After Paris, the LOCALS series takes place with this special issue to Dubai with Florian, skateboarder, videographer and Steward. Flo travels the world in his big Boeing -hello ecology-. Very personable, he loves spending time, when his stops allow him, with local skaters and visiting the local shop. During a Facetime, the idea of producing a few episodes to offer a preview of these skate scenes came to us. A few liters of kerosene burned, some films and two or three phone calls later, here is this first issue of Locals International.
How’s it going Flo?
I’m good thanks! And you, how’s the banana? [ laughs] .
Hahaha yes! So where are you at the moment?
I’m in Moscow in Russia, in my hotel room. But let’s not talk politics! I landed a few hours ago and went down for a drink before we got on this call.
When did you start skateboarding?
It’s been 20 years. As everyone knows, I have an incredible level for those 20 years…
By the way we almost started skateboarding together, maybe 2 or 3 years apart.
Come on, we’re almost pro level!
Pro- stethics level yes! [laughs]
What made you start skateboarding?
It’s been a long time, but I guess my parents had some friends and their kids had a board. We tried them out and liked it straight away. We ( me and my brother) probably saw skateboarding in movies and video clips as well. And of course there was the video game Tony Hawk Pro skater on PS1 with the amazing graphics [ laughs] . My brother and I we were trying to unlock all of the skaters and video parts in the game. The musics were insane, I still listen to some of these sounds now in 2022.
Long story short, my twin brother Joffrey and I asked for a skateboard for our birthday. We had to negotiate for some time but we ended up managing to get it!
We started by rolling off the curb in front of our building, and after some time we discovered the skatepark in Nîmes, and the street. That’s where we met you Covalsky!
What brought you to Dubai?
Work. After finishing my studies to work as a flight attendant, I applied for many airlines. I got lucky I got the job here in one of the biggest airlines in the World. At the beginning I just came because of the job, but in the end, I feel home here.
This is my apartment with boards hanging on the wall. My roommate who doesn’t skate didn’t have a choice!
How would you describe the Dubai skate scene?
The first thing that I noticed arriving here was the cultural diversity. There are a lot of different nationalities. To give you a few, there are a lot of Filipinos, Pakistanis, Indians, Americans, Egyptians, Russians, French, and many more. Actually, I think that the locals represent only 18% of the population!
The Satwa District brings together communities of Pakistanis and Filipinos among others.
Sunbakery where they bake the famous Iranian bread. An institution in Dubai.
To be honest, if you compare to Europe, when you ride in the street you’ll have the grandma jumping against the wall and calling us thugs because she’s scared, whereas here people don’t really say anything and are just curious to see who are those people on a skateboard. For example in Fountain in Deira, a big plaza where we often go to, there are a lot of passers- by and Pakistanis workers that sometimes ask us to try the boards!
On the other hand, security is not as open minded. They are absolutely everywhere. Nevertheless, they are less aggressive than in France or in the States. They usually nicely ask us to leave, sometimes you can even ask for a few more tries! The police never came to kick us out.
The best thing to do is to skate during the weekends, when it comes to the new areas like Media city, because there are less people working, therefore less security. You have then more time to do your trick than during the week. During the weekdays, we usually settle for skateparks, like Design District.
Why is street skateboarding so special in Dubai?
You have 2 types of different spots.The OG spots like Fountain in Deira and Deira in general that started being skated at the end of the 90s. That’s the reason why my friend from Casino printed a limited edition of Deira T shirts. It’s in the old Dubai.
Contrast between old Dubai with its old-fashioned architecture and in the distance newly built buildings.
And then you have all the new areas and buildings with beautiful palm trees, the shiny bling bling Dubai, where spots are popping out like crazy and security is very present. For example you have spots that we started skating only last year, like Mag in Business Bay, it was something like April 2021, and before that it was empty. Same story with the Media city plaza, I think we went there in August 2021 for the fist time.
Knowledge Village next to Media City.
It seems like it’s a Skate Paradise!
Yeah! For example in Media city, the other day we were like ‘ let’s cruise around and see what’s up!’ And I swear, it felt like I was in the skatepark editor in a video game! In like 30 minutes going around there was spots everywhere, stairs, ledges, and the ground is incredible!
How welcome did you feel in Dubai?
Back in the days when I started working as a flight attendant, I was only going to skateparks once in a while. I was meeting a lot of people but as I told you earlier, Dubai is a very transient city. You would see people once or twice and that’s all.
But then there was the pandemic as we all know.
They closed the airports, no more flights, then like many, I lost my job ( That I now have back) . On top of that I injured my knee and had to go through surgery. So it all started from there! To avoid depression, and being away from skateboarding for too long, I started filming. And this is how I started meeting people, people that actually live in Dubai, the real scene. I felt super welcomed. I started shyly to make small edits, end then more and more. One thing leading to another, I made connections, and that’s how I met Alex Mizurov. Through Alex Medvedev that knows a lot of people. With Mizurov, we went on a few sessions to film, and then for a post session drink and boom, we were friends.
Alex Mizurov at Design District. We often skate there during the week.
Can you introduce your crew?
There are the 2 Alex, Medvedev and Mizurov, then Josh, Hassan, there’s really a lot of people actually, so many nationalities! I’m also very friend with Nam. We met at the skatepark, he was escaping France after the lockdown. His job allowed him to work remotely so like many he came to find a more relaxed city health regulations wise. He liked it so much that he came again, and again, and every single time, we skate and film!
There are 3 types of skaters I’d say. Like Nam, those that come frequently to enjoy the weather. Just like Mizurov started doing a few years back. After a skate trip here, he started coming every year during winter, and then last year he became a resident.
Then we have the locals like Ahmed, there aren’t too many but it’s nice to see.
And guys like Karim Nassar, originally Egyptian but he was born and raised here. He is sponsored by Nike SB.
Mag’s Street spot in Business Bay.
How do you get your skate gear here? Is there any skate shops?
You have local skate shops like Rage, I think the first one that opened here. Then there was Dynamics, and Frame. Which is the shop that did a collaboration with Nike SB for the Dunk Habibi.
And little tip, if you come to Dubai go to the Japanese restaurant attached to Frame, it’s called Yui. The ramens man! Whenever I push the door they already know what I’m gonna order. Trust me on that, I tried many!
Then you have the online shops. Casino Hardware that was created by Karim Sami, and Habibi skateshop by the OG Maysam Faraj. They are now the main shops used by the scene, You can order online and they deliver it to you or on the skate spots!
Karim Sami and Maysam organize skate events quite often to federate the scene, with usually a lot of goodies to win! It’s nice to see that these 2 shops are actually working hand in hand to keep the scene together.
Is the scene structured around local medias or brands?
It is still a fairly new scene, and for now the main actors are the local shops and maybe the big brands like Nike SB that supports Karim Nassar. I think soon we should have more brands and media developing but we need to give it time!
Nice! Speaking of skate media, you now launched your YouTube channel, (@Objectif Skate Film) where you’re giving a bit of visibility to the scene over there, and started publishing documentaries, can you tell us a bit more about it ?
Yes! So at the beginning I wanted through my Instagram and small edits to put forward the skaters that I was meeting. And then I had the idea to talk about skateboarding in a different manner through my concept Dropped In. Youtube was perfect for that. The first episode is focused on the skate scene here. The idea is to use my job that makes me travel around the world to document skateboarding and its diversity where the plane will take me. So don’t hesitate to follow and subscribe!! Dropped in Dubai is already online.
What is your next destination?
The next one will be in Dhaka, Bangladesh. I will do a Dropped in, and of course, the 2nd Locals International.