When Rob Brink informed me he was down for an interview with Forecast, I couldn’t have been more excited. Not just because he’s a super hard working guy, has a masters degree in English and the fact that he’s interviewed nearly every big skateboarder under the sun, but because Rob is perhaps one of the most down to earth, insightful guys I’ve ever had the pleasure of speaking with. Discussing life as a writer, new business ventures with P-Rod and a hell of a lot more, let Rob Brink’s Forecast Magazine interview commence.

Journalism is definitely a prominent part of your life, but you also have a long list of other amazing credentials that make up your career. How would you best describe your diverse and varied life in the skate industry?
Before anything, I still feel like a writer. I don’t know if it’s because that’s what I spent so much time working on and loving in grad school, and then had my first “real world” job in publishing as a book editor. Or because I enjoy the process of writing as an art form/creative thing. Or because it was my gateway into the industry with writing for various skate mags.

Even though my career has evolved into this digital realm and I’m not writing for a living day to day like I used to, everything I learned very early on in school and my career as a writer/editor applies to what I do every single day still. Prepping and executing an episode of Weekend Buzz is really just like doing a feature for The Skateboard Mag, you know? I do research for days, let the concept of how I want the interview and article to go stew around in my head for a while, make the call and do the interview, then spend time editing it down into the finished product, you know?

Even with digital marketing and helping pros or brands with social media, it’s still all about “what does the audience want to see?” I’m constantly channeling my inner skate rat to put myself in the position of who will be watching or reading. I am the middle-man between the pros / brands and the skateboarders of the world, and in a way, I’m also still one of the skate rats of the world, so it’s really rad and I hope I am giving people what they want and helping them be entertained and educated at the same time.

It’s been tumultuous and amazing all at once. I won’t be one of those bullshit artists and say “I wouldn’t change a thing,” because there truly are things I think everyone would change if they could. Like maybe I woulda used my tongue with Richie Jackson …

I’m kidding but yeah, yesterday I skated the Berrics for an event with the Primitive skate team then ended up at a Don Pendleton and Jason Adams art show. Today I’m sitting here drinking tea in 75-degree Laguna Beach a block from the ocean doing this interview and working with P-Rod and Primitive on one of the most exciting projects of my life, while also planning the comeback episode of Weekend Buzz. I paint this picture, not to be one of those social media assholes who is always like “I love my life!” but because when you are kid and skating is your entire existence and you are sitting in NJ watching 8 inches of snow fall out your window, you are just miserable. It’s hard to believe a life saturated with skateboarding culture can exist like this. It makes me so happy I can’t even explain it.

“Today I’m sitting here drinking tea in 75-degree Laguna Beach a block from the ocean doing this interview and working with P-Rod and Primitive on one of the most exciting projects of my life.”

As someone with a master’s degree in English, how would you compare skateboarding journalism to other styles of writing?
Skateboarding has kind of created it’s own version of journalism. It’s very myopic. I’m sure many other industries or subcultures that have done the same.But what I find interesting and disappointing in many cases is the lack of critical thinking and introspection put forth before someone puts something on paper or online.

And by “critical thinking,” I don’t mean being a critic. Anyone can do that and it, along with blogger /commenter / forum snark and cynicism, has become so very stale and commonplace … it’s like the bulk of our print-style media has one tone now. That shit-eating-grin sarcastic, wise-ass tone.
Not saying I wasn’t guilty of the same when I was younger, but I just think we can do better. There are enough examples out there that people should be like, “Wow, so many people are doing this so I want to do something different.”

I like the saying, “recognize the trend, then do the opposite.”

I would say the other thing I see a lot of that frustrates me is best described with the famous “people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”

I don’t think people realize just how flawed some of their output and logic is. They like one guy for one thing then diss another for the same thing. Someone gets hated on for riding for a huge corporation but their favorite skater is John Cardiel or Gonz, whose shoe sponsor is publicly traded on the stock market. I see grown-ass men who run or work for skate brands publicly taking jabs at corporate sponsors and Nike on their social media when their company has ripped off Nike shoes for the last 15 years and their team riders end up in Street League and on Red Bull and shit. It just makes you look like a fucking idiot. Eventually your foot will be in your mouth and to lack that foresight regularly up front shows a severe lack of intelligence.

You know how many people in our industry talk all “core” just to sound cool then take corporate income? It’s absurd. Coming up how I did, I’m from a school of thought that if you are gonna criticize something on the record, for the world to see, it needs to be well supported with facts—bulletproof even, and certainly not contradictory. People don’t seem to think far enough ahead past their knee jerk statements to realize they are gonna sound like a jerk off a few weeks down the line.

I’m not perfect. There are plenty of better writers and smarter people out there than myself, but I just wish people put a little more time and effort into some basic fundamentals of writing, thinking and publishing before they vomit out their opinion. Because what it reveals to me is a lot missed potential.

For example, any blogger could send a few emails out, and instead of gossiping and speculating about a certain topic and sounding like an idiot when he is wrong a week later, could find out the truth and actually write about it and enlighten people. I never understood why you would waste your time NOT doing that and just publish something you know nothing about or not put 100% into every piece you write. Even if it’s just a Tweet or Instagram post. It’s pretty foolish. I’d never want to, as a content producer, cry wolf like that and lose the trust of my audience. Or even worse, have the people I am speaking about find out what a jackass I am.

Another thing, stop it with the email interviews, people. Stop being lazy and get a real conversation—a real interview—going. Email is half ass, and it reads half ass.

Until the Internet came along, there were also more checks and balances. Your writing had to pass through magazine editors. That is, if you were even asked to write for a magazine. With everyone being able to self publish these days, that whole thing is gone. So it changes the quality control and the filters substantially. Most of what I read on the Internet these days likely wouldn’t have even made it to print in a mag.
I really just love the art of writing, interviewing, etc. As well as talking shop with others about it … I just wish it was elevated a bit in skateboarding the way filmmaking, photography and the skating itself evolves so regularly.

Can you try and sum up what you feel the state of skateboarding is right now in 2014, and what you think the future holds?
Skateboarding, like always, is fucking awesome. If you truly love skateboarding, nothing can ruin it for you. Not a reality show, not some corny dude with corny endorsements, not an injury or a video you don’t like or someone’s pants … nothing.

And we are in a super-exciting time of change and evolution right now. Some people and companies with lots of money and “power” who got lazy and took things for granted or made really bad decisions are losing riders and money left and right—they are really fucking freaking out and scrambling to hop on whatever bandwagon they think will save them. I know because I’ve worked for some of them. And so be it. Take your eye off the ball or think you are too fucking good to practice and you strike out. Good riddance. You don’t love it enough, so let the people who are going hard and doing the right shit for the right reasons prosper. And if you don’t leave, natural selection is gonna sort you out anyway. It’ll be me one day too if I’m not careful. No one is exempt. Treat skateboarding right; work hard and you’ll be just fine.

“I personally think it’s the brands that need to be paying more attention right now. They are way behind in the digital/social/ecomm space and it’s gonna bite ‘em in the ass soon if they don’t step it up.”

Do you feel that the recent news of Zero and Fallen’s departure from Black Box to Dwindle Distribution is relevant to this? Or do you think that this is simply due to tough times in the market?
I’ve never worked with or for Jamie or Black Box … so I can’t speak with any certainty about it or in relation to the above like I can with brands I did work for. Something obviously went wrong, no one wants to NOT be at the top. But when there are tough times, you adapt … just like when a spot gets knobbed and you de-knob it right? That’s the spirit of skateboarding.

One thing I think is really cool is that hopefully Jamie can focus more on being a pro skater again, you know? Or just a skater or whatever it is he wants to be. It’s hard not being able to do the thing you love most because you are wrapped up in business drama. I’m actually pretty happy for him. He built an empire and won entrepreneurial awards and pushed skateboarding forward. Undeniably. He’s doing what he needs to do to keep Zero going. You’ve got to fight for what you love, whether it’s your brand or just the fact that you want to stay in skateboarding. I’m sure he could have just sold it all at some point but he’s still in it. I admire that.

And I don’t know … are they really “tough” times or are they just “changing” times? This isn’t in relation to Jamie or Black Box specifically, but I think you dictate how tough times are for yourself or your brand by not evolving. Skateboarding, as a whole—as a collective, is responsible for its own fate and future and destiny. Seems there are a lot of people using the “tough times” phrase these days. Is it tough times for Vans or Nike SB or Diamond or Huf or Grizzly? There are a lot of brands and pros doing seemingly well, right?

Of course, the much-anticipated news of P-Rod’s new board brand movements have come to light recently as a new section of Primitive. How did you get involved with things there, and what role do you play?
I’ve known Heath Brinkley, Paul’s manager, since moving to Cali in 2004. He was one of the first people I met here. We worked at DC together. We were both sorta quiet loners and quickly became friends. I left DC for Sole Tech and he ended up becoming the etnies TM a few years later. Maybe 2008. That’s when Mikey, Malto, Tyler, Jose, Davis and Devine came on.

Once he left etnies to work exclusively with Paul, we crossed paths again (in a business sense) about a year ago. He was beginning to pay closer attention to digital and social media in regards to Paul and had started a little agency called Social Ops, to help pros with their social media. I saw the potential and offered to help with the agency in any way I could, trying to grow it beyond just social media with pros and into more full-blown digital strategy. From websites, to social media, to online retail, to email marketing and all the stuff that goes with it.

Kinda boring terminology, I know, but there’s a lot that goes into it all and most brands and pros don’t have the ability to focus on all of it with their current staff, yet they can’t afford to hire more people. We are there as a less expensive and more experienced alternative for that.

Anyway, around that same time he mentioned Paul would be making some moves and there would be a new board brand down the line. I needed to get out of Sole Tech because it was becoming a disaster, but I didn’t want to be unemployed for however long it took Primitive to become a reality, so I took a layover gig at Element. Fast-forward almost exactly a year and I was able to quit my “day job” and work full time for Primitive and Social Ops. It’s been awesome.

I work with Heath, the Primitive and Social Ops crews, the skate media and beyond just making sure the site, the content, the social media, the ecomm are all running proper for Primitive skate, apparel and the shop. I send boxes out to the media and the homies and I go to events and shoot photos and so on. It’s new and it’s all growing so I do whatever I can to help. It’s amazing.

With regards to Social Ops, do you feel that skaters need to apply more focus on the digital/social media and branding of themselves now more so than ever before to be successful?
Yes, but only if they are ready and feel comfortable. It takes time and money and thought. No sense doing it half-ass if you aren’t into it. You know? But we are reaching a point where certain pros are bigger on social than the brands they ride for and bigger than the media. At that point, a ton of new possibilities open up for branding yourself, selling your own product, helping your sponsors and so on…

But I personally think its the brands need to be paying more attention right now. They are way behind in the digital/social/ecomm space and it’s gonna bite ‘em in the as soon if they don’t step it up. I don’t say this in a malicious way at all. “Digital” marketing is now “MARKETING,” period. It’s not separate. It’s taken over marketing. If you are basing what you do off what helped you kill it 2, 5, 10 years ago … well that’s kinda like someone skating in D3s and snap up nylon pants … or better yet, trying to SELL a D3 or a XXXL shirt in your current line.

Are there any details you can disclose on things that we can expect from Primitive this year?
Amazing skateboarding. The upcoming graphics are incredible. Really hyped on them. Experimenting and doing things a bit differently and unconventionally compared to some of the traditional board brands and distributions. Availability in a lot more skate shops and online stores. Limited edition product sold through PrimitiveSkate.com like the collab we just did with Venture. Maybe a new pro or rider; maybe some more video parts like the promo we released on the Berrics in April. Maybe I’m just talking out my ass to make people speculate. Maybe I’m not? It’s exciting. I hope people are as hyped as we are.

Of course you’ve gained further fame from the Weekend Buzz, which is actually making its return for a second season as we speak! Is it all running in a similar format to the first season, or shall we expect something totally new?
Well, obviously we have a new co-host. Lee DuPont. Which has been awesome so far. And I should start by first saying that Erica is the shit. I love that gal like a sister and she contributed so much to the show. There was no big falling out or anything of the sort. I know people like to assume that shit or want there to be some big blowout. But it was just time to do something different. You have to evolve, you know?
We had always tinkered with the idea of swapping out hosts, as you may have seen toward the end of 2013 when Erica took some time off and I did as well. It just became impossible to always be there every week. Her and I both had family obligations, work obligations, relationship obligations, we would burn out and stress out and so on. That’s why Lee filling in came about and that’s why we ultimately ended up on a 7-month break.

This is in no way putting Erica down. But with Lee there the show can flow a little more. It’s all skaters. We’ve all spent our lives on the streets and in parks skating and spent every minute off the board reading mags and the web and watching videos. Lee filmed a lot of the videos, I wrote a lot of the articles … we’ve been in it since we were kids. Lee even more so than I. We can sit there and shoot the shit and nerd out on skating. When it was Erica and myself I had to do a lot more show prep to make sure there were questions to ask and it felt a little more rehearsed, or planned and I never ever wanted her to feel left out, so there was a more conscious effort to share air time. Now, I actually can spend less time prepping an episode now because I know Lee can kill it off the cuff. And our brains are like skate hard drives full of info and questions dating back to the 80s. I’ve also had some personal changes in my life where I’m now single after a long live-in relationship where my ex had a son. SO I can speak more openly and freely about personal things, about women, about whatever … so it’s changed the game a little.

I’m excited because I think the show can be even better now, not because Erica was bad or anything like that, but because there are some new possibilities. I think anyone who has seen the new episodes understands what I mean and I only anticipate them getting better. I still feel out of practice after the 7-month break and I’m sure Lee and myself are still warming up.

So my final question, and this may sound incredibly generic, but I’m really interested to hear what you think… where do you see skateboarding’s progression in the next decade? Is there anything in particular that has to change, and do you think the skateboarding industry is heading in a new direction?
My view of skateboarding has remained the same since I began. I was drawn to it, in part, because of the progression. New tricks, new ads, new ams and pros, new boards, new shoes, new companies, new friends new spots and on and on … Every day brings something new. I’m constantly bewildered by the state of “Golden Age Thinking” in skateboarding and how much it, not only holds skateboarding back from progressing further in every aspect, but it seems to stifle the enjoyment of current and modern skateboarding for so many people.

How many times do you read and hear people talking about “their era” or “back in the day” or skateboarding used to be better” and on and on … Sounds like bitter old men to me. Sounds like the dudes I thought were fucking kooks when I was a kid ripping around town on my board. I never want to be that guy. I want to enjoy every single facet of skateboarding that’s in front of my face. From sitting on a curb watching Figgy go to war on a rail, to kicking it at Street League, to some online video that has a triple flip back tail … EVEN IF ITS FAKE.

I’ll sit here and tell you till I’m blue in the face that Gino and Ocean Howell are my favorite skateboarders and that 101 is my favorite company and that Big Brother was the best mag ever. But was skateboarding “better”? Fuck no. Should skateboarding go back to that? No way.

We are all in control of it. If it’s not good enough now, make it good or leave. Stop thinking that some shit in the past that gives you warm fuzzies inside is going to come back. First off, it’s not. Secondly, if it does, chances are it’ll be whack and ruin the fond legacy it had. And the worst thing you could ever say or believe is that someone or something “ruined” skateboarding. If you allow ANYTHING to “ruin” skateboarding for you, you just aren’t a skateboarder at heart.

Skateboarding changes no matter what. You can’t stop it. You can bitch and moan about it, but you can’t fight it. I personally don’t think it changes enough. Overall, skateboarding seems like a collective of people who think they are super progressive and super amazing … And WE ARE. But at the same time we’re also very archaic, nostalgic, stuck in our ways and scared of change and progression … It’s an interesting dynamic. And it’s not bad. I mean no disrespect there.

Looking at it from a birds eye view right now … I think a lot of the “change” will really just be variances of style. I suppose the reason I freak out about Dylan so much is because of what he brought to the table from a style perspective. The skill is there obviously, but love it or hate it … It was new, fresh, different … He’s influenced an entire generation of skateboarders and beyond. And to my point … People HATED on it and fought it so hard. But you can’t fight something of that magnitude.
Everything will keep progressing. NBD’s, new spots, new brands … But that’s becoming really common. We are numb to it.

I think it’s going to be originality and the style and the nuance of things that is going to set things apart in the future. The next Dylan, the next Fucking Awesome, the next Cherry. The next Italo Romano, the next Aaron Fotheringham, the next Jarrett Berry, the next Hilary Thompson, the next Steve Rocco… These are the things that create change and cultural shifts within skateboarding. Another kickflip back lip down a rail or black suede Vans ripoff shoe or kid who rips a contest doesn’t cut it… Skateboarding needs it’s own cultural shifts. The brands and companies that are older and keeping it stagnant… Shit’s boring. They are gonna get weeded out. They know who they are. At one point they put the old stale companies out of biz…

I guess I’ll just conclude this with saying … DO NOT be afraid of change. Don’t fear or hate what’s different than you, especially within skateboarding. And don’t be afraid to try new shit, throw out new ideas, be creative and embrace it all. Be original. Skateboarding needs that from you. You owe it to skateboarding. We owe it to skateboarding.