Josh Kalis: The Sentamentalist

Not sure how many folks celebrate or even remember Black Label’s Jim Gagne, a blue collar street-and-transition man known to pack a keg into the back of a truck to ratchet up the awesome factor in a given session. Don’t necessarily recall tricks in particular but the dude always got a thumbs up on general principle because of how he saw and embraced his “small-town mentality,” as per an old interview in Thrasher that detailed the keg scenario. It was not on the level of a Fred Gall interview but pretty close.

Around that same time Josh Kalis was gathering momentum for what would be a decade-long run of pretty much unparalleled video/photo coverage, arguably peaking with the “Photosynthesis” video section, pretty much every trick difficult and snappy and done well at eye-pleasing spots and sometimes in swishy pants. Like the coyote or famous zebra mussel he has proven able to acclimate to and thrive in the most metro of zones across New York, Chicago, San Diego, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Barcelona, as detailed in mostly chronological year-order over a recent “Epicly Laterd” broadcast. Probably you wouldn’t call 200,000-person Grand Rapids, MI a one-horse town but by comparison you maybe wonder if Kalis is on some level the same sort of small-town sentimental type as Jim Gagne.

Case in point, the sepia toned recollections of Love Park days gone by in the “Laterd” and revelations of how Kalis has since chased the meetup-spot vibe to other venues with what sound like gradually diminishing results. In the Toy Machine Thrasher that’s out now he discusses the Embarcadero era.

When you watch a video part with those guys, you see them slapping fives with everyone and having fun. I loved that time when you could just be all together at a spot, egging each other on. Everyone’s feeding off each other. Nobody wants to punk out, ’cause their friends over here might make fun of them. I like that stuff.

Kalis believes the organic vibe of a session bleeds through into whatever photos or footage wind up getting produced in between the smoked cigarettes and cracked jokes and musings on theoretical physics traded with local hobos. As per the “Laterd,” Kalis values honesty both in terms of how tricks come to pass and what’s presented in any finished product, opting to put forth the last year’s travels and daily routines as opposed to stacking DV tapes in a garage somewheres.

Kinda worried about Kalis, not because this all isn’t a worthy effort that other dudes could/maybe should follow. Concerned though that we’re seeing a cowboy slowly fenced in. Hassles from the man plus proliferation of skateparks times glorification of private warehouse training facilities makes me wonder how many organic scene/spots are bound to be left in five/ten/forty years, if Kalis is holding to the phantom of a dying vibe or some equally chilling concept. Wonder if the torch he’s carrying is going out, or turning into a plastic flashlight, or maybe even a more bizarre and ominous analogy like it’s actually the headlamp of an oncoming train and the Mayans were right and we shouldn’t really be worrying about any of this.

Sorta related to all this, wonder whether the question Kalis raises with regard to what footage inspires him (or vice versa) points back to all those dudes occupying benches and taking mounting hardware off broken boards and rolling joints in the handful of seconds before or after a trick goes down on the screen–like whether a video clip’s improved by its background noise, the suggestion of good times being had in the sun at some ledges around the corner and how it plays off all the potential inside the deck/trucks/wheels setup and even the street in front of your house. Stopping here before we hit Marc Johnson in “Operandi” mode.

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12 Responses to “Josh Kalis: The Sentamentalist”

  1. Rocuronium Says:

    Truedat. Backyard ramps and DYI spots are cool, but skateparks-especially the private ones-kill the real spirit of skateboarding.
    They are a concession to the man. It’s letting them win. The same thing happened to snowboarding. Ski resorts figured out that although the parks they build for the kids are super expensive, they do keep all the miscreants in the little ghetto that was built for them, keeping the rest of the customers happy.

    Also, think of the progression that has been spurred by increasingly stringent security measures against skateboarders. Gaps and stairs became the next available skatespot after every bank and bench and plaza became off limits.

  2. grosso Says:

    nollie flips from the deck into transition

  3. clug Says:

    Yeah that nollie flip into the giant bowl by Gagne sticks in my mind. Marc Johnson in operandi mode is hilarious. You think we’ll ever see washed up delusional street skaters like in the post vert glory days? oh wait….

  4. ricky schiltitiz Says:

    funny, i thought i was reading a skateboard blog, not ‘overly self-indulgent ramblings by a bad writer who is sad that he got rejected from a state college creative writing MFA’

  5. intheknow Says:

    but you are reading it…

  6. carbonite Says:

    washed up delusional street skaters


    also, MJ interview in the video days reunion Skateboarder is hilarious, almost better than “Modus” monologue


  7. Sleezy Bone Says:

    Jim Gagne is the shit. I still watch Black Out to get hyped, and his part definitely makes it into the non skipped scene rotation.

  8. t.a. Says:

    I too was thinking ‘nollie flips.’ Nice call, grosso. Gagne was from Maine right? Somewhere in New England, I think. He had an interview around Label Kills time talkin about his car. The interviewer kinda wanted to heckle him about it, but his whole shtick to owning it was that it was the coolest car around when he was 16 and he was just ‘livin the dream,’ basically.

    All around rad skater. More diverse than I anticipated.

  9. Rudy Says:

    Kalis has street dreams. He has ’em bad.

  10. Uncle D Says:

    Isn’t there a city east of Grand Rapids with hella spots that no one ever goes too? I heard they stopped paying security guards when they stopped making the Taurus. There’s still plazas, just a little leg work required.

    • Rudy Says:

      I’ve always wondered why no one goes there too? Sure it’s pretty ghetto, but isn’t that what this whole DGK silly business is all about? (my apologies in advance to all the lovers of DGK, I just think their t-shirts are pretty terrible…. I hear great things about the wood Kayo uses, but I’d probably find out on a Joey Pepper and not a Wade Desarmo)

  11. Bryan Says:

    When I think of Gagne I think of both Miller flips, and noseslide nollie flips that are both extremely mob, and super cool-looking.

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