Interview by VHSMAG
VHSMAG(V)： How did you start your skate company KAONKA?
Hisashi Nakamura(H)： Actually I’ve always wanted to start my own company since way back. I started working for a skateshop called 5nuts and started skating with the locals at Kohoku New Town about ten years ago. I kept telling them the best thing about skating from my perspective (laughs), and eventually very interesting skate style was nurtured through combining their taste and unique spots in the area. I started to think that maybe we could do something fun together. We started hanging out often and we became a tight crew. My full part was released online in 2012 and both KAONKA riders had a trick in it. I couldn’t think of anything but starting a skate company and I talked to the two skaters. Then THIS CONTINUED, a video from B.P. Trading was released in the end of 2013 and it was a great opportunity for the riders Takaaki Shinzato and Jun Mizuta to present their skating. That’s when I really decided to start something with them.
Hisashi Nakamura’s full part, filmed betwee 2007~2012.
THIS CONTINUED trailer.
V： Where did the name KAONKA come from?
H： It’s a made up word and it doesn’t have any meaning. It’s made of three sounds, “KA”, “ON” and “KA”, and you can play around with these sounds and put meaning to them is that makes sense. Something that originally has no meaning start to have meaning by someone playing with it. I think it’s the same with skating. It changes and starts to have meaning; it’s all up to how you use it. Both skating and the name KAONKA are like that.
V： What’s the brand concept of KAONKA?
H： It’s hard to explain in words but… to put it simple, it’s our interpretation of skateboarding. I guess it’s better for you to see our skating to get the sense of our brand concept. I’m not so much obsessed with the uniqueness of Japan or NBD in the world. I mean, skating is something to have fun. We used to just street skate around everywhere with buddies and did stupid stuff and laughed together, you sometimes tried something hard and made it, and had good times. I think that’s how skating should be like, having fun with your local buddies. So this kind of skating is the base of who we are and the concept of KAONKA.
Introduction video of KAONA Skateboards.
V： Who’s in charge of board graphics?
H： Basically I do all the graphics. I’ve always been shooting photos when I had time and made collages with them. I’ve done a show before too. So basically I pretty much do it like that. I’m not really obsessed with certain style but because I shoot photos, I tend to use photos in the design. I like designs from old Showa era so it may look like old analog design. I’m not planning to do everything on my own, so I might have someone help out with the design in the future. If I were to ask someone, it would be the riders or locals that I have strong connection with.
V： Is there any skate company that you’re aiming to be like?
H： I’m not exactly aiming to be like anyone, but I think Girl, Chocolate and Lakai are one of the bests as a company. They’re skater owned, run and designed. They understand skaters so the riders and company have great and long relationship. The owner skate in the team and because they spend a lot of time together, they feel strongly that they want to support the company. I think this is ideal for a skate company. Other than that, I can relate to Grant Yansura and Raymond Molinar’s WKND. I read this somewhere and they said they wanted to prove that you don’t need top pros to make a great skate company. I feel the same way.
V： Video is an essential element of branding the company. IS anything in the works for KAONKA?
H： I’m in the middle of filming and editing the next video right now. Just like design, I do everything aside from filming my footage, so it’s tough. I’m planning to release a short online video soon. Maybe it’s already released by the time this interview gets up. As I said, I shoot photos and we all film each other so I’d like to get little videos and photos online here and there. I’m thinking about making a full length DVD, but we just started so it’ll take time.
V： Any business strategy that you can share?
H： I have a lot of things in mind but I can’t say them yet (laughs). But I mean, I don’t have anything that I can call it a strategy. We need to sell our products to keep going as business, and our priority is to express the type of skating that we share with the crew through KAONKA. I want to find an effective way to spread our skating. It’s owned by us so we can make our ideas happen quickly too. It’d be hard to do this if we were riding for distributor of overseas companies. We’d like to try many things.
V： Tell us about the team.
H： Takaaki Shinzato and Jun Mizuta both grew up skating in Kohoku New Town. They’re both genuine street skaters who grew up skating its unique spots. They’re both in their twenties but they’re inspired by old east coast style in the US. They know how to present their skating and they have their unique spots to express it. They’re really productive and they have good trick selection. It’s kind of like old-fashioned type of skating. You can check out their skating in B.P. Trading’s THIS CONTINUED so I want as many people as possible to watch this.
Takaaki Shinzato from THIS CONTINUED.
V： Why did you pick them for your team?
H： They’re both like a family to me who grew up in Kohoku New Town. I think that’s really important. Being tight like a family, just like Girl, Chocolate and Lakai. We both have relationship of mutual trust in common. Plus, they’re eager to express their skating. This is essential when making videos and they seemed to be the best fit for KAONKA. I’m not saying that I’m limiting the riders to be only from Kohoku New Town; we need to able to trust each other. I’m fortunate that a lot of my buddies other these two help out too.
Jun Mizuta part from DAGARCI.
V： What can we expect from KAONKA in the near future?
H： We’re a skate company so I’d like to release board series periodically several times a year, and also make things that we really like along with it. We’d like to visit as many places as we can and spend time together with as many skaters as possible. I want people to see us, hear about us, and then actually meet and skate together. That’s the best thing about skating. And if we can do so in the streets filming and laughing hard with buddies, that’d be the best. If I could prove that I can run a skate company, I think other can follow and start something. Then, I think skate scene in Japan would be more interesting.