Stoked to present this conversation with Cyrille, better known in the longboarding world as Koma. He tells us about skating in the Bordeaux, his role as the European director of the IGSA, Peyragudes 2012 and his thoughts about the future of European Longboarding. Get into the mind of this legend!
Hey Koma, where are you from?
I live in France , in Bordeaux!
Is that where you started skating?
Kind of. I used to snowboard a lot. A snowboarding friend gave me a longboard as I was not skating at that time. I used it to cruise in town but I quickly discovered some downhill videos on the internet, from then on I spent more time in the Pyrenees mountains, doing downhill.
Nice. How long ago was that?
I started in 2001 and created the Bordeaux Longskate Club, with Dieter Fleischer, in 2002.
Was that the person who gave you your first board?
No. The first guy who put my feet on a board was Dominique Coulon, a french “figure” of the skateboard scene. He then introduced me to Dieter Fleischer, one of his friends who was a french slalom champion.
What is the Bordeaux Longskate Club?
It is an association, as we say in France. It is a club of about 25 riders, who are all members of the french federation of roller sports. We do many things: organise trips together, make demos, organise freerides, races, parties etc.
We meet every Wednesday in Bordeaux, on a flat spot with a little bike lane to skate and chat.
That’s awesome! What is the relationship between BLC and the rollersports?
In France, the sport is regulated by the government through a “federation”. Any sport club has to be affiliated to a federation in order to organise events, close roads etc. So skateboarding is related to the french federation of roller sports. If we want to organise races, teach kids, ask for public funds, we have to be part of the federation.
Do you find it easier to work as part of the federation?
There is no choice. But when you know how it functions, it is a big advantage.
France has a very specific system I reckon when I compare it to USA, Australia, South America or Asia.
What is the scene like in Bordeaux?
The town has one million inhabitants, suburbs included. there must be more than 1000 people who have a longboards and use them. But the club is quite focused on downhill, but I see loads of people cruising along the quayside – hundreds of riders for sure.
Apart from the BLC, is there another crew which doesn’t focus so much on downhill?
There is a Girls Crew, and some other “wild” crew but unfortunatly we don’t see them much.
Haha why are they ‘’wild’’?
I just meant they are not an “association” just a crew of friends. they have no legal status.
Are there other associations like the BLC around France?
Oh yes ! France is really structured: the french federation of roller sports has a specific “skateboard department” which has a specific “downhill department” : there are about 20 clubs like the BLC throughout the country.
Is there a French Longboard Federation?
There is a map of the clubs, the french ranking, race results, etc.
That’s awesome. What is the set up of descente.fr?
It is all very democratic: all presidents of the clubs are members of the “descente”. One president is designated by the president of the skateboard commission: this “downhill” president is Julien Yamba. (from: ride west club) then others propose themselves to take care of this or that subject. It is all volunteer work and not paid of course. We have one annual meeting which is paid for by the federation where we plan the races, freerides, teaching session, budget, we update the rulebook, change the race formats, etc.
What’s your role in the organisation?
Ah, nothing officially… I am the man in the shadows
Kind of yes
The president is designated by the president of the skateboard commission? Not voted by the 20 members of descente?
On paper yes, but in fact he is voted by the members there are rarely many volunteers to work hard for free.
This is really interesting. Do you know of any other European countries with a similar setup?
No not as structured as in France. but Norway, Sweden or even Spain are on their way. But I do not understand why countries such as Germany, Switzerland or UK are not more organised. They have plenty of riders and a huge potential of organising great things!
True. I think Longboard Sweden runs in the same way. What advice would you give to other countries who are thinking of setting up similar organisations?
Well I just think the structure is beneficial, especially for the downhill scene because we need to close roads and have training camps for kids… But the longboard scene does not need to be strutcured to live, as skateboarding does !
The scene lives in our hearts and under our feet!
There are obvious advantages for the downhill side of the community. What do you think it offers to other disciplines?
I’m not sure there is a real benefit ! You just need a road in front of your house to have fun, you can use bike lane to make LDP, you can cruise the streets in town, why should you be structured?
It only needs structure when you want to teach kids or adults, when you want to organise events for everything else, having good friends and a board is enough! It was necessary to have structure for downhill, but as other scenes grow, organisation will be necessary for dancing, sliding, ldp too… slalom is kinda dying here !
Ha! How? Marie was just telling us about a big event organised by the FSSA in April.
Yes but there are about only 30 slalom riders in the country.
Does “descente’’ work with other organisations in other countries?
Not really, we helped the Spanish riders to structure a bit. We also try to make our rules compatible with the IGSA rules.
Which Spanish riders?
The riders fly, Alex D’ellia Martin and Mickel Etchegaray and Sebastian Garcia, I was in contact with Calixto Garcia too, and Rubio, who organises Vellefique.
We know the guys from jartorius and Kaina too.
What advantages would you see of having a European Organisation of longboarders?
It could help give visibility to the scene
It could get some funds from Europe
It could help event organisers in Europe… and lead to more events.
So of course you would be stoked to get involved with it?
Of course, even if I already give 3 to 4 hour to skate related things a day and that is too much!
How do you guys get funds for French events?
It is complicated and easy: 3 kinds of help mainly for an event. The town, the department, the region. You have to make big complete document explaining the budget, the purpose, the objectives, environmental impact, social impact, communication means, get official letters, get road permit, show insurance, show full accountancy and then you can expect having a public fund of about 5 % of your budget by each partner depending on the size of the event, it can be more.
For Peyragudes World cup, I expect 3000 euros, for the french championship race we organise, I expect 1000 euros.
What would make longboarding more attractive to cash sponsors?
More media ! Get longboarding on TV and the rest will follow! More media coverage will encourage brands to get involved. Then you can buy better video production etc.
What is the toughest challenge for BLC/descente?
Well BLC and descente are not the same ! even if I give of my time to both !
The BLC is above all a bunch of friends who like to ride together. Friends have changed in ten years, but it is still the same spirit. We want to keep acting in 3 areas:
- organising big events as the Peyragudes Nevers Dies IGSA World Cup,
- organising freerides and trips with friends, as the “rigalet en roues libres “freerides”,
- and teaching kids….we give lessons to about 200 kids every year.
What is the format for teaching the kids?
7 members from the club graduated the “Brevet d’Initiateur Federal” meaning they can teach kids. The “session” can be organised nearly anywhere, in schools, on parkings, etc. We bring mini launcher kick, slalom cones etc. We provide boards and protection gear (helmets, pads etc)
We hold sessions for an hour, mainly with groups of up to 12 kids.
Do any of the kids end up buying their own boards and skating themselves?
Yes of course, and we try to tell them to go to the good shop.
But the kids we have are from 7 to 12 mainly. After there is a gap before having them in the club… We have to sort that out.
What is the gap before they can join a club?
Well it is difficult to welcome kids if you do not have a regularly closed road. Somewhere like a skatepark for longboards.
How old do they have to be to join a club?
Any age, but I don’t want parents to give me there kids to look after. We go riding on open roads and if an accident happens. I prefer there to be responsible adults !
What was your involvement in organising Peyragudes?
How long have you been planning it?
It requires a year. It is all again volunteer work, no one is paid.
Our goal is to make it the most professional we can, even if we are not professional event organisers.
Nice. What can people look forward to from this race this year?
It’s all new and unknown for everybody: new track, new road, new resort!
Oooh resort. Sexy.
Well the ski resort of Peyragudes is on 2 sides of the mountain. The agudes side, where we organised the world cups in 2008 and 2009, and the peyresourdes side, where we will go this year.
The Peyresourde side is more modern, has more hotels and bars. It is crowded during summer time, because of the therms (thermes). We expect many more spectators on this side of the mountain.
What facilities will you have for the event?
It is a secret so far… But we are negotiating nice prices on flats so that everybody can rent one for the week !
Well camping is not allowed as we are in “natural mountains”. It will be tolerated on the parking but there will be no shower available. That is why we work hard to have nice price and a low “race” fee. So that everybody can afford it.
Any ideas of price range?
Should be around 150 euros for the 4 days. No food included. We would like to lower it but we have no cash sponsor so far to help.
Are you looking for some?
That is the big deal in France, we usually get public funds or help, but sponsors do not give much and never give cash not for small sports like us.
Even with the big organisation you have?
We look big… but I am alone with Nene and Alex for the preparation. We all have jobs and I have kids, it is hard to give all the energy we want. But even with that, downhill skateboarding is still nothing in France and sponsors outside the market don’t look at us at all.
Right now, companies such as Red Bull are happy to give products, but no cash or cost covers.
So it’s just you 3 organising everything on your own?
I do 80 % of the job before. Nene Motard and Alexandra Hillary take care of the other projects of the club (demos, french race, freerides, schools), David Casabon and Moustic take care of the video stuff and film we make every year.
What will be in this IGSA book?
No just an online guide to help people build up events. Advice on how to get road permit, finance, every little tricks I have in mind, in a structured document, but it is very specific to the french law and administration rules.
What is your involvement with the IGSA?
I am the European director : it means I try to supervise and help European IGSA events. I am also a member of the Board. I have weekly meeting on skype with Marcus Rietema and Norman Kinnish to work on schedules, race formats, rulebooks, new website.etc.
I am trying to make a new website for the IGSA right now.
How many people are on the board?
Well 7 : Marcus Rietema, Jonh Ozman and Bob Ozman, Maia from Brasil, Haggy Storm from Australia, Normann Kinnish from England and me.
Ah! We featured Liz a few months ago. Great to talk to one of her colleagues.
She is very skilled at organising things and gives time to IGSA.
Will you be at Bo Peep?
Have you skated the new Peyragudes track?
Yes. Last August..when we made the first preparation meeting with the resort.
Lucky boy. How was it?
Frightening! Nene Motard, the Treasurer of the club and I, rode it at 85 km/h with air brake all along we were sh****ing in our pants…
Approximate top speed?
I think the best skateboarders will go over 100 km/h and more like 120 for streetlugers.
Loads of gnar?
At the beginning of the track, yes, many hairpins after it is all a matter of guts !
What did you organise prior to this?
About 10 events!
2 freerides in Hautacam, 2 french championships in Hautacam too, 2 world cups in Peyragudes, 1 french championship in Gauriac, and was IGSA official one about 15 races (world cups).
Why the James Bond theme for Peyragudes?
ahah…the James Bond film “tomorrow never dies” was filmed in peyragudes, on the aircarft track along the road, in 1997. As we are back on the track , we called the event Peyragudes Never Dies !
Oh wow. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
Tell me ?
We have to find some way to use that damn aircraft track for sure !
Well I have a parachute and a tuxedo …
Bring them with you if you come it might be useful… Tuxedo for sure !
We have a few surprises in our pocket, of that kind…but I still have not found an Aston Martin to rent.
Do you get to participate in the French championship?
Yes sir ! But not in Peyragudes ! You can not race and organise.
Stand up! What a great documentary!
Love it ! From Belguim guys of Blutcher ..
Will you be at Walonhill?
No. With the kids this year, I will have very limited time to ride. I hope to go to a few French events, maybe Portugal as an IGSA Rep..
How many international events do you attend for work or play?
I did the all euro tour in 2010, half of it last year. I won’t race at international events anymore just French races and freerides.
In 2012 I should go to Portugal, maybe in South Africa at the end of the year dunno yet my job is a bit messy right now and it is hard to make long term plans.
What do you do when you’re not skating(or thinking about skating)?
I have a “real job” (internet consultant: I advice government services on how to implement web services for citizens) and a lovely family. It takes 100 % of my time. Skate takes all my brain.
I used to surf and snowboard but I don’t take the time anymore. I focus on longboarding. I use my fixie bike to go to work everyday (20 kms)
You’ve done this for a while now, do you think it is feasible to invest all your time in your favourite hobby and make a living off it?
That is the question I ask to myself every morning! I wish i had the courage. But no and I fear I would loose the passion for it if it became a job.
Of course I‘d like a big company to say to IGSA: “hey, here is a million dollars, you have 2 years to build an awesome series with our brand!”…but it hasn’t happened so far!
I have a well paid job that feeds the family, but giving my time to the skate scene means less revenues.
Surely investing in the IGSA must be a smart move, have you (the IGSA) been approached by any big investors before?
Not really. I think only a few skate companies were profitable till now. So we had some help from Abec 11 and Seismic, but the big companies never really approach us.
Every year we hope it will happen as the market is growing… Maybe this year, who knows.
I hope the companies understand they have an interest in having a good world cup series to prompt the sport throughout the globe..and the IGSA would require some help for that…the only revenues from IGSA are the fees we ask to organise races; and they just cover flights and hotel bills.
I thought you were referring to big companies outside the sport, would they not be a better source of investment?
Yes but as the sport receives no media interest, it is still unknown! I was talking to some energy drink product manager about our event, and he did not even seem to know the sports! No media coverage, no sponsors…no sponsors, no money, no means to make your event look good and pro.
Make a race in the middle of a big city and things will change but what a challenge: blocking roads in a town for 3 days in a row for an unknown sport only Qatar can do that I guess !
Do you think a future exists where someone can apply their ‘’real-world’’ skills in the world of longboarding in order to feed themselves?
Maybe yes? if I knew how, I would have already started. : )
What would it take for this to happen?
2 or 3 people full time job, to make good promotional stuff, make lobby and seek sponsors outside the market.
So that’s the key. Get longboarding on mainstream media and get skilled longboarders doing what they do in the real world for longboarding (advertising, fundraising, media and marketing gurus)?
Yes that is true but as you see, there are a few parameters to put together, that require time and money if the market continues to grow as it has in the last 2 years, we have a chance to see it before we die : )
When this happens, what changes will we see?
The same thing as in other mainstream sports : ) : (
Stars, umbrella on the start line, races with thousands of spectators, etc…
Yhe formula one thing !
Longboarders are funny people. Some may be violently opposed to this. What’s in it for the community?
Of course, longboarding has a rich diversity of people and styles… I was just talking about the downhill scene.
If longboarding gets popular as a means of transportation, and get proper lanes as bikes have, I would be stoked… But still, I love to ride whatever pavement exists !
Man it has been awesome picking your brain!
Just 1 simple question left – pick 3 numbers between 1-22
17- Do you prefer skating without socks or without underwear?
Without underwear of course!
3 – What impact has longboarding had on your life
Full impact ! It drives most of my days !
1 – What do you take with you when you go for a skate ?
I love my sector9 bambou cruiser with gullwing sidewinders to go in town, I like my tan tien to go freeride with the friends, I am waiting for my new downhill boards from Switzerland, magic shaper Nicolas Robert and his 981 boards.
He only makes a few boards a year and has been working on this model for a long time when we talked about it, he was inspired as I was by Mike Zitsman riding style and board !
It will have two carbon sides as I want a light board…for a light body !
Thank you so much bro. You are a star and I look forward to working with you to spread the stoke to the next level!
I was very honored to spend some time with you, thanks for spreading the stoke as you do! Now I go back to Peyragudes preparation
Any shout outs?
Oh yes ! I wanna thank the crew members of the Bordeaux Longskate Club (www.bordeaux-longskate-club.com); 2012 will be tremendous for us :
31/03 – 01 /04 : freeride rigalet en roues libres
23/24 june : Rigalet Downhill (French championship)
9-12 august : Peyragudes never Dies IGSA world cup!!!
23/23 september : gauriac Extreme : invitational event with teams made of Kayak; Downhill VTT, Longskate. –>
24/25 october : Freeride Rigalet en roues libres 2
I want to thank STOKED SKATEBOARDS who have helped us for 3 years now! Offering stuff to the crew and kids we give lessons too ! So stoked !
thx to Suzel, Gabin and Violette for letting me spend so much time involved with skate stuff !