Ruben Najera | Facebook
Skateboarder. Actor. Filmmaker. Hailing from El Centro, Ruben Najera is an accomplished multi-hyphenate and a true example of how hard work, dedication, and a no-quit attitude can pay off in a big way. In 2005, Ruben moved to Orange County with nothing but a dream to make it as a pro skateboarder. Within two years, Ruben went from being homeless to turning pro. Since, he’s graced the covers of skate magazines, repped some of the biggest brands in the world, and even acted in the Skate God, among other films. We had the chance to chat with Ruben and talk about his career as a pro skater and why JNCO meshes so well with his lifestyle.
When and why did you start skateboarding?
The first time I truly saw a skateboard and was stoked was in the first live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie in 1990 when I was 5 years old. They were skateboarding in the sewer pipes as well as the foot clan recruitment kids who had that gnarly winding ramp inside the secret warehouse base of theirs. That blew my mind as a kid. I had a skateboard right after that but would just use it to street luge down my driveway and ride back and forth. It was a bootleg TMNT board from a swap meet that my grandparents had given me - it was a crazy shape too! It wasn’t till around 12 years old that I really got introduced to the street side of skateboarding. One day in band class one of my classmates brought his skateboard to school since our teacher had quit and our substitute never showed up so it was chaos and everyone did whatever. I remember going outside and watching him skateboard a curb. He grinded it and ollied out and I instantly gravitated toward it. I grew up playing a lot of team sports and was always benched, yelled at by coaches, or bullied. Skateboarding was anti all of that. First off no one did it at my school, when I started I was one of like 5 people in the entire school who skated and we had thousands of students. Skateboarding allowed me to do WHAT I wanted, HOW I wanted, and at the pace I wanted. I skated the obstacles I wanted to skate and learned the tricks I was stoked on. My whole city was my canvas to paint (skate).
Tell us about the skate scene in your hometown.
Very small skate scene when I started but as it grew in popularity due to the first Tony Hawk Game and X Games popping up there were more and more skateboarders. Many of them would start their own skate crews or teams and things got sour for a bit because it became a "clique" thing for a while. I was never a "cool" kid, always an outcast, and I didn’t necessarily do the "cool" tricks so I was not accepted into some of those crews. So what I did was start my own. We called it the "Riot" skate crew and I added all the kids around my block that were rejected. I felt like Professor X and the X-Men. I recruited many different kids that had different ways of skating and talents including my little brother Diego Najera who is now one of the most well recognized skateboarders on earth. We would make skateboard videos and dub music over the VHS tapes it was super ghetto but I loved it. Funny enough our skate crew which took on a few other crew name changes through time ended up being the longest running skate team there with the most videos. My brother and I were the only ones to end up getting sponsored and eventually making a living skateboarding professionally. We were really passionate about it all. There was nothing else on earth we wanted to do.
What's your go-to equipment?
What is your favorite trick?
I love a good solid pop shuvit. It’s old reliable for me down stuff and across bigger gaps. But I love seeing the board flip so my favorite to see beneath my feet is a double varial flip (nightmare flip) and a fakie double bigflip.
We hear you have a trick named after you. Tell us about the NAR Flip!
So I grew up with the nickname "NAR" and I have been doing double varial flips for many years. There came a point when I progressed that trick and started flipping it an extra rotation. I would do triple varial flips. There wasn’t a unique name specifically for that trick and a lot of the dudes I skated with started calling it the NAR flip since I was the only one doing it. I would get it down stairs and land it to manual as well. When it really stuck was when people were tagging me on social media and through YouTube who actually were landing it years later or coming close and calling it the "NAR" flip. That was a really cool thing to see. I honestly get asked a few times every week to do the trick. Kids everywhere know about it, it’s like it went viral. There’s a Skateology video on YouTube from world famous filmmaker Adam Shomsky who filmed me doing it in super slow motion it’s pretty awesome.
Do you have a trick you're working on perfecting? If so, tell us about it.
NAR flip nose manual... Almost had it or maybe NAR flip manual to trick out just need to find the right spot. That would be cool. I just love progressing my tricks. Surpassing myself and what I mentally think are my limits is what I skate for. It’s always me against myself I fight these trick battles in my own head. I’m kind of looney in that sense. It never ends, it’s kind of crazy.
Coolest place you've ever skated?
I always feel like it’s right around the corner!
Nastiest injury you've ever had?
It was actually from a car accident. In high school I was passenger in a truck and we rolled 3 and a half times and landed in a canal. How we survived I have no idea but to this day it’s my worst injury. Spine injuries that took me away from my skateboard and left me in pain and scarred to this day.
If you had one piece of advice for a young person looking to become a pro skater, what would it be?
Be true to you and skate what YOU want. Perfect and progress at that style as much as you can. Never give up and make it clear to yourself that no matter what even if you don’t skateboard for a living that skateboarding is something you would do regardless forever. You have to truly love it and have the passion for it to excel to a higher level. There is a bond you build with your board and with yourself mentally that allows you to push yourself to the next stage. Network and stay faithful. And never listen to haters.
What are your goals for the next year?
To finish my video parts for both the Driscoll’s Skate Shop DVD and the SWORN WHEELS DVD. To progress my skateboarding and push myself to a higher level within my mind. I am older than ever and I want to make the best part I have ever filmed ever. I want to be like a wine, better with age.
What do you like best about JNCO?
JNCO was started in 1985, the very year I was born. We were welcomed into this world at the same moments and therefore destined to unite and make this journey together.
How does JNCO align with your lifestyle?
JNCO pushes and progresses fashion and I progress skateboarding in my own unique way. Together that is innovation and a relationship that can’t be beat.
Why does JNCO work so well for skating?
JNCO makes quality denim. Strong yet flexible and iconic at the same time.
Why do you think there's a demand for 90s fashion again?
Because the 90s were the best dude! Seriously think about all the franchises that they are doing remakes of in Hollywood from the 90s. There are a lot of great timeless ideas created then and JNCO was a big part of fashion all throughout it. It's here for good and better than ever.
What's your favorite JNCO product?
The denim is the best. Right now I am skateboarding in some Slouchy fit jeans but those J179 Pipes are looking real nice!
Why would you recommend JNCO to others?
Absolute quality, attention to detail, and a brand that pushes forward and progresses and isn’t afraid to stand out from the crowd. We are all unique let us all shine through!
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