Plan B, Paul Rodriguez Jr., the Motivation Doc, and Capitalism in Skateboarding

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My reaction to Paul Rodriguez Jr.’s departure from the Plan B skateboard company was very childlike.  How could he do that to me when the new Plan B video was so close to production? I’ve been waiting for the full video from Plan B since they posted the 2009 promo for it called Superfuture.  Basically this stacked skate company has been in video production since the company’s rebirth around 2005.

Briefly I’ll recap the original company in a more accurate way than the current Wikipedia listing. In 1991 Steve Rocco partnered with Mike Ternasky to make a super team. They took rider’s from H-Street were Ternasky worked before, and made an impressive team. The two videos The Questionable Video (1992) and Virtual Reality (1993) were immensely popular and progressed skateboarding. In late 1993, Mike Carrol, Rick Howard and others left the larger World Industries company umbrella and formed their own company called Girl and Chocolate. The original Plan B never really recovered even though they brought in other quality skaters. A few videos and a few years later the company folded.

Back then I didn’t really understand why Mike Carroll and Rick Howard left Plan B, but to me they are the highlight of the first two videos from that company. Rodney Mullen’s parts were also amazing in those videos. Mike Carroll and Rick Howard both had long-term success with Girl Skateboards. Rodney Mullen in 2003 started Almost Skateboards, which has also been an industry success.

In 2006 Danny Way brought back the Plan B brand. Danny Way is a legendary skater, so he should be a co-owner of a company too. For the restart of the company Danny Way, Colin McKay, and Pat Duffy were the only three original riders from the first phase of the company. A lot of people consider Pat Duffy’s part from Questionable as the groundbreaking part of the video.  Personally I watched Carroll’s and Howard’s part a ton more. However, nostalgia of old dudes had little to do with the future success of Plan B.  They took the same approach as 1991, and went for a super team. Getting Ryan Shecker, Jereme Rogers, and Paul Rodriguez really got the brand popular with young skaters. The original co-owner Mike Ternasky passed away in the 1990’s and I don’t believe Steve Rocco had any input in the current company either. This is just a guess, but the industry or the people involved changed enough that the team had a different vibe than the original, and they seem cursed on making their full video. After the 2010 promo, Jereme Rogers quit to start his rapping career, and a few other riders left.

Plan B does still have quality riders. Torey Pudwell is technically one of the best for ledge combos, and PJ Ladd is solid. Ryan Sheckler quit his MTV show at age 18 or 19 because he felt it got in the way of his skating. Making a decision against broader mainstream fame shows that he cares about skating. Danny Way is second only to Tony Hawk in being a legend in vert skating and he invented mega ramp skating. The Plan B team is still solid, but Paul Rodriguiz leaving has got to hurt since he is one of the most popular street skaters. Plan B has not mentioned much at all about the full video since he left.

Recently a new documentary came out called Motivation. The documentary follows eight skateboard pros that competed in the 2012 Street League championship. I believe it filmed and interviewed them for about three weeks before the competition. Paul Rodriguez and Ryan Sheckler both take part. The film showcases how physically demanding skateboarding on that level is on the human body.  Nyjah Huston, at age 17 during the filming gets high tech laser scans on his knee. I didn’t fully comprehend what the medical procedure was, but Bastien Salabanzi has to get his knee snapped into place during competition. The film does get into the mindset of the skaters so I recommend it to any skater or anyone interested in competition and drive. The documentary does show the potential for revenue these guys have through sponsors.  Luan Oliveira came from the slums of a large Brazilian city to worldwide fame. My only complaint on this film is that it is a commercial or propaganda for the Street League competition.

All of the skateboarding industry is one big commercial though. I’m glad that some skaters can make a living off sponsors in order to progress the sport, but everything about it is a business.  For all the nostalgia people my age have for the great videos, the reason the industry made those videos was to make a profit. In that Marc Johnson interview on the Jenkem site, he says that even if skater owned, the companies are not necessarily nice people. Mainstream sports are different because they are affiliated with cities even though they are big businesses. There is a local pride involved, not simply loyalty to a brand. Paul Rodriguez Jr. has the smoothest style of any skater I’ve seen, I don’t care if Nyjah Huston wins Street League all the time. Paul Rodriguez Jr. has the perfect style, you can’t tell if he’s skating goofy or switch. Most likely, Paul Rodriguez Jr. makes more money from Mountain Dew, Target, and Nike than he ever did from Plan B. Skate sponsors are simply a business, and he made the decision to venture to something else. It’ll be interesting to see what company he starts. I can’t see him simply going to another existing company.

Even if the skateboard industry is a money grubbing business, I hope they continue to make full-length videos. And Danny Way needs to put out a full part because the teaser at the end of the documentary Waiting for Lightning was fantastic. And as a fan I’d still prefer to see that full part from Danny Way in the upcoming Plan B video.

4 thoughts on “Plan B, Paul Rodriguez Jr., the Motivation Doc, and Capitalism in Skateboarding

  1. Questionable on VHS, big pants, small wheels, switch-stance…One of theBest times of my life. ~G

  2. Great post! Getting back into skateboarding after a lengthy time away from it, I too am sometimes shocked by the commercialism and marketing side of it.

  3. Recognizerj5 thanks for reading and posting. As an adult you see the commercialism as opposed as a good your too hyped to notice. Good luck with starting up skating, and I hope you find the activity is definitely worth the effort and time. I think I’m happier when I skate. I’ve taken two weeks off because of a tweaked neck, and it feels like an eternity. Hoping after a few more weeks of rest I can start back up again.

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