Words: Sam C / Tom Bailey – Images: Courtesy of DC Shoes
Who is Josh Kalis?
As if you don’t know…
Josh Kalis is a professional skateboarder originally from Grand Rapids, MI but is better known for his presence in Philadelphia, specifically the Love Park scene. During the 1990s Josh emerged as one of the pioneering street skateboarders of that era. I remember first seeing him skate in Toy Machine’s “Heavy Metal” (1995) and Alien Workshop’s “Timecode” (1997). I loved everything about the Timecode part, that beat, the style, the spots everything about it was dope. Growing up skateboarding in the UK we were obsessed with everything that was going on in the US at the time and Josh’s influence (among other US skateboarders) definitely had a huge impact on us, the tricks we learnt and the brands we bought.
Josh joined DC Shoes in 1997 and became part of one of the best skate teams of any era alongside Rob Dyrdek, Danny Way, Colin McKay, Rudy Johnson, Moses Itkonen, Caine Gayle, Keith Hufnagel, Rick Howard and Mike Carroll. Needless to say, I have owned a bunch of DC’s over the years but I was most hyped on the release of Josh’s first DC signature shoe the JK1. I think the only skate shoe I wanted as much at the time was the Koston 1, which tells you something about how iconic it was.
In 2003 DC released “The DC Video” which was a near-perfect skateboard movie in every way. Josh was of course featured with a full part that followed AVE’s opener and set the scene for Rob Dyrdek’s part that followed which in turn unwittingly paved the way for the emergence of “Rob and Big Black”, but that’s another story! The point is, this video was so pivotal that, in my opinion, it cements the careers of everyone in it over the decade that followed.
Kalis has had many pro shoes with DC over the years and is one of the only pro’s from the late 90’s “Super Team” that remains in the lineup and is still kicking it alongside new and hungry up and coming skaters nearly 20 years later. That is testament to his longevity and influence in a fickle and ever-evolving industry.
I don’t want to blow too much smoke up his arse, but it can’t be understated how important Josh Kalis’s influence has been to street skateboarding over the years, he is one of the few guys that has maintained his personal brand and remained completely relevant to this day.
We were, of course, over the moon when we got the opportunity to do this interview, dig beneath the surface and ask some questions we have always wanted to ask. Enjoy.
Talking about style and injuries
Hi Josh, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us. We are not embarrassed to say, we have been fans of yours for a very long time. Your 360 flips are one of the most iconic within skateboarding, were they something that came naturally or did you have to put in some time perfecting them?
First of all… thank you for the compliment. It took me so long to land my first one. Like a couple of years. As far as I know, they haven’t changed. They still take every bit of effort that they did back then. I wish I could easily throw a tré flip effortlessly like some kids can do today. I also wish I could change them from time to time so I could be more versatile with them.
What is your opinion on the really wide leg front foot catch some people have got going on with their 360 flips these days?
Doesn’t bother me… to each their own. I like all the different styles and techniques.
You’ve skated at an incredibly high level for a long period of time. Have you had any recurring injuries that have plagued you over your career? If so, do you do anything specific to maintain the ability to smash out nose blunts like you do?
Again, thanks for those words. I have had some knee issues that lasted for years. After MRI’s and what not… it was discovered i had tendentious. I worked very hard for a long period of time figuring out how to self heal that. Throughout that process, I learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t. I then had it happen to my other knee a few years later. Knowing what I learned about the first go-around. I took those same steps to rehab it. So now… I just do rehab practices even when I’m not hurt to help prevent injuries. Things like Alkaline water, Bike riding helps realign stuff and helps to get muscles to re-trigger if there is compensation happening, massage, lightweight stuff while standing on balance things. Stuff like that really helps. Just being aware of my body on the day to day. Fish oil, CBD, all kinds of stuff.
“I have had some knee issues that lasted for years”
DC and shoe design
You’ve had a consistent stream of pro shoes in the DC line for decades now. How have you kept the designs so relevant throughout the years?
That’s really about having a good relationship with design and development team at DC. I trust them that they are going to take whatever ideas I might bring to the table and make them look and function dope. They also trust me that I’m not going to bring some wack idea and pitch it as dope.. knowing it’s not going to be. We really know together what the aesthetic of the brand is, so we start with that.. then discuss function. Its a dope process.
“We really know together what the aesthetic of the brand is, so we start with that.. then discuss function. Its a dope process”
Over the years DC has been through some weird times such as CEOs from Disney and loads of basic vulc shoes in the line. DC is now looking super strong with Damon Way back in the mix and a super-strong reissue line, including the JK1s. You have stuck with DC through thick and thin, how was it during the more challenging periods compared to now?
I’ve always tried to just stay in my lane. I may not agree with things happening from time to time… so I just stay on my path and continue to do what i think is best for my brand and DC. If I’m asked.. I give my opinion… if I’m not asked… I don’t. The reissues are awesome. It really lets DC remind everyone where it came from, what it’s about, and is easy to build off those franchise shoes. I’m a fan of cup and vulc. They both have their place in skateboarding. DC is blessed to have the foundation it has to be able to build off the original designs and make shoes that are desired by all types of skaters. Whether its a modernized slim down cup sole, a vulc, etc. It can always be tied back to the original designs. That’s truly authentic.
Do you think your career would have been the same if you didn’t leave Adidas for DC?
I have no idea. lol. I would say that my work ethic and motivation would have led me in the same position regardless of where I ended up. I’m super stoked we landed at DC though. I’ve got to experience so much rad shit. Met awesome people, and learned a lot. Riding for a company like the one you mentioned may not have given me all that.
Life outside skateboarding
You seem to have a lot going on whether its family, business responsibilities or doing work on your cars. Yet your skating hasn’t seemed to slow down, do you fit skateboarding around responsibilities or do you fit the responsibilities around your skating?
Skateboarding is so important to me because its how I support my family. My family is number one. Without skateboarding, I couldn’t support my family the way I can. So everything else comes second.
Skateboarding outside the US
Was there anyone outside of the US that you really liked whilst you were coming up? Were you ever interested in Blueprint videos or anything of that ilk from the UK?
Blueprint was dope. To be honest… I didn’t really get to see a lot of skateboarding outside the US until 411 came around and was doing those sections. Flo Marfang was probably the first cat from another country that I was tripping on the hardest.
I heard that until a few years ago, you never really stepped foot in the UK aside from in airports. Was there anywhere during this time you really wanted to skate or was it just not on your radar? Have you skated any spots over here now?
I was always going to Spain. Seemed like overtime I went to EU it was Spain. So I never really got the chance to spend time n London. It was Philly, Chicago, Spain. lol. I still didn’t get to skate when I went there because the weather was bad. It is a super dope city though. I would love to spend some time and skate the spots and chill with all the locals.
Skateboarding lifestyle & Love Park
Our local council has recently realised its mistake in demolishing its local legendary spots. Do you think Philadelphia Hall will ever realise the mistake they made destroying Love Park?
I think it was a huge mistake. Do I ever think the local government think they made a mistake? Absolutely not. They don’t give a shit. Love park and city hall are sitting in pieces behind a fence in the weeds. They could easily find a space and rebuilt. But they won’t.
“Do I ever think the local government think they made a mistake? Absolutely not”
You did a Transworld interview back in ’99 and you were asked what you think the future of skateboarding will be. You said that it would get way more illegal and that there will be a lot more public skateparks. Have you got anything to add now over 20 years later?
Nope… Same shit. Actually, it’s been a little more lenient in the cities. Cops aren’t as harsh… so that’s good.
I recently read about your time in Dallas. Something which stood out to me was the boxing in the bowl at your local skatepark. Do you think this vibe is something skateboarding/skateparks is lacking nowadays?
That shit would not fly these days… lol.
“Everything was about skateboarding”
Do you think skateboarding is still a lifestyle?
I believe for some it is a lifestyle. Skateboarding really opened up to the masses. Parents support their kids skating now. So now it doesn’t really have to be a lifestyle for most. Now it can be a past time or a sport to some. For some of us, it was a culture… a living culture. We left our homes or got kicked out because of skateboarding. It wasn’t us trying to become pros or whatever… it was literally our life. Everything was about skateboarding.
You trademarked ‘Weckingball’ at the end of last year, what was that all about?