Santa Cruz's Rob Roskopp Interview!

Jan 20, 2011
by Si Paton  
You all know Rob Roskopp as the big cheese from Santa Cruz Bicycles, the main man pushing the Syndicate and now pointing DH frame manufacturing towards carbon! But for those of you that are around the big four zero, you may well know Roskopp from back in the 80's as he was one of the World's top skateboarders. Follow me down memory lane as we chat exclusively with Roskopp on skateboarding and the founding of Santa Cruz Bicycles for was a monumental year in skateboarding, BMX Action Bike/RAD here in the U.K ran a picture of a hot new skateboard film that was about to be released in the States, Scott Ditrich’s “Wheels of Fire”. Peralta had done a great job with the Bones Brigade Videos, climaxing as most would say by setting the benchmark with “The search for Animal Chin”.

Rob “Bob” Sanderson from the then Yah Dudes skate shop pocketed one of the first copies on VHS in the country and around 20 skaters hopped on the No63 bus to Frankley in Birmingham to sit in that council house front room and watch it with his Mom and Dad! Anyone remember top loading videos?

As we watched the video two major sections stood out. Firstly Natas Kaupas’s street skating was insane at the time. Whilst we were struggling to Ollie up a kerb/curb, here was Natas ollieing over trash/dust bins and onto picnic tables, we were left speechless.

Then at the end of the film, the mutha of all skate ramps is featured, "Raging Waters". Now if you think Fairclough and Vanderham can style it up for the crowd, you ain’t seen nothing. Roskopp features heavily and throws down big time. Apologies to take anything away from him though, but also check out Christian Hosoi, he goes so high and styles it more than London, Paris and Milan put together.

Now that’s some intro Rob, time for you to stop chalking and start talking..

Watch Rob Roskopp and friends getting rad at Raging Waters:

Si - Who was riding the flaming skateboard on the intro of the film and did they get burned?

Roskopp – Thanks for the kind words... I couldn’t remember so I watched that part again... Pretty certain it was Natas. Can’t say if he did get burned, but I doubt it.

What is the soundtrack for the Raging Waters section, I want it on my Walkman..

I believe that was Claus Grabke’s band “Eight Dayz” and "What's so strange about me"?.

Tell us about Natas Kaupas, do you guys still speak, what is he up to now? (Some of you may think Natas invented the Ollie, sorry guys that title goes to Alan "Ollie" Galfand).

I hadn’t seen Natas in years, but had the chance to catch up with him at the Action Sports Retailer Tradeshow in San Diego. Santa Cruz Skateboards threw a reunion party for us Old Timers a few years back. We had emailed years back because he wanted to get a bike. I think he got a Superlight back then. We were in contact recently and now he wants a Tallboy. Anyway, Natas and I always got along, he’s a really talented artist and run’s the art department at QuickSilver. Natas was an incredible street skater and really changed things up back then.

What other skaters from that era are you still friends with? What are they up to now, any major career changes?

Steve Alba and I still talk once in a while. We traveled a lot together towards the end of my skating days and were always pretty close. Keith Meek and I hung out and skated in Santa Cruz all the time. Keith ran our art department at SCB for years, now he’s freelancing out of his home. He was a incredible pool skater with great style. I see Steve Caballero every once in awhile, he lives close to me and is still skating and ripping it up.

Did you ever write to Hosoi whilst he was in the clinker?

No, I wasn’t in touch with him at that time, but after he got out we spoke a few times. He was looking for a bike to re-hab his knee on, so I sent him out one of the Swobo bikes. Christian was and is still an incredible skater and had the best style I’ve ever seen on a skateboard.

Some of Rob's decks and actions shots from the good old days.

Raddest trick you've ever seen skating?

Danny Way at X-Games on the Giant ramp doing a back flip into a 20 something foot McTwist, blew me away! You have to realize that they are hitting that ramp at 45mph, crazy stuff!

Biggest skate slam that you have ever seen?

I’ve seen plenty...most ugly ones deal with someone ollie’ing up to a big rail and then slamming their groin…

Back in the day, who was an animal on the party scene? Craziest story?

Joe Lopes did a good job at that, may he RIP. I always had fun with the Texan’s, John Gibson, Craig Johnson, Jeff Phillip’s. Great times with everyone in the scene. Every contest we went to saw so much that went down...there’s not one crazy story, there are many. And unfortunately I don’t think I should say anything about what happened.

It’s 1987 and your car just broke down and you are in the middle of Compton and you have to walk ten blocks through the ghetto. Which skater would you most want with you and why?

Funny question, something did happen just like that. Steve Alba and I were going down to Hollywood for a gig and his car broke down in a bad area. Cell phones weren’t abundant in those days, so we had to skate to the nearest liquor store to find a pay phone. Steve got a hold of his friend and he came down and picked us up, but we had to kill time with all these guys hanging out around the store giving us shit. Wasn’t very comfortable...

How many times have you been arrested for skateboarding?

Never was arrested, but got a $300 Federal ticket for skating a full pipe in Armarillo, Texas. We were filming for the “Streets of Fire” video. Amazing least we had everything shot when we got busted.

When and where was the last time you threw down your deck?

Haven’t skated for about 6 months. Usually take my son to the park once in awhile.

Let’s talk graphics, were you high on crack cocaine when you chose your deck designs? How did they come about?

No, crack was after my time...remember I’m an old guy. Anyway, I always had this thing for Bullseyes. I knew that I wanted the bullseye incorporated into my graphic. I also liked Big Daddy, Ed Roth’s art. The arm punching through the bullseye just came to me. I had a friend draw it up and we showed it to Santa Cruz. It was really different from what was going on at the time and anything they had ever done. Jim Phillips was the Santa Cruz artist that put the final touches on it and the rest is history.
An original Roskopp deck

Which is your favorite all time Roskopp board graphic?

My first graphic and the 3rd one in the series. Jim Phillips came up with the Face graphic and that one is also a favorite.

What kind of skateboarding collection do you have?

I have my first two prototype boards, one that I skated on and one that is still in a plastic bag that I had for a back up. I also have a bunch of other Santa Cruz rider boards, and a prototype Johnny Kopp, Hosoi Skates deck that was never put into production.

Looking on ebay today I see an original Roskopp 80’s deck going for around $150, new! What’s the most you have seen one sold for?

I’ve seen a few that went for $3,500 right before the whole collection craze took off. I think it’s a different story now, especially since Santa Cruz has done all the re-issue series. It’s pretty funny getting royalties still, after 23yrs.

I have a set of Powell Swiss bearings still in the wrapper if anyone’s interested? Anyone?
When was the last time you signed a deck?

Actually, just the other day for the cousin of one of our employees'.

Give us the low down on Santa Cruz Bikes and Santa Cruz Skateboards/Snowboards? What’s what? Can you explain both companies, and how it all started?

Santa Cruz Skateboards started out with Rich Novak, Jay Shurman and Doug Haut. The 3 of them formed N.H.S. Inc. Sadly Jay died of Leukemia in 1980, leaving Rich the sole owner of N.H.S. Inc. Doug went on to start Haut Surfboards and today designs a lot of the Santa Cruz Surfboards. N.H.S. Inc. owns SC Skateboards, Surfboards, Snowboards, etc... They put the precision bearing in the first urethane skateboard wheels called Road Riders and the rest is history.

Santa Cruz Bicycles is a separate company owned mostly by myself and Rich Novak. It was Rich’s idea to start making bicycles. I did all the research and brought in Mike Marquez (who now works at Fox Racing Shox, after he did a stint at Rock Shox for years) who has a great suspension background. We met up with a local designer, Tom Morris who had some prototypes built up that we tried out. Basically, they were single pivot bikes with Bell linkages. He had a more simplified design drawn up that really caught our eye and that became our first bike, the Tazmon. It had 3” of rear wheel travel, and it was a single pivot with an eccentric link inside the shock eyelet.

As we were just getting in our first 100 frames, Hans Heim joined the company. Hans was Keith Bontrager’s partner before that and after leaving SCB went on to re-launch the Ibis brand.

We’ve now been around for 16yrs and it’s been quite the ride, never a dull moment and I’m still as passionate about bikes as when we first started.

Riding, what terrain discipline do you mostly ride and why?

Mostly XC with short steep climbs and some flowy single track. I ride it because it’s the closest type of riding to my house and keeps me pretty fit.

What is your job title and role today within Santa Cruz Bicycles?

We don’t care much about titles around SCB. But to answer your question...I guess Founder/Owner works.

How technically involved do you get with the bike designs and specs?

That’s the most interesting part of what I do and the part I most like. I’m no engineer, but I have a lot of input into everything that we do at SCB. From test rider feedback, suspension feel, graphics, the components that we spec and the way the end product looks.

At a bike testing session with Syndicate riders.

Talk to us about the carbon V10. Many remember the thermoplastic GT Lobos snapping, cracking and popping more than a big bowl of “Kellogg’s Rice Krispies”. Many vowed to only ever run Aluminum or steel after that. What’s the low down Rob on going carbon?

Our learning curve for carbon was very quick. When we finished the Blur XC Carbon bike I knew then that we needed to make a carbon V-10, that was the end of 2008. I tend to want to pin it, as they say when I know we have something down. We have our own in house testing facility, which increased our carbon knowledge in a very short time. We also aligned ourselves with an exclusive vendor in Asia. Without the hard work from everyone involved we would not be where we are at today. Carbon currently is the best material to make stiff, light, durable riding bikes.

The V-10 was tweaked for 1 1/2yrs on the World Cup Circuit by the Syndicate, Steve, Greg and Josh. We re-designed the suspension curves, changed angles, wheelbase, shock length, etc on an aluminum version. Once that was agreed on by the Syndicate we then designed the front out of Carbon. Then we tried breaking them, which wasn’t easy, in fact, we couldn’t. So we have a lot of confidence in the design. I think the greatest thing that can happen when you put a lot of hard work and effort into a new product is to see it win! Greg was the first to ever win a World Cup on a Carbon bike at Maribor, Slovenia at the World Cup opener in 2010. And I should mention using Enve Carbon rims, another first! Suffice to say, we’re excited about the new V-10 Carbon.

Will we ever see a titanium V10/V11?

It’s too flexy…

Greatest part invented for the mountain bike?

Suspension. Have to hand it to Paul Turner and Keith Bontrager for the Kestral Nitro full suspension bike, introduced at Interbike in 1987.

Worst invention ever seen for mountain bikes?

Allsop suspension beam bikes.

What can you tell the Pinkbike readers about the Santa Cruz Syndicate in 2011?

We’ll have the same line up with Steve Peat, Josh Bryceland and Greg Minnaar. Doug Hatfield and Ricky Bobby will do the wrenching, and super manager Kathy Sessler will be getting all the logistics done and cooking up some killer meals for the boyz. So, not much changing there. But I’m sure we’ll have some surprises along the way…There’s never a dull moment in the Syndicate camp.

Just another boring day with Rob and Cedric.

What means more to Santa Cruz Bicycles, one of the Syndicate riders winning the World Cup Series or winning the World Championships and please explain why?

That's a loaded question. In my opinion, the World Cup Series determines who the best rider in the World is by one main fact, consistency. The World Championship is a bit ridiculous, being a separate event and the fact that any rider can have an off day or weather can change the outcome. I feel that that happened this past year. Look at the results from World's, didn't it seem a bit odd that there was only one rider out of the top 6 or 7 riders from the World Cup on the podium? Minnaar was the only one of those guys on the podium. Gee wasn't there and he proved to be the most consistent rider this year and was the World Cup Champion. So in short, I think the World Cup Champion should be the World Champion, most other racing sports do this, like Formula 1.

As for what the riders think about all this? I would guess that most of them would want the World Cup Championship because it comes down to who is the most consistent, fastest rider. Granted the World's is a great title, but such a crap shoot. I guess that is what makes it special, but if there was only one World Champion, it would be all that much more special...

Who would you like to thank?

My Family, especially my wife Lepa, she has been a bigger help than ever this past year! Our kids, Mara, Harrison and Sara. And all the people at SCB who make it a great place to create our passion, riding bikes.

Rob is also a family man.

We would like thank Rob for his time out to answer the above and more importantly for being a skate legend and inspiring so many of us in the 80’s to get out there and ride. Over twenty years later and a second wave of inspiration to thank you for in the form of Santa Cruz Bicycles and The Syndicate.

Keep it locked to for the latest news out of the Santa Cruz H.Q.

Stay Unclipped.

Si Paton.
2011 THE Point 0.5 Helmets Instock 84.95GBP Posted

Posted In:


  • 7 0
 great article, sounds like such a great dude, nice to see an insight into the sport's personalities rather than just stats and geometry of kit. I wanna know where rob's buddy got those electric blue hot pants...they're ready for a comeback, I think the girls would go batshit for them.
  • 9 0
 Amazing interview - really enjoyed reading that. I never knew about Rob's skating past!
  • 1 1
where were you back then?

'whats so strange about me " indeed in the intro of wheels of fire , gets me pumped anytime!
  • 2 0
 I only knew about his skating past, i didnt know he was in the bike bizz. shralp
  • 1 0
 HM78, I have always been in the surf scene so don't know much about skating Smile
  • 2 0
 'Many vowed to only ever run aluminum or steel after that'.

Si, did you really say 'aluminum' or was it just typed that way for the American readers?
  • 5 0
 The only reason why I have a Santa Cruz is because I used to ride those decks. Got chills reading about all those skaters, so many memories...sniff, sniff.
  • 3 0
 Great interview.I met Rob in Indiana at N-Orbit Skatepark in 91- 92 He was team manager for Sims Skateboards.I asked him if he Mountain biked When he said yes I told him Mountainbikings gay.A year later It was my #1 passion.I alway want to run into him and say Thanks I think he planted the seed.
  • 2 0
 sam hill may have not been in the top 6 or 7 riders for the year, but was anyone surprised to see him on the podium for world champs? I'd have to disagree with Rob on the outcomes of the world champs having watched them live.
  • 2 0
 Great interview. But what kills me is that you asked him where you high on crack when you created this?? Dude, I mean come on.. The guy has kids, and wife and successful business now. I just ask myself why would you ask this?
He is a better man than I because If I was him, and you asked that, you better have a pretty good orthodontist.

Kind of lame dude... IF you have not you should call or stop in and say hey man ... IM sorry for that question and I was out of line. You know be a man
  • 2 0
 Great interview Si. Besides being the consummate business man, Rob is also a great guy. He's always willing to help, and has time for everyone who has a question (or 10) for him.
  • 2 1
 My mate de-laminated a Roskopp face board on the 1st day of owning it, he wasn't happy. Many years later over a curry, I told Rob about my mates displeasure. Roskopp once slept in my bed, unfortunately I wasn't in it at the time. I think he left one of his bogeys in it too... Top bloke.
  • 2 0
 That brought back a lot of good memories. I still have a collection of Skateboarder Magazines from the late 70's early 80's, I'll be pulling 'em out this weekend for a viewing after seeing this now!
  • 4 0
 Great interview and backstory for the younger kids to learn and us older folks to remember who's actually behind SC bikes.
  • 1 0
 That was awesome to read. I find it really wierd but funny how all them years ago these people were just skaters and the other people werent really known now in 2011 they are doing designs for this company and that company and one is now the founder of ibis. Just amazes me how they've always been in the industry and how they end up doing these jobs nowadays.
  • 1 0
 I remember watching Natas doing an ollie onto a fire hydrant and doing a 360 on it......blew my mind. My first skateboard was the Roskcopp face board. Two things I learned from this article: 1. Rob is in the MTB business. 2. I am old.
  • 1 0
 Natas spin... I laugh now when my kids do it on their Xbox! lol Had a Roskopp III back in the day. Same one as in that interview, but in blue. Loved that deck.
  • 3 0
 80's skatboarding was awesome , Rob, Hosoi , Cab , and the legend Tony Hawk all good style. Good interview !
  • 2 0
 Roskopp's the man! skateboarding during that time was awesome and he killed it on a board! Now he owns a great bike company with an awesome team! Nice job Rob!!
  • 2 0
 I went to a Roskopp SK8 demo in Chicago back in 87 or 88 and I was the only kid on a bike with about 200 or so skateboarders.
  • 3 0
 The man, The myth, The legend.
  • 2 0
 need to get some work done and come back to this one! Look great!
  • 3 0
 That's another great interview, thanks for posting that Stefan. Rob is a living legend. The King of Rad. and a really nice guy.
  • 2 0
 I had one of Roskopp's boards back in '88.
  • 2 0
 I want an interview with Natas next!
  • 2 0
 I used skate back in the 80s and broke 3 Roskopp decks. Good times !
  • 1 0
 I wonder if he would have said the same thing about the world championships if Greg won it..instead of Hill?
  • 1 0
 Streets on fire is such a classic vid, especially the derby section. Rob's the man! Gotta love the ol' 831.
  • 1 0
 My first pro sk8 board was a Rob. Streets on fire is the sh*t I still have it.
  • 1 0
 santacruz boards... they bother weren't created by him right? whats the story there...
  • 1 0
 I still have the "Wheels of Fire" original VHS tape!

Street was Natas. Style was Hosoi.
  • 1 0
 rob was one of my idols back in the late 80s when I started skateboarding..
  • 1 0
 Everybody knows Jason Jessee was the best skater ever on SC. And I cant believe Natas wanting a jey 29er FFS!
  • 1 0
 Rob is a living legend and skateboarding in the 80´s was a awesome time.
  • 1 0
 Wow, flashbacks of youth!..Thanks for sharing. Amazing footage.
  • 1 0
 My first real skateboard was his original deck. Coolest kid on the block!
  • 1 0
 and now his build some of the worlds best bikes? that sweet.
  • 1 0
  • 1 0
 Can't wait until there's a screaming hand V10
  • 1 0
 does anyone know what shades he is wearing
  • 1 0
 Old school roots... Smile

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