Flo Mirtain Interview

Switch crooked grind

People say Flo’s a ‘hater’. I guess he probably is… What does that even mean though? That he’s very critical when it comes to judging this one thing he’s devoted his life to? Fair enough no? He hates because he cares and given he’s a ‘pro skater’, he definitely should. If every pro skater cared as much as he did maybe we wouldn’t be stuck with abominations like ETN. Plus you can tell he’s ten times as harsh when it comes to his own skating. That’s why he goes all Kerry Getz on us every now and then. It’s also part of the reason why everything he puts out is so on point. His clip dissection process is such that only his absolute very best work makes it out there.
On that note, here’s what has to be the most positive interview he’s ever given. Which is quite the feat given the topics ranged from the end of Cliché to Lyon’s Hôtel De Ville plaza being under threat… Maybe he’s not such a negative bastard after all.

All photography in Lyon by Nikwen
Interview by Arthur Derrien

It’s been almost a year now since Cliché announced that they were closing shop. Can you tell us a little bit about how the whole thing went down for you?
Flo Mirtain: To be honest the end itself I didn’t really see coming. Or at least I didn’t think it was going to go down like it did. Obviously a lot of us out here in Europe weren’t that happy with the direction the brand was taking but yeah I didn’t think we’d just get a phone call out of the blue saying it was done.

What do you mean by the direction?
When I think of Cliché I think Europe. But for the past few years the brand had become increasingly Americanised. American riders, American graphics, American ideas… The brand’s image was really suffering from this. The Cliché I knew and loved was already on the way out. Keep in mind that I say this but I would never have left Cliché. They are the reason I am where I am today so I would have stayed loyal to them – even if I really wanted to see some things change… So who knows, maybe for me Cliché going under was a blessing in disguise…

360 flip

Jérémie (Daclin) and stuff were aware of this though right? I remember there being talk of trying to steer things back the right direction shortly before it died.
Yeah he even wanted to bring back that old Europe logo they used to use. Plus for the twentieth anniversary of the brand the plan was to work on a video exclusively filmed in Europe and only featuring the European riders. Shame their plans were cut short…
Basically from the moment Cliché joined Dwindle it felt like Jérémie and Al (Boglio) suddenly no longer had the last word.

Can you think of examples of things Dwindle may have implemented even though Jérémie maybe didn’t agree?
I’m not 100% on this but if it were entirely up to Jérémie or Al I doubt Cliché would have kicked Charles (Collet) off.

What were some of your fondest memories with the brand?
It’s hard to think of specific ones but I’ll definitely miss those days. We’d always be going on tours and little missions… Being in the van with those guys taught me so much. I loved hearing Jérémie and JB (Gillet) tell us all their stories from ‘back in the day’, having (Andrew) Brophy teach me some English… When you spend that much time with a group of people it has a massive influence on who you are as a person. When I first got on I could really feel the influence those guys had on Lucas (Puig) and Charles and today I realise they’ve had the same on me. It’s had an impact on everything from the way I see skating, to the way I act on trips, to the way I skate.

Did you have something else lined up when you heard the news?
Sort of yeah but it didn’t materialise. Jérémie, Al and Eric (who does the Cliché graphics) were planning on starting something new with just us French guys – as in Lucas, Max (Geronzi), JB and me. They just wanted to preserve what they loved about Cliché… Oh yeah and I think there was talk of possibly putting Kyron (Davis) on further down the line as well.

Do you know what it was going to be called?

Were you going to do it? What happened?
Yeah of course I was. Those are my guys. But we all knew that for it to work it had to be all of us…

And in the end not everyone was down.
Exactly, which I totally understand as well. Starting from scratch with a new brand doesn’t seem that appealing when you’re getting really good offers from other brands that are killing it. Especially when they aren’t really asking for that much in return and you’re stoked on what they do. People have such high expectations when it comes to new board brands. It’s what skaters judge the most and it’s the sponsor that influences how you’re perceived the most. It’s a tough call…

Fakie kickflip

So what happened after that? How does a professional skateboarder in that position find a new ‘employer’? It’s not like you can go around handing out CVs…
I mean you could ha ha, but yeah obviously you know I’m not really the kind of person to go reaching out to people I don’t know for this sort of stuff. And with board sponsors even more than any other sponsor in my opinion, it’s important for there to be some kind of connection. For ten years my crew was Cliché so I wasn’t about to hit up say Primitive (for example) to ask them if they’d sponsor me. I’d much rather wait a bit longer in hope of something happening organically…

Which is more or less what happened with Habitat?
Yeah… I was going on New Balance trips with Marius when it all went down and he’d ask me the same questions as you are asking me now. Then one day he hit the guy up asking if I could get boards and that was that. I’ve skated with Mark (Suciu) quite a bit as he’s been in Lyon and Paris a lot and I’d hung out with some of the other guys on different occasions so it kind of made sense for me. Plus I’d already met Brennan the TM when I showed the Habitat team around Lyon a couple of years back…
It’s not official or anything yet but I’ve been filming quite a lot of stuff for their next video so we’ll see what happens…

Were you worried at all in those few months between Cliché ending and this coming together?
Not really actually. These days you can still have a ‘career’ without a board sponsor as they aren’t the ones with the money. Miles Silvas was without a board sponsor for like two years or something… Same for Oscar (Candon), he wasn’t getting boards from anyone for ages before Sour. Which is weird when you think about it because board sponsors basically define the image you have in skating but aren’t necessary to be ‘professional’ (as in make a living from skating) anymore.
That being said there definitely has been times when I’ve been really worried. Like that period when DVS died and Cliché wasn’t looking too good I was a bit like ‘fuck this could be it for me’.

As in you’d have to get a ‘real’ job?
Exactly. For the past ten years I’ve been living from skating but only just getting by day by day. If I lose a shoe sponsor that’s it I need to get a job.
Funnily enough though, I’ve been ‘lucky’ in the sense that, in the last ten years that I’ve been making a living from skating. I’ve somehow pretty much always earned the same amount of money – this regardless of how many sponsors I have and who they were. Even when brands I skated for have gone out of business things have always miraculously evened out.

Like when you got on Supra just as DVS ‘died’ that first time and got kicked off them right when DVS came back ha ha.
Yeah exactly. Although I don’t think it actually went out of business that time… To my understanding it was just going through such a massive restructure that they basically couldn’t do anything for a bit. Either way yeah I definitely got pretty lucky with that one.

Backside hurricane grind

While we’re on the topic of DVS, I remember you not really enjoying going out to the US back then, but whenever you talk about being in LA for New Balance you sound really stoked. How is it any different?
Well for one actually getting into the country isn’t as stressful…

You’re not getting the special interrogation treatment anymore then?

Man are you talking about that time they took me into that interrogation room? That was fucked. It was back when my English was a lot worse… Let’s say it was five years ago. When the border police asked me what I was doing in LA I said that it was to skateboard and that my sponsors had paid for my ticket. They didn’t like that one bit. For them it meant that I was going to ‘work’ in America even though I only had a tourist Visa. So they took me into this weird little room, did some research and started asking me all sorts of questions:

‘So… Who’s Tim Gavin?’

‘Uh… An old pro skater from the nineties?’ Again that wasn’t at all what they wanted to hear.

‘You’re lying we know he’s your boss at DVS Shoes!’

They were asking me the most random questions! Basically they were asking me anything that could lead me to slip up and say something incriminating. It lasted for like three hours, they made me miss connecting flights and they ended up calling up guys at DVS who I’d never even met (like Tim Gavin…) to ask them questions about me. It was ridiculous…

What about once you’re actually in the country?
Yeah even once I’m in the country it’s also way better. This year I’ve been three times for a month at a time to film that Tri-Color part…

Oh yeah what happened with that one? How come it took so long to come out?
They actually had a pretty hard time with it.The première was a little while back but when it came to putting it online almost half of the songs couldn’t get cleared so they basically had to re-edit it.
But yeah anyway when I went to LA for that it was completely different to when I’d go before. This time they rented out a house for the whole New Balance team and we’d really focus on filming rather than driving around from city to city, hotel to hotel, demo to demo. You’re not spending half the time in the van… It’s a different experience. You can actually get a feel for the area where you stay, get a little routine on the go and most importantly take a day off and chill at the house if you need one. It’s the best kind of mission. Plus it’s a more relaxed environment to meet the guys you skate for a company with…

Frontside 180 kickflip

Another Flo Mirtain HD part then? Have you come to terms with getting filmed on that camera yet?
Yeah I’m not as bad as I used to be… I’m not sure why; maybe just because I see it so much now that I’ve just gotten used to it. JB once told me that him and a lot of skaters from his generation went through the exact same thing when people started using the VX. The vignetting of the death lens looked so different to what they were used to seeing that they just couldn’t handle it, which is why I doubt many kids that discovered skate videos in 2007 when people started switching to HD prefer seeing VX footage… Funny that JB originally hated the VX ha ha.

Speaking of JB, what’s going on with Hôtel De Ville then? Can you give people a quick run down of what happened with that whole thing?
Yeah… Let me have a quick think about how it all started… It’s pretty long so I might simplify it a little bit. Basically one of us randomly came across an article explaining that this summer the city was going to tear down and redo the plaza. I’ve been skating it almost every day for the past ten years and others for a lot longer than that so obviously we weren’t going to just let it go. We did a bit of research and it turned out that yeah someone at the council was indeed pushing for this and that their plan was even to skatestop the plaza in the coming months just for the sake of it (so way before the works would have even started). At that point we started a little committee with Jérémie Daclin, Fred Mortagne, shop owners, brands and all the skaters that wanted to be involved. We got a petition going (that got 10,000 signatures in no time) and with that petition a few members of our ‘committee’ went over to meet people from the city council to argue our case. Now by talking to us one of the main things they realised was that skateboarders weren’t actually the primary cause of damage to the plaza (let’s face it, the plaza is pretty fucked). We showed them that the floor was cracked in places that skateboarders couldn’t get to (because this or that was in the way, etc.) and it blew their minds. It made them look into other reasons why the place was falling apart and it turns out some parts of it are were sinking into the ground. Possibly it was because it was on top of a car park, or possibly for other reasons. But yeah basically the whole place was moving. Which interestingly enough is something that skaters like Fred (Mortagne) had noticed ages ago. You know how you have to ollie up a curb to get onto that second part of the plaza that’s always in the shade in the summer?

Place Tolozan?
Yeah. Well Fred pointed out that fifteen years ago there was no curb. It was flush. People in his old videos rode onto it without lifting their wheels up. Now you need to pop a proper ollie. It’s nuts.

I guess it makes sense that skaters would notice that stuff. Nobody stares at that plaza as much as we do. Think of how many hours of footage Fred must have filmed there!
They also weren’t aware of quite how ‘big’ skateboarding was in Lyon right? They just thought it was just ten kids that would use the plaza every now and then and that’s it. So when those guys showed them exactly how many skate shops were in the city, how many companies were based there, approximately how many skaters used the spot etc. they started to take what we had to say a lot more seriously right?

Exactly. They also had no idea that people on the other side of the world knew about Lyon and Hôtel De Ville because of skating. They had no idea that people like the Long Live South Bank guys had been fighting for a similar cause.

And what was the result of these discussions?
The outcome was that although the plaza will be redone in the not so distant future, we would be consulted so that the new one is also skate-able. So that our ‘needs’ are taken into consideration because we are one of the main groups to use that space.

You and your Lyon (predominantly) crew the Josimards have always been quite publicly outspoken about stuff that you aren’t backing in skating. Do you feel like that is something that’s slowly dying? That skateboarding is becoming too nice?
No I think there’s still people out there calling out what needs to be called out (like Jenkem) only skateboarding has grown so much, has become so mainstream, that it’s just diluted by everything else.

What’s the ethos of the Josimards Crew?
It’s basically all of the guys in the crew coming to terms with the ‘hater within’. Only we’ve decided to laugh at stuff rather than just loathe. Seeing skate coaches run after kids in skateparks to tell them what to do, people that don’t skate mall-grabbing their Penny boards around, someone dabbing as they land a trick… That shit cracks us up. It’s about all these aspects of today’s skateboarding that we just can’t come to terms with… It’s a funny one though, it almost feels like we’re parents realising that the music our kids listen to is terrible but at the same time we know we’ve probably listened to stuff that was just as bad when we were their age. And people take the piss out of us as well! Some people started calling us the JosiMerde. We loved it! We even made a T-shirt out of it!

What’s their best work in your opinion?
Let me have a quick look through the (@josimards_crew) Instagram… It’s a classic, but that one where they edited Marcel Desailly’s laugh into an interview with Aurélien Giraud’s manager about coaching him at comps is perfect ha ha.

Backside 180 kickflip