Kelly Hart

Kelly Hart

The first time you rode for Expedition, how many years were you on for?
It was like 10 years.

Wow.
I got on in 2003, the year I graduated high school and then I decided, well, we decided to part ways in 2013.

Before that were there talks of you going pro?
Yeah, there were talks, but it just didn’t happen. I just wanted to do things my way and they wanted theirs.

How so?
When The Berrics was cracking off, that was one of the most fun times I ever had. And it helped my skating kind of pop off, too. I would skate The Berrics all day, with the illest skaters and not get kicked out like a street spot and we’d still get coverage from that. Then I’d go street skate, too. That’s what I wanted to do and that’s what was working for me. But certain people at Expedition wanted me to do other things. They were taking the brand in a different direction and I don’t think I fit anymore.

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What did they want you to do?
They wanted me to film a video part, but I think I was just going through too much stuff at that time. I was filming a bunch for it, but, man, life was going on too. Plus, I broke my foot and ankle in the middle of filming. I was trying to get it done, but just couldn’t put it together. What they had planned and what I had planned was different. They wanted me to do it the traditional way. Film a “turning pro part”. But I was questioning that. I knew there had to be a different way of approaching it.

And it turned out you were right. Now you are pro for Expedition. Congratulations.
(Laughs) Thanks, Ben. It was really just having fun and doing it in a way that I wanted to do it.

During the time they wanted you to film a part, were you having a hard time getting stuff on film that you actually liked, or was it the stuff you were filming didn’t fit the vision of what they were trying to mold Expedition into.
A bit of both. I didn’t fit into the new vision for the brand and I had broken my foot in the middle of trying to film for the part. OK, here’s the thing. They told me I would turn pro after my Recruit on The Berrics dropped, but apparently the TM at the time, turned it down at the last minute. It was a crushing thing for me at that point. I was like “really? What do I have to do here?” I had a video part come out earlier that year, the LRG video, and I did a bunch of shit on The Berrics. After that, I was kind of lost and then they started changing the brand. I didn’t fit into it. It was frustrating. I didn’t really know what was going on.

Thanks for being so candid. I told my friend that helps me with the site that I was interviewing you and first thing he said was “find out why he didn’t turn pro the first time”.
(Laughs) I think I learned a lot, too. I learned to question things and go with your gut. I felt like at that time in skateboarding, skateboarding was evolving. I was just like dude, “things are changing”. You don’t have to do it just one certain way. You can do it your own way.

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Photo: Camarillo

How did you end up with the TM job?
So at this point I would just go out with my friends, skate, have fun, film clips and post them. I didn’t care. It wasn’t my job to skate and film. I could just have fun and post what I wanted. I feel that’s where skating has evolved to for me.

I would always keep in touch with Troy (Morgan) since he was a good friend of mine. Troy and I had talked and he wanted to bring Expedition back to what it was. He wanted to give it back to the skaters that loved the brand for what it used to be. He was like “you know Expedition, you know our dudes”. He just wanted me to do what I love and bring in the next generation, too. Now I’m working with my friends and we’re all going the same direction. We all have the same common goal.

Now you’re also a team rider and the TM for éS. How did that come about?
I was staying back home in Laguna at the time and I had old éS shoes at my place and posted some. Don Brown hit me like “that’s so sick!” because éS wasn’t going at that time and no one was really posting them. I just love éS so I kept posting them. Every time posted them, Don would hit me and say thank you. Then eventually one day he hit me like, “we’re bringing éS back. Fully back. Do you want some shoes?” I was super psyched on that. He was just like “go have fun. Thanks for supporting”. So I kept skating and filming and posted stuff on Instagram and it seemed like Don really respected that. He told me if I ever had any friends that I thought were sick and were hyped on éS to go ahead and give them some shoes. So I did and éS started to get pushed out there more and more. Then Don hit me like ‘would you want to come out and start working as the team manager? Start seeding out shoes and build a new generation of éS?” I was like, “are you kidding me!? Of course!” I wasn’t expecting that at all. It was the greatest, because éS is very special to me.

That’s sick Don recognized your love for the brand and the value you could bring to it.
He’s the best. I don’t really know how this all happened. I really just went out there and did what I wanted to do and had fun with it, in my own way. Somehow it all led me back to this. It led me to the place where I always dreamed of going when I was a kid, but beyond the level I even dreamt of.

On one hand, it’s true you were going out skating and having fun and filming on your iPhone with your friends. But you also were aware that skateboarding and how people were consuming content in general was shifting. So, yes, filming and posting on Instagram was fun, but it was also smart of you to notice that shift and then to move that way. You see a lot of the brands and filmmakers that are doing well, they’re not making these huge long productions and videos. They’re basically like, “let’s do some cool shit and put it out. Let’s do some more cool shit and put it out.” It’s created a culture where people are super productive because they are enjoying themselves so much. They are able to drop clips everyday on social while filming for longer clips and video parts at the same time.
Exactly! It’s easy to be productive when you can film and post whenever you want.

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That’s what a lot of kids are doing in New York, and they’re having a lot of fun and a lot of success at the same time.
Maybe just at the time in Cali it was a little more rare. I mean you didn’t start skateboarding with someone telling you to do anything. You did it because we all just did our own thing. We had our own crews and you go out and you skate and you do fun shit.

Before everything was VHS. You had to wait for shit. It’s different now. Everyone is good. Everyone is putting stuff out all the time. I think the thing that makes people stand out is who’s having fun. You can see it in their skating and how much they are skating. Look at all these new brands coming up. They’re doing whatever the fuck they want to do and they have some rad shit.

To me, you win the award for best team manager for being smart enough to put Wade DesArmo on a footwear brand.
(Laughs) That’s incredible. He’s incredible.

éS has a crazy legacy of some of the best skateboarders ever being on one team. How did you decide who to put on for the rebirth?
I mean Wade, Asta, Diego, these guys are special. They are special skateboarders. You just watch them and you know. There’s something about them that not everyone has. The skill they have, the way they do things. They just go out and fucking skate and do whatever they want to do and it’s fucking incredible to watch. And they’re just great human beings. That’s what éS is. The dudes that are on, there’s something special about them, but they’re also next level.

As a TM, when you’re looking at these guys, how important is an understanding of social media? Are you encouraging them to build their social media and build their audience?
That’s a weird one because what I’ve learned is skateboarders do not want to get told what to do. But it’s a balance because at a certain point, you’re working for these businesses and people are telling you what to do. For me, social media, I actually really enjoy it. You can send your message out in a different way, rather than waiting every six months to put out an interview in a magazine or a video part. Now you can do it all. Film a part, do an interview, do a podcast, but also be putting out your own stuff whenever you want to.

Overall, our team gets it. Using social media, that’s a great platform, that’s our way to get our point across. And it’s different for everything. Tom and Diego are superactive on there. Wade’s a little more quiet, but that’s cool. When you do see something of him you get real excited. Everyone plays their own role, dude. I’m not going to force anyone to do anything. All the dudes I work with are really good at what they do, and I’m proud of them.

b8731533-1e6d-43ec-96ba-f1ffa7841769Photo: Olson

Do you find it hard to handle the responsibility of being both a TM and Pro for both brands?
This is my first month of doing that. It’s definitely really busy, I’ll tell you that much. But it’s something that I love so much that I don’t mind doing that at all. What’s important is that I have a lot of guys that are looking to me for answers. So, I got to make sure I’m taking care of these guys, you know? If I’m working from eight in the morning until seven at night, whatever. I’ll go skate flatground somewhere for an hour or two. Me being pro is based off of me having fun, not me making it a fucking priority.

Is building your social following a priority for you?
It just kind of happens naturally because you’re skating and filming and posting. That’s what I’m doing and it probably got me a job at both brands. And what I love to do is right in line with what these brands want and how things are going. I love just to skate and post things when I want. And that’s what kids and brands are loving also. It’s perfect to be honest. But don’t get me wrong, I still film and save clips on the side too!

I remember you telling me you filmed the fakie tre fakie mannie on an iPhone.
Yeah, it was just on my iPhone.

That’s crazy. You went there that day just being like, “I’m just gonna skate.” And then you just started trying it?
Yeah, completely. People kept telling me to try that and I laughed at them. There’s no way to do that. But I just kind of figured it out. I guess that’s how everything has worked ever since I started doing the social media thing. I had nothing planned. I had absolutely nothing planned. I just went out and skated and I had a homie film me. On my phone. And he wasn’t a photographer. It wasn’t a huge production. It wasn’t some dude who gets paid a lot of money from a brand.

That trick is an analogy of everything that’s going on with you. You just tried it, it worked out, you posted it. And because of how people are sharing and consuming content, it just blew up. That trick was the quintessential example of what’s going on in skateboarding.
Completely.

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Photo: Van Styles

I feel like that trick changed people’s perception of you. It elevated you in a single 15 second post.
Yeah, that was something I wasn’t expecting. And that’s crazy to hear, but definitely. That trick wasn’t even really on my dream list because I thought it was impossible.

It’s like that first hit song for an artist that completely changes the trajectory of their career.
So crazy to thing of it like that. One post can change everything.

You did fakie varial flip fakie mannie too.
That one was actually harder for me. I went there five times to do that one. I’m not very good at fakie varial flips. As much as I might do them, I’m really not good at them. So to do the fakie varial flip was really hard for me to actually do. Fakie tres, to do them, I can do them consistently on flat ground. Getting them up that high was insane, but I can at least do the trick consistently.

Everywhere I go people bring up the fakie tre fakie mannie. The thing that interests me is, I wonder what would have happened if I didn’t post it. If I saved it for a part. At first a lot of people were like “ you idiot, you should have saved that! You should have saved that for your video part” Some filmers actually called me stupid (laughs). I would be curious to know what would’ve happened if I would’ve saved it for my video part. I honestly don’t know if I’d be in the same position that I am right now.

Crazy to think of. Where did the decision come from to bring éS back?
It was just obvious. There were people that loved it everywhere. People wanted it back. They brought back the Accel in Japan first and it killed it. There was demand for the whole brand. You know éS was the shit. It had to happen. Like you were saying, éS had one of the most gnarly and huge and amazing teams ever. I don’t know if there will ever be a team like that again. Ever. But we are going to stay true to the heritage of éS and do the things that made people love it from the beginning.

ef4cdbf4-7eec-439e-b253-cdf00a4eda05Photo: Olson

Speaking of huge teams, there are big corporate footwear brands taking up a lot of space in skateboarding. Where do you think the opportunity is for éS?
I don’t compare and look at other brands to see what they’re doing. We really just focus on what éS is and what we want to do. I live in an éS world. I don’t live anywhere else. We have our team, which is so rad. And we do our thing. Try to make the best shoes, put out our skating on social and tell our story. I do have a lot of friends that ride for the big companies or work for them and I’m stoked for them. But it doesn’t affect what we do at éS.

Because you have friends that ride for the bigger companies and work there do you feel there are pros and cons to those brands being in skateboarding? Do you think there is a role for the corporate shoe brands in skateboarding?
There are pros and cons. The funny thing is, they all want a piece of the pot because skateboarding is special, dude. I get that. The thing I worry about is, I don’t want them to take the special out of skateboarding. Because it seems like they’re feeding shit to everyone, and then everyone is wearing the same shit. What the fuck is this? We’re all skateboarders, but we all want to be different and have choices. I want skateboarding to be unique and expressive still. And that’s what éS is. But, there are pros and cons. I’ll tell you one thing, if Nike didn’t redo the whole Courthouse thing, maybe I wouldn’t be here either (laughs). They support my friends, and they pay a lot of people, they contribute a lot to skateboarding. I’m not mad at that. But I just like things being different out there, not everyone wearing the same shit all the time. Like do you really have to give EVERYONE shoes? Do you really need to have every kid on flow? Dude, they do contribute a lot. And they can do more. They should have saved LOVE Park. Dude, bring back Pier 7. Make Chaffey skateable again! I know that’s not easy (laughs). It’s also interesting to think that if bigger corporations hadn’t come into skating, would the skater owned companies been able to contribute like the big corp guys are doing now.

They might have.
I’m not trying to talk shit either. Before éS came back, I was skating Nike because the shoes were good. But you know as soon as éS came back, that’s where I went and wanted to be! I’m not trying to hate. It’s just, I’m really proud of the dudes at éS and what we’re doing.

What advice would you give a kid trying to get on éS or sponsored in general?
I wouldn’t necessarily say just film a sponsor me tape. There’s so many ways to get your name known out there now. Do Instagram posts, get on Snapchat, get in the magazines, film a video part. You can do anyone of those things and get people excited about your skating and what you’re doing. The kids need to understand that every brand or every company that you might look up to is just a crew of dudes. For example, to me, Baker is a solid crew. They’re boys. If you wanna get involved with a certain crew like the Baker dudes, you gotta bro down with those dudes. You got to skate with them. You got to chill with them. You don’t just get on Baker by being good. You don’t just get on Girl. They’re a family. Sure you might get flowed boards. But to get on on, it needs to naturally work its way out. Companies are looking to get new talent all the time, so go out and do whatever you want to do to catch these dudes’ attention. I don’t know what that is. It’s different for everyone. Make up your own mind and go for it. Just do not bug the hell out of them to watch your footage! (laughs)

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What about someone that wants to work in the industry?
It depends on what the brand is. What brand or brands do you want to work for? Decide that. Then look at what is important to them. If they’re all about social media, then you need knowledge of social media and how it works and how to create content and a buzz on social. And it’s all networking. A lot of people that work in the skate industry haven’t gone to college. But they are rad individuals, they are good people and they fucking love skateboarding, so they find a way to work in it. If you got certain skills and you want to use those skills, find the places you want to work at, meet the people and get in there. To me, that’s the way it is.

With that said, something I think your story also really shows is persistence and perseverance. It’s crazy to think you rode for Expedition for ten years, didn’t turn pro, quit, kept skating, made a decision to start skating and putting out content your own way and now you’re not only pro for that company, but running the team.
Yeah, that’s insane. I will say I had injuries twice dude and those dudes took care of me when I was down. When I was really down. When I was broken and couldn’t do shit, they were still paying me every month. All my sponsors were. They helped me out through the hard times. Sometimes I was not producing anything, I would sit on my ass with broken shit. But they still took care of me. Those dudes really believed in me for so long and it’s something I’m so grateful for.

But, also, I just love skating, so it was easy to keep going. I love being out skating with my friends and making rad products with my friends. As a kid I would buy this shit and now I’m working with the people that created it and I’m helping to create more cool shit. We’re now bringing up the next generation on éS. I serious trip out about it every single day. I never could have dreamt of this. It’s crazy it’s all led here. Skateboarding is an amazing thing.

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