ITW Pierre André Senizergues

Board Culture Exposure 2024

It was during the DROP event that I did this interview. When I had just completed an interview with Andy Anderson, Julio, the TM – among his many functions – at V7 threw me on the fly between two sips of beer “hey, Pierre André Senizergues is available if you want do an interview with him?”. To which I had to stutter a “uh but it was not planned but go ahead” because normally I prepare a minimum for my interviews. He replied “don’t worry it will do it”. After all, it’s not every four mornings that we have the opportunity for a small mag to discuss with the boss of Sole Technology. I let myself be carried away and the questions came quite naturally. With Pierre André, it is very easy to discuss. The conversation very quickly turned to Andy, his affiliation with freestyle, the creation of etnies as well as oolympics games and all this shit.

What do you think of this perpetual debate around Andy Anderson’s skateboarding?

It’s good that there is diversity in skateboarding. I understand that some people criticize but skate is freedom. Inclusion and everyone being able to skate the way they want is important. You have to skate for yourself first. Andy brings this idea that you shouldn’t limit yourself to this or that trend. In today’s street there are a lot of things that come from freestyle.

How did the evolution from freestyle to street come about knowing that there are indeed a lot of tricks today that come from freestyle?

The ollie comes from freestyle. Rodney started doing ollies on the floor and then ollies flips. It was a technical skate that opened up a lot of perspectives on the street. Street really started in the early 80s. It must have been 83/84 somewhere around there. Before we practiced either ramp or freestyle. Street was born following the demise of skateparks in the early 80s, that’s when street was born. A bit by force of circumstance. At that time I was skateboarding a lot with Mark Gonzales in California, with Natas Kaupas and Ed Templeton too. He was a freestyler Ed, before he hit the streets. We were skating at Huggtington Beach. Then he took to the streets because very soon the freestyle board became too small for him. He was super tall. He could put super impossibles everywhere because it was a trick he learned from freestyling. Same thing for Rodney Mullen who naturally turned to the street when the parks disappeared. He brought a lot of tricks that came from free. Today, the Games of Skate, the BATB, are an extension of freestyle. These are tricks you do on the ground. And before testing them on spots, you must first master them on the flat.

You, as a skateboarder, how did you experience this transition from freestyle to street?

Street was freestyle, except we didn’t use architecture. We were going down sidewalks, doing kickflips, doing tricks in the street. We were not yet on the benches. We were either on the street freestyling or in the park. Afterwards, when the skateparks were destroyed, we started making ramps that we took to the streets. That’s how we started doing wallrides and little by little skating the elements that were in the street. This is a natural development following economic events and infrastructure issues. I started in 1977 in the suburbs of Paris. I drove all the time at the Trocadero. It was the spot where everyone met at the time. It was the mecca of skateboarding. Once I saw a guy doing a kickflip, he was an Englishman, his name was Jeremy Anderson. I still remember his name because he really fascinated me. Seeing his trick, I said to myself “but how does he do that thing?! “. He made me want to do tricks, he opened my mind to what it was possible to do with a board in terms of flip tricks. Because we at that time, we were content to move on the board, to do slaloms, we went down slopes, we did speed, slalom, high jump – what we call today the hippy jump-. There was also a ramp but it was a U without a flat.

When I left in 85 in the United States, that’s when I discovered the street. I met the Mark Gonzales, Natas among others. Initially, I lived on the streets. Then thanks to the first competition I won, I was able to afford a van. That year, I won all the freestyle competitions until I became world champion. My arrival created a draft, because I started to invite friends from Paris to California. I told them “I live in a van, come back”.

And we get a roommate (laughs)

Yeah a roommate haha! Afterwards, with my friends from France, we traveled together through California, from San Diego to San Francisco. We stopped right and left to skate. They left and I stayed. Among my friends, there was Jean Marc Vaissette -from V7 Distribution- who was very good in freestyle. He participated in competitions too.

What are your reasons for staying in the United States?

Above all, it was the skate culture that was very present, especially in California. It was very easy to talk skate with people. Whereas in France, it was a little more complicated. Here in the US, it was really a lifestyle. The sponsors were also there. The weather not to be overlooked. In California, it hardly ever rains and that’s just great for going skating every day.

How did you come up with the idea to create etnies?

I had shoe problems all the time. I was sponsored by Vans, but these were shoes that I wore out very quickly. In addition, they did not absorb impacts. So I became interested in the idea of designing skate shoes that addressed these issues. I started etnies in the US in 1989.

The beginnings were difficult with etnies until the middle of the 90s, it seems to me…

It was total hell! I didn’t know much about the shoe industry. Besides, I had no business acumen yet. I was rather attracted to innovation like the tricks I was inventing in skateboarding -PA invented among other things the coconut wheeling- alongside Rodney. Besides, we were pulling a lot of punches between us. At the time, it was a bit crazy when I think about it, to get into the skate shoe market.

Before the launch, I went to Korea since at that time that was where the shoes were made. I landed in a factory where they made sneakers. I was in my twenties. I explained my skate shoe project to them… They looked at me with wide eyes. They didn’t know what a skateboard was. The word either, they did not know what it meant. I then took my board, I had my music and I made a demo to them right in the middle of the factory. All the workers working on the production lines have stopped. They were blown away. And in the end, I said to them “here, that’s why we have to make skate shoes because we need them to grip, to absorb impacts, to be resistant, etc “. And they said “yeah, but there is no one who skates in Korea”. So I explained to them that there were a lot of skateboarders in the world and that it was important to do so. To which they replied “ok, we make you some shoes and then you leave us alone”.
I managed to get some samples. And when I got back to California, I handed out pairs to buddies, left, right. I gave it to Mark Gonzales, Natas Kaupas, Christian Hosoi, Rodney, Don Brown, lots of guys I skated with. This is how the story began.

ITW Pierre André Senizergues

In the early days, I encountered a lot of logistical problems in particular because the factories were not manufacturing fast enough. Delays and cancellations were piling up. And me, I couldn’t sit on a chair all day with my ear glued to the phone trying to sell my shoes across the United States. I used to skate. The beginnings were, so to speak, chaotic.

See even freestyle for once (laughs) Yes super freestyle.

Besides, I didn’t speak English very well haha. But in the end, I persisted. And at one point, in the late 1980s, there was an economic recession. A lot of clubs went bankrupt, skateboard shops too. It was a very tough moment. I somehow managed to survive. Then all of a sudden the market came back in 1994. It exploded, it was crazy stuff! I hired all my friends who skated. Some in accounting, some in marketing, etc.

It was also a guaranteed retraining for these pros whose careers were coming to an end.

Exactly. At the same time, I made it possible to create jobs for skateboarders. We tried to revive skateboarding, which had suffered a lot from the sluggish economic period. At the same time, World Industries launched -with Steve Rocco and Rodney-, Blind and the paper magazine Big Brother. Since we were all friends, we all helped each other between small brands, in fact. When we wanted to do a commercial at Big Brother, I would consult Rodney “yeah what do we do, what do you think?“, We decided in the afternoon to shoot some photos on a spot. The next day, boom! The ad was published in the mag.

Marketing departments didn’t exist back then?

No, it was a rip off. It was crazy when I think about it.

How did the idea of creating éS and Emerica come to you?

While designing the shoes, I realized that I had some riders who had a different style. In the etnies team, there was Sal Barbier and Eric Koston who want a more athletic style. I said to myself “well, we could launch another brand more in keeping with the style of these guys”. So I launched éS.
éS stands for movement. You know a skateboard never goes straight. He does a kind of S. Also, I thought that Sal and Eric had a lot of style. The S-shaped movement and the S of “Style” gave éS. At éS, I put guys who had this DNA like Chad Muska, Bob Burnquist, Rick McCrank, Tom Penny and Arto Saari among others.

In the team, I had also noticed guys with a more rock n’ roll style like Jamie Thomas and Andrew Reynolds. The idea of creating Emerica came to me like that.

Ed Templeton and Rick McCrank were early vegans. To match their way of life, I had the idea of creating Sheep Shoes, a brand that offered shoes produced with sustainable and environmentally friendly materials – Today Sheep no longer exists as such but is used as a label for some etnies- models.

The culture behind skateboarding is very important, whether it’s the music we listen to, the way we dress until we eat. All the Sole Tech brands were somehow a reflection of all this richness that there is around skateboarding.

Besides, a little anecdote, I helped DC Shoes get started. At their very beginning, the guys from Droor Clothing came to see me. They wanted to make shoes. But no one wanted to help them. Me, their project immediately spoke to me. These were skate shoes made by skaters like etnies. So we launched DC together.

For a long time, it seemed as if etnies had forgotten its French roots. How do you explain this sudden flashback?

etnies is a brand that was launched from the United States. In France, we have always remained very present with the distributor Jean Marc Vaissette via V7. Afterwards, compared to other brands, we do not have the same marketing budgets. Above all, we rely on the fact that these are shoes developed by skaters for skaters with very high manufacturing requirements in terms of durability, board feel and grip.

For some time now, you have been traveling a lot here in France, etnies sponsors a lot of local events like the Red Bull Conquest which took place here in Paris last year, the 2024 Olympic Games will also take place in Paris. Isn’t the Olympics also an opportunity that etnies would like to seize?

With all the excitement going on around the games, it’s super important to be there for both the skate and the culture and to make sure that the decisions are going in the right direction. We would also like to use this enthusiasm to better explain what skate culture is to the government and municipalities. There is a certain responsibility of etnies, which was born in Paris then left for the US to grow and shine throughout the world.

It is also an opportunity for us to push the powers that be to open more skateparks, infrastructure, etc. But also to make them live afterwards by organizing activities, events, courses. Because a place where only skateboarders come to ride is useless. You have to bring the place to life.

Here in Paris, strangely, we don’t have a skatepark worthy of the name

It’s incredible ! While they are going to set up a skatepark on the Place de la Concorde. Instead, they could have created a covered space, which endures. I had tried to convince them that it was not a good idea. But they didn’t want to. With this ephemeral park in the heart of Paris, their goal is to use Place de la Concorde and skateboarding as a postcard. Even though it’s a nice exhibition for skateboarding, it’s still not cool for the locals.

I had suggested to them the idea of creating a park in the Champs de Mars. We could have created a great park with grass that goes up and down. When the weather is good, the skatepark goes up and when the weather is bad, the skatepark goes down. It’s covered. I had sold it to them as an incredible architectural project that could have made people dream. Instead, they preferred this ephemeral park.
Today, we have to deal with it. We will keep pushing to have this park.

ITW Pierre André Senizergues

You are lobbying

Somehow. Afterwards, I am not at all involved in the Olympics or with the city of Paris. I try to help at my level and make them benefit from my 45 years of skateboarding. I’m from here, today, I live in the US. I created a skatepark in the US, in Lake Forrest, which is owned by the city. It’s also my calling card when I talk to them about park projects. We have to keep talking about it. I am surprised when, for example, I see Charlotte Hym, who is taking part in the Olympics, explaining in Le Parisien that she sometimes trains under a bridge. That’s crazy! And then there is also the fact that we are in a big city. Decisions are slower to make. Whereas in smaller towns things move fast. But it will eventually happen.

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