Dave Kelso grew up in Idaho where he got his first skateboard, a Freeformer, in 1977, and started riding it in concrete irrigation ditches, around grain silos and on loading docks. He and his friends were seldom hassled for skating.
“There were so few of us skating in the 1980s that nobody knew what it was,” he said.
Kelso spent a year in France on an exchange program after high school, and then returned 10 years later, with skateboard in hand, to the city of Marseilles on the Mediterranean coast.
“There was an excellent skate park there. I checked into a youth hostel and rode every day for three weeks. I’ve seen a lot of France. I like Paris a lot,” he said.
Kelso, now 40, custom-assembles skateboards, and sells and rents snowboards and other gear at the Board Bin in Ketchum. In February, he will celebrate 20 years with the company, owned by Jim Slanetz and Karin Reichow.
“When the shop opened in 1988, everyone laughed at them and said it would never last,” Kelso said. “The equipment was crap back then but we didn’t care, we just did it anyway.”
Then, snowboarding exploded. Kelso said in 10 years Jim and Karin expanded the store eight times to make room for more inventory. Nobody’s laughing now.
Kelso has seen a lot of local skaters and riders grow up over the years, and seen a lot of people come and go at the store. He does the New York Times crossword puzzle every day and is an avid reader, mostly of science fiction, including Phillip K. Dick, Frank Herbert and Orson Scott Card. He recently dusted off an old copy of Charles Bukowski’s “Notes of a Dirty Old Man,” bought in Ketchum in 1992.
Kelso said he doesn’t read as much as he did before his son JackHenry was born two years ago. You get the feeling he has no regrets about this. He is married to Erin Kelso.
“JackHenry is awesome,” said Kelso, who is soft-spoken and unpretentious. “He already has a skateboard.”
Kelso has a unique fashion style all his own, and concedes that skaters have for many years been the driving force in the fashion industry.
“The baggy pants started with skaters in the 1990s. It was probably because you could hide a 40-ouncer in the pocket,” said Kelso.
About 10 years ago, Kelso skated at an empty swimming pool at the Heidelberg Hotel on Warm Springs Road, while a world-class skate park was under construction in Hailey. He said it was fun until the owner found out and shut them down.
“Dreamland Skateparks built that public skate park for only $350,000 because they wanted it to be a showcase for future projects. It should have cost $750,000. Also, building parks in small towns is easier. It takes less time to get them approved.
“Skateboarding is like any other sport. It’s good for kids because it helps them stay focused and keeps them out of trouble. It’s good for their physical and mental well-being.”
He said learning tricks can be easy, but there’s no end to perfecting them.
“I learned to do hand plants (a challenging upside-down maneuver on a vertical wall) a long time ago. But I’ve never mastered it,” he said.
His favorite bands are Nomeansno and Primus. For skating inspiration, he has long admired Lance Mountain, now in his late 40s and still sponsored by Nike.
“I would see videos of him doing tricks and I knew I could go learn them. The things kids do these days? No way,” he says with a shake of his head.
Kelso also snowboards well, but he said he got into it only because he needed something to do in the winter. He said professional skaters these days have to be very good at everything, from street riding to skate-park riding to vertical. The same goes for snowboarders.
“They have to ride powder, hit rails and do backcountry freestyle. That means using trees instead of rails, and cliffs instead of jumps.”
Kelso said the first time he pulled off a 540 (a 540-degree aerial turn) on a snowboard was a memorable moment for him.
“It was difficult to complete because you have to go bigger to make the extra half-turn, and you are landing backwards. I haven’t done one in years.”