May 17, 2023/ / INTERVIEWS/ Comments: 17

If you’re anything like us, you’re probably contemplating the same thing. How many granite tiles does it take to get to the center of a brand new indoor skatepark? According to Josh Kalis, roughly 1,600, and that damn owl didn’t lift a feather to help.

Jokes aside, Josh, with the help of DGK and a few motivated friends, are wrapping up the build job of Grand Rapids, Michigan’s newest landmark, an all-granite indoor skatepark featuring actual granite slabs from Philadelphia’s Love Park. While the original Love Park is unskatable, the inclusion of the slabs will allow a new generation to experience a slice of late 90s nostalgia.

They are documenting their work through “The Build,” a YouTube series following the build process of the park and other related antics featuring Josh at the helm. To get a better idea of what’s going on in Michigan we chatted with him about all things granite and using his OG status to help build up the community around him.

Where did this idea stem from?
I was talking to one of the guys at DGK and I was like, skateboarding is super boring right now. It’s literally all the same. Kids are hella good nowadays, but it’s hard to differentiate. Everything just feels stagnant and boring, which made me feel like I was being stagnant and boring.

During Michigan winters, it snows and rains a lot, and I’ve been wanting to do this indoor granite park for years. DGK was like, “Go build it. DGK is doing well and we haven’t done anything with you as far as just something that you wanted to do, so let’s do it.” He asked how much I thought it was going to cost and I said, “I don’t know, X.” He goes, “Done.” Then he asked, “Who’s gonna build it?” and I said, “Truthfully, I think me and the homies should build it. It’ll give me something to do during the winter.”

Is it true you got a Philly trash can in there?
Hell yeah. I drove all the way out to Philly to grab one a couple weeks ago. I don’t know what we’re gonna do with it…. We don’t even have enough runway to get enough speed to crack over that thing, but it’s in there!

The park is 3,200 square feet, but it’s nice because it’s intimate. You walk into The Berrics and it’s so big that you don’t even know where to skate. Everything feels like you’re in the corner there, it just feels kinda weird.

You’re adding all granite floors to the park, which seems like an insane amount of work. Why is granite so perfect for skating?
Just the sound. The pop too, the pop is always nice. I got what they call “honed granite”. It’s a smooth granite that barks when you powerslide on it, but you do have to mop it. I try to mop every time before I skate, it takes like 20 minutes and then its fucking grippy.

I’m so tired of seeing coffee shop style skateparks, like with fake brick on the wall, or parks that look like a Street League course. I wanted something that reminded me of the old World Industries park but better. I wanted a Brooklyn Banks, Pyramid Ledges, JKWON, Love Park feeling in my little skate park. The other parks weren’t gonna do it for me.

To top it off, we got some actual granite from Love Park. The stuff we grabbed is literally the floor, the tiles from the floor of Love Park, it grinds and slides and sounds just like Love. It’s awesome. I go in there sometimes and just do 50-50 grinds for the sound and nostalgia.

What was the ground in there originally?
It was an epoxy covered concrete ground. I had to go in there and scrape all of that off. I had to rent this grinder machine for three or four days straight. I was in there just walking at the slowest speed grinding the floor. It was absolutely terrible [laughs].

Laying the granite tiles was the most torturous part because you’re on your knees. I was getting calluses on my hands from putting the mortar down. It just felt like my kneecap wanted to slide one way or the other and it just felt sketchy. I haven’t fully recovered from doing all the tiles and stuff. My body aches and is still sore and the tiles have been done for a month and half or two months now. It was a month straight of doing 1,600 tiles basically.

Is your next DC shoe gonna have a steel toe to work in? The Kalis construction boot?
[Laughs] Fortunately, I don’t need it now. I probably needed it a few months ago.

Actually, we still have a lot of work to do. We still gotta build the inside and outside of the bodega, which is gonna resemble a boutique style skate shop, even though it’s not a skate shop. It’s literally there for people to come by if they sweat out their shirt to grab a new one. There’ll be a big ass TV and a couch in there. It’s just gonna be the spot if you need to freshen up your gear before you go back out.

Will you be selling K2 and weed on the low like a real bodega?
We might have people doing that in there but we won’t be selling it [laughs].

Any pool tables or ATMs?
There’s no room for that. We did get an old school payphone and an old school newspaper stand, one of those metal ones where you pull the face down and grab your stuff. We’ll keep magazines and stuff in there.

I’ve been noticing you’re talking to the camera a bit in the build process videos of the park. You’re pretty good on camera.
I can have the whole entire world tell me I’m good on camera, but that doesn’t mean I’m comfortable with it. It’s weird to me. I grew up skating in the ‘90s and into the early 2000’s where it was super frowned upon to promote yourself in any way shape or form. If it wasn’t the brand that was giving you some kind of promotion and you were doing your own promotion, you were wack.

Then Instagram came out and I remember posting other people’s old stuff and throwbacks and I kept getting all these messages like, “Yo dude, we follow you to see you.” That’s when I really realized it changed. I actually should use my own platform for me, you know? So it’s been a learning process, and to this day it’s tough. It’s funny because now I follow certain YouTube channels and I like it when they do their own POV type things, but it’s hard for me to not feel super cheesy about doing it.

I like that you’re transparent about it. I feel like everyone has to advocate for themselves otherwise you get forgotten about.
Everyone’s their own brand now.

Is there someone in the car YouTube world that you follow that’s a model you could bring into skating?
I follow Sheepey or RDBLA, some of the more vibey, visual based shops that hook up cars, you know? I catch some inspiration from that, because I’m gonna be honest with you dude, in the skate world, YouTube wise, I catch zero inspiration. Like, none. There’s not a single skateboard vlogger that I’m like, “Can’t wait to see this!” It seems like skate YouTube is stuck in that whole uncomfortable “Welcome back to the vlog!” type shit. “Hey guys!”

What could change?
Well, I’ll try to say this without sounding like an asshole, but hopefully what I’m doing is gonna help start that change.

Another big reason I’m doing this is to help skaters in the West Michigan area to have a platform where they can try to make it. I’ve never been able to help any skaters in West Michigan because I was living in other places and those places had industry.

When Philly didn’t have industry, we just forced it, we made part of the industry come to us, so DC and Alien [Workshop] were sending people, and we created our own pocket of industry there. New York always had an industry with mad photographers and videographers, like the RB [Umali]’s and [Giovanni] Reda’s, but that shit literally wasn’t in Philly. What I learned was, if you have the means, you can create industry anywhere.

I’ve been able to give back a lot, mostly to Philly skaters, but I’ve never been able to do that in Michigan. I never spend enough time here, but now I’m back and I’m bored as shit. There’s some young kids that are pretty dope that I skate with pretty frequently, and I’m like man, these kids don’t have a chance unless they leave Michigan. Building this thing will hopefully give them an outlet and maybe put eyeballs on ‘em and they can go from there.

Can’t they just put themselves out there and promote themselves on IG?
That shit doesn’t work. Maybe it works for a small percentage of people, but there’s all these factors that come into play. You can have the most viral Instagram account and not make a dime, never be a part of the industry, or be able to create your own industry. You have a bunch of followers but they’re not helping you create and generate income.

You have to remember I’m always looking at it from a career standpoint. None of this is hating on what people are doing with their skating or their social media, but I’m looking at it from a, “How do you turn this into a career and how do you make money doing what you love?” perspective. Right now skateboarding can be pretty hard to crack into. Maybe I’m just talking shit [laughs].

“What I learned was, if you have the means, you can create industry anywhere.”

I agree that followers do not always equal money, and just because you have a following doesn’t mean you’ll be “accepted” into core skating, if that’s what you care about. It still can be tough to break into the core.
I mean we’ve done it before, but it was easier in other places, places that already have established eyeballs on them, you know? These kids I’m rolling with right now are younger. They’re not there yet, but they’re definitely at a point where they could start trying to get their recognition, if that’s what they want to do. My doors are open. Inviting people to skate and film in my park and post it on their IG, there’s no restriction on it, except that I can’t have too many people in there at the same time cause it’s not that big. [laughs]

Back in the day at Love, one of the things that me and Stevie [Williams] would talk about is not going back to the previous Ricky Oyola era. Ricky’s era had strict rules and they were kinda assholes about everything. It was like locals only type shit, they would kick people out of spots. Stevie [Williams] and I had the opposite approach.

I don’t wanna say “we allowed,” because it’s not like that, but [Jimmy] Gorecki, Chris Cole, and PJ Ladd came in and skated Love Park. All these people would come and try to get their piece and it was like, fuck yeah, the more the merrier. The more exposure it gets, the more exposure we get.

That’s kinda how I look at it with this park. I mean it’s nowhere near the level of Love Park, don’t get me wrong. I know where it is as far as the positioning of this little park [laughs]. But if some kids can start getting some free boards and lean towards getting paychecks and maybe someday going pro, if I can help just by letting them use this park I built to film their iPhone clips, get in my story, whatever it may be, then the goal has been met.

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  1. Bakken Mydae

    May 18, 2023 12:32 pm

    (Ahhhhh) So fucking refreshing…

  2. Dick Nerlino

    May 18, 2023 12:49 pm

    The fact that he isn’t milking it but is actually trying open doors for the rippers in Grand Rapids is the dopest part. Wish more established dudes would do that for their hometowns outside of New York or Cali. When was the last time Jim Greco did something in Connecticut or Jeff Kendall did something in Indianapolis???

  3. fryanblores

    May 18, 2023 6:40 pm

    Kalis always been a real one.

    Short anecdote: I went to a DC shoot back in the day when they were rebranding with that ugly flag logo like 10+ years ago. I had just started skating, so I was around 13/14.

    Knowing Kalis was an OG, at some point I asked him about how pros get paid, and it seemed he thought I was just wondering how paychecks worked lol. So, he gave me a pretty canned answer, initially. But a minute or so later, he came back and asked me what I meant. So I asked about things like royalties, self-promotion (using insta was very new for many at that point) and personal branding and how those sorts of things influence the size of a rider’s paycheck.

    He clarified his initial point and we chopped it up about moolah haha. Definitely left an impression on me as a kid since this legend in my head cared enough to be curious and chat.

    Thanks, Jenk

    • Rex

      May 19, 2023 2:37 pm

      Facts. Kalis is a real one for sure, he’ll actually chop it up with you if you see him at a spot. I skated with him at the EMB a few years ago, much respect for what he’s done for skateboarding.

  4. F***Bullies

    May 19, 2023 9:40 am

    Humiliating: It’s been decades, and Ricky Oyola is STILL getting called out for being such a big bully at Love Park. Great skater, though…

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