Before the London premiere of Volcom's Holy Stokes! we had the chance to catch up with Axel Cruysberghs. Axel has been on the scene for a long time now, maturing from almost exclusively skating contests into the ATV ripper you see today. In a bar by the Volcom offices we chatted about the video, his time on King of the Road, being scared of bananas and more...
Portait by CJ - Skate shots provided by Volcom | Words by Broadley & Kliewer
We’ll start at the beginning, when did you get on Volcom, you’ve been on for a while right?
Yeah I’ve been on Volcom since I was a little kid, I don’t know exactly how long, but it’s been a few years now yeah.
How did you get hooked up in the first place?
I remember this Belgian guy, his name was Hans (Claessens), he was the team manager for Volcom and would come to local park every now and then. He’d see me skate and then he asked ‘do you want to ride for Volcom?’ obviously I was down and I’ve been skating for them ever since.
How has it been filming for the video, how long were you aware what you were filming for?
Some people had been filming for it for a while already, then I started going to the States all the time, they said ‘seems like you’re getting some tricks, maybe you should film more stuff for the video’. So for the last year and a half I’ve been trying to film for the video.
Do you feel any added pressure being on the same team as so many big names?
I kind of knew all the guys already so it’s always been pretty mellow, until a couple of months ago I hadn’t thought ‘this is a big thing, so I have to get good stuff’. So there’s not too much pressure, it’s all fun, sometimes you go through periods of time where you get hurt and can’t get tricks.
Yeah, I guess it only starts to feel real at a certain point?
I got hurt a couple of times, so did everybody probably, but it was fun. Not too much pressure.
Is there anyone on the team you feel like you skate better with?
I like skating with everybody of course, but there’s this one guy from Australia who just got on, his name’s Jackson Pilz. We started going on our first trips together for this video, .
I heard he’s got some gnarly stuff...
We’re sharing a part in the video, we always room together, and at the house we stay at in Long Beach we share bunk beds. So we’re always together and always skate, I like to skate with Dane Burman too. We always go skate early mornings, all day, which is so fun. It’s always Dane, Jackson and me going early and then some people join us later.
Who's section stands out for you?
Louie Lopez has a really good part, he’s really sick. Skankie (Daan van der Linden), he’s got good shit too. I mean everybody killed it, it’s all different kinds of stuff. I would say my favorites are Louie, Daan and there’s a pool section too which is pretty fucking sick.
Is it similar at all to Chichagof?
It’s kind of like that yeah, there’s parts and montages in the middle. I like it, I back it.
You had a part in Lucas Fiederling’s video Where We Come From, did you approach filming in a similar way?
For the Volcom video it was completely different, Lucas’ video was HD and you can film whatever you want. With the Volcom one it’s a huge project using RED cameras, which is sick as it looks great. But it’s definitely harder to film, you’re not just going to film something little. For me I felt like I had to do some bigger stuff for some reason, I don’t know why.
"When you’re little you can go both ways, you either go the Ryan Sheckler way or the better way"
I guess you feel since they’re using these crazy cameras that you’ve got to make it worthwhile?
Yeah, it’s definitely a different feeling to film for the Volcom video.
You’re quite young and have been on the scene for ages, from the outside it seems you’ve been through your Ryan Sheckler phase, in KP 82 you said you’re favorite skater was Salabanzi. Your skating has developed in front of a camera. Do you feel like a super-kid status was put on you, has that affected you at all?
No, I’m just going to say that when you’re a little kid you grow up skating you think these guys who win contests are sick. The only thing I would do is skate skateparks, I grew up in a small town and the only way I could skate was my parents dropping me off at the park. As I grew up I got into different kind of things, people may still think I’m like that, but I’d say I’m not. When you’re so little you can go both ways, you either go the Ryan Sheckler way or the better way I’d say. As a little kid you’re just doing it, not much thinking about it.
Not saying you are like Ryan Sheckler by the way, he’s just an example
I’ll be honest when I grew up he was my favorite skater, same as growing up and Tony Hawk might be your favorite skater. Everything changes, I mean I still respect him for sure, but he’s not my favorite skater anymore.
You mention your parents, I know they took you around a lot. How did they deal with the wilder stuff that goes on around skate contests and tours?
They were always quite mellow about it, they liked it. For them it was something completely new. I’m just stoked and thankful that they always wanted to do everything for me, travel, driving me everywhere. I’m here right now because they did all that for me back in the day, I’m very thankful for that.
What’s going on with you and Toy Machine? In your Free interview you mentioned you were about to go on a trip with them?
I did go on that trip, a couple of weeks later the TM called me up asking if I wanted to go on another trip. I was supposed to fly home, but he said it was King of the Road so I obviously changed my flight and went on King of the Road. Now I’ve been on a couple of other trips, some demos, and we’re filming for the Toy Machine video now.
So it’s all coming together. Do you get to skate with Ed Templeton much?
I’ve seen him a couple of times now, we had a demo recently in L.A which was super fun.
Was he skating?
A little bit yeah. He’s so busy with all his art stuff so he doesn’t get much time to skate. Just to see him cruise around, I was impressed, like ‘damn it’s Ed Templeton’. He’s fucking sick man, he’s so cool, I’m stoked to be a part of that stuff that he does.
How was the King of the Road experience?
It was definitely a super gnarly experience, but at the same time it was so sick.
"Birdhouse take it so seriously, that’s why Chocolate got in a fight with them"
Not got the nose piercing anymore?
No, I took that out. The thing was in the book it said get a piercing for 72 hours, after 72 hours I just said fuck this shit. It was so annoying, I would sweat from skating and then wipe my face and catch the piercing. I fucking hated it, it looked horrible, but whatever it was a 100 points or something.
It seems there’s a lot of acting or playing up to the camera in the T.V episodes. Were you encouraged to behave in a certain way? I noticed they tried to frame you as the ‘Euro’ guy whose name nobody can say and might be a bit clueless?
I watched them, when we were on the trip it was not like that. They definitely portrayed it how they wanted. But they did pretty good as the people that filmed and edited it were not skaters. All the time we had microphones on, I was just hoping that I didn’t say too much stupid stuff, because you’re tired, you see people getting into a fight - Chocolate and Birdhouse. Birdhouse does something lame and you’re like ‘fuck these guys!’
Was that stuff actually for real?
Yeah, nothing is played. It’s all real. And it’s only going to get gnarlier, things are going to get a little crazy! Toy Machine kept it mellow though. The other teams went a little hard. Birdhouse take it so seriously, that’s why Chocolate got in a fight with them. They actually got in a fist fight, slashed their tyres. Toy Machine was just having fun.
What was it like hanging out with Forrest Edwards?
Everybody always thinks he’s a dick because he just says what he thinks, but I hang out with him a lot and we skate all the time. He’s so fucking good it’s insane. He’s one of the best to hang around with.
I got this really funny clip on my phone of him. We went to this pool place and a guy asked him for a cigarette, he’s like ‘nah, I don’t have a cigarette’ and then the guy calls him a bitch. Forrest replies ‘don’t call me a bitch’ so the guy calls him a bitch again, Forrest again says ‘don’t do it’ and the guy asks ‘why not? Bitch?’ The guy had put his glasses on the side so Forrest takes the glasses, smashes them and throws them on the ground! The guy jumps up and is trying to fight him, the guys tries to punch Forrest and misses him, then one punch from Forrest and the guy is lying knocked out on the ground. Forrest walks over to him ‘I told you, you fucking pussy!’ It was so fucking funny!
So you've been in the U.S a lot lately, any plans to move there?
I guess, I’m trying to get a visa so I can get a place there and a car. It will be easier to skate and stuff. I still want to spend a bit of time in Europe, I want to go half half or something.
Do you have specific goals within skateboarding? You've spoken before about leaving Antiz to further your career?
I was thinking I should try to go bigger, in a certain way you know? I think it’s working out, I mean I got on Toy Machine, I’m lucky. I just want to have fun, film parts and maybe one day turn pro. That would be really cool, in the first instance I just want to have fun and keep doing what I’m doing.
"I fucking hate bananas, I hate the smell of them, they’re fucking disgusting"
Can you talk about your relationship with Jelle Keppens?
I remember when I had just started skating he hit my parents up to ask to go shoot with me. I kick flipped this stair set, maybe a 12 or something, and he put it on the cover of the magazine he had at the time. We’ve been traveling together ever since, we’re really good friends, hang out all the time. I love him, he’s cool. He looks like the scariest dude, like a viking, but he’s like a little bear you know?
What have you been spending your contest money on? Someone said you bought a house?
No, I wanted to but I haven’t done that yet. Right now I am just trying to save as much as I can, one day maybe I’ll be able to buy a house but it’s expensive. I guess I’ll be spending money on rent in Long Beach soon…
Is it true that you’re scared of bananas?
Yeah I fucking hate bananas, I hate the smell of them, they’re fucking disgusting. Jelle always fucks with me with bananas, when he eats them I try not to make eye contact because as soon as I do he will start fucking with me. I think they’re gross, I don’t know why.
Chewy Cannon also has a phobia of bananas
That makes sense, they’re fucking gross! I don’t know why I hate the smell, not a big fan. Never tried them either.
What’s next for you then?
Filming for the Toy Machine video, and I think we might do some New Balance stuff. I’m not too sure yet, we’ll see.
Thanks Axel, all the best.