Photography by Sean Mcguirr

meet paris' new generation of skaters

As skateboarding's somewhat controversial debut at the 2020 Olympics approaches, we caught up with some of the kids rolling on the streets of the French capital.

by Antoine Mbemba
|
Jun 7 2019, 4:37pm

Photography by Sean Mcguirr

This article originally appeared on i-D FR

To really understand Paris’ skateboarding scene, you have to spend time walking around République, the Palais de Tokyo plaza and the Léon Cladel skatepark. That’s where the city's teenage skateboarders meet up. As skateboarding's somewhat controversial debut at the 2020 Olympics approaches, i-D and photographer Sean Mcgirr caught up with some of them to chat about rolling and growing up on the streets of the French capital.

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Thomas, 12

How long have you been skateboarding?
I’d say about nine months.

What made you want to start?
I saw other people doing it; I liked their style, their way of moving. I wanted to be like them.

What do you get out of it?
It makes me feel happy, free and stylish. Plus I get to meet a lot of people.

Is the Palais de Tokyo your usual spot?
Yeah. I really prefer the street over the half pipe and the ramps. It’s way better here -- it’s the best spot in Paris.

What do you think about skateboarding coming to the Olympics?
I think it’s awesome. If I’m really good when I’m older, I even want to compete there.

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Simon, 13

How long have you been skateboarding?
My friend Virgil gave me a board, and that’s how I started. I’ve kind of just been doing it on the fly, but I want to get serious about it.

What do you like most about it?
Practicing with friends, but I also like the competition. But we also just help each other out and generally have a good time.

Is Paris a good skateboarding city?
Yeah, it’s cool. It's pretty chill, and no one bothers us.

What do you think about skateboarding coming to the Olympics?
We’ll see how it goes, but I think it’s a good thing. It’ll help promote the sport.

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Ingo, 14

How long have you been skateboarding?
It's been almost two years now.

What made you want to start?
My brother skates, so one day I took his board and I loved it.

What do you get out of it?
I like how it pushes you to be creative! And it’s a sport without rivalry or winners and losers. The only real purpose is to have fun.

Do you think that it’s a sport?
Well, I don’t like to think of it as only a sport. It’s more than that. I think it’s an art form, personally. It’s much more creative than other sports. So categorising it that way doesn’t seem completely right.

What do you think about skateboarding coming to the Olympics?
I really don’t like it. That’s not real skateboarding. They’re talking about competing, deciding who’s best. But that’s not what it’s all about. It’s really just about having a great time. And besides, you can’t really judge skateboarding. Everyone has their own style and approach.

What kind of role do you want skateboarding to play in your life when you’re older?
Well, it’d be great to have a sponsor one day. But even though I really love skateboarding, I don’t want to make a career out of it. I just want it to stay fun.

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Mateo, 14

How long have you been skateboarding?
I started to do tricks last October, but I’ve been skating since sixth grade, so 2016. My older brother’s been doing it for 10 years -- he taught me. So I’ve always kind of been into it.

What do you like about it?
I like the social side of it. You get to do it with your friends, hang out, do stupid stuff. Plus when you do a trick right, it feels amazing and gives you a ton of adrenaline. Skateboarding has pretty much defined my friend group.

Besides your brother, do you have any other role models?
Yeah, for sure. I saw an interview on VICE with Ali Boulala. He’s a huge inspiration for me, seeing how he managed to get his act together. Also, I mean, it’s not really very original but I have to say Tony Hawk. And Pablo Ramirez, who passed away not too long ago, unfortunately. And Hector da Silva.

And what are your thoughts on skateboarding coming to the Olympics?
Well, some people say it’s a street sport that should stay in the street. But it’s so popular, it’s developed so much, that, honestly, I get it. I’m not really for or against it.

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Sarah, 13 and Amanda, 14

How long have you guys been skateboarding?
A: Almost a year.
S: About eight months for me.

What made you want to get into it?
S: For me it was my parents. My mum had been skating for about 10 years, and my stepdad even longer. They didn’t force me to start or anything. Then I met Amanda at the beginning of eighth grade, in September 2018, and she was into it. I always stole her skateboard, because I didn’t have one of my own yet, and she got me into riding ramps and doing ollies. Finally, I told my mum I wanted a board of my own, and she was so happy.
A: I’ve been skating since I was little, but I had never tried to do any tricks. My mum’s brother has been skateboarding for a really long time. When I moved to Paris last year, I wanted to make friends and I thought skateboarding would be a good way to do that.

And did it work?
A: Yes! I now know everyone here.

Not many girls are into skateboarding.
A: Most of the time we’re the only ones here.
S: It’s too bad. Girls should be interested in it; it shouldn’t be just a guy's sport. It’s for everyone, people of all ages and sizes. Really, the only important thing is to have fun and make friends.

Is Paris a good skateboarding city?
A: Well, older people aren’t super respectful of us skaters! Sometimes we’ll be in the street and people will push us.
S: That’s happened to me right around here. An old guy pushed me and I ended up on the pavement!
A: But young people are super curious. When they see us pass by, some kids go like: “Oh wow, a girl who skates! Mum, I wanna try too!”
S: It’s really cute. But it’s sad there are so few girls.

What do you think about skateboarding coming to the Olympics?
A: It’s cool. I’m really happy about it.
S: In my mum’s day, people didn’t really think much of skaters. They saw them as street kids.
A: Yeah, in the 90s they called them "street rats". Whereas today, it’s an Olympic event! People don’t realise how difficult a sport it is.

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Gabin, 12

How long have you been skateboarding?
Since I was four. My dad used to skate so he taught me.

What do you like about it?
Everything! I especially like skating with my friends. Also, I’ve been doing this since I was really little. I love it and I can’t imagine my life without it. I have a broken arm at the moment and it’s torture not being able to skate. So today I've just come to see my friends and watch.

Do you think Paris is a good skateboarding city?
It’s not bad. Some people give us nasty looks when we pass them by and make noise. There are good spots for skateboarding around, but sometimes we get kicked out pretty fast.

What do you think about skateboarding coming to the Olympics?
I love it! It promotes the sport. Who knows, maybe they’ll build more skateparks around the world because of it.

Do you see yourself competing there one day?
Yeah, imagine winning at skateboarding in the Olympics… it won’t be anytime soon, but that would be amazing!

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Daniel, 17

How long have you been skateboarding?
Almost a year and a half.

What made you want to get into it?
It always interested me and yet I never tried until about a year and a half ago. One day I bought a skateboard and I just started. It focuses and relaxes me. I love it. I never thought I’d love it so much.

Do you think Paris is a good skateboarding city?
Yeah, it’s an awesome city. The community here is really great. It depends on the skating spot but overall, the people are pretty nice.

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Tom, 14

How long have you been skateboarding?
About two years.

Is skateboarding more than just a sport to you?
I was just saying to my mum that it’s art. She didn’t necessarily agree, but then, there aren’t many other sports where the aesthetics are so important.

Do you have any favourites skaters?
Yeah, Remy Taveira, for one. I mostly like the Europeans -- I think they tend to have better flow than Americans.

What do you think about skateboarding coming to the Olympics?
It’s cool for people who think of skateboarding as a sport. I think Americans are happy about it -- they definitely see it as a sport. But a lot of people in Paris aren't crazy about the idea -- they see skateboarding as more of an art.

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Tyron, 17

How long have you been skating?
Eight months, I think.

And what do you like best about it?
The sense of community. People don’t judge you for your level the way they do in other sports, where you can end up isolated if you’re a little behind. We’re friends here, but it’s really more than that. People help you, they give you advice, they show you new places.

Is République your favorite spot?
Yeah, it’s where I come the most. I also go to Châtelet, occasionally Bastille. But République is where I started -- it’s kind of my den. Whenever I have a little time after school, I come here, see if there’s anyone I know around.

Would you want to compete in the Olympics one day?
Yeah, but I also want this all to stay a passion.

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Joseph, 13

How long have you been skating for?
One year and four months.

What made you want to start?
At first, I was into riding my scooter. My best friend had a really nice scooter, much nicer than mine. One day we were going to meet up, and because I was jealous of their scooted I turned up with an old skateboard. And I’ve never stopped since.

Do you have any favourite skaters?
Yeah, Kyle Walker. I love his style -- he wears my favourite brand.

Do you want skateboarding to play a big role in your life?
Yeah. I mean, I’ll always be an amateur, but I’d like it to play a bigger role, than right now. I’d love to have a sponsor -- maybe even create my own skate brand.

This article originally appeared on i-D FR.