IGNITION 02: Chad Kerley
"I’ve always looked up to the rail shredders..."
We live in a society today where having a cell phone in our pocket that’s ready to use at all times and making sure it isn’t further than arms reach first thing in the morning has become normal. A society where repeatedly looking at the same few apps on that very cell phone in an almost obsessive nature throughout the day has become normal. A society where we feel more comfortable texting words and tiny graphics of smiley faces that laugh, cry and happen to wear sunglasses as opposed to actually communicating verbally has become normal. A society where you know more about your friends, family and complete strangers than you ever have without even interacting with them but by just simply checking their Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Spapchat, or whatever the hell else people are using out there has become normal. A society where everyone seems to have the attention span akin to goldfish and people mention they can’t sit through videos longer than a few minutes has become normal. How you take in and consume media is an individual choice these days. You have the complete freedom to choose what to watch, what to listen to and what to read on a regular basis, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. With that said, the people that choose to seek out and read this feature, are the ones it was written for.
Next up is Chad Kerley. Chad is someone that I have known for years and during that time I’ve had the chance to see him evolve into one of the best riders in the world. His riding style and trick selection make him stand out from the rest and he is one of the leaders of bringing crazy technical lines into the mix in the streets. His freecoaster game is next level and he is constantly blurring the line between forward and backward. We all know that his riding speaks for itself but to be honest, he’s just out doing his thing and going with it. Even as a young kid he never set out to be a pro rider; it just happened to work out that way because since day one he has remained humble and true to himself. Chad’s outlook on riding and life in general is the perfect formula for the next generation of riders to pay attention to if they want to know how to do things right. He has style on and off the bike, and will be a household name well into the future. I met up with him and Doeby on a late afternoon filming mission in downtown San Diego, California. As the sun went down I caught a few moments in between him catching a few clips. With that said, welcome to Ignition #2.
Once again, the idea of this interview is to not have it feel like a typical interview so let’s start with something different. Take a look at the list, and type out the first thing that comes to mind.
Bike setup -
For those that don’t know, you have roots in racing and have been on a bike for a long time now and it shows when it comes to your bike control. How much of that comes from the race side of things?
My roots in racing definitely gave me a lot of bike control. Growing up going to the track every other day, it was inevitable that I was going to learn a lot. I loved hitting the doubles and jumping the most when it came to racing, which taught me bike control in the air at a pretty young age. I’d say just the basics as far as jumping, manualing, and pumping around translated from the race side of things.
Your style has obviously evolved and changed over the years but if you had to point out a few specific things whether it be riders that inspired you along the way, or influences outside of riding what would you say?
Yeah I think my style has changed tremendously over the years as a rider, from the simple things like brakes, two pegs, and cassettes. I’m always open to trying new stuff, and definitely inspired by a lot of riders. I started getting into manual lines and combos a lot a few years ago, and since then it’s changed up a lot. I look up to riders that can get down on set-ups, and just make tricks look good. Also, Alex Kennedy is a pretty big influence to me when it comes to the freecoaster stuff. I’ve been loving pushing myself with fakie tricks lately.
Music seems to play a big role in your riding, and has had an influence on your overall style. Would you say that’s true?
That’s true for sure. I love hip-hop, and always have growing up. It’s always kind of had an influence on me as far as what I like to wear and my style. I can relate the music to my riding and it gives me motivation to get it!
"I love hip-hop, and always have growing up. It’s always kind of had an influence on me as far as what I like to wear and my style. I can relate the music to my riding and it gives me motivation to get it!"
- Chad Kerley
How often do you listen to music when you ride?
I used to have headphones in every time I rode. But now I mainly listen to music during sessions at the skatepark and not so much while in the streets filming and stuff. I blast my music every time I’m in the car going to the spot so I guess I get my fix out before I step on the pedals. If something gets me a little nervous though, it definitely helps to throw headphones in to make me go for it.
Is there a difference to you between riding with or without music?
I like music when I’m trying to go in and put my head down for a session. It helps me get in the zone. Contests for sure, it helps me so much to have music and block out everything else that’s going on. I love riding without music too. It’s been more often lately that I’m riding with no music and going to the park and actually hanging out with dudes rather than blocking them out with music. Don’t get me wrong though, there are definitely times where I’m not trying to answer little kids questions all day so I ride with music. I like riding without music in the streets, especially now with a coaster it’s just chill.
You mentioned rapping and making beats at home, what’s going on with that?
Man, to be honest I’ve been messing around with making music since my racing days. It started out with my good homie Tyler Ruiz when we were kids. We would freestyle all the time to beats of songs we liked a lot. Just making our own versions of songs on GarageBand was fun to us. There was this hot girl we knew in the neighborhood that everyone was trying to get with, and we found out her dad had a studio in his house. It was dope, he let us in and let us record over some beats he made. I made my first song there that I ended up performing at my middle school in front of everyone. It was sick though; the teachers were feeling it and I threw out a bunch of fake money. Kids were going crazy. I think it’s still up on YouTube somewhere. But, I had always made music and rapped. I loved writing the most in school, so when it came to writing it came pretty naturally. I have a bunch of songs over the past years on my laptop that are pretty funny. Lately though I’ve been making music with my good friend Cash who was the homie in high school. We made a few songs in school, and performed a couple too. After we graduated, he continued to make music while I obviously focused on riding. We didn’t kick it for a couple years, but we linked back up recently and been cookin’ up a lot. He brings his equipment over to my crib and we session for hours. The other night we were up till the sun came up. That was my first time going in like that, but it’s fun for me.
Is that what’s next for CK? World Tour?
Ha! I don’t think so, riding is my passion man, and I don’t wanna’ get caught up with something else like that. Rapping is just a hobby. But, the homie Cash and I did perform at the House of Blues downtown San Diego last year, it would be dope to do that again.
Obviously you keep yourself busy outside of riding as well. What are some things you’re into off the bike?
I’m actually not too busy when I’m not riding. Riding occupies most of my days and I try to keep myself busy with my bike. When I’m not riding I’m usually kicking it at home with my girl and spending time with my parents at their house. Lately though, when I haven’t been riding I’ve been making music.
What is a quick rundown of a typical day with Chad Kerley from when you wake up, to when you pass out?
Pretty much every morning I hit myself with the same question, “What am I gonna’ ride today?” I usually hit up the homie Gerald, hit up a park and session for a couple hours and chill. Or if we don’t hit up a park we’re in the streets filming, which we’ll be out all day usually stacking clips. After that I typically come home, shower, stretch, turn on the PS4 and just kick it.
What’s good with Nike these days?
Nike is amazing. I feel so honored to be a part of the program with dudes that I look up to. I’m actually going on a Nike trip in a few days and I can’t wait!
What is it like being on a trip with guys like Dennis Enarson and Garrett Reynolds who happen to be two of the most talented riders to ever touch a bike?
They’re crazy! Dennis is one of my best friends so being on a trip anywhere with that dude is fun. And Garrett is super chill and cool to kick it with. He’s the boss, and always has me trippin’ with the tricks he does.
Do you ever feel pressure on a Nike trip compared to say a Cinema trip or does everyone just film and do their thing regardless?
I never really feel pressure like that on a trip. I treat them all the same, and try to get clips I’d be hyped on regardless for what its for. Being on a Nike trip with such progressive dudes definitely pushes the level of riding on those trips though for sure.
If anyone pays attention to your Instagram its no surprise that riding for Nike has turned you into a bit of a sneakerhead. Was this always something you paid attention to or did having the Nike connect get you hooked on always keeping your feet fresh?
I’ve always been a sneakerhead! In school I’d always show up fresh in some Air Force Ones my Pops would get me from the mall. I always loved Nike and Jordans growing up. So, getting the plug with Nike I try to stay laced in the freshest.
When it comes to shoes, what do you choose to ride in?
I ride in Janoski’s a lot. There’s actually a new shoe called the GTS that’s really good to ride in as well.
How often do you change out your shoes?
I’d say probably every two to three weeks.
What do you choose to chill in?
I like chillin’ in Janoski’s and also the Roshe’s when I’m really kickin it.
What do you keep fresh in the box and leave untouched?
I have a bunch of Retro 4’s that I keep as fresh as possible. I don’t wear them often, but I bust them out on special occasions or when I wanna’ stunt, ha.
If you had to guess how many pairs of Nikes you have had over the years since first being picked up by them, what would you say?
Damn, I’m not sure! I’d say maybe between 300-500 pairs? I don’t know, that sounds like a lot but definitely a possibility.
BMX has taken you on countless trips all over the world so far. What are a few of your favorite cities to ride in and what makes them stand out?
Yeah I’m so thankful for the opportunities BMX has given me when it comes to traveling. I know it sounds typical, but I really enjoy Barcelona, Spain. When I stayed for a Markit trip after X Games a few years ago we stayed in an apartment. I feel like I got to know the city really well since I was there for a few weeks and I’d love to go back.
For someone who travels like you do, you have to have the routine down by now. What are a few things you absolutely can’t travel without?
I make sure to always have the basics! My toothbrush, phone charger, headphones, etc.
What are three important things you have learned along the way when it comes to traveling?
1. Take it all in, since the memories last forever.
2. Watch your back. People are sketchy everywhere around the world.
3. Always have a good tour guide to show you around, especially for the good food
“I didn’t know you could even be a professional at it, I was just learning to ride a bike like anyone else would."
- Chad Kerley
Congrats on the switch-up from Premium to Haro, it seems like it was a good move for everyone. That solidified Haro as one of the best teams in BMX currently and it’s good for you to have that solid group of riders to vibe with. What is most important to you when it comes to deciding which companies you want to ride for?
What’s most important to me is the squad. Having good friends as teammates is so important to me. It makes everything fun on trips, and easier when it comes to communicating within the circle.
You are currently riding a Haro La Bastille frame, which is Matthias Dandois’s signature frame, why is that your frame of choice and how do you like it so far?
Well, I’m waiting for the samples of my signature frame, which I made a lot of changes to. Matthias’ frame geometry features some of the same qualities I added to my new frame so I wanted to get used to a few things before I get on mine. He has a shorter back end and steeper head tube angle than what I’m used to and I wanted to try out. So far I love it, its so refreshing to have my bike feel different for a change. I’ve been on the same frame geometry since I started out at Premium.
What else would you say stands out about your bike set-up?
I don’t think there’s anything too crazy with my set up. I’m loving the way it looks right now though, all black with the matching gold Cinema hubs.
What companies currently back you and do you have anything in the works you want to mention for people to keep an eye out for with any of them?
The companies that help me do my thing are Nike, Rockstar Energy, Haro, Premium, GoPro, Cinema, Dan’s Comp, and MARKIT. I’m in the works of making a Haro part at the moment, and we’re also planning some cool stuff with Markit.
I’m sure everyone out there wants to know what’s good with CEEK LIFE?
Yeah a lot of people actually ask me about that. Really, it’s just a YouTube page as of now. It’s a way for me to post stuff that I think is cool, and make my own content. Eventually I want it to be something awesome and make a product of some sort, but right now I’m not trying to get my hands full.
It’s pretty obvious that you have a pretty massive list of sponsors; how do you keep everyone happy and is it tough to keep track of it all?
I just do me and try not to get stressed over keeping everyone happy. If I’m riding every day, I figure that’s enough to keep everyone stoked. So, I make sure to stay on my game and obviously tag them on social media and what not.
Out of everything you could have chosen to pursue, why BMX?
BMX was something that I felt a passion for at a young age. So it’s not like I even chose to pursue it, it was just the way I was heading regardless since I love riding so much. It’s the only thing I was ever obsessed about, I could have given other things a try but I didn’t care about anything else as much as my bike.
Did you ever picture being where you are today when you were a young kid first learning to ride a bike?
Nah, I never pictured I’d be where I’m at today. I didn’t know you could even be a professional at it, I was just learning to ride a bike like anyone else would. But the more I got into it as far as going to the track and seeing X Games on T.V. I knew that’s what I wanted to do when I grew up.
If you look back on your career so far, what would you say was the number one factor that helped you get to this point?
I’d say having the opportunity to film with Christian Rigal. I filmed my first video for Vital BMX with him, and that was my first real introduction to the freestyle scene. We made The Hunt a few years later and that video part is a huge staple to my career, because I feel like that was the first time people really took me serious as a street rider. Winning that video contest with Christian was surreal and it ultimately gave me the confidence to really do it.
The year ahead for someone like yourself always ends up being busy one way or another whether it be traveling, filming, shooting photos, working on interviews, or handling sponsor obligations. How do you manage your time on a regular basis and do things ever get repetitive?
Yeah during the summer things really get going, and sometimes it can get repetitive but I’m doing what I love so it never gets too bad but sometimes tiring. It never really feels too repetitive though, besides having to be on a plane all the time. I used to like being on planes, but the more I do it, the more it feels repetitive. I try to make as much time home as I can, but when duty calls I’m with it.
I feel like you are one of the main riders that have really been pushing the freecoaster aspect of current day street riding. What was it that put you on one in the first place, and what keeps you rolling backwards?
It took me a while to really get the hang of it as far as trying stuff backwards. At first I was tying tricks I would do on a cassette and it would frustrate me knowing I couldn’t do it as easy, or at all. So I just took it as a challenge and adjusted by trying new things. I think Dennis [Enarson] motivated me a little to get it, but I was really looking up to AK’s riding as well so it was only a matter of time. I love it and I feel like it makes my riding smoother and I can’t see myself going back to a cassette.
It seems to have opened a lot of doors trick wise and line wise when it comes to filming. How has it changed your outlook on riding?
It has challenged me a ton. I try lines now that involve going backwards that I would’ve never of done or thought of before. There are so many tricks you can do now, but it’s also really difficult. I struggle trying certain lines because it’s still not totally consistent for me. It just takes time, I’m getting better but there’s still a lot to learn.
For years now, you have been at the forefront of doing long, incredibly technical lines. Was that just a natural progression for you, or have you been conscious of it this whole time?
Yeah I try to push myself when it comes to lines. I always enjoyed trying to link tricks together. Now that I’ve been riding a freecoaster I’ve been taking trying more technical stuff fakie.
If you had to choose between doing a really technical line or a single banger, what would you choose and why?
It depends. Lately I’ve been enjoying pushing myself by just doing one trick rather than lines. I’ll always love lines and do them, but it’s cool to push myself and try to get one sick thing on a set up. My new CEEKLIFE part has a bunch of set-up spots I’m hyped on with Doeby.
“I can feel when a filmer is in that right spot and it motivates me to get it knowing it’s gonna’ look dope.”
- Chad Kerley
When it comes to filming, having a talented person behind the lens is just as valuable as having a talented rider in front of the lens. One doesn’t really work without the other and the combination of the two seems to create BMX magic. Who are some people you enjoy working with and what is it like working with different filmers either at home, or when filming on a trip?
Luckily, I’ve been blessed enough to work with some of the best filmers in the game. I like working with Christian obviously; he was the first legit filmer I ever filmed with. I have been working with Doeby a lot lately, he’s one of my favorite people to film with the vibes are always chill and we just ride out. Will Stroud, Ryan Navazio, and John Hicks are all fun to work with as well, but I don’t get to work with them as often. I usually work with them on trips, which is always a good time. I’ve never really had bad vibes with any filmer, it’s gotta’ be a trust thing where I can do what I do and they do too. They all have different ways of filming me and it’s cool to see their eye in what they see.
Doeby is a name that has been coming up more and more over the years and he is quickly becoming a regular name in BMX. How did you guys meet and how long have you been working together now?
I’ve known Doeby for a while now, but only started filming with him a couple years ago. We worked on my CEEKLIFE part which was our first project together and that’s where I think we both realized we could vibe and make some dope stuff. He’s definitely one of my favorite filmers to work with right now.
What is it about having a good filmer that matters the most to you?
Just being able to be comfortable trying anything and knowing they got it. I don’t want to be in a position where I’m nervous about trying something and don’t trust the filmer to get it smooth too. I enjoy lines where a filmer can skate and ride the lines with me. That matters a lot in how I like my shit to look.
With that said, what makes a good filmer in your opinion?
Pretty much being a good skateboarder and being fun to hang out with.
You have to hand it to the filmers out there that can hold it down on a board and it seems like Doeby has the line thing pretty dialed. How long does it take to get used to filming with someone when it’s up close and personal?
Yeah it’s just a trust thing like I said. I can feel when a filmer is in that right spot and it motivates me to get it knowing it’s gonna’ look dope. It gets sketch when we get close, but it usually turns out fire!
It’s obvious that you and Doeby are on the same wavelength when it comes to filming. You let him do his thing while you focus on riding and on the opposite end of that he lets you do your thing, while he focuses on filming. That to me is the best-case scenario but it isn’t always like that. If you had to give some young filmers some words on how to be the best filmer they can be for the sake of the rider what would you say?
We have the same eye when it comes to the way tricks and spots should look giving everything justice. I like that VX “in there” feel, but HD crisp and that’s exactly Doeby’s style. He gets in there, and it’s fun to cruise lines with him. If I could give any advice to kids I’d say try to do it all and be creative. And definitely be careful of getting too in there, but do it because sometimes it looks sick. You need to trust each other though, that’s definitely important.
What is it about San Diego that has kept you around after growing up there and having the opportunity to see a good portion of the world?
It’s my hometown, it’s where my friends and family are, and the weather is perfect. I wouldn’t wanna’ be anywhere else! The spots and parks are fun to ride, good food, no reason to really leave. I feel like I travel enough to see what other places are like, and there’s no other place like home in SD.
With so many pros down that way it almost seems like you guys know something everyone else doesn’t. What are your top three reasons to call San Diego home as a pro BMX rider?
If you could change one thing about the current state of BMX, what would it be?
I’m not sure. I honestly think it’s growing. I see so many kids riding the streets and crews out there getting it in. I’d like to be allowed at skateparks though. I don’t like the fact that we as riders can get kicked out. But I feel like that’s changing too.
“I think my style has changed tremendously over the years as a rider.”
- Chad Kerley
With media constantly changing and evolving over the years it seems as though there isn’t enough talk from the riders perspective on what they want to see more of, and how they want to consume BMX content as well. What are your thoughts on that?
Yeah I try not to involve myself too crazy in the politics though. I’m not sure if I know enough to speak on this. I enjoy the content that gets put out to be honest.
At 211,000 you have one of the biggest follower counts on Instagram out of any riders out there. Do you take that seriously and actually focus on growing that number or do you just let it happen as it happens?
I mean I never really took it serious, but after noticing I was gaining a pretty big following it does motivate me to post cool stuff for my fans to see. Of course I’d love for my numbers to grow. But, I just post what I think is cool and let it happen.
In your opinion, where is social media going to be in five years?
I think it’s constantly growing. It’s only going to get crazier.
What’s your next goal? 300K? 500K?
I hope so. Maybe a milli, ha!
When you are on your end of an interview you always are at the mercy of the person coming up with the questions to ask. If you were someone else interviewing yourself, what would you ask and what would your answer be?
Question: What kind of riding are you looking up to right now?
Answer: I’ve always looked up to the rail shredders. Rails make me a little nervous, and it’s crazy how dudes get down on them. Being on a trip with Nathan [Williams] and Dakota [Roche] made me realize how on it they really are just casually riding a huge set with all the tricks. I love doing lines and all, but I would definitely love to get down on some big rail set-ups.
On behalf of DIG, thanks for being down for BMX and thank you for being so damn good on a bike, it’s always inspiring to watch you do your thing.
Always gotta’ end it with the chance for some last words; the space is yours if you want it.
I’d just like to thank Jeremy Pavia for this dope interview, and DIG for always keeping it real and doing this. Thanks to everyone that supports me!
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