Continuing to Crush Curbs w/ Kyong Kim

By Gabe Ryan, Photos By Mike Goodman

If you’ve ever attended a slappy Sunday session in San Diego then you know it’s a fellowship of stoke. If there’s one person who consistently stands out at these sessions it’s Kyong Kim. The longest grinds, slides, and combos that leave everyone baffled and howling. From being pro for Toxic skateboards in the early ‘90s to currently crushing curbs weekly, we caught up with Kyong to find out what keeps him skating and progressing after all these years.

Not so gross crook popover at Grossmont.

Who inspired you to start skating?

Hmmm, I started skating in 1984 in 8th grade. One of my friends, Panya, had a quarterpipe that his dad built for him and I used to skate his K-Mart Kamikaze Board. I fell in love with skating immediately. I once borrowed his board going home but got it ran over by a car. I paid him for it and kept the trucks and wheels and begged my dad for a board. My first board was a Tony Hawk from Randel’s Skate Shop in East San Diego. 

Who is the crew you grew up skating with?

Wow, early on I just skated with my friends around the neighborhood. Brent Ebert, Jimmy Freitas, Big Rick used to drive us everywhere since we were too young to drive. Then, when I moved near Randel’s, I skated with Rene Matthyssen, Dave Baranofski, and a bunch of other kids from around there Jonathan Fruend, Abel Macias, Jarred Insco, James Newsome, even little Oscar Jordan! 

Can’t go wrong with a classic feeble transfer.

How did you get hooked up with Randel’s skate shop?

I always tell people that I was just in the right place at the right time. As I recall it, I walked into the shop one day and the owner, Steve Randel, just said that they were starting a team and asked if I wanted to ride for the shop. I actually declined him at first cause I thought I wasn’t good enough, but my friends I came with talked me into it and I immediately came back and said okay. Believe it or not, I was still riding my first Tony Hawk board when I got sponsored only six months from the day I started skating.

What was it like skating for my dad’s shop Just Sk8?  How did you get involved?

Skating for Just Sk8 was awesome. Your dad Mike was super cool and generous to us. I remember skating your backyard mini ramp all the time. You were such a grom! Haha! 

I think either Kanten Russell or Oscar Jordan got me hooked up at Just Sk8, not sure exactly, but I know it was one of them. It might have been Oscar, come to think of it, because I knew him when he lived in East San Diego. I wanna say Oscar started skating when he lived near me and then moved to OB where he became friends with Kanten and hooked up with Just Sk8.

Believe it or not, I was still riding my first Tony Hawk board when I got sponsored only six months from the day I started skating.

Later on, you were pro for Toxic and had last part in the video, how did you get hooked up with them, and did you know you’d have last part?

Not exactly sure how it happened but I think it was through Pacific Drive. Toxic was looking for some street skaters and Dave Crabb was the team manager, my buddy Eric Conner and I had a sort of skate interview with him one day. We just skated around a few spots around Mission Beach and that was that we were sponsored haha!

I didn’t even realize I had the last part of a video until you asked this question hahaha! 

You were skating rails and doing tricks like impossible 5050s down benches, who were you skating with at that time?

I skated with so many little crews back then, the Mira Mesa crew with Willy Santos, Mike and JJ stacks, Rem Natalaray (RIP), I also skated with Eric and Chad Conner, James Fraizer, Jason Rogers, Ben Erpelding. 

What was the skate scene like back then compared to today? 

Skateboarding back in the late ’80s and early ’90s was in some ways completely different but in a sense the same as it is today. What I mean is this, my friends and I loved to skate, that’s all we thought about, but we didn’t have the internet or any social media. I remember combing through the mags and trying to figure out how to do tricks without an example, just a picture. Skating is so crazy these days with the advancement of technology, kids all over the world see the progression in real time! Back then you would hear about so and so doing this or that but you never really saw the tricks go down. We just had to push each other and figure things out. Skating in contests really helped with progression cause we got to skate with kids from other parts of town or cities and see what kinds of tricks they were learning. 

The thing that has not changed though is skate culture. I mean, for the most part, skaters are excited when a friend finally lands the trick they’ve been trying to learn or overcoming a fear and feeling that sense of accomplishment. It doesn’t matter if he/she is just starting out and learned how to drop in or did a slappy for the first time. What matters is the person is progressing and having fun. I think the best part though is making lifelong friends. I’m sure it’ll be the same with this generation of skaters, or at least I hope it’s that way, where kids today will be as fortunate as I am to have some friendships forged for life. 

“I think the best part though is making lifelong friends”

Life happens and you stepped away from pro skater life and then what happened? Later on, how did you link up with assault skateboards?

Honestly, it was injuries and too much partying. I’ve dislocated my right elbow and my left shoulder too many times to count. Every time I got hurt I would just party until it got better. Eventually, I became afraid to try things because my elbow would pop out whenever I fell and I fell all the time haha.

Not sure how the Assault thing happened, Ned the owner lived in Mira Mesa at the time and somehow it came about but it only lasted for a bit. Thanks Ned, still friends with him to this day. 

You also skate for Slappy’s Garage right? How did that happen?

I think I’m on the C team haha! I’ve known Carney since we were teenagers and he hooks me up, not because of my skating but because he’s a good friend. Love him. 

Blunt to switch crook tranfer comin’ in hot!

How did Slappy Sundays start?

I think, as the story goes, Mikey Hottman and Mikey Ratt who was a Mission Beach local back in the day started trying to just get out and slap some curbs on Sundays, and it turned into this crazy kinda global thing. I was just invited one day, maybe by James Germany (Brisk) or Bert Custodio (Profile), and thought it was the coolest thing. I loved slapping curbs as a kid and it felt very nostalgic to be doing it again, it made skateboarding really fun again.

How would you compare skating mini ramps to skating curbs?

Love both! Pretty much always have. Growing up in an era where there were very few skateparks, my friends and I learned to skate whatever was in front of us but I got really excited when we had an opportunity to skate mini ramps! They were so few and far between, most were super jacked with holes in the plywood or rain warped masonite. Skatelite or Gaterskin weren’t invented yet or at least we didn’t use it for skating back then. My lifelong dream was to have a mini ramp in my backyard and now I have one. It’s funny that I only skate it when my friends are over though. 

Backyard mini ramp, childhood dream accomplished!

How many guest models have you had?

Willy’s Workshop made one for me a few years ago, thanks Willy! Willy and I used to live on the same street in Mira Mesa and skated together almost daily. Dom Mabile from Sea Rat Skateboards re-made my old shape over the summer which was super fun. Dom is an amazing craftsman. Toxic Skateboards is reissuing my old graphic on a popsicle shape in April and will also be reissuing the original graphic and shape later this year. 

“I loved slapping curbs as a kid and it felt very nostalgic to be doing it again”

Do you watch old or new skate videos to hype you up? You’re ripping out there on the curbs and your ramp!!

I’m just an Instagram and YouTube troller haha. 

Who inspires you now?

The Slappy Sunday Crew of course! Bert Custodio, Brisk, Scott Lancour, June Cate, Mario Negros, Ernie Saiz, Jesse Parker, Jona Fruend, Abel Macias, Dominic Mabile, Spencer Nuzzi, and the LA Curb Control Crew with Hersk and Abe Bethel.

The interviewer and interviewee doubles! A Shieldless Mag first! Pivot fakie with the Gabeska!

What is it like skating into your 50’s? 

I can’t believe I’m 50. I’m too young to be 50! Haha! I’m just grateful to God that I can still push around! I remember seeing a guy in his 70’s skating a pool in a Thrasher Mag when I was a kid and thought that there was hope for me as well. What’s funny is, the other day, Nick Shields said that I gave him hope when he found out that I was 50! Hahaha!

Do you think you could still skate a handrail today?

Haha! I used to love skating handrails. I must’ve liked the adrenaline and overcoming fear, it just felt good. Today, I’m happy that I can still slap a curb. 

Kyong with his original pro graphic from 1991.

Keep up with Kyong on Instagram @kyongkim

See more photos from Mike Goodman on Instagram @mike_g_photo

Read Dropping In with Gabe Ryan.