Master lensman, tall man, and all round good guy Leo Sharp recently spent some time in Paris with Leo Valls, they got talking about Leo’s work in Bordeaux regarding making the city ‘skate friendly’. Intrigued by this Leo headed off to Bordeaux to spend some time with Leo, shoot the photos you’ll see below, and allowed us to find out a bit more about skateurbanism and what all this means.
Photos: Leo Sharp
First of all, could you please explain the term ‘skateurbanism’?
Skaturbanism explores skateboarding as an integrated part of public space, in a way that cities and skaters can mutually benefit.
What’s the deal with skating in Bordeaux? Do you get kicked out of spots often?
We used to! I mean, of course you still get kicked out by people when skating right under their window, but the cops don’t really kick us out anymore or give us tickets like they used to a couple years ago. Unless you really screw up I guess!
You arranged for some of the plazas that had previously been a bust to welcome skateboarding during certain times. How did this work?
It’s been a long process. To provide some context, skateboarding has been very popular in Bordeaux for a long time now. You can tell how many people skate or push just by walking around the city. We have a long skate history, several skate shops, companies, pros, skate tourism… Even the national skateboard mag, Sugar, is based in Bordeaux. This probably comes from the fact that surfing has been very popular in the region for decades – beach towns such as Lacanau and Hossegor are close by. Also, the streets and sidewalks in Bordeaux are super smooth, and around 15 years ago, the city centre was rebuilt which created many sick spots. Bordeaux is a wealthy city with quite a bourgeois mentality, and skateboarding became a problem for some of the residents, mostly because of the noise, amplified by the layout of the city and its narrow streets.
“I haven’t heard of anyone getting ticketed since we set up this deal with the city council.”
So, yeah, the city didn’t know how to respond to the rise in popularity of skateboarding whilst receiving complaints from residents at the same time. They started to ban skating at some of the downtown plazas, adding ‘no skateboarding’ signs to a few of the most popular spots. A new police station opened in the centre and the cops would chase us and give us €70 tickets. Kids ended up having to go to court… it was bad, and it was only getting worse. Of course, we would keep skating these forbidden spots – mostly at night to avoid the city cops – which in turn became even more of a problem for the residents.
That’s when I was invited by a local news station to speak on live television about the local skateboard industry; I decided to go and use the platform to denounce how the city was treating skaters in the streets. A few days later I was invited to the first in a long line of meetings with the city council. We set up a team of local skaters, activists and with the helo of a local assocation, manged to convince the city council, as well as the disgruntled residents, to share some of the plazas, allowing us to skate them during certain days and times – we saw this as being better for everyone.
The vast majority of the local skaters were stoked; kids respected the deal and can now meet up and skate entire afternoons at their favourite plazas without having to be on the lookout for cops, while still being able to skate most of the rest of the city anytime without problems. It’s been way more chill since then. I haven’t heard of anyone getting ticketed since we set up this deal with the city council.