Nozbone’s ‘Terrain Vague’ video

Parisian skate shops, videos and egocentric monologues – Nozbone’s new video and 20th anniversary

Photography by Thibault Le Nours
Words by David Turakiewicz

When Nozbone opened in 2003 I was working for Sugar with two ex-Street Machine employees. Needless to say, they did not think very highly of any of the other Parisian skate shops, but I was somehow even more narrow-minded and it took me at least three years to set foot in the place, just because I thought ‘Nozbone’ was a terrible name. It being spelt with a ‘z’ instead of the ‘se’ would even come to confirm this infallible line of reasoning: with a name like that, it couldn’t possibly be any good.
Victim of its own pride ‘La Machine’ (now there’s a legendary skate shop article that’s waiting to be written!) finally ended up closing its doors, forcing us to face the facts. On top of sponsoring a whole bunch of kids (many of whom are today pro) and dreaming up their famous Benchmark Contest (alongside countless other skateboarding get-togethers), in 2009 Nozbone managed to do what no other Parisian skate shop had succeeded in until then: release a video. Beyond the fact that I had a trick in there – which obviously began changing my mind about what some had already nicknamed ‘La Noz’– their audio-visual achievement made everyone see eye to eye at a time when DVDs still somewhat mattered and Parisian skateboarding was well and truly popping off. On top of that, the title Rendez-Vous this time was music to my ears, five years after Bon Appétit (which I’d like to add undeniably remains one of the top five videos of all time).
Since then Nozbone has endured the arrival of new skate shops of varying degrees of legitimacy, a terror attack just a few hundred feet away in 2015 and a bankruptcy (amongst other ‘inconveniences’), before finally rising from its ashes a stone’s throw away from République. All this without ever stopping giving boards out to the team, producing the Benchmark comp and releasing videos directed by their trusty Ludo Azemar, the latest of which carries on the good old tradition of French titles: ‘Terrain Vague’ (which comes after Café Clope in 2013 and Intra-muros in 2017, although granted, that last one’s actually Latin).
Now although I spent countless hours of my childhood confusing my skate shop with a community centre, the longest I’ve actually ever spent on the other side of the counter was the summer I did at ‘La Noz‘ in 2019*, which probably justifies the fact that I was chosen to write this text.

Amélien Foures, ollie, Paris

Pit stops
One day over that summer, a sweaty, stressed-out young man showed up at the shop after having popped a bearing halfway through filming a line. The deep distress and rushing adrenaline were written all over his face. Naturally, he didn’t have anything on him and the filmer was waiting for him back at the spot. So I took a bearing and a tool out of a drawer full of scrap metal and two minutes later I was watching him frantically push away into the distance from the doorway, chuffed about having been able to sort him out, wishing eternal gratitude to those who like me, have behind the scenes saved so many sessions without expecting anything in return. In short, even if constantly spotting people bearings, nuts and bolts may not necessarily be the best way to run your business, it remains the role of a skate shop, in my opinion.

César Dubroca, kickflip, Athens

Sponsorship is not a crime
In the ‘90s, in France, being sponsored by a skate shop often just meant having discounts on boards (and occasionally getting a free one to go to a contest). It didn’t cost the skate shop anything and everyone was happy, because even if the riders were still paying for their boards, they were also in a way buying themselves the legendary, coveted status of ‘sponsored skater‘. And while I’m sure there are probably still skate shops out there that shamelessly practise this kind of scam, it is inconceivable for a real skate shop to exist without a team. In the same way, a skate shop must support contests and other small events in its vicinity, and beyond. But while all this sounds charitable, in reality it’s simply just marketing.

Jérôme Sossou, wallie, Athens

Skate your local
skate shop If in the suburbs in which I grew up spots were few and far between; it was a downright desert in terms of undercover options. Apart from an Ikea parking lot 20 kilometres away in the middle of nowhere, it was pretty damn depressing on rainy days… Up until the guys from the local (Starcow, which back then was still called Just Cow) moved into a long and narrow shop, with just enough space to fit a flat bar and to roll away from a few grinds between the shoe boxes and Broke t-shirts on a Sunday. Just what was needed to clear our heads back then and for me to have an example of multiple uses of a skate shop for a magazine article 25 years later. By the way, while we’re on the topic, it’s also worth noting that Nozbone has had a small concrete mini hidden in its cellar for several years now…

Amélien Foures, crooked grind transfer, Athens

Support your local social club
Even if they have a team, release videos, sponsor contests, place ads in magazines and do everything to make people believe otherwise, online platforms that sell boards are not skate shops. It’s a fact, not an opinion, and it’s always good to remind people of that. And I doubt that those who boycott their local* by purchasing online have the slightest idea of who these purchases are benefitting or of the harm they are doing to all actual physical skate shops (which you can – as we’ve just reminded – even sometimes skate in on rainy Sundays).

Jérôme Sossou, frontside bluntslide pop out to fakie, Athens

Videos are today also one of the many essential marketing tools used by skate shops, but not everyone can afford that kind of investment (in terms of money, time or energy), especially in the Instagram-era, where it’s so much easier to just instantly drop anything you film without thinking. Except it would be naive to oppose ‘full-lengths’ and social media when they’re actually complementary: you need Instagram for short-term visibility, and then the ‘real’ videos for the long term. Because let’s face it, 10 or 20 years from now no one will be watching the reel you posted yesterday, but skate shop videos will always be more easily accessible, and therefore will forever remain markers of an era, of a scene, of a trip.

César Dubroca, backside tailslide, Berlin

Drink water
One detail that should be a red flag when entering a skate shop is the sight
of a small energy drink fridge perched in a corner. I won’t dwell on it too much though because they’re so common that I wouldn’t be surprised if even Nozbone had one at one point*, which could ruin this whole article and damage the reputation of the shop, of this magazine and worse still: mine. So let’s not take any chances and swiftly move on to the next paragraph.

Recycle or die
For years there’s been a persistent rumour floating around about a Parisian skate shop that would ask its riders to return their boards once skated so that they could supposedly resell them afterwards (unofficially to ensure that they were not resold by the team behind their backs). What is certain is that in the same way as you return your bottles to the supermarket in exchange for a voucher in Germany, we should introduce a deposit scheme for skate equipment. It would help bring people back into the skate shops and would avoid so many damaged boards being left lying around at spots. They could thus be recycled into chipboard panels after a trip to the recycling centre (in the best case, and after removing the grip), or resold at a high price to wack artists convinced that painting on old skateboards is the idea of the century. We could even melt down the old trucks to make new ones and put together beautiful bead necklaces with the old wheels, which would be resold to crusties.

Hugo Corbin, backside 50-50, Lisbon

Print’s not dead
Free or paid, magazines have always had their place on skate shop counters as excellent sources for gossip and trend broadcasting. And even if social media platforms probably have overtaken them on those two fronts, they can still be found in SOSs, from the most underground (like Versus or FTBX in France) to the most renowned (although admittedly it’s a lot easier to find a Thrasher t-shirt than a magazine of that title). And despite (still in France) Sugar still being available on newsstands, it can be easier to find in a good number of skate shops alongside Free and Solo. So get yourself down there and use it as an excuse to support your local, it’ll always be healthier than spending that money at the bar, and you’ll probably get as much for your buck in terms of rumours and shit talking.

Big business
Since Decathlon has decided to come and mess up the market at a time when shops really didn’t need that extra little kick in the teeth, the best thing would perhaps be for skate shops to make the opposite journey and start selling sporting goods. Granted, there is little chance that this would have the slightest effect on French Sports Supermarket sales (especially since they specialise in selling products at low prices, which they can afford to do because of their size), but given that skateboarding is now a sport in the eyes of the general public, wouldn’t it be in the skate shops’ best interests to also sell real sporting goods? Given so many skateboarders’ newfound passions for climbing or cycling, and given the prices we’ve now grown accustomed to for hardware or shoes, if skate shops started stocking cycling shorts and climbing shoes, it’s possible that they would sell. Or not, who knows? Our best bet might just be to wait until skate brands decide to produce these types of items themselves. Since mad collabs seem to be all the rage these days, we’re probably not safe from Emerica x La Sportiva or Hélas x Trek releases. At the risk of Palace hitting us with a collaboration with Quechua…

Jérôme Sossou, gap to 50-50, Athens

I was asked to write a list of ‘Do’s and Don’ts of running a skate shop’ based around Nozbone’s 20th anniversary and the video they produced to mark the occasion, and here’s where it took me. I’ve got a feeling I might not get the call for the ‘DOs and DON’Ts of running a skate mag’… Which is a shame, because I reckon I would have a few things to say on that one…