TEXT: MATT PRICE
It’s not too common in this world that you find people whose talents match their work ethic. Well, I guess that’s not true: there are probably plenty of untalented, lazy people. But I’m talking about the people who have exceptional amounts of one or the other. We all know the best skater in the world who only films three tricks a year and they’re the best things anyone has ever seen, but he won’t get off his ass for months on end. We also all know the skater who puts out three video parts a year and they are decent enough to watch, but in the end it’s his heart you admire more than his soggy flick. Robbie Brockel is neither of those people, and that’s why he has ten pages of this magazine dedicated to his skating.
Robbie is the rarest perfect storm of a skateboarder. Robbie is the guy who is trying to skate the gnarliest rail in your town and not giving up for three hours. The word “beast” is applied to human behavior because of people like Robbie. If he was born in the same place a century earlier, he would have been one of those badass quiet cowboys you see in the movies who always keep their cool, but you know they would whoop your ass in a heartbeat if you deserved it. He’s never out of line and always down to skate. Robbie is one of the best skateboarders to ever come out of Arizona, hands down, and I should probably stop kissing his butt and just let you figure it out for yourself.
"Phoenix Rising" out now in The Skateboard Mag 147
Where are you and what are you doing right now Robbie? You know, to paint a picture for the reader.
I’m in Fresno right now on a REAL trip. We’re here for one more day and then we go to SF. Hopefully we get good weather in up there. It could be super windy or wet out of nowhere. Sometimes it will just drop ten degrees and you know, being from Arizona, we can’t really handle that.
Speaking of, are you still living in Arizona?
I officially live in LA right now. In a few days I will have been here for a year.
Are you gonna throw yourself a one-year anniversary party with cool Hollywood stuff like drugs and fake boobs?I might as well throw a party for it, yeah. Maybe go to Black and just do the whole Hollywood deal!
Do you live in Hollywood? Do you even go out much?
I live in mid city, like by USC. I don’t have as many friends out in LA as I did back in Arizona so I don’t really go out too much. Like, back home on an average Tuesday night I would go out with friends, but out here after we’re done skating I will just come home and play video games or something.
Do you think living in LA helps you treat skating a little more like a job?
Yeah, for sure. Back home I don’t have friends who can just go skate all day, and here I live with my friend Tim who films for Deluxe and we have the van and his job is to film for the company, so we’re skating constantly. But even if he’s busy I can hit up someone else and they’re out skating. So, basically if you’re in Southern California and you’re not skating, you’re blowing it.
Do you think that the skaters who live with a filmer or a photographer always seem to have a more successful career?
[Laughs] Probably. I mean that’s part of why I had to jump on the opportunity and move to LA when I did. I got the chance to move in with three homies from Minnesota: Jack Olson, Cory Millet, and Tim Fulton. My lease was up back home and they asked me to come out, so I had to hop on the opportunity.
You have been riding for Cowtown in Phoenix for a pretty long time. Have they helped you out a lot with getting sponsors and kickstarting your career?
Oh, definitely! I think I got on the team when I was fourteen, so about ten years ago. Cowtown’s such a respected shop in the industry and have been loyal to so many companies for so long. They asked me what companies I was into and then they sent my footage around and helped me to start getting boards and shoes and stuff. They got me started and then it was up to me from there.
Who are some of your favorite Arizona skaters that are killing it right now?
Well, Kevin Braun isn’t from Arizona, but he has been living there for a couple years now and he’s killing it! I was skating with him a ton and he was getting me psyched. That kid Aaron Goure was flying all around last time I was in town too. Pyramid Country dudes are always out doing it.
We’ve been out skating in the summertime in Phoenix on some pretty hot days. Do you always just barge it and skate in the heat?
[Laughs] Remember that C1RCA ad of the back noseblunt we shot and it was like 110 degrees that day? We were on that blacktop and it was so hot! That was probably a bad idea, but we managed to pull it off.
Are you always down to just do that?
Yeah, we always just barge it. Somehow it almost works out even better than the nice weather in the winter. You know you just have that one spot in mind and you just have that small window to get it done before you’re completely fried. It’s the same as how getting kicked out by a security guard is your motivation to put down your trick real quick. You just know you have to do it as fast as you can.
Okay so I’m gonna get weird here for a second. What is the deal with this story about you peeing on Jaws in a bathtub?
Oh my God. Alright, I’m gonna clear the water right now.
Yeah, clear the water of piss!
Right? So, okay, some kid came up to me at a park one day and said he saw a Jaws interview where he talks about me peeing on him in the bathtub, and for three months I was so confused and had no idea what that was about and just thought Jaws was being crazy, and then one day the memory hit me and it just clicked! So, here’s the story. It was our first trip out of Arizona to LA with a huge crew. It was Me, Aaron, Nick Fiorini, Dave Rosenbaum [maker of PVWHL] was filming, a ton of people were with us. Don’t get me wrong, I took a bath in Epsom salts last night, but I remember when we were younger it wasn’t cool to take baths and you would have to give your friends shit if they still took baths because it was weird. So, we’re in a hotel and Aaron is taking a bath, and of course the doors are unlocked so we’re not not gonna fuck with him, you know? So I go in and pull the curtain a little and just start peeing into the bath water on the other end of the tub away from him so he doesn’t notice at first, and then he started freaking out! [laughs] It was whatever.
So it wasn’t like you giving Aaron a golden shower?
No! Not at all! I hope that clears it up a little bit, it wasn’t like, “Yo Aaron I’m peeing on you!” We didn’t go full AZ!
Is your brother a professional football player?
Yeah, he played tight end for the Carolina Panthers for the last five years. He would also play fullback and just kind of line up all over the place.
Is that why you’re built like a football player? Because it’s in your blood?
Maybe? I never played football, though. I played hockey for a few years when I was a kid, but that’s about it.
Hockey? You seem like a pretty gentle and mellow guy. You ever punch anyone in the face?
[Laughs] Uhh … I never got in a hockey fight because I just wanted to play and didn’t want to end up in the penalty box. When I was a kid I had a couple fights in my neighborhood. Also, whenever I’m hanging out with Jake Donnelly we get into random brawls.
He really fights that much?
I swear he’s always defending himself. I think people just always want to fight him, I don’t know what it is. He never gets destroyed, though. He’s taken down some big dudes.
Have you ever had a secret desire to just be a tough guy like that?
Yeah, sure, but I just don’t wanna be that dude who gets laid out and have my friends make fun of me for months. Like people think you’re some badass and then you just get laid out and everyone knows that you’re soft.
Were your parents bummed on skating, or did they push you to play football like your brother?
Yeah, my dad was a baseball and basketball coach, and always played sports. He never really pushed it, though. He would just play catch with us and stuff, but I did have a hockey coach who was an old NHL player who totally ruined sports for me. I was thirteen years old and he would tell me I needed to cut my hair and be screaming at little kids to practice more and just made it so it wasn’t even fun anymore. Also, since it was travel hockey, my friend Chase and I would bring our boards and go skate on the off days on the hockey trips. He told us we couldn’t skate anymore, and we both quit that year and were over it.
I heard the first time you met Frank Gerwer he called you a mark. Is that true?
Yeah, the first time I ever met him. He was also calling me Larry Bird, I don’t even know. The last trip we were on was super mellow, though, and he was ripping the whole time.
Skateboarding needs its Frank Gerwers and Freddy Galls to show the younger generation just how tweaked skate trips can get to break them in properly, right?
It does! I feel like everyone wants to be too soft on the up and coming kids. Jake lays into the young kids pretty well, too, and they all take it pretty well. It’s good for you.
You don’t want these kids to get the big head!
Yeah, you need to be told you suck when you’re sucking and that you’re not as good as you think you are when you think you’re the shit. It helps you to become a level-headed person.
Aside from wedgies for the younger guys, what’s the main thing you want to take away from being a sponsored skateboarder one day when you aren’t doing this for a living anymore?
I always try to remind myself when I’m on these trips that I’m super lucky to be able to do this, and the fact that I can pay my bills with skateboarding and have as much fun as I can is crazy! I have no idea what I will be doing after skateboarding, but I probably won’t be as passionate about it and it will be rad to know that I got to travel the world on someone else’s dime and enjoy myself. Some people work their whole life to retire so they can travel and do exactly what I'm doing rigth now, and I appreciate that.
Click the image to preview more from issue #147 of The Mag.