Introduction & Interview by Daniel Nodzak
Photos provided by Jaren Grob
In the late ‘90s and early 2000’s you’d be hard-pressed to miss Jaren Grob taking the podium at an ASA stop or hurling himself off ramps at the Summer X-Games. He came up at a time when rollerblading was still at the height of its popularity and stuck with it through its darkest years. Yet through it all he’s remained one of the most impressive park skaters the sport has ever known.
At a time when pros and companies were leaving the industry left and right he found a way to continue pursuing his passion and sharing his love for rollerblading with audiences around the United States even when the financial rewards became meager and it required a whole lot more effort to come by. That last point is never more real than it is when a blader in the United States takes a serious fall, or series of falls, like Jaren did throughout 2018.
Like many average Americans Jaren took to GoFundMe a little over two months ago in the hopes of getting assistance to alleviate mounting medical bills as a result of surgery to repair injuries sustained to his knees. With just over 10k of his 15k dollar goal (at the time of publication) I thought I’d catch up with Jaren to talk about his career to date and give him the opportunity to open up to the community and share a bit more about himself.
If you’d like to donate to Jaren’s GoFundMe campaign you can do so here or via the link at the bottom of this article. We’re wishing Jaren a quick recovery so he can get back on his blades and continue to use his talents to inspire the next generation of bladers!
Okay so let's start at the top. Can you tell us about the recent injuries that led you to create this GoFundMe campaign? You took a pretty bad fall last May at FISE Montpellier resulting in an ACL tear and a broken shoulder but it wasn't until after another injury in January that you required surgery, correct? What happened there?
Well this last year’s been a little rough with injuries but it’s nothing new for me. Last year I was in France for FISE and fell. I had to have shoulder surgery. To fix my AC Joint and also my rotator cuff in my shoulder. Also on the fall I partially tore the ACL in my right knee. But in January after I had got back skating I fell and tore my ACL in my left knee too. So I went and got MRIs on both knees. And from over the years of skating there’s a lot more problems with my knees. So we did surgery on my left knee to repair my ACL, both meniscus, and they did an oats transplant surgery on my left knee.
But the bills are outrageous and when I was in surgery, I did not know this, but my good friend Jon ended up putting a GoFundMe together. Which has helped a lot but the hospital bills and physical therapy are super expensive. The doctor still wants to do smaller surgery on my right knee but I’m not sure if I can afford it yet. He said when they are in there if they do surgery on my right knee and see that my ACL is really bad he might have to fix that too. So basically it’s just from over the years of skating and a few recent falls that hurt my knees but I can’t wait to be back skating.
You came to prominence in the mid to late '90s while competing in ASA comps and in the X-Games. It was a crazy time for a sport that still wasn't fully developed but already at peak popularity. Being a young pro at that time must've been a very unique experience. What's your favorite story or memory from that era?
Wow, that is super hard to find just one story there are hundreds and thousands of stories. I started touring at age 14. Just the fact that I got to skate and get paid to do what I loved was amazing! And still skating and getting paid at age 37. Well as soon as I am done with physical therapy haha.
Fourteen is pretty young to be touring but then again back in the ‘90s a 23 year old pro would be considered an old man taking up space. It’s funny how strange that seems now. But, when you look back on a 24 year career is there anything about those early years you wish you could do differently?
Ha ha maybe wish I had saved a little bit of money. But then again I did have a blast. That is funny back then, yea we thought 23 was old.
You've been earning a living with your skating for over twenty years now and in the last decade that's meant performing for crowds at theme parks and in other demos around the US. How did you get involved with these performances?
Yeah, I have been getting paid to skate for about 24 years now and it has been amazing! At age 14 I started doing shows all over the US for different companies for schools and fairs, concerts and other events. And into 2008 I started doing shows at a theme park for another company in the summer then tour with the other Company’s the rest of the year. I got involved with these companies mostly through some local BMX pros that were touring at the time that needed some inline skaters to go on tour, also other Pro inline skaters worked for some of the companies, so when they were looking for skaters my name came up.
Apart from less money and declining participation rates, because obviously we wouldn't be doing this article right now if people were getting rich through skating, what's the biggest change you've noticed when you look back on the blading scene throughout your career?
Probably the biggest change is [people in] the United States always wants what’s cool now... So they gave up on rollerblading , when they need to take a step back and look at how much fun it is and how much love it brings to people who do it. But I have not really thought about it too much I have just always loved to skate and not really cared too much about what other people thought. I do know that it has changed a lot over the years. And you see the people who really love it, they just do it for the love. We just all need to come together and not hate on each other, just do what we love.
Let's say you've got a free night and you're looking for some skating inspiration, whose videos are you most likely to watch? Are there any newer PROs or AMs on the rise that immediately come to mind?
Wow! All you have to do these days is pull up Instagram or Facebook to get inspired by lots of skaters. Personally I love people that can skate everything from Ramps to Street. No one that comes to mind just anybody that’s innovative and looks like they’re having a blast when they skate.
When people think Jaren Grob they tend to associate you with a couple things. Big park skating, black clothing, and metal music. Along with Carlos Pianowski you're one of the first bladers most of us think of when we think of headbanging, metal loving, rollerbladers. But your actual musical tastes are pretty broad. So, think back over the last couple of years, what concerts have you been to that might surprise us?
Aww yes I love me some metal! But what most people don’t know is I love most all music! In the last few years I have been to lots of concerts ranging from all genres of music like Paul Simon and Paul McCartney to Death metal, Rancid, just last year I got to take my Son to Anthrax, Lamb of God and Slayer! He loved it!! He also got to be on stage with The Used. Lots of cover bands from the Doors to Sublime, local bands too. One thing that is awesome is action sports and music go hand-in-hand so I got lucky enough to get into a lot of concerts for free all from meeting people through rollerblading!
Not in the past two years but I have been to a Britney Spears concert. I’ve done shows with The Beach Boys, Donnie Osmond, Kelly Clarkson, and also lots of bands at Warped tour. I got to skate at Ozzfest with lots of bands like Ozzy and Metallica. And much much more! Love Music! There are more just can’t think of them right now haha.
Everybody knows you’ll crush a park but I think you fly under the radar a bit when it comes to street skating. Despite that perception you also happen to have a street profile in one of the most iconic and beloved skate videos ever made, “What Do You Believe In?” Can you tell us the story about how you got involved with Arlo’s video and how your section came together?
Yeah that movie was super fun to be a part of, I think Arlo was just announcing all the contests at the time and asked me to be a part of it.
In the video I fall asleep in the bathtub and dream of my section so the first day we filmed I drenched my pants, my shirt, and my hair before every skate clip, to be and look all wet, but on the first day we realized getting my pants wet was way too hard to skate in so we just got my shirt and hair wet every trick. The first day of filming I did a 360 to soul and ended up nutting myself and hurting my tailbone really bad so that sucked, also I didn’t get to film very long because I had to fly out to go to contest and then come back to California to film.
I really wish I would’ve had a few more weeks to film that video I could’ve done a lot more. The boards in my section were Arlo's idea, I think it was really cool idea, but a lot of people thought it was like ramps… but in street skating anything you can think of you can do. What do you believe in?
Getting the cover of one of the only rollerblading video games ever made must’ve felt pretty wild. What was the extent of your involvement? For example, where the developers interested in learning from you and the other pros about how to make the game seem like an authentic rollerblading experience or was it limited?
Well when I found out I was going to be on the cover of Aggressive inline game I was in Australia and they called me and asked if I wanted to be on the cover I said aaaaah Hell yeah! But when they made the game I was traveling so much and had to be at a contest so they used some of the other skaters at Woodward, I think. They did take 360 digital photos of me for my character but I think they used another skater for the motion capture. But I wasn’t complaining because it looked similar to me, I was just so happy to be in the game and on the cover. They asked me a lot of questions about skating and I think they asked a lot of the other skaters to make it authentic as they could at the time.
Okay so be honest. If someone fires up a copy of Aggressive Inline right now, you’re gonna play as yourself, right?
Oh hell yeah if somebody fires up Aggressive inline I’m for sure going to play as myself, I think it’s hilarious, and it hurts a lot less crashing in the game than in real life. I don’t normally play video games but I do think they’re super fun when I play them.
Before I let you go, what's your proudest moment on blades?
Wow that is a super hard question. From being on the cover of a video game to winning the X- Games a couple of times to World championships, I think just that I’ve got to spread the love for 24 years and show the next generation how much love It can bring you.