Montreal – The Longboard Scene Exposed Part 3
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HILLS, TRAFFIC AND NERVES OF STEEL – While there are numerous hills surrounding Montreal, the truth is that they are the least of your concerns. If you want to survive longboarding in this city, you’re going to need to handle the traffic. Montreal is well known as being an explosive mix of insane drivers and fearless pedestrians. Both parties seem to have a love affair with ignoring traffic signals. At times you get the feeling it’s a scene out of “Deathrace 2000.” Longboarding in this city requires lightning-fast reflexes and nerves of steel. “You have to expect cars to show up in blind corners,” says Pierre Gravel. “There’s rarely a clean empty street. Footbraking, sliding and speed-checking are skills you must possess – because you’ll need them!”
Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to meet up with the legendary “Fast Freddy” Desjardins on this trip to Montreal. This was a severe disappointment, as Monsieur Freddy has also been instrumental in building the scene, including starting up Street Missile Longboards, along with a race series called Attack. So I wanted to get his take on things. I also recall meeting him at Top Challenge in 2003 and standing in awe of his ability to party and skate! There are numerous stories about Fast Freddy. The latest one I heard was the time when he was in charge of fixing the gradient on a mountain road. There was a certain pitch to the road, and Freddy realized that if was good for a car, then it would be even better for a longboard. A few adjustments later, and presto – the perfect run. The only issue was that the contractors couldn’t figure out how they had used all that additional asphalt!
THE NEXT GENERATION
I had an opportunity to interview some of the next generation of Montreal longboarders who are building upon the city’s strong foundations: Kevin LeFrank, Maxim Garant Rousseau and Dmitri Komarov. Kevin is originally from Ontario and now works at
KebbeK. He says the camaraderie is what drew him to longboarding. Maxim discovered the scene when he visited La Source Attack race. “I ended up finishing fifth and got addicted,” he says. He is an ambassador for Loaded. Dmitri, who is originally from Russia (he left when he was has also been riding for four years. Since Kevin hails from Ontario, he has a unique perspective on the differences between the scenes. “Both scenes are friendly, but I find that the Montreal scene is a bit more inclusive,” he says. “No one pushes anyone away – it feels like family. There also seems to be a willingness to share spots.” Maxim comes from Quebec City and also has a different take on things. “Something that is cool about Montreal is that people actually live in the city,” he says. “In Quebec City, a lot of people live in the suburbs. Here, in Montreal, we just grab our boards and go.” Everyone meets up around the mountain – it’s the focus that drives the stoke. “What’s kind of crazy about Montreal is that none of us are actually from Montreal,” says Dmitri. “Somehow, we all ended up here and it feels like our town.” The gang all nodded in agreement when Kevin piped up with, “Home is where you hang your hat.” Dmitri has definitely found a place in Montreal and the longboard community. “Through longboarding, I learned French,” he says. Talk about the benefits of immersion!
THE PARTY SCENE
No article on Montreal could be published without a mention of the party atmosphere that pervades the city. I’ll be blunt here: Montrealers know how to have a great time and live life large! But when your bars are open until 4 a.m., you run the risk of sleeping in and missing Lord knows what event or race. It’s happened so many times to so many skaters that people just roll with it. “It’s not just that there’s a party after each race,” says Maxim “but there’s also a party BEFORE each race!”
Thanks to the hard work of a dedicated group of riders, the web is allowing people to get a sense of what is happening happening
in the world of Quebec longboarding. Modeled after the success of Skate House Media, teamquebec.org is forging a huge amount of unity. “We are working with so many different people and we all have the same goal,” says Dmitri. “It’s really bringing people together.”
The hills in the snowboard areas of Mont Tremblant and Saint Saveur beckon riders from the city. You can easily hit 60+ mph, and there’s new asphalt being laid.
A MOVING TRIBUTE TO THE BIG O PIPE
It’s a rite of passage – practically every skater makes a pilgrimage to the Big O pipe at the site of the 1976 Summer Olympics. The pipe,originally a corridor for athletes to walk under, has been sessioned now for almost three decades. A few years ago plans were under way totear it down. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of Barry Walsh and Marc Tison (two legendary locals), the pipe was spared. The weekend I was there, crews were in the process of moving the pipe about 90 feet from its original position due to the need for the adjacent stadium to have extra space. Kudos to cheese maker Saputo, who picked up the $63,000 tab.
THE URGE TO SHARE
Yann Lhermitte and I drove out to a town just east of Montreal called Repentigny. Here we met Bob Couet, owner of Urge Longboards. Bob makes longboard decks for small children (under the age of 10). He does this in a workshop that is 9’ by 6.’ Yes, you read that correctly, he works in a 54-square-foot workspace. The amount of stoke that Bob has for longboarding is off the charts. He truly embodies what it means to be a skater. Bob, merci pour ton hospitalité!
HEAD EAST FOR MORE!
Just three hours down the road and you’ll hit Quebec City. It’s a whole other experience and definitely worth a visit if you have the time. We’ll get to a scene report eventually, but I did want to mention some incredible folks there who are making their mark on the scene in Montreal. Miguel “Mig” Marco is not only an exceptional slalom skater, but he’s created quite a buzz with his company, Fullbag. The guys at Rotule Longboards are also creating some extraordinary decks. Vinz over at Motion Longboards has been manufacturing since 1999 and utilizes a number of substrates in his decks. And be sure to visit Dom at Free For All BoardShop.
HEARTS IN THE RIGHT PLACE
There are numerous riders of an extremely high caliber in Montreal. The interesting thing is that there is now an older group of riders and a younger group. “We are all friends and we keep a good spirit together. There isn’t much rivalry. We have different skate companies here and we all skate together,” says Pierre.
BIENVENUE – YOU ARE WELCOME!
The scene in Montreal is very welcoming. Don’t be intimidated if French is not your first language. Even an attempt to speak just a little French will go a long way. Before coming, however, it’s a good idea to visit some websites and get a sense of the place. You’ll find the hospitality pretty incredible. Pierre and dozens of other locals have hosted people they’ve only met on the
Internet and formed lifelong friendships. As someone who has experienced firsthand the generosity of the locals, I can assure you that your first visit to Montreal will not be your last.
“At almost 50, I am happy to be riding. I still enjoy the ride.”
“I am proud of what’s been accomplished in Montreal. I did not expect things to get this big this fast. We started to push the engine and have fun.”
“Longboarding saved my life. I am living a dream and I intend to keep riding for a long time!”
“I had an opportunity to come to either Montreal or Halifax. I’m glad I wound up in Montreal!”