How Kettering native Rob Dyrdek made it big starting with a Christmas skateboard

Rob Dyrdek, a skateboarding legend and venture capitalist, has continued to expand his popularity and business endeavors over the years.

His growth to that fame started in Kettering.

Growing up here , Dyrdek played baseball and soccer and tried karate. When he was 11, he got a skateboard for Christmas. Rob’s mother Pat later said about the gift, “I didn’t have any fears when I bought him the skateboard back in 1986 ... He was playing soccer back then and we figured he would only be skating in the neighborhood since we did not let him off the street. I did not know that it would take over his entire life.”

Credit: Staff photo by Chris Stewart

Credit: Staff photo by Chris Stewart

About a month after that Christmas he heard about a local competition put on at the Dayton Convention Center by Jimmy George, who over the years owned a few area skates shops.

George recalled his introduction to Drydek, once telling the Dayton Daily News , “This little kid from Kettering started calling me. He wanted to compete and he wanted to know if he brought 20 other kids could he have a free T-shirt of his idol, Neil Blender. I was just 18 and this was my first show and I was glad someone would bring 20 kids. Rob got the shirt.”

In the back of George’s shop was a skating area with a half-pipe. House rules were that you had to be 13 to use the space. Dyrdek was only 11 at the time, but his parents signed a waiver so he could skate there.

George signed Drydek to represent his shop, Surf Ohio, and eight months later a California company signed him as well.

In a Dayton Daily News article from November 1987, 13-year-old Dyrdek was interviewed while taking an art class at Rosewood Arts Center taught by Kathleen Johnson. Dyrdek, an eighth-grader at Kettering Junior High School, was doing a caricature of his grandfather.

“My grandmother gave me this picture of him and I am going to surprise him with this caricature when he picks me up” he said.

Dyrdek said during the interview that planned on going into some area of art when he grew up.

He never let skateboarding hurt his grades. He was on the honor roll three consecutive years at Kettering Junior High School and attended Fairmont High School.

Dyrdek was featured as the Dayton Daily News “Athlete of the Week” in July of 1989 after he placed first in the National Skateboard Association’s North Central District competition at age 15. Later that year, he was flying out to San Diego to train at the headquarters of his sponsor, Gordon and Smith Skateboard Co., who had started sponsoring him at age 12.

In 1991, at the age of 16, Dyrdek turned pro and placed fifth in the world championships in Germany.

In March of 1992, a Dayton Daily News photographer took a feature photo of Dyrdek while he was out skating at the Great Miami River levee next to the low dam in Kettering.

By 1997, Dyrdek was reportedly making $200,000 a year, with his salary paid by Alien Workshop, a Dayton company that was one of the nation’s top producers and marketers of skateboarding equipment and apparel.

Around that time Drydek was also endorsing a line of skateboard shoes for DC Shoes and a few other small companies.

Rob’s father Gene was amazed by his son’s success, saying in a 1997 Dayton Daily News story, “I’d kind of compare it to you being a ballplayer and going down to Cincinnati and saying you’re going to be a Cincinnati Red - and then it not only happens, but you’re the star of the team...If I didn’t know this story, I’d say it couldn’t happen.”

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