If you have been skateboarding for a while and especially been into vert skateboarding, then you will know who Rob Mertz is. I heard about Rob Mertz back in the late 80’s when I got started with vert skateboarding in Germany as a couple of my friends were getting Zorlac decks on a flow sponsor deal. The whole Zorlac skate team was pure gnar and Rob Mertz’s skating represented just that: gnarly, fast and high. His skateboarding influenced my life and I’m more than happy to have the chance to do this interview with Rob.
You started skating all the way back in 1972. Can you remember how you first came in contact with skateboards and who was involved?
I really don’t remember (I’ve hit my head a lot!), but I think skateboarding was just in a big phase at the time. I was 7.
Your sponsoring began already in 1976 with the Source Skate Team. Who created this team and what did you represent, a shop or was it just a friend’s team thing? And who came up with your nickname “Radical Rat”?
Ha. That was just our crew of skaters trying to emulate the teams in Skateboarder Magazine. ‘Radical Rat’ came from Rat Stink from the Mellow Cat comics in Skateboarder. That crew evolved into our MFC crew in Pennsylvania.
BS Air – Hawk’s Ramp
You seem to be skating a lot at Tony Hawk’s indoor vert ramp and I’ve read that you like to do this real early in the morning (wish I could find a vert ramp to skate that early ). Who’s got that type of drive and time to skate with you and what do you like about Tony’s ramp the most?
I’ve just always skated by myself and whenever I can. Tony’s is only a few blocks away from my work so I try to hit it every morning. I’ve only had a couple guys skate with me in the morning over the last few years. Tony’s ramp is perfect and I try to take advantage of it. I’ve been hurt a lot over the last 5 years so I’ve got a lot of making up to do. Much thanks to Tony for the access.
As I’m interviewing you for the United Skateboard Photography Project, has cancer had any direct impact on you, your family or friends? And besides this project and the Grind For Life organisation – do you believe skaters and people involved in skateboarding can do more to help people in need – whatever need it may be – through skateboarding?
I think it has affected everyone in one way or another. I help out Mike at GFL whenever I can. Good dude.
The Zorlac team in the 80’s and 90’s was one of the rawest teams around. Skaters with attitudes, gnarly skating and some of the coolest deck and clothing graphics thanks to Pushead. What did it mean to you to be skating for Zorlac?
They had the raddest dudes on the team – Craig Johnson and John Gibson are two of my favorite skaters – and the raddest graphics. Back then skating was all about anti everything and Zorlac was the ‘anti’ company. Jim Murphy from New Jersey was a big influence on me and he rode Zorlac. Gnarly, aggro and committed. Murph rules. So, when I got asked to join Zorlac, I didn’t hesitate. I was skating for Santa Cruz at the time.
Houston, Texas – tucknee in 1989 / Photo: Graham
OC bowl in 1990 / Photo: Graham
In 1992 you had a bad spill doing a 540 in Daytona. What happened and how long were you out of skateboarding?
I was skating the metal ramp at Stone Edge in Florida after the typical 3:00 thunderstorm and ran through some water from a seam and flipped up super high, landed on the coping on my side and flipped all the way to flat. I was out for about 2 years. Neck and back….
You definitely show a huge love for music and it seems as well for band t-shirts. And just recently you posted several photos from Elliot Sloan’s backyard vert ramp with some band members of As I Lay Dying and Lamb of God. How involved are you with bands and the music industry and what effect does music have on your life in general?
I’ve always been in bands. My first band was a skaterock band called MFC in Pennsylvania. We played with Suicidal on their first tour in 1984, played with the Faction when they first toured also. My current band is called One Choice. We’re a straight edge hardcore band on Seventh Dagger records. We’ve been around for 7 years now and have played with about every hardcore band out there.
Rob Mertz with his band, One Choice
What are your favorite spots/ramps/pools to ride and is there a place you still really want to go and skate which you haven’t been to yet?
Living in San Diego puts me in the heart of all the big skate spots and I try to hit them all. Hawk’s ramp, Combi pool, Bucky’s pool, Mancha’s ramp, Elliot’s Rockstar ramp, Encinitas Y pool and ramp, Burnquist’s, the new Vans pool in HB, just skated that Lake Havasu pool – really good…just to name a few. I really want to go to Arvada, Colorado and skate the Hanger replica pool there. The original Hanger bowl was one of my favorite spots back in the day. Cedar Crest, the Kahuna ramp in Houston, our MFC ramps, Farm Ramp in Raleigh, Leanords ramp in Florida…all great.
BS Boneless at Manchas / Photo: Brian Fick
For this interview I’ve been watching quite a few videos of your skating and you’ve always been known for your originality in doing tricks. Do you have any specific tricks which you always love to do in your runs and are there tricks you still want to really want to make which haven’t happened yet?
I’ve always tried to make up my own tricks or do tricks my own way…skate big and gnarly, hang on or hang up.
Reading your posts and seeing you skating so much lately, it looks like you’ve been able to stay healthy and be able skate regularly. How fit do you feel and besides the many injuries I’ve read about, are there tricks that you just don’t see yourself doing anymore to avoid injury and what do you do to be able keep on skating so much?
The last 5 or 6 years have been pretty bad for me injury wise. Having a major injury takes a lot longer to heal nowadaysand then as soon as I start getting tricks back, I get hurt again. It sucks but, what are you gonna do. Trickwise, I still have a ton of tricks on my list and a ton more to get back and more to learn.
one-footed invert at the Combi / Photo: Dan Sparagna
To round this interview off – when will we see you back in a contest/session again – Vert Attack 9 in Malmö maybe? I’m trying to organize a contest the week before that in Hamburg, Germany as well so maybe get a group of the “old” guys over to Europe – we’d love to see you rip over here!
Thanks but, I’m just not a contest guy. I would like to skate that VA ramp. Maybe I’ll come there a month before the contest. ha
And just for me – what do you have to keep in mind to do a really good backside boneless one – yours have always just been my favorite!
Just go up with speed and aggression. Throw it up there as high as you can and pull it down as fast as you can.
Thank you for taking the time for doing this, you helped me and many friends/skaters around the globe love skateboarding just more with your skateboarding, keep going Rob!
Channel FS Air / Photo: Brian Fick
Crailslide at Manchas / Photo: Brian Fick
Method at Manchas / Photo: Brian Fick
Saran Wrap Lien to Tail at Manchas / Photo: Brian Fick
BS Air Disaster at the Combi / Photo: Naka
Confusion – Hawk's Ramp / Photo: Nunez