Introduction & Interview by Editor-In-Chief: Kevin Little
Photos by: Tom Sharman , @tomsharmanvideo
Sam Crofts sent the blading world in a fit recently when he dropped his hammer filled new profile in support of his newest signature Aeon skates from USD. We caught up with Sam and had a quick chat with him about the design process behind his second pro skates and we also dig into what it was like filming his new profile with acclaimed videographer Jon Lee.
First off, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions regarding your new boots & promo video, Sam. So to start, these are the first Aeon’s which have had a full skin covering, as opposed to just over the lacing system like on the XIXs, what made you decide to switch up the skate design from the other previous models that are available?
Cheers Kev, thanks for having me on for this chat. So when the design team and I started working on my new skate we basically wanted to soften the skates overall look and give it more of a classic trainer/sneaker aesthetic, but create something that was still distinctly an Aeon. I do like the design of the XIX however I prefer the classic Aeon silhouette, which is why we worked the skins design around the natural contours of the Aeons shell. I also ditched the 45 degree strap as I haven’t really used one in about 5 years now and always felt that a decent set of waxed laces works well enough by themselves.
Are the 45 degree mount holes still underneath the skin?
Yes, it’s still the same standard aeon shell underneath the skin, with the usual 45 degree mount holes. So if you feel you need a 45 degree stap you could always stab a neat hole in the skin and mod one on there yourself. Its real suede though and its very thick and strong so do be careful doing this…it might even be worth going to your high street cobblers/shoemakers if you haven’t got the proper tools…please don’t stab yourself trying to do it with a chop stick or something!
Were there any particular skate or shoe designs that influenced the design concept behind your new boot?
Yes I loosely based the design on one of the Chaya Park Rollerskates that Powerslide makes, The Chaya Karma Pro. I also drew inspiration from classic suede skateboard shoe designs.
The vibrant maroon color of the boot is not the typical color scheme for skates. Was there any significance or sentimental meaning in choosing that particular color? And was that your first choice in colors?
Yes it was my first choice of color, it’s a very similar color to that Chaya Rollerskate I mentioned. I don’t have any mawkish feelings for the color. I think it might even be the first pair of red/maroon skates I’ve ever owned. When I designed my first pro skate I ended up choosing to play it as safe as possible with the colour scheme, so second time round decided to try something a little bit bolder.
Can you explain some of the changes that have been made to the new cuff design?
Yeah sure, so the new cuffs have pretty much been completely redesigned, taking inspiration from a variety of other popular cuff designs on the market, most noticeably the USD Shadow/Xsjado 2.0, Next (Powerslide Urban) and Salomon cuffs. They now have these over lapping cuff flaps across the top of your foot/shin which interlock, over the top of which the buckle sits and threads around. So this forms a really nice wrap around feeling, which offers great support both front to back and laterally. These flaps also have pre-scored lines on them so can be trimmed to suit your own personal anatomy or skating style depending on if you want a stronger or more relaxed support from the cuff / buckle.
The lateral flex in particular is much more forgiving that the first gen Aeon cuffs for topsides, but still remains solid on gaps ect. And like the Next cuffs they have the same rockerable design so you can ride them or either a high or low setting. The team and I spent a long time testing and refining these cuffs, with various designs, plastic hardnesses and densities etc…We’re pretty confident that we’ve now resolved the issues that some people were having with the first gen cuffs.
Are the new cuffs using the same plastic material as the first gen Aeon cuffs?
Yes it’s the same base of material, but at a different density and in a different shape. Which of course creates a very different feeling.
Considering the amount of stunts and gaps you do, was there anything that you added to the liners to give it a better performance?
No, it’s the same as the other pro second skin liners just with my own personalized graphics on. However I am working on a new MyFit pro liner that will be released aftermarket, and will have upgraded features to suit my skating. Should be ready mid / late summer.
Was finding a durable material for the overskin a major concern for you in making your latest model?
It was absolutely essential, I wanted a skin that would age well like an old comfy shoe and not get too tatty too fast. It also means that heading forwards we can now use more colours on an Aeon without resorting to paint, opening up a broader range of designs for other USD Aeon models in the future.
What materials were tested out with the soft top skin covering of your new model and what did you decide on for the final version of the boot?
I’ve been testing various skins since last Spring, mostly different PU/Vegan suedes / leathers and glues. I’m not vegan myself, but it just felt very crass instantly opting to use real leather/suede as we wanted to try more sustainable options first. Sorry vegans (and cows) I gave it a real try, but PU suede kinda sucks, it’s just not nearly as strong as real suede and doesn’t age well over time either. So the final production model has a full real suede skin, double stitched along its contours and reinforced with an additional dense over stitching at the high stress points, riveted in place both at the eyelets and just about the rim of the soul area and also held down with a shit ton of strong non-vegan glue.
Samples of Sam’s skates: Test skin 4 (full suede), test cuff 6, plus apex wheels.
How difficult was it filming a full profile during the pandemic? Were you and Jon still in lockdown during some of the filming of the promo?
To be honest the actual filming part wasn’t too difficult, we filmed basically the whole promo between lockdowns 1 and 2 (July-September), as the skate was originally scheduled for release last October. The factory getting the skates made on time was a different story though haha, but I’ll come back to that. We chose to not film during the first lockdown as being British we’re quite sentimental and respectful of our NHS, and decided that risking an injury and adding your ballshit to an already overwhelmed health care system was pretty selfish. So we just stayed home, learnt to bake and got drunk on zoom chats like the rest of the nation.
Filming between the lockdowns though was pretty straight forward, with all Londoner’s having been locked down the past few months most were either leaving town or flocking to parks, canals etc. to enjoy the weather. Which left the city feeling very empty and basically turned it into a free for all on action sports for those months. Certain days at St.Pauls it was so busy with skateboarders you’d think there was an event on or something. Also as London is one of the biggest tourist hubs in the world, with no one traveling last summer we had no tourists either, so very empty streets and very empty monuments. You’d most likely get arrested for treason or something if you were caught skating Buckingham Palace fountain (Liz’s Bowl) in the middle of what should have been our peak tourist season. On top of that the UK government’s been a complete fucking joke this entire pandemic with enforcing anything (or even making their mind up about what they’re planning to enforce) so the police just kinda left you to it.
Meanwhile in China though, Covid was wreaking havoc with everything at the factory. With the increased demand, production times were naturally becoming longer, but on top of that raw materials shortages, staff issues, shipment issues, container shortages, the list goes on. So the skate was pushed back from October till Christmas.
Jon had now moved to Reading, but came up to town sometime in November and we ended up getting two more clips. Christmas came and the skate was then delayed even further to January, and then eventually to March. Jon came up to town again in late February and we got one last clip.
You are well known for your stunt heavy profiles. Was there any major injuries that you sustained during the filming process? Hopefully you didn’t smash into any clergymen’s vehicles this time around!
Hahah unfortunately no accidental nonce vandalism this time, and luckily no major injuries either. I did get a little injured doing that Makio stall hop into the sketchy bank at Southwark Church, nothing worth writing home about though. Oh well, better luck next time God.
What were the biggest adversities that you both faced in filming for the promo? (Were there scheduling issues, lockdown issues, job obligations, etc)
The main problem was we didn’t want to take public transport, as at this point despite the death rates having dropped a lot and the lockdown restriction eased, London was pretty much still the epicentre of the UK outbreak. Instead we fixed up our bikes, got baskets, panniers etc. for our blades and cameras and rode those to basically every spot. London’s pretty big, some days we would cover up to 40+ miles.
Out of all of the massive stunts in your new profile, was there a particular trick that took particularly long to accomplish?
It wasn’t so much the bigger tricks and stunts that took long to accomplish, you tend to either land those pretty quickly or not at all. I think the most tedious was that toe roll on the curve skinny ledge. I’ve always found toe rolls quite easy since I was a kid, but this one tested me as the curve was sharp and the ledge was thin. One side was loose soil and the other side had a fair amount of broken glass and some messy bastard had recently had a bargain bucket and left KFC all over his seat.
There was an epic top soul to top soul transfer where you were fighting with security to get one last attempt, can you give us a little insight into that session and how it all played out? It looked like quite the battle to get that checked off the list.
I explained this one at some length in my Wheel Scene podcast, head over to their Youtube and have a listen.
Sean Santamaria had a unique musical inspiration credit at the end of the video. Can you give a little insight on how Sean influenced your musical selection for the video?
So the song in the second part of the edit was taken from the soundtrack of this fuckin’ sick 80’s Italian horror movie that Sean Santamaria showed Jonny. It’s called ‘Terror at the Opera’, directed by Dario Argento. I think the original Italian version is just called ‘Opera’. The first time I heard that track I instantly knew it was what I wanted for the second part of the section. I highly recommend checking out the movie.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some of our questions, Sam. It has been great chatting with you. Is there anyone that you would like to thank for their support or assistance?
I’d just like to say a huge thanks firstly to Jon and all the crew (Luke, Joe, Harry & Leon) for their efforts on this project, Sharman for his photography skills in providing the photos for this article and all the adverts. A big shout out to James Bower, Matt Stewart, Jamie Harris, Blake Bird, Mike Welland, Neil Ingall, Michal Pupava, Michael O’Brien, Andy Spary and all the extended London homies that were about whilst we filmed this. A huge cheers to USD skates, Undercover Wheels, MyFit Liners, Pomulo Store and Ennui Protection for their continued support, and lastly thanks to Be-Mag for this article.