The trip from the Toronto suburb of Whitby, Canada to the skateboarding Mecca that is Barcelona, Spain takes on average a solid 12 hours of flying.
For TJ Rogers, the road to Barcelona has been much longer, almost a lifetime in the making, and one wrought with massive obstacles along the way; a journey documented in Smile playing now on Red Bull TV.
Watch it to follow his path through a turbulent upbringing in a home overshadowed by substance abuse and strained relationships, which forced him to grow up fast.
In many ways, skateboarding saved TJ’s life; a form of salvation from the troubles of his home life and the hard drugs that were slowly consuming his parents. Opiates and alcohol took their toll so severely on his mother that she was no longer able to care for him, leaving TJ in the care of his father Rick, who continued his own struggles with addiction.
If I didn’t have skating, I don’t even know what I would do.
– TJ Rogers
Watching cocaine being cooked in his own family kitchen, TJ grew up fast and hard quickly realising at a young age that he did not want to follow the same path and he began retreating to nearby Iroquois skatepark as an escape.
Skateboarding was the thing that truly took all the [negativity] away and made me focus on what I truly wanted in life.
Despite the challenges that TJ’s family faced, he is quick to point out that his folks were good, caring people who encouraged him every step of the way. They knew that as long as TJ was happy, that was all that mattered.
It’s funny – my son’s proud of me when I should be proud of him. It shouldn’t be that way.
– Rick Rogers (father)
A few years forward and TJ Rogers is a ‘grown-ass man’ in the words of filmer Mike Aldape. The trip to Barcelona is another milestone in TJ’s epic journey, marking the first time he has ever visited the skate-capital of Europe.
There’s all these spots I grew up just dying to skate because all my friends had come here when they were young, and I never had the opportunity to.
For the first time, TJ Rogers offers a revealing look at his life story so far and the hurdles that have shaped him into one of the most positive, passionate and talented skaters in the scene today.