Kelly Lynn Talk Story with Bill Danforth

KELLY LYNN INTERVIEW BY BILL DANFORTH WITH INTRODUCTION BY TOM GROHOLSKI

As a grom, growing up in the 70’s, I looked to Kelly Lynn, Bella Horvath and Eric Dressen for inspiration. They rule. Pint sized rippers from the start. Still doing it? Kelly is. Decades of skateboarding experience and miles done, it shows in Kelly’s style. It’s so obvious, you can just tell. With a keen eye for lines and attention to detail, Kelly is a bastion of pure no b.s. skateboarding. A fluid, modest, dedicated lifer whose love for the glide has never waned, Kelly Lynn is still ripping and still inspiring. – TOM GROHOLSKI

Let me start by saying that I’m honored to do this interview with you. You’ve been one of my idols since I was a kid even though we are close to the same age. 

Thank you. That means a lot coming from you Bill!

Let’s start with the basics. Where is your hometown? 

I live in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. It’s a little beach town on the East Coast of Central Florida. My family is originally from Occoquan, Virginia. We moved to Florida when I was five years old, and I started surfing and skating around age 8 or 9.   

Cool. The first skatepark in the country, Skateboard City, was built in Port Orange, Florida, and you were a team member. Tell me what that skatepark meant to you.

At first, it was called ScatBoard City. They had a caricature of a skateboarding cat on the original sign. Later that year, they changed it to Skateboard City. That’s where it all started. It was the first  concrete skatepark to open in the United States. There was a race to finish with the Carlsbad, California, park and evidently Skateboard City opened a few days sooner in 1976. Luckily, it was only 15 minutes from my parents’ house and my mom would take me and a few friends there every weekend. It got to the point where she would leave us there and pick us up at the end of the day. That’s where my first legitimate contest was. They held the Florida State Championships there in 1976. I won the Freestyle event in the boys division and went on to compete against the winners of all other age groups and won the title of Florida State Overall Freestyle Champion. I was only 11 years old and I think it surprised some people that a little kid ended up winning it. I was stoked beyond belief and that motivated me to skate even more. That’s where I met the guys I ended up skating with, our Daytona Beach crew. People came from Ormond, which is to the North, and Orlando, which is to the West, and New Smyrna, from the South, and we all met at Skateboard City. We were extremely excited when that park opened up. It changed our lives. 

KELLY WITH 1ST CHRISTIE AT TOP OF BOWL AT SKATEBOARD CITY IN PORT ORANGE, FL IN ‘77.

What kind of skateboard were you riding then? Was it loose ball bearings?

Yeah. I’d been skating a few years before Skateboard City opened. I started out cutting a roller skate in half that had steel wheels and a homemade plywood board, and then I got a clay wheeled board from a local surf shop. When Skateboard City opened, we were riding urethane wheels and loose ball bearings wheels. Within a year, Road Riders with precision bearings came out and everyone was riding them. Decks were solid oak or fiberglass. I got a G&S Fibreflex as soon as they came out and I had a quiver of boards ranging from small freestyle decks to old water skis with trucks and wheels mounted to them. 

Did that surf shop happen to be West Wind Surf Shop in Daytona?

West Wind Surf Shop was actually the second surf shop that I rode for. The first one that got me started was a local surf shop in New Smyrna called Nichols Surf Shop. Dave Nichols owned it and my brother was in with the Nichols surf crew. There were a lot of guys that hung out at the shop, before and after surfing, and I got in with those guys. Although I was a few years younger than most of them, I started hanging out at the surf shop after surfing and they would skate in the parking lot. They sold skateboards in the shop, so that really caught my interest and that’s where it started.

Here’s a lucky guess. When you started to skateboard, did you skateboard barefoot?

Lucky guess. Yes. When we first started skating, we were coming back from surfing and all we’d have on were baggies and they’d be dripping saltwater on your board. No shirt. No shoes. Just having fun trying to emulate surfing and doing surf moves in the parking lot. 

“I’ve always loved the diversity in skating. There are so many different aspects of it. I’m most excited to see where skatepark design goes in the future. I’d love to see the designs get more creative and wild. In a way, I think new terrain will dictate the progression of skateboarding, so a huge thanks to the skatepark builders out there moving things forward. Oh, and will somebody PLEASE build a full pipe in Florida!”

You gotta love that. We’re talking about the mid-70s?

It was ‘74 or ‘75. That scene continued at the surf shop through the years of Skateboard City into the late ‘70s. 

Did you realize that a lot of surfers, at the time, were looking at skateboarding like it wasn’t just a hobby and it could turn into what it is now?

All we really knew is that it was fun and new. We could pretend like we were surfing and it was something different. That’s all we really thought about. Who could have known that it would turn into what it has? We just did it because it was fun and available. You can’t surf all of the time, so when we weren’t surfing, we were skating. 

Growing up at Skateboard City, who were some of the biggest influences that you looked up to as a kid that would come to town or that you got to skate with?

I remember meeting Bruce Walker at the first big skate contest they had there. I was this little kid and he was this giant tall man and he was super cool. It was my first time seeing a famous skateboarder in person that had been in a magazine. Bruce and I went on to become good friends. All of the guys in Daytona Beach were big influences. I’d say Clyde Rogers was one of the biggest influences on me. We pushed each other and became teammates. There was always a little competition there, but it was all good. He would win one and I would win one, so it was back and forth a lot. I’d say another huge influence would be Mark Lake. I’d seen Mark in one of the local East Coast magazines, Skate Rider, and meeting him for the first time was very impressive. I also have to say that Skateboarder magazine was a huge deal for me. It was our only connection to the skateboard world then. It was the bible and the lifeline. Eventually, I got a subscription but, at first, I was buying it at the 7-Eleven near my house. I would ride my bike there every day to see if the latest issue had shown up. There were early pictures of Tony Alva, Steve Olson and Brad Bowman and their rebellious punk rock style and I always related to that, wanting to be different. That really got me motivated. I used to paint leopard skin patterns on everything and dress up like Alva with my headband and do the same things he was doing. He was a huge influence at the time. 

KELLY FLYS OVER GRITTY TERRAIN IN THE SNAKE RUN AT THE SENSATION BASIN IN GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA, CIRCA ‘79. PHOTO: ROBERT HOUGHAM

Tell me about the Z-Boys East team. 

We encountered those guys on our trips to Jacksonville and they were super cool. They had a hardcore image and always wore black and skated more aggressively than the average person. The two guys that stick in my mind the most were George Wilson and Jimmy Plumer. I remember seeing George Wilson at Skateboard City before I had met any of them. Back then the lips on the edges of skatepark bowls were rolled over and there wasn’t any tile or coping. At the top, where it rolled over on the backside, there was a hard jagged concrete edge. We would do lipslides and flop our wheels over up onto the lip, but I had never really seen anybody do a full on hardcore grind on the edge. I remember seeing George Wilson coming down the run at me and he went up into a frontside carve on the wall and he hung his wheels over the edge of the lip and did a double truck 10-foot long grind and chunks of concrete went flying. It was loud and scary and it was the best. I was in pure amazement watching him. It’s stuck in my mind to this day. It’s 43 years later and I’m still talking about it. That was a huge influence.

Is that why he invented the Z-Roller?

[Laughs] Well, it probably would have helped, but it wouldn’t have been so much fun. The idea of        destroying coping made it all that much cooler. 

There’s a side note for George Wilson. He’ll love that one. 

Absolutely. My other memory of Jacksonville was Jimmy Plumer dropping in from the top of the hill into the main bowl at Kona. If you’ve been to Kona, you know there’s a huge hill in the center and it used to be 15-20 feet taller, before they leveled it off. He would start pushing from the top and skirt the edge of the concrete all the way down until it was time to drop in to the left into that big 15’ deep bowl. At the top, before you go over the peak, there’s a bump that you’d have to hit and your feet would shift a little bit and it was super sketchy. Plumer would drop in doing what seemed like 100mph around the bowl. It’s another one of those things that I witnessed that has never left me.

You got to witness a lot of skateboard history that was created here in Florida. Tell me about Kona. Did you ride Kona before the Ramos family owned it?

Yeah. I really wasn’t aware of who owned it back then, but I was there the first year they opened and I was at the first big contest they had. The first time I walked out the back door of the pro shop was a little overwhelming. It had all of this crazy terrain as far as the eye could see!

All praise to Kona. The Ramos family took Kona over and created an empire that is 40 years and going and it’s a mecca for people to go skate. 

Absolutely. It’s a huge part of skateboarding’s past and present. The place oozes history. If you’re a skater and you haven’t been, I highly recommend it.

KONA BANKED SLALOM CIRCA 2006. PHOTO: KENNY MOLLICA

What is your best memory from Kona? 

There are so many. Being one of the 12 charter members to be inducted into the Florida Skateboard Hall of Fame at Kona in 2002 is up there at the top. Another fond memory involves the snake run. From the very first contest that I went to there, they’ve had a banked slalom race in the snake run. Back then there would usually be a freestyle contest, a bowl contest and a snake run race. Banked slalom is something that came natural to me because I could relate it to surfing, so I entered pretty much every race they ever had in that snake run. In 2007, at Kona’s 30th reunion, I finally won it. I almost broke down in tears. It meant more to me than anyone could ever imagine. I’d wanted to win that race for 30 years.

That’s history. That’s something you can be totally proud of. Did you ever think when you first picked up a skateboard that you’d win a contest at the world’s oldest surviving private skatepark?

Well, when you first start out, you’re just doing it for fun. You’re not thinking about what’s going to happen. It just evolved and, before you know it, you’re entering contests. That snake run race is the kind of thing that you don’t really realize how hard it is until you try it. It’s not flowing through the natural curves of the course like you would if there weren’t any cones. The cones are set up in weird places on the hips of the course and you’re really going against the natural flow of the snake run in some places and that’s what makes it interesting. If you don’t respect it, you’ll end up getting served. Hell, even if you do respect it, you’ll end up getting served occasionally.

Is that why the Indian School Ditch Race interested you? Did that bring back early skateboarding to you, where your wheels don’t leave the ground and you just enjoy riding your skateboard fast?

There’s something to be said for feeling the vibration of the ground and the wind in your face, that’s for sure. It goes back to the basics of speed and carving. My first experience in Albuquerque was in 2002. George McClellan had moved out there and hooked up with Rob Palmer, who had a killer pool in his backyard. Those guys started putting on ditch races and, in 2002, George got Chris Baucom and I out there. He sold one of his old Sims Taper Kicks and bought us plane tickets. I was instantly hooked. I had no idea that there were ditches that good, that long and that fast that you could skate. There are so many out there. It’s endless. The Indian School Ditch changed my life. It’s so long and fast. It’s like surfing a wave for as long as you want and as fast as you want to go.

The Indian School Ditch was definitely a game changer and Albuquerque has such good skateboard love. 

Yeah. It still feels like my home away from home. Chuck Dinkins and I and others started going out there every year for the races. At the time, Chuck and I were partners in Soul Trip Skateboards, along with Bruce Walker and Clay King. We would go on skate tours based out of Albuquerque up into Colorado and promote Soul Trip. The Indian School Race, at that time, was still underground and you felt privileged just to be a part of it. Palmer always had a good pool session and party at his place in the evening and the Black Leather Racing and Sector 9 crews were always there and there were cool locals and good parties. The Ditch Slap event that Joe Lehm puts on every year is a blast as well. We continued to go out there every year until around 2010. It’s something that I really miss and plan to do again when I get the chance.

K.L. TAIL PIVOT. PHOTO: KEN FORSYTH

Albuquerque misses you. Tell me about the first skate road trip you ever took.

Well, one of the first and the longest was our road trip to California to promote Markel Skateboards in 1978. Our models were all in production as well as the Clyde Slide (lapper), which was Clyde’s invention. We decided we would go to California for a couple weeks and skate some new parks and promote Markel. There were five of us piled into a beat up old Ford station wagon with an exhaust leak. It was me, Clyde, Seadog, Mark’s wife Elizabeth, and her best friend. Elizabeth decided at the last minute to bring her little dog, Bilbo, who ended up having to use the bathroom every hour. Mark stayed in Florida and was pumping out decks as fast as he could. We took our time on the way out and stopped at a couple of parks in Texas and Arizona, but that’s a little blurry. When we got into San Diego, it was late in the evening and we went straight to the beach to see the Pacific Ocean. After that, for some reason, we ended up going to this huge circular drive-in theater. We were all completely exhausted from three days of driving and everyone passed out cold in the car watching the movie. I remember waking up in the middle of the night to some guy banging on the window yelling at us that we had to leave. I looked out the window and the entire drive-in was empty. We were in the middle of this giant lot and we were the only car left. We all got a laugh out of that one and I think we ended up parking and sleeping the rest of the night in a Denny’s parking lot. Over the next few days, we went to Oasis, Skateboard Odyssey, Big-O and Vista, which had that amazing pool. We ran into Steve and Mickey Alba there and got to skate with them, which was really cool. I remember leaving Oasis one night and the whole G&S team was standing in the parking all decked out in their red and gold team gear. Ellen O’Neal walked over to me and said, “Hey, you were ripping in there!” I’ll never forget it. It was like a page out of SkateBoarder coming to life and giving me a compliment. The rest of the trip is blurry, but I remember, on the way back, the exhaust leak in the wagon got really bad and we had to keep the windows down pretty much the entire time. When we hit Texas, it started raining and did not stop for an entire day. We were forced to keep the windows down and get soaking wet or risk dying of carbon monoxide poisoning. The entire ride back to Florida was grueling, but still fun. It was an adventure I’ll never forget. Thank you mom and dad for trusting me enough to take off and do that at the age of 14.

K.L. OVER DEL MAR IN 1979. PHOTO: BRUCE WALKER

What music did you listen to then?

For me, it was mainly a mixture of new wave and punk rock. It was The Cars, Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello, Devo, B-52s, Sex Pistols and Black Flag. Also throw in some Rockabilly like The Stray Cats and The Cramps, which are probably my all-time favorite band.

Now I want to take it back to Tomoka Moon Forest Skatepark. What kind of acid-induced skatepark was that with the Skater Crater? Was that the craziest thing you ever rode?

Yes. It was way ahead of its time. It started out as a mellow park with this real surfy moon landscape. The name really fit. There were these surfy winding runs going through the trees and it was all shaded. It was a really cool atmosphere in there under this canopy. It was built on a hillside that fed down to this river and I don’t think they had to bring any fill dirt in. It was just the natural flow of the land. Eventually, they built this little asphalt slalom run down the middle. Then they decided they were going to build this big thing called the Skater Crater and it was crazy. Even by today’s standards, it was wild looking. It had big narrow peaks that were 12 feet high and only a couple feet wide at the top. There was a little bowl at one end that was split and it had a hip in the center of it that came up to a point. There was a giant wall that had four foot of vert on it with a five-foot transition at the bottom and whippy hooked pockets that threw you around in the opposite direction. Every section was painted a different color. One section was white and another was lime green and another was blue, some with polka dots on them. They had recessed PVC pipes with lights built into the walls, and you could go over them like a death box. It really was like an acid trip. It was cool.

“Turning somebody on to skateboarding is one of the best things you could do for them. You’re giving them something that will help them grow, something they can love and enjoy and carry through their whole life.”

It was built in the middle of a jungle and they had two little trailers as their pro shop. That place was so ahead of its time. Can you imagine the things people would do on that now in modern skateboarding?

Yeah. I’d love to see it. It would be fun to go back in time and ride it again. Maybe somebody will recreate it if we’re all lucky.

I don’t think there are enough of us left that remember it. It was in a magazine one time when they did a Cherry Hill issue. They did a Guadalajara, Mexico, skate story and showed four other parks. 

Yeah. It’s one of these elusive places and there were not a lot of images published of the place. You really have to search to find anything of it. In my own personal collection, I only have a handful of photos and a short two-minute long video clip. Nowadays people get video of everything. Back then we were just skating and having fun. No one really stopped and took the time to get a Pocket Instamatic 110 out and start snapping photos or wind up a hand crank 8mm Brownie camera.

Is there anything left of the park?

There is actually. They never took it away. They just broke it up into chunks. I drive by it all the time still and I’ve gone back in there two or three times over the years. The last time was about ten years ago in 2009. My buddy, Mike Duncan, and I went back in there exploring and he found a half-buried  homemade coper. The asphalt hill was still there and all of the concrete is there. It’s just sunken into the earth and half buried. A fellow skater, Chris West, actually brought me a piece of the Skater Crater that he found while he was digging around up there. It has lime green paint on it and it’s one of my most treasured possessions. 

Of all the skateparks I ever rode, that one had to be the craziest just because of the setting. You had to drive through the sketchiest little driveway to get there. 

Yeah. It was a narrow dirt road through the woods to get in there and it was a cool atmosphere. It felt like you were in your own little world, sealed off from everything else. 

You got to skate in the Hester Series?

I got to skate in the ‘79 Whittier contest while we were on one of our California trips.

Was it you and George McClellan?

I flew out there with Clyde. We had just gotten sponsored by G&S. I don’t remember if George was in that one or not. There’s a reason that my memory is sketchy from that because it’s one of those things that started out really good and didn’t end so great. My first two runs in the prelims were halfway decent and I felt like I was going to make it into the finals. Everyone had to do three runs and, at the very end of my second run, I decided to do a bonus frontside roll in. I hung up and free fell all the way to the flat bottom and hit my head. That’s when the early Flyaway helmets had the padding that looked like the design on the outside. It didn’t go all the way around. There were just three strips of padding. Right between those strips in the front, there’s your head and fiberglass and that’s where I hit. I don’t know how I even climbed out of the bottom of the bowl. I barely made it up the slippery waterfall and I was seeing stars and this egg popped out of my forehead and I wasn’t able to do my third run. That was a bummer. Up to that point, I had a great time on that trip, but I don’t remember much after that. 

Florida had more skateparks than California, but California grew faster with building more parks. Did you think that there was an East Coast versus West Coast rivalry? 

Yeah. I think that’s unavoidable. There’s always going to be competition between different areas. It’s just wanting to one-up each other. The Florida skaters banded together and it was a close-knit group. There were more skaters in California and they got the majority of the magazine coverage, but Florida has always been the underdog and people like underdogs. 

In Florida, we have our own way. Florida skaters band together. If California broke off of the continent and floated away, skateboarding would still be strong in Florida because we’ve got our own scene. 

Absolutely. I’m proud that Florida is like that. I think that’s the way it should be. There will always be competition, but when we went on trips to other states, everyone was cool and welcomed us with open arms.

“There’s always going to be competition between different areas. It’s just wanting to one-up each other. The Florida skaters banded together and it was a close-knit group. There were more skaters in California and they got the majority of the magazine coverage, but Florida has always been the underdog and people like underdogs.”

Texas welcomes skateboarders. Florida welcomes skateboarders. It’s different on the West Coast. You’re not always welcome and you have to go there and prove yourself. Okay, let me ask you this. What was Shawn Peddie’s pool all about? 

His parents had a concrete pool built just for him to skate on their property in north Florida. We went there a few times after they built it. It was pretty crazy. It was a big keyhole with a roll in, but the transitions were weird. They were trying to grind the coping down because they built this big slab of a deck around it and it was big coping that stuck out a few inches with square edges. They were in the process of grinding it down to make it more rideable. A few years back Tony Walsh gave me a video of him and a couple other guys riding it in the ‘90s. I guess they went out there and cleaned it out. I think it’s been demolished since then. That’s the rumor, but I don’t know for sure. 

What did you think when Stone Edge opened? Did you think that was kind of a rebirth of concrete here in Florida?

Well, in my opinion, the rebirth really didn’t happen until around 2001 when the Treaty Park in St.           Augustine opened. That seemed like the beginning of the rebirth of the concrete parks in Florida. Stone Edge was great and it filled the gap between the ‘80s and 2001. I don’t know what I would have done without it because there really wouldn’t have been any decent place to skate in those years. There were a lot of good vert skaters that came there from all over. 

That Ocala park wasn’t doing much for people besides the monstrosity of the steel ramp. 

Ocala was a little too far for us. We would go up there occasionally, but that was an all day thing. Stone Edge was right there and available. At that point in my skating, I wasn’t competing and I didn’t really have sponsors. Bruce Walker was flowing me stuff through the ‘80s and the ‘90s and keeping me going, but it was all just for fun. Around 2001, when the parks started popping up everywhere, I started to get back into it on a more regular basis. 

STYLISH SMITH AT BETHUNE POINT SKATEPARK IN DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA IN 2014. PHOTO: KIM ROBERTS

Did sponsorship really matter to you or was it just your love for skateboarding that kept you going all these years?

Well, everybody likes to be sponsored for sure. Equipment is not cheap, if you have to pay for it yourself, so sponsorship is great. At the base of it, we are doing what we love. I’d be doing it regardless and we wouldn’t be doing it if we weren’t having fun. Sponsorships are great, but it’s not everything. 

Right. Everyone likes to be supported, but you can get support from your brothers. Everybody’s always got something for you. Give me a short list of the people that you looked up to and gave you the inspiration to do what you’re still doing. 

I’d have to say it started with Clyde Rogers. Seeing him skate a pool taught me how to approach things. It’s that all-or-nothing aggressive approach that he and Mark Lake had. That was a big influence on me. Later in life, it’s guys like my friend Bob Harkness (Old Man Bob). You can tell they’re lifelong skaters and they’re going to skate forever because they love it and it makes them smile. George McClellan is another one of those guys and he has had a big influence on me too. George McClellan and Rob Palmer and those trips to Albuquerque really revived that feeling that I had as a kid and brought my love for skateboarding back even stronger. We’ve got such a cool crew that comes to my bowl every weekend too. It’s a blast. There are too many to name them all but you know who you are and thank you all for making my backyard dream complete. Watching Buck Smith and Todd Johnson skate anything is amazing. It’s such a contrast between styles, but both are so inspiring. In recent years, getting to skate with Tom Groholski has been very inspiring. We had a session at my place with Tom Groholski, Brad Bowman and Michael Early that was amazing. Then it’s watching video of guys that I don’t know, like Peter Hewitt, Grant Taylor and Chris Russell and guys like Raven Tershy, that skate super fast and aggressive. Watching videos of those guys really gets me motivated.

Tell me about the Oaks backyard pool in Daytona Beach. 

Oaks was a place where an elderly lady, Mrs. Oaks, lived in Daytona Beach. Clyde Rogers and Ben         Duffet befriended her. Ben’s younger brother, John, and his friend Steve were cutting through her yard one day and stumbled across the pool. They let Ben know and Ben told Clyde and they went over and talked her into letting them drain it and skate it. In exchange, they did some yard work for her and cleaned the pool area up and made it look really nice. It had been out of service for years and it was full of the typical gunk and mud. They got it cleaned up and started skating it and then word got out. In the beginning, it was really harsh. It was a bowled bottom going up to a straight vert wall that was three to four feet of vert. It had turquoise tile and perfect bullnose coping. In Florida, most pools either had no coping or split gutters or there was something weird going on around the top edge. This one was perfect as far as that goes, but the kink was really harsh. You’d either have to carve around the bottom really mellow or you’d push as hard as you could and throw it up on the wall like a wall ride. After a few months, everyone decided that they were going to try to patch it. They asked Mrs. Oaks and she said that she didn’t care. So they got in there and I remember seeing them mix concrete in a wheelbarrow with shovels and try to patch this kink. At first, they did it in three spots so that you could work it like a triangle back and forth. It worked so good that they eventually patched the whole thing all the way around. Once they did that, it really opened things up. Within a month or so, people were grinding and getting airs out of the top and doing pivots and rock n’ rolls and everything you could imagine. It really exploded and got really heavy very quickly. It lasted from 1977 to 1980.

You were involved in getting your local skatepark built in New Smyrna Beach.

Yes, myself, Mike Duncan, Danny Young, Ian Bellafiore, Tony Misiano, Kelly Ball and Susan Renzulli formed the NSB Skate Committee. We started going to city meetings and went back and forth with the city officials for six years before it finally happened. It was a long, sometimes discouraging road, but so rewarding and worth it in the end. The city really stepped up and came through for us eventually. They provided the land and gave us matching funds so we could apply for a Volusia County ECHO Grant. I don’t think anybody was expecting us to get it, but we did. Once that happened and the finances were there it all fell into place. Danny Young was the driving force behind the committee and is more responsible for us getting the grant than anyone. We also were awarded a grant for $5,000 from the Tony Hawk Foundation. Team Pain was awarded the job and, working along with Tony Misiano who was the general contractor, they built us an amazing skatepark. I’m proud to say that we just celebrated the NSB Skatepark 10th anniversary! Tary Valle and his family do a great job of managing the park for the city and have free lessons on the weekends for kids. The real lesson is don’t give up. Persistence usually wins in the end. 

KELLY WITH HIS SIGNATURE LAYBACK AIR AT WALTON’S IN THE ‘80S.

Most Florida skateboarders are also construction workers and they make stuff to skate. Team Pain is building skateparks all over the world. How do you feel about all the new public skateparks being built in Florida and across the country?

It’s insane. There are so many good parks everywhere. I never would have dreamed that it would be like this. I’m centrally located in Florida, so I almost feel guilty because an hour, in any direction, there are several killer parks to choose from. It’s amazing. Because of that, you’re getting all these great skaters that are growing up here. There are all these kids killing it because they got a great park built in their neighborhood. It’s the best thing ever for skateboarding. It really is. 

It’s amazing. If you build it, people will come. Florida has great skateboarders. Gavin Liller is one. That kid is going to be the next X Games champion and he’s got such a cool attitude. These kids have good options now. What do you think is the future for these kids? 

It will be really interesting to find out. And yes, Gavin is killing it these days. Every time I see him, he’s added something new to his bag of tricks. Mark my words, keep your eye on Cole, his little brother, too. Cole charges harder than most grown men. There are so many good kids out there now. Our grandson, Cadell, has become an amazing skater too. He does the coolest, most original stuff and he inspires me every time we skate together. The vert ramps are back now and there are a lot of people stoked on that. I’ve always loved the diversity in skating. There are so many different aspects of it. I’m most excited to see where skatepark design goes in the future. I’d love to see the designs get more creative and wild. I think that new terrain will dictate the progression of skateboarding, so a huge thanks to the skatepark builders out there moving things forward. Oh, and will somebody please build a full pipe in Florida!

Do you want to see skateboarding in the Olympics?

My initial gut reaction is a bit of a cringe, but I really don’t have a problem with it. When I was a kid, I held off on turning pro for a while because there was talk of it then. When I was growing up, the Olympics were always a big deal in our house. Even if skateboarding wasn’t in it, it was still a big deal then. I just hope they don’t have too many rules and that they allow the spontaneous creative side of skateboarding to shine. Skaters have never liked too many rules, so it does go against some major aspects of skating. It’s a hard call, but I can’t imagine anybody turning down a chance to go to the Olympics, if you had it. It will be interesting to watch it all unfold. I’ll be watching. 

Changing the subject to street skating. Where would street skating be without the ollie?

There would probably be a lot of people still using Clyde Slides (lappers) to get up curbs.

KELLY FINDS THE LINES AT LEADVILLE 2006. PHOTO: GEORGE MCCLELLAN

When you think of the ollie, you have to think of Florida because of Alan Gelfand. Talk about something truly revolutionary. How do you think that the ollie affected skateboarding? 

It’s become such a big part of it. It’s hard to even imagine skating without it now. It’s become          everything to a certain extent. The technique and popping your board and getting it off the ground like that is something that is part of pretty much everybody who skates. In some form or fashion, most skaters utilize the ollie. It’s one of those things that was inevitable. Someone was going to do it eventually and Alan certainly did it the best on vert back then.

That’s why Florida needs to get more credit than we usually get. The ollie was invented by Alan Gelfand and modern day street skating and freestyle was captured by Rodney Mullen. If you put Alan Gelfand and Rodney Mullen in a boxing ring, who do you think would win?

That would be a hard one. They were so different. Rodney was popping his board straight up vertical off the ground and Alan was popping it off a vertical wall. It was two completely different things, but it was the same technique applied in two different ways. They’re both masters.

You are very politically correct. Both are winners. 

[Laughs] I’m not trying to be politically correct. It’s true. 

I love your honesty. What do you think about the skateboarding youth now? They have these great facilities to skate and they have skate camps and all of these things to go to. What would be the first things that you would teach to a young skateboarder? 

Well, I’m living with my girlfriend of 11 years now, Kim, and we’re raising her 13-year-old grandson, Cadell, and we started him skating very early. We have video of him with a board under his feet when he was two. With him, it was get on it and start learning how to push and how to roll. We have this long driveway full of cracks and bumps. It’s like an obstacle course because it isn’t perfect, and that was the best thing for him because he learned to skate on this crappy driveway. In time, we could race to the end and back and he could burn me. It taught him so quickly how to control his board. After that, we got him in the bowl and started him carving, pumping and getting speed. He was even switch carving. Having a strong foundation is really important. It allows your style to develop. When you learn to carve and pump and do those kinds of things first, everything else builds on top of that.

“Being one of the 12 charter members to be inducted into the Florida Skateboard Hall of Fame in 2002 is up there at the top.”

It has to feel good to put your decades of skateboarding into developing skate youth. That’s a fulfillment in life.

It’s the best thing in the world. Anything I can pass on is rewarding. Turning somebody on to             skateboarding is one of the best things you could do for them. You’re giving them something that will help them grow, something they can love, enjoy and carry through their whole life. 

Skateboarding has been one of the saviors of my life. It’s a lifestyle and you do it in good times and bad times. 

Yeah. Skateboarding will teach you everything you need to know. It will serve you up and teach you a lesson if you screw up or it will reward you when you deserve it. It’s hard work and it doesn’t come super easy. That’s what’s so good about it. It’s that feeling after you learn something and you deserve it. It’s very rewarding and satisfying and fun. It’s a great release of aggression too. That was a big thing for me growing up. If you’re ever pissed off about something, you can just go grind a pool. Grind anything. Grind a damn curb and, before you know it, everything is cool. 

Yeah. Go grind something! Tell me about the layback air. You invented that. 

I certainly came up with it and I had never seen anybody else do it. It was in ‘78. The first legit layback air that I ever did was in the pool at Gainesville at Sensation Basin.

KELLY PERFECTS HIS LAYBACK AIR INVENTION AT THE SENSATION BASIN POOL BOWL IN 1979. PHOTO: ROBERT HOUGHAM

Sensation Abrasion where you were afraid to fall because it was really rough and harsh. 

Yeah. That was a big thing there. You didn’t want to fall off. You really didn’t. If you were ever there, you remember the pool bowl. The right side of that bowl was mellow and the other side had a bit of vert to it. I started out in the back right corner and I was going up and doing these little layback hops to tail. A lot of people think that the layback invert to tail was something that evolved after the layback air. It was actually the reverse for me. I was trying it to tail and I’d go up put my back hand down and grab like a layback air and land it on my back truck or my tail and pivot back in. On one of them, I pulled out a little further trying to get higher and, when I came in, I missed my tail and landed inside the bowl and ate shit. That sparked the idea that I could probably land it inside and make it like a regular frontside type of invert. I was super excited because, at that point, I had seen Bobby Valdez do a backside invert in SkateBoarder, but I had never seen anybody do a legit frontside invert of any kind. They were doing frontside airs like a Bert handplant and landing  sideways and sliding down the wall, but nobody was landing straight and rolling out of it. So I went back and, within a few tries, I popped one about six inches out and landed it inside the bowl and rolled out of it straight. As soon as that happened, it all clicked and I started pushing them up higher. Then I moved over to the other side of the pool where there was about a foot of vert and I started doing them there. Eventually, I was doing them in that snake run that had about three or four feet of vert. 

Some people, like Tom Groholski and the Worm from Wisconsin and Todd Joseph, took your trick and made it the most impactful trick. They winded it around to being an invert. I did the same thing. It was about getting it as high as you can and twisting it around. The only way to make that trick cool is to do it right. We all thank you for inventing that. 

Well, thank you, Bill. When I first did it, it was a  layback air. Some people called it a layback invert. My buddies were joking about calling it a Lynnvert. It all started out trying to look like a surf move, like a layback on a wave. I wanted to see spray flying through the air. It was supposed to be like a big arc, like a regular layback where you go up and do a layback grind. I always tried to do it so that I went up and got upside down pushing the tail out and came in nose first. What you and other guys were doing took it to the next level by extending it and wrapping it around. That was super cool. To me, that didn’t look like a layback. I almost felt like that should have had a different name. I think Baucom called them layback airs to backside invert. There was the Todd twist too. 

Then you’ve got the Worm in Wisconsin.

Yeah. The main guys I’m aware of that did it in the way that I envisioned it being done and eventually took it to the next level were McGill and Hosoi. Hosoi did it beautifully, just the way I pictured it. He’d come in nose first, just like you were on a surfboard. I’ve seen video of Allen Losi doing super extended beautiful ones. That’s what I was picturing. I could get them upside down, but I couldn’t extend them. I couldn’t get the stretch and straighten my legs out. I was a little rubber man back in those days. I could get balled up and get upside down and pull it back underneath of me, but they took it to the next level and extended it upside down and brought it in nose first. I’ll be the first to admit it’s a hard trick to make look good but, when done right, it’s a thing of beauty!

Well, the raddest thing is that it’s a trick that you invented. It goes on to all of these levels through all of the decades of skateboarding. You have to feel proud  because it was badass. 

Thanks, Bill. I appreciate it. It was cool to see it catch on. After I did the first ones and then did them in a contest, it was like wildfire. Everywhere you went people were doing layback airs. There was a shot of McGill doing one in a magazine shortly after that. Everybody was doing it as soon as that came out. It really caught on. Even when   people weren’t doing it exactly the way that I was doing it, it was still so cool to see. 

You can look back at the Lake flip that turned into the Miller flip. The reason it got to be called the Miller flip was because it was posted first in California before it was posted in Florida. That’s a Lake flip. It’s not a Miller flip.

Technically, it’s the same maneuver. It’s two very different techniques to do the same thing. Mark’s Lake Flip was heavy. It’s more like a back flip. There was no twisting involved, he would go straight up and over and land it backwards. The nose of his board would sometimes hit and his wheels would slam down and come straight out of it. That’s way heavier and way harder for sure.

The only reason they do it in California on the other side is so they can get a photo of their faces. Mark didn’t give a shit.  

[Laughs] Yeah. It was about getting rad and doing something heavy. Mark definitely did some heavy ones. You don’t see anybody doing them like that anymore. 

What kind of influence do you think that the Skatepark of Tampa had on Florida? It was one of the most internationally accepted things here in Florida to have the Skatepark of Tampa being what it is and the legacy of the Tampa Am and Tampa Pro contests?

Yeah. It’s a big deal. I haven’t been part of that scene as much as I’d have liked to, but they definitely put Florida on the map in a lot of ways. It’s a huge part of skateboarding. Skateboarders running a down-to-earth core park like that with people coming from all over the world to those contests says it all. You have to hand it to those guys. They earned it. It’s made a huge impact. 

Where were you skating in the ‘80s when the parks started closing?

When the parks started shutting down, the backyard ramp scene surfaced. At first, I was still too young to drive anywhere, so I was kind of isolated in this little surf town and I started surfing more. Then I got a few friends together and we built a vert ramp on my friend Scotty Walton’s property out in the woods here in New Smyrna. We were skating that through the ‘80s. That got me through that period, and it was our own little scene out there. I was out of the contest loop and not sponsored and just skating for fun. I was surfing a lot and, once I started driving, I really got into customizing VW’s. In the ‘90s, I had discovered snowboarding, so I was surfing and skating and snowboarding just for fun and having a blast. Around 2001, when the concrete parks started popping up again, I dove headfirst back into skating. I was so happy and it just awakened everything.

During the days that they had the Cambodia Ramps and the big ramp jams down in the Miami area, did you make it to any of those?

I remember going to one of the Cambodia contests, but I didn’t enter. I just went to check it out with a friend. It was a cool, great atmosphere. McGill was trying to see how many McTwists he could do in a row. I think he did four or five back to back that day. I’m sure he could do more.

What are your thoughts now about the progression of skateboarding?

I feel pretty honored to have gotten in on the ground floor and witnessed skateboarding evolve from the beginning, from barefoot and steel wheels, up to what it is today. The timing was perfect for me. Skateboarders are getting older as well as new ones being born. People like you and I are among the first skateboarders that are growing old with the sport. We’re the first significant skateboarding generation of any size that is growing older together. When I turned 30, I remember wondering if it would soon all be over and I wouldn’t be able to skate much anymore. Now people are skating into their 40s, 50s and 60s, and it’s going to be more common as time goes on. The age of the average skater is going to continue to rise and it’s going to be interesting to see what happens. I’m still doing it to this day and I’m going to go as long and as hard as I can. It’s hard to explain to somebody who isn’t a skater what it means to be a skateboarder. It’s hard to put into words. It’s something you feel. It’s something you do. It’s a passion. To share that with other skaters, it’s the best thing in the world. That’s what skating is all about, that  camaraderie and that shared  passion with your buddies. 

Excellent. Throw some shout outs to those people that have supported you and helped you.

Thank you to Tony Misiano for all the hard labor, getting the permit and motivating me to build my bowl six years ago. Special thanks to Drew Carcose, Matt Call, Joe Storm, Jay Turner, Adam Calderwood, Big Tony, Matt Dresser, William, Boone, Kyle, Garr and everyone else that got down and dirty and helped make my backyard dream a  reality. I owe a lot to my sponsors when I was younger: Nichols Surf Shop, West Wind Surf Shop and Skateboard City. Charlie Gonzales was a huge influence and friend growing up. He was our team captain and he put me on Santana, and then the east coast Santa Cruz team. After that, Mark Lewis started Markel and he put me, Clyde and SeaDog on and gave us our own models. That was super motivating. After Markel dissolved, Clyde and I got picked up by Gordon & Smith and Dave McIntyre took us in. 

Wow. That’s back when Mac was with G&S. 

Yes. Steve Cathey was team captain at that point. They brought us into the skateboard distribution warehouse and just let us start grabbing stuff. We were in heaven. Everywhere you looked there were skateboards stacked up and boxes full of wheels and stickers. Going to California and skating with Dave Andrecht, Pineapple, Pat Weaver and that whole crew in San Diego on G&S at the time was super motivating. That whole trip was great. We mainly skated Oasis while we were there. I remember Pat Benatar played a show one night at the skatepark. Going back to the very beginning, I have to thank my mom and dad for being so cool and promoting skateboarding so much and helping us when we were kids. They were super supportive. I remember there was a drainage ditch in the middle of U.S.1 down south of where we lived. We had seen it driving by and we were begging my mom to stop and let us skate it, not   expecting that she ever would. One weekend, we talked her into driving me and my brother Fred and a few of us down there. She parked on the side of U.S.1 and let us skate this drainage ditch for half an hour while cars were zooming by on the highway. We thought it was the coolest thing in the world. She was a little sketched out, but she did it. That’s just cool.

Life ain’t worth living without sketching your parents out a little bit. 

That’s your job when you’re a kid. I’m experiencing it from the other side now with Cadell. I want to thank my girlfriend, Kim, too. I love her so much. We’ve been through a lot together and I’ve learned so much from her. Skating with our grandson, Cadell, has been a life changer. I love him like a son and watching him progress in skating is really cool. My older brother, Fred, got me into surfing and skating when I was a kid, so I owe him a lot too. 

What are you doing now for work?

Well, to pay the bills, I’ve really gotten into Mid Century Modern and Danish Modern Furniture from the ‘60s and ‘70s mainly. I go out and find it and restore it and bring it back to life and resell it. We collect it and we have a lot of cool furniture in the house. I really have an appreciation for it and modern design in general. That is a big part of my life now. I’ve always liked to work with my hands and seeing something that has been discarded sitting on the side of the road, and bringing it back to life and then placing it in somebody’s home that appreciates it for what it is, is a really good feeling. I feel like I’ve preserved a piece of art, so I enjoy doing that. I’ve also been making skateboards for me and Cadell. I experiment with shapes here in the garage and I really love that and I’d like to do more of that in the future. I was an Art Director for over 20 years, working in a cubicle, for a screen-printing company doing computer graphics, website design and t-shirt separations. It was an amazing job working for really good people but, after 20 years of that, I enjoy getting out and  working with my hands again and getting dirty. 

How can people see your handcrafted and refurbished furniture?

You can search locally on any Craigslist in Central Florida for KLVintageModern or on Instagram @KellyLynnSkates.

“The first legit layback air that I ever did was in the pool at Gainesville at Sensation Basin.”

People would be really lucky to have something handcrafted by Kelly Lynn. You handcrafted the layback air and that’s, to me, the best trick in history. 

Well, okay, I agree. [Laughs]

This is a great way to end the interview. 

This was fun, Bill. I’m super honored to be in Juice. Pools, pipes and punk rock is everything I love. It’s my favorite skate mag for sure and this is a big deal for me.

You’re a legend and a pioneer and all respect goes out to you. We’re neighbors, so I’ll see you soon at your bowl. 

Yes. I look forward to the next batch of your skate burritos! I’m so stoked you moved back to Florida. Thanks Bill and everybody at Juice. 

FOR THE REST OF THE STORY, GET ISSUE #77 AT THE JUICE SHOP HERE.

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