Interview With Fs Boards Chief Gerry Kreuder
Over the past year, I have been getting to know Fs Boards Chief, Gerry Kreuder. I have always been intrigued by creators, artists, and their entrepreneurial ways. Skateboarding has a strong spirit of DIY, but the majority of skaters apply that to engineering their own skateboarding fun versus designing and delivering the so-called ‘business end’ of the general community. It’s almost like a separation between church and state. Is there a way to do both? I think there is, but it also means sacrificing purely industrial goals for the community ones and mindfully keeping them in balance. Brands that are designed to make earnings from ‘customer demand’ and ‘untapped markets’ are where industry and community fall apart. Fs Boards isn’t just a brand. Skateboarding is Gerry’s passion and things like marketshare and profitability will never take the place of passion.
Anyone can brand and sell. It’s not so much the ‘I wanted to make boards’ conversation, but the part about the struggle, the toil, and the heart-and-soul of why someone invested so deeply. Gerry has been making boards for nearly ten years now, but Fs has only been a company for three. The goal was not and is not about profits, but about learning and adapting, loving and playing and ultimately expressing a passion for skateboarding. These stories of how brands began, the founders, and where it went (or is going) are as important, if not more, than simply what they make and sell. Not unlike skating itself… you have to commit and follow through. Sometimes you succeed and sometimes you fail. It’s not a fast journey because the journey is a part of the overall fun. Fs Boards and Gerry’s journey is really still just beginning and so the story is still being written.
Let’s start this like we would any other interview and make sure everyone knows who you are. Give us your full name, age, and where you’re from (where you’re living)?
My name is Gerry Kreuder, I’m 26 years old, and I’m from Long Island, NY and for the time being I’m still living there.
How long have you been riding skateboards? What got you into it? What was your fist skateboard?
I’ve been riding boards since I was about 2 or 3, so basically my whole life. I have a few relatives, mainly one of my uncles, who put me on a board every time I was with him and that pretty much lit the fire. Being around it a lot, having people that I looked up to doing it, and then just how freeing it felt when I got the hang of it, got me into it and kept me going. At this point, being on a board feels more natural than walking haha My first board was a 1970’s plastic deck, still set up with the OG parts from my uncle. It was the perfect size for me being so little when I started.
How long has Fs Boards been around? What inspired you to move from riding boards to making boards?
Technically the idea of Fs has been around since ’09 when I started building boards, but we’ve only been an official company for about 3 years now. What originally inspired me to make boards was honestly hearing about the stories from the late 60’s early 70’s, when decks weren’t really produced often so dudes would just find planks of wood and cut out decks themselves to skate. One day, me and a buddy of mine did exactly that. Found a plank of wood in his garage and cut it into small little cruiser shape. It was pretty shitty but I was stoked! After about a year of just cutting and shaping decks out of plywood I started pressing decks, and that’s when I really got hooked. Experimenting with different shapes, concaves, and materials was addicting. That time period of my life I still hang on to very fondly.
Is Fs your Day Job or do you have regular (or irregular) employment as well?
Nope, Fs isn’t a full-time gig for me yet. I still work a regular job to help pay the bills.
Do you make your own boards or do you outsource the manufacturing? Why or why not make your own?
I use to make every deck by hand out of my shop at my place but eventually it got a little rough keeping up with things and making sure the build quality of every deck was up to par with my expectations while also being able to meet the needs of life. Linking up with a solid manufacturer in the US was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made for the company. It’s given me more time to focus on the design work, travel, and getting involved with events. It’s also increased the quality of our decks, giving us access to new materials to build with, and has allowed us to expand out and get our decks under more feet.
How did you go about designing and prototyping your boards? Did you think about that lifecycle and design the whole way through or is it more an ‘aha’ moment and you send it?
I could talk about board designing for days, possibly weeks haha Before I released our current line of DH boards, the team and I probably went through a 100 shapes and concaves over the course of a few years to figure out what works and what doesn’t. I definitely try to be as thorough in the design process as possible before releasing a new model, incorporating certain features to make the deck more durable and live a longer life. Every once in a while, we’ll tweak something last minute like an ‘aha’ moment but that happens pretty infrequently. I like to make sure everything is 100 percent spot on before I put it out there.
What are the challenges of designing boards vs actually making boards and how do you feel the final product reflects your intention with each board you design?
Designing boards and actually producing them are almost two totally different things in my opinion. You can draw any kind of crazy concave or shape on paper or in a design program but that doesn’t mean its gonna work in production. Sometimes curves are too demanding on the veneers and crack them, or a shape removes to much material which causes it to warp out easier, etc. There’s so many factors that go into making a board come to life in the manufacturing process that make it much more difficult in my opinion. That’s why I like to prototype our decks for a long time. To make sure that not only the designs are gonna be comfortable and functional but also to make sure they are going to work in production without any hiccups, and I feel that taking this time really does have each deck reflect exactly what I want it to when it’s finally released.
What inspired you to design your own art for Fs boards? How has producing your own art helped influence the brand and branding of Fs? Does board shape impact art or vice versa at all? Or is the art just a branding tool to sell the deck?
I feel like art and skateboarding go hand in hand and I’ve been into art for as long as I’ve been skateboarding. I also have a heavy interest in myths, urban legends and Cryptids. From when I was a kid, I remember being enthralled by stories of creatures and monsters that go bump in the night. All these things combined have helped build the concepts for the graphics I designed for our decks. Being an East Coast company all of the creatures featured on our DH boards are from eastern North America. Eventually we may add in other monsters from different regions so everyone can connect and support their local monster haha – Honestly, it’s not so much the shape that influences the graphic, the shape influences what creature I choose to name it after, and then the art comes.
What are your feelings on the wider ‘board art’ market and what other brands are putting on their products?
Ooof this is kind of a loaded question haha There’s been some art that I’ve seen on decks over the years that has really hit me in an amazing way but then there’s also been a lot of “art” that I’ve seen on boards that I don’t even know what they were thinking. I guess it’s just a matter of different strokes for different folks. I definitely plan on keeping the aesthetic of simple and refined graphics rather than eclectic and over the top stuff.
What have you learned as you built Fs over the years? Not just about making products, but being a company and a skate brand? What have you learned about yourself?
Building Fs has been the biggest learning experience of my life so far. I’ve learned things that were reassuring and comforting but I’ve also learned some things that have been hard to swallow. It’s been a roller coaster of highs and lows. A few of the major takeaways that I’ve learned about running the brand are that you have to be persistent because eventually it’ll click, that skateboarding as an industry is extremely diverse and that not everyone is gonna like what you got and you have to accept that, and that keeping things fun is the key to success and keeping the passion alive. The moment things get too serious and the fun stops, is the instant that the passion will fade. The main things I’ve learned about myself are that I love the challenges of progress, meeting people in different scenes, getting involved in events, spreading stoke, and that I’m a really good ‘skate dad’ ha ha ha.
What are your feelings on the state of the industry? How does a smaller brand compete versus larger more corporate ones? I guess what I am asking is, do you want to eventually become a more corporate entity or is the goal to remain smaller and more craft oriented?
The industry in my opinion is in a pretty weird spot, definitely in a decline somewhat. I also feel like there’s been a loss of roots. There’s such a focus on just doing the gnarliest shit out there, that I feel like it deters new comers from getting involved. Don’t get me wrong, the super gnarly stuff is definitely necessary for the progression of downhill and street skating as a whole, but I feel like there needs to be a shift in focus back to just having fun on board if we want the industry to start growing again. Another key thing is keeping roots events alive. These events are usually accessible to all levels of riders which helps in getting new people involved. As far as where I see Fs fitting into all this, I plan to hopefully grow the brand enough to support more events and get more people involved in skateboarding no matter what style of riding they enjoy. Besides board design and production costs, the majority of the money that is made off of sales goes to supporting events, and I personally plan to keep it that way, even if it means having a day job for the rest of my life!
What is Fs doing to help create more community and opportunities for the community to skate (events) versus just making and selling boards?
Like I just said we’re all about getting involved in events to help get people skating! So far we’ve sponsored events like Guajataca DH in Puerto Rico, Attack of Danger Bay in Canada, Central Mass Skate Festival in Massachusetts, Skate the Cape in Delaware, The Bethlehem Slide Jam in Pennsylvania, Path Races in Washington, and local jams right here near us. We will continue to get involved in the community as much as possible and plan to start hosting some events in the future ourselves.
Who is on the Fs team and how does having a brand team help with developing both your product and the greater skate scene?
The Fs Team pretty much consists of friends I’ve had for years and years. I consider us a family at this point. They are all a huge part of the brand because without them Fs wouldn’t be where it is at this point. I owe them more than they know haha They have helped me design and test boards for years and have given their opinions on shapes and concaves that have been integral to the finalized shapes that we produce. I couldn’t do it all alone, you always need many opinions so you can get a good consensus on a decision. They also help with promoting the brand through filming, helping at events and just repping and spreading the stoke wherever they go.
After coming out west the past couple years for some events, what are the compare and contrast points between the east and west coast scenes?
Hmm, well one similarity is I love them both ha ha. In all seriousness, though, I think there’s a lot of similarities because it’s all skateboarders. It’s kind of hard to tell distinct differences between the scenes because there’s so many subsections of both the east and west coast scenes to begin with, so to generalize differences would be an injustice. Like you have the Socal dudes, Norcal guys, PNW homies, and of course the Coasties in BC, among others on the west and then in the east, there’s the Northeast dudes, the Middle coast guys, NCDH bois, the Toronto and Montreal homies, and so on and so forth. All these different regions have their own individual vibes I feel, that sometimes it doesn’t even feel right just dividing it between coasts. But all in all, no matter where I’ve traveled I’ve always felt welcomed. That’s the amazing thing about skateboarding, no matter where you are from we’re all part of a big family I feel.
Keep it Fun, Keep it Saucy. We Make Good Boards.
What else is good with Fs Boards? You have some new boards coming, right? Why grow the line up?
Yea! We actually just released our new DH deck, The Rake, into the line-up and we have another few decks in a whole new line dropping extremely soon! There’s a few reasons to grow the overall line-up, first one is to try and accommodate as many people’s riding styles as we can so everyone can be included, the other is to put feelers out there for feedback on what’s working and what’s not. We love hearing feedback about our decks from the community. It helps us progress and keeps us on track!
How do you plan to continue to build your brand and product line over time? Is there such a thing as too many boards? Or are there plans to revamp and redesign things as a more evolutionary process?
I definitely think as time goes on we will continue to refine our line-up, we may see some shapes fade out, some new shapes coming on, designs coming together into one, or just getting tweaked and face-lifted. I definitely think there is a such thing as having too many boards in a lineup, and with these releases I think we’ve hit our cap haha I’ll let you in on a little secret for 2019 though, there’s definitely gonna be some revamps happening for 2019. Big things are brewing here!
Thanks again for taking the time to chat with me. Anything we missed? Shout outs? Call outs? Words of wisdom?
No problem man! Thank you for giving me some time to speak my mind about one of the things I love most in this world. As for shout outs, I wanna say thanks to all the homies on the team, my family and friends, Flatspot Longboard Shop, Motion Boardshop, Insanity Boardshop, Thane Store, the Church of Skatan, Coast Longboarding, Emgee Events, and all the homies new and old that I’ve met along the way!