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Words: Bram De Cleen. Photos: Davy Van Laere.

Hey Youness, everything alright? 

I heard you were in a car accident recently with a couple of your friends. What happened? 

My friend Steven was driving the car, my brother Fayssal was riding shotgun. My friend Blok (Kristof) was in the back on the right, I was in the middle and Koenraad was on the left. We were driving at around 90 km per hour when somebody overtook us quickly. And just when he gets back in front of us his car breaks down and we drive straight into the back of it. Fayssal, Steve and me were unharmed but Blok and Koenraad got a broken nose and broken eye socket between them. Blok's scalp had opened from his eyebrow all the way to the back of his head. I thought I was going to see him die in front of my eyes – really fucked up. We had had a really good evening skating at Area 51 and then just five minutes from home that happened.  Everything' s alright with both the guys now, so we can't really complain, I could've just as easily gone through the windshield. A blessing in disguise...

Lucky escape! Now winter is kicking in here in Belgium, and you're out there in sunny Los Angeles, alive and kicking. How are things? 

I'm fine. Skating a lot, hope you're good as well, aside from the shitty weather.

I'm used to it. Where are you staying right now? What part of town? 

I've been staying over at James Craigs’ in Fullerton for about two weeks now. That's the first part of Orange County, about 40 minutes from downtown L.A.

Are you planning on staying in L.A. permanently at some point?

I've thought about that already, but for the time being I'm just going to keep going back and forth. I can only stay three months at a time anyway.

You're sponsored by big brands now, getting ads and interviews in all the magazines, video parts left and right, flying all over the world and basically living the life of a professional skateboarder, is this what you dreamed of when you were younger? 

Of course, from the moment I knew it was possible to live from skating that was all I ever wanted to reach in life!

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Nollie to fakie.

Now that you’re doing it, is there anything that’s different or not as cool as you imagined it might be? 

Of course, everyone imagines it a bit differently than it really is. I thought that everyone here went skating everyday, from the morning until the evening because the weather is so good, but there’s quite a bit more to it than just skating. There are always some things that aren’t so nice, but that goes for every job or anything else in life.

Is getting a pro board or shoe important to you? Have there been any talks about it or is that still distant future? 

I guess that's what every skater would want eventually. So, yeah, it's definitely one of my goals. I can't say anything about it really. It could happen next week, or next year... you never know. The board company you skate for decides when you go pro and then you're pro for all the other companies you ride for as well.

What was unexpected of you in the life you're leading now? What's something that people here in Belgium and Europe might not know about the life you're living over there? 

The pressure that is put on you. There are always high expectations to live up to but things usually seem to work out for the best if you just skate and have fun with it. Also, the more you travel to the States the more trouble they give you at customs, so that's always quite a process to go through. Then you still have to figure out where you're going to sleep, and find people that are motivated and skate a lot. Then again, during the week there's not a lot of stuff to skate anyway, weekends are the best.

I feel like you've had that pressure on you since way before you were skating in the U.S., even when you were still really young. Do you think you it comes from others or are you just being hard on yourself? 

Most of it is probably just me. I do it without realising. Everybody can do almost every single thing right now, so it's hard to come out with something new, which is what I want to do. I don't think it's bad to put yourself under a little bit of pressure to become better, or do something you wouldn't normally dare to do.

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Frontside half cab flip manual.

It seems to work for you.  How does that evolve? Does the battle get harder or easier as time goes by? Do you get sick of it sometimes? 

The battle is always going to be there, but that actually motivates me to try new stuff. It actually gets a bit easier with time because you can estimate everything better.

When I go out and try to film every day for a week and I don’t like any of the spots or it’s just not working out, sometimes I get sick of it, but a day later I’m already skating again.

Your brother Fayssal is skating really hard again, too. I saw a really good little edit you and him had together in Area 51skatepark in Eindhoven. What does he do in normal life? 

He's a roofer. He works five, sometimes six days out of seven, from 6 in the morning until 5 or 6 at night and he still plays football and skates after work or on his days off. I could never do that.

Does he beat you in games of skate? 

He used to always win but now it’s usually me!

What tricks does he have on you? 

Frontside flips, nollie double flips…

I read an old interview of you from a local newspaper where you say you always try to save trick or two, and never show everything you've got at once. Do you have some stuff up your sleeve right now?  

There's a couple of tricks but it's always hard finding the right spot to do them.

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Back smith.

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Until a little while ago we used to only see footage of hard, tech tricks from you and lately there's been some more funny stuff as well, some no complys and lip tricks here and there. Is this a conscious choice? Or are you being influenced by other skaters?   

Yeah, I've noticed that too. The thing is I've always skated a lot of transition, people just never saw me do it. Of course, skating with other people makes you skate different spots and learn different tricks as well.

You ended up skating for Almost. What made you make that choice? Were there a lot of other options? 

There were a couple of other options but I had met Lewis (Marnell) six months before and he said I should come and skate for Almost. We spent another month and a half in the States together afterwards, he'd arranged everything for us that time, thanks again, Lewis. I didn't know who to skate for because everyone was saying something else and then I thought, "Who do I want to skate for?" Almost!

Skating with the Almost guys probably gets you into skating all kinds of spots. Have you skated trees and rocks with Daewon already? A waxed manny pad with Rodney Mullen?

I haven't had the chance to skate with Rodney yet and when I'm out with Daewon we usually go to a skatepark or a mini ramp. The spots he skates aren't easy to get tricks on.

I'm sure you could muster up something. Are you taking suggestions on mini ramp tricks to do? I have a couple in mind that I’ve never seen anyone do.

Yes, lots of suggestions, I can’t really think of many things to do in a mini ramp.

My bag of tricks is pretty limited in a mini ramp, though, so don’t expect too much.

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Front Blunt revert.

The presidential elections just ended over there. What was that like? 

Obama won last night, I haven't left the house yet.

Did you play Tony Hawk's Pro Skater when you were younger? What 's the longest combo you've ever done? 

Yeah, I always used to play that whenever it rained. I have no idea what my longest combo was, though. Maybe around ten minutes with the perfect cheat.

And in real life skating? 

No idea. I've done a lot of dumb combos but I can't really think of one.

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Switch 180 5-o.

You've always been a big Paul Rodriguez fan. Is that still the case? More so than before or less? 

Yeah, I've always been a P-Rod fan and I guess I always will be. One of the best skaters in my eyes, not just his skating but everything surrounding it as well. I've got a lot of respect for the fact that he's still as down to earth as he is. Impressive.

Are you still starstruck when you're around him?

Not because of who he is anymore, but I'm definitely still impressed by his skating every time. I skate with him like I skate with anybody else, though.

Do you think he has lost a bit in terms of style compared to when he was younger, like in In Bloom? 

Skating changes and styles change too. I don’t think it’s a conscious thing, though. If there’s anyone that doesn’t need to think about that it’s Paul. I wouldn’t say he has lost in style, he just changed.

What do you miss from Belgium when you're in the U.S. ? And the other way around? 

The good food in Belgium. Year-round good weather in L.A. .

What’s the food you miss most? And what do you eat over there? 

I miss everything my mom makes. When I’m in the States I eat pizza, hamburgers, French toast, Mexican food and a lot more unhealthy stuff.

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Switch frontside salad grind.

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Do you still eat sandwiches with just cocktail sauce? I always thought that was crazy. 

No, I don’t, but it was cheap!

How does skating over there differ from skating at home? What works best for you? 

In Belgium we skate the skatepark every day and go out filming maybe two or three times a month. Out here in L.A. I'm going from spot to spot, day in day out. I can't really say one works better than the other. Skating always comes and goes anyway. In Belgium it usually works out pretty well because I'm in my personal environment. Eating and sleeping at home does a lot already. There's more to skating spots than just feeling good, though. Everything has to be arranged, the spot has to be somewhat decent, and in the end you need a little bit of luck to not get kicked out and land your trick.

Are the spots in Belgium harder or easier to skate than the ones out there? 

The spots in Belgium are about as good as they are over here, but in the States a hundred tricks have been done everywhere, so It’s actually easier to come up with something in Belgium.

Where are you most happy when you get a good trick? 

Doesn’t really matter to me, both are good.

This whole interview was shot in Belgium, and you are happy about this?

I’ve never gotten to film or shoot a lot of photos in Belgium and I think that’s important.

Why?

To show that it’s possible too, I guess. That’s about it.

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Half cab nose grind to switch 5-o

Was it a conscious choice to shoot all of it in Belgium? 

It was, actually, but it could’ve just as well all been shots from the States, too.

Skating in general has changed quite a bit over the last few years, with a lot of web clips and skatepark footage; more content but less quality. What’s your take on this?  

I liked it better before, waiting for a video to come out and watching it every day for six months straight. They still meant something to everyone, now there are five minute parts coming out that get watched for a week and then just get forgotten, because there’s already fifty new parts that came out.

Magazines and photographers have a harder time as well, because everybody just throws all the footage on the internet.  We can’t really change anything about it, we can just keep having fun and doing our own thing.

Hardflip (click on the photo to see the sequence). http://mpora.com/videos/AAdco5cphiz5