Featured Traveler: Mike Girard

6

Fun chat with one of the many people who come to Europe every year to taste the culture (and wine). Mike tells us about his time skating in France, playing Frisbee and family-friendly hip hop.

Hey Mike! Great to talk to you, where are you from?
Great to talk to you too! I’m from Harvard, Massachusetts, born and raised.

When did you start skating?
I skateboarded a bit when I was around 13-14, mostly just messing around and filming my friend who was really good. I never got far beyond kick-flipping with my two close friends before the three of us decided that skating a shortboard in a hilly town with no skate parks and no driver’s licenses was boring. A few years later, we saw some of the Adam & Adam videos for Longboard Larry which made us decide we had to give longboarding a try. That was almost 6 years ago. The rest is history, I’ve been obsessed ever since!

The first one I saw was ‘Whirling Dervish’, which one got you hooked?
I believe the first one I ever saw was Shadow Dancing. Another friend from home sent me the link, that video blew my mind and made me really want to try it.

What was your first longboard?
As a feeler, I bought a cheap S9 “Solar” – kind of a short pin slalomy board. It was on Gullwing R1s and cheap S9 wheels with greaseball bearings. It was nothing fancy, but it convinced me I was interested enough to buy a “serious” board. Inspired by the LBL videos, I ordered a custom LBL Dancer and started to learn tricks on it from the Loaded Newsletter Challenges.

How did the trick learning go?
It took some time and dedication, but the challenge series kept myself and my two friends motivated to keep learning. I still remember having to spend a real long time getting that 3 parking space nose manual! Nollie shuvits were tough to learn too, especially without a real shortboarding background to speak of. It’s funny to look back at my first challenge series vid!

Who are these two friends you keep mentioning? 
Cameron and Graylan Stone. They’ve been some of my best friends since I was a toddler, and we practically lived together growing up (they lived right up the road). They’re the brothers in the Loaded video Spring Dancing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKtPwk7YQK4. Unfortunately, they have sort of stopped longboarding, and they go to school pretty far away. We’re still great friends, but my skate crew has changed considerably.

Where do you skate now?
When school is in session, there are some fun spots on the campus at Colgate University. If I’m back home, I’m still based in Harvard Mass. There are a lot of fun skate spots in the area for freeride, although I certainly miss the mountains of Europe! The DH here is no comparison.

You go to toothpaste University? Are you some sort of Dentist?
I’m an internationally accredited toothpaste flavor engineer and part-time oral hygienist with a minor in whitening. Haha for real though, there’s no association with the toothpaste… but I do use Colgate Total.

Part time ‘’Oral Hygienist’’! You filthy boy
My mouth is a temple.
 You mentioned earlier about skating in Europe, who let you into their country?
I have Colgate University to thank for that. We have a number of European study abroad programs. French is one of my concentrations at the university, and I took the opportunity to study through Colgate’s program in Dijon, France as a way to better learn the language and culture. Not to mention easy access to some incredible downhill and beautiful freestyle spots in the Alps and Paris! Also, who can resist a fine French wine, some brie and the beautiful women with their sultry accents?

You’re a nuisance! How long did you live in France?
Hahaha! I was there for roughly 4 months. It was very hard to leave, I almost had to conveniently miss my flight so I could stay longer!

Who did you skate with in Dijon?
For the first few months, only myself. I skated every day to and from class, and I’d session regularly around the city, but I never saw any other skaters. Although the online French gravity sports forum Riderz led me to some really awesome riders in the Alps, I couldn’t find a soul in Dijon. Finally after a few months, I made a friend in a bar who told me he longboarded, but didn’t have any trucks or wheels. I hooked him up with a set, we started riding, and slowly started discovering more riders in the city. They’ve been busy recently, with an ever-expanding crew. I actually wrote a bi-lingual writeup for Loaded on my experiences and difficulties, and UDMag recently did a feature with a similar story on my behalf in their 4th issue (page 75). It was great to finally meet guys like Arthur Garnier in Dijon who knew great spots, loved to skate and were motivated to grow the scene.

You skated with the Riderz?
Sort of. My first instinct was to go to the regional section of Silverfish Longboarding to look for riders to skate with in France. A rider in that forum suggested I check out Riderz for anything related to the France skate scene. I made a post in their photos & videos thread saying I was coming to France and wanted to skate, and a number of generous folks reached out with open arms to welcome me in. I ended up decided to head to Savoie to skate with Loic Marechêt, Hugo Madignier and the whole Alpha Longboards squad. They were unbelievable hosts and showed me the best longboarding I’ve ever experienced! I documented some of our DH adventures in my 1st Ambassador Abroad video. I am forever thankful to Loic for inviting me out and hosting me 3 separate times, and for the whole crew for being so awesome, gnar and friendly. Alpha Longboards is the BOMB!

Where did this gnargasmic longboarding experience occur?
Mostly in Savoie, France – Annecy and Aix Les Bains was where we did a lot of our riding (because the guys lived there) and sometimes a little farther into the Alps in Beaufort. It was too early in the season to do the higher Alps passes because they were still snowed in, but the DH was mindblowing…. miles above anything I’d done on the East Coast.

What other French cities did you skate in?
I did a bunch of skating in Paris. Loaded was kind enough to hook me up with a great group of riders including Laurent Perigault, Lotfi Lamaali, Babar Chaput, Marvin Thine and lots of other awesome people. A million hugs and kisses to Babar for hosting me each time I visted! I visited a bunch of other cities – Lyon, Tours, Nice, Orange, Nimes, Arles – but they were on school trips and my professor didn’t want me to bring my board. He was scared I’d hurt myself or break something expensive and didn’t want the liability!! I was bummed, but it was probably smart.

That’s a lot of Parisian talent you just mentioned, skating with that gang must have been great.
It was so awesome! They showed me an awesome time and some awesome spots and sessions. Skating in front of the Eiffel Tower at Trocadero and in the ditches in Noisiel stand out particularly strong in my memory. The whole atmosphere with the Paris crew is absolutely electric – everyone is so stoked on longboarding and constantly pushing what they can do on a board. Plus, the city is so beautiful, and to top it off, the guys helped me with my French!

You’ve mentioned Loaded a bunch of times, are you a massive fanboy or team rider?
I’ve been a Loaded & Orangatang ambassador since January, 2011. I really love the team, the vision, the direction and the dedication to growing the sport in a positive way. I couldn’t be happier with Loaded – I feel right at home.

How did you end up an ambassador?
I first started getting involved with Loaded through the Challenge Series. I did the first 3, and also submitted videos to the Newsletter back when it was mostly user-generated content. I slowly built a relationship with them. Over time, I got more involved with the skate scene and started pushing my riding and video making. I organized a big longboarding event in Harvard, MA back in 2010, and I worked closely with Kyle Chin over at Loaded in planning, strategizing and executing the event – Loaded & Otang were the main sponsors. It was a big success, and as I got more involved in the community, they took notice and ended up sending me an email out of the blue saying I had been added to the Ambassadors team. I was ridiculously stoked, it was the best email ever!!

Is it framed up on your wall?
Haha, that’s not a bad idea! It’s certainly well ingrained in my mind, I remember the moment vividly.

Are many of the ambassadors ex-loaded challengers?
I think almost all of them! The challenge series are what made me decide to start actually learning tricks rather than just cruising around, and from the sound of it, that was the same for many of the fellow ambassadors. It was a great idea.

What does it mean to be an Ambassador? Do you get diplomatic immunity in skate states?
It means that the role extends beyond merely riding. An ambassador is an active member of their community who seeks to grow the scene with inclusivity, good vibes and a passion for the sport. Ambassadors organize events and serve as a diplomatic face for Loaded & Orangatang. It’s a cool way to mix the riding with the bigger picture.

Every ambassador has the same swag level?
There is an Ambassadorial swag spectrum with a generally above-average level of swag, I’d say.

How did you get involved with the ‘’bigger picture’’ while in Europe?
For me, it was all about getting out there and meeting new riders, mixing it up with different scenes. I made an effort to meet as many people as I could within the Paris, Alps and Dijon crowds, which quickly led to other regions. The European community is very tightly woven, so it allowed me to get to know a lot of really great people like Loic, Pommy of Cri du Kangarou, Spoky Woky, Hugo Besset, and tons of other big faces in the Europe scene. By attending some awesome events and expanding my group of skaters, it really expanded my view of the sport.

Haha Marie fucking Bougourd, what a nice pute.
She most certainly is, and she SHREDS! We chatted it up for a while and she let me take a run on her Fibretec on Raptor Trucks and Otang Inheats. What a sick whip… I loved it! She’s a stoke machine and cute to boot.

Did you go to any races while you were here?
Unfortunately, I left before the meat of the race season. It starts in earnest in early July; I left in late May. However, one of the big events I did get to go to was the Chuyer Freeride – that was a BLAST! The freeride lifestyle is unlike any other.

What other countries did you visit?
Italy, Germany and the Czech Republic. However, most of my traveling was within France.

What were your experiences in these countries? (skating not women)
Minimal. I visited Italy, Germany, England, Belgium and Czech Republic on a 2 week spring break. I was usually traveling with fellow Colgate students if I went outside of France, but these were non-skaters so sometimes I didn’t bring my board with me because it would mean splitting off from my friends and shlepping extra stuff through airports and train stations while already overloaded. However I did get to skate in Brussels with my good hometown friend Connor Kempton who was studying abroad there. (Connor is the other rider in my Jungle Juice video)

Where in England?
I visited London for a 3-day weekend. A huge group of Colgate students studying abroad in Europe joined up in London for some good times. I also headed to Oxford with a hometown friend studying there, we went to an awesome live show at The Cellar and saw Beatfox and Akil MC (of Jurassic 5). Unfortunately, there was no skating involved.

You like a bit of Jurassic 5?
I love them! Good family friendly hip hop, it’s hard not to like them.

No NWA on MG’s mp3 player?
There’s a healthy serving of all types of hip hop and rap in my library. I’m actually a DJ for a hip hop radio show at Colgate University’s WRCU radio station! Check out my playlists here for a sample of what I spin: http://wrcufm.com/showPlaylist.php?id=1515

You longboard and you DJ – is this all for groupies?
Pass. Okay, you caught me…

What do you listen to when you skate?
I have a skate playlist with a wide variety of music, but some of my current favorites that get me in the zone are Parov Stelar, RJD2, Prefuse 73, Wax Tailor, Pretty Lights, LCD Soundsystem and Glitch Mob. However I usually only listen to music if I’m skating somewhere with no cars, I like to have as much situational awareness as possible – I’ve had a couple of freaky moments riding on a road with music and getting startled when I look back and find a car right on my ass.

Lots of recent videos have been cut to Glitch Mob. Why?
It has a good up-beat and intense vibe to it. They’re a very talented group with a signature sound that just seems to work well with skateboarding. It gets you pumped up!

Do you edit any of your own videos?
Yep, I edit all of them!

Who films them?
We trade off on filming. I usually film most of the riding, except when I’m skating. Sometimes I only film, like in my most recent edit “21st Birthday Longboarding”. It allows me to focus more on what the final video will turn out like and film based on my vision for the given video.

I guess there’s more to you than a hairy face.
I like to keep myself busy. Keeps me off the streets, ya know?

How many videos did you make while you were out here?
Hmm… let’s see. There’s:
1) Ambassador Abroad, Pt.1
2) Ambassador Aborad, Pt2
3) Take Your Toll
4) Don’t Bank On The Snake
5) Frozen Freeride
6) Col du Chat downhill longboarding
And then a couple videos that I was in and helped film, but were edited by Laurent Perigault:
7) Accroche Décroche 2
8.) Welcome to Paris Mike Girard
So in total, I’d say 8. Plus a mess of videos from several different riders at the Chuyer Freeride.

Laurent mentioned that he got sponsored by Loaded after he met you, I guess that was after AD No. 2?
Yep – after we rode several times together and made that video, I recommended that Loaded check him out because he was such a rad rider and awesome guy. Same for Lotfi and Loic. I’m glad they decided to pick him up, he’s a champ!

He has a beautifully aggressive style.
Truer words… (that’s what she said?)

Do you prefer being in front of the camera or behind?
Hard to say. I enjoy both, but when I’m around riders who are super talented and can do tricks that I can barely even think about without injuring myself, I tend to favor the cameraman position. I really enjoy filming and editing, and it’s a pleasure to help show some of the awesome talent that’s out there and attempt to portray it in an artful and visually appealing way. That being said, it’s fun to be in videos too!

What equipment do you use?
For a long time, I was doing all my photos and videos on a Canon S95. It’s an awesome little camera, a true workhorse that offers a lot of performance in a compact package. However in January I finally decided to invest in something a little more advanced, buying a Canon 60D. I do my filming and photography on that, and I edit in Final Cut Pro. I’m hoping to save up for a nice lens or two, and I want to build some sliders and other stuff to help me keep pushing the level of my videos.

You take photos as well? 
Yep! Mostly skate photos, but I enjoy taking photos of anything and everything really. You can find most of my skate photos in my Tumblr archive, or if you want to do less sifting, via the “myphotos” tagged page of my Tumblr.

Ah. Tumblr. You’re one of those guys…
Yep… I’m borderline addicted. It’s a really fun way to share photos and find cool, inspiring new material. Not to mention burn a few minutes, a few hours… days, even!

Let’s put this in perspective. How many times have you checked your tumblr since we started this interview?
Well, the Tumblr questions have been flowing in so… probably 6-7 times? Hahaha oh man, I am addicted!

You are an addict. Seek help.
D:

How many followers do you have?
I’m at 990, closing in on a big G stack!
 Is there a ‘’longboard community’’ on tumblr?
Most definitely – a robust one at that! There are some well-followed longboarding tumblrs and a growing body of enthusiastic riders that swarm to Tumblr as a visually-oriented medium to find cool new stuff. Blogs like skatedistrict, thisislongboarding, locallongboarders and fylongboarding (and London Longboards!) all help to spread the stoke far and wide.

Are there other ‘’real-life’’/well known longboarders on this blogging site?
Hahah yeah there are some other “real-lifers” on Tumblr for sure – Sam Weaver of SkateDistrict has an awesome blog, he’s a good rider and a phenomenal photographer. Brian Bishop, Pam Diaz, Ysabel Mireles, Sonso Masia, Amanda Powell and Spoky Woky also have solid Tumblr followings.

The skatedistrict photos are awesome!
Yeah, Sam really knows what he’s doing! He has awesome gear and awesome talent, Boss status for sure. Plus, he’s a fun guy to skate with to boot.

Tumblr is an interesting website. There’s a lot of bullshit psuedoskating and hipster crap on there right?
There’s definitely a fair amount of shenanigans and photo stealing. But you gotta take the good with the bad, at the base it all derives from a shared common love for longboarding.

What do you ride?
I like to mix up my setups. But at the moment, I spend the majority of my time on a Nelson Stingray proto if I’m doing DH or fast freeride, and a Bhangra, Fattail or Tan Tien for just about everything else. Also some Dervish and Dancer action mixed in to taste. I also occasionally ride my EW “Belly Model” custom chop that served as my DH & freeride machine while abroad.

I assumed you weren’t even allowed to look at other boards, much less ride them if you were an ambassador!
No, it’s really not like that with Loaded. They allow us to ride whatever we want. However, I usually choose to ride Loaded & Otang products because they support me and have allowed me to progress my riding and involvement in the sport. I really love and believe in their vision, and I really enjoy their products, so I rarely ride anything but Otang wheels, and if I’m below 35mph, I tend to have the most fun on a Loaded. But since I’m increasingly interested in DH & fast freeride, I ride a variety of boards and Loaded is A-OK with that – as you know, their DH/Freeride proto hasn’t arrived just yet. It’s nothin’ but love. Most of my recent videos have been on Otang wheels but non-Loaded boards, it’s all good in the hood!

Do you race?
Not yet, but I want to. I plan to race in the “I Love DH” race in Windham, NY this summer. I’ve organized a few DH races, but since I’ve been running them I haven’t been able to compete in them. My area has some fun hills, but nothing terribly long or turny, so it’s a more freeride-oriented scene than a racing one.
 What do you do when you’re not skating?
I’m currently a full-time student at Colgate University double majoring in environmental economics and French, so my studies take up a solid chunk of time. I’m also the team captain of the men’s Ultimate Frisbee club team here at Colgate, and we’re in the middle of a competitive season. We practice 2 hrs a day, 5 days a week with tournaments on weekends, so that’s definitely a solid time commitment.  I also own and run a landscaping business called Collegiate Greenscaping that I started three years ago, based in Harvard, MA. Besides that, I’m also a founding member and co-president of the composting club here at Colgate, it’s a solid group of us neo-hipping trying to save the planet with rotting food, hahah. I spend time with my girlfriend, and DJ’ing my radio show, and as a 2nd year member of an entrepreneurship institute called Thought Into Action here at Colgate. I’m currently pursuing full-time employment post-graduation, but I don’t want to say doing what until I land the job for sure.

How does one freesbie competitively?
It’s a rapidly growing sport here in the US. Check out USA Ultimate to see some of the current stuff going on at the club and collegiate levels here: http://www.usaultimate.org/index.html
The game is sort of a mixture of American football (score touchdowns in an endzone), soccer (style of disc movement) and basketball (have to establish a pivot foot once stopped; passing between players in the air). It’s a very fast-paced and athletic game, I love it! Here’s a good place to find some cool videos too: http://www.nexgentour.com/video.


Green landscape business? Touche
Thank you! It’s been a labor of love, but very rewarding.

Does your lady longboard?
Unfortunately, no. But I’m trying to get her started!

How does all your environmetality affect your longboard life?
I try to use my longboard as a mode of transportation as much as possible, rather than just a thing to do once I drive to a spot. As such, I try to use my car as rarely as possible, and I barely use it at my campus. If something is within a 1-5 mile radius of me and I have enough time, I try to skate there. It also means that I try to be smart about carpooling to events, what cars to take if shuttling, and whether or not it’s worth bringing a car or if we could get by just hiking a spot. In addition to reducing waste and carbon emissions, this also means getting a lot more good exercise. Skating long distances is a great way to build leg strength and endurance. I also plan to commute to work via skateboard every day post-graduation.

Is there a Oral Hygiene Longboard gang?
Unfortunately, no. There are barely any longboarders at Colgate – only myself and one other rider regularly, and a few other guys use cruisers to get around. It’s kind of a bummer, cause the school is on a steep hill that’s perfect for skating. I think it’s because the student base is a bit too far on the preppy end of the spectrum because it’s a small, competitive, expensive liberal arts school. If there were 1 skater for every 30 fratty bros, I’d be in heaven! However, the one other serious skater and I have made a couple videos – Colgate Coffee Break and 21st Birthday Longboarding.

Choose 3 numbers between 1-25
6, 9, 18

6 – Do you like lemons ?
Yep. I like turning them into lemonade!

9 – Favourite song to listen to when you skate
Hmmmmmm.
I’m gonna pick three. Too hard to choose.
1) Parov Stelar – “Phantom” 2) Pretty Lights – “Short Cut/Detour” 3) Zeds Dead – “Coffee Break”

18- What is/was your favourite Cartoon?
My childhood was largely TV-free, so I’m going to give you my favorite comic… which is hands-down Calvin & Hobbes.

Awesome. It has been really great talking to you man! Hopefully see you when you come back to Europe!
Likewise, it’s been fun! I’ll let you know when I’m back in your neck of the woods. I can’t wait to get back to Europe!!

Any thankyous/shout-outs?
Thanks to all of the awesome, stoke-filled, gnarly lads who welcomed me and showed me an awesome time in Europe – they made my 4 months abroad the most memorable of my life. Thanks to the scene supporters, Loaded & Orangatang, and to All Around Skate for this nice interview! Also, shout out to Cameron and Graylan, the guys who I started skating with in the first place. It’s been a long and awesome path. Stoke onwards and upwards!!