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Pro Skaters Starting Own Companies: Paul Rodriguez and Primitive Skateboards

Paul Rodriguez and Primitive Skateboards

Primitive Skateboards embodies skateboarding passion, talent, and business brilliance. This case study dives into the captivating journey of Primitive, from its humble beginnings to its current status, and in my opinion, as one of the legendary brands in the skateboarding world. 

The story begins in 2008 when legendary skater Paul Rodriguez (P-Rod) opened a skate shop named Primitive in Encino, California, which also offered a clothing line of the same name. In 2014, Primitive took an unexpected turn. Inspired by a conversation with Steve Berra about pro skaters releasing their own pro model decks to increase personal profits, essentially cutting out the big brands that traditionally handle board sales and royalties, P-Rod decided to create a limited run of 500 gold foil Primitive decks – a pure experiment intended for his website, initially planned as a quarterly release. Each skateboard has been numbered out of 500 and P-Rod personally numbered and signed them – makes it more extra special for P-Rod fans.

Heath Brinkley, a well-known skateboard filmer, prominent industry figure (formerly skate brand manager for Etnies and team manager for DC Shoes), and now Primitive’s President, who known Paul Rodriguez since he was on City Stars skateboards, recognized the potential and contacted Bareback Distribution (manufacturer to most of the well-known brands in skateboarding such as Anti-Hero, Baker and DGK just to name a few). The limited-edition decks, backed by P-Rod’s large following, sold out within minutes, turning his initial investment of $6,000 into a significant $25,000 gross profit. This bold move paid off tremendously. 

Here’s where it gets more interesting: the website glitched and sold a total of 516 decks (Check out Heath’s interview with the 9 Club podcast). Being the fair man he is, Heath ordered an additional 16 decks to fulfill those orders. Unfortunately, even Heath and P-Rod didn’t get to purchase decks for themselves. The successful skateboard sales was the initial transition transforming Primitive from a small retail store in Encino, California into a full-fledged skateboard company and the rest is history. 

Primitive’s early team was filled with well-known skateboarders such as the legendary Shane O’Neill, Devine Calloway, Nick Tucker, Carlos Ribero, Bastien Salabanzi, and Diego Najera, just to name a few. However, P-Rod’s vision extended beyond just skateboarding where he also showed his entrepreneurial skills, by strategically leveraging Primitive Skateboards social media and surprising collaborations to propel the brand forward.

Additionally, Primitive launched a dedicated app, reportedly generating revenue by over 112.55%. This move showcased their commitment to innovation. By some estimates, Primitive was generating revenue close to $20 million a year.

Today, Primitive Skateboards boasts an impressive team and a long list of successful collaborations. They’ve partnered with artists like Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G., iconic cartoon shows like Dragon Ball Z and Rick and Morty, and even unexpected brands like Huy Fong Foods (Sriracha) and Megadeth. These collaborations not only boosted sales but also solidified Primitive’s place in skateboarding and street-wear culture. Primitive Skateboards was able to cross boundaries when it comes to collaboration with brands. I wasn’t expecting that Sriracha collab but I purchased those cool yellow long sleeves for myself.

Primitive has garnered millions of views on popular skate videos like Define with 2.4M views, Encore with 3.7M views and Never with 1.6M views, further solidifying their reputation and in my opinion they are one of the most watched skateboard content in YouTube.  P-Rod, the owner and a driving force, continues to inspire skaters worldwide – including me who grew up following Paul Rodriguez since his City Stars days up to now with Primitive.

Primitive Skateboards is a testament to P-Rod’s vision, strategic thinking, and the undeniable talent of its team. From a small experiment to a multi-million dollar brand, Primitive’s story is far from over. Just like when we started to learn our first ollie, until landing one it has the same process with building Primitive skateboards. P-Rod was able to overcome business challenges with his brand and keeps trying different ways to market Primitive and keep it relevant in the skateboard industry. With Paul Rodriguez leading the brand on and off skateboarding, Primitive Skateboards is sure to make its mark even deeper in the skateboarding world for years to come.


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