Since he was young, Kordel Caro remembers hanging out at the shop while watching his dad paint old Volkswagens, motorcycles, and boats. Caro himself caught the artistic gene and always had a knack for Graffiti as he continued to express himself throughout school.
After earning his pro supercross license, Caro first entered Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship events in 2016 and has been competing in the 250SX West Region ever since. Caro is still continuing to craft his skills on the racetrack, but chances are you’ve probably heard his name before—or at least seen his art without knowing it. Remember the sweet Oakland Raiders-themed Shoei that Malcolm Stewart wore at the Oakland Supercross in February? That was done by Korsace, as he goes by on Instagram.
I met Kordel at the 2019 Monster Energy Cup and have seen his artwork here and there throughout social media. With a pause in racing, we wondered what the artistic privateer was doing during this time of self-quarantine, so I rang him up the other day to see how he’s managing his time and to learn more about his hobbies.
Racer X: You mentioned racing pro in 2016, your first time racing supercross. What has it been like for you so far, your pro racing career up to now?
Kordel Caro: I went to go watch Monster Cup in 2015 and then I was getting ready for A1 for 2016 and I fell in the whoops and broke a bone in my hand and just like a typical rookie decided to go racing. So my first West Coast season was a couple rounds here and there. Just got the cast off and had a screw in my hand, so that was kind of a wash. Then all the years after that, I don’t usually crash a lot but I had one shoulder injury that separated my shoulder. It was kind of weird. I was pretty weak for a whole year. Up and down. Just learning. I wish I could have done better. Learning sponsors and learning how to be a privateer and do stuff on your own and make money. Basically all of them were kind of a wash until this last year. I basically just did it on my own, but had the help with RJC Racing, and Seven[MX] helps me out a lot, and AHM. Did the best I’ve ever done. I just went all in. I didn’t make any mains, but I was the most consistent I had ever been. People don’t understand how hard it is, even on the top dudes, just to stay healthy. You don’t want to get sick or get a flu or something silly. It’s been basically just a lot of learning. Been really fun too traveling around all over. I’d do it again.
We saw that picture of you in Glendale in your Ford Ranger pickup truck. When you go to the races every weekend, is that what it’s like—just you and a pickup truck maybe with an E-Z Up?
Usually one of my best friends, me, my girlfriend, select rounds my dad, and Dale [Evans] who is with RJC. He’ll usually fly out to be with me and another rider he supports. It’s kind of different every time. I just bought that Ranger. I was excited. I didn’t think Arizona was too, too far of a trip for a mini-truck. It’s usually a van. I’ll borrow my dad’s van, or just a pickup truck. At A2 I got lucky and a friend of a friend with a nice, successful cabinet business he brought a big, toy hauler, motorhome sort of thing. It’s just always different. People like hearing local stories and they want to help. Sometimes people are a little better off than others and they’ll bring their trailer or this or that. It’s always different but it’s pretty cool to see people that are willing to step up just for the weekend.
We thought that was pretty cool. They were running that picture in the magazine and I knew we ran it online too with one of the features about privateers that Kris Keefer wrote. We were just like, that’s cool. Like you said, it’s a learning thing. Do you know what you’re going to expect each week or is it kind of like last minute whenever you get to travel? Is it a completely different thing?
It’s a little different each time. It’s funny because sometimes it’s almost easier to take a pickup with a canopy and have your own program. Sometimes it gets a little complicated with a bunch of people and people want to hang out. You got to separate the race side of the pit from people wanting to just hang out and eat and mingle. It’s a little stressful when there’s a lot going on, but I’m so used to I think just kind of working on the fly that it’s not so bad with one weekend a van and one weekend a big motorhome thing. That doesn’t bother me as much as trying to separate the people that are super fans and they want to hang out. You got to be like, we still got to go racing. We can’t waste our time here. We got to be off to the side and do our race program.
Are you the one working on the bike or is it your buddy and your dad? Or you’re trying to eat and relax but then also work on the bike too?
I’ll poke around and do suspension stuff but I got my dad or my best friend, Joseph. He’s pretty mechanically-inclined. Then the guys over at AHM are usually around in the pits if I need anything serious done. Usually just my dad or my best buddy cleaning off the bike or washing it or poking with stuff.
So you were saying this was pretty much your most consistent year so far on the West Coast rounds. With the championship, when it goes east, a lot of the factory teams will prep for outdoors. What do you do whenever the championship goes east? Is that more of like getting onto the helmet paintings, the more artistic side and just kind of hanging out? Are you still training as much?
Definitely switch over to the helmet stuff. Kind of slow it down a little bit, almost. It slows down a little bit, but then it kind of picks up with the helmets because I’m pushing it a little more. I try to just eat as good as I can and still keep a base fitness level. I don’t want to let it drop down. I’m down here at the beach. I kind of just take a little bit of a break from it for a week. Kind of stressful being a privateer, so I just kind of check out and do my helmet painting and basically stay active.
The helmet painting, is that your main source of income? What’s your typical work week like? Do the helmet painting and do work and then ride when you can?
Right now it’s just all the helmets. I don’t have any other 9-5 side jobs or anything. It’s what I would get from the night shows on Saturdays, and then anything else would be just helmets.
So with the pause in racing, and everything really, I’m sure that’s changed a little bit. Like you said, with more focus on helmets and everything like that. You’re just kind of hanging out?
It’s alright. It was a little slow at first. It was kind of lame. I kind of thought I had to step on it and maybe find something else to do. But the last couple weeks it’s kind of picked back up. I’ve actually got a lot of DM’s on helmets and other side little painting jobs. I’m super into graffiti also, so I went out and painted a water tank for the Hawkins family, the young ripper Talon. That was cool. I’d like to do more stuff like that. I still got some stuff to do at Seven. They’re always working on something. Then just local helmets. It’s been not as bad as I thought, so that’s good. I’m excited that I’ve still got a little bit of workflow coming through. So that’s cool.
With the lockdown are you able to still ride and train as much now?
I took a little bit of a break from being super strict, or as strict as I can with trying to eat clean and work out and stuff. I just actually went out to the hills, like Richie Canyon. I was shoveling a bunch and just making jumps and having fun. I actually felt really good on my bike. I was excited to go back to racing because I felt really comfortable. You see all these older legends, ex-supercross guys and they just rode and did hill stuff. They did all types of riding and always looked so comfortable riding. I felt good. Basically just doing a bunch of hill riding and digging. I BMX a lot. It started to get a little hotter lately so I’ve been riding jet skis and some water stuff. Basically all I’ve been up to now. Just BMX and painting. Trying to stay busy and not think about how weird of a situation we’re in as a whole.
That was going to be my next question. I saw you’ve been posting some BMX videos. Is that something you do as a hobby, or is it more like this will transfer over to my dirt bike some things here and there? Is it more just for fun, something to do?
I think I just love it. I love it, and luckily it helps everything at the same time. So it’s fun. It’s just all around good. I just love riding my bike. It works hand in hand for everything, pretty much.
Transitioning over to the painting side. Do you get a lot requests throughout the week? Is it a couple helmets each week or just kind of depends on the schedule and how are things going?
It kind of depends on when they want it and when I can knock it out. That’s sometimes the hardest part is trying to get the riding in and the travel to each round and doing the painting. I did a couple big orders with the SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts Honda team. That was cool because Malcolm [Stewart] is on there, and I kind of do some stuff with Seven too so that worked pretty well. But they had me doing some stuff. They had their practice and race helmets, so I had to work around that. That was pretty big. Thank you to those guys also for wanting my business. I appreciate it. It helps me get to each round over there. Mike [Genova] and Tony Alessi. So I was doing that. That was a big chunk. They had a full team. So that was good.
You said race and practice helmets for all those guys?
They would get a helmet, and then they would wear it, and then it would become their practice helmet. Then their new one that they would get would be their race one. They gave me a lot of work. I was basically working around when they needed theirs and then when Seven needed anything. Then any other orders from locals or just any other people, I would just get it done as soon as I can. Sometimes even just kind of have them wait a few weeks. Not have their helmet forever.
You mentioned Seven—with your bike and your graphics and the gear that you wear, do you have a relationship with them, just kind of working with Malcolm? How did that relationship come about with Seven?
I had a family discount with Troy Lee growing up until James and Troy did their thing. Then they kind of split ways. I love James Stewart and the whole family. I wanted to have that gear. That was sickest gear out, so I wore that. Then they kind of parted ways. I didn’t really know where to go or how to get it, so I just emailed them one day. Explained what I just said with the Troy Lee discount, and they actually stepped up and helped me out. They didn’t really know who I was or anything. I did a couple rounds of supercross. One weekend after Vegas I direct messaged Roger Larson over there at Seven. I was like, “I’ve been painting helmets. If you guys ever want to do a helmet for Malcolm just to practice in or anything, just to get a foot in the door, I’ll help you guys out or if any other painters are slammed. I could always just step up and get it done.” So basically from then on, I’ve been helping them out as much as I can. They definitely help me out too. So that’s kind of how it started. It’s been really cool ever since just to work with those guys.
I’m sure that’s a pretty sweet opportunity like you said for both of you guys.
Yeah, it’s awesome.
Our guy, Trent Lopez, you helped do his blue camo helmet for his GNCC race, and then we saw the Malcolm helmet you did with the Raiders theme in Oakland. That was pretty cool. Was he like, “I’m trying to get something Raiders themed?” or how does it go from just an idea to the final product, what he wears when the gate drops at that round?
Usually Roger just comes to me with the ideas. Then usually we just knock it out. Sometimes I see what Malcolm is going to wear [jersey and pants combo], sometimes I don’t. The Raiders one, I didn’t even necessarily see what he was going to wear until that morning in Oakland. So that was pretty cool. Turned out pretty sick with that helmet.
I saw your video you posted about how you have to work the helmet until you can paint it and coat it and do all that stuff behind it. What’s the typical process like when you get a helmet?
It’s kind of like anything. You just want to get the helmet prepped correctly and sand it and get it nice before you start putting any base colors or basically do anything. It’s kind of a pain sometimes because some of the helmets are chipped up, but it’s okay because sometimes that’s all people have. They just have their one helmet and that’s completely fine with me. It’s just a little extra work. Sometimes people get scared away a little bit on some pricing sometimes just because I don’t think some people know how much goes into it just to get it prepped. After that then you got to work with the customer to get a design and meet in the middle. Sometimes they’ll let me just go wild, which is really cool. I like doing that. It’s no worries. I enjoy it a lot. If I didn’t like it I probably wouldn’t do it. Sometimes you just kind of got to do a little post so people will be like, that’s a lot going into that, just to even start painting.
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It pretty time consuming to sit down and prep a helmet. Especially some of these stock pin stripe lines & graphics are raised, so you have to get the helmet flat obviously. Tape off the vents and gasket rubber so it looks nice and pick off any stickers, glue & if it’s a used helmet fix up some of the chips from roost. I’m not at all complaining I love painting. But all of that goes down before any of the creative art, graphics and colors + multi clear go down. So when I quote you a price I’m not trying to fuck you, I’d like to help all you guys out. Including myself I got bills too! Thanks for anyone that has or will support me????????✌????
How long does it usually take you to do the helmets? Does it kind of depend on the helmet and how much you have to prep it and then the paint job?
Some designs just go really quick and really easy. You don’t have any problems. Then some kind of just seem to… Painting is kind of weird. If anything can go wrong, it will. It’s just paint. If you bump it… It’s all chemicals, so sometimes weird stuff happens. Some helmets can take me a week and some can take longer.
So whenever you do these helmets, you were talking about the SmarTop team. Are the helmets you do all like one of a kind? Like “I’m not ever going to do this design for somebody else?” Or is it, “We can take this idea that I did before?” Or is it every time it’s something new and different that you’ve never done before?
Usually each one is something I haven’t usually done. The MotoConcepts team like their helmets to all match, and they like really plain and simple graphics, which is good. If a normal customer wanted a replica or anything, I’d be open to that. Usually for that team they’ll just email me a design, a file, and I’ll just knock it out for them how they want it. It’s best that way.
Then you were saying you do the local guys’ helmets. I’m sure those guys are more willing to have you put your own twist on it. They kind of give you recommendations and I’m sure you kind of take the reins on it.
Like you said, you like doing the bigger name projects because it kind of gets your name out there, but is it more fun sometimes to do the things you can like, “I’ll do this and put my own twist on it?” What’s the favorite helmet you’ve ever painted? Do you have a specific one that stands out?
Some of the favorite ones I did are the ones I did. I like a lot of the Seven ones I did. The [Tyler] Bowers one I did for Daytona [last year] was really clean, really sick. That was their design, but it came to life really good. I’ll just meet in the middle usually with a normal, average customer. Like you said, they’ll let me do what I want. Sometimes they have a pretty set idea on what they want. It’s pretty fun just putting my twist onto it and then when they see it usually nine times out of ten they’re stoked on it. So that’s a good feeling, too.
I was going to say, I’m sure that’s a lot of relief too, or you enjoy it when you put all this work into it and they see it and they say it looks awesome. With Malcolm’s Raiders helmet, all the supercross official pages, everybody was sharing it. I’m sure that’s got to be cool. You know you like it, but then it’s like everybody else really likes it. I’m sure as an artist, that’s a good feeling.
Yeah, of course, it’s good. I feel like some of these big pages will post stuff and I don’t really get my tag, but I’m not going to cry about it. I know I did it. I had some good helmets with Christian Craig. Me and him had a little thing going, that was pretty cool. He kind of let me just go crazy with it, too. He’s a pretty clean-cut guy so I kind of kept it his style. I’m not going to do something that’s off left field he wouldn’t wear. So that was cool. Thanks to him for wearing my helmets and tagging me and supporting my program. He’s definitely a top dude. That was cool. I got to run a little free with my designs too, so that was really sick.
When did you get started with painting? How did this whole thing come to life from just wanting to do graffiti and stuff like that into I’m going to make money and do this for actual teams and it’s an income.
My dad painted since he was, like, 15. Old Volkswagen bugs and stuff like that growing up. Then the sport bike stuff and watercraft stuff and then big boats. It was pretty stressful for him so he switched over to restoring vintage motocross bikes and collecting them.
That’s probably sweet.
Yeah, it’s pretty rad. Then growing up seeing that, I was just growing up riding and being at the shop around paint and stuff. At the same time I was in school drawing and stuff. I was obsessed with graffiti. Then I was racing more and BMX’ing and as I got a little more serious with both of those I did the [Supercross Futures] Road to Supercross and got my points pretty quickly. I remember just wanting to paint one of my own helmets pretty much. After I did that, then I painted all my helmets and painted all my friends’ helmets. Then people would see it and be like, “How much?” Then I started off probably charging a little too cheap, but I’ve worked my way up.
So the first year you almost wanted to just have it because it was your creative taste and expressed who you were, but then it was kind of like… It looks cool, too. Whenever people have custom stuff it’s kind of like, that’s pretty neat. But then for you to say, it’s pretty cool-looking and I did that.
Yeah. That’s exactly how it was. I just figured, why am I going to wear a stock design when I can just try to paint it myself? And I got better and better, obviously. That was just the way I looked at it ever since.
So aside from helmets, is there anything that you work on, either for income or just for fun? I imagine you have other things that you trick out at your house too or whatnot.
I paint some BMX frames every now and then for my friends. I’ve been starting to paint on more canvasses and just try to sell them for side cash. People always want a cool canvas piece in their shop or whatever, their garage maybe. I really want to do more of just some graffiti stuff like I did for the Hawkins over on their water tower. I think they mentioned something like Brian Deegan and their family might want something. More stuff like that where I can come out with some paint and do that for a day’s work would be cool also on top of the helmets and stuff.
Is there anything else you’d like to add on painting or riding or whatever?
I’m just down here in Costa Mesa. I just want to have fun and get a name for myself. Help people out and make art and race my dirt bike and just have a good time.
Speaking about that, they’re saying that supercross might be resumed at the end of the month. I don’t know how it works for privateers because some of you guys are like, “We want to race and get this money.” It’s different for others. Are you worried about putting yourself in a situation where you could be exposed to the virus if you’re in a big area with people? What’s that like, the situation there?
I think it’s just a little weird to stay motivated. I get it if you got big contracts and big money on the line and next year you need to get a ride, but privateer-wise it’s kind of weird to get back into it. We hadn’t had any test tracks or any tracks at all open. The factory guys can kind of go ride their test stuff and probably haven’t really missed a beat. They’ve probably got testing done and some other stuff that even benefitted them and probably healed their bodies. As for a group being together with the virus and stuff, it crosses my mind a little bit but it’s not the main thing. I would just think of what would be best for me, whether it would be safe or it would be worth to go race for the money. It’s a little bit different too when, didn’t they say there might be no fans, obviously?
Yeah, that was going to be my next question. I don’t even know how they’re going to do it, if they are going to do it. How many riders are going to be invited? Have you heard? Has there been talk about how the privateers are going to do it, or if it’s going to be just this many guys in the points positions? I don’t even know how any of it is going to work.
I haven’t really gotten too many emails. I feel like some of the privateers are on the outside, which makes sense but it’s kind of weird in my opinion. I haven’t heard too much. Then again, it’s not the same without the crowd. It’s just kind of a big, old, weird thing. I will be ready to go if I need to or want to, but at the same time I’m kind of okay with just getting things figured out. I don’t know if any other privateers are thinking like this, but maybe just wait. I’m okay with starting over at A1 next year. I don’t do the outdoors, so that’s just my opinion.
That’s kind of what we’re seeing. Some of the guys are like, “I can’t wait to go back out,” and then some of the guys are like you were saying, there’s not been tracks open. Aside from like if you go to the hills you don’t get to train. Then it’s like, do you want to maybe put yourself at risk for getting it? Some people are worried about it. Some people aren’t.
Yeah, of course. It’s just kind of weird. It’s hard to be ready to jump back into something if the tracks just opened. It’s not like pre-season before A1 where you’re doing your motos. It’s hard to go get excited to do anything if you’re already going to be behind the eight-ball.
Is there anybody you want to give a shout out to? Anyone that’s helped you, any sponsors and stuff like that?
Dale [Evans] at RJC Racing for sure has helped me out the past few years. AHM, the After Hours factory services guys have helped me with my motors and late, last-minute bike builds. Seven and Roger Larson giving me opportunities. Robbie with the Colt BMX crew. He’s helped me huge with BMX bikes and support with racing. My dad and my girlfriend and all my best friends that help me out huge. Wouldn’t be possible without you guys.
Stay tuned to Caro’s Instagram (@korsace) in the next week to see his latest project with SevenMX.