Words: Rob Brink
The Skateboard Mag, November 2009
You might not know too much about Rodrigo Petersen, but he’s been around for a long time. And by “long time,” we’re talking, since Neighborhood skateboards. And that was just the first time he came to the US and got sponsored.
Most of you right now are probably like, “What the hell was Neighborhood skateboards?” Which actually proves the point about how long he’s been doing this.
That aside, Rodrigo’s a simple, happy and appreciative Brazilian chap who loves skateboarding. He is gifted as all hell and if you don’t believe that, then go watch his Listen and Nothing But the Truth parts again. But before you do, I’d suggest getting through our little interview here so you can learn how to pop your tricks as high as he does. I don’t think anyone would turn down the secret to skating waist-high tables, would they?
So where do you live right now?
Costa Mesa. I’m living with Daniel Cerezini and Rodrigo TX. It’s cool and I have someone to skate with every day.
What happened to Listen? You guys put out a pretty sick video and a couple months later the company was gone.
I dunno what happened. They say they’re still gonna do it but I’m not sure. I really liked Listen. It was a good company. Then Organika gave me an offer so I took it. I’m pretty hyped. It’s a great company.
Since you go back and forth from Cali to Brazil, do you see more effects of a bad economy here or in Brazil?
I don’t see any difference in Brazil because there it’s always been not so good. So it doesn’t matter. Sometimes you feel it here more because people are used to having a lot of stuff. So when they don’t have it they get frustrated and start freaking out. I never really had anything so it’s not a big deal.
More money, more problems.
Fore sure man!
When you’re in California what do you miss most about Brazil?
The food. But I got used to it here. Now I don’t see no difference. A couple years ago I was feeling it a lot. All my friends back home, when you hear about them doing something, you want to be with all of them.
You’re more homesick.
Yeah, it’s the friends, the food. Stuff like that.
Well you’re living with some Brazilian homies here so that’s cool.
Yeah, that’s why we’re trying to stay together. So it can feel like home. I even have a Brazilian channel on TV so it makes me feel more comfortable here.
Is it all soccer all the time?
Yeah, we got soccer, novellas, news. I know what’s going on at least.
Why do so many Brazilians love Mobb Deep?
I dunno man!
Everyone Brazilian I know loves Mobb Deep and learned a lot of their English from listening to Mobb Deep.
Even before I came here we used to listen to Mobb Deep. But what they sing about is kind of like what happens in Brazil in the streets.
Oh, so you guys all relate to it. You have a shoe out with Nike in Brazil?
Yeah, we did this custom series of three different shoes. Only released in Brazil. 450 pairs each. It was pretty fun.
Do people pay a lot of money on eBay for them since they’re so rare?
Yeah. I was trippin’.
What was the most money you saw people paying?
Like two, three hundred dollars… it’s too much for a shoe. But at least it’s got a little value on it ya know?
You’ve been with Nike for a while…
Yeah, since the first year they started. I got hooked up in Tampa through Tony Heitz who used to be the team manager for Alien Workshop.
Why is Brazil spelled with an “S” in Brazil and spelled with a “Z” in America? If you guys decided it needs an “S” then I don’t know why we changed it to a “Z.” That’s lame of us.
I dunno. I always wondered that too. It’s kinda crazy
So you used to ride for Neighborhood skateboards?
Yeah, that was probably 2001. Right after I came to the States for the first time.
Have you ever seen Julio De La Cruz’s part in Da Deal is Dead? When I hear his name all I think about is double pressure flips and shit.
Yeah, and late flips!
You own a restaurant in Brazil with your wife?
Yeah. It’s like a grandma’s kind of cooking. Buffet-style.
Is she in charge of that while you’re out here skating and on tours?
Yeah. When she’s not there her dad takes care of it. It’s been three years already.
So when you go home do you work there… cooking or waiting tables?
I like to clean the tables better, man. I help her a lot. Like go to the supermarket and make find all the ingredients and everything. I like to help her.
If you weren’t making money as a skateboarder would you be able to support your family off of the money the restaurant makes?
Yeah, for sure. We can do it.
Good. You need a backup plan. Is that hard having your wife live back in Brazil while you’re here?
Yeah, it’s kind of hard, cause I have a son too. He’s eight.
How long have you been married?
Five years, but we’ve been together for ten.
What’s your favorite thing about being a father?
Making my kid happy.
What’s a challenging part of being a father?
Just when you’re about to have a baby and you gotta think, “Am I ready for this?” When you find out about it, it’s like, “Fuuuuuck….”
Like, “What am I gonna do?” You know? “I have to be an example for this person for my whole life.” To do everything right to make him happy and smile, you know? The hardest part is making sure not to disappoint him.
How is skating different for you when you’re in Brazil compared to when you’re in California?
Brazil is like a little more laid back. But here it’s more professional, like you have to film and shoot photos… more work. But long as you’re having fun that’s all that matters.
I heard it took you a while to pass your DMV test.
Fuck man, yeah. Who told you that?
Vern. What did it take you, like five tries?
Four. It’s kind of fucked up. My wife passed first try.
Woah… What was so hard about it? The written test?
Ya. I took the test at the DMV in Portuguese. But Portuguese from Portugal, not Brazil. So it’s like different words and stuff. Hard to understand.
That’s a legit excuse then. Of all the skateboarders to come out of Brazil, who’s been the most influential?
Probably Fabio Cristiana. When I started skating he was already pro and shit. Carlos de Andrade too. When I started watching American videos it was all the Girl dudes. That’s how we got fired up on skateboarding.
I think that’s how everybody got fired up. The Girl dudes.
Right? And all the old World Industries stuff. To me, back in the day, when I was watching those videos I was thinking. “Oh! Skateboarding is fun! You can always go with your friends and stuff.” The energy that those videos bring you is pretty good. And when I came here the first time I thought it would be more like those videos and I got frustrated.
Yeah. It is a bit different.
I came back home to Brazil and I was like “I’m never gonna go back to the US again.”
Oh really? It bothered you that much?
I was like, “What the fuck is that shit, man?” ‘Cause I didn’t understand what was going on here, you know? After a while I got used to it and now I know how it is and I understand it better.
Once you understand all of that you can learn how to work around it all, or with it, to make it fun for yourself.
Yeah, for sure.
So what would you say is your favorite thing about skateboarding?
My favorite thing about skateboarding is when I get home and I’m happy everyday from being on my board, I can learn tricks and the best thing is when you film a trick and you get home and you’re like satisfied. Like, “I did something!”
Yeah, and have a beer.
Have a beer, glass of wine; kick back with the homies and the next day start it all over again. That’s the best thing about tours. I cannot complain about skateboarding. I get to know the whole world and know more people. I cannot complain at all. Even if it stops today I’ll be happy I did everything I wanted to do.
Once your career in skateboarding is over, what do you think will be the next thing for you?
I have a bunch of things in mind. Maybe try to work in skateboarding in Brazil. We always dream about that ‘cause we have so much potential in there. After soccer, skateboarding is like the second most popular thing people do in Brazil.
Try to build an industry...
Yeah, try to build an industry the right way. Just do that and work in the restaurants and have a little hotel on the beach so all your guys can come visit me, you know?
That’d be sick! Like a resort?
Yeah, a resort. One day you guys are gonna come visit me, man.
Hell yeah! So what’s the secret to all that snap you have? Is it a natural gift or something you can offer us advice for?
I dunno about a secret but I think it more comes with the person. Look at TX or Reese Forbes or Rodrigo Lima. Maybe the secret is you gotta eat a lot of rice and beans, man.
So if you wanna skate the tops of waist-high tables, eat lots of rice and beans?
Yeah, for sure!