June 6, 2013 BY Aaron Kr. / 7
How many Nike athletes can you name that have made it to a seventh signature model? The list isn’t very long and the fact that Paul Rodriguez is about to receive his speaks not only to the prolific dominance of his sport over the span of his Nike tenure, but also his sustained marketability and star power as an athlete endorser. P-Rod came on board in the mid-2000’s just as the Nike SB division was really beginning to explode in popularity and quickly became the face of the brand as the honored recipient of its very first signature model. Since Paul’s arrival way back then, the SB family has made some notable additions along the way, bringing on living legend, Eric Koston and a few others like Stefan Janoski, whose signature shoe has become a contemporary classic since it debuted a few years back. But despite some enticing new names and models, there’s nothing quite like being the first. Much like Michael Jordan’s early shoes came to define the Nike basketball category and what it meant to be a signature athlete, P-Rod will always be “the guy” when it comes to Nike Skateboarding.
For the P-Rod 7, Paul and the design team went back to basics with an aesthetic approach that aptly ties back to some deeper brand roots by taking cues from some of the first Nike shoes ever to be widely adopted for skateboarding purposes. After going more high-tech with the P-Rod 6, it was time to simplify and minimalize, using some tried and true shapes and concepts as a starting point. As you’d expect, beneath the classic-inspired exterior lies the latest and greatest in skate performance tech with Lunarlon cushioning and a lightweight construction with carefully considered material choices. Sneaker News was able to catch up with Paul again to talk about his new shoe and let’s get this straight – the man knows his stuff. He’s heavily involved in every stage of the process, and at this point, he’s become a bonafide shoe design veteran, which is evident when he talks shop about it. Continue on for our exclusive P-Rod interview, including his thoughts on the new sig, his current off-board rotation, most prized sneaker possession and more.
Sneaker News: At this point, you’re on your seventh signature shoe, which is a longer run than most athletes ever see. Is it still exciting for you every time you see your new shoe for the first time?
Paul Rodriguez: Yeah, it gets more and more exciting each time for that exact reason you just said. Not many guys get this far, so each time it comes around, I feel more and more blessed. I feel like a little kid every time I get to hold the sample for the first time.
SN: We know that with every shoe, you and the designers are aiming to make them better and better. When you first started to talk to them about the P-Rod 7, what were some of the things you went in looking for this time around?
PR: I wanted make it look and feel a little bit more simple, you know? Not have it look so high-tech this time around. The design kinda gives a little taste back to the Dunk and the early Jordans, so that was kinda the idea for that part. But as far as the function goes, the formula is always the same – foot protection, good material on the toe for flicking, preferably suede, and lightweight. And every time, we try to perfect the ratio of how thick the shoe is compared to how much cushion we can get. Because you always wanna have boardfeel. You never want your shoe to be too thick at the bottom where you feel like you can’t control your board and you can’t feel it too good. So that’s always the goal to figure out that ratio, and each time, we get a little better at it.
SN: When you wear test a new shoe, is it just a regular skate session or is there anything in particular that you do to really put them to the test?
PR: No, when I wear test a shoe, I definitely wear them til they blow apart. I just go skate how I normally would, because that’s the best way to test it. On any given day, I could be doing anything. I could be skating ledges, getting technical one day or skating rails another, or stairs, gaps, whatever. I usually have them for at least a week if they hold up that long and test them through all different kinds of terrains and scenarios. And if they pass the test, then we move forward, and if certain areas start ripping or I notice certain things that I need to get fixed, then we address those and wait for the next round of samples.