TJ Rogers' Tall Tale
Words: Robert Brink
SBC Spring 2011
TJ Rogers has already blown it. At 19, he’s already got a reputation for having a shitty, cocky attitude. He films with his iPod headphones on while listening to crappy music that isn’t The Smiths or ‘Lil Wayne. His clothes are still too big. In his defense, they used to be Grant Patterson big, but have since reduced in size.
TJ allegedly has long-running beefs with a couple other up-and-coming Canadian skateboarders. One of the first Google search results for his name is a clip of TJ face planting into a pile of mulch. He has a Sheckler-esque “Rogers” back tatt between his shoulders. He has initials for a first name and the same last name as the infamous Jereme; aaaaaaand, are you ready for this ... he’s from Whitby, Ontario.
Stop right now. Just close the mag and log on to your favorite forum or twerpy little blog and get your jollies by talking shit on TJ.
I’m being facetious. Basically, everything I heard about TJ before I interviewed him made me assume I was about to embark on an interview with the quintessential Caucasian Canadian skateboarder.
Although, I suppose getting one of those stereotypical ghetto gown, fake-diamond-earring-in-both-ears wearing kids from up there would be the perfect foray into my first-ever feature in a Canadian mag.
In short, I was ready to expect the expected—then I dug a little deeper:
“One thing I know for sure,” says Blind Team Manager, Bill Weiss, “is that TJ is the only person I’ve seen make a trick [switch frontside 180] at El Toro and the first words out of his mouth were, ‘Are there any other spots we can hit before it gets dark?’
“That about sums TJ up in a nutshell,” Weiss continues.
In skateboarding, people are always griping about “honesty” and “being real.” They bitch and moan and demand it from ams, pros and media.
You want honesty? You want real?
There’s not a person on this planet under the age of 19, or any age for that matter, who doesn’t kook themselves on a daily basis.
Dare we put the future of “hating” in jeopardy, but it’s called “life” and we’re all guilty of living it.
“It’s a part of growing up,” TJ says of his laundry list of “faux pas.” “For some people it just sticks with you and people talk about it.
“Weiss actually hit me up,” TJ continues,“ and was like, ‘Yeah man, it’s probably better that you don’t wear headphones when you skate—just so people don’t hate on you for it.’ And I was like, ‘I don’t really understand what you mean but I know I eventually will so I’ll just do what you say.’”
Pretty admirable, considering not many 19-year-olds are willing to take orders from anyone, much less comply with something they don’t understand.
“I called TJ out a while back because I was looking out for his future,” says long-time friend Cephas Benson. “The kid is extremely talented, but to go places in skating you need to be more then just amazing at skating—you gotta have a good attitude too.
“He was pretty much a little shit. He still kind of is but he mellowed out a bit,” Benson says, laughing.
“TJ was just too cocky and in-your-face as a kid. We got sent to Calgary together to skate in the DC Nationals one year and it was his first time flying, so his dad asked me to take care of him. We roomed together and I sorta took him under my wing and got know him. He's been like a little brother ever since.”
“I like getting advice from people,” says TJ. “It’s good to learn new things, especially in this industry. I’ve had a lot of hate growing up. You don’t want everyone hating on you. You wanna to be someone who everyone can be like, ‘no one hates on him.’”
TJ has lived three times the life of most kids his age, having already survived battles with drug abusing parents, poverty, life in a foster home, a deadbeat mom and an accident with a table saw which resulted in his father losing some fingers and then losing their house…
“I lived in that house my whole life,” TJ says. “My dad built half of it. He re-constructed the whole thing—put skylights in, built a pool and a hot tub—he did everything in it. I’ve always wanted to buy that house back. So that’s my goal.”
TJ and his father are tight. So tight, in fact that TJ gives him mild cardiac arrests with prank calls every once in a while.
“Dude it was the funniest thing ever,” TJ says. “It was me, Chris Ortiz and Jared Lucas [Bones wheels TM]. We’re skating at this set in Cali and I call him, like, ‘Dad … dad, I’m in fucking jail, dude. You have to talk to the cops!’
“And he’s starting to flip. So I throw Jared the phone, it’s in the air and Jared’s like, ‘No, what are you doing? I don’t know what to say.’
“So he gets the phone and he’s just like, ‘Yeah this is Orange County Police calling. We have your son in custody.’
“And my dad’s like, ‘What did he do? What did he do?’
“Then Jared just cracked. And we all just started laughing.
“And my dad’s like, ‘I’m gonna fucking rip your head off, you little shit. You fucking cocksucker! I’m gonna kill you!’ Just so bummed, but so stoked that I wasn’t in jail. It was actually one of the epicest things ever so funny.
“My dad’s definitely been through a lot,” says TJ. I gotta give him a break sometimes, but I also always gotta help keep him in line. I don’t want him to do anything bad again. I want him to be happy. As for myself, I’ve seen a lot of heavy drugs. I just know that’s not my scene. It’s not where I want to be in life so I always just try to keep to that mindset.”
But TJ is no stranger to caretaking. He wasn’t a typical foster home fuck-up. Instead, he ended up helping the foster parents and looking after the other kids.
“I was the best one out of them all,” TJ says. “I was the oldest in the group home so they kind of had me to show them the way. If all the kids were being bad or if they mouthed off to the parents or anything, I’d snap. It’s pretty hard and definitely respectable for the parents to take in those kids just off the street, you know? So you gotta try to be nice to them.”
Ironically, considering her absence later in his life, TJ’s first board was a gift from his mother when he was nine years old.
“Skating was the only thing that took everything bad away,” TJ says. “I didn’t have to really deal with anything. There was definitely an upside that I had a hobby and something that I loved doing to fall back on everyday.”
A decade later, TJ has landed himself a grip of sponsors and is in California for a while, escaping the harsh Canadian winter.
“I just came out to Cali to skate, film and hope for the best,” he says. “I always have mixed emotions about moving here. My plan is to become a professional skateboarder and try to make something out of it, but it’s all about just focusing, practicing everyday, trying as hard as I can and hoping my skating will do the talking for me. But until I have money or unless my sponsors help me a bit, I just can’t do it.”
Might be worth the spend, considering the last time TJ showed up in California he switch 180 ollied El Toro.
“I’ve always wanted to go there and skate it like every little kid who sees it in videos does,” TJ says.
“I went there in ’09 and wanted to do it but pussied out. In February I went back with my homey and a camera and I landed on it, kicked out and slipped out a couple times. On my seventh try I really fucked up my ankles. I couldn’t walk for a week. I went back a week later and did it second try with a photographer and filmers there.”
“Obviously one of the more naturally talented kids out there,” Elliot Heintzman, Circa Canada team manager. “He has a lot of drive to skate every day, even if he’s hurt. He’s super ambitious, which can come off as annoying sometimes, but at the same time he’s really honest and humble.”
Word is spreading to people who have yet to meet TJ too.
“I haven’t really gotten to shoot with him yet, but I know he’s gnarly and always wants to go skate” says Shad Lambert, Kr3w’s marketing coordinator and photographer. “I feel bad because he came to Cali and I was in the middle of finishing up catalogs. Dude was trying to skate every day and night—just a pure skate junkie.”
Jared Lucas sites TJ’s improvement in ability and style between his first and second sponsor-me tapes to Bones as one of the most impressive he’s ever seen. Not to say TJ didn’t always have it in him, but more that there were external elements holding him back all along.
“It all happened almost at once,” says TJ. “I left the foster home and went right to Slam City Jam and that’s when I started getting sponsored by Circa and stuff. My skating improved because I wasn’t locked up in a house doing homework or chores or this or that because I’m in a foster home. It’s really restrictive and it really sucked. So when I got out of there, I just fucking went loose—went all buck wild and shit. I’d say tenth grade … that’s when I sprouted. I grew a bit and started skating more tech.”
From that point on, TJ was on a mission. Of course, intermingled with the skating was all that stuff mentioned in the opening paragraphs of this piece. But, if you think about it, TJ is still here, still ripping and still being supported by a bunch of legit sponsors—people who believe in him.
Safe to say that worst is far behind him. If he could be guilty of all that “kooking” and still be where he is now, his skating has spoken for itself and the only place to go for him is up.
“I try to always look up and stay positive with anything I do—because I’ve been to hell and back, basically,” he says.
“Anything that I do now is just happy and definitely better than what I used to do. When you start getting recognized they’re gonna talk about all the worst things just to call you out. Then, if you keep at it, they’ll start being nicer and it all just all starts to come around. So hopefully it does for me too. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I definitely have a lot going on in my life so I always keep it positive, not a negative.”
Oh, and remember that house TJ used to live in? The one they lost after his dad got hurt?
“My uncle owns that house now so it’s sick to have it in the family still! TJ exclaims.
“Man, that house is like a five story house. It’s so ballin’. It’s definitely sick to have something like that to look back on memories. I’ve had a lot of bad memories—more bad than good, but I try to always hold onto the good one, and I have a lot of good memories in that house.”
“TJ just loves skating. He has a gift,” Weiss concludes.” He is not worried about what people think of his ear buds as he is to busy pushing skating forward and having fun, so from me he gets a permanent pass on skating while wearing headphones.”