James Kelly Interview: Blood Orange Gloves and A Visit in Lebabon
James Kelly is one of the best skaters we know and recently got some signature Blood Orange slide gloves to keep his hands fresh when he’s out for a rip. As it turns out he’s a hell of a humanitarian and an all pro human as well. Everyone knows how well he skates, but given the opportunity to give back, James has taken his time to travel to some of the most challenged areas in the world and help refugees created from the crisis in Syria and help with a Right To Play, UNESCO project. [You can find out more about the project here.] Please read on to find out more from James and learn about the project.
Hey James. Last time we talked it was all about La Reunion and Caliber Midnight Satin release. Now you’ve got some fresh signature gloves and were in Lebanon? Busy guy!
Thanks! It’s definitely been a fun year.
Tell me about the Gloves? You and Liam have what looks like some matching sets with different graphics? Is there anything unique to your gloves vs. Liams besides the Graphic?
I’m stoked we finally got these gloves out. We’ve been tweaking these for over a year to get them just right. Both gloves have the same construction, focusing on a “light weight” “everyday use” design while reinforcing some high stress areas of the gloves with extra leather, stitching, or kevlar. The top graphics are a personal touch from Liam and I. Liam’s gloves feature a map of his home town hills in Oakland, CA. My gloves are a little taste of the coastal NorCal roads I grew up skating, picturing the drop in of an old gem.
Why is your graphic representative of you?
I guess because I feel like that spot is a little piece of me. Haha, that sounds so cheesy. It’s just that my friends and I would go there every Sunday during high school. The place featured on my gloves inspired my skating a lot. It gave me some amazing times and helped make me who I am.
What size do you wear?
You’re a pretty hands up guy it seems? But you have been a World Champ Racer too. Why are slide gloves an important part of your everyday equipment?
Every time I get asked this question I hear Cliff Coleman’s voice, “Slide gloves are the only piece of safety gear that not only protect you when you fall, but prevent you from falling.” Also just for the record, fast toeside pre-drifts might be the best feeling on a skate.
Are you back home now?
I am. Lving in Oakland with Liam.
Ha, I always think Petaluma!
Why exactly were you in Lebanon?
I met some awesome individuals over the summer that are working for the EU who hooked me up with my buddy Travis Beard. He’s setting up a skating/boardsports humanitarian initiative in Lebanon that focuses on refugee assimilation and relief. The initiative works to promote intercultural dialogue between youth through positive interaction. We mostly worked in areas of the country with high influxes of refugees created from the crisis in Syria. [You can find out more about the project here.]
The term culture shock is often used for people emerged in new places, contrasting with their own. Sometimes when they are there, but more often when they come home. Did you feel a shock on this trip when you were there? How about when you came home? What was the contrast?
I was told some good advice when I landed. It was told, “soak up as much information as you can, don’t worry about it now, then process it once you get home.” I didn’t understand it at the time but, that was a key piece of advise for my trip. I was only in Lebanon for four days. In that four days I filmed during 3 of them and did 4 work shops. Needless to say it was a jammed packed trip. I was constantly being bombarded with new cultural/political experiences and ideas. We filmed a few kilometers from an ISIS vs. Hezbollah battle, we got denied into high security areas while looking for hills, and also stumbled upon a Hezbollah camp while we were filming. That last experience had me scared for a moment. So I guess to answer your question about culture shock – to be honest – I changed my flight home and took a week in the Netherlands to digest my new perspectives.
Did your work there impact your off time? What was it like hunting hills versus volunteering?
It was a jammed packed trip. I arrived around 11 pm the first night, then woke up and 4am to catch the sunrise and some skate shots – it was non stop from there. We were going directly from hill hunting film sessions to work shops in the refugee camps. When we where hill hunting it kinda felt like we were cowboys in the wild west. Looking for spots while making sure not to go into the wrong zone. During the work shops I was surrounded by people that covered a wide, yet unique spectrum of inspiration for me – the corner stones being the NGO founders and the kids I was teaching to skate. So I just tripped out on that.
What of the hills? How were they? I was impressed by the hills in Lebanon! Geographically the country is similar to California. Its a long rectangle next to the coast where the mountains slowly rise to about 7000 feet from sea level as you move 60 miles inland. The terrain makes for some really long runs.
A photo posted by James Kelly (@jameskelly_shm) on
What was it like skating in whats regarded to a ‘conflict’ zone? Did you feel danger?
I never felt too at risk, but I did feel like if I went to the wrong place things could change quickly. When we where hill hunting for film spots in the south we were hopping around in some sketchy zones.
Is there a plan to return to Lebanon or work with this kind of programming further?
The plan right now is to return in March and help move things forward. The ultimate goal is to make a self sustaining board sport program then take this model to other areas in need.
How about more generally? What’s good for 2016?
2016 is looking as crazy as ever… thats all I can really say.
Thanks for the opportunity to learn more about your trip. Congrats on the new gloves as well. Any thing you want to leave us with I am missing?
Thank you Les! Always a pleasure. Na not really. You asked some good questions. I guess my advise to everyone reading is – Skate how you want to skate! And do it everyday!
Thanks to the crew!!! The Arbor Collective, Caliber Trucks, R.A.D. Wheels, Blood Orange, SkateHouseMedia, Daddies Boardshop! and of course my Mom! I also have to give a special thanks to Sick Boards in the Netherlands. I got the call very short notice that I was going to Lebanon, I was already in Europe and needed boards literately within 4 days. I called Lisa at Sick and she was happy to help set me up with about 10 completes for the trip to Lebanon. Thanks Lisa! Also thanks to Travis, Silvia, and Fabio!
Please watch parts 1, 2 & 3 of the tour:
Part 1 – Hunting for Hills
Part 2 – Are There Hills in Lebanon
Part 3 – Like Flying