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Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Rob Dyrdek and The Workshop

By Chris Nieratko
ESPN.com

Rob Dyrdek
In 1991, Rob Dyrdek once cashed in a royalty check from Alien Workshop for $2. Last week, he purchased the brand and its distribution from former owner Burton.

Rob Dyrdek has been a pop culture icon ever since the first episode of his hit show "Rob & Big" aired on MTV back in 2006 but what much of the mainstream United States fails to realize is he has been a fixture in professional skateboarding for more than 20 years.

Through all the downs and ups Dyrdek has remained loyal to his only board sponsor -- Dayton, Ohio's Alien Workshop. After what seemed like a drunken declaration back in February at the Zumiez 100k Event, Dyrdek finally released a formal announcement last week that he'd purchased DNA Distribution (makers of Alien Workshop, Habitat Skateboards and shoes, among other brands) from Burton Snowboards.

We caught up with Dyrdek to discuss the acquisition further, his Street League auditions and format changes, Bastien Salabanzi and a number of other topics:

ESPN.com: I'm glad this acquisition of Alien Workshop finally took place.
Dyrdek:
I like that you e-mailed me and asked if I was I was drunk when I made the announcement. The funny thing is I couldn't even drink. I flew in just for the Zumiez party and flew right out right after.

If you were sober why did it take two months to issue an official press release?
I took ownership of it a while ago but since I was doing the episode around finding out I was actually part alien I just wanted the release to be a little closer to when the episode aired.

I thought maybe you got too psyched, made the announcement and Burton was trying to up the price because of prematurely announcing?
No, they loved the story of it. They literally did everything they could to make it extra easy for me. I'm truly grateful for how they bent over backwards to make sure we could get the deal done easily.

You weren't always worth $15 million. What was the absurdly low royalty check you once got from Alien?
I still have it from 1991. I sold one board at Christmas in 1991 and I had to cash the $2 check. The truth of the matter was that when I quit school I would eat cereal and then go to The Workshop, by myself, because all my friends were in school. The catalyst was that they said, "If you move to California right now we'll guarantee you $1,000 a month." I might as well have hit the lottery. Me and John Drake were in our Honda Civic and on the doorstep of Encinitas, Calif.

One thing that was omitted from the press release was Habitat shoes. What's going to happen with that?
It will continue to grow and I'll let Joe Castrucci do his thing. It wasn't like I was trying to avoid Habitat as a whole because I have so much belief in the potential of what he created, but The Workshop is the cornerstone of the story so that's what I focused on in the press release.

Rob Dyrdek
Dyrdek is a celebrity and an entrepreneur, but make no mistake, he's a skater first. Dyrdek at Street League's Seattle stop in 2011.

Does your shoe sponsor, DC Shoes, have any problem with you owning a shoe company?
I think anyone that's in business with me knows I have my hands in whole lot of things, many of which might be considered conflicting but I think they know that I'm never going to have a pair of Habitat shoes on or be promoting it so they're not that worried about it.

What's the reality of Jason Dill becoming the vice president of Alien?
Well, it wasn't going to be the vice president he was going to be "The" president. When this first happened I envisioned putting out monthly videos of Dill explaining what's going on with the brand. I wanted to shoot an episode around making Jason Dill the president.

Can I suggest some other personnel? I was thinking Fred Gall could be the head of public relations.
Ha! I'm not even kidding. I will hire Bo Turner as head of security; I will hire back every person.

You just held Street League auditions on The Berrics for five new U.S. pros. Today begins the voting for your European auditions on The DC Embassy. Is it a foregone conclusion that Bastien Salabanzi will be in Street League this year?
I wouldn't want to say that without letting the people of Europe vote but I was floored by what he had done. I think everyone had a lot of sick stuff; it was really impressive to me. But Bastien cab flipped back-tailed to come out forward! I was like, "What in the hell? You're going to NBD me?"

You know how electric Bastien is and I'd be lying if I didn't think it would be exciting to see him in there, but I'll let the people vote.

The people are part of the vote and the pros are another part of the vote. What happens if the pros are so scared of Bastien that they try to vote him out?
I don't know. I would hate for that to happen. It would be really hard for the pros to sabotage it with him probably getting the fan vote and being high on The League's vote, but trust me, that's what they're probably going to do. But I also think they love Bastien so much that it's kind of exciting for them too.

Let's say Bastien makes it in there, who can even touch him?
In Street League? Like is he going to win Street League?

Rob Dyrdek
Rob Dyrdek unveils a 7-Eleven Urban Skate Store and opens 'Safe Spot Skate Spot' in 2010 at North Hollywood Park in California.

You made it so we can bet on Street League in Vegas. I'd put all my money on Bastien winning it.
That's bold. Again, we've evolved Street League. We're at 45-second runs to open it up and then doing four out of six in the big section so you can bail a couple, but these dudes are so good. Not only do you have to be insanely good but you have to be able to do it first try. That is distinctly what separates Street League.

You would have thought a lot of people would have done way better in Street League because they're the best skateboarders in the world. I would have thought, no doubt, Paul Rodriguez would have won one by now. I would have thought Chris Cole certainly would've. Chris Cole lost it on the last trick twice.

So I don't look at it as Bastien being able to come in and tear the house down. I think it's possible but I feel that the field is so deep and everyone is so gnarly that it's about who can do the hardest stuff when it counts. It's tough.

I'll bet you the $2 of your 1991 check that Bastien takes it all. Would you take the bet?
Champion? Depending on how he comes in, it's possible. But the contest is already brutal where it is so hard to do because everyone is so gnarly and now we're adding six new guys that have a shot at it. Making the finals will be like winning a contest.

Any new changes in format? Any chance of losing that math equation scoring?
Nah, I don't want to lose that because you're not doing the math and at least you know the stakes each and every time. It's always the pacing for me. I've completely redid the courses to where they're full-flowing courses.

Flowing is the soul of skateboarding; we tried it without it and it doesn't feel good.

--Rob Dyrdek

Now it'll be eight guys instead of 10 that make it to the finals and then you have two 45-scond runs and the bottom guy gets eliminated. Then those seven go to the next round, which is single best trick with five tries. So it cuts it from 70 tries total last year to 35 tries so it'll go way faster. So the major changes are seeing dudes flow. Flowing is the soul of skateboarding; we tried it without it and it doesn't feel good.

And then it's about making sure the hardest tricks win the contest, not who does the most tricks. And making it a 90-minute show instead of a two-hour show should make it feel a thousand times better. If it doesn't, I'll keep going until it feels perfect.

Do you think Chris Cole will ever get his shot at a million dollars?
Come on, man. When [Maloof] put out the press release I said there was no way that Chris Cole will ever get the chance. They put out the press release thinking it would undermine Street League and I was like, "Of course! Let him go skate for it!" I'm not some tyrant. If you want to give Chris Cole a million dollars, go right ahead. But no, I don't think he ever will get the chance.

God bless them -- I still think they're great for skateboarding and I've got nothing but love for those guys.

Rob Dyrdek
"The field at Street League is so deep and everyone is so gnarly that it's about who can do the hardest stuff when it counts," says Dyrdek.

Did you know all this success was waiting for you back when you bought your time machine in the '90s?
You've got to believe that somehow, someway that I was on to something there. When I bought that time machine I was such a party pile that there's no reason that I could wrap my head around how it could evolve into this much insanity without some sort of universal force or fourth dimension going on.

Have you used it since? What does the future look like for you?
Apparently I don't allow myself to see the future to freak myself out. I get freaked out when things keep happening to me. I'm like, "Wow! Amazing! I'm so lucky." It's like the fat, partying version of me keeps setting things up from 1994.

My last question is: Do you need an actual writer for your MTV "Rob.0" show?
I just freestyle the whole show, Chris.

You might want to reconsider that, Rob.
Why do I care? Let's be honest, of all things that I do … I sold them that during "Rob & Big," five years ago. I was supposed to do it before "Fantasy Factory" and I didn't want to do both shows.

After "Tosh" [Comedy Central's "Tosh.0"] came out I was like, "I'm over it, I don't want to do it." And they just begged me to do it and I was like, "Oh, OK." To give you an idea, it takes me 10 days to shoot 20 episodes whereas it takes me six months to shoot 12 episodes of "Fantasy Factory."

I wrote the most amazing episode for me and Bob Saget for "Fantasy Factory" but he couldn't do it because we're a non-union show. But that show is just off my radar. It's the weirdest side thing that I do that even the backlash of it all is so weird. It's just something I came up with that made it to TV and works. But it's clip show hosting. I go out, I freestyle the whole thing, then I go home. It takes me an hour to shoot each one. But it is pretty fun to do.