all cool. I like Snapchat. It’’s like, “I’m over here right now doing this.”

It’s just a way to let people know what’s up and what you’re up to?
Yeah. I see people on Snapchat and I’m like, “Oh, they’re at the skatepark right now or they’re at this spot right now.” And I’ll hit them up.

You use it to link up with people, not to just take selfies.
[Laughs] Exactly.

Tell me what you think about selfies.
Unless you’re talking to a chick, they’re pretty whack. If you just take them on the reg for no purpose, they’re pretty lame.

For game, it’s cool? Selfies are okay if you’re trying to hit on chicks.
[Laughs] Yeah. It’s all good.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
I’ll most likely be skating, and working, and still skating every other minute.

Is there anyone you want to thank?
I really want to thank Steve, because when I was younger, he used to take us everywhere. I wouldn’t be skating as good as I did without Steve. I have to thank Mark. He’s always had my back and he’s taken me places. I wouldn’t be here talking to you if it wasn’t for Mark. My parents have always been pretty supportive of it. They don’t trip if I’m never home because I’m always out skating. There’s my homie, Ducky, and my homie, Jacob. I always go skating with them. Anaheim Skateboards has been good to me. Big thanks to Ben Butler because that was the first pool I’ve ever skated. It’s the same with John Tucker. I’ve been to his pool countless times. The fish pool was there.

You skated it a lot before it was destroyed.
Yeah. I actually have a piece of coping from there. The day after it got destroyed, I rode over there on my little beach cruiser with the little motor on it, and took two pieces of coping, and gave one to Steve.

Nice. Do you have any final words for the people in the world?
Don’t quit skating unless you’re unable to skate. Skate pools and don’t blow ‘em out.

FOR THE REST OF THE STORY, ORDER ISSUE #73 AT THE JUICE SHOP…

Sonny Rodriguez

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