Guy Mariano, Rudy Johnson, Jeron Wilson and Tim Gavin did it, then Robbie McKInley did it a generation later. Quitting Blind to ride for Girl put those who did it in a unique category in skateboardings "history". But unlike Tim Gavin who held onto professional skateboarding a little too long, Robbie McKinley left it a little too early.
intro & interview - Tim Anderson
photo - Barrett Loose
Where did you grow up and who did you skate with way back then?
Born in L.A. and started skating around 5 th grade with my brother. But when I moved to the I.E. around 6th grade that's when I really got into it. Went thru a few groups of friends but I would say the Chaffey crew was like where I really began to get pretty good and knew I wanted to get sponsored and all that stuff. Crew consisted of Richard Mulder, Sam, Thomas, Schmitt, Graber, Phelps, Marcus, Fred and a bunch of other heads, probably like 15 total.
What was you first proper setup?
First proper set up was a Powell Peralta Steve Cabellero metallic dragon board with white rails, Indy trucks and black Lester Kasai wheels. Damn that was a sweet board… hahah
Who was the first pro that you ever saw skate in person, where were you?
Funny enough that actually ties in with the last question. I was in Laguna beach with my family for an average Saturday beach trip and after we parked the first thing I saw when I got out of the car was Ron Chatman and the Gonz. I got out the car and saw this dude whith a big as fro and was like “Holy shit, that's Ron Chapman!” Next thing you know Gonz is blazing down the street ollieing off this huge curb cut into PCH. I think he actually had a clip in Video Days doing like an indy grab off it or something. Any who, my parent’s dragged me down to the beach but later on that day we walked by a skate shop and I walked outta there with my first legit set up.
Who do you think influenced you're skateboarding when you were younger and coming up, pro or not pro?
Early on it wasn’t so much one skater but like videos. I’d go with my mom and rent skate videos from the video store and I’d rent like Ban This and all the Bones Brigade stuff and like Hokus Pokus, etc. But As far as skaters go I’d say Koston. He’s the best now and I think he always will be, he’s like the Micheal Jordan of skateboarding you know? Just can’t be touched. Skill, style, innovation and just an overall good dude. I admire that dude a lot.
Who was your first sponsor?
Grind King trucks, Mario Martinez hooked it up. Thanks Mario!
Society seemed like a cool little D.I.Y. company, how did you get hooked up with them?
Again Mario, it was thru GK.
What was up with your footage for Tim Dowling's Listen video? Was it left over sponsor footage?
We were just filming everyday for Listen but I felt Society coming to an end so it ended up being a sponsor me video. Good timing I guess.
How did you get hooked up with Blind? How did it feel to get on Blind?
It felt great man, I was skating with Gideon Choi and James Craig a lot and got a call from Ronnie Creager outta the blue and he asked me. To tell you the truth I was actually bummed I got on before James. He was getting flowed for a while and they asked me first so I kinda felt I didn’t deserve it, you know? He was better than me for sure, especially at that point in time.
Did you get along well with all the other guys on Blind?
Totally, before I got on I was skating with Gideon and James all the time. Me and Luis Cruz would roll down to Fullerton on the weekends and just skate non stop with all the guys. Those were some real good times in my life, just skating and not having to deal with money, future, etc. Just a bunch of kids skating and having fun, like it should be.
Did you ever skate with that guy Josh Kasper at all?
Not really, just on tour actually. My first tour was a bLind tour on the east coast from Florida to Boston I think. That was a great trip, I still have all these photos from it. I remember thinking “Who the fuck is this Viking looking dude trying to three flip everything in sight?”.. Oh, I also remember Lavar smoking a blunt to his head in the van rapping along with Method Man, but like rapping at me. I was so freaked out… Hahahah! Wild times.
Any idea what Gideon Choi is up to now?
I heard he’s one of those court room typists, but I’m not sure.
What was better (besides the paycheck) flow from Axion or full on DC?
Being fully on a shoe team and ads I guess. I didn’t even like the shoes at first, they weere too bulky for me. I’ve always like the super simple all black suede shoe. And of course being on the same team as Carroll, that dudes the best!
What did you think of Menace back in the day?
Loved it, it was like so L.A. as far as image goes, you know? At the time all I wanted to do was move to L.A. and skate Lockwood, so they were like the ultimate representation of that. The graphics where sick and the part in 20 shot sequence was fuckin great!
Did you ever meet Rocco?
Yeah, I’d see him around World Industries every once and a while. The only time I really hung out with the guy was when he flew the bLind team out to Hawaii for like 4 days. I’d never been there and he hooked it up with the hotel/resort on the beach and everything. I remember he rented a Ferrari one of the days and Creager was revving the shit out of it at a stop sign getting ready to peel out and when he gunned it the whole transition just dropped. I was like hoooly shit, he’s fucked! But Rocco was like “Fuck it, just push it to the side of the road and lets keep going..
Were you getting flowed stuff from Girl before you got on bLind?
Nope. I was on Blind and remember seeing Jason Callaway at a bar and he kind of threw it out there, and then I got the call from Rick where we talked about it. Got a box to try out the boards, went skating with the guys a few times and then that was pretty much it.
Do you remember the moment that you were over bLind and ready to move on?
Never really over it, just got presented with an offer I couldn’t refuse you know? Even to be considered to be in the category of the Girl fam is an honor you know?
What's your favorite memory of riding for Girl?
Wow, uuuuummm, probably the tours. You really get to know people on the road. Although I always blew it on tours. I suck at transition and hate skating in front of people so I was pretty much useless when it came to demos, but getting to know the guys pretty good was an awesome experience.
What's your most vivid memory of Keenan?
Wow, so many, uuuum… Rooming with him in Vancover and him ordering room service for a bucket of beers and a plate of bacon at the hotel when we roomed together. Then asking me if I wanted some beers and bacon… Hhaha! I was like fuck it! 20 minutes later we’re watchin TV, drinkin some brews and eating bacon… That and him switch flipping the Sacto triple set after drinking a 12er, he was playing skate with P-Rod for like an hour. Didn’t even ollie it, just went straight for the gusto. That's my man!
So what happened? It seemed like you could've kept going for another 5+ years, but you disappeared. What were your reasons for walking away?
I guess you could say I had a mid-mid life crisis. Questioning what I was doing with my life etc.. I was labeled the “Man Am”, got kicked off DC and just felt like I was in this stand still not advancing in skating or in life. I wasn’t focused at the time and that’s the way it went down. Can’t sit around and fuckin' cry about it you know, sometimes you just gotta man up and do whats right. At the time I felt like I was disrespecting Rick, Mike, Megan and everyone else, so it was time to move over and let the new guys have their chance. I talked to Rick and asked him if he could help me out for a few more months pay until I figured out what I was gonna do, he was cool with it and that was that. I would much rather have it go down like that then get a call from Rick telling me they had to let me go, you know?
Do you regret walking away from it all, or on the other hand are you glad you left when you did?
Regret, probably. More regret from letting those guys down vs. my own personal benefit. Looking back I actually think I may have stepped away a bit to soon. I wish someone would’ve pulled me aside in the beginning and gave me a reality check, but what can you do.
scan courtesy - chromeballincident
Did any of the Girl guys give you a hard time when you slowed down with your skateboarding?
Not a hardtime, but I could feel they were bummed. Its hard to realize sometimes how bad you're fuckin' up when it's in the moment. You almost need a few years to pass to look back on it to realize. But by then I lost my window and was already on a new path. Rick told me in the beginning it was up to us to make it happen, so it’s all good. Live and learn right, life waits for no one.
Do you still skate, if so how often?
Yeah I still skate. How often.... uuuum? It kind of goes in spurts but I make it a habit to roll around. Now with work and other things in life I can’t do it as much but I have gotten the itch recently to go out more. Been watching the VBS “Beauty and the Beast” tour and it brings back a lot of good memories. They got that new Venice Park opening up so I should be rolling around there.
Give us Robbie McKinley's Top 5 best styles ever on a skateboard.
Gino Iannucci, AVE, MJ, Koston, Keenan. There’s so many though, Brian Anderson, Mark Appleyard, Guy Mariano and list just goes on and on.
Top 5 favorite skate shoes?
Es’ all black accels, mj’s first emerica shoe, half cabs, adidas campus, Lakai Manchester select.
Do you still follow skateboarding at all?
Definitely still keeping up with skating, I've still got mags comin' to my house and check Crailtap, The Berrics and Skate Daily everyday. I probably know more about skating now than when I was sponsored. Hahaha.
What are you up to now?
I’m doing good now, working as a UI Designer and I do a company called SK8 DICE with my buddy Kevin.
Any last words?
Last words, live life and be happy.