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SFP Advocate: Jake Wiens of Kendama USA

This week we’re shining the spotlight on a longtime friend, supporter and member of the San Franpsycho community. Before he joined the ranks of Kendama USA professionals, Jake Wiens was San Franpsycho’s go-to guy for all things video and marketing. Within just a couple years of picking up Kendama, Jake was internationally renown for his amazing archive of Kendama footage on the Kengarden YouTube channel. Since turning pro in 2013, he’s been touring the world nonstop to compete in and promote the sport of Kendama. He even launched a company (Grain Theory!) to design his own Kendama line.

Here at San Franpsycho, we’re fortunate enough that he still takes time from his crazy schedule to shoot killer marketing campaigns for us when he’s in town. You can catch him in action on Tuesday evenings at our Divisadero shop hosting Kendama sessions (#kgtues) open to the public!

Jake is hosting the Sakura Classic at the Nothern California Cherry Blossom Festival in San Francisco this weekend, which he organized with none other than the Consulate General of Japan. Big ups! We highly recommend attending.

Check out our interview with Jake below, plus a blurb from San Franpsycho co-founder Christian on Jake’s connection with SFP.

We met Jake through a good friend who goes by Girls N Boomboxes. He was introduced as a trained filmmaker, cinematographer, and photographer. We instantly started working together on fun ideas for San Franpsycho. At the time we had no idea of the full magical wonders that Jake Wiens had to offer the world, but it’s true: almost everything the man touches, he’s good at!

He taught himself how to DJ and mix music, juggle, handstand walk in the park, play killer yo-yo. He’s a self taught botanist, avid skimboarder, shreds on inline blades, AND somewhere in between making us beautiful San Franpsycho marketing pieces, he picked up a ball and stick toy known as Kendama. He quickly mastered these super complex tricks that you’d see in the circus or something equally as odd and interesting. In no time flat he’d not only become a Pro Kendama player, but started a full on movement and became THEE GAME CHANGER for the entire industry. Hundreds of kids were suddenly showing up from all over the world just to get an autograph and witness his unique Kendama style in person. I couldn’t believe my damn eyes and it was happening right in front of me!

I’m stoked to see him constantly busting out fresh ideas and sharing the game in unique ways. Just a couple of years ago I could hit up Jake with a video idea and we’d shoot it that afternoon. Now I have to text him like “Are you in the city or are you touring in Japan, Hawaii, NY, Vegas, Cross Country, or wherever? When can I make plans to shoot this thing with you?!” He’s even making his own Kendama products now. It’s insane and I love it.

The reason Jake is so successful is because he’s constantly creating and implementing fresh ideas. He’s got a damn marketing firm upstairs and he’s constantly unveiling new campaigns. Jake is genuine and truly cares about everyone he works with. Spend 5 minutes with the guy and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.”

Every Tuesday you host an open Kengarden session at our Divisadero shop. What makes these Kendama meet-ups so unique? We’ve had people come in from all over the world. From Germany, London, Japan, the Czech Republic—all over the place. The Kendama community knows that every Tuesday at San Fanpsycho, there’s a Kengarden session. We’ve got a great mixture of ages, from 10-year-olds to adults in their 30s. On a Tuesday in San Francisco, we can get a room full of 40 to 50 people playing Kendama. That’s pretty wild.

You also get to meet people that you’ve only interacted with online. Today we experience so many people digitally through videos and photos, so meeting them in person is really cool. The Kengarden at San Franpsycho has always brought people together.

Which came first for you, Kendama or San Franpsycho?
San Franpsycho for sure. I’ve always been a part of San Franpsycho in a sense, doing a lot their media and video. I documented Andy and Christian back in the day screen printing in bars and clubs with just the bridge logo. I’ve been around since before the van era. San Franpsycho is always down for anything that spreads good times, and they’ve been awesome supporters of Kendama.

How long have you been immersed in Kendama?
Since 2008. Grain Theory co-founder Matt Rice was the first one to put a Kendama in my hand. I’ve only been pro since 2013, but I’ve always been known in the community. I started hosting Kendama events and contests, then documenting and publishing videos on Youtube. Colin Sander was one of the first people way back in the day to post videos about his Kendama journey. Matt and I would watch his stuff and think “this is tight!”. So I applied my background in cinematography, editing and design to presenting Kendama online.

As more people saw the videos, more Kendama events and meet-ups started happening around the country. Looking back today, a lot of people credit what we were doing with Kengarden with the ultimate spread of Kendama.

Where would you like to see Kendama in five years?
I’d like to see Kendama continue to grow. Instead of becoming this obscure game, I want to see it utilized within schools and offices. I would love to see it become more of a staple in everyday life, like an activity recommended for stress relief in the office or just taking a few minutes to get outside. It has a lot to teach and offer.

This isn’t limited to American culture. In Denmark and Iceland for example, it’s really exploding. Kendama is a global phenomenon. It’s spreading because the people who play it are extremely passionate. That’s what’s so unique about this community.

What does San Franpsycho represent to you?
San Franpsycho is a freedom and lifestyle. It’s the idea of supporting what you’re passionate about, whether it’s surfing, skating, playing Kendama or just having fun with friends. San Franpsycho represents good times and making the most of life.

Lightning Round!

Childhood Hero: Professional inline skater Jon Julio. He still shreds and he’s still one of my heroes.

Craziest San Franpsycho memory: Can’t talk about it. Classified.

Perfect San Francisco day: Waking up when I want, grabbing great food, enjoying one of the city’s parks, playing dama, seeing friends. San Francisco has so much to offer.

Favorite travel destination: Spain or Japan

Proudest Kendama moment: MCing the World Cup in Hatsukaichi. That was pretty legendary. Check out the Kendama USA crew in action.

Words to live by: You can’t control how you’re perceived, only how you’re presented.

Check out some photos below from Jake’s Tuesday night Kengarden sessions at our Divisadero shop.

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