La Familia Grenoble president and super stoked orange skater, Vincent, tells us about his life as a downhill skateboarding fanatic in this long overdue interview. Lots of epic gnar inside.
It’s been too long! How is life?
Life is always pleasant in Grenoble, France, lots of downhill spots, friends, a new interesting job and last but not least, a lovely girlfriend. I couldn’t dream it better.
Does she skate?
No she doesn’t, but she runs very well, fast and far.
What’s Grenoble like?
Grenoble is a fairly big city in the heart of French Alps mountain range. The city is the flattest in France, but all around it, there are big mountains chains: “Belledonne”, “Chartreuse” and “Vercors”. You can drive to each in less than 1 hour. As it is surrounded by these chains, it’s really hot in summer and frosty in winter. People are quite nice, young and like sports.
How often do you go into the mountains?
As much as possible. Maybe less than before but when I see that there’s a downhill session, I try as hard as possible to join. When it’s too hot in city, I really enjoy to drive my van with my GF and find a nice landscape in the mountain to read, make barbecue, or just chill.
When did you get into skateboarding?
When I was in high school, I wanted to be like all the boys, so I started skateboarding! But to be honest, I was really not good at tricks… I prefered to use it just to cruise and go to school. When I was 18 years old, my friends offered me my first longskate. It was so nice to cruise and push with soft wheels and a long deck.
I heard that a longskate association existed in Bordeaux (I was in this city at this time), so I decided to meet them: the Bordeaux Longskate Club (BLC). A lot of its members, like Koma Kino, Odix & Nene practiced downhill. I was surprised to see that, and that’s why, naturally I wanted to make the same thing, and that’s how it started to become my passion.
“It’s good to ride at events, but it’s another award to make people ride, and really pleasant when you see them happy.”
How did the BLC influence the skater you became?
Wow. That’s quite a hard question. First, when I reached this association, members of this crew taught me how to get down hills safely on open roads. Then they shared the love of this sport by driving me in to a lot of races and freerides events. They introduced me to this new community, which has become a second family for me.
Finally, they also revealed my ‘associative spirit’. It’s good to ride at events, but it’s another award to make people ride, and really pleasant when you see them happy. It’s not always easy, but it’s a great human challenge.
What do you enjoy about this challenge?
Just one thing in fact: Seeing, hearing or reading that riders who ride at our events feel happy and go back to their houses with a big smile and tons of memories.
I find that organizing an event to the best of your ability and in trying to think about every detail is a really stressful thing. It costs a lot of time, preparation, work, even money. But it’s so pleasant to hear people talking about it even few years later.
“Organizing events is like paying a tribute to the downhill community. When you’re successful, you’ve got the right to go to other crews’ events without feeling guilty.”
What role do associations play in the French community?
Associations, like La Familia in Grenoble, help to gather people who live for the same passion. Some are just discovering it and want to learn and some want to perfect themselves and share it with the community. We group together in city associations, to belong in an entity. Because we need to share things. Longskate in general, and downhill especially, is best enjoyed with friends… One city, one crew.
Another reason we have associations in France, and maybe the most important, is that we have a real federation and institutions. All the riders in the club get a licence with insurance which covers us, other people and gear when we ride and if we have an accident/injuries, even on open roads! So it’s very important to be in a club.
It helps you start and learn longskate and it even protects you. Indeed, with that, you can start downhill in good conditions.
Having associations and members shows to city hall, prefecture and all administratives that we aren’t just crazy people who only want to skate as fast as possible, unconscious of risk and danger. It’s a big help to organize downhill events.
“Having associations and members shows to city hall… that we aren’t just crazy people who only want to skate as fast as possible, unconscious of risk and danger…”
Is it possible to have this kind of structure across Europe?
I guess so. I don’t know if federations exist in other European countries but there are free-rides, races and even national championships. Even if they don’t have “legal” structures, it’s working.
“Be humble, attentive and friendly with all the riders. Don’t forget that we were all beginners once.”
What were the hardest lessons of DH?
I think they were the same lessons in all extreme sports. Be humble, attentive and friendly with all the riders. Don’t forget that we all began at one moment, don’t forget that there will always be a lot of better or faster riders than you. It’s a little community, it’s better when we are all friends!
On open roads, especially, but in downhill in general, know your limits, be safe when trying to extend them. And a lot of other good advice, but all these lessons can’t be written, all riders have to live it.
“…know your limits, be safe when trying to extend them…”
What is your role in La Familia?
For 4 years, I’ve been the president of this club. In fact, in the paper it’s a club because we are affiliated to the French Federation of Roller Sports (FFRS), but in reality it’s a crew of friends who like to have fun together. We naturally ride a lot in longskate downhill, but we also ride bicycles, make big parties, go on road trips, etc. It’s my second family. I need them, and hope that they need me to have good moments and life.
We organized some outlaw races in our city to have fun, then we also make some videos contest/party in some Grenoble’s bars. After we decided to be an official association, a club, to organize official and legal events and begin to buy some stuff for us. In 2011, we organized a stage of the French downhill Championship, La Familia Challenge, which also counted for the World Cup (IGSA) as a regional stage. It was a really great experience, stressful for all the members but we succeeded to make a good event. Seeing the smile on the face of the riders was our biggest award!
Last year, we decided to organize a freeride, in a really famous track in France (and I think in Europe) : Chamrousse. It was a great success for us. More than 100 riders, and all of us came back to our homes with huge smiles.
For the past 4 years, we also organized a little championship at the end of the downhill season to continue to see each others and ride together. Before it was “Familia Winter Challenge” and now it’s “Crash and Freeze Race Cup” because we organized it also with the Lyon Longskate Crew and some other French city crews and associations. So as you understand, we make some associative and fun stuffs..
What are your favourite skateboarding events?
Argh… Another “It’s a trap!!” question… Since 2007, I’ve been to so many events, races and freerides. Really hard to have some favourite ones. From all this events, I have memories, big downhill actions and crashes with friends or unknown riders who became new friends. We nearly each time make huge night (sometimes day) parties…
I’m sure that I will forget a lot but I enjoyed Maryhill in USA for the landscape and the entire road trip, Chuyer in France for the friendly spirit, Kozakov in Czech Republic for the parties and the cost of the beer, Padova in Italy for the impression to be an Olympic athlete, Izoard Race for it’s perfect and complete track, Peyragudes and Almabtrieb for the speed…. And lot and lot of another.. Impossible to notice all…I already have a headache thinking about it… Remembering all these events and tracks gives me the desire to wear my leather suit and go skating!
What have been your most spectacular crashes?
Wow… I’ve had a lot. That shows that you’ve tested new things and you try to improve yourself. But ok, it also shows that it don’t work at this time.
I remember quite big one, like a bail at Almabtrieb in classic luge, in straight line at nearly 120 km/h… Or some missed hairpins in French Championship at Chuyer, Confort or Darnetal, which cost me some helmets, leather suits and lot of bruises.
Have you ever won the party?
Haha! I think I made more podiums at party than in races!
“I think I made more podiums at parties than races!”
Do you prefer freerides/racing?
I haven’t a preference because it’s in the same time really different but very similar… You make the same thing but not in the same state of mind. In both of them you will ride with your buddies, you will meet some new and interesting people, you will crash, laugh and get drunk.
In races, you will have the chance to ride alone in the track. I really like it, it’s just you against yourself and the clock. No excuse, you have to ride the best you can, have a perfect tuck, choose the best line, brake less, grip more. I think it’s good to have a little bit of competitive spirit. Riding against yourself and others is good to increase your level, become a precise and better rider.
On the other hand, in freerides, there is no more pressure… So you can test and try new things. So you also improve yourself in another way. It’s also like holidays… You are with your friends, chilling and enjoying life, it’s as simple as that.
“I really like (racing), it’s just you against yourself and the clock. No excuse, you have to ride the best you can, have a perfect tuck, choose the best line, brake less, grip more.”
What’s your perfect track?
One more time, no perfect track for me. I don’t always have the same desire. Sometimes you just want to ride fast and faster, so a huge straight line with a steep angle will be enough. Sometimes you want to ride a technical spot, with a lot of curbs and hairpins, to slide a lot and have a “mario kart style” ride with other riders… Sometimes you want both! For me all spot are fun and interesting… It depends on who you ride.
What setups are you riding right now?
For the past two years, I rode for Madrid Skateboards, Venom Wheels, Fulkit Skateboards and The Daddy. So all the items to have a perfect boards !
My deck is a Kraken 2015 with Formica, it’s quite simple shape with W concave. Quite small and extremely stiff, all I love! 180mm Ronin Cast. About the wheels, it depends, in nearly all downhill events, I will ride with 76mm/78a Venom Cannibals. For me it’s the perfect wheel. A lot of grip, but pure and controllable in slide. Sometime I will ride Tweakers Venom for slide and freeride sessions. Add to this board some sheets of Gangsta Griptape that will lock your foot, and you will have a weapon of war deck. https://vimeo.com/126847925
How did you get on the Madrid team?
I have to thanks again my good friend and sponsor Pierre Gamby. He is the owner of the french online shop and showroom FULKIT skateboards. He put me in touch with the french distributor of Madrid Skateboards, Venom Wheels and bushings. They searched some riders in France to set up a team, we had a nice contact, so the story began like it.
I am going to take advantage of this article to thanks all my sponsors. It’s friendship before all. I am proud to represent the best I can these brands, it’s a great honor for him, and i’m very happy for all they do for me. (Fulkit Skateboards, Madrid Skateboards, Venom Wheels, The Big Daddy, La Familia Association)
When did you first skate outside France?
Let me think about it… The first time I rode out of France, it was in the beginning of 2007. I lived at Bordeaux, and my friend of there (Koma Kino and Odix) took me for my first race in Spain… So scary, I just learnt how to brake. What a great thing for me; to meet a lot of riders. A really nice experience.
Who are Odix and Komakino?
There were my idols when I started Downhill. Koma was the president of the Bordeaux Longskate Club, and Odix was one of the best french downhill rider in this time. They taught me how to ride. They were talented riders, friends, they were, and still are, like heroes!
Koma impressed me also by his capacity to organize really big and great events (freerides, french championship stages, world cup event, etc.)
Have you skated outside Europe?
Yes, I rode at Maryhill Festival of Speed, at Mount Tabor race and some roads in the United States. I have also the luck to ride in Vancouver (everywhere in this big city, mount seymour, British Properties, Cypress mountains, Seymour Forest, parking sessions, etc etc..) It was an incredible road trip. People, food, skate, landscape, parties..All will be forever in my memory.
Even if it’s in Europe, it’s quite far, but I also rode on one of the highest road in Europe, in Romania! Perfect pavement, sick curves. It’s just the beginning, so much secret places I would like to discover and ride!
Did you see Stephan/MG again in America?
I met Stephan at Bo Peep in 2012, I thought I was the only one that speak French, I just discovered that he was french the last day. And we rode together on some events in 2012 summer euro tour.
About Mike, I just saw him in France. He went at one of the Chuyer freeride edition. I wish them a really good luck with their helmet brand, MIDS.
How does Maryhill compare to Le Croix?
Both are quite similar, but as it’s called, Le Col de la Croix Saint Robert is “The Little French Maryhill”. I really love this spot, one of my favourite in France. Like Maryhill, lots of big curves, no braking, beautiful landscape. For three years, the association Auver’ride organized two freerides and one french championship, a lot of good times!
But naturally, nothing compares to Maryhill! It’s longer, faster, more turny. It’s the most painful spot for the legs I’ve ridden in my whole life… I dream to come back to this place… Quite simple spot but you have to ride perfectly. Every mistake you make, and you can see the other rider go far, far, far!
When will you get to travel again outside Europe?
When I will have the time and the cash for that… #sendpaucaoutofeuropeagain
What has been your favourite season yet?
Without hesitation, 2012 Road trip was the biggest and the best for me… nearly 3 months of complete road trip non stop… I rode in England at Bo Peep (where I met you !), in Czech Republic at Kozakov, in Italy at Teolo, in Switzerland at Montreux and in France with Peyragudes and some others races and lot of freerides. We also spent 2 weeks with friends in Usa and Canada to ride at Maryhill Festival of Speed as I mentioned earlier in this article. So many great journeys, events, open road sessions and road trips.
What do you plan to get up to this summer?
This is my first year in my new job, so no holidays for me… But I will get out all the weekends to ride in event, spend time with girlfriend and friends, go to some weddings (yes…it seems I’m in the age where all the friends I have marry.
Maybe another euro-tour next year, I really hope so !!!
What do you do when you’re not skating?
As a lot of people, I have to work, but by luck, I have an interesting and diversified job. I’m in charge of exploitation of clean room on one of the biggest european research center. But in real life, I like to hang out with my girlfriend, see my friends, chill, read.
I am also fond of track bike since 4 years. Fixed gear to move in Grenoble city, and since 2 years, I am in track bike club. Like it, it’s a complete sport, which help me in downhill to have iron legs.
Pick 3 numbers between 1-30.
1, 13 and 28.
1 – What would you do if you were President?
Privatize mountains road just for cycle and downhill skate!
13 – Do you have a pet ?
28 – What superhero would be best at skating?
The silver surfer.
Pauca it’s been great talking to you again! Stay rad and see you again somewhere!
A big thank you for this article Gbemy and congratulations for your whole work !! Long life to All around skate!
Any last words?
Crash hard, Ride Fast, Make History !!!