Check In With James Kelly: Midnight Satin & La Reunion

James Kelly has been crushing his frequent flier miles this season and spending a lot more time off the race track (and podium) to chase some dream roads, spread the gospel of downhill to communities around the world and dig in on some humanitarian issues like a boss. Take a minute to find out what’s up with James, where he is headed next and get some back story on the Caliber La Reunion series and the new Midnight Satin colorways.

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Hey James, hope all is well with you, where are you right now? What’s good?

As of now I’m sitting on the runway in a tiny airplane seat. My flight has been delayed an hour and I’m stuck in this chair. Over the years I’ve noticed that a lot of DH skaters are hyperactive in one way or another and I am no exception. Right now I’m freaking out in this tiny airplane seat. Thank god I have your interview to distract me – and Norway is at the end of this flight. So keeping my mind on the life goals, that’s what’s good.

Liam seems to be blaming you for La Reunion, ha ha, do you want to take the blame for this one? Reunion Island seems so incredible, how did you get turned on to it? How did this idea come to life?

I blame Caliber, for sure. It’s been a goal of mine to make it to Reunion for years. I’ve studied it on google maps and biking web sites, but it always seemed too far away. It’s 600 miles off the coast of Madagascar. Basically the middle of nowhere in the Indian Ocean. To get there we had to fly 10 hours to Paris, then another 10 to Reunion. I’ve talked about Reunion for years, Caliber didn’t ignore it and made it happen. They made the trip better than I ever expected bringing out two of the best downhill media professionals, Dusty and Jack, to capture everything. I hope everyone’s enjoying the series. It’s pretty real, reflecting our time on the island through our eyes. Especially the sound track, those were our jams while in paradise.

Do you hunt roads on the web often? Is there a specific method or do you haphazardly look for squiggly lines on maps and go from there?

I’ve definitely spent way too much time geekin’ out on Google Maps. Usually something will spark my interest in a region, like a photo or something, then I’ll go crazy for an evening researching the spots through Google, YouTube, and biking web sites. If I’m traveling somewhere I’ll always scope out the cool looking spots. I do this by starting on a topographical map, finding where the mountains are, then I’ll try and find two reasonably sized cities divided by a mountain. More often than not there’s a road connecting them, and it’s usually dope.


James Kelly drops in. Photo Dustin Damron

Skate[Slate] readers love road porn, do you have a favourite road you’ve skated that might just be someone else’s fantasy? Any future epic trips in mind right now you can share with us?

There are a few that come to mind, and I’m definitely not mentioning them here. Ha, sorry-not-sorry. If you see me at an event I’ll tell you. The alps are amazing. Geographically and infrastructure wise. Islands are also amazing. The shore line is always at sea level, then everything goes uphill from there.


James and Liam between runs. Photo Dustin Damron

With sponsors like RAD, Arbor and Caliber you get a lot of opportunities to skate and travel, what are the biggest differences between each squad and road tripping with each of them?

I don’t find too much of a difference between traveling with the different crews. We’re all homies before our sponsors. Most of us are like-minded and from the west coast. All skaters. The biggest difference is if we’re doing a shop tour, film trip, or race trip. Not enough skating is a problem on shop tours. Filming is awesome because we’re just rallying to get to the sickest spots to shred. Race vibes can get weird, but racing can also be the most rewarding. There’s nothing like the feeling of being on top of a podium after pushing yourself past your limits and coming out on top.


James and Liam relaxing the day away. Photo Dustin Damron

Caliber just dropped Midnight Satin colors, what’s your favourite? Do you tend to rock the cast trucks or the precision Calibers most? Do you feel big differences between cast and precisions? Should riders have both or ride one type all the time?

I rock the precisions most of the time, but I’m diggin’ the dark red ones a lot. I’ve been really impressed with the caliber 2s, it’s an inexpensive quality truck. We first prototyped them in the sierras a year ago and I felt comfortable at speed right away. After that I kept them on for the first two days of the Whistler Downhill. The biggest difference between cast and precision trucks is the durability obviously. After that it takes a high level of skating before the difference is noticeable. The best way I’ve come to describe the difference is in the feeling of regaining grip into an apex after a pre-drift. I mostly notice it while I’m racing. Cast trucks just aren’t as perfect so they’ll slip a little more and maybe send you slightly off your line. Precisions grip up and shoot you to your apex with a little more authority. But like I said, it takes a high level to notice this slight difference. My advise is get whatever, get used to it, skate it ’til you break it, and then go from there.


After skating so long and having all this pro gear, do you play your setup much or are you pretty set and dialed in these days?

My board and trucks are pretty dialed in for the most part. I spend a lot of time prototyping wheels and new Blood Orange bushing. RAD always has new wheels to learn from as we’re developing the Influence Series. I’ve always enjoyed geeking out on bushing/washer combos. Right now I have two precision washers and two “normal” washers on my board. 3 cupped and one flat. I have my ideas, but I don’t really know why I think it feels better this way. I’ll probably change it again soon based on some minuscule skate-gear theory.

Pike’s Peak and Whistler Longboard Fest are coming up still this season, will you be at either of them? Or just going to travel and do your thing as you’re feeling it?

I really enjoy both of those races so I’m definitely going to try, but it’s still up in the air. Random opportunities keep coming up out of nowhere. The European Outdoor Film Festival picked up “Burn it Down,” so I’m going to Germany and Holland for that in October. Im also working with the EU on some humanitarian missions in war torn parts of the world. As my schedule fills up, filming seems to be taking up more and more of a precedent over racing. It’s also good for me to keep rehabilitating my shoulder and not put myself in too many race situations I can’t control.

In Europe with @radesigns! Come skate! @louispilloni @jimmyriha @jackognarsteeze

A photo posted by James Kelly (@jameskelly_shm) on

Thanks for the Q&A James, any last words?

Thanks for the time and interest Les! Nice catching up a bit. Thanks to everyone that’s making this possible. Umm, and to everyone reading this, always skate for fun! Don’t let anyone tell you how you should skate.

Be sure to check out the whole La Reunion Series and the new Caliber Midnight Satin Trucks!



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