If you ever wanted to know what it’s like working in the industry and traveling the world writing about skateboarding, bother this guy: Rob Brink. He’s a staff writer for the Skateboard Mag, a media dude for Emerica and Altamont, and generally just one of those behind the scene industry guys a lot of people wish they could be. He’s honest about the state of “skate media”, and has a bad tramp stamp and that’s what we like about him. And in case your wondering, he does skate… really well actually, especially for an old dude. Anyway if you ever thought you wanted to be a skateboard writer or “totally work in the industry”, this one’s for you.
You have masters degree, do you feel like a chump because you ended up writing about skateboarding?
I don’t feel like a chump at all. It’s safe to say had I not discovered skateboarding and made a career out of it I wouldn’t live at the beach in Laguna or get paid to write about skateboarding and work for two sick ass brands like Emerica and Altamont and have a chance at a show on Ride Channel and travel the world. Not to sound like some arrogant prick..I don’t mean it that way. My point is that I’m not some high brow dude who would be writing some epic life-altering novels or articles or anything. I think I landed where I’m best suited… creating content for the thing I love the most .. skateboarding.
Can someone survive on just skateboard writing?
If I was just writing alone, I wouldn’t be making much of a living at all, because there are only a couple of magazines that have money to pay you to be a writer. Even then, if you have a few features a month you’re making maybe a couple grand, then you lose a lot of that to taxes. Apart from writing for multiple mags or websites, many writers in skateboarding have other gigs, like how I am full time Digital Communications Manager for Emerica and Altamont. Often times, writing or being a journalist is kinda supplementary or a passion project. It’s challenging to make a living off writing alone in ANY industry, but especially in skateboarding. I think there’s always room for new writers and new ideas, but is there enough money in the pool for you to like make a living off of it? Not really.
I heard you have a tramp stamp.
Oh God. So guilty. It’s artwork from a Tool CD. I don’t know which is worse because everyone makes fun of me for liking Tool already, then I have a tramp stamp of Tool. Double whammy. Tell me if this is legitimate defense, if I deserve to be made fun of for it that’s totally fine. I got this tattoo in like 1996 or ‘97, before the tramp stamp as we know it existed. It wasn’t like all the strippers and porn stars had tattoos on their lower back in those days. I didn’t know where else to put it and I thought it needed to be like in a central location, but I wanted it hidden too. I don’t want like visible tattoos so I thought that it was a cool spot. Then sure enough a couple years later, it’s the dawn of the tramp stamp. And I have one.
How much money does a writer make per skate feature? Does it pay by word count?
It varies. I’ve done tons of shit for free to get a foot in the door or because I believe in the project and gotten up to over a dollar per word for ESPN magazine. Done pieces for a flat rate of a grand that took me like 20 minutes and pieces that took weeks for $100. Traditionally you’re stoked to be getting anywhere from 40 to 70 cents per word on a feature or interview, whereas the smaller stuff like video reviews and short contest or industry event coverage is usually less. Like 20 or 25 cents.
When you travel on tour as a Team Manager, do you get to charge everything to the company? What happens if a rider wants to go out for a baller dinner or get a stripper, can you charge that?
Yes, I do … within reason. I never want to abuse the privilege and then lose it. I grew out of the strip club thing by the time I was 23 or so, but I’ve nudged Malto into plenty of sushi dinners because that dude, like me, will never say no to sushi. I mean, free sushi … that’s a perk if I’ve ever heard of one. That and free Starbucks for days. Add that to the list of things I mentioned in the “chump” question.
Who is one of the smartest or “most well read” skateboarders you have interviewed?
There’s different varieties of “smart” I think … Rattray is probably the smartest and most well read skater I know. Every time I’m with him I think, “This guy is way too smart for the skateboarding world.” And I don’t mean that in any backhanded sort of compliment way that he shouldn’t live and enjoy a life in skating if he wants to or anything like that. The dude is amazing all around.
I think a lot of what amazes me about skaters is how so many of them have “life experience” over actual book smarts. I was with Nyjah today taping for the show and I can already tell how much that kid has been through and experienced after hearing him talk for only 5 minutes. He’s probably in many ways smarter at 17 having had agents, lots of money, travel, contracts, interviews, being famous, meeting so many people every day … than I will ever be. Sheckler is like that too.
Any internet hate on your new show, The Weekend Buzz?
I’ve had some people making fun of me for sure. The Hellaclips commenters are gnarly! But I didn’t necessarily want to be the face of some talk show where I’m trying to be famous. I was presented an opportunity and, as a journalist or interviewer, it’s a way for me to roll over what I love to do into a new medium. I’m not a dude that ever thought like, “Oh put me on TV cause I’m awesome, people wanna watch me.” I’m just a skate rat who loves what he does for a living, so when the people who are involved with Tony Hawk’s deal ask me if I want a show where I interview skaters every week, who’s gonna turn that down? I’m so stoked. You have no idea.
Has someone told you, you look like a fat Andrew Reynolds?
It was just something I heard through the grapevine the other day. I had a lunch meeting with someone who didn’t really know what I looked like and she asked around beforehand and someone was like, “Yeah, he looks like a fat Andrew Reynolds.” That same day we taped an episode of Weekend Buzz and I asked everyone in the studio and they’re like, “No way you look fat or like Andrew Reynolds … what the fuck are you talking about? Neither adjectives describe you.”
What’s with these Twitter rants I see you go on sometimes?
Within social media you see these patterns and I just think it’s really funny that people play into the patterns. Instagram is the new one. You know what you are going to see when you go to the popular page of Instagram before you even go, right? You’re gonna see some girl’s painted nails, you’re gonna see a Starbucks cup or a latte. You’re gonna see nature scenery, a cute dog, someone’s food, Justin Bieber, an Asian girl’s face and someone with a lot of tattoos. Seriously, at any given moment that combination is up there.
Does it feel weird when you’re skating with pros on trips and just warming up on some basic tricks?
Oh yeah, it’s so weird. Even skating at the Sole Tech TF, I’m in there trying to warm up, which takes like 45 minutes and there’s kids that come in right away that are like tre flipping the eight stair and back lipping the rail, and I’m just this old guy trying to warm up on a fakie flip. Usually once you meet people and hang out though, it’s cool. Someone who knows what your tricks are … it turns into more about being friends.
What don’t you like about the You Will Soon website?
I don’t want to get into a whole Dan Watson diatribe. I like the dude. Let’s just say I think he can, and should do better than “Braydon sucks and I hate him because he sticks his tongue out a lot.” And I mean, just in general. Not only Dan, how many times can you listen to someone make fun of Jereme and Dyrdek and anyone else who doesn’t obey all the “rules” of skateboarding “coolness” so that they can forever be the most “core” and respected dude? Not everyone can pull off Heath or Cardiel or Gino’s career …
Its funny how fast skateboarding progresses from a “trick” standpoint, but how stagnant it is from a mental and intellectual perspective. We refuse to accept the same trick done twice at the same spot in a video even a few weeks apart, but argue about a dude’s hair and pants for years, ask the same questions in interviews over and over and can’t evolve our mindset to accept that skateboarding is mainstream as fuck.
At this point no one should even be arguing or discussing if things are mainstream or not. It’s like arguing over whether or not water is wet. We’ve all sold out or supported the mainstream in some way or another. And I don’t necessarily think anything is wrong with that. But just stop acting like it hasn’t happened or that you haven’t done it or that you’re cooler or more “legit” than people because you’re pointing it out when you see it. I just wish more skate media and skater mentality would progress and be held to the same standard as the actual skating is.
Will we ever have a gay pro skater role model?
I hope! All this heterosexuality is getting really boring.
Why don’t we already have one? There are obviously gay pro skaters out there…
I don’t know why we don’t already have one but I respect the decisions of dudes’ to not announce it if they don’t want. The very fact that a “closet” exists is so odd. Because there is no closet for straight people. Some headway is being made though … you should hear the way dudes talk about Dylan [Rieder] out here. Even the most hetero men are gay for Dylan. It’s awesome. I wonder what it’s like to have every chick AND every dude think you are hot. That’s some next level shit. Dylan is hand’s down one of my favorite skaters of all time. TEAM HANDSOME!
Original Illustration: Lauren Kolesinskas
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January 26, 2012 7:38 pm
@fartbag: this is what brink posted bout ABD on the message boards in response to that same question
“We had to put ABD aside for a minute, unfortunately. We did a solid 8 issues over the course of a year but were unable to gain any advertisers to put money in to keep it going. It wasn’t easy asking so many talented and busy people to do work for us for free that whole time … and then to keep asking them … I can’t be more stoked and appreciative of how much they all did for the love of it.
Quite frankly, I think we did okay with zero money and I’m proud of ABD. From introducing the world to Frank Hurts (thanks to Fabian & Animal Chan), to releasing Josiah and Ricky Webb parts, to giving Manolo and Chrome Ball more well-deserved exposure and resources (in the form of footy and access to riders). I think Carnie’s stuff was brilliant as well … stuff he may not have written otherwise. He brought article ideas I had to a level I never in a million years would have been able to accomplish if I wrote them myself, so it was rad working with him like that.
I was able to do some stuff that wouldn’t have worked in any mags, like the Whiteley OIAM follow up interview, 43 magazine spotlight or my “Carry On” column. And I think we had some pretty cool behind the scenes video nerd stuff that my partner in ABD, Josh Friedberg did.
There is still some stuff in the bag … we had 2 more Manolo mixes that will stoke you out, one more Chrome Ball interview, a Stoya interview, more Physics of Skateboarding and a new Nick Fiorini part and interview … I’m sure it’ll all surface one day. I’d expect the Manolo and Chrome Ball stuff sooner than later on their respected outlets … Manolo’s YouTube probably and Chrome’s blog. I am giving the Stoya piece to Jenkem, so keep an eye out if you care about that sort of stuff. She used to work at Sub Zero skate shop in Philly … that was part of her tie-in to ABD/skateboarding in the first place.
Anyway, that was long. But I have never really addressed it and seen questions and comments along the way in the last few months, so there you have it.
Thanks to all you guys for supporting and reading ABD along the way. I am nothing but stoked on how it turned out. Not bummed at all. I knew failure was a huge possibility when we started but the response was greater than I’d expected and I don’t view it as a failure at all.
What’s that word that’s so hot in skateboarding right now … HIATUS? Let’s just say ABD is on hiatus and we hope to bring it back in some way, some form, some day. For now I am focusing on my stuff with Emerica/Altamont as well as the Weekend Buzz and my usual work with the mags, which is more than enough to keep me busy.
January 26, 2012 8:34 pm
damn… that sucks. I loved ABD, thanks a lot for letting me know what was up. I just wanna see that Nick Fiorini part…
January 27, 2012 12:25 pm
Sucks ABD is on hiatus. I would pay a couple bucks for an ABD app from iTunes…