Since Chicago native Kruise Sapstein moved to California he has become friends with blading royalty, designed a Valo pro skate and currently works with street skating legend Kevin Gillan. Feel free to start hating him at any point.
Kruise Sapstein left behind friends, family and familiar surroundings when he decided to relocate from Illinois to California several years ago, but to say that such a move was an act of stepping out of his comfort zone would be slightly misleading. In reality, it ended up being completely the opposite. Sapstein swapped the variable weather and extremely harsh winters of Chicago for the year-round summer that Southern California enjoys and became close friends with some influential figures in the blading industry as a result. He also managed to snag his first design job at Bravo Sports, former home of Arlo Eisenberg’s now defunct blading company Senate, thanks to blading legend Kevin Gillan. Some people get all the luck.
Sapstein first came to our attention via the Remz FlowFile online series six years ago, and despite a couple of online edits here and there, short sections in Fade Nation Green and Regardless, and a brief-but-exceptional appearance in Pariah, he hasn’t provided us with a lot to go on over the years and this is probably why he has never progressed beyond the realms of being an amateur blader with an infinite amount of potential. In fact, you may be more familiar with his design work than his blading. You know the Valo Maneuver Monday logo? He did that. Sapstein is also responsible for designing the forthcoming Victor Arias Valo pro skate, but he cannot provide any information on when we can actually expect it to be released; some might call that being a tease.
“I wish I could tell kids how much blading can do for them because everything I have – my job, my girl and my friends – are all thanks to rollerblading.”
However, it seems like the era of being a gifted amateur languishing in the shadows may just be about to come to an end for Sapstein. His infuriatingly short appearance in Valo V was one of the highlights of the video, dropping rail to fence transfers like they are nothing and lacing technical switch-ups UP handrails with the finesses of a seasoned professional. At the time of this interview he had just started filming with Lonnie Gallegos for F33t and he recently confirmed he will indeed have a full section in the third instalment of the trilogy. Apparently he and Ben Schwab were the last to complete their respective sections – lazy buggers. Plus, if all goes to according to plan, Sapstein is hoping to play a larger role in Valo’s next team video. While we wait to see how that all pans out, we thought it was an appropriate time to steal some time with the Windy City export that is currently living the dream in The Golden State.
Wheel Scene: You were previously sponsored by Remz, but you are riding for Valo now. How long has that been and why did you decide to make the change?
Kruise Sapstein: So, I suppose I’ve been riding Valos for roughly three years now. That all started one day at a skatepark when I forgot my blades and asked Amir (owner of Thee Strange) if I could shred his for a bit. Jon (Julio) ended up seeing me blade in them, liked what he saw and we have been working together ever since. The decision, however, was made a couple weeks prior. I was fresh off three ankle surgeries and was looking for something a little more rigid. Interestingly enough, up until then I had only ever skated Remz. I mean, only Remz, so it was quite the change. Nonetheless, Kato and I had an insanely good relationship – ongoing since he was making Remz by hand – so he was very supportive of my decision. I still can’t thank that guy enough for what he did for me.
You have been living out in California for a while now. What made you decide to pick up sticks and head west?
Like any rollerblader, California seemed like the place I had to be if I wanted to pursue my “rollerblading fantasy”. Obviously it’s much more for me now and it’s a place that I’m happy to call home. The decision to move out happened in my junior year of high school while tripping on mushrooms with a good buddy of mine Brian Bruno. We were talking about the depression involved with the winters in Chicago and the lack of opportunity to progress while only being able to be active four months out of the year. At the time we were speaking about blading, but when I look back on it I was speaking of the lack of progression with anything I wanted to do, whether it was art, a job, school, friends etc. I was just over it and knew if I didn’t leave as soon as I could I would then be stuck, stuck not knowing what could have been or stuck in the repetition that was soon to become my life. So, one year later, as I said I was going to, I packed up and headed west. Bruno backed out so it was hard at first, but also necessary. It gave me the chance to become the man I wanted to be while preparing for adulthood.
What did your parents think about your decision to move thousands of miles away?
Hilarious you ask because at first they were all about it, maybe because they didn’t actually think I’d go through with it, but when I was leaving my mom broke down hard. At the end of the day, it was my decision and they couldn’t really stop it.
What are the main differences you have noticed between life in the Midwest and life in California?
Life in California and life in the Middle are entirely different – neither is better or worse – but California fits me much better. All of that is relative, I suppose. The blading scenes are extremely contrasting though. In Chicago, everyone knows each other and there isn’t a whole lot of hate going around. We all would go to the same events, enjoy each other’s company and could call on one another if we needed to. Whereas when I first arrived in California, I noticed groups of bladers would sort of be “cliquey”. Not to say that’s a bad thing, it was just a change. In California it seems as though people had already found their group and they didn’t want to stray from that. Aside from blading, let me say that the main differences are as follows: I don’t ever walk around with wet socks, I can go to the beach in the winter and look to the mountains if I want to see snow, ice scrapers are non-existent, my gas bill is $7.00 in the dead of winter, I’m outside 365 days a year and seasonal depression is not an option. I love my Midwest family to death and wouldn’t be half the man I am without them, but they should probably get smart and follow my lead.
Are you working or studying at the moment?
I went to school for a while, studying design, and it wasn’t for me. I ended up dropping out to work on promoting myself and my work. At the moment, I am working with Kevin Gillan at a company called Bravo Sports (used to be Senate and Hyper Wheels) doing design and product photography. It is my first career-type job and it’s going well. I have been designing for about five years now and it amazes me that I’ve gotten this opportunity. I wish I could tell kids how much blading can do for them because everything I have – my job, my girl and my friends – are all thanks to rollerblading.
Did Kevin Gillan get you a job at Bravo Sports or did you meet him as a result of getting a job there?
Kevin Gillan did get me my job at Bravo, along with another pal of mine Chris Tinsley, but I’ve know him for a while now…seven years, in fact. He used to live with JC Rowe about five years ago, and both of them sort of became my mentors for graphic design. I learn from both of them constantly. Recently I was fortunate enough to be in his wedding with some pretty inspirational dudes by my side. I’m going to list the people I had the pleasure of standing next to while Kevin said his vows: JC Rowe, Rachard Johnson, Justin Mcleod and Dustin Latimer! I mean, come on…that’s a dream, no? Also, I want to mention to keep an eye out for Victor Arias’ new pro blade coming out as it is the first rollerblade designed by me. Vic, Jon and I worked pretty hard on coming up with the panelling, prints and colours, so I hope the community enjoys it.
Can you give us any sneaky hints about what we can expect from Victor’s pro skate?
As far as Victor’s skate goes, I really can’t tell you much except that it’s black and the panelling is completely different than any of the past Valo blades. Although I do not know when JJ is planning on releasing them, as I know other people are in line. I suppose Victor being Mexican is also a small hint to some of the accents and materials used, but by mentioning it I may have said too much already.
Can we see examples of your design work anywhere?
My design and art work is basically just on my Behance profile, which is behance.net/kruisesapstein. I’m working on getting my website up at the moment, but most of my work is on there. (Laughs) I’m glad I got to plug my stuff!
You have had some amazing cameos recently, especially in Valo V, but when are we going to see a new full street section?
Thank you for the cameo comment (Laughs), it is much appreciated. I really do not know when you will see another full street part from me. I recently bought a car and went up to film with Lonnie for F33t last week, so I will probably be doing that much more now and hopefully can weasel my way in to a part there. (Laughs) I guess we will have to see.
“I feel so lucky to be a part of F33t, which I can assure you, and anybody else who reads this interview, will be a much needed breath of fresh air.”
Apart from your Remz Flow Files, your mini section in Fade Nation Green and your appearances in Pariah and V, there is not much other footage of you floating around. Why is that? I mean, you are friends with people in the industry and you have connections with film makers like Lonnie. Why have there not been more Kruise Sapstein sections in the past six years?
Well, let’s not forget about Regardless now. (Laughs) There’s a few reasons for that. When I first moved out here I was recovering from a couple of ankle surgeries, so it was a slow come up into filming for Green. Shortly after was another ankle surgery filming into Regardless, and then on top of all of that, right after Pariah, I had my shoulder re-built, so those things have a little bit to do with my lack of appearances. It really boils down to the type of person I am though. I tend to only want to be involved in projects that I seriously believe in and am asked to be a part of. The personalities behind those projects – Negrete, Ivan, AJ and Lonnie – are what make me want to work harder, film more, go bigger etc. I’ve never, on my own, decided to make an edit or promote myself in the blading world. Part of me has always wanted to, but every time I’ve thought about trying, all the fun kind of fades away. In short, I like filming with my friends, but two of them don’t live near me, one has passed (RIP Negrete), and the other is a busy, busy man, and I feel so lucky to be a part of his newest project, which I can assure you, and anybody else who reads this interview, will be a much needed breath of fresh air.
What else do you get up to when you are not skating or working?
When I’m not skating or working, I’m usually drinking, smoking, straight up west coasting… Kidding, but not! (Laughs) I don’t know. I like to dabble with minor woodwork and random art projects. I live in a small city – Long Beach – so I ride my bike around when I can, hit the beach, go camping with pals, take the dog on long walks and kicks it with the lady. Damn, writing all this down makes it seem like I’m living a dream or something!
It certainly does sound that way! What are your plans for the rest of 2014?
My plans for the rest of 2014 consist of an extremely healthy amount of camping and travelling, along with starting a couple of projects of my own. As far as blading goes, I was fortunate enough to start off the year with a trip to Puerto Rico hosted by Miguel (mi Amore) Ramos and Ivan Narez, filming and shooting for a video zine he’s working on. The name of the zine is still undecided, but I hope to continue helping grow that idea. I do believe the beginning of Valo 6 starts this year as well, so I’m hoping to play a big role in that given I’m able to take some time off of work to help out and catch a couple manoeuvres.
Photos: Brandon Smith
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