PLG – Juice Magazine State of Skate Interview

Name: Pierre-Luc Gagnon
Hometown: Montreal, Canada to Encinitas, California
Age: 35
Sponsors: Monster, New Balance, GoPro, Diamond, Grizzly, Thunder Trucks, Darkstar, Ethika, Skeleton Key, Boneless, Exo Shop, Gold Wheels.

What set-up are you riding right now?
Right now I ride a Darkstar skateboard impact plus, which means it’s got carbon fiber inserts on the top and bottom under the trucks and half of the top sheet. It’s an 8 3/8” board, full concave with 14 3/4” wheelbase with 149 Thunder trucks with 58mm Gold wheels. When I ride park, I go down to 55 or 56mm wheels. When I ride vert, I always ride 58mm’s. If I’m trying some trick that’s really tech and I don’t need much speed, I’ll go down to 56mm’s. 95% of the time I’m riding 58mm’s.

What’s the most fun skater-built or renegade spot that you’ve skated lately?
We went to the Valley Center skate spot and skated there recently and it’s super dope. From there, we drove further inland and skated this DIY backyard pool that’s not like a real pool. It’s a DIY bowl and it’s pretty sick. It’s got red brick coping.

Have you ever built something to skate?
I grew up in Montreal, Canada, and I’ve been building ramps with my dad since I was 12 years old. We built a ramp in my backyard when I was 11, with my parents. In 1992, we opened up a skatepark. My dad ran that skatepark from ‘92 to ‘98 and he built all those ramps with the local skaters. My dad has always been really good at building and construction. He built his own house in 1982, so that really translated to building ramps. We’ve been building tons of ramps in Canada since I was a kid. Since I’ve lived in California, I haven’t really had to build anything because there are so many skateparks here. I designed the Monster Energy ramp with Colin McKay and Jake Brown. We designed that ramp and got it built by California Skateparks. It was such a big project that we couldn’t do it on our own. We needed a full professional crew. Right now I’m working on getting something built in my backyard in Encinitas. I’ve definitely got a lot of history building ramps. In Canada, there’s not that much concrete. There were a lot of indoor parks with wooden ramps because we’ve got winter five months out of the year. Now Montreal has a really sick outdoor DIY park called Project 45. It’s pretty dope. The city gave these kids a piece of land and they can do whatever they want with it and they are in the process of adding obstacles every year. It’s a full DIY park. (You can donate to the cause here )

Who do you like to skate with these days?
I’ve been skating a lot with Jimmy Wilkins, Sam Beckett, Marcel Bastos, Elliott Sloan and Paul-Luc Ronchetti. I’ve been skating with those guys on a daily. The guy I’ve been skating with the most has to be Jimmy Wilkins because he’s out skating every single day. I skate a lot too. It’s getting harder and harder to keep up with a 21-year-old when I’m 35. [Laughs] The cool thing about skating with kids is that it keeps you young. I have to stay on their program, even though I’m getting older and they’re getting younger. It’s pretty awesome to get to skate with the younger kids all the time.

Best skate graphic you have seen lately?
I like the Cliche series. It’s all Mr. Nice and Mr. Clean. It’s a plain board with a character describing the skater’s personality. It’s cool. AntiHero always has dope graphics too. I like pretty much everything they do. I like the AntiHero and Krooked graphics. The other thing I like that has been coming back is the graphics with wood grain. It’s kind of going back to graphics from the early ‘90s with just a graphic on part of the board and the natural wood would show through. In the ‘90s, I remember there would be a graphic around the front truck and the rest of the board was blank. That style looks super dope and it’s cool that it’s coming back. I like it when the graphic is a small part of the board and shows a lot of the wood grain.

Best thing you’ve ever skated in a skatepark and what skatepark was it?
Honestly, the best thing I’ve ever skated is the ramp that we designed with Monster and DC Shoes. They gave us a budget and complete freedom to build whatever we wanted, so Colin McKay, Jake Brown and I got together and designed this vertical park. It’s a vert ramp, but we added a bunch of obstacles to the ramp to get away from the plain and boring typical vert ramp. We added a pyramid in the middle of the ramp and it’s got offset walls and all sorts of set backs and different size transitions and extensions. It’s my favorite thing I’ve ever skated. There are not many people that have budgets to get to build ramps this size with that many features. We were lucky enough to be able to work with Monster Energy and DC Shoes to build something like that. I grew up skating the Big O in Montreal and that’s a fully natural halfpipe made out of concrete. It was used in the 1976 Olympics for the athletes to walk onto the track and field and it’s a perfectly natural halfpipe. When I was a kid, I used to skate it all the time.

Favorite skateboarders of all time?
My favorite skater would be Tony Hawk. Growing up skating, Tony was one of the ultimate innovators and he created most of the tricks. He would show up at every single contest with a new trick. When I first started, he was in his prime and I was lucky enough to skate with him plenty of times. After that, it’s Danny Way. Danny Way and Colin McKay were the first two guys to bring technical skating to vert ramps. They are definitely the leaders of that style of skating when vert skating totally changed from all the inverts to all the kickflip Indys and stuff. They’re the ones that brought flip tricks to vert skating. Going younger, Luan Oliveira is a favorite, as far as street skating goes. I’m a big fan of his skating because he can do any super tech trick and ledges, but when he gets to the quarter pipe, he’ll shred that too and do a frontside flip disaster. It’s a nice combination of street skating and transition skating. I think that’s super rad. Then there are guys like Rowan Zorilla. He’s awesome. His part is my favorite part in the Vans video because he skates everything. He’ll hit a park, a vert wall and a handrail. I think guys that skate like that are so rad. The last one would be Jimmy Wilkins. He’s my buddy and he’s got the raddest style on vert and he’s got the best ollies. It’s really nice to see all of the new up and coming vert skaters. Jimmy is bringing something new to vert skating.

Is there anything that hasn’t been built to skate yet that you’d like to see built?
It always comes down to budget. I’d like to see some sort of vert ramp built down a slope like a snowboard halfpipe. I’d like to see see a super long and wide ramp that goes down a slope like a snake run. I think that would be rad. It can end in a giant bowl or something. I don’t think that’s ever been built and that would be pretty rad.

Best road trip you ever took?
The Monster team, Raven Tershy, Sam Beckett, Tom Schaar, Trey Woods, myself, and Corbin Harris, just went to Mammoth for a week. That was super rad. It was different. I’m not really used to skating concrete parks like that, especially a park where everything is so big. It was a rad trip.

Are there any skate-related charities that you support?
I always support the Tony Hawk Foundation. We always do demos for Tony’s Foundation and we skate his private ramp almost every day. Every time he asks me to do a demo for his Foundation I’m always down. They build tons of skateparks in bad neighborhoods and it’s a good cause that brings something positive to skateboarders.

What music have you been listening to lately?
It’s pretty crazy. I listen to a mix of different shit. I’ll listen to rap and then I’ll listen to the Smiths and then I’ll listen to The Highwaymen. It’s a mix of old rock, country and hip hop. I like to mix it up. If it sounds good, I’m down for it.

What do you consider the responsibilities of a professional skateboarder?
Obviously, if you get sponsored, you have a responsibility to represent your sponsors well. If it wasn’t for them, you wouldn’t be able to make a living off of skating. If someone is going to pay me to ride a skateboard, I’ll try to make sure they’re happy with what I’m doing to represent their brand and I’m going to try to do everything I can to make that brand successful. Also, you have to be nice and give back to the kids. If there are no kids supporting you and watching you skate and buying your product, you wouldn’t be able to make a living skating. Make sure that you’re always ready to make your sponsors happy and be there for the kids. If someone is going to pay me to ride a skateboard, all I have to do is make sure that I rep their brand, and that’s pretty easy. If that allows me to skate all day and not get a job, it’s the least I can do. Obviously, skate every day and have fun. Be passionate and try to be innovative with your skating. Skateboarding is an art form, so you want to be original and unique and try to bring something new and creative to the game.

Which skate shops do you support and go to the most?
I support McGill’s out here in Encinitas and I have a shop sponsor in Quebec City called Exo Shop. It’s pretty rad to have a sponsor from where I’m from. I’ve been living in California for so long and all my sponsors are California-based and I wanted to have something that kept me in touch with Quebec. I linked up with Exo Shop and I’ve been riding for them for the past six months, so that’s awesome.

Favorite skate photo of all time?
There are so many of them. I like the Sturt cover of Danny Way from the first time he did the Mega Ramp. Sturt poached the cover from TransWorld. He was dressed as some airport worker and he went hiding in the cuts with his camera. Sturt poached the cover and they released it with Thrasher before TransWorld was about to release it. It was Danny Way doing a 16-foot air and it was a High Air World Record. The photo shoot was organized with Grant and Swift and those guys and Sturt went in there in disguise and fully poached the cover and released it. His photo was just as good, if not better. The whole story around it is pretty amazing. That’s why I had to pick that. Sturt is awesome. I love him. I remember we had this little Mega Ramp built in the parking lot at Black Box a few years ago, and he’d walk his dog and roll by and hang out. You’d look up and Sturt would be up there with his dog. He’s a special character. He’s always been super cool every time I’ve run into him.

What is your take on girls skateboarding?
They’re having fun and they’re passionate about what they do. It’s all good. I’m not hating on it. I used to have a little bit of beef with girl vert skaters because the guys were skating every day all year and working so hard on trying to get better. We were always having fun, and we were out there every single day. These girls would come out two weeks before the X Games and start skating and then be done. You wouldn’t see them for eight months until the next X Games and they would bitch that they weren’t getting paid the same amount of money as we were. I’m like, “Once you start showing up at the ramp every day like we do and start putting as much effort and work into it as we do, then you would deserve the same amount of money as we do.” Now it’s starting to change. I think there are a lot more girls that skate a lot, like Lizzie, Alysha and Leticia. It’s starting to change and it’s a lot better than it used to be in the early 2000’s when I wasn’t really backing it. Now some of the girls aren’t just trying to collect a paycheck and they’re more passionate about skating.

Who contributes the most to your local skate scene?
I’d say it’s all those kids like Jimmy Wilkins and Alex Perelson, the young new generation of vert skaters. I think they’re the ones really bringing in deep tricks and new blood. They’re bringing something new to the game.

Top three favorite skate tricks?
I really like watching someone do a gnarly high speed backside tail slide. I’m a big fan of Jimmy Wilkin’s giant frontside ollie and I used to be a huge fan of Mike Crum. He had some of the best ollies. It was Remy Stratton and then Mike Crum and now Jimmy Wilkins. Back tail and frontside ollies. On my end, I’ve always been a big fan of my nollie heel flips. That’s my favorite trick on vert. I just like the way it feels.

Do you think skateboarding should be in the Olympics?
That’s a tough question. It could bring something positive to the skaters and help some of them make a better living. Some of them are barely making it. Some skaters are making a good living and doing really great and then some guys, like Marcello Bastos who is an amazing vert skater, are barely making it. I think if skateboarding were in the Olympics, it could make a Brazilian skater like that able to make a way better living. At the same time, I don’t want the Olympics to step in and try to change skating and adapt skateboarding to the Olympics. I think if skateboarding ever becomes an Olympic sport, it has to stay like it is. It can’t change. We can’t be wearing jerseys and they can’t change the contests formats and demand required tricks and that kind of stuff. The Olympics can’t step in and try to recreate skateboarding. They have to take it the way it is. That’s why I’m not hating on it completely because I think it could help a lot of skaters make a better living by becoming an Olympic sport. That’s the positive side about it. At the same time, it could make it corny and weird. We have to make sure it’s done properly.

What is your proudest moment in skateboarding so far?
For me, it was winning X Games three years in a row. The third year felt pretty awesome. It just felt good because I put in a lot of time and skating vert and working on it. Getting a third win, back to back, I don’t think anyone had done that before, so I was pretty happy about that.

PLG_IndyAiR-danmathieu PLG Dive bombing an Indy nose bone. Photo by Daniel Mathieu



When we started Juice Magazine 22 years ago, you could count the number of skateparks on one hand and grindable pool coping was mostly a distant memory. Now there are thousands of skateparks all over the world, along with a vast quantity of DIY spots built to skate. In 1993, the majority of skateboarders listened to punk rock or hip hop exclusively. Now skateboarders listen to almost every kind of sound created. Two decades ago, skateboarding related charities were non-existent. Today, there are numerous non-profits giving back to skateboarding in many ways. One of the most important differences between now and then is that, 22 years ago, there was a clear division between old school and new school skateboarding. Now that wall of separation has followed the same path as the Berlin Wall, allowing for an unprecedented unification of skateboarders all over the globe. Great strides have been made for girls that skate as well as the acceptance of skate history and long overdue recognition for skateboarding’s pioneers and its artifacts. At the same time, the current generation of skateboarders is taking skateboarding to new heights, previously unimaginable. As the landscape of the skateboarding industry changes on a daily basis, and the topic of skateboarding in the Olympics rears its head once again, along with the disturbing subject of who controls skateboarding being tossed about by corporate entities, we decided it was time to take a good look at the State of Skate. We asked 20 questions to 100 skateboarders, ages 8 to 58, and found that skateboarding is as diverse as the skateboarders that are addicted to it, no one controls skateboarding except skateboarders, and the State of Skate is savage and strong. Now get out there and skate tough!

JUICE MAGAZINE STATE OF SKATE features interviews with 100 skateboarders including: Tony Alva, Dave Hackett, Chris Strople, Duane Peters, Steve Olson, Dave Duncan, Steve Alba, Tony Magnusson, Pat Black, Jesse Martinez, Bill Danforth, Jim Murphy, Ric Widenor, Lester Kasai, Glen Charnoski, Bryan Pennington, Peter Furnee, Jeremiah Risk, Ryan Smith, Jason Jessee, Omar Hassan, Cam Dowse, Jen O’Brien, Depth Leviathan Dweller, Brett Roper, Travis Beattie, Chris Gentry, CW Dunn, Chris Albright, Charlie Wilkins, Cairo Foster, Pierre-Luc Gagnon, BJ Morrill, Dr. Lenore L.A. Sparks, Sid Melvin, Jesse Irish, Packy Fancher, Greg Lutzka, Jimmy Larsen, Adam Dyet, Luis Tolentino, Greg Harbour, Frank Faria, Ryan DeCenzo, Dave Bachinsky, Johnny Turgesen, Casey Meyer, Edward Sanchez, David Gravette, Ben Hatchell, Brian Geib, Felipe Gouveia, Eric Santos, Kyle Smith, Cameron Revier, Josh Stafford, Justin Grubbs, Etienne Eden Archila, Sanzio Piacentini, Josh Elder, Eddie “Mighty” Moreno, Kevin Kowalski, Otto Pflanz, Jeremy Smith, Adam Wiggins, Jimmy Wilkins, Danny Gordon, Jake Hilbish, Corey Blanchette, Adam Legassie, Nick Santos, Trey Rounds, Curren Caples, Justyce Tabor, Andy Anderson, Sarah Thompson, Coral Guerrero, Collin Graham, Derek Scott, Ace Pelka, Sonny Rodriguez, Jarren Duke, Mikayla Sheppard, CJ Titus, Noah Schott, Emily Earring, Julian Torres, Wyatt Wisenbaker, Josh Forsberg, Nathan Midgette, Roman Pabich, Yago Dominguez, Jack Winburn, Jonas Carlsson, Kiko Francisco, Bryce Ava Wettstein, Desmond Shepherd, Matty Jessee and Luke Kahler.


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