There are few people who have defined the skating of the late 90s and 2000s as much as Josh Kalis. He has pushed skateboarding to new levels (and heights- dude has POP); but most importantly, he's always kept it clean and consistent.
Check his part in Toy Machine's 1994 video Heavy Metal and you'll see the same dude you see today. Of course, the tricks have progressed, but the switch mongo push, the switch back tails, the smooth lines- those have been there since the beginning.
This is The Josh Kalis Interview.
What was your first board, and how old were you when you got it?
My first real board was a Steve Cab I got it from saving money mowing lawns all summer when I was 12. I think it was the summer between 6-7th grade.
What were you like as a kid?
I was an asshole. Constantly lying and stealing shit. I believe it was because of my environment. I had a step mom who was the devil herself... And my dad would eat up everything she wanted him to do. So I had gnarly punishments… So in return I did what I felt was ok to fulfill the things I needed and wanted to do.
When did you first realize that you could make a career out of skateboarding?
It was while living in Dallas... After Jamie Thomas came through. After he left and told me if I can get out to Cali, he had a spot for me on the team or whatever he was going to be involved in. But it was 100% up to me to get out there. I did it. Only bringing the clothes I was wearing… and a couple girls. Ha.
"You know it was over 10 years ago but it's like you know sometimes when you're capturing something. That photo even though it was a snapshot at the time definitely captures that era of skating. " - Mike Blabac
"There was always something crazy happening. Tdog's getting piss thrown on them. Dudes getting trucked to the head and when they dropped their boards would get jacked. All kinds of shit."
What did you think of California when you first moved out to San Diego from the Midwest?
Honestly… I didn't dig it too much. It was real slow paced. I had been used to rolling deep with dudes who got into all types of other shit. We would post up at malls, video arcades, city streets, always trying to get into some shit. In SD I didn't have any of that. It was wake up , skate, go home… Then sleep. Then the same thing the next day... and then the next day. It wasn't until I started hanging out at the Alien house that I got a taste of being involved with some extracurricular activities. It still wasn't like rolling out with the homies... But at least there was something more than “just skating”.
When you first started riding for Workshop, did you kick it much with anyone besides Dyrdek and Lennie?
If I remember right, I just kinda floated around. It wasn't really my scene. I basically mobbed up to Frisco after I got on Alien. Then I kicked it with Drake Jones quite a bit. Lennie too. But mainly just the cats in Frisco.
When Lennie started getting really churchy, was it something that you thought would pass eventually? And how long after he found Jesus did you two stop kicking it?
Man... I had no idea if that was going to last or not. Fortunately I went back to Dallas for a while and didn’t really kick it with dude in the beginning of that. He did come to Dallas and visit me one time. I picked him up at the Dallas Greyhound station... We skated for a day or two. He got such rad footage. And it was tight skating with him again... But he was rubbing my dudes the wrong way. They told me Lennie had to go before they fucked him up. Lennie was saying shit to them.. looking them dead in the eyes like, “you can’t do shit to me… I got the holy spirit in me!! Your going to hell for drinking them 40’s and wearing necklaces.. you're portraying a woman”... So my dudes who had no problems beating dudes down and pulling out shot guns at parties and shit were starting to have that vibe, you know. I grabbed Lennie and took him to the Greyhound station.
An interview within an interview... Click to watch Josh interview Lennie!
"Lennie was saying shit to them... looking them dead in the eyes like, 'you can’t do shit to me, I got the holy spirit in me!' So my dudes who had no problems beating dudes down and pulling out shot guns at parties and shit were starting to have that vibe, you know?"
When you would go to Hubba to skate, was it a conscious mission to get a particular trick, like the switch back tail, or were the sessions more spontaneous?
I'd usually go there and watch Lennie fuck with it. He liked to just grind it or whatever. I never went there to skate it. I only skated it few times. Once tried to back tail it and bruised my heel. 2nd time was to retry the back tail and made it. 3rd time me, Lennie and Rb Umali just went up there right before it got dark. I don’t even know why I tried but I threw a couple switch back tails at it. Actually next to it. I think I clicked my tail on the corner a couple times and just tried it. I slid it. Then bruised my heel. Ha. That photo from that night was an Alien ad. Went back after my heel got better and made it. Then Droors was hyped… So they sent Ballard up to shoot it for a Droors ad. So had to do it again! Only other trick I tried was a back nose grind 180... almost made that... but broke my board. All just random.
What’s the best manny trick you saw go down at Pier 7 in the 90s?
Busenitz frontside flip fakie manny from high to low going warp speed haha.
Fast forward from those days in SF to now.. What do you think of SF in 2013, with all this tech money coming in? Do you feel like rising rents and cost of living are destroying a part of the city, or is it unavoidable?
Who knows… just seems like everyone is or has been moving to LA. There used to be so many people that filmed and shot photos up there. I remember going to Frisco to get coverage or whatever… now dudes come down south. Or each company has their own photographers now… there just doesn’t seem to be as many free lance filmers and photographers. Its been consolidating into a few major brands. The window seems to be getting smaller and smaller for more sponsored cats… Or smaller companies. I remember seeing mad sponsored dudes in Frisco. Mad kids buying boards and wheels… and shoes... and this big ass scene. Shout out to my dudes holdin it down at The Island though. I rarely see pro’s chillin in Frisco. I mainly see dudes just going there to get certain tricks now. Not sure if that has anything to do with the rising cost of living though… Ha.
How did you get that photo skating on the empty Bay Bridge?
That was during the Ken Block Gymkhana shoot. They blocked traffic for only 2 minutes. Me and Blabac jumped out of the van to get the shot. It was a very small window... and we had to get there by 4:30am to make it happen. Pretty stoked on that. Thanks Ken!!
Josh Kalis skating the San Francisco Bay Bridge | Photo by Mike Blabac
"I remember seeing mad sponsored dudes in Frisco. Mad kids buying boards and wheels and shoes and this big ass scene. Shout out to my dudes holdin it down at The Island though. I mainly see dudes just going there to get certain tricks now."
Do you know what ever happened to John Drake?
I believe he went to school. Im not 100% though. I see him making Facebook posts from time to time.. and it seems like he’s doing good!
We asked Huf about this recently as well... What’s your favorite memory from the DC Euro Supertour?
Man... Just being on the road with that whole squad is a dope ass memory. It would probably be when I found out I was having my first kid. I got the news while on that tour.
Do you still have your jersey?
How long did it take you to switch back heel the wall at the Brooklyn Banks back in 97'?
Truthfully… I can’t remember. I remember the switch backside flip took a long time though!
Click to watch Josh Kalis and the rest of crew on the DC EuroSuperTour! | 411 VM Issue 30
"Man... Just being on the road with that whole squad is a dope ass memory. It would probably be when I found out I was having my first kid. I got the news while on that tour."
You told Chromeball a story about your boy Bernie getting his ear ripped off at Love... What’s another sketchy incident from those days in the early 2000s?
There was always something crazy happening. Tdogs getting piss thrown on them... Dudes getting trucked to the head and when they dropped their boards would get jacked… All kinds of shit.
Who is a Love local from those days who never came up like you thought they would?
Really most of the dudes were on their way coming up…
And on that note, who gets your vote for most under-rated skater of the 2000s?
Too many to list. Kevin Taylor for sure though.
It seems like your parts come together pretty naturally, but there must be times when filming is super frustrating. What was the hardest part for you to film and why?
Probably the latest DGK part. I had a new baby on the way… Had some shit going on that had me super stressed it was fucking with my head.
How many cars do you have at the moment? Working on any projects with them?
3 cars. The 69 Camaro is an on going project haha. There is ALWAYS something to tinker with on that thing.
Josh Kalis | Gap 360 Flip & Switch Flip & Switch Tailslide
"Lennie and RB Umali just went up there right before it got dark. I don’t even know why I tried but I threw a couple switch back tails at it... That photo from that night was an Alien ad."
Why have you picked Carlsbad as a place to live?
Originally it was to be close to DC Shoes and Kayo Corp (DGK). Now there are more reasons. Hellaclips being a big one. It was just time for me to add this chapter. Most of everything now is out here between LA and SD. I got tired of flying out here once or twice a month.
Best Chicago skate spot of all time?
Art Institute, P.O., Old School Picasso, Wendy’s Ledge, pretty much the entire Loop is the best spot.
Favorite skater from Chicago?
There’s a grip…. Newhouse, Dave Ruta, Methvin, Neen are up there on the list of favs.
What’s a trick you’ve done that you don’t know you could do again?
Given enough time and the right spot…. I could probably redo all previous joints. Maybe the Love stuff would be hard to do again… Like the switch heel.
Alright, we’ve gotta talk ledges for a minute. Granite or marble?
Granite no doubt. I actually cant stand marble ledges.
You’ve brought a ton of really difficult, new tricks to ledges over the years. What are some ledge tricks you’d like to see done that you haven’t seen anyone do yet?
I don’t want to give away some shit…
Josh Kalis | Switch Backside Tailslide | Hubba Hideout
"Then Droors was hyped... So they sent Ballard up to shoot it for a Droors ad. So had to do it again!"
Rank these ledge spots: Sants, Brown Marble, Black Rock, Love, Jkwon.
All them spots are A+’s! Love would be my number 1 though. Then Black Rock, then Sants, Jkwon and Brown Marble.
What’s the key to a switch front biggie heel?
I guess just learning the motion. Kinda like a tre flip. Its just a motion.
When are you gonna come kick it with the other half of SkateMore in China and film In Mono 2.0? Lots of perfect ledges out there…
Im not a fan of China footage. It looks weird to me to see a pile of people watching like it’s a demo… I've never been there... but really as of right now have no desire. Its not like Spain were I actually had people out there. I know nobody in China.. so even though the spots look tight… there wouldn’t be a scene out there. I would be going just to film.. and to me that’s boring.
We always see you using the “gas mask” on Instagram to avoid getting hot-boxed in the van. Does it ever fail you? Has there ever been a time you got a contact high in the van and it really fucked with the rest of your day?
Yeah.. it sucks. I used to smoke so I understand the desire... But over the years it just started to affect me in a negative way. So I had to give it up. Most dudes respect that… and I don’t mind if the windows are down and I put the gas mask on. Ha. I have caught small contacts.. And yes, it ruins a big part of my day.
The gas mask in full effect
Who got your vote for 2013 SOTY?
I thought Suciu killed it. His coverage seems so organic. Reminds me of skating from the late 90’s early 2000’s. Just with modernized tricks. He’s rad. But Ishod won… and I back that. He rips for sure.
Plans for 2014?
Finish this Gold video section. It drops late Spring… get this new company off the ground I'm working on, keep Hellaclips.com alive and well… because I have so much fun doing that. Stay healthy and keep moving forward!!!