Kelly, this board is timeless. Visually it is very memorable from the early Real days. Can you give us the story behind it?
It seems like virtually everything that was happening around this time was some kind of knock off. I must have still been staying at Jeff Klindt’s house and being the artistic type of dude that he was, he’d always be asking us to be thinking about graphics. I wasn’t super into Priest at the time-spending as much time as I did at Skatepark of Houston before going to SF, it was all Metallica, all day. I was down for ‘The Ripper’ and ‘Diamonds and Rust’ and I always thought all his album art was cool, so the ‘Screaming for Vengeance’ cover popped into my head one of those times Jeff asked because of the Eagle / Bird association and that was pretty much that.
‘Often imitated, never duplicated’ comes to mind with this board. I’m sure you’ve seen some of the renditions from other companies.
Yeah, Jamie had the Zero board, which at the time I thought was kinda weird because skateboarding has all these dumb unwritten rules and it seemed like knocking off someone’s (knockoff) graphic would have been one of them and I’m pretty sure he was aware that I’d done it but in hindsight it’s sick that he did it. It’s an interesting association we’ll always have, because people would never put us in the same skateboarding conversation otherwise. I pretty much did one handrail my whole life.
And then there’s the Riley Baker graphic that came out recently. It’s funny, I was still talking to him pretty regularly at the time because I was still at Lakai and I hit him up and was like, that’s sick you’re paying homage to the Priest board and sent him a photo of mine. Pretty sure that he had no idea that board existed or that I had even been a pro skateboarder for that matter but that just made it all the more entertaining. Not mad at that association either.
My dream was always that Mark would re-draw it in his style for a Krooked guest board. I might even fling myself down a rail for that one.
That Guest board would be proper incentive to huck! Word on the street is the road to Real included a chance slam into Salman Agah. How’d that play out exactly?
That’s pretty accurate.
Long story and to tell it, I have to back up to meeting Weiss, Thomas Morgan and Justin Bokma at Skatepark of Houston earlier that year. I want to say it was ’90 or ’91. They knew how to have fun and that was somewhat uncommon for that era, so I just gravitated toward them. Cut to a few months later, they had been back in Canada and they hit me up and said they had convinced someone to buy a car so they could all go out to California, and that they were down to scoop me up on the way.
I had been to University for a few years, but the skate thing started to click a little bit so I was like, well, I’ve only got like three years of this at the most (that was a career back then), so I might as well make the most of it. I jumped in with those dudes and we headed West. That trip is rich with stories of intrigue, but we’ll jump to the Salman part now. We’d been in San Diego for a minute and Weiss ended up blowing his ankle out really bad so those dudes convinced me to go back to Toronto with them. That (now infamous) Powell contest was about to happen too, so we decided to hit that before we started the trek to Toronto.
I was skating in the practice chaos (I had a board on another company at this point) and that’s when it happened. Can’t recall the exact sequence, but I remember getting smoked by this big ass dude, thinking he was going to fling me off the course then him picking me up, introducing himself and then skating off. That was Salman. Cut to 6 months later, he came to the skatepark in Toronto (Rudy’s) to do a demo, and he remembered me from the Powell incident. The sequence from that point is kinda hazy, but I know I sent him some footage after that and ended up staying at his house in Los Gatos not long after. It all went from there, but yeah, I owe a lot to him and that chance encounter.
Back then it was such a small world. Timing is everything, who would have known? Coming from Texas did you have any culture shock in San Francisco?
Nah, I loved it right away. It was a giant skatepark, everything in skateboarding was happening there at that time, so I wasn’t worried about not having BBQ.
SF was cracking off like no other city in 93, one giant urban skatepark. What was your day to day like besides no BBQ?
Good question. From what I can recall, there was a lot of going to Deluxe and High Speed, Eddie’s Café, Haight Street, Embarcadero (of course), Wallenberg, Union Square, Blondie’s Pizza, Fort Miley, shooting photos with Morford, driving around talking shit with Lance Dawes, hanging with Scott and Huf, filming with Metty, sitting around FTC, wishing I could get chicks like James could, trying to skate through a hangover… you know, typical skate code shit.
How long did it take to film your “The Real Video” part?
Another great question. Couldn’t have been more than a year and a half. I filmed a bunch of it with Metty right when I got to the city, then we went on this insane cross-country tour and maybe one or two more trips and that was it.
Simpler times…those DIY filming missions were so pure. What is your favorite memory on Real?
James Kelch’s turning pro party was pretty insane. I’d have to go with the tour I just mentioned though. It was me, Salman, Metty, Tony Ferguson, this kid Matt Sherman from England and Thiebaud for pretty much all of it, then James showed up toward the end. The basic premise was that we’d drive to a skateshop, then they would be responsible for giving us gas money to the next stop, a place to stay, and a meal. The “place to stay” part is where it always got interesting. It was never a hotel, always a kid from the shop’s house with his less than thrilled parents, some bro’s house with no furniture, or a house in the hood. It was always sketchy. We did stay at Matt Hensley’s loft across from Wrigley Field when we got to Chicago though. So many good stories from that trip.
Just reading “James Kelch’s pro party” made me thankful there were no smartphones back then, it must have been a rager. Did you ever find out what asshole waxed the bank at Fort Miley?
That statement just might break the internet! Thanks for your time Kelly, any last words?
Last words – obviously thanks to Jim and Tommy for giving me the green light initially and for bringing this thing back after all these years. It says a lot about who they are and how they approach their business. The fact that it’s 25 years later and they’re still one of the most legit brands out there. Riding for Real was one of the best things to happen for me and having the same alma mater as so many legendary skateboarders will always be a great sense of pride. Thanks again dudes.