chrome ball interview #173: kenny reed

Chops tracks down the Traveler for conversation. 

photo: rodent

I know you’re originally from the Hudson Valley, but what influence did New York City have on your skating growing up? Did you make it into the city a lot back then?  

I did, actually. 


I’m originally from Niverville, which is about two hours north of New York City, just south of Albany. I started skateboarding in 1986 or so. There were a few sponsored skaters who lived in Albany back then, like Johnny Schillereff and Blake Hannan, and they would go down to the city quite often. People would periodically come up from the city to skate, too. Like, there would be little contests and demos… which is actually how I got my first sponsor. I got sponsored at a Dogtown demo within two years of when I started skating.


But like I said, Johnny and Blake were going into the city a lot back then. And sometimes, they would invite us younger guys to go along with them. That’s how I first started going in to skate. I want to say I was 12-years-old at the time? But the city obviously made quite an impression on me because I can remember all of these trips very well. The Brooklyn Banks and all that...


There was a period of about two or three years when I would try to go down every weekend with my buddies. We’d always have to sneak down, lying to our parents that we were staying at each other’s houses. 


Classic move. 


Yeah, we’d typically hop on the Greyhound after school every Friday and stay the whole weekend. Coming back on Sunday night, just in time for school. We’d made a really good friend in the city who would always let us stay with him. That was a good time. 


Skating in the city had a huge influence on me. Because we got to skate with some real legends, before they got sponsored and became big names, like Keith Hufnagel and Keenan Milton. Ryan Hickey and Harold Hunter. All those guys. This was around ’88. 


The height of Shut… 


Yes, definitely at the height of Shut. Because everyone had spraypainted boards, like the Shut Shark. All that stuff was amazing. And I remember there being a Shut demo in Albany around this time, too. Brian Blake and a few other guys… Shut was the coolest back then.  

I bring this up because you’ve cited Brian Blake and Quilon Douglas, as well as Ivan Perez, as being big influences on your skating… which, most of us never got the chance to actually witness any of those guys skate. 


(laughs) Yeah, for sure. Ivan was actually skating at that demo when I first got sponsored. He was super sick, but no, there aren’t many photos of him. Not much footage, either, which is interesting because he is so legendary. He always went out skating super late at night and never filmed anything. But he really did have the best style, for those who actually got to see it. 


Same with Brian Blake and Quilon, too. Quilon would show up out of nowhere and do something amazing with a crazy outfit on. Dyed hair. There was always a lot going on there. 


I don’t remember which interview I cited those guys in, but I guess I’ve always liked how under the radar they were. Looking back on it now, they were always kinda mysterious. Like you said, it was one of those things where you really had to be there.


Ivan Perez was skating in that Dogtown demo when you got on the team? 


Yeah, it was a Dogtown demo in Saratoga Springs. 1990. I don’t even know how it happened, I was just skating around and they gave me a set of wheels, like, “Alright, we’re on tour but give us a call in a month and we’ll send you some stuff.”


“Wow… Really!?! Okay!”


I was only 13 years old, I didn’t really know what was going on. But I called them up a few weeks later and I was on the team. 


Just like that? 


Just like that. I was actually on Dogtown for a pretty long time, especially for a kid on the East Coast. I rode for them for almost two years. 


What era is this? Scott Oster and Aaron Murray?


More like JJ Rogers and Karma Tsocheff… Not that I got the chance to really get to know any of those guys back then. 


Were you flow or actually on the team? 


Oh, I was actually on the team. They even sent me a letter confirming that I was on the team, which is pretty funny. It said, “Our team now has over 70 riders and this letter is to confirm that you are still on the team.”

So when did you make to move out to SF? Was that for skating? 


Not really… It was, but it wasn’t. I didn’t have any sponsors at the time, I just always wanted to live there. I actually visited out there one summer when I was still on Dogtown. My friends and I took a road trip and I really liked it. But skateboarding had died out in my area around the time I got into high school. By the time I finally graduated, I just wanted to get out of Albany. 


I moved out to California after graduation with a couple of friends. They didn’t skate or anything, they just wanted to move to San Francisco and I did, too. We ended up staying with Jeremy Fish for a while.


Oh yeah, I forget that he’s from upstate as well.  


Yeah, he’s originally from Saratoga Springs. I’ve known Jeremy for a long time, too. So yeah, we stayed with him for a bit and when he ended up moving out, we took over his apartment.

photo: thompson

You were also on Cherry Bombs, right? How’d that come about? Because I know they sponsored McCrank and Keegan Sauder around this time, too. Were you guys all on the same team together? 


Yeah, that happened shortly after I got to San Francisco. Again, Cherry Bombs kinda came about from knowing Johnny Schillereff and Blake Hannan. Because I always stayed in touch with those guys, even after they moved away and got more involved with the industry… Johnny actually tried to get me on New Deal during that classic early period of theirs, but it didn’t work out. 


But anyway, Blake’s brother Ross was friends with the people who did Cherry Bombs. Randomly, he told them to hook me up and they’re like, “Okay”. They didn’t really know much about skateboarding, they were just these tattoo people in Canada. Somewhere up near Whistler. But I was like, “Sure!”


Suddenly, I’m on tour in Canada with Rick McCrank and Keegan Sauder…


They actually turned McCrank pro. 


They did! And they tried to turn me pro, too, but I refused. (laughs)


Because even though it was this small company, McCrank was already skating as good as the pros back then. I was not. They ended up taking him to Europe for those contests and, to my point, he did really well in them. But, as it happens, he then quit to ride for somebody else. The company basically fell apart after that. 


When do you feel like style and looking good on your board became so paramount in your skating? Doing a select number of tricks really well, instead of trying to learn every single thing?


I don’t know if there was one specific moment. I feel like I’ve always gone about skating the same way and have done the same tricks… essentially since jump ramps went away. I’ve always just gone with whatever tricks felt good to me. What felt natural. Like, I’ve always felt more comfortable going backside, which you can probably tell through my coverage over the years. 


Of course, you always have the skaters that you like to watch. Seeing them do tricks that you think are cool, you’ll probably end up trying those, too… like the tweaked-out ollie stuff. 

photo: stewart 

Yeah, how did you get into all that “bending my body in different ways” stuff? Like the switch ollie in 7-Year Glitch or that Static 2 nollie on flat? Is it just a matter of control? 


I feel like it’s rooted in skating jump ramps. Doing early grabs and tweaking japan airs. Tweaking methods. Like, I really liked Tommy Guerrero growing up, who would always ollie into his japans. That was sick. Jason Lee always had a good japan. And Matt Hensley had a really good mosquito, too. A really good melon. 


In the city, there were also people doing no-handed tweaks… and you could do them either way, backside or frontside. I remember Jeff Pang always doing these really tweaked ollies and backside shifties early on. They used to call them “Lexingtons” whenever he did them. Backside ones, like the way Cardiel used to do them. Basically, a no-handed nosebone. And later on, you had guys like Quim Cardona and Tim O’Connor doing that kinda stuff, too. I was into all that stuff. 


As far as being able to do them, I honestly think that it came from my running a little bit of track in high school. The 100-meter hurdles. Because when you jump, you shoot your legs up sideways really fast to get over the hurdle, and then you bring it back down. It’s a very similar technique. And it works. 

photo: dawes


Your shifties, in particular, really became a staple of the Slap Gallery over the years. Like the Dawes shot with the drawing and O’Meally’s one at Bubble Banks. 


That Dawes one is the first photo I ever had in a magazine. He’d always pick up my friends and I to go shoot… which, I don’t really know why he did that. We weren’t sponsored or anything. That photo was prior to me getting on New Deal. Maybe it helped get me on the team? I don’t know. But my friend used to work at High Speed back then and became friends with Lance through that. He came to pick up my friend one day and I just happened to be around, too. He shot a few photos of us and I guess I got lucky.  


The O’Meally one at the Bubble Banks came later. With how that spot worked, it was these really tight banks that shot you straight up into the air, really high. It basically gave you a lot more time in the air… to do contortions. (laughs)


Was there footage of any of this stuff, or just photos? 


Just photos. 

photo: o'meally

With so many good photos over the years, I have to ask if you prefer shooting photos to filming? 


I think so. I mean, it’s a lot easier to shoot photos on trips. I’d say that was a big part of it later on, but I’ve always liked shooting photos more. I always felt more motivated there because it seems like photographs last longer. That and shooting photos was always more of a collaboration with the photographer than filming ever was. It’s almost like photos and video are trying to accomplish two different things. Photography can get a little more creative where filming is mostly about capturing the trick. 

photo: thompson 

I always loved that nosegrind shot of you in front of the church… 


Oh yeah, that was Pete Thompson in ’98 or so. I’m wearing half-cabs, so it must’ve been before I got a shoe sponsor. But that’s a great example of what I was just talking about, because that wasn’t a super difficult trick. It’s more about the photo. Because I don’t remember that bench being very tall. It wasn’t a full-size bench, but the photo came out really good. 


That was just a random day, out fooling around. It’s not like we were on a specific mission to get that. We just happened to be in the neighborhood and saw it.


Another early gem, what about your gap backtail cover for Slap? Is that the same one in your Wheels of Fortune? 


Yeah, that’s the same one. There’s actually a similar, smaller version of that spot around the corner that I’d been skating a lot, but I was always looking at this bigger one. 


That was probably the first time I ever planned to have a filmer or photographer there for when I did something. Like I saw the spot and wanted to do the trick, this is gonna be the time where I call a photographer to actually be there and shoot it. Partly because if someone shows up to shoot, I have to try it. 


So your first mission landed you on the cover? Not bad. 


Yeah, I remember that I was still working at a pizza shop down the street and was already late for work as we were shooting it. It was pretty crazy. Because it was super early in the morning and the trick was hard. It was quite stressful. 


I don’t know if I was filming specifically for the 411 thing by then, but after I got that clip, it definitely gave me some momentum to go out and try more stuff. 

photo: taylor

I know you back 50’d the big Pat Duffy hubba at UCSD around this time, too. I’ve seen the photo but I don’t think ever saw any footage.


Yeah, I ended up getting it at night. It was me, Jeff Taylor, Ricki Bedenbaugh… and I think Steve Berra was there somehow. I seem to remember him pulling up at one point. I was staying down in Costa Mesa with friends at the time, which is good because I had to go back three or four times to get that. 


But no, there’s no footage of it. For some reason, we didn’t film it. I ended up going back all those times and didn’t even film it.


When did you develop a taste for crazy long hubbas? And not just a few stairs, you were hitting hubbas that were, like, a block long.


(laughs) That was just kind of a phase I went through. Because backside grinds feel good… the longer the hubba, the longer the grind. And if you can find a hubba that’s even bigger than the last one, that’s even better. I guess that was my motivation. Going bigger and bigger. 


I don’t know what got into me with all that. It was cool to skate all the different hubbas I could find, which eventually led me down that path. It was fun, though.

photo: barton


Have you ever talked to Spanky about his love of your hubba skating? Because he was known to throw a Kenny Reed-esque yoga position down a hubba every now and then.  


(laughs) No, I never knew that. That’s funny. I just saw him a few weeks ago, actually…


So how were you picked for the new New Deal? How was it pitched and who else was on the team at that point?


Well, after Cherry Bombs fizzled, again, my friends Blake and Johnny… who were already well into Element at that time, they asked me to ride for New Deal. They were wanting to start New Deal back up through Giant again. 


This was 1998, which was a strange time. All of the graphics were cartoons, like Wet Willy and all that. And they had kicked everyone off the previous iteration of New Deal. I don’t know how much time had lapsed since then, but I had been getting boards for a while, well before they announced the team. I remember the campaign that started everything was a photo of me with the line, “An Amateur in the World of Professionals.” I believe I had the first ad and Rob G. had the second one. 


Let me think about it… Ryan Johnson and Ricky Oyola came later. JB was only on for a second and then he left to do something else. Yeah, I think it was just Rob G and I for a while, which is kinda crazy to think about. Because we were both still amateurs, you know? I know Rob was active and doing his thing, but I was really nobody at the time. I think I’d only had that one photo in a magazine by that point. 


Is it true that they wanted to kill the brand a week before 7-Year Glitch came out? 


Yeah, they actually tried to! It was crazy! Because Ricki had been working on that video for weeks! I was helping him edit it! And this was after all those years we spent filming for that thing. They just called us all in one day and said, “Yeah, we’re just gonna cancel the video and cancel the team. It’s all done. New Deal is done.”


We’re like, “What!?! Wait… No! Please! Just give us a little more time!”


Because, like I said, we’d put years into this project. It was unbelievable that they just wanted to cancel the whole thing like that, when we were so close to finally getting it done. Luckily, we were able to convince them to wait. And I do think that it ended up working out better for everyone involved. 


But why kill the company with the video almost done? What was the reason? 


You’d have to ask them. I think they just wanted to start something new… which actually ended up being Popwar. But I can’t really say for sure. 


So how long did you film for 7-Year Glitch? 


Glitch came out in 2002, I want to say we filmed on-and-off for about three years. We did a few big team trips for it, around the U.S. and over to Poland. It wasn’t super serious, like how you’d hear about other videos being filmed around this time, but we definitely wanted to do our best. And I think everyone ended up with really great parts. 

Yeah, people love that video. Was Shuggie Otis your choice? 


It was, because we were listening to it in the van a lot. The rerelease of that album had just come out and we were all into it. 


And are you still getting shit about fanny packs? 


(laughs) Yeah, it happens. I don’t know why we used that clip. We thought it was funny at the time, but I didn’t realize it was gonna be such a thing all these years later. 


How did all of those guest tricks come together in there? With Cairo and Nate Jones?


Those where just all my buddies back then. A lot of my friends from SF, along with Jake Rupp and Paul Shier. It just felt like that video was such a big production and I’d put so much energy into it, if it was gonna be a part of me, I also wanted to include people who were important to me. The people who I liked skating with at the time. 

I always loved your MACBA clips in here where you’re threading the needle, with the backsmith and nosegrind revert.


I don’t remember those being super hard. They definitely weren’t battles or anything. The keyhole is pretty short, actually. It’s only, like, four feet or so. And just wide enough for your board to fit, so if you got into a normal grind, you should be fine. Not that either of them were super easy, I probably had to jump down a few times, but it wasn’t anything crazy. 


The first time I did the backsmith was with Pete Thompson on a trip. I think we just shot a photo, which ended up running as an ad. We didn’t film it, though. It wasn’t until I went back a few months later with Anthony Claravall that we filmed the line. I actually think both of those lines were filmed the same day. 


Are you a battler with tricks?


Oh, I’ve had battles. I’ve definitely had battles. I had to fly back to Israel once to get a trick for the cover of the Skateboard Mag. That was a lot… to the point where I had to question if I even wanted to continue doing this anymore. There was definitely a moment of that. (laughs)

photo: uyeda


Yeah, tell that story. 


We were on a Popwar trip in Israel. Brian Uyeda was shooting an article with us for The Skateboard Mag. He shot a photo of me doing a backside 5-0 down this hubba over there… which I didn’t end up rolling away from. I actually broke my tail and did the splits, which was good enough for me at the time, although I technically did not roll away. So, we moved on to other spots and I didn’t think much about it. 


Once we got back home, Brian’s like, “They really like that photo of you doing the backside 5-0, but you didn’t make it.”


“Oh, okay… so what do we do?”


“I guess we have to go back.”


So Brian and I ended up flying all the way back to Israel in order for me to roll away from that backside 5-0… by ourselves, which was pretty miserable. A lot of anxiety. And I actually broke my board again on this second time, too, but was able to roll away. 


And I’ve still never gotten the photo incentive money for that t-shirt, by the way.

photo: thompson


What about your backside 5-0 down the Cardiel Ledge? I feel like that one doesn’t get enough credit.


That was a fun one, actually. Like I said, I’ve always liked doing that trick… and looking at the spot, I just felt like I could probably get it. I did end up getting it that day. I broke my tail on that one, too, but was still able to roll away. 


What about your frontside boardslide ender in Oakland? Pretty sketchy on a one-sided ledge like that. 


I broke my board on that one, too! Luckily, I just happened to have another board with me. I remember because I’d just gotten my pro board, I was looking at it while setting everything up. Again, nothing too crazy. I believe I got that one on the first day, too. But people have done so many crazy tricks on that ledge at this point. Frontside boardslide is a fun trick, but people have far surpassed that over the years. Didn’t somebody just do a switch frontside bluntslide on that thing? That’s insane. (laughs)

Were you happy with how your part came out? 


I was. After all, I did get to edit it alongside Ricki, so I had a good amount of control over things, but I was happy with how it came out. For sure. 


Were you and Ricky Oyola filming for Glitch and Static 2 together? 


We filmed together for Glitch a lot. He would come to San Francisco and stay at my house. We were really good friends at the time. But during the Static time, he was mostly filming on his own back East. Because he had a wife and kids, he had to stick close to home. 


This is post-Silverstar Ricky, but was he still as opinionated during this time? 


(laughs) Yeah, I think so. I don’t recall anything specifically, but he’s definitely opinionated. You can always have a very long conversation with him about certain things, if you want to. 

Because you were still pushing switch mongo back then, which was a big no-no in Ricky’s book.


Was I pushing switch mongo back then? Oh, you’re right! That’s terrible! I don’t like to push switch mongo and I don’t think I have since then... probably because I saw how bad it looked in the footage. Not that Ricky ever said anything about it. Nothing that I can remember, anyway. But if he had, he would’ve been right. 




Not to make excuses for myself, but there are a certain circumstances where it’s only possible to push switch mongo for speed. But, as a general rule, I can’t condone it. Unless you’re Tiago Lemos, then it’s okay. Tiago can do it all he wants. He’s the exception to the rule. 

photo: uyeda

How did you get involved with Static 2?


I remember starting to film for Static 2 right away, like the week after we finished 7-Year Glitch. I was a big fan of the first one and already knew Josh (Stewart) a little bit. I met him at a Tampa Am contest and would see him at tradeshows. I was a fan. 


I don’t know why he chose me to be in Static 2, he just asked me one day. I saw him at the premiere for 7-Year Glitch and he asked the next day at the tradeshow. I told him “yes” and then went home to San Francisco. Josh ended up coming out as well, and stayed with me as things got underway. 


At the time, Paul Shier was staying with me, too. He had asked Colin Kennedy to come out and that’s when Josh made the connection with England. We were all filming together in San Francisco, and then we all started going over there, too. Josh and I went on a trip to skate around London with those guys, and then we continued on to Ireland… Everything just kept going from there. 


How’d your intros with Paul come about? 


That was Josh’s idea. Over the course of the video, Paul and I ended up renting an apartment together in Barcelona. Josh would always come stay with us, but the way it worked out, one of us would always be gone. Like Josh would come and I’d be away, and then the next time, Paul would be away. It just kept happening. We were never all three together, so Josh came up with the idea to do that little intro. It just made sense. 


What’s the story with both you and Shier doing half-cab doubleflips in your parts?


(laughs) Paul and I were always playing games of SKATE back then. Half-cab doubleflips became one of those tricks that we’d always throw out there, because it’s a little out of the ordinary. It’s typically a good way to get a letter. But because we were throwing them out there so often, we actually got pretty good at them. They sneakily became a regular trick that we started to do. 


It's not a bad trick. They’re fun, and sometimes, you can get a good pop out of them. I don’t know… they were just feeling pretty good at the time. 


The story goes that the second half-cab doubleflip only exists as an homage to the other’s half-cab doubleflip that was filmed first. So, who actually filmed one first? 


That’s a good question! I honestly can’t remember who filmed one first, but it was totally an inside joke. It was originally Paul’s trick, I just kinda adopted them from him, so he should definitely get the credit for all that. 

editor's note: of course, I couldn't just let this go...
thanks paul and josh. 

Half-joking, but when did starting out with a fakie flatground trick become your go-to move for filming lines? 


(laughs) Is that my move? 


(laughs) You never realized this? You did that a lot! And always fakie! 


(laughs) I guess I did do that a lot. It was never really anything I planned on…


It’s just that starting off a line with a straight flatground trick never felt very creative to me. And I’ve always liked doing fakie tricks, too. Because it’s like doing it regular, but a lot more fun because you get to land fakie. You’re riding switch. It just felt better to me, I guess. 


Were the Shins your choice?


No. I mean, it’s good. I was just never a Shins fan. I would’ve never chosen that for myself.


So you weren’t able to sit in on Static 2 editing sessions?  


I wasn’t. I’m happy with how my part came out, but it wasn’t like 7-Year Glitch where I was able to work so closely with everything. 


Because I know you don’t really care for that 360 flip ender…


Yeah, but I don’t really consider that my ender. I think we were trying to avoid using a typical ender-ender. We wanted to try something different instead, so we put in that clip of me sliding on my bottom down this thing. Because why does it have to be your best trick at the end of your part? Why can’t it just be something silly? That’s all it was. 

photo: brook

But that pyramid fence ollie seemed pretty serious, with the armed guard on duty. Was that a common sight in some of these places? 


Not so common, no. That one felt particularly sketchy. After all, you’re at the site of one of the seven wonders of the world. And the language barrier was pretty impassable. But I kinda knew what I was getting myself into, and that it could’ve ended up being really bad. 


You knew he was armed? 


Oh yeah, there was no missing that assault rifle. 


One try and that’s it? 


I actually got five tries… but that last try was definitely the last try. When I saw him approaching with his assault rifle, I knew that was gonna be the last try I got, for sure. If I didn’t make it this time, it wasn’t going to happen. 


It’s an amazing shot. And I love the Slap cover. 


I do think my wheels bonked it, and I’m okay with that. I landed and ran into the chairs, and that’s fine, too. That was my last try. No way was I getting another shot. He was already walking toward me and he did not look happy. 


We actually got lucky with the footage because Josh had wanted to shoot it on 16mm, but it was overexposed. Luckily, he had his video camera set up on a tripod for a second angle.  

photo: claravall 

Had you always wanted to travel? Or was this something you discovered later on, through skate trips? 


Skate trips are what gave me my first opportunity to travel. I didn’t really have the means to, otherwise. But no, I never really thought much about traveling when I was younger. I was happy just going to New York City or Boston. I never really had the desire to travel to different countries back then like the way I have.


Was there a moment when you arrived at this realization to wander? 


I don’t think there was an exact moment. I think it just came from different opportunities presenting themselves and me being able to convince my sponsors to pay for it. Whether it was someone coming up with an idea for an article, or a group of people inviting me on a trip to somewhere. Sometimes, it was me asking if I could come along. So much of this came down to timing and circumstance. Having the opportunity, along with the sponsors who were willing to support me. 


411 was always doing trips back then. I knew Anthony Claravall really well and he was always traveling, too. I remember Lance Dawes inviting me on a trip to India in 1999 and that was a big trip for me early on. A great experience. 


I was just always down to go whenever anyone would ask me on these trips, if I could. I was always open to it. And it just became this thing that I started doing more and more. Luckily, it was never hard to convince my sponsors to support these ideas. Like, if it was a trip that the photographer had already pitched and Skateboarder or Slap were involved, it always made things a lot easier. Because that meant coverage for me. So why not, you know? 


I do think my sponsors have played it up a bit over the years, but I was definitely trying to make the most of these opportunities to travel.


photo: kelley

What’s your favorite place that you’ve been to so far? 


For skating or just to go?




That’s hard, because China has so many amazing spots. There’s marble everywhere. Like, there are places in China where it’s just a downhill of marble spots, and that’s amazing, but I don’t really like going to China for anything else. Outside of skating, it’s not super fun to be there and navigate. But yes, for skating, I’d have to say China. 


For non-skating, Georgia. The country of Georgia. 


Where’s a place that you’ll never go back to? 


North Korea. There’s actually a lot to skate there, lots of marble plazas, but I don’t recommend it. North Korea was the one place where I honestly could not stand being there for another second.


I can probably imagine why, but tell me. 


Everything about it. We were monitored the entire time and had a minder. It was scary. And just gray and sad. Cold… a little bit hopeless. We were always being moved from place to place. We weren’t allowed to take any photos or film anything. We had to eat at a certain time, at a certain place, then we’d have to go to our room and weren’t allowed to leave until the next morning. Just controlled and scary. 

photo: wallner

Why were you there? 


I was with Patrick Wallner for an article we wanted to do. It only ended up being a little two-page piece, because, again, we couldn’t really take photos. It made doing that article pretty difficult.


I remember getting chased around a monument by this secret security guy. We just pretended not to hear him and I ended up skating away down this 12-lane road. It was massive, but the weird thing was, there weren’t any cars. No cars on this thing whatsoever. They told us that it was because they were having an “exhaust-free city” day, which felt like a lie. It just seemed like nobody had cars there, like they weren’t allowed.  


Where’s a place that you still want to go? 



photo: rodent

At the height of your traveling, how often would you make it back home? 


I would typically make it back to my apartment, back in Barcelona or wherever I was staying at the time, about every two months. I never really took extended single trips. I just went back-and-forth quite a lot.


You always stayed with the group? You never stayed behind?


I never stayed behind on purpose. My visa once expired in Russia on the border of Mongolia and I had to stay by myself. 


For how long?


For two nights, stuck in the middle of nowhere. It was awful. It was on that Trans-Siberian Railroad trip with Mehring and those guys. We were on a train, but only my visa had expired, so they were all free to go while I got put in a room for two days. Then I got thrown into a car with this sketchy taxi driver on one of the craziest car rides I’ve ever experienced… for sixteen hours. And then, back to the border. Just super sketchy and alone, in the middle of Siberia.   

photo: mehring

Insane, man. But isn’t this also the trip where you started Mehring’s stick-and-poke tattoo tradition with that backwards “R” with three legs?  


(laughs) It’s a Russian character, but yes, I guess it did start with me. Mehring brought this home tattoo kit onto the train. I don’t think he had any tattoos and neither did I… I still only have this one. I don’t think anybody else on the trip had any, either. But he brings this tattoo kit along and he’s like, “Hey, I got this little kit with me in case anybody wants to get a tattoo. We can do it ourselves.”


I guess he thought it might be something fun to do or whatever, but my immediate reaction at the time was no. I even remember saying, “What!?! No way! I’m not doing that!”

Of course, two hours later, I’m like, “Alright! Where’s it at? Let’s do this!”


Yeah, that was me. I was the first one to do it. 


And you still have it? What does your lady think of this stick-and-poke masterpiece?


She has not commented on it. (laughs)


But yeah, it’s on the inside of my left bicep.

photo: mehring


How do you think all of this traveling affected your career? Sure, it’s a great angle for articles and marketing, but you’re also pretty far from the industry, too. 


Yeah, it’s hard to say. It might’ve been better for me if I hadn’t been away for so long. I think if I would’ve had a real homebase in the U.S., I probably would’ve had more video parts. Actually, I know I would’ve. If I’d had more of a tether to things, I would’ve been more motivated to film. I would’ve been more productive, in general. 


Constantly traveling would often make filming for video parts a lot more difficult. Because my footage would always end up being kinda all over the place. Going on different trips with different people all the time… things get lost. Things have to go to 411 or wherever. It was already really hard to track everything down or keep track of what I had.  


But this is just me looking back on it. At the time, I didn’t care. And I still don’t, really. I’m glad with how everything worked out. 


How would you describe your filming process back then? 


I didn’t take it very seriously. I mean, if I had a project, I would film for it. When we had New Deal and Popwar, I took those things fairly serious. Or if I was on a trip, I wanted to do the best I could. But if there wasn’t a specific project for me to be working on, I typically wouldn’t be too worried about it. 

Did you prefer missions or a more spontaneous approach? I can’t imagine you being a “list” guy under these traveling circumstances, right? 


At some points, I was. Like for the New Deal video, I definitely had a list of tricks going. And for Static, too. But later on, when I started going on more trips, you couldn’t really plan tricks because you didn’t even know if there’d be any spots to skate at all. Sometimes, there wouldn’t be. At least, nothing where you couldn’t do the trick better somewhere else.  


On a few of these trips, the skating had to take a backseat because they just wasn’t anything there. That was always the risk, which isn’t the best way to film a video part. 


Did you ever film a trick just to show the spot somewhere? Like some weird monument in Mongolia or something? Wanting to showcase the place more than the actual trick? 


Not so much footage, but I definitely did that with photos. Because photos would typically have a caption to describe what all was going on. We were always aware of how unique a spot could look in different places, due to the architecture or the overall street scene. The signs in the background or the various people standing by. It was definitely more of a thing with photos. 

grain of salt

What about your predilection for airport outfits, anonymity and “getting into character”.


I don’t know… is this something I said in an interview?  


Yeah, I found an article in an early Skateboard Mag where you talked about it briefly. Sounded pretty funny. 


(laughs) Yeah, I don’t really know what I’m talking about there. I must’ve made that up. I used to say some pretty silly stuff in articles back then. 


Well, I want to ask how many hats you own, but I’m wondering if hat questions are just annoying for you at this point? I feel like you get hat questions in every single interview you do. 


(laughs) I don’t know how many hats I own at this point. Probably over a hundred. But no, it doesn’t bother me. I still wear a lot of hats. I was getting them as gifts there for a while. 

photo: thompson

What’s the most regrettable hat you’ve ever worn in a clip?


Ah… good question. Yeah, I remember one really silly hat, in particular, that I had a photo in. Doing a shifty ollie. Looking back, it was pretty outrageous. I think it had sheepskin on the inside with flaps? I think it was probably just a little too big. Not my favorite one. 


I mean, I have a lot of obnoxious hats, and that’s cool. But it’s one thing just to have them, it’s a totally different story to get a skate photo while wearing one. Some hats you don’t ever need to capture a photo in. 


But you’ve always done that! Even in that early 411 Wheels of Fortune part, you’re wearing a very wide-brim hat. Borderline pilgrim-esque!


(laughs) That was actually my grandfather’s hat!


Alright, that one gets the pass… unless you’re making that up, too. (laughs)


(laughs) No, I’m not making that up. It really was. 


Okay, moving on from the hats, I never realized that Popwar came from the ashes of New Deal. 


Yeah, Giant wanted to do another company. It might’ve been whenever Element was being sold to Billabong or one of those. They wanted to start something new in its place, so that’s when they tried cancel the Glitch video and all of that. The problem was that they didn’t want to take the whole New Deal team along. They only asked me, Chad Timtim and Rob G. And then Cairo got brought into the mix, too. I think he might’ve had some ownership there, actually.


So, Popwar starts… but I don’t really know what happened with it. Because it was all pretty quick, looking back on it. Suddenly, Giant is selling it, and the people who bought it don’t really seem to understand skateboarding or how to run a skateboarding company. Not at all. It just wasn’t a good fit and Popwar slowly starts to suffer, which means that it doesn’t do as well as they were hoping. I’m not exactly sure what happened or why it didn’t work out because I wasn’t in the country at the time. I wish I had been. 


I’ve actually thought about that a good bit. Had I been in California and more in touch, maybe Popwar could’ve worked out better? Maybe it could’ve lasted longer? I don’t know. 

photo: uyeda

But you were getting a ton of footage at this point. This was around the time you seemed to set up shop at the old Jeff Petit rail for a number of clips. Backlip, backtail and that nosegrind revert…


I completely forgot about the backlip. 


…You know what? I was just thinking about this the other day. I really want to find that spot again. I know it’s in San Rafael, but I can’t remember where. My son goes to school there now and I want to find it. I haven’t seen that thing in years. 


But what made you want to go out and hit that spot? It’s kinda out of the way and hardly anybody else hit that over the years. Were you a big Shackle Me Not fan or something? 


Not really, I just wanted to do a backside nosegrind revert on a rail for my part. I do remember seeing that rail back in the day, and somehow, that’s the rail that popped into my head to do it on. But I was really only there for the backside nosegrind revert. All of the other clips were basically warm-ups and getting used to the rail. 


We were hitting that spot a lot at that time. It was on the list. And it did feel good… although, that nosegrind revert did take a while. It was pretty hard, but also, there always seemed to be a car parked right in front of it, too. We actually had to go back a few times, just because of the cars. It was never clear. The day I got it was really the only day that we were able to skate there long enough without someone parking there. So yeah, I guess it wasn’t so much a battle with the trick as much as it was a battle with the cars. 

What about your backlip transfer cover for TWS? It was in Popwar Video Hype and they plopped a taquito over the rollaway? 


Yes, they did! I don’t know why they did that. I really don’t know. I guess because it was the “Popwar Teaser”? They were planning on playing the whole clip in the actual video? 


Did that video actually come out?


No, it did not. But there were two teasers... I was actually super against those teasers. I really was. Because why would you use so many of your tricks to tease a video? Just put it in the video! You’re using all of this footage, now you have to get more tricks! It didn’t make sense to me.


That, and they would only use some tricks from the same session. Like, if you got three clips on the same spot, they’d use your two best clips for the teaser and leave you with the lesser one… like, what happened to all my clips? It doesn’t make any sense to tease the lesser clip of the three.


I don’t know whose call it was for those teaser things, but those were very frustrating for me. 


I heard you didn’t really like that backside lip transfer? 


Oh, I’ve always liked the photo, I just didn’t slide it very far in the footage. Not as far as I wanted to. The photo is a little deceiving in that it makes it look like I came from the side when I really went over the top. So, it was a very short slide… but I would’ve totally used it had they not put the taquito there. 

photo: barton

(laughs) Stupid taquito. How did Rasa Libre come about? 


That was just the easy move for me. I already knew a lot of the guys from living in San Francisco. Matt Field asked me if I wanted to ride for them one day, after Popwar was over, and I said, “Yes.” 


I don’t think it was necessarily the best time for Rasa Libre. They had just left Deluxe and were figuring things out. By that point, it was only me, Nate Jones, Matt Field and a few other guys. Dylan Reider and Omar Salazar had already left. 


Did you pursue any offers elsewhere? 


No, I didn’t pursue anything else. Like I said, it was the easy move for me, sponsor-wise. Those guys were my friends. 


A highlight around this time was your shared part with Nate Jones, Tony Cox and Ocean Howell in the 2005 IPath Promo. Four of my favorite styles. How did that one come to be?


You know, that video is a funny one. Because we had no notice that it was even going to happen. We’d planned on doing a full-length video and it was something that people were starting to talk about… The thing was that Jack Sabback had a lot of footage. He was basically sitting on a full part, while the rest of us just had bits and pieces. I think Jack was the only one with a full part. 


Matt Rodriguez. 


Oh yeah, that’s right. But how it happened, the whole thing got bumped up super early. All of a sudden, IPath was like, “We’re gonna put this out now, because it’s just a promo.”


I didn’t have any notice to film for that video, and they needed stuff right away. So most of my tricks in there was stuff that I’d been saving for the Popwar video… whatever they didn’t use up in the teasers. Because I didn’t have the time to actually film anything, I just had to grab whatever footage I could. I think it was the same thing for a lot of other people in that video, too. 


I know people love that video, but it’s a weird one for me. It’s not like I had a part in it or anything. Just a shared part. And it was really all Popwar stuff, anyway. 

photo: mehring

Did you skate with Ocean a lot back then? 


Not every day, but quite a bit, yes. I felt really lucky to have been there for a lot of his comeback around this time, because he was always one of my favorites. He was and is amazing. And seeing him come back and progressing like that, ripping, it was like being able to skate with your favorite skater in their prime. It was something that I never expected to happen, which made it even more special. 


You throw out a 540 varial flip in your Cosmic Experience part. Was that an homage to him? 


Not really, but I know why you’d ask that. That was one of his tricks. But no, I was just into that trick for a while there. Good question. 


photo: price

Where does The Other Ones fall into all of this for you? 


Yeah, I don’t know about that one. I was kinda losing interest in skating at the time… Definitely in filming video parts, so I didn’t really put a lot of effort into that one. I was starting to transition more into regular life and traveling. Trying to figure out what to do next.  


But didn’t you do a brief stint on Creation after this, too? 


I did, but I wouldn’t say that I was on the team or anything. I basically let them make my board. They weren’t paying me and I wasn’t doing anything for them. They just hit me up one day, like, “Hey, we want to make your board.”


“Okay, cool. Go ahead.” 


That’s really all it was. 

photo: uyeda

So this was a conscious retirement on your part? What did you do after that?


Yeah, I retired. There was no ceremony, not even a cake. No party. (laughs)


After that, I actually became a kindergarten teacher for a while in upstate New York. I moved back to the United States from Spain and got a job. I had worked jobs before, so it wasn’t completely foreign to me. I just had to get back into that mode, you know? 


What led to your involvement with Skatistan? 


Well, I’d gone to Afghanistan in 2007 to film a documentary. We then went over to Pakistan to help them build a skatepark and gave some lessons with the kids, too. Just kinda checking everything out. It was a great experience, so we went back at the end of the summer for the skatepark opening. 


I can’t remember how I got in touch with them, but it seemed like a worthwhile opportunity. There weren’t too many other pros over there, and I wanted to support what they were doing. I’d read a lot about that area prior but had never been, so I was excited to go, especially for something skate-related. Those trips were amazing. 


And Skate Qilya in Palestine?


Skate Qilya was a little later, right before I moved back to my hometown and started teaching. I went and helped build a mini-ramp in the West Bank. Two years later, I ended up going back, only to find that the ramp was falling apart. Some of the guys who’d helped build it were trying to raise money to not only to fix the ramp, but to do a little skate camp there, too. And from there, we started doing a skate camp there every summer for the next five years.

photo: mehring


Were these skate camp experiences what led you to teaching school? And ultimately to what you’re doing now as a coach? 


Yeah, I don’t know if I would’ve thought about getting into teaching if it wasn’t for these experiences. Because it was right as I was transitioning out of professional skateboarding. I didn’t have much of a plan. 


All of those trips I went on, skateboarding wasn’t very popular in many of these places. Many people hadn’t even seen a skateboard before, because you’re always showing your board to people and how you ride it. But people always want to give it a try. So you end up learning some pretty good techniques for teaching someone who has never touched a skateboard before. 


When I was going back to Palestine every summer for skate camp, I figured out a little curriculum for teaching children not only how to push and roll safely, but how to really skate. Not that we really knew what we were doing, we just had to figure it out. And as it went along, year after year, I found that it was something that I really enjoyed. I got a lot of fulfillment out of it… probably more than I got out of trying to skate myself.


What’s something that has surprised you in your experience of teaching skateboarding in these different cultures?


You have to keep in mind that there can be a cultural element, in addition to everything that’s going on at the camp. For example, there are certain villages in Palestine where boys and girls typically don’t play together. Many times, our skate camps were the first time that children of different genders actually played together.  


We held some workshops where everyone was able to speak on different topics and community issues. I was surprised by a lot of the feedback from the kids, that they enjoyed getting to know their peers better through skateboarding. Interacting socially through skateboarding. Because if you look at other sports, they’re usually not as social as skateboarding. I never really looked at it that way before. 

photo: uyeda

How did this lead into you coaching skateboarding? 


Well, I’d been doing these skate camps for a little while when skateboarding was accepted into the Olympics in 2017. Once that happens, it opens up a government budget from the Olympic committee for these programs. Because of that, someone sent me a message, like, “Hey, they want to put together a skateboarding team in Myanmar. Would you be interested in going out there to coach?”


It was a tough decision, because while I’d been doing skate camps, I was also three or four years into teaching kindergarten and had just been offered a new position. And not only that, my wife was also pregnant at the time. 


At first, I didn’t think it was possible. I have all this other stuff going on, I can’t just run off and do this. But just as I thought I had it all figured out in my head, that I wasn’t going to do it, my wife says, “Wait a minute. Let’s think about this.” 


“What!?! Really!?!?”


We talked about it a little more and she’s like, “Why don’t you just do it? We can always come back and figure out whatever we want to do later.”


So we just went for it, and it was a great experience. And now, I’m coaching the Thailand team.


photo: kelley

I never saw you as a “contest guy”, is it weird to have such a competition mindset now? 


(laughs) It is. Because I’ve never been a contest guy, not at all. And in the beginning, I really had to work to figure things out. I had to figure out what these kids expected me to be. How can I genuinely connect with them and help get them where they want to be… while also making sure their needs are being met and that they’re having fun. I might not have much of a competition background, but I did take on this challenge, you know? 


It’s not ideal, but it is an incredible opportunity. I don’t think skateboarding necessarily needs coaches, but if I can be part of growing the skateboarding community in a country like Myanmar, why not? 


You can help guide it in the right direction, too. 


Exactly. I mean, we don’t even use the word “coach”. 


I see my position as trying to figure out what people want to do and helping them get there. In my mind, I often think back to whatever I went through in learning a trick… how was I successful and what did it take for me to get there? And then trying to pass that on. 


People seem to think we’re walking around with a list of tricks that everyone has to learn in order to get higher scores. There’s none of that. 

photo: uyeda


Do you try to instill a balance in your team with the lifestyle portion, as well as contest stuff?


I do. I think it’s really important that they still go street skating or go out skating with their friends. To get as much of the good part of skateboarding as possible. Because it’s not all about competition. The reason they started skateboarding was not because of this contest. They are real skateboarders. They found it in an organic way and love it because it’s a creative outlet. Not because they’re super competitive or want to do better than everybody else. 


Speaking of lifestyle, is IPath coming back? And are you involved in any way?


Yes, IPath is coming back. One of the original founders got the trademark back from a factory. Because the brand had been sold a few times, to Timberland and then somewhere else. I guess those people either couldn’t pay back the factory or went bankrupt, but they lost the trademark. Nobody knew where it was for several years, until the business partner who originally started the brand with Matt Field found it and bought it back. 


After that, he approached me and asked if I wanted to be part of it. I asked a few questions, wanting to make sure that his vision for the brand aligned with something I wanted to invest my time in. And yes, I’m in. 

photo: mehring

What all are you doing for them?


Right now, I’m in charge of the teamriders and doing some brand marketing stuff. A little bit of sales stuff, too. There are only a few of us. It just started back and we’re taking it really slow. We’re only gonna come out with two shoes in the beginning…


Who’s on the team? 


We’re gonna have Fred Gall and Ben Raybourn. 


That’s amazing! IPath has never been more Metal!


Yeah, it’ll be the Metal dudes. But I also want to grow it, too. 


I also reached out to a few of the guys from the old team that are still skating, but there just aren’t that many still doing it regularly or that even want to. 


The thing with IPath is that it’s always been unique in what we had and how it came about. I don’t think that could happen again in the same way. I just don’t think it’s possible. But I do think there is still room for a brand like IPath to exist in the industry, with the same philosophy that it’s always had. A place for skateboarders that isn’t trying to compete with those big shoe brands. 


I’m excited, man. And I’m stoked that you’re so involved in it. So what’s next? 


Well, I’m about to go back out to Thailand in a few days to continue working with the team. One of our girls is in phase two of the Olympic qualifiers right now.


Will Kenny Reed be at the Olympics this year?


We’ll see how we do in these next two events… But possibly, yes.


(laughs) Good luck, Kenny! And thanks for doing this. As we wrap this up, what would you say has been the proudest moment of your skateboarding career? And your biggest regret? 


My proudest moment is honestly when they opened that skatepark in Kabul for the children. I remember actually crying at the ceremony. It wasn’t my work, it was somebody else’s, but I was just so moved by it. I’m stoked to have been a part of it and witness it all come together. 


And my biggest regret? I wish that I would’ve collected more of my old boards over the years.


Yeah, I can’t imagine that you were able to keep very many with as much traveling as you did.  


I have a few, but not nearly as many as I’d like. I didn’t really care at the time, but as you get older and start looking back on things, those would’ve been nice to have hung on to. 


Big thanks to Paul Shier, Josh Stewart and Kenny for taking the time.