Montreal – The Longboard Scene Exposed Part 2
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RESTLESS – NO SLEEP ’TIL PJ’S BAR – Restless Longboards was founded in 2004 by Christian Chenard-Lemire, Alaric LeBlanc, Dither Flores and François-Olivier Théberge. Originally, they were set up as an online shop offering custom graphics with different models. Restless still offers this service but has over time created a unique longboard brand of their own. I met up with Christian and Alaric in their R&D facility in Montreal. We also took time to spend a lunch at the infamous PJ’s Bar just down the road from their warehouse. Most of that conversation will remain off the record. Restless are spending a lot of time prototyping with their vacuum press. “It’s a Venturi system, which uses compressed air,” explains Christian. “We are also using 3D modeling to make our own molds.” The team at Restless is excited for the future. “We see the growth of longboarding,” says Christian. “Our idea is to create a diverse amount of product that appeals to riders looking for a superior ride.”
WEST COMES EAST
Jim Ziemlanski, Jody Willcock and Ian Comishin are three individuals who have collectively had a huge impact on the longboard scene in Montreal. As Pierre explains, it was Jim who first contacted him to try out a slalom board. The two traveled to an event in Boston. Pierre has turned a lot of folks onto the fun you can have with cones. “I got Jim into slalom, but it was Jim who got me into downhill.” A year later, Pierre met up with Ian. “Those guys were younger than me,” Pierre says. “They were fearless! I started following them but couldn’t go through every red light like they did. It was fun.” Ian went on to found KebbeK Skateboards. The brand has forged a unique place within the scene and its boards are now sold worldwide.
THE GENESIS OF TOP CHALLENGE
In the early 2000s, Pierre was riding with a longboarder named Frank Fontaine. “He told me he wanted to start a race and asked me to help out,” Pierre says. “I hooked him up with Ian and Jim, as they had been involved with numerous races.” Frank was passionate about creating something, Pierre says, but was unsure how to put it on: “He saw the potential of a downhill race right in the middle of the city. His choice was Mont Royal. The first dry run of the event took place in 2002 with 10 racers. I broke two fingers just a week or so before the event, so I couldn’t ride.” Top Challenge was ahead of its time, with key sponsorship from Bud Light. Fontaine invested a huge amount of time and money in Top Challenge, and repeatedly tried to get Red Bull on board as well. The energy-drink company had sponsored downhill events in previous years, but for some reason, things just didn’t gel for Top Challenge. Still, the memories of that time are something that will never fade. The sight of thousands of spectators lining the streets was something to behold.
A VARIETY OF DISCPLINES
If there is one element about the scene in Montreal that keeps appearing, it’s the concept of riders embracing all types of skateboarding. “I am really proud of the fact that many skaters here are willing to try different things. I encourage street skaters to try longboards and vice versa,” says Pierre.
THE DEVIL’S TOY
A number of years ago, skating the “Devil’s Toy” run in Westmount was pretty easy. Nowadays, it’s a bust due the numerous private security firms that prowl the area. The spot got its name from a 1966 National Film Board documentary on the skateboarding scene in Montreal. It’s a classic, and you’ll cringe at the site of clay wheels hitting the hills of Westmount. The introduction states: “This film is dedicated to all victims of intolerance.” Like many things emerging from Montreal, the film truly was ahead of its time. Do a quick search on Google and you’ll find it.
Opened in the spring of 2009, this indoor skatepark is absolutely massive. The $10 million project also features a second level with a nice wooden kidney bowl. Friday night sessions are populated by a number of longboarders who love to carve with their pool decks. While the infamous Montreal weather can be horrendous from late November to April, Taz is nice and toasty. Behind Taz is a free DIY concrete park called Area 45 built by a number of passionate locals.
Eight years ago, at the age of 18, AJ Powell moved down from Laval to attend college in Montreal. He too has had a front-row seat to the growth of longboarding in Montreal. I asked what made the scene so special. “It’s definitely not having all the seasons to skate,” AJ said. “Winter has a huge impact on the scene here, so you have to be adventuresome.” For example, AJ explained, there are 34 kilometers of underground in Montreal that you can skate. There are pedestrian tunnels that connect to malls and major hotels along with huge parking-lot spirals that go deep. You can skate for hours without going outside, AJ says. Of course, the sessions at Taz Skatepark also compensate for a tough winter, too. AJ also enthusiastically rides his quiver of snowskates during the winter. “The companies making them originally didn’t understand how the truck should work,” he says. “Now we have a steering mechanism that works. You should check out Rocker Trucks.” Hey, don’t blame Concrete Wave if you hang up your longboard and take up snowskating full-time!
I’ve known Pascal Jean, a.k.a. “The Rookie,” for a number of years. He skates it all: parks, hills and cones. He’s also a big proponent of snowskating. When I met him at the Taz skatepark he was padding up for a session. I asked him what he’d been up to. “I have footage of me hitting 73 kilometers an hour on my snowskate,” he told me. “I’ll send you the link.” I sense that if more longboarders knew about snowskating, they would actually look forward to winter. Besides being one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, Rookie is a highly acclaimed DJ. Tune into his Rock Therapie podcast.
Written By Michael Brooke