Bonjour Alex, where are you from?
I was born in Paris in 1967!
When did you start skating?
When I was a kid I began skateboarding around 1979 with a crap plastic board. I didn’t even know that I could clean the bearings!
Was that in Paris?
Yes in the 15th district of Paris, I saw other kids using nice metal boards and good wheels. I remember that I already tried to go as fast as I could pushing my skateboard! And as the Trocadero (next to the Eiffel Tower) was the place where all the teenage skateboarders did meet, I went there with my father. I remembered falling because I was doing a wheelie without even noticing it!
When did you get a longboard?
I stopped skateboarding when I was 14 or 15 years old and much later (around the age of 35), 10 or 15 years ago I read an article about the rebirth of skateboarding with longboarding in a French magazine. And during my summer holidays in Alicante (Spain) I saw a cheap topmount longboard in a Spanish department store: I bought it for 20 or 30 £ maybe! I used it to commute and for the pure joy of gliding. Since then, I never stopped!
Where do you skate these days?
As I essentially do long distance pushing the whole town can be my playground; I mean that I can ride for 20 miles across Paris, and I do it on sidewalks as well as on the road amongst cars, bikes and and buses (autobus in French). But if I have to train then I go to a big cycling circuit (3.6 km) which is around the “Hippodrome de Longchamp” in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris. I also try to find beautiful greenways where I can ride my skateboard fast and far. Otherwise, I usually skateboard in Alicante (Spain) most of time on the road where I do long sessions.
You live in Alicante AND Paris?
I live and work in Paris, but my mother and my sister do live in Alicante (Spain) where I often go on holidays.
There are lots of mountains there! Do you ride them?
Yes Alicante is a beautiful place for downhill skateboarding, but I’m quite ashamed to say that for the time being I do not really practice downhill because LDPushing “fills me up” and because I have not mastered yet all the downhill techniques.
When did you get into long distance?
I have been into long distance without knowing it for a long time! I simply began commuting with my Supaflex “Boss of us” a French skateboard brand that do not exist anymore. At the time, I did as most skateboarders: I always pushed with the same leg. But even so, I could go quite far and fast. One day I thought “why not try learning with the other leg?” and that’s what I did for many days at the Trocadero until I felt confident. Moreover I discovered an American named Doug Dupin who created the brand Migration Boards, and that guy could push with both legs!
You can skate just as well switch?
Yes I can perfectly switch legs. I think that it is essential for long distance, although some strong American skateboarders like Robin McGuirk and Conan Isaac Gay (I’m not 100% sure for Conan) do push most of time with the same leg. Still, now that I can push with both legs I think that I might go uphill on a long mountain road. I’m also thinking about an uphill skateboard race!
What is the distance scene like in Paris?
Unfortunately in Paris and in the rest of France, the distance scene is very small. The main hero is Romain Bessière the french guy who travels all around the world on a skateboard. But we need official races, we need skateboarders to have the courage to use their skateboards to commute on long distances amongst the traffic jams (like in NYC). The distance scene is only beginning. I try to take part in kickbicking races on my skateboard because there aren’t enough races for me in Europe, even less in France. Although some guys like Thib le Guen, a French downhill skateboarder from Grenoble, member of the French crew La Familia 38, and myself, we try to organize small friendly races from time to time.
Who is Romain?
Romain Bessière is a quite well known French skateboarder in France and in the international distance scene: he travelled for thousands of miles in Japan, Australia, Africa, USA and Europe on a skateboard! One difference between the two of us is that he is fond of travels while I favor races. Another difference is that he is much more talented than myself!
What races do you go to in Europe?
I try to take part in all the distance races that I can find: Flavio Badenes, a Brazilian slalom champion who lives in Amsterdam, organized the Rabbit Race in October 2011 in Amsterdam, the 1st 100% skateboard marathon and I was there. Twice I also took part in the Goodwood Roller Marathon in England, it is an inline skating marathon that accepts skateboarders. I also organized a friendly race in Paris which had some success although it was an outlaw race: http://plaisirslegers.over-blog.com/article-paris-push-race-2-skateboards-vs-trottinettes-au-bois-de-boulogne-le-dimanche-27-novembre-2011-90598026.html
Flavio has told us the Rabbit race this year will be on October 13th.
I’ll try to be there for this one too!
How did you do in these competitions?
In the 2011 Rabbit Race, I came 3rd out of 20 more or less skateboards; not bad for a 44 year old skateboarder! In the 2010 edition of the Goodwood Roller Marathon I came 3rd too behind Matt Elver and Christopher Vallender!
What do you like about pushing long distances?
So many things! I like the simplicity of the device: a beautiful road, your skateboard (or longboard!), a bottle of water in one hand, a sunny day and you can go as far as you want and feel free! I also dig the fight which is involved in a race: especially when you have to fight against an opponent of the same level, that you have to outplay, it is very exciting! You try to stay behind him to be protected from the wind and then you think “OK! now I’m going to pass him and accelerate”. I guess that it is quite the same in cycling races! I also like the fact that I can go uphill as well as downhill! While I ride on the road I enjoy a lot passing cyclists too!
Still, racing is what I like most: it gives me a goal to reach and it forces me to be prepared for it. LDPushing is a free sport, as surfing is: you don’t need to pay fees to enter a club! It is also very pleasant to find a sport that mixes gliding and endurance: I love to train with my GPS looking at my average, max and real time speed! I like sweating and fighting against my laziness and then taking a rest during a nice (but not too steep!) downhill. All in all, Long Distance Skateboarding is a great new sport that involves technical skills and stamina. It has all the qualities to be a great sport!
What is the furthest distance you’ve skated?
I’m not a specialist of very big distances as I favor marathon type races which are faster and much more exciting for me, but I did one Ultraskate (24h skating) in France where I skated 179 kilometers (111 miles I’d say). I must say that this Ultraskate began on a Saturday at noon and that I had a big week of work just before! That Saturday morning, just before the race I had been working since 6:30 am (I’m a postman) and I arrived quite tired at the race. According to my friend Christopher Vallender, I slept 7 or 8 hours in my car during that Ultraskate, so 111 miles in 17 hours is OK for me!
What are your best marathon times?
I did my best marathon time in 2011 at the Rabbit Race in Amsterdam! 26.2 miles in 1:48:15
I also keep wonderful memories from my second Adrenalina Skateboard Marathon, in NYC (USA) where I did it in 1:48:20.
Are there any European Distance Skateboarding organisations?
The only European Distance Skateboarding organisation that I know is the Dutch Distance Skateboarding Association created by Flavio Badenes. But I don’t want to be unfair with the Britons and I’d say that the website page Skatefurther.com could also be considered as an European Distance Skateboarding organisation! They do a lot for LDP skateboarding!
Are there world rankings?
James Peters, the American Guru for LDP skateboarding, has created world rankings on his website: http://www.pavedwave.org/ . For the time being I’m the 33rd out of 99 people.
What is your top speed pushing on flat?
I’m not a tall guy (1.76m), nor a very powerful guy and when I sprint I don’t always look at my GPS which isn’t always accurate, but I would say around 35 kilometers per hour, if I’m not too pretentious!
MENTAL! What is the European distance community like?
There are 2 countries really interested in Long Distance:
England with a bunch of really deeply, nice passionate people like Nat Halliday (who now lives in NZ), Laura Hatwell a long distance trekker and Christopher Vallender who loves all the disciplines of long distance (and loads more people : Matt Elver, Ben Williams etc.). With Skatefurther the Britons have organized many nice distance races and events: Skaiti, Bath to Bristol etc.
The Netherlands is the other country where long distance is growing with guys like Jesse Beau, Paul Brunninkhuis, Lennart Van de Peppel, Iemke Karun “Guru” Postma and last but not least Flavio Badenes, organizing many events. Dutch skateboarders are specialized in Ultraskate, a discipline where you have to ride the longest distance in 24 hours: they are still trying to beat Paul Kent’s record: 250.4 miles!
In France the distance scene is beginning with Thib le Guen, Christopher Vallender, Giovanni Barbazza (a long distance trekker), Romain Bessière and myself, but there are so few races! And as far as I can say, unfortunately no real official race! I dream of a skateboard race in France like the Tour de France for cyclists!
I’ve heard of some distance races in Germany but I don’t know if there’s a real distance scene over there.
About the rest of Europe, I’d like it to be great, but they do not seem to be very interested by endurance races on a skateboard. It is a pity in a country like Spain with their sunny weather and their beautiful roads!
We need races with all types of distances in Europe!
What will you do to get more distance events in Europe?
As I’m not rich and that I haven’t much time either, it isn’t easy for me to organize something! I’m trying to organize a common race with kickbikers, whose sport is very close to LD skateboarding, but it is far from being easy. When I have more time, I’ll organize another outlaw race, but the good thing would be to do a legal one! The big problem is that in France, in Europe too, we are quite few Long Distance Skateboarders! In the USA and in Canada the distance scene is growing fast because skateboarders dig those races! We need to be more to organize big things! For the time being I’m only going to take part in the races that I’ll find. I’ll be at the second edition of an amazing race: The Chief Ladiga & Silver Comet Skate Challenge 2012 in the USA on May 11th, 12th and 13th 2012!
What is a kickbiker?
A kickbike is simply a “giant scooter” with big cycling wheels. You propel yourself pushing it, like you push a skateboard. The difference is that they have a handlebar and brakes!
Not really because we do 2 kinds of results: kickbike results and skateboard results. Moreover, what I intend to do is to take advantage of their races and organizations, to take part in races and to try to work together. LD skateboarding is so little known that we need to get all the help we can get.
How was last season for you?
Last season was great for me with the New York City Adrenalina Skateboard Marathon on July 30th 2011 where I finished 30 out of 110 skateboarders and 2nd of the 40-49 age group. As I said it before, I did the beautiful Rabbit Race Marathon in Amsterdam where I finished 3rd. I also organized a nice outlaw 25 km race in Paris (Bois de Boulogne) with 20 happy people, on cycling paths.
What do you ride?
I dig stiff dropped boards. Stiff to have better control and to avoid losing energy when pushing, and low because they are easier to push. My race board is a Politic Longboard Activist (custom board) a French brand, the name of my board is Nave Ligera, you’ll find pictures of it easily on the internet! I train on a Landyachtz Grom Race (I’m not tall!) reshaped (made narrower). I use 150mm Randal trucks with 42° or 50° baseplates (depends on the board), and 83 or 90mm Abec 11 Flywheels, and 78mm Seismic Blast Waves. Beforehand, I used a reshaped Landyachtz Urban Assault that I loved until it got crushed by a lorry!
Is there an ideal long distance set up?
That’s a big question! When there will be as much long distance races, as cycling races, maybe we’ll have an answer to that question! For now, I’d say that any set up on which a skateboarder feels good, will be a good set up for him! For example, the long distance champion Kiefer Dixon rides a flexy topmount pintail with 125 Randal trucks and 97mm Abec Flywheels: that’s a super high and quite heavy board to push! While Paul Kent rides an ultra low (and light!) Rayne drop through with 72mm wheels (Otang Baluts I think)! and Jeff Vyain rides a super dropped custom Subsonic with Indeesz trucks and 77mm Atobe and 85 Seismic wheels, that he can both push and pump! Where is the truth?
For myself I prefer a low, stiff, light (you’ll see how important lightness is going uphill!) and rather narrow board (important for ergonomics of pushing) with big wheels (from 76 to 97mm), with medium/stiff bushings as I like to be able to turn easily, but I hate wobbles at high speed!
What do you do when you’re not skating?
Working a lot as a postman and teaching chess in school, writing on my skateboard blog http://plaisirslegers.over-blog.com/ and some other things (trying at least) with the opposite sex
Haha. Choose 3 numbers between 1-25
9, 11, 22
9 – Favourite song to listen to when you skate
I do not have a favorite song , sorry I like Pat Metheny, classical music, supertramp Fleetwood mac, everything!
11 – What’s your favourite sandwich filling?
Mozzarella, tomato, garlic and olive oil
22 – Do you have any hidden talents?
I’m a keen chess player with an international rating FIDE above 2080 Elo points
You’re a grand master?
Haha no! Just a correct amateur who won a few amateur tournaments (I can play chess blindfolded for example). Also I practised full contact boxing for 6 years
WOW! Thank you so much for taking time out to talk to me tonight, it has been great. See you at the next Goodwood!
Yes, I’ll try to be there at the next one! Thanks for the interview and have fun! See you!
Any shoutouts or thank yous?
Thank you Mom!