Writing about your own city is not as easy as it seems… Well, actually I’m not really from Lyon but I’ve been living here for nearly ten years now so I consider it to be my city. I’ll thus try to present very briefly the history of skateboarding in Lyon, and then I’ll talk about what’s going on these days in the city, while doing my best to stay as objective as possible. If you don’t want to come visit us after that, I can’t do anything more for you!
According to my sources, which are quite untrustworthy, the beginning of Lyon’s scene takes us back to La Piste era in the district of Perrache. It was a super good skatepark regarding the standards of the past, with a crazy wide mini ramp, ledges, and flatbars… I assume there were already lots of skaters before, but it’s thanks to that place that they finally gathered, and that what we can call a ‘’scene’’ appeared. Guys like Jérémie Daclin, JB Gillet, Stéphane Giret, Hamid Bahri, Malik Abdelsem and so many others really enhanced theirs skills at la Piste.
Then came the Hôtel de Ville era. A mythic spot where they could show the entire world how good and technical they were for the time through Fred Mortagne’s lens in videos such as ABS Fireworks or Panic in Lyon. Well then, I won’t detail the whole chronology but I’m sure you know that things turned out quite well for some of these guys since their names are still famous to this day.
Since I’m not an ‘’OG’’ myself I don’t want to spend too much time on a subject I’m not fully comfortable with, and I’m going to talk about the present. After all, it’s not a History class right here. If you’re interested in that topic though, I recommend you to watch Thomas Lallier’s Skateboard Stories documentary, which was aired on Arte TV channel a few years ago. I’m pretty sure you can still find it on the Internet. It’s not a documentary on Lyon’s scene only, but on how skateboarding developed in Europe. You will nevertheless learn interesting things about the beginning of the scene in Lyon since guys like Jérémie Daclin, Fred Mortagne or Hugo Liard got interviewed for this project.
Nowadays, the scene is still very active and we have no less than three board companies: Cliché, Antiz, and Blaze Supply (a new French-Brazilian company). Unfortunately only two real skate shops still exist: ABS and Wall Street; Ballz Out (JB Gillet and Nico Pierrot’s skate shop) closed its doors two or three years ago. There are loads and loads of filmers, photographers, and we even have a fanzine named Gone. ‘’Gône’’ is actually a slang word to describe an inhabitant of Lyon. It shows the whole scene in action and I highly recommend you to have a look at it if you have the occasion because they do a really good job.
It’s been years since la Piste no longer exists, but we do have a lot of skateparks though: Gerland’s indoor park, which should be renewed soon, Foch’s mini ramp, the Carré de Soie skatepark, the brand new Sergent Blandan skatepark, Guillotière’s bowl (even if it’s not a really good one), and many small skateparks in the surroundings.
The weather is quite nice in general. Of course Spring seems the best season to visit the city, because summer are often very hot and you can hardly skate before the end of the afternoon (it has many other good sides though). Winters can be very harsh (it really depends on the years) but you will always have one sunny afternoon every other day, with a temperature your body can suffer. That should keep you mentally sane until next spring. And regarding autumn, well the weather is pretty nice in general; it’s usually also a good time for skating.
A while ago, skaters from Lyon had the reputation of being quite narrow-minded and thus not very welcoming. I dare think that’s no longer the case as during the last few years a lot of people coming from other cities moved to Lyon, and everyone gets along quite well. There are many ‘’Lyonnais by adoption’’ (myself included) and I think it really is a good thing. It allowed several crews to get closer and I feel like the local scene is then more unified. Well, obviously there are still crews because we have so many people skating in Lyon that going on a street mission would be impossible.
We couldn’t skate the spot either because of a lack of space, or because we would get kicked off instantaneously! I think having several crews are almost a necessity and despite that, there’s really a good vibe between them. No barriers! As it’s the case nearly everywhere, we also observe a strong open-mindedness regarding skate styles and tricks, especially among the younger generation. It might be one of the only good things about the fact that skating is so popular these days: there’s a huge mixing of influences and everyone brings his or her own personal touch. It’s a treat to see that the kids can go super tech, do crazy hammers, unusual tricks or old school ones at the same time. I say so because in Lyon too, skate is highly ‘’fashionable’’ nowadays and we are blessed with some girls wearing high-heels and mall-grabbing boards with no griptape, tons of posers, etc. But hey, let’s say it’s the other side of the coin.
Among the tremendous amount of photographers and filmers the city has to offer, Nico Wawrzyniak and Aristide Bruchon have been requested for the video edit, and of course it’s Nikwen who shot the photos for this article (helped by Aristide who is both a filmer and photographer). You will then have the pleasure of watching not one, but two video edits of Lyon’s skate scene soon on Kingpin’s website. We indeed thought it would be interesting to give two different visions: an HD edit by Aristide Bruchon and another one filmed very closed-up using a TRV 900 by Nico Wawrzyniak. After all, there are enough skaters and filmers to make the production of two different clips possible, so we might as well make the most of it!
You will see that JP Villa, Flo Mirtain, Alex Maison, young Anto Forot and Uryann Raudet, as well as all the others, are still ridiculously productive! There should be something in it for everyone.
Despite the reputation of being at Hôtel de Ville each and every day, you should know that these guys are often on filming missions and once again, you are spoilt for choice between the session with Aristide, the session with Nico, Bist, etc. The good thing is that even if everyone has his own favourite, and that the VX versus HD debate will probably never end, crews are always friendly and open. You can choose the session you want to be a part of according to the spot or your desire of the day.
Let’s focus on the city itself now: Lyon is a medium-sized European city so you can get around by bike, or even cruising on your board for the most motivated ones. It’s a great advantage considering the impressive amount of skate spots that are very close to one another. The public transportation network is well developed and you can easily and rapidly get to a spot using the subway, a tram or a bus. There are some spots from which you can be sure to not get kicked out of and that’s really pleasant. I’m especially thinking of the ledges and manual pads of La Sucrière; perfect for a good summer afternoon on the edge of the Rhône River, where you won’t be bugged by anyone. And if you’re in a lazy mood you can even stay in the city centre, there is everything you need both in terms of skate and chilling spots. People are quite relaxed (usually) and so are cops. Just stay calm and polite and everything should be fine.
For those who want to combine skating and chilling, Hôtel de Ville plaza – or ‘’JB’s plaza’’ as some people call it in the US, seems to be the place you’re looking for. It’s a sort of bedlam where skaters, passers-by and various types of persons chilling on the ledges mix together. The place is really damaged now: there are cracks everywhere and the ledges are all rounded, but once you get used to it, it’s still an awesome spot. The first reason is because you won’t get kicked off; you can skate it day and night. Second reason is that plaza has awesome flat ground (despite the numerous cracks), a statue with a pyramid-shaped pedestal, benches on a fair hundred metres long distance, and another massive statue with a pedestal you can use as a ledge. The place is so famous for being ‘’the skaters’ plaza’’ that even the cops working at the police station which opened a few years ago just in front of the spot never said anything to us. They don’t say much to anyone actually… that’s why pretty much everything can happen over there! It’s quite funny!
For years, rumour has it that the place will be renewed ‘’soon’’ so that we won’t be able to skate it anymore. We have now for the moment but hurry up if you want to skate it, sooner or later it might be gone. Especially considering how fast it’s been falling apart over the last months… Anyway, don’t worry; there are so many other spots to make you happy. By the way, besides the famous spots, you should know that Lyon is a bustling city so there are many construction sites here and there. And construction sites often mean ephemeral spots, or future spots currently in construction. As a result there are often new places to explore, new spots to test, etc.
After a good skate session, what better way to end the day than a party with your friends? For that, motivation is once again very high! It’s almost dangerous … and the following day’s session sometimes suffers from it. But if you’re just visiting the city for a short period of time, it must be quite enjoyable. There is always someone to share his flat for a few drinks before going out to a cool pub, and finally end up in a club where bouncers are not too strict! All you need for having good laughs all night long.
Many guys came to Lyon for their first time recently, and all of those I met really enjoyed the city for the various reasons I explained before. As I said at the beginning of this article, being objective is quite difficult since I’m a local myself, so I summoned the courage to contact some of them people we met in Lyon this summer. I thought it might be a good idea… maybe it wasn’t actually. I wanted them not to be French, because I assume every French guy already knows Lyon directly or indirectly. I also wanted people for whom it was the first time in our beloved city, a fresh look. The goal was to have them talking about the architecture of the city, skate spots, local skaters, people in general and nightlife. The main interests of most skaters all in all! I had to do some research and set up a plan of action… Didn’t really know what to expect, and I was right for doubting because it didn’t go that well (fucking deadline!). Still, I had enough time to collect the accounts of Sam Bailey (filmer for Kingpin) and Anton Myhrvold. Thanks a lot mates!
Sam: ‘‘I loved visiting Lyon, albeit for a short time. There’s a really good laid-back vibe there, it’s super fun to just cruise around, skate and chill. The architecture of the city seemed to be a real mix of old, which really adds to the variety of stuff there is to skate. Obviously there’s the classic spots like the Hôtel de Ville, which I guess is the kind of meeting hub for the local scene but there’s stuff everywhere; rails, banks, hubbas, loads of ledges and some sick parks scattered round.
It was my first time I’d been out there, along with Anton, and all the local skaters we met were super cool, relaxed guys. Classic French! Flo Mirtain, Alex Maison, Steeve Ramy, Guillaume C and Nikwen to name a few; all really welcoming, down for a party, and all seriously skilled wood pushers obviously. Alex Maison’s kickflip over-noseblunt (in Issue 119) at that white plaza was one of the most ninja things I’ve ever seen. All in all it’s an amazing scene, with good people, good weather and a bustling nightlife. Can’t wait to get back there! Cheers Lyon!’’
Anton: ‘’The architecture of the city is beautiful! I like the water and the bridges in the centre and the feeling of getting around. It feels easy and it’s a lot of things to see and do. The skate spots are amazing! There are so many different types of spots. The local skaters are super nice; it feels like everyone skates and hangs out together. It’s definitely a tight crew! People who don’t skate are nice too by the way. And finally the nightlife is so sick! Good bars and nice people, and you might end up partying on a boat!‘’
It seems well summed up to me! Anyway, the best thing to do still is to experience it yourself. Doesn’t seem to be a risky bet. As far as I can remember, I think I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like Lyon at all. But yes you’re right; ‘’objectivity’’ might not be the best adjective to define this article after all…