This week I spent some time catching up with an old friend and someone I respect as a BMX rider in the industry. Kelly has done it all from traveling the world to getting some big sponsors to creating brand new tricks and everything in between. He is the type of rider that has no off switch and is always motivating to ride with. With or without sponsors his love for BMX has not changed at all. Kelly is and has been down for riding since day one and regardless of any monetary gain he is still right here and still pushing himself in a positive direction. I am stoked to call Kelly a friend and wanted to give him a chance to voice his opinion on a few topics so I headed out to the West Side of Los Angeles and met up with him to catch up, talk some shit and enjoy some time with a good friend. See what’s new with Kelly and find out why he’s completely content with riding solely for the love of it.
So I’ll start it off. Why don’t you fill everyone in on your name, age and hometown?
My name is Kelly Bolton, I’m 27 years old, and I’m from Venice Beach California!
For those out there who don’t know; who is Kelly Bolton?
I’m a jack of all trades and a master of nothing, Ha-Ha. Basically I do a bunch of different things from being a photographer to a motion graphics artist… and a lot in between.
You have had quite a wild ride so far in BMX. What would you say if someone asked you to describe your involvement with riding these days?
Wild could definitely describe it. I’ve been able to achieve a lot in my career. These days I don’t ride for any companies or for any other reason but because I love to. It runs deep in my blood. A few friends (Tyler and Barney) and I started a way to give back to the scene with LAXFILMS. Filming with the younger riders that are coming up has been awesome. Seeing all the love for an L.A. based crew is sick too. I just want them to have something we didn’t. Them meaning the kids.
That sounds like all of the right reasons to do it. Too many people out there quickly lose sight of that when they get wrapped up in the industry bullshit. It’s good to see that you have a positive outlook on things. Let’s take a step back though and fill people in on a few things. One, how did things end with Eastern? I know that you rode for them for a long time.
The industry will eat you alive. I rode for Eastern for seven years. I got a call one day from my long-time team manager and friend Leigh Ramsdell. He immediately sounded bummed. I was like ok what’s up? He said “we’re gonna’ have to let you go due to budget cuts.” I wasn’t very surprised since Eastern had not previously taken a team trip in almost a year and only had four pro riders on the team…I can’t say for sure but something didn’t seem right. Worst part was I never got a phone call from the two actual owners (who will remain nameless) of Eastern who I rode my ass for during those seven years. What a way to go right?
Damn man, I’ve actually never heard exactly what went down with that whole deal until now. Well, it just goes to show that the industry is a bit flawed in my opinion. Riders out there can sometimes be blinded by free parts and a little bit of cash. And on the other side of things some company owners seem to have lost sight of what it means to sponsor someone and treat them like a pro rider. Not to bring up another shitty subject but something similar happened with DC recently and you were one of the team riders obviously directly affected. Can you explain that one?
It’s the same situation. I’m sitting at home when I get a call from our team manager and good friend Mike. Just like Leigh, he sounded super bummed. I was like fuck man, again? I couldn’t do anything but giggle to myself. Mike is such an awesome dude and did so much for DC BMX and myself. He truly believed in BMX. I have no hard feelings towards DC and its employees so I did actually sign the agreement to not talk shit because I wasn’t going to anyways. I think a lot of the staff at DC loved the BMX guys and what we brought to DC. In reality it was a swift kick in the nuts from someone who didn’t even know us. Ruthlessness is the corporate world and they will ruthlessly come down on you. I’m guessing like every other corporate brand they will have a BMX team again when it’s most convenient for the money. Thanks to all the people at DC who believed in us and fought for BMX.
Well, it’s awesome to see you take the high road on both of those situations. It could easily ruin someone’s outlook on riding but you seem as positive as ever. What is it like going from making decent money as a pro to being back on the bike simply for the love of it?
Thanks man I appreciate that. In a “money” sense not good, Ha-Ha. Luckily I had a back up plan. I’ve been doing motion graphics and graphic design for a long time. It’s been a side project moneymaker that has now become more full time. With riding it’s like a breath of fresh air. I feel free from pressures of making shit money and trying to live off it. Even though I had a great sponsor like DC you still need a few of those to keep things rolling in the bank. I was always thinking if I could only get that one more sponsor to be able to afford life. Then I’d have to sell myself out. Fuck that. I’m done selling anything I put into this. It’s back to friends and community. Just riding with all the homies in L.A. and enjoying our simple times riding through the city. Have a back up plan and a badass girlfriend who has always your back. I can’t forget the babe.
That’s what it’s all about man. Glad to see that you still hold true to that. On that note, what advice do you have to all of the kids out there looking to “live the dream”?
It seems like there is always someone giving the kids advice on “the dream” when in reality the dream is what you make it. When I got sponsored it was a fluke. I stumbled upon a sponsorship. I was ready to go to college. Obviously I rode hard and pushed my limits but it wasn’t to be sponsored or live off BMX. It was because I wanted to get a feeling of accomplishment. My goals were on tricks or set-ups, not on sponsorship. I let my career in BMX just kind of happen. Now BMX has un-sponsored me and I think it’s for a reason. Chase your passions and success will follow.
Hell yeah. I agree man 100%. What is your take on the current state of BMX? I feel like this is a huge topic of conversation lately and some people think it’s in a wild place right now. What are your thoughts?
There are a lot of instability industry wise with BMX right now. It has everyone spooked and on edge. I think there are some brands or people out there with the wrong agenda. I just think riders are fed up with certain treatments and are now supporting crews. The Markit crew is a perfect example of a successful crew/brand based on the love for BMX. It’s really a new age for owning your own brand or badge to wear in honor of your crew. I think its shining unity into the faces of some companies that can’t handle it or are in this for the wrong reasons.
Well, this is the time when we will find out who is truly in BMX for the right reasons. It’s not going to take much to let everyone’s true colors show. The companies and riders that are down for life will remain. So, now that you have freedom to say whatever you want, what companies out there do you think are doing it right?
Freedom to talk is a funny thing to have again. Some companies that I respect are ANIMAL, BSD, CULT, UNITED, and QUINTIN. They seem like they are in it to have a good relationship with BMX and its consumers. And of course all of the crews like Focalpoint, 718, Markit, Deadline/Fiend and PRIMO.
So what’s next for you? What do you have in the works?
Hopefully be able to get this DVD for LAXFILMS done. We have a bit of filming left but I am stoked to have some original riding from Barney, Eddie Saucedo, Josh Smith, Johnny, Boy, D-Boy, Jake Rodriguez, Jorge Bazan, and more riding in it. Other than filming for that I’ll be working on a fashion website my girl and I started called The Fashion Sight. It’s a completely different industry than BMX but some of the challenges are similar and it’s cool to try new stuff. After that… buy a farm and go silent, Ha-Ha.
Sounds like a good plan. What are some of the best things about being a pro BMX rider?
I would say that the best part about being a pro rider is the friends you make and the places you go. For all the struggles in BMX there is one thing that will never die and that’s the worldwide brotherhood of BMX. I’ve been all over the world without a dime in my pocket. I left home broke and came back broke in actual currency but rich in life. BMX can make you a wealthy man depending on how you measure wealth. I like to measure wealth in knowledge.
Speaking of knowledge, you gained quite a bit during your downtime after breaking your leg. How did that injury come into play with your riding?
Well I lost four months of walking and six to seven months of riding and I needed to do something with my time. I got locked into my computer and told myself that I was going to learn everything I could about Cinema 4D and After Effects. I could already work my way around the programs but didn’t know the ins-and-outs. I spent my free time studying how to make awesome shit. YouTube is like school at home if you use it correctly. My riding came back slowly but surely. I would spend lots of time riding and then be sore for a week. It has made me see tricks and things I want to do differently. I think that this injury made me more technical free-coaster shit. Kinda’ back to how I used to ride going fakie a bunch.
Now that we are talking about going fakie it’s funny to think that there are lot of pros throwing free coasters these days. Lets take this time to remind everyone how you were the first to do the fakie front flip. What other potential do you see with riders like Dennis Enarson on one?
Yeah I’m stoked to see a bunch of pros getting into it. I was into street riding with them before they could handle the abuse so after the fakie front flip I took a break on them. I used to just take my chain off to do them after that. Now with the technology of the axles and drivers they can withstand street riding and are more popular. I have seen them a lot but nobody has utilized them like I expected but it’s still early. I’ll have some new fakie goodies in the LAXDVD. I was super hyped on A.K. and Bruno at Simple Session. They did free-coasters justice. I can’t wait to see what Dennis is going to do. I already herd a few things and with the way Dennis rides its gonna’ be wild.
Well I think that’s a good note to end on. Unless there was anything else you wanted to touch on.
Nah man I just want to say thanks to my parents, my girlfriend Angela, and all of the sponsors or people who have invested time into my riding. And thanks you man! You’re a true homie for life.
Well, I’m honored and the feeling is mutual. Where can people keep up on what’s going on in your world and where can they follow you?
People can check out these links to get to know me.
Hopefully this week shows everyone that a career in BMX doesn’t last forever. It is a reminder that any opportunity someone gets for riding a bike is pretty amazing whether it be some free parts, clothes, shoes, or a big fat paycheck. Always remember to keep the love for BMX first, and everything else will fall into place. On that note, be sure to check back next Wednesday for the sixty-first edition of Through the Lens and as always feel free to leave any questions in the comments section or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will hit you back as soon as I can. Feel free to follow me on Twitter and Instagram as well @jeremypavia.