25 in 2009: Paul Rodriguez Jr.

Born: 12/31/84 In: Tarzana, CA Is: Professional skater

"If I could model my career after anyone, it would be Jay-Z," says skateboarder Paul Rodriguez Jr. "He knew exactly where he wanted to be at every step: 'Okay, this is where I go platinum, this is where I have my own record company.' He's just such a 'G.'" Rodriguez, aka P Rod, has become a "G" of pro-skating, with videos (one of which, 2008's "Forecast," he put out himself, a rarity in the sponsor-controlled sport); contest wins (he just won the 2009 X Games Skateboard Street gold medal); his own Nike shoe and a forthcoming clothing line to prove it. "I think it's important to have a sense of ownership -- not entirely relying on sponsors to do everything," he says. But what's even more remarkable is that despite the contests and the daily skating and his Canoga Park skate warehouse, Rodriguez is the star of not one but two current feature films -- and one of them isn't even about skating. Street Dreams, made by skate media innovator Rob Dyrdek (MTV's Fantasy Factory), is a skate movie that finally doesn't play like an after-school special on wheels.

Dyrdek wrote the role for Rodriguez, based on nearly a decade of watching him work. "Every time I skate with him, he lands more tricks than I've landed in my whole life," he says. "Paul's the golden child -- he's just the realest, purest, most balanced person you'll ever meet. There are only a couple of skaters that can win competitions and maintain their credibility at the street level." And it's true that super-technical street skaters turn tricks into physics problems, while bro-skaters just try the craziest shit to get the most insane footage. Rodriguez manages to be a charismatic balance of the two. "I'm not a daredevil," he says, "but I jump down my share of gaps." Still, his tricks don't look like math. "He's the king of switch," explains Terry Kennedy, P Rod's Street Dreams co-star, meaning he can ride with either foot forward.

If Street Dreams is a logical extension of P Rod the skate brand, then Vicious Circle signals the arrival of Paul Rodriguez the actor. Director Paul Boyd wrote the movie a decade ago as a "punk-rock Romeo and Juliet" populated with Latino Morrissey goths. In lieu of a screen test, Boyd followed Rodriguez to Venice Beach -- "within ten minutes I knew he was the guy." P Rod, as the film's chess-playing introvert, is like the acting child of Adrian Grenier and Heather Graham: darkly iconic looks, but with those soft, what's-the-matter eyes full of empathy and sympathy. "It was pretty intimidating being around people who actually do that for a living," Rodriguez explains, but Boyd couldn't tell. "He was the least experienced one there, but he was the most prepared," he says. "You only become a champion when you have that kind of will." That will comes from growing up as the son of Paul Rodriguez. Not so much the comedian, but the father (although they are one and the same). "Most dads have that talk with you [deep voice], 'Well, son, you get a job and you do what you have to do and that's just the way it is.' My dad came to this country as a poor immigrant from Mexico and found a way to support his family doing something he loved."

Rodriguez has been approached by the top talent agencies for more acting, but for now, his life is skating. He also has a baby daughter and a one-year-old skate shoe store, Primitive, to keep him busy the rest of the time. "There's just too much I still want to accomplish in the world of skateboarding," he says, adding that he's leaving what that is up to destiny. "I just love to skate. Sometimes I can't sleep at night, I'm thinking about it so much."
Hobey Echlin

Is: a shirt and vest by Band of Outsiders, jeans by Spurr, sneakers by Nike P Rod 3 and a custom made PR by Nike SB competition cap

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