Koma is the daddy of the IDF. We had this conversation with him about his thoughts on the first IDF season and he shares his unique insights with us. It’s a really good read. Love you bro.
Bonne nuit buddy!
Bonsoir mon ami.
How are you?
I am fine. Happy to see the end of the IDF first season. I am exhausted!
Did it go as well as you expected?
The first year of something you create is of course very demanding and asks for many efforts. I think we did the efforts required and showed some improvements…but there are still so many things to do!
What were you most nervous about before the season started?
The acceptance of the riders. Would they come to IDF races, would they understand the reason for membership… the timing system was a big issue too.
How did you ensure the patronage of the riders?
I think it has been a quite natural thing. Riders were demanding for some improvements, we said we could bring some and hold some of them even before the first race happened. Then it has been a matter of artwork to help every single event. To ensure some fluid racing with no waiting, results and reports in time.
Did the riders get everything they wanted before the season?
I don’t think so; because riders always want more and I am happy with that fact. The timing system and the skills of the team allowed us to bring some new events, and give more riding time on some other events. Some riders were suspicious about our ability to deliver what we announced I guess, but in the end, they saw we were very involved in the thing.
What timing system did you employ this season?
It’s a Tag Heuer timing system, with the latest version of their decoder, their new software and their RFID chip system. Those chips are expensive but worth it. I think we have only exploited 60% oh the possibilities of the system, but improved at every race, time after time.
Was there any uncertainty about the new events?
Not that much, as they knew the people behind the organization and we have prepared them months before the events happened. As I said last time you asked me, when you show up at the event, you can only manage a few things, but most of the work has to be done before: how is the safety?, what about the shuttle?, what is the schedule; hour by hour etc.
How did you make use of the RFID chips last season?
The first event was newton’s nation. Unfortunately, we had problems with the timing system and could not make it work there, though all the offert Colin and I put into endless tests and conversation. The ASRA crew is the best and they made a wonderful event, introducing new race formats. Then we had Angies: we used it to make the quali runs and could offer 5 timed runs in 5 hours ! Maryhill, we used it for qualis but also to judge the finish line. The system tells you precisely who comes first, 2nd, 3rd etc within a heat.
Whistler was a nightmare with the timing system: one of the 2 decoders was fuc**ed and it would not work at all. I brought the whole system back from Canada. The Tag Heuer guy was waiting for me at the Paris airport to take it and had only 10 days to provide new ones, fully functioning for Kozakov. We could even negotiate with Tag the fact of sending 2 of their guys to ensure the system would work with the new decoders and the new more powerful modems. Then the system just showed great capacities. We only had a little problem in Peyragudes, “loosing” 2 timed runs, but it was because of a bad manoeuvre from ourselves in the software. We got in touch with Tag immediately on Skype and they found our mistake. Once this was corrected, the timing system worked perfectly at every other race we used it.
What possibilities do you think are yet to be unlocked?
We only used the possibility of transmitting the live results to internet, in Bogota (festival de la Bajada). If we have good internet connection, we could use it more often at races. We can also display results on screens on-site! We even could send individual text messages with everybody’s time.
What are you happiest about delivering this season?
To be still alive!
Was that hard?
I guess people are not aware of the time it requires. But I can say it is very demanding: making the constitution, translating it, making the event guide, the website, the membership system, the administrative stuff due to the fact that we are an official association, having regular meetings (every week for the first 6 months, every two weeks now), preparing the schedule and coordinating events, going through customs papers to send the timing everywhere in the world, helping events, creating the results sheets, making rankings, updating; Facebook, the forum, website, instagram, twitter, answering emails etc.
Are you going to have more help next season?
We would like to have a south american director, yes. South America is a big scene that deserves to have an ambassador within the IDF. We would also like to have more people able to deal with the timing system. We may take someone for the community management and hire someone to find sponsors.
How did you find time to skate?
I did not skate much. I was supposed to come and race at whistler, but as the timing did not work, it ened up that I got only 3 runs. Luckily I could skate with Kevin, Jonas and Lee after whistler, in Vancouver. I went to a nice freeride in France, raced once in the French championship race, but that’s all.
What was the track like?
Whistler is a great track, very turny. It’s kinda like Maryhill with dopamine! The asphalt is rough but that makes the charm of the race.
Do you still have time for the Bordeaux family?
No, I quit the seat of president of the Bordeaux longskate club. Damien (Daminou), is now the treasurer, and Nene is the new president. Peyragudes is still my “baby”, but Damien helped a lot this year and shared the work. Peyragudes takes me about 1 hour per day from August to March, then it goes crescendo. Right now, we have produced the press book of the event, and the sponsoring file is ready: we need to find sponsors now!
Are there going to be any big changes for 2014?
No big changes. It is a year to consolidate what we launched in 2013.
Where did your year start off?
My first real session in 2013 was at the rigalet freeride we organized in May, near bordeaux. I did not travel much, only to Whistler. I cant’ travel much as I have a regular job and you know, Violette, my daughter, has special needs and I can’t leave the house for too many days.
Was it tough watching your baby grow from afar?
It’s exciting more than frightening. There is still so much to do in the IDF.
How was the Whistler experience?
It was great to finaly meet Lee Cation. I stayed with him for 10 days and could see how he was organizing his events. As an event organizer, this was very interesting.
Long distance relationships are tough eh?
Modern tools and internet helps a lot. I guess, apart from the meetings, I hear from Lee every 2 or 3 days.
How was PND this year?
A bit better with the coordination of the crew, an improved media coverage thanks to 3heads crew and our PR girl, gaia, who could get some big media journalists to come and cover the event. The 2 main French TV channels sent some people, “Le Monde” (biggest French newspaper) sent 2 journalists for the week, same for ‘“L’Equipe”, biggest sport magazine here. The timing system from the IDF allowed to have more timed runs too.
Does bigger media coverage = more sponsorship?
Not really, but we hope that it will bring some for 2014 edition.
Is there anything you wanted to change from the last one?
I wanted to have more runs for the riders, and a proper French championship race too. I wanted the skate school to get bigger and welcome more kids (over 100 kids during the 4 days).
Did you guys teach DH at your skate school?
We at least teach the basics: how to brake (yes we teach footbraking!), how to slide. Some kids are good enough to do powerslides. We do not teach racing tips yet (tuck, drift, tactics) but it might come soon.
How were your holidays?
I went to Vancouver last summer, to meet Lee Cation and Colin Beck, and participate in the Whistler Longboard Festival. I was supposed to race in the Masters category, but unfortunately the IDF Timing system did not work. So I decided to help Lee and Colin rather than ride. Anyway, it was a great time. After, I had some skate time with Kevin Reimer, Jonas Richter, Pablo Quiles in the suburbs of Vancouver (BP, Cypress). I found some time to meet Blake Startup from Landyachtz and visit their factory. For Christmas, I stayed with my family and made a big party for new years eve.
Has the IDF got any surprises for us this year?
Yes we have. Of course I can not give the details, but we will have a few new races. We would like to put up a prize purse for the overall ranking. But I am not sure our financial situation will allow us to set it up in 2014. 2015 for sure! We have to reimburse the loans we had to contract to pay the timing system first.
What would it cost to rent your timing system?
We do not rent it. It requires a good training and more than that, you get used to it as you use it a lot. Making a smooth race and smooth quali sessions depends on your ability to deal with new and unknown issues, but also to react faster and better when shit happens, because you’ve learnt from past situations.
The rent could include Koma or Lee with it!
That is a possibility, but we are not here to make money; our first goal is to make a good competition circuit. Help the organizers get better and find good tracks. I’d rather spend some time to find sponsors, some big names, not from the skate industry. And anyway, when you are a World Cup event organizer, our fee, which is twice cheaper than the former organization, includes the timing and the fact we send an official timing officer to use it.
Is downhill racing a good investment for outsiders?
It all depends on the amount of money we are talking about, but I think that it is still a very small investment for good coverage. We have a young audience, growing, on 4 continents so far.
For instance, Peyragudes, which is the event I know the best, has a very good media coverage now, with mainstream media getting interest in it and sending journalist to the event. Top sponsorship only costs a few thousands euros. Not many sports can offer that ROI.
How is the scene in at home?
As always France does not do things the same way as others; while all countries see the number of races exploding, DH races in France are dying. But freerides are exploding! There will be over 20 freeride events in France in 2014…and only 3 races. French riders do not really like competition.
Which ones should people go to?
Col de la bonnette for sure, Croix saint robert (if it’s a freeride and not a race), Comfortable freeride, a new event in Chamrousse is also under preparation, and the OUTDOOR Mix festival, in the south of France.
Are there any changes you’d like to bring in the future?
I’d like to see the big races able to make more selection so that the WQS races realy become “qualifying races”. We are interested in Boarder X too.
We’ve got Kozakov, do we need another?
I am talking about Eastern Europe really; countries such as Slovenia, Latva, Russia even.
Seems like the guys are headed in the right direction with the formation of the Asian Downhill Circuit – do you have any contacts out there?
Yes we do, but safety is still an issue there. They have no hay bales, few riders can really afford to buy helmets and leathers.
What are the alternatives in a hayless country?
Rice can be one, inflatable structures too, matelasses in some cases or even tyres, but I know that the tyres can be dangerous.
Under the IGSA, we had a World Championship World Cup race, will we ever see this under the IDF?
It’s been a long time, hope our paths cross soon bro. Big hugs and all the best for the coming season.
Thanks Gbemi and keep on the good work that you do. Above all, keep the passion, that is the best engine to drive your projects.