Nothing Without Friends – Edouard Depaz for Rave Skateboards
I can’t remember exactly the first time I saw Edouard Depaz; I think it was probably in an early Octagon edit years ago, but from early on, I decided I liked him. It’s irrational really, you like someone without knowing hardly anything about them. I guess it was just a feeling, or maybe I liked his style, or was it his trick selection? I can’t pinpoint it exactly, but I had made my mind up. And back then I don’t think we even had many mutual friends… Phil Zwijsen maybe, Yoan Taillandier? Anyways years later I finally got to meet Edouard, again I can’t exactly remember where (was it here in London?), but what I remember was his smile as we shook hands when we met. And it turns out my intuition was correct: Edouard is truly a lovely person.
When I called his friends in preparation to interview him last week everyone had such glowing things to say about him: ‘you can count on him anytime… He does anything to help his friends… I love hanging out with this guy… Dou Dou is a sensitive and responsible guy…’ etc., etc. And following our hour and some talk on Facetime to get the words for this, I eventually just stopped the recording and we had a pleasant chat about completely random things: our dogs, Atlantic Drift, skate graphics, etc. After that long conversation I felt like I really got to know Edouard so much better and I truly wish the best for him. I can see why all his friends had such gushing praise for the guy. There’s just something about him… You’re left with a feeling of happiness after each interaction. His positivity just rubs off on you, so to speak. So I’m stoked he’s finally got that big interview in Free he had been hoping for – we tried to do this years ago but the stars just didn’t align then. Things are going pretty well for Edouard right now, and with all he’s got going on, I suspect things are just going to get better and better. Read on to learn a little bit more about what makes him tick and keep an eye out for his new Rave video part dropping eminently.
— Will Harmon (Chairman of the Edouard Depaz fan club)
Photography by Clément Le Gall
Interview by Will Harmon
I heard you’re getting married soon, congrats!
Yeah in September.
Clem (Vanpeperstraete) said that you already had like a little mock reading rehearsal, like before the pandemic. He said you were super nervous…
It was kind of a surprise party… So I went over to a friend’s, Willy’s, and he has this huge kind of terrace. There was a plastic swimming pool and everyone was there. Yes Clem was playing Cupid, Willy was playing the priest and Juliette my girlfriend, she didn’t know about all this either, so she didn’t bring any friends there. Val was her best man kind of… And so I had to do a whole speech, but it was insane as we were all heavily drinking and smoking. It was kind of crazy, but it was good. That was like, two years ago or something.
Yeah nice. And you’re getting married for real in September right?
Yeah we’ll get married at the City Hall, so it’s legal and official. But then later on we’ll have a big ceremony, like a proper one with family, tents and all in like a year or two. The big, proper wedding party… But then it’s like, ‘hey I wanna marry you!’ and then two years later I’m like, ‘fuck, this is gonna cost so much…’
You could spend the money on something else!
Yeah, ha ha. But it’s okay, it’s gonna be super fun.
And you and your wife-to-be live on the outskirts of Paris, in a small house I hear.
Yeah in Montreuil. We moved here two months ago. It’s really like a village vibe here. We are quite near this church, and this little square, which is called Place de la République as well. You can walk your dog and there aren’t many people out; it’s perfect. Everyone is really nice and it feels like everyone is really helping each other. I don’t know… I really love it. I still get to live in a big city just further out. It’s only like 20 minutes from the centre by cycling, you know?
So you normally cycle in to meet everyone to skate?
I usually cycle yeah, but sometimes I take the train. Depends on the session I guess.
So I read somewhere that you lived in Paris until age seven, but then you moved to Bordeaux and grew up there.
Yes, I was six or seven and it was pretty hard for me to tell people that I was properly Parisien. Like when you move from Paris, Parisiens are really kind of hated all around France. Parisiens are known to be grumpy and like…
Snooty? Ha ha… So as a kid you were picked on and teased for this?
Yeah, I had this story prepared every time like, ‘I was born in Le Bouscat and I grew up and went to kindergarten over there.’ It wasn’t until I was 17 that I would admit and tell people that I grew up in Paris.
You were old enough to not care what people thought I guess. And then so you obviously started skating in Bordeaux, right? And what brought you to it?
It’s pretty classic… So I have an older brother and we had like this really competitive relationship. Like I always wanted to be better than him. And one night, he had some friends over at our place, and I guess he had a fight with them or something, so he got pissed and then went outside. It was raining… I have this crazy picture in my head where like, he was outside and he was trying to do an ollie on this really, really old board. And right there I thought to myself: ‘okay, I’m gonna be better than you at this. It’s gonna be my thing.’ And from there you get to meet people from your school who know people from other schools all through this common interest of skateboarding. Like you just go after school to that guy you’ve never heard about’s house and then he instantly becomes your best friend.
Yeah it’s amazing how that happens. I talked to Alex Richard and he said that you used to go to the micro ramp skatepark in Bordeaux.
I guess I started at 13 and at first it was just in front of my house trying to do some ollies and stuff. But I really started skating exactly when the skatepark in Bordeaux opened. The first time I went I was so afraid of skating over there. Because actually Alex and all those guys, they were like local heroes for us. It was really almost frightening to go there. So we had to find somewhere to practise. You know that guy Morgan Fabre? Now he’s like the French coach for the Olympic games.
He was actually teaching skating over there at the micro thing; he was really teaching us everything And we had these crazy haircuts…
I can imagine those hats and beanies with big bangs sticking out, ha ha…
Exactly! And the first time I did a rock to fakie, I was like, ‘okay I’m Daewon Song now!’
Ha ha ha…
So I skated there almost every day for like two years or something.
And then what videos did you watch when you were a kid? What was the first professional skating you saw?
The first proper video that I saw was C1RCA’s It’s Time. Like the first Sugar mag I had in my hands it came with this video. And I was like, ‘wow, this is insane!’ And then we had all these LimeWire videos…
Oh yeah, downloading stuff. Downloading skate vids from LimeWire… Throwback!
Like, we’re trying to download some skate videos and obviously we’re really young and instead of like, finding (enjoi’s) Bag of Suck, you’d have a ‘bag of suck’ and you have like 100 links of porn videos. And then you have one, which is the proper video. So we had to download everything and just be like: fuck another porn, fuck another porn…
Ha ha, that’s so good…
Yeah it was funny, just like three random skaters looking at porn…
Ha ha. Alex also said you were really hyped on Brad Cromer growing up, and you kind of tried to dress like him as well…
Okay so I didn’t even know of him; I didn’t know his name before. And then once Yoan (Taillandier) called me ‘Brad’. And I was like, ‘Why are you calling me Brad?’ Because I had a shaved head and a beanie, which was a bit like, you know, high on my head.
The hipster look…
Yeah. And in one bit of Brad Cromer’s footage he had exactly the same style so Yoan told me, ‘yo, you’re looking exactly like Brad Cromer.’ And I was like, ‘Who’s that guy?’ So I went on YouTube, I saw him and it was like, ‘okay, I want to be him.’
Ha ha, that’s sick. Might be awkward if you guys ever go on a Cons trip together, ha ha. So in Bordeaux did you used to skate down Rue Saint Catherine at night with Yoan and Leo Valls?
Yeah, so I was 15 or 16 and I was a big fan of Leo as well. I was really looking up to him at this time. And he was acting like the brother I didn’t have because I was still in this crazy relationship with my brother where he didn’t really want to hear about me or anything.
So I was looking for like a brother figure or something, and Leo really filled that void at that moment. Every night I was at his place; every day I was skating with him. Do you remember this video Frame by Frame by like a whole crew of French filmers? Where a Romain Batard had a section with Leo Valls?
I don’t remember that sorry.
So Romain Batard had to film for this project. And yeah, I was still young and it was kind of funny. I was like, going out at night without my parent’s approval…
Oh, sneaking out without their permission?
Yeah, I was going out the window and putting some pillows in my bed in a way to make it look like I was sleeping. And then I was skating all the way to Leo’s place, which was like 45 minutes of skating. Then we’d session until like five in the morning, because they wanted to do a proper night edit thing, and then at like 5:30 I was home, I’d sleep for two hours and then go to class. It was kind of insane…
Yeah, that’s tough.
But it was good. I really learned a lot… I guess how I skate now is a bit thanks to those guys, like Masaki (Ui), Kicks (Hugue Chalandres), Leo, Falou (Yoan Taillandier) – all the older crew.
Good influences for sure. I have a question, it’s one of the things that Alex was telling me and he said your family makes a pretty good rum. And so I Googled ‘Depaz Rum’ and I found out that it comes from the Caribbean island of Martinique and then I remembered you told me you went there on holiday one of the times I was in Paris with you. So can you give me like a little bit of background info about this stuff?
I’m not really sure how many great, great grandparents it was, but my family started a rum factory distillery there a long time ago. It’s been around since like 1910 or something, or 1902. I don’t remember exactly. I’m not really good with dates. And I’d say I’m like three quarters from the Caribbean. It’s actually because my grandmother is from the Caribbean from my mother’s side, and my grandfather and grandmother from my father’s side are from the Caribbean. So from the Depaz side, my great grandfather’s family had this distillery and after this big volcanic eruption it was completely destroyed. My great grandfather decided to rebuild the city called Saint Pierre. And he really became like, I wouldn’t say a star, it’s weird to say star, but like a big face of this city.
And there was a fun fact: Saint Pierre is at the bottom of Mount Pelée and the rum distillery is like really close to Saint Pierre. So when I was in Martinique for the holidays, I wanted to climb the mountain, you know, to just like, see everything. And so I went there, and there was this American couple with this guide. And the guide was telling them all this big, long story about my family and I didn’t want to say who I was or anything, you know, but I was just listening because he knew some stuff that I didn’t know, ha ha.
Yeah, he was probably like, well studied on it.
Yeah it was cool to learn even more about my family’s history.
Yeah and 20 years ago my relatives sold it to La Martiniquaise, which is a big group.
So did you try rum from a young age or anything like that?
Yeah (laughs), I wouldn’t say I was baptised in it, but like almost, ha ha.
Well I hope to try some Depaz Rum someday (wink, wink)! Okay moving on, what brought you back to Paris then? Why did you decide to leave Bordeaux?
I would say skateboarding to be honest. I did a graphic design course, and in this school, you could move from one city to another because they had five campuses. So they had one in Bordeaux and one in Paris, and I wanted to go back to Paris at that time. So I went back, tried to like see what was happening and I don’t know why but it didn’t work that well at this time. So I went back to Bordeaux to finish my studies but then after I went back to Paris. Because by then I was becoming really good friends with the Lille crew, like Val, Clement V and those guys so like (I thought), okay, maybe it makes sense now to move to the capital. Because at this time, it was really the moment where Paris had all these premieres and these skate events and parties, and yeah every weekend there was something skate related. So you really had to be in Paris to show yourself a little bit and just be there, you know?
Yeah, when was this?
I was 20 when I moved to Paris, so I guess like seven years ago.
And were you sponsored then? Actually Val told me you guys both used to get Pass~Port flow and Trent (Evans, Pass~Port Skateboards owner) even helped you get a VX to film, and some of that footy from then actually ended up in Romain Batard’s Giddy #11: The Long One. Is this right?
Yeah Trent was so nice. It was insane to have this kind of relationship with someone that lives I don’t know how many thousand kilometres away. And he even gave me an ad in Sugar skate mag, which was like my first ad ever. For me Pass~Port is one of the best brands in the world. Like creative wise and the team as well…
Yeah they do have the best graphics…
Yeah, so Trent sent us some money to buy a VX to film a part. We didn’t skate properly for Pass~Port, we skated for them through a distributor. And during filming the distribution went down (out of business) in between so we couldn’t finish the video properly. And so the VX footage just collected dust for two or three years. At some point I was like, ‘okay, I’m not even sure how I want it to get out anymore. You know, it’s been too long.’ It feels like three years for footage is so old, you know?
I watched Giddy #11 recently and it doesn’t look like any of the footage of you is way older than the rest…
Yeah, but like the first line I have blonde hair. And this was during the year where I went to Paris between my first and second year of graphic design school, so that was like 10 years ago.
Okay maybe that is pretty old, considering. And then PJ told me he was in Lyon with you once and he was really hyped on your skating and asked you to ride for Rave. I guess this would be after the Pass~Port distro deal fell through.
I remember I went to Lyon to shoot photos the first time you guys asked me for a Free interview. This was like six years ago or something?
Yeah, I remember.
Yeah. But it was like a weird shaky part of my life at this moment. So I couldn’t easily do the job. It was just a moment in my life where I was drinking heavily and I just wanted to party. Every time I was going out the next day, I could barely even stand on a skateboard, you know?
It was kind of hectic in Paris, so that’s why I went to Lyon to shoot with Max Verret and film with Romain and we all stayed at Mika’s house and PJ came along. I don’t remember why PJ was there, but he was talking to me about it (riding for Rave). And I told him I was thinking about it still. PJ said to me, ‘I really want to put you on Rave’ and after that he asked me like two or three more times and at some point was like, ‘Okay, fuck it, let’s do it.’
Why were you hesitant at first?
I don’t really remember. I guess I was secretly thinking about the fact that I could really do something with Pass~Port, but like at the same time I couldn’t picture myself anywhere else but on Pass~Port. Then when PJ asked me I was like, ‘okay, yeah, actually those Rave guys are my friends, I know them from Bordeaux and these guys are like family…’ So, yeah then I realised that it just made sense.
And with your graphic design background I know you’ve been laying out the Levi’s Skateboarding ads, you’ve designed a board series for Rassvet and PJ was saying you’re getting a little bit more involved with Rave, like you’ve done some graphics for them…
Yeah I did a jacket for Rave. And now I’m doing half of the boards’ graphics. I’m doing the pro boards like Alex’s (Richard) and Leo’s (Cholet). It’s really nice to be on a company where they’re listening to skaters’ ideas, you know?
Yeah for sure. So in the past three or four years, you’ve really gotten into tattooing. How did you transition into this?
I have some tattoos and I really love the whole world around tattooing. And even tattooing and skateboarding are really similar you know, they’re really two worlds where you have like crews and you have styles and you have shops that are bigger than the others and it’s kind of the same in the end. And you get along with people that tattoo like you, because you have the same references, you know, the same artists, and everything. But at first I was really into tattooing because I really loved how it looked basically. And Tolia (Titaev) showed me how to tattoo.
Yeah just for fun. And then he tattooed me and I was like, ‘okay that’s insane!’ I didn’t really know that you could actually get proper tattoos from normal people, you know? I had always thought tattoos were done by proper artists, and you had to go into shops to get a tattoo. Kind of like you pay for your tattoo and ‘goodbye’, you know?
So then did you buy a tattoo kit? How did you do your first tattoos?
At first I started tattooing myself, just to understand everything, as you don’t want to just completely fuck up one of your friends. So at first I started on myself, then I did a couple on Val and then I did some on my girlfriend. And then Val was like, really into it, so I guess we did maybe thirty or something…
Yeah I did his whole back, two on his head and a lot of them on his forearms.
And quite a lot of skaters now have tattoos from you right?
Yeah I’m so hyped… And it’s really funny, but sometimes some skaters know me from my tattoos and not from my skating. Like Casper (Brooker) knew me from tattoos and not skating.
Yeah that’s so weird… Oh maybe because you have a tattoo alias right? And Insta name @delapaix…
Yeah it’s my last name Depaz, but in French. A lot of skaters follow my tattoo Insta account but not my skate one.
Ah that’s so funny. Which account has more followers?
The skate one still, but it’s older.
Okay I want to ask you about something you touched on earlier, you said at one point you were at a time in your life where you were drinking a lot and you weren’t focusing on skating… I mean, actually, Val mentioned that sometimes, not the girlfriend you have now, but before that you would have other girlfriends and it was hard for you to focus sometimes and whatnot… Do you want to talk about that?
Yeah… I had this huge fight with all my friends because of my ex-girlfriend. Because she was really like… I don’t know, we had this really crazy toxic relationship. I almost lost all of my friends. I was arguing with everyone because they were like, trying to be my friend and telling me to just leave her, you know?
You weren’t having it though…
I was really deep in it and I had tunnel vision. And then at this time she was drinking crazy heavily so I was going out with her and like meeting new people, because I didn’t want to hang out with my friends because my friends didn’t want to hang out with my girlfriend.
Yeah, it was the worst to be honest. It was kind of the worst part of my life. I feel like skateboarding is my passion and it’s my job, as well, but at the same time, if you only do this, if you only skate all the time it can really make you hate skateboarding.
Yeah, you have to have something else.
Yeah you really do. And at this time, I didn’t really have anything else. I was doing a bit of graphic design, but like, not that much. So when I started tattooing, it really saved me and helped my mental health.
Also meeting Juliette I’m sure!
Yes! And actually soon we’re going to open up a tattoo parlour, a private tattoo club with three other friends. So I’ll be able to make my own agenda, and I’ll be able to go on trips whenever I want, and all these things.
Nice. Val also mentioned that you used to have some anger issues a while back, but you’ve kind of like come through that now. Is that correct?
Ages ago, well (laughs)… Not that long ago I had these crazy anger management problems where I could really go from one to 100 really quick. All the Öctagon crew had this nickname for me: metal jaw. They would be like, ‘whoa, the jaw is insane today!’’ Yeah I was really trying to get it (a trick) and really trying not to let it out, you know, and just gnashing my teeth together like ‘grrrrrrr’. It was kind of insane, but like, I’m getting better.
I’m sure you feel that you’re kind of in a better place in your life now.
Yeah, I’m actually in the place I should be.
Words by PJ Chaupis
I was heading back to Paris when Edouard called me to ask if I was down to film him try to wallie into a fifty on the huge ledge up the bank at Trocadero. It would be like his third or fourth time trying; he had a super good photo with Clém, all he needed to do was land it to make it count.
Wallying onto that ledge is something everybody thinks of, but nobody actually ends up trying… For a lot of reasons.
First of all the ledge is shoulder high. Then the run up – when not crowded with wedding photoshoots or all kinds of tourists trying to pinch the Eiffel Tower for a cool holiday picture – is barely long enough… And, in the summer you can only skate there before 8am before the security arrives. After 8am, even with your best Metal Gear Solid camouflage techniques, it’s impossible to sneak your way into filming something there.
We went back there together five more times, counting in total 10 early missions… And still no footy.
We are now two days away from the mag’s deadline with the printer, the trick has changed and Edouard can’t count on the wallie grind picture anymore. Wallie tailslide it will be.
We manage to get Clément a train ticket from Biarritz, and go back there to give it a last try for the deadline. Here’s how it went down:
Wake up at 5:45 am to arrive at the spot at 6:45 am, get a coffee, set up the plate to roll on the bank smoothly. By 7am we are all ready to start. After a couple of tries three cops on their usual rounds arrive at the spot and just chill next to us smoking on their vapes… For half an hour.
7:55 they leave the plaza and Edouard gets back into it.
It’s 8:05 when Amal (one of the security guards) enters the plaza and comes straight to us. We know the guy, he’s already kicked us out many times and out of all the security staff he is the only one you absolutely can’t get past… It’s over.
Don’t ask me why, but for the first time ever Amal starts talking to us, interested in understanding why we’ve come back so many times, asking questions about Clém being here for the photo, the magazine deadline, etc., and ends up offering us a 15 minutes bonus.
8:15 the third round begins. After 20 minutes of struggling, Edouard lands it two or three times but doesn’t roll away…
8:35 Amal tells us we really have to stop and asks us if we ever tried getting an authorization as it would make it a lot easier for us to skate the spot.
We decide to give it a try and head to the security headquarters Amal told us to go to. We’re now bouncing from one security base to another, every time getting redirected to ask somebody else. Finally we end up talking to the girl in charge and she agrees to give us permission for half an hour or at least until her boss arrives.
8:50 we are back on track for the fourth round. On Amal’s walkie talkie, we can hear the girl we spoke to telling him to let us do our thing.
9:02 Edouard is super close to landing the trick when Amal runs into a guy who makes him ask us for the third time to stop skating… It’s the boss of the whole security department. ‘How much time do you need to do your thing?’ he asks. ‘10 minutes? It’s 9:03, you have until 9:13, then you leave.’ It’s our last chance…
At 9:10 Edouard rolls away perfect from the wallie tailslide under the eyes of the whole security hierarchy. The struggle is over.