A few months ago i received the email from Deluxe that they were going to re-issue the Real Kelch Flyer deck, and that they were offering pre-books (pre-orders) so that us shops could ensure we had them for the release date. This made me quite excited, and then i saw that they were also including the option of the original shape in a slick - which the early 90’s version was. This made me ecstatic! i imagine this deserves a bit of explanation...
The Kelch Flyer was the board i was riding during an emotional high point in my skateboarding life. It’s the board where i really transitioned in trick selection from what we’d now call old skool to new skool. Shuvits, pressure flips, nose-slide EVERYTHING (because it had a full nose as big as it’s tail), and the kind of technical things that smaller wheels, a thinner symmetrical board, and a slick bottom would allow you to do. It’s also the first board i purchased while in college which is when skateboarding took on an even deeper and personal emotional bond for me.
Skateboarding had already saved my life by then, and the love was there since day one, but in college i was finally in a life situation where my time was more my own. On that flyer deck i started a skate regiment that still is my preferred mode today - solo midnight sessions! Sure, going to school in Massachusetts meant that quick train rides started my love affair with Copley Plaza, alongside the fantastic new skateboarding friends i made there (many of which i’m still friends with today). Sure i now no longer had parental outfit inspection before leaving every day. But even with all those quality of life improvements, nothing… NOTHING warmed the cockles of my heart the way that self-exploration on a board under the darkness of night when it felt like the rest of the world was settled in for the night. Pushing through the streets, sliding those ledges, flipping those manhole covers, all alone and on that Flyer.
And then something else magical happened. When i’d take a breather, or while lying on the ground from a failed attempt i started hear it… that sound… my favorite sound… the sound of skateboard bearings rolling. Someone else was out here too?!?! Elusive and solo, around the midnight hour, staking a claim on the world when everyone else had left it for tomorrow. i started referring to him as Phantom Skater. Emotionally torn as to whether i should try to find him or if i should leave him be, i seemed to shuffle back and forth, depending on the night and depending on how much alone time i myself required.
Of course we eventually ran into each other at a spot and he quickly became my favorite person to ever skate with. No conversations, just his random comments muttered from a half-open mouth, or a recommendation for a spot we should hit. Rare silent car rides to said spots, accelerating to 90 mph for this one spot in the road where his truck could get air - and his double giggle (he-he) subtly squeezed out every time we hit it. He’d watch Jason Lee parts and try to recreate those tricks (often successfully). It was like getting to skate by yourself, but with someone else. We didn’t skate together every night, just periodically. To be able to feed of someone else’s stoke and energy, but without all those social pleasantries and baggage.
i loved skating with Phantom Skater and he fully embraced my nickname for him, sneaking a tight half-grin when i’d say it out loud. All those nights on that Kelch Flyer. i skated it until the ‘slick’ layer had completely come off the nose and i had a boardslide groove in the center worn all the way to the wood. Those were the nights where i was discovering who i really was. Those were the nights where i got to skate with my favorite skater, pro or otherwise. Those were nights of pure joy where skateboarding once again was saving my life.
The following year Phantom Skater just didn’t return. It would have been his senior year, my sophomore year. No one knew why he didn’t return. i had no contact info for him away from school, just that his family lived in Michigan. Of course that Flyer deck eventually broke as well. But those nights were some of the best nights i’ve had on a skateboard, equal parts fun, therapy, and self-exploration. Getting to hold that board again floods me with emotions. Somehow it feels just like i remembered it did. So much so, i can’t quite bring myself to hang it in the shop yet. Every so often i just wander out back and hold it for a second, just to have a feel.