Kien Caples' "Ruining Skateboarding" Interview by Jaime Reyes

Kien portrait4 Marbie DZPhoto: Marbie

From local shop filmer to breakout pro for one of the hottest new brands, Kien's meteoric rise commands our attention. Jaime Reyes catches up with THERE's star to get insights on making ends meet by modeling, quitting the 'Gram and so much more—as seen in the May '22 issue.

Kien's part in THERE's first feature is packed with NBDs plus all the vibes that'll get you out the door and on your board

So let’s start with this question—what’s your name?
It’s going to be shown in the video; I just changed my name recently. It’s Kien but I’m also still fine with Kane.

What got you into skateboarding?
I still remember this and it’s really fun. It was 2008 at my friend's place, and I was playing Guitar Hero inside the house. My friend comes out and asks if I wanted to go skate with them because I was just playing videos games alone. They were skating his backyard. I was like, I’ll give it a shot. So I tried it a little bit and after that, one of my friends gave me a board. It was an Element board—maybe an eight. I remember there were Element trucks, if they ever made trucks?

I think they do that for full completes—Element bearings, Element trucks, Element board. You're probably right.
Yeah, it’s been around 13, 14 years since I started skating.

Rad. So where are you from and where do you reside?
I was born in Riverside, raised in Moreno Valley, California, and right now I’m staying in LA, K-Town area.

I like that area.
Yeah, there’s lots of queer and trans skaters in LA. That’s cool. It’s a good community here.

Who were you first sponsors and who are they now?
I was first sponsored by a skateshop in my area. The name is really funny now that I think about it. The name is Etaks, which is just “skate” spelled backwards. But I wasn’t sponsored as a skateboarder. I was sponsored as the filmer, because during that time I wasn’t good enough to be the skater, but I could be their filmer.

KIEN CAPLES TAILSLIDE HEELFLIPFront tail heelflip to fakie, no shortage of talent here

They’re giving you a double job.
Shouldn’t you sponsor someone not that good and they would get hyped to get better, you know? I was thinking, Guess I’m not good enough. I have to work harder now. But that was one of the first sponsors I had. And then currently, I ride for THERE skateboards and Krux trucks. Converse, but it's kind of a weird deal. I do modeling for them, and I’m also a part of their All Stars Committee. Then I also ride for Bronson and Tomo griptape. Shoutout to Tomo over in SF and sorry, y’all, if I forgot you!

If you don’t mind me asking, when did you decide to transition and what were your fears?
I discussed being trans with Cher briefly in about 2018, but not much outside of our conversations. I did some research over the years on what I wanted for myself. I was finally able to get started on HRT on March 10th of last year. My assumptions and fears would be the negative reactions from people saying, This person is transitioning because they want these amenities, which is why I didn’t discuss it online. Even right now I’m not on social media because I’m in the beginning phases of my transition. It’s really private for me. I don’t want to deal with having discussions with strangers online about what I think is best for myself. I have friends who are trans and deal with such hate online, it can be really unbearable. I already deal with enough mental stress throughout the day outside of the Internet.

There Kien Caples pullquote We both decided that I take an indefinite break from social media
How do you deal with that stress?
Therapy has helped out a lot. That’s something I can’t mention enough to people. I know it’s hard when it comes down to how much it can cost because therapists are expensive or hard to afford. But back to the question—I talked to my therapist for a while about being online in my early stages of transitioning, the stresses of it, all of the negativity surrounding being openly trans. Among other stresses I deal with, it became overwhelming. My therapist advised me that, "You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to." We both decided that I take an indefinite break from social media, and that’s one way I’ve been able to handle some stress. I’m thinking, Okay, let me try to deal with myself right now, which I never do, because I feel I have to do so much for people online. My therapist asked me, “When do you ever stop and think about yourself?” That’s something I never really do. But the way I’ve been dealing with stress is by taking a break from everything, focusing on myself, close family and friends who are around me and cutting out social media.

And keeping good people around you.
Yeah, exactly. That’s one way that I get through the day.

Alright, let’s change gears a little bit. It’s good for people to know what you’re going through and it will help other people that read the magazine, so I’m stoked on you telling us. Thank you. The THERE video is coming out soon. Who’s part are you looking forward to?
Um, I can’t say everyone.

You can say everyone! That’s what everybody’s answer has been.
That’s too easy.

Is there a specific part that you’re looking forward to seeing?
I want to see more Gabe clips, but we’ll see if that happens. I’m always stoked with anything of Gabe. When we had the Euro THERE video, just seeing a little clip of Gabe rolling by, I was thinking, That’s really sick.

Hell yeah.
But, I think probably—and this is a biased answer—Chandler. Me and Chandler were roommates. But he’s someone who is really close to me. Yeah, I guess out of all the parts, I haven’t seen no footage of Chandler. I’ve seen other people’s, which I didn’t want to spoil it for myself, but it was hard not to watch some clips. None of Chandler’s was uploaded, so I’m very curious as to what Chandler has. I think that’s the part I’m most excited for.

KIEN CAPLES 5 0 360 750Securing some stoke with a frontside 5-0 360 out

Are you stoked on your part?
Actually, I’m pretty stoked. It’s one of the very few parts that I’ve had where I actually had time to do what I want. The first board company that I rode for—Epiphany skateboards—had a video that came out in 2015. They were already filming for about a year. I came in later on only had three months to film. I know there’s one thing that people are probably going to be bummed about that they see in my part that’s going to be a split decision, we’ll see—I’m wearing a mask in my part.

Oh! I can’t wait.
Yeah, I’m wearing a mask because we started filming in the beginning of the pandemic, in the heat of it. I know it’s a personal decision currently since the majority of us are vaccinated and boosted, but for me, my family and friends, I wanted to do that to show how important it actually is to wear a mask for us. We’re still dealing with the pandemic in many ways. I haven’t seen a skate part where anybody actually has it on the entire time. I’m thinking, You can still do all the same things you do without it.

My part, it’s structured really well. I got some weird powerslide variations I’ve been wanting to do that I haven’t filmed in any edits. I’m pretty stoked.

Any favorite skaters besides Chandler?
Not on the company? If we’re talking outside of the company, everyone knows who my favorite skater of all time is. No matter what debate it is with skating, I always talk about Mark Suciu.

Oh, fuck yeah. That dude. I think he’s a robot. What do you think?
I don’t think he's a robot. A lot of his skating looks like dancing beautifully to me.

No, wait. I don’t think I articulated that correctly. I feel like he downloads an app at night and then he just wakes up in the morning and is like, I’m gonna do that. I mean, his skating is beautiful. You know what I’m saying? I feel like with kids these days, it’s like downloading an app. You get it in like two seconds. I feel like he’s that dude.
Yeah. I asked him over the comments before, “Do you think of the trick before you go to the spot? Do you have it all preplanned, or do you just go to the spot and then think of something while you’re there?” He responded, “Yeah, usually depending on the spot” If somebody sends it to him, he’ll have it preplanned. Basically, as you said, he downloads it.

Yeah, for me personally when I go to the spot I gotta test it out before I think of what I’m gonna do, you know? Maybe I’m just old. But if I look at it on a video, maybe I could download it? Yeah, he’s one of my favorite skaters, too.
I kind of do that too. I have a trick list. I don’t know if I showed Jeff. I have this whole big note list that I built for months. I check off items each time I get a trick or line for my part. It’s titled "THERE Video Part List."

Why don’t you say a few of the things on the list?
No-comply 180 the red eight stair in Berkeley wearing a black dress and black veil.

I love that you have outfits that go with spots.
I’m very specific about my outfits. I think there’s a small section in my part that I’m wearing the black dress/black outfits ‘cause there’s this song from one of my mutuals, Trit95, that I originally wanted to use. The song was called "Black Dress." This is what I’m going back to Oakland for—backside bigspin revert manual to back 180 out. Hopefully, I get it.

KIEN CAPLES BIGSPIN REVERT MANUAL 750Backside bigspin revert manual to back 180 out, Kien called it

I attempted for three hours last time. Sometimes on the list I’ll put the trick with a placeholder, no set spot. I put hippy jump frontside 360 on any obstacle. I found a spot that we went to for that specific trick. I hippie jumped frontside 360’d through these—what the hell would you even call it? Pillars. They’re really thin.

Let me see the footy. I won’t post it on Instagram, I promise. I just want to see it. What’s your dream trick?
Dream trick? I guess I got it really sketchy. I only did it one time ever—fakie heelflip tailslide to fakie heelflip out. That was posted on my Instagram. It was there when I had it, but now it’s gone. I could probably get that on a ledge. It took me a few hours. In my opinion, that’s the epitome of skateboarding when it comes to being good—getting technical. It’s like, Oh, you got a flip in and flip out variation! That’s classic.

That’s all I wanted to get. Have one flip in and flip out. And I got that.

Kien Caple fakie heel sean carabarin DZFakie heel, check it off the list    Photo: Carabarin

Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully having a bird rescue or farm, doing something with birds. I just did a Zoom meeting a week ago to volunteer at a bird rescue—International Bird Rescue in San Pedro, actually. They specialize in aquatic birds so it would be to clean up the beaches for pelicans and seagulls, clean up oil spills.

Oh yeah, there was a big oil spill when I was out there in November—Huntington Beach area, right? Wasn’t there like a big fucking dipshit oil spill?
Yes! International Bird Rescue is one of the biggest bird organizations that do that, so I will be the person who goes and helps with that.

I saw that on the news. That was really sad. And then I was there and saw all those poor birds that were washed up ashore with all that oil stuck to them; fucking sucked.
It’s really sad, and they usually don’t have enough volunteers. That’s something I volunteered to do and then my roommate wanted to do it as well, so we’re gonna be helping out birds.

Hell yeah. What do you do besides skateboard?
I’ve been traveling with the band Eyedress. Last year we took a trip to Wisconsin for a show and I don’t want to go there again. It wasn’t a fun place. I’m sorry, Marbie! Afterwards, we went to Riot Fest in Chicago. I’ve been the hype person on stage in the band. They want me to be synth lead in the band, so I’ve been practicing synth at home frequently. I’m supposed to playing with them in April, but we’ll see after the video premiere if we’re traveling for THERE or not ‘cause Coachella is April 4th and Eyedress wants me to play on stage. We’ll see. I don’t know if I’m gonna be good at synth by that time.

That’s awesome!
What else? I model, which is something I talk about all the time. It's something that’s not that fun for me anymore, honestly. I know the majority of these big corporate companies try to do a lot of things to make them look diverse/inclusive. I’m exhausted at this point in my life, being that diversity ticket for them, but it's a survival tool right now for me—helps pay bills. 

So that’ll be your day job, correct?
Yes, my day job is modeling. Currently, I’m modeling for this fashion brand in Target.

Oh my God. I was just talking to someone about Target.
I’m gonna be on the Target billboards; y'all are gonna see me there soon.

KIEN CAPLES NO COMPLY 180When the spot and the look line up just right, no-comply 180 

Hell yeah!
Then Urban Outfitters, I’m going to be on set with them. There are pros and cons to everything. There are things that I enjoy—I get to look cute, and that’s cool. But working with some of these companies, it’s hard especially when it comes to feeling comfortable on set with my gender and how I present myself. I literally had to have an entire discussion on set before. I had to go through several people on set—having to tell them, “Hey, I don’t feel comfortable.” They tried to put me in a whole masculine outfit. I mostly present femme; that’s what I wear. The people that hired me knew that I was trans and that I presented femme. I don’t see how it could be so hard for you to get me some clothes that I feel comfortable with. It shouldn’t be that hard. I shouldn’t have to go through so many people. That’s a negative about modeling. It’s a balance with everything—trying to figure it out and know it's not their fault, really. They’re still learning. One of the things that I know is it's gonna take some time. These companies need more trans people working on set.

And it’s great that you’re telling us. Maybe some of them will read this. Everyone reads Thrasher. Hopefully, you get a better work environment.
Please, yes! Get more trans people on set.

There Kien Caples pullquote Fast forward to now, meetups are global
Do you think THERE is much different than other skate companies?
I don’t think a lot of us realize how much it’s actually different and how much it’s done for skateboarding in general, just starting from back when I went to Unity meetups in 2017. I felt something different at this meetup. Seeing everyone discuss comfortably about being trans or queer, it was a safe space. Fast forward to now, meetups are global. I think Unity and THERE played a pivotal role in this spark. When it comes to skate companies, you see lots of them being open with trans and queer people being a part of their company because of these meetups and being more exposed to our community. You didn’t see it as much before but now you see it. Especially after Brian Anderson came out. In general, skateboarding has been ran by cishet people, but it’s changing. THERE is needed for these changes, and that’s what sets us apart. 

You just did the THERE video. Are you planning on working on other video parts for anyone or yourself?
I chatted a bit with Alex White about a Krux part. I’m pretty lazy, so whenever I get to that. Alex has been talking to me for a long time about a part or filming videos because they’ve been doing more content for YouTube. And then whatever THERE is doing.

What do you think of the full-length video being almost an hour versus a lot of things coming out these days that are a lot shorter. Do you think people will watch it? Do you care if people watch it?
I know people are gonna watch it ’cause there haven’t been that many queer skate videos. The Glue video and Bottom Feeder are the only full-length videos. And now you have the THERE video. That’s just very important having that. We’ve never had this before, you know? So yeah, it’s definitely going to be watched. And an hour? Honestly, I don’t think it’s enough. It should be an hour and a half or so. That’s very important, us taking up space. We’ve never had this before!

Your video is gonna kill it, and I can’t wait to see it. Any shoutouts?
Shoutout to Boris, that’s my pigeon. KT, who’s laying back here, that's my partner. Shoutout to all my housemates. There’s a lot of people—all of THERE, of course Thrasher. Also, big shoutout to my therapist. It’s helped me out a lot, honestly. I think tomorrow is going to be my one-year anniversary with my therapist. Big shoutout to my therapist.

Hell yeah. Big shoutout to therapy and your therapist.
Shoutout Jeff and Trish too.

Kien poleslide sean carabarin DZProper pole slide, the vid rules     Photo: Carabarin
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