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Mika Germond

Just skate the way you want to

The beauty of skateboarding is that there are no set guidelines and that you have room for individual development. Everyone can do their own thing and do whatever they want. It’s a meeting place for free spirits – at least ideally. In reality, however, there are just as many codes of conducts, guidelines, and no-go’s as in other scenes or social groups. The range of what shit flies and what shit absolutely doesn’t fly is usually linked to seemingly arbitrary trends, but it nonetheless unfolds a strong normative effect. Wear the wrong outfit, do the wrong tricks, be interested in the wrong things apart from skating and you can quickly feel like nobody invited you to the party. Mika Germond, however, does not care about such a narrow-mindedness. Whether it’s the fact that he enjoys the despised competitive just as much as the highly regarded creative side of skateboarding, that he’s using his hands by doing a caveman in or a yank out, or even that he recently started learning jazz dance, his thought patterns are more open. All this helps to bring out his approach to skating from the masses of the mainstream.

Soloskatemag Mika Drop1

Step on 50-50

Soloskatemag Mika Drop2

Photos by Fabien Ponsero

How old are you actually Mika?

I’m 27. I started skating when I was 11, but only when I moved to London in 2010 did I figure out that it’s good to skate every day, which I didn’t do before.

Why did you move to London?

Because I failed my exam for my second year at university – I studied sports – and my parents didn’t want me to stay in Paris to find a random job. They told me to go to London, to learn English, and to gather some experience. I didn’t want to go, because I had a girlfriend in France, but now I’m super thankful.

And then you moved back to Paris?

When I say Paris, I mean the suburbs of Paris. I moved back there, but realized that traveling is a really good thing to do. I thought that I might go to another city for my master’s degree.

You’ve known Maxime Verret for a long time. Is that what helped you to get more into the skateboarding world, being with a photographer?

We grew up skateboarding together. We were taking pictures of each other and slowly we evolved, and it helps me a lot for sure. I think Tura [David Turakiewicz] gave me the first opportunity to be in a magazine and it was a picture Maxime took.

Is there your vision of a trick, his vision of a shot and then you create something you both didn’t expect?

Sometimes he shows me some spot that made him think of me and then we go there and I try, but a lot of photos came about naturally, we never really plan anything.

You prefer to skate spontaneously?

Not in Lyon. In Lyon I’m always managing things and arranging the days skating because everyone else wants to go to Hôtel de Ville. It’s hard to get them away from that spot. I tried for years, but I understood that I have to go to different spots on my own with a photographer or a filmer. It will not be as fun as a session with your friends, but you’re more productive.

I guess that’s why your upcoming part is called “No Hotel”? But there are enough spots to skate in Lyon besides Hôtel.

For me, there’s enough spots, but maybe that’s because of the way I want to skate. Because it’s mainly sketchy or shitty spots. I have like 200 pictures of spots I want to skate on my phone. When I’m showing around strangers in Lyon, I’ll always get out the list. But usually people decline because they don’t see that there’s a spot. I like figuring out ways to make something weird at a spot by doing the right trick on it. Exploring the city to find some treasures is the best.

"In Lyon I’m always managing things and arranging the days skating because everyone else wants to go to Hôtel de Ville. It’s hard to get them away from that spot"

And then you moved back to Paris?

When I say Paris, I mean the suburbs of Paris. I moved back there, but realized that traveling is a really good thing to do. I thought that I might go to another city for my master’s degree.

You’ve known Maxime Verret for a long time. Is that what helped you to get more into the skateboarding world, being with a photographer?

We grew up skateboarding together. We were taking pictures of each other and slowly we evolved, and it helps me a lot for sure. I think Tura [David Turakiewicz] gave me the first opportunity to be in a magazine and it was a picture Maxime took.

Soloskatemag Mika Rail

Caveman Boardslide | Photo by Fabien Ponsero

A ledge is a ledge and you can do a million combinations on them but you need the right tricks for the spots you skate, of course.

That’s the thing I like. I think I’m not patient enough to skate ledges and manny pads. You have to practice and try all over again. If I have to give it one hundred tries, I’d want to make it a mission and not try to learn a certain trick. I don’t want to waste my time on that. It’s not the way I want to skate.

You’re also doing a lot of caveman stuff and yank outs. Why do you use your hands that much?

Back in my hometown I was doing a lot of grabs and hippie jumps. Back then, it wasn’t the trending trick so I stopped to skate like that and tried to do the tricks everybody else did. When I moved to Lyon, I kept on trying. After I got on Antiz, Juju [Julien Bachelier] told me, “Just skate the way you want to skate and people are gonna like you for who you are.” It took some time to understand that, but it’s pretty much what I do right now. It’s good for my brain, it’s good for my self-esteem.

It’s cool that he encouraged you because it’s way more interesting if you see someone who skates differently. For example, the drop you did in Israel. That’s something interesting.

But it’s different when you’re on a trip because you have to produce. You can’t be on a trip to Israel with Vans for ten days and not do a trick. But I like this kind of pressure.

So you like the challenge? You like to compete with yourself?

Yeah. Fuck, I don’t want to see that sentence in the magazine, but I’m kind of the competition guy. I don’t want to do competitions with scores and runs, but I like the pressure that comes with being on a trip with limited time. You have to be good because otherwise the brand is gonna waste money and you’re gonna waste time.

It’s cool to compete with yourself to go beyond your limits.

Skateboarding is super good for that.

You said that you were studying sports, which means that you probably did other sports on the side.

I did karate for 14 years.

Soloskatemag Mika Boardslide

Backside Boardslide | Photo by Fabien Ponsero

Wow, so you have a black belt?

Yeah, I stopped right after… Because I was this kid who changed his mind every day, my dad was like, “Okay, you can try everything but first stick to one please.” So I stuck to it till I got my black belt and then I was able to quit. It wasn’t that much fun even though I won some competitions and was trained by the coach of the national team. I stopped at 19. In the meantime, I did five years of rugby. I broke my ankles, I broke my head and got some scars. I stopped and then I tried pole vaulting. Did that from age 19 till I was 24. I did it during my studies and started to work in that field. I started to train some people, so nowadays I’m kind of a trainer in pole vaulting, I only have two hours of practice every week though. Recently I started dancing, I’m doing this jazz Charleston dance.

With your girlfriend Selma?

No, alone. My sister and mother used to dance so I went to a lot of shows and I always liked to see people dance and I wanted to try.

"I won some karate competitions and was trained by the coach of the national team."

Wow, so you have a black belt?

Yeah, I stopped right after… Because I was this kid who changed his mind every day, my dad was like, “Okay, you can try everything but first stick to one please.” So I stuck to it till I got my black belt and then I was able to quit. It wasn’t that much fun even though I won some competitions and was trained by the coach of the national team. I stopped at 19. In the meantime, I did five years of rugby. I broke my ankles, I broke my head and got some scars. I stopped and then I tried pole vaulting. Did that from age 19 till I was 24. I did it during my studies and started to work in that field. I started to train some people, so nowadays I’m kind of a trainer in pole vaulting, I only have two hours of practice every week though. Recently I started dancing, I’m doing this jazz Charleston dance.

With your girlfriend Selma?

No, alone. My sister and mother used to dance so I went to a lot of shows and I always liked to see people dance and I wanted to try.

I once did an interview with a guy who said skateboarding is a certain form of dancing.

It’s expressing yourself. I’m not that poetic, but I think some poetic people can speak about skateboarding the way others speak about dancing.

But back to karate. Did you go full contact?

No, that’s what I didn’t like about it. It was kata. Just a combination of movements in the air, a choreography. The competitions were about that. I was good, but it was not as enjoyable.

But you have your black belt, you did rugby – I guess you can knock somebody out easily?

I never did it. But I like the contact. Maybe you can compare it to skateboarding too. I don’t care if I fall hard. I like the physical engagement your body has with your surroundings.

Do you think doing karate helped your skating?

I think it helped when it comes to falling because you learn how to use your body, how to avoid pain.

So you studied sports because you were interested in it?

Not really. I wanted to become an engineer or an architect but then I realized that it’s going to take five to six years… So I moved to sports because I thought it would be easy, but then I failed my second year. That was a big turning point in my life. Before, I had no problem passing anything, but my first failure changed that mindset forever. I started thinking more about why I want to do things ever since. After that, I focused on my studies way more.

And now you’re a coach.

I teach people how to feel good in their own body and how to learn to accept it.

Soloskatemag Mika Grab

Caveman Nosepick | Photo by Maxime Verret

How does your work look like?

During the week, I have between 15 to 20 hours of work but it almost doubles when you add the time I spend in the car. I usually go to some house to teach one hour of personal training. But I also work with kids on tracks and fields, and I train a kid in tennis. This part of my job is the only aspect related to competition because I’m training him for winning. I’m his physiotherapist, not like his tennis coach.

You’re in pretty good shape yourself as well. How and why did you get an upper body like a superhero? Aesthetic reasons? Health?

When I was competing in pole vaulting I was practicing four days a week. Lifting weight, running, and technical jumping. I was seven kilos heavier. I stopped because I wasn’t into it anymore. I’ve lost the seven kilos of muscles. It was way too much before.

So it’s not really good for skateboarding to have so many muscles?

It was too much. I didn’t feel like that at the moment, but I realize the difference right now. I was training my legs a lot before because I was running and jumping but recently I’ve started to get sore more often and I’m wondering whether it’s because I’m not doing it anymore or because I’m getting older. I feel lighter than before, but I feel like I have less power.

If something is too high, you’ll just go with the caveman.

Or a hippie jump. [laughs] But yeah, it changed the way I skate, I guess.

I was a bit surprised that you like drinking beer. I thought you’d live the healthy sports lifestyle.

I’m still putting a lot of effort in trying to eat fruits, stretching, and sleeping regularly. So if I’m already doing some good stuff for my body, I might as well keep on drinking. You can’t delete all the pleasure in life. I don’t have the motivation to cancel everything. I’m not a big drinker but I like to buy a beer after the session, I like to go to festivals to do some bullshit.

You have some pleasures – coffee, beer, skateboarding – tattooed on your foot. Why there?

Because I don’t want to show them.

But you still wanted to have them. Why? And did you get them at the same time?

No, it’s all from different friends. My family is very against tattoos. I still wanted to do it, I wanted to do something wrong. The first one was the penny cruiser, then I got the Italian coffee machine, then the beer, and I would like to get some pistachio.

Soloskatemag Mika Rollon

Photos by Maxime Verret

Soloskatemag Rollon 5050

Roll on smith grind

So you’re living kinda healthy besides drinking a beer once in a while – how is it on Antiz tours?

It’s super easy. They all look like mad, super sketchy boys, but after all they are kinda all vegetarian and like cooking. But, of course, they like drinking a lot of beer as well. It’s family. We always have a good time, have some beer, sit at the bonfire, sleep outside.

How did you get on Antiz?

With the help of Mika from Wall Street Skateshop. I was like, “Hey, whenever you hear anything about a board sponsor, hit me up.” Two days later, he told me to go to Juju’s office and meet him.

That’s easy.

Yeah, that was easy. And the trips are super easy as well. Everything is super fun. There is no pressure.

Talking about pressure again, I think you don’t really need pressure even though you like it. You have the cobblestone part coming, then another part waiting to go online, you’re going to the Battle of Normandy… You have so many things you’re working on out of your own initiative, it doesn’t seem like people need to push you.

I don’t want to just skate around. I like to skate and produce. It might be about the competition thing again, but it helps me to progress. Projects help me grow. I like to be productive to see what I do. I also really like having a picture printed in a magazine. I think it’s my main goal. It’s great to see something that you did on paper. The process of going to the spot, performing the trick, taking the picture, waiting for the response of the magazine. It’s rewarding. Some people like to take videos and put them on Instagram. I don’t know how to do it. Some people are just talented and they are super good with it but I prefer to stick to print.

You are part of the Josimard Crew, right?

Well, I did a part with them. It was the first real crew I met in Lyon when I came here.

Is it true that you had to earn their respect to be part of the crew?

For me… It’s a strange thing. I was new in Lyon and I thought these guys would be good for me. It wasn’t like, “I have to be with these guys to be accepted in the scene,” but they were my age and pretty good skaters so I hung out with them. Slowly during the missions and filming and partying I started figuring out that they aren’t the kind of dudes that I wanted to hang out with.

Was it because everybody is making fun of each other?

Yeah, that’s the fact that annoyed me a bit. I wouldn’t even call it making fun of each other. It’s more like spitting on each other. Maybe they were joking, but it didn’t feel right. I still like a lot of the people from that crew, but I’m happy for not having to see others that often. I can’t say I was really part of the crew. I just did the video with them, partied with them. I didn’t want to change in order to be with the hype people. The crew is a bit scattered nowadays. A bunch of them went to Paris. And they are older now.

Soloskatemag Mika Drop

Bombdrop | Photo by Maxime Verret

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