Today we’re going to find out what happened to one of our skate idols of the 90s – Josh Kasper.
If you aren’t familiar with Josh Kasper, then you must have missed out on a lot of the best skating in the 90s. This guy was known for going huge, probably more so than anybody else. Let’s take a look at how he got famous.
This is Jeremy Wray Skating at Carlsbad High in 1994. He was one of the top pros at the time, and was really pushing it with huge gaps and speed in a world where tech skating had died out. Jeremy pretty much opened the door to doing real tricks at this spot. People had done ollies and kickflips down the gap, but it was just too big to do anything else. You might know what’s coming next – the first frontside flip down the gap. You can see the reaction that got. He also did a 360 down it.
So keep in mind where things are with the spot at this time. A lot of the basics had been done, and it was taking pros out left and right. Along comes this 20 year old kid, Josh Kasper. He kind of came out of nowhere with his part in World Industries – Trilogy, where he really destroys the spot by doing the first ever 360 flip down it. Think of this like the 90s version of Dave Bachinski kickflipping El Toro. It was so big that he was instantly famous for it. Which is great, because he actually risked his life doing that trick. A little while before, he bailed it and smashed his head. He went to a doctor, who said if he hit that same spot again, it might kill him. So he went back with a helmet and landed it. Apparently Tony Hawk saw the footage and told him he needed to go back and do it without it or nobody will take it seriously. And so he risked his life to start his skateboarding career, and he did it.
Over the next 12 years or so, Kasper would go back to this spot and just keep killing it with more and more difficult tricks, like this tre flip tail grab.
So a few years go by, and next thing you know, Kasper is everywhere. He had about 20 different pro model decks over his career with Blind, and even a pro shoe with the biggest shoe company at the time – Osiris. Meanwhile, he keeps ollieing bigger and bigger gaps, like possibly the world’s first 20 set ollie in 1999. This part in 99 was actually his last major part. The Osiris tour was so big and so demanding that it took up all of his time.
And during these tours, he started to get a bit of an ego going. Jerry Hsu had a lot to say about Kasper from back then. He talks about how he would bail tricks on purpose at demos to build drama and hype – trying to get people to chant his name. He would refer to himself in the third person too, and it was all inspired by pro wrestling.
Kasper admits that most of that is true – he was really into WWE wrestling – or WWF at the time – and he was all about making an entrance. He tells a story about how he was giving out awards at a skate camp, and he paid $700 to fly 3 miles so that he could make his entrance out of a helicopter. Apparently he learned that move from Tony Hawk, who did the same thing before, but… he’s Tony Hawk and he probably owns the helicopter.
Kasper would also show up to demos and other events in a limo. AND he built up a fan group for himself, which I’ll talk about in a second.
But there’s one thing that Jerry said that Kasper completely denies – that he would bail stuff on purpose to build hype. To hear Kasper talk about it, he just wasn’t that good, and he always pushed himself too hard. He even has some evidence for that, saying that he could only do 5 or 10 tricks. So I thought I would take a look at that. I watched all of his video parts, and wrote down all of the tricks that he does more than once. And I happened to come up with 10 exactly. Here they are.
First, ollies. Kasper was known mostly for Ollieing huge stuff, like over this DJ. This is kind of a crazy story too. He says that this gap was giant, and nobody had ever done it before, so he needed to make a spectacle out of the whole thing just to force him to actually do it. But even aside from that, you’ll see a lot of straight ollies in his video parts.
Next, kickflips. Not a lot to say here. He does a ton of straight kickflips. Later in his career, he started doing a few nollie ones too, but you don’t see them very often.
Third, heelflips. Kasper was a huge heelflipper, including doing the first one down Carlsbad, and also possibly the first to actually skate this spot like this, doing the gap and rail at the same time. You’ll also see him do a few fakie heelflips, which is a little unusual. Not a lot of people do those, aside from Daewon Song.
Fourth – pop shove its. You don’t really see people do these plain that much anymore, but Kasper does them a lot.
Fifth and sixth – lipslides and tailslides. These are his most common slide or grind tricks that he does, by far. Every so often you’ll get lucky and he’ll do something like a noseblunt, but it’s not very common.
Seventh- hardflips. Any kind of vertical frontside kickflip thing was in his wheelhouse. He did a ton of hardflips at the beginning of his career, eventually branching out into nollie and switch a little as well.
But he also did a ton of frontside flips. Again, the way he does them, this is almost like like a variation of a hardflip instead of an actual frontside flip, but I’ll still count it separately.
Ninth – Frontside half cab flip – again, just a variation of his vertical hardflip stuff that he does. He did a few nollie backside flips too, to be fair.
Lastly – the 360 flip. This was his go-to trick. If he was ever going to do something ‘big’, like an ender or a big trick for a demo or something, he goes for a 360 flip. It’s the trick that put him on the map, and it’s the trick he rode all the way until the very end of his career – which we’ll get to in a minute.
So, that’s 10 tricks. Every now and then you’ll see something extra, like a benihana! He gets a ton of slack for doing that trick – but seriously – his parts are those 10 tricks over and over. And to me, the limited trick selection was the worst part about the 90s. You watch a video through and you see the same trick over and over and over. How many frontside flips are in Welcome to Hell? 8 million?
Too, there was a rumor that he couldn’t do grinds at all. Transworld actually asked him about this, and he said “I don’t know if I have the patience for that. I’ve just been more into going down stuff than actually doing handrails. I guess grinding a flat, round bar was harder to me than anything else. And then taking that to a handrail, when you can’t do it on a flatbar … now that’s a problem.”
The editor’s note says that they have a picture of him doing a gap down a double set to crook, but they can’t publish it because someone else did it first. But this was in 2004, when his career was already over.
Josh also couldn’t skate miniramp. He says, “Seriously, when I step on there, I think to myself, ‘I can do two tricks.’ And they’re not even tricks—like a 50-50 stall and a rock to fakie. I’ve never taken the time to learn.” It’s funny – he calls it a 50-50 stall instead of an axle stall, which really says something.
But even though Kasper was the worst part about the 90s, I still thought he was really cool. He had a lot of personality in his video parts, and he went bigger than anyone else, so there was always a lot of excitement to see him skate.
I mentioned earlier that he created a fan club for himself, and his fans were called Kasperholics, and he even had a website, kasperholics.com, which you couldn’t miss because it was all over his ads. He was such a big name at the time that Blind just let him do whatever he wanted.
He got a pretty big head over all this stuff, and he was making more money than he knew what to do with. He said, in his best month, he made 12,000 dollars off of his shoe model, and 5,000 off of his deck. Adjusting for inflation, that’s almost $25000 in a month. And he said he didn’t save ANY of it. So he was buying cars, flying helicopters, and living it up as much as he could.
So although he comes across as a super doucher in the past, you should check out this interview with Muckmouth that he did. He seems like he really has his head on his shoulders right these days, and he just kind of looks back on this time and laughs about it. I think he really grew up a lot since then.
But what happened to his career?
He tells a story about going to Hollywood High. His plan was the 360 flip – of course – the 16. But he found the he couldn’t even ollie the 12. Skating had just become work to him and he realized that it was over.
Kasper was featured in a book called “Livin It – Testimonies”, which was a book about skaters and BMXers and their faith in God. We’ll get to that in a second. But he’s what that book says about his career ending.
“A few years after he turned pro, Josh started getting involved in partying and drinking because that seemed like it was just part of being famous. He was skating less and less, and it began to lose its appeal for him. It no longer satisfied him. Josh’s sponsors began calling up and saying, “You need to get back in there and do more demos and competitions and stuff or we’re going to have to drop you.” Eventually Josh lost all his sponsors, because he just felt like he couldn’t live up to their standards and expectations for him to keep doing bigger and bigger stuff. For years, he had been trying to keep up with what the companies expected from him, and he was getting tired of it.”
So he got kicked off of his sponsors, and he says he deserved it and saw it coming – and Rodney Mullen himself fired him. But he felt really bad about it and actually gave him three months’ pay as severance. That was pretty cool. Skaters are pretty much always independent contractors, so it’s not like he had to do that. I thought that was pretty cool. It seems like this was in about late 2003. His ads showed that he was actually filming for a Blind Video up until this time, but it never surfaced. The next Blind video was “What If” in 2005, well after he had been dropped. I wonder what happened to that footage.
Another thing that happened was that Kasper’s dad died in 2001. So that happened, he lost his sponsors in 2003, and he started to have some issues with depression and hit a low point in his life. At this point, he started to go to church with his mom and rededicated himself to God. This really turned his life around and he started getting involved with Bible study groups and all that kind of stuff.
In fact, he got so much into that stuff that he got involved with something called King of Kings Skateboard Ministry. This is a group that will go somewhere, give a 15 to 20 minute Bible discussion, and then do a skate demo.
He also got involved with Reliance skateboards, a Christian deck brand that’s really into the same stuff. Using skating as a way to reach kids and spread a Gospel message. He did some tours with Reliance, and actually filmed some new stuff around 2008 – where he was actually better than ever.
He says he ‘screwed up again’ and stopped working with Reliance, but then was with them again later. Right now, as of 2017, he’s not listed as being on their team anymore.
So what is he up to? He still skates, a couple times a month. He’s still got his favorite trick, the tre flip, on lock. He got married in 2012, and he bought a skateshop – Avalanche Skate Shop in El Cajon, California. Unfortunately, according to Facebook and Yelp, it’s been out of business for about a year and a half. It also had some mixed reviews from customers saying it wasn’t a great shop, but who knows.
So what is he up to right now? I don’t know. He isn’t active on social media at all, and those last interviews were probably just before the shop closed, from what I could tell.
He’s 41 now, probably still skating a little, and hopefully he’s doing alright.
If anybody knows what happened after his shop closed, or if you’ve been there and met him, let me know about it in the comments. And if you have a favorite retired skater you want to see me catch up with, let me know in the comments and you might see him on RetroRippers next time.