The Scene: Paris

I don’t know how the Parisian skate scene is perceived in Europe, but I do have an idea of its inhabitants’ reputation around the world... I assume the terms ‘’bad mannered’’, ‘’arrogant’’ and ‘’unpleasant’’ are largely used when people try to describe the Parisians. It’s a bit of a cliché, so it must be at least partially true... So, ok, Parisians have many flaws but of course all of them are not like that. Paris’ skate scene is rather the opposite actually. Seriously, why would we sulk while thousands of tourists from all over the world spend fortunes to visit our playground, aka ‘‘the world’s most beautiful city’’?

I’ve always skated in and around Paris, so I’ve witnessed several eras that Paris’ skate scene has been through. It has adapted to the architectural modifications of some neighbourhoods, the arrival and departure of certain people, various projects, skatepark constructions, etc. Retrospectively I think the present era is the best I have experienced so far. A few years ago, all the skating in Paris mainly revolved around three or four big spots such as Le Dôme, Bercy or Bastille and every spot had its own local crew. Each crew skated only on their spot and almost never went skating elsewhere. It’s a bit of a cliché but when you were a ‘’Dôme local’’, you skated at Le Dôme and that’s pretty much it. It wasn’t better or worse, but the various crews remained rather isolated and not much happened… Years after years, I think everyone got a bit tired of that type of skating. With the new generation new trends and styles arrived, video parts became shared massively on YouTube and gradually Parisian skaters went back to the streets. The skating started to diversify: the ban on wallrides and no complies at le Dôme got lifted, as well as people finally being allowed to do lipslides on Bercy’s ledges. The skaters from the suburbs, who were quite set back before, could finally start to appear in the media, which didn’t really care about them in the past.

One of the greatest changes to the scene happened at the beginning of 2000: the adjustments of the Seine banks on the East, from Gare d’Austerlitz to Ivry at the very South- Eastern part of Paris. At the same moment the François Mitterrand Library’s neighbourhood in the ‘’13è arrondissement’’ got renovated and plenty of cool new spots were built. Gare d’Austerlitz is the meeting point of this zone and you can then cruise from one spot to another without having to take the subway. That’s really convenient considering that the price of a book of ten tickets will soon be higher than that of an EasyJet flight.

By the way, I insist on the fact that we have the world’s best pavements. Nothing really official though, as no scientist has worked on the subject and created a skate-ability scale of the European countries’ pavements. This is just my personal interpretation. So yes: no cobblestones, bricks or vicious wobbly slabs to block your wheels brutally and make you crave for a good 56mm set of wheels, but just smooth asphalt without the pesky cracks. That detail might sound a bit dumb, but it’s always good to realise that you pushed only three times to get to the next spot. Also, when a spot is being constructed in front of your house, you can be sure the landing will roll fine! Anyway, let’s get back to the François Mitterrand Library’s neighbourhood. Although it’s a really good place regarding skate spots, it’s not like Las Ramblas in August when it comes to vibe and atmosphere… After 7pm, it becomes deserted. That’s cool if you just want to skate, but if you want to have an after sesh beer, eat something or party, it’s dead. You’d better cross the bridge and get to the other bank of the Seine River. There’s something you should know about Paris bythe way: there’s a huge difference between the left and the right bank. It’s quite easy: if you are young and rather broke you live on the right bank (Eastern right bank, to be more precise),and if you are over 35,wear coloured polo shirts and are wealthy, you live on the left bank! I’m joking a bit, but it’s basically that. The cheapest neighbourhoods where you find most young people, can eat, party or just hang out are those located North-East. Now you know!

But the spot that has really set up a new deal for the local skate scene for more than one year already is Place de la République. That huge and badly designed roundabout was just the meeting point for protest marches, and drove car drivers crazy because it took them one hour to get out of it, having to slalom between the pedestrians who were then literally risking their lives to cross the place. The city council did a good job on this one. The aim was to create an easily accessible open space that the Parisians could really appropriate.The result: a really good plaza with a very smooth flatground, stairs, a manual pad, benches and ledges… It seems like this place has become a huge meeting point in Paris and not just for skaters.

I feel like everyone goes there at least once a day and the amount of beautiful girls is simply ridiculous. I know we are in Paris, but still… People come here for their children to play, or just to chill, but the place is so vast that it doesn’t affect our skating. Everyone really likes that spot; it’s the ideal meeting point for every session. It is central, served by five different underground lines, and located two steps away from the Canal Saint Martin (where you will find loads of girls during summer). Everyone starts or ends the day at République, so you can be sure you will always find people there. I had never seen so many skaters at the same place before in Paris. That spot really reinvented the sessions in Paris and skaters of various origins converge there all day long. If you are nearby, I recommend you go and try the best bakery of Paris called ‘’Du Pain et des Idées’’ (I’m not exaggerating or fantasising; they really do have that title). I agree it’s twice as expensive as your usual bakery, but it’s so tasty you might even shed a tear. If you are really keen on taking all my advice, try ‘’L’escargot à la Pistache’’ (pistachio pastry) and you probably won’t finish reading this article but will try to find a new apartment as close to this bakery as possible! Looking at République, we can see that for once the city council really tried to do something for skateboarders, to integrate them to the street by not putting skate- stoppers on the ledges and by building something especially for them (the manny pad). Though we don’t have any real skatepark in the city centre, which is unbelievable for a city like Paris, a few efforts have been done and they deserve to be pointed out. The oldest one is the Jemmapes skatepark. It’s quite lame, with just a small quarter pipe, a small rail and a small ledge. The good thing is it’s located by Canal Saint Martin, so once again it’s convenient to check out girls, and the after session beers/ picnics gather an astonishing number of skaters. You don’t go there to have the best session of the year, but rather for the vibe and to drink beer with the Jemmapes crew. You usually end up taking a slam trying to do a disaster on the quarter pipe because you had too much beer and your truck hangs up to the coping. Speaking of Jemmapes and beer, if you happen to be nearby in June for La Fête de la Musique (on June 21), you should come to the party the Jemmapes crew organises each year at the skatepark. Believe me if you stay until the end, there’s no doubt you will have good stories to tell the next day.

The other small street park recently built by the city council is located in Léon Cladel street, in the ‘’2è Arrondissement’’. This long and narrow street park is located in a very small street, at the foot of business premises, and is very funny to skate. It didn’t win the neighbourhood’s inhabitants unanimous support though. The rumour of a new skatepark had been going on for a while and of course hordes of skaters showed up the days following its opening. The problem is, I think, neither the architects, nor the Excel sheet aficionados working in these offices had imagined that the creation of such a small concrete infrastructure underneath their windows would ruin their lives that much. It didn’t take long before the complaints and petitions started, and as they couldn’t destroy what they had just built, the city council established opening hours (hard to get them respected without any security guard or barrier) and police patrols. Don’t forget to hide your beer then, because the cops are fed up with having to play security guards and kick skaters out of an open space originally conceived for them, so they will easily give you a ticket if you give them the occasion to. Getting kicked out of a skatepark is always such a weird situation…

Anyway, if you come to Paris and crave for a good concrete skatepark, you don’t want to go to Léon Cladel. You should rather go to one of the numerous skateparks that have recently been built in the suburbs: Poissy, Rueil Malmaison, Arcueil, Clamart… They are all really good and I can tell you we had been waiting for such skateparks for a long time in France. Forget about the metal skateparks where you could cook an egg on the mini ramp’s platform in summer! You should still watch out carefully for scooters though, because it looks like in the suburbs scooters have even becomecompulsory in PE! Fucking shit! When it comes to indoor skating, once again things happen in the suburbs. For five or six years, the Villiers Sur Orge skatepark has been a good alternative to shitty parking lot sessions during rainy days. The park is constantly evolving and it’s a good thing. The outdoor space has even become a skate plaza now. But the veteran, the immortal and key skatepark, even when it’s not raining, remains the ‘’skatepark de Chelles’’. Mathias is the director of the Cosa Nostra association (in charge of the skatepark) and is always in a good mood. I think I’ve never seen him complain in 15 years. You could even focus his board in front of him and I don’t think he would get angry! You shouldn’t regret your journey to the suburb of Chelles then. If you are nice he will probably share a glass of rum, and maybe you will even help him to find a new graphic for his next Savate Skate Socks model, a socks brand 100% made in France.

Talking about creativity, the Parisian scene has always been quite productive. Lots of brands have been created (and unfortunately died) in Paris: Plex, Minutia, Rare, Gamble, Lordz & Square, Tikal… Paris being the capital city, a lot has also happened in terms of media: the creation of Sugar magazine by Benjamin Deberdt (office is now in Bordeaux), Tricks Skatemag, Chill, David Turakiewicz’s fanzine A Propos (first focused on Paris only, and just became national)… And finally in terms of video, with productions from Pierre Prospero, the Nozbone skate shop video by Ludovic Azemar, and recently Guillaume Périmony’s video J’aime les Filles, filmed mainly in Paris. You should also watch the Parisii videos, which present the various districts and are very helpful when you don’t know where to go skate… The Bloby’s video Blobysation is also a must see. Talking about the Bloby’s, I think they really embody what the new generation of skaters is made of, and they know the city like no one else. Go and see Roman at the UFO Bar to have a cocktail; and if he is not there just go to the ‘’Bottle Shop’’ in Trousseau street. You will definitely run into one of them there after 10pm…

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