Growing up in Lyon, the cluster of beach towns known as French California was not ‘cool’. My friends and I were convinced the main one, Biarritz, was solely inhabited by sales reps; the kind that wore purple board shorts, extra medium t-shirts and sunglasses indoors. The sort of guys that would tell you to ‘keep training and maybe one day you’ll get on Billabong’. By extension we hated surfing, surfers and the fact it had the highest concentration of them in the country. We didn’t understand why the ‘board sports’ industry was based in a city with no spots and resented the fact that skateboarding was even lumped in with the rest of that crap in the first place.
Fast forward to today: I’m jealous of all my mates that can surf and this is the intro to an article about Biarritz’s flourishing skate scene. Oh and wait a second… Quim Cardona? Wes Kremer? The Billabong team was actually fucking sick!
The irony of all this is that as much as 13-year-old me would hate to admit it, surfing is in fact probably what has led to their skate scene becoming so interesting. It’s what initially attracted such a random assortment of incredible skateboarders to the city, and in many cases it’s half the reason they became friends once they got there.
So, without further ado, here’s an interview with Phil Zwijsen about making the first all Biarritz video since we can remember. It features amongst others Lucas Puig, Sammy Mould, Sam Partaix, Vincent Milou and Jérémie Plisson: a train driver that likes to grind 20+ stair hubbas on the weekend. It got us pretty jealous of how they’re living over there…
Photography by Clement Le Gall
Interview by Arthur Derien
Before we start chatting about Biarritz can you give me some quick background about Jacky? When and why did you start filming these videos? What does the name come from?
Phil Zwijsen: Jacky started about five and a half years ago. I’d already been filming a bit before but I guess that’s when I got hurt, bought a VX and decided to get serious about filming. ‘Serious’ ha ha. Maybe that’s not the right word since I’m just doing it for fun when I can’t skate, but you know what I mean… Anyway it started with me just filming Jarne. Since he always films loads of stuff in a day he’s really fun to film; that’s what got me into it… And then yeah it evolved into me filming all of my friends, I did a few videos and that’s where we’re at today. Oh and the name Jacky is just what we’d call Jarne when he’d be really drunk and I guess it stuck.
Why do you think so many skaters are moving to Biarritz these days?
I mean you have nature everywhere, you can be in the mountains super fast and Spain is like 25 minutes from my house…
I think people also come here because there’s a lot to do in the winters. Well that’s not true it’s actually pretty dead, but there’s surfing. Winter is the best time to surf and I think a lot of skaters did kind of move here for that… Plus you can usually skate all year round. There’s loads of skateparks now… I dunno it’s a good place for being outside and moving your body.
Yeah I was going to say, it really seems like you guys have quite a healthy lifestyle over there… Is it actually like surf in the mornings and then skate in the afternoons or is that too gnarly?
I mean some of the younger guys that grew up here don’t surf but all of us older guys, especially the ones that moved here, we surf a lot. And yeah when we can we try to do both in a day, especially Sam (Partaix), Lucas (Puig) and Clement (Le Gall). Don’t get me wrong if you don’t want it to be healthy it doesn’t have to be, you can easily party every night, but most of us moved here because we enjoy being outside and not doing that when we come back from trips, so it’s perfect. And surfing means you just can’t get really fucked up in the evening, as you have to get up early, so it really changes things… And the best thing about it is that even if it rains you can still surf, so there can still be something to look forward to the next day. That’s why I enjoy being here a lot more than Belgium.
What motivates you to keep making these videos then? It seems like you could have loads of fun even without doing them.
I don’t really know… Like for this Biarritz one it’s not even like I’m doing this to help the people in the video or anything. Most of the guys I film either don’t need any help or are like Sammy (Mould) and don’t care about being sponsored or anything. I mean Sammy has been getting Element boards since we started this and I guess Lucas gives some of the younger guys boards every now and then. When people need shoes I’ll help out… But that’s not why anyone does it.
I guess it’s just fun for them, fun for me… And it’s not like I’m going to get paid in any way for doing this, it’s just a cool thing to do for the scene. It’s brought all the skateboarders a lot closer; I feel like we all know each other really well now.
The problem is that officially skateboarding is illegal in the whole city, so it’s not always easy. And it doesn’t help that the city is full of older rich people, we get a lot of complaints about the noise… We’re used to getting shouted at a lot ha ha.
Why contain this project to a small city like Biarritz then?
Mainly because I can’t really skate or walk very far because I’m hurt. Since Biarritz is small and I have a scooter it makes it much easier that way. The longest you’d have to walk if you were to cross the whole city is like 30 minutes, which means that people can just rock up after work or at any point in the day and be part of the session. We’re always posting photos of where we are in the group chat and anyone can invite anyone they want to it… That’s one thing I’ve really been enjoying about this; it’s super open. On Sunday it was like 30 of us out skating!
Also the fact that I’ve been strict about it only being Biarritz means that we’ve ended up skating a lot of really shit spots and that’s really fun. It’s forced everyone to get extra creative. Sammy especially, he skates shit that nobody else is going to want to skate and then does some fucked up shit. That’s what I like watching and kind of what I want to do with my own skating.
Yeah looking at the footage you sent me the spots look just as shit as in Belgium ha ha. Only there’s always a beautiful beach and the sea somewhere in the corner of the screen…
It’s gotten to the point now where we almost enjoy that there’s nothing to skate and that we have to figure a way to get stuff on what we have. Even Lucas man, some spots I’m like, ‘he’s not going skate this…’ But then he does something sick. I used to surf with him more than I’d skate with him and I honestly didn’t think he was still as motivated to skate as he is. Sometimes he’ll message me out of the blue like ‘hey I’m free for two hours, want to quickly try to film something?’ Every time me an Jarne go skating with him we’re still like ‘Fuck… It’s Lucas Puig from the Lakai video!’ ha ha. And you know when someone is so good you don’t even need to skate, you can just watch and be happy? That’s how he is: it’s perfect for me. Plus he’s like the most normal guy ever! Like the first couple of times I was filming him I was stressing because I really didn’t want to fuck up the footage and he was like ‘yo relax, you’re not a professional filmer, we’re just doing this for fun. It doesn’t matter if you fuck it up’. And that’s honestly what I like the most about this project, there’s no attitude: if Lucas is doing a switch flip back noseblunt on the ledge and someone else after that wants to film a backsmith on it, it’s all good! We’re all going to be encouraging him just the same, even Lucas. I haven’t skated in over seven months now and honestly this has been so good for me…
That being said I don’t think I’d ever want to become a real filmer, like one that goes on random trips where half of the dudes on the trip I don’t get along with. I like doing this because these guys are fun to film and to be around with. You know how in the footage of Jérémie’s back 50-50 on the hubba you can just see Lucas screaming and going crazy to encourage him? I love filming when sessions are like that.
Tell me a bit about the crew you’ve been filming then?
I’ve already spoken about Sammy a bit but he’s basically been the highlight of the video for me. I’d never really heard of him and he’s the just best dude, takes the gnarliest slams, never complains… And every time he’s out he fucking tries you know?
Then there’s Jérémie Plisson, he’s one of the few that has actually been here in Biarritz forever and honestly, he’s kind of an inspiration to me. He’s my age, works full time as a train driver and when he skates he doesn’t give a fuck; he just goes for it. The day of that kickflip over the big blocks he’d been at a different spot for two hours while someone else was trying a trick, it was freezing, getting dark and as we were about to leave he was like: ‘Still want to go to those blocks?’ He’s 33 man! I love that shit. Him and Sammy are the best for that, just so down to go filming even though they’ve been at work all day.
Then Jarne can’t skate but he’s been coming every day, there’s this guy Rafa Corts from Madrid who’s really sick, Sam Partaix has been coming out a bit, Robin does two tricks every time he comes, Matt Debauché, Anto Forot and Uryann Raudet, Vincent Milou, I mentioned Lucas earlier… But also as I said there isn’t really a crew. The crew is literally anyone who wants to skate! I’ve added some of the younger kids to the group chat as well but they haven’t come out yet.
I bet that group chat is hectic.
Yeah but I regulate it man, when people are like, ‘hey want to go surfing?’ or ‘want to go to the skatepark?’ I tell them I don’t want to see any of it in this chat: this is strictly street skateboarding ha ha.
It’s been really useful to get people motivated, especially since I always put the clips we film in the chat after the session. It gets people really hyped to get more clips as they see it turning into something good. And Sammy has so many good slams after every session that it gets people on it; it gets everyone thinking ‘fuck, I really need to go for it!’
You making this has sort of coincided with Wall Street opening up a shop there. How’s that been for the scene?
Ah man Emilie opening that shop has been amazing; it’s always the meet up point and everyday there’s always a million kids chilling in there… It’s small but she’s really made it work. Like it’s constantly full of children ha ha. It reminds me of being younger and hanging out in Lockwood all day… It’s so sick! I think it’s the first proper skate shop they’ve had, like every other one before that always had some surfing or whatever in it as well. It really feels like a good time to be in Biarritz.
Click below for more Jacky Biarritz photos from Clement Le Gall