Interviews Lifestyle

‘Skateboarding is about fun, perseverance, freedom and friendship’

By on 26th November 2016

While growing up in the Paris of the 80’s, Alexis Papadopoulos lived through to the rise of many new subcultures in the French capital. One of them was skateboarding, in which he played an integral part as the founder and owner of skate shop Nozbone in the heart of Paris. We asked him about growing up in Paris, starting the shop and about the skate scene in the French capital: “Since the terrorist attacks there’s a lot more police and military people on the streets, but for us skateboarders, everything else is the same. Skateboarding is still about fun, perseverance, freedom and friendship.”

For a teenager living in the city of light during the eighties, it was a time of excitement and discovery, says Alexis: “Growing up as a teenager in Paris in the late ’80’s was a lot of fun. Paris was not as quiet at the time as it is now. Many new trends were starting and there was a lot to discover. New subcultures were shaping itself, from Punk to Hip Hop, Graffiti, Electro and of course skateboarding.” – Continued below ⇓

entreeNozbone skate shop entrance | Photo: Alexis Papadopoulos

His first encounter with the sport was at this famous spot at the time called ‘Nation’, close to Alexis’ house. A friend of Alexis and his brother had a Holy Sport (big chain store at the time) skateboard, so the siblings decided to buy one too shortly after.  The three of them started skating down the buildings in their street and practicing together. One day they felt confident enough to go to Nation and see the bigger kids do their tricks. “It was a great feeling. The idea of persevering to learn new tricks, succeeding and meeting all the other guys spoke to me. It was a feeling of liberty and friendship, rolling through the city with all these other dudes.”

On a typical day of skateboarding Alexis would meet up with is friends at Nation and then everything could happen. “We were always looking for some new spots to skate in the area and learn new tricks. Sometimes we would steal some stuff from a construction site around to make our own obstacles, like jump ramps, for our spot and other times we’d leave for sessions all around Paris,  together with the Nation Crew.”

“We would steal some stuff from a construction site around to make our own obstacles.”

A bunch of rolling rebels roaming the streets of Paris might catch some attention. Especially in the 80’s when the skateboarding scene wasn’t as prominent as in later years. Obviously the police and security people at some of the skate spots weren’t too happy with these concrete defying kids: “You are in the street so you have to deal with getting into trouble. First the police and security that do not let you skate where you want to so easily. Paris is quite tolerant towards the sport now, though. And of course you have to manage the hood, where some people won’t let you skate and even try to rob you from some stuff and at least a cigarette.”

This didn’t stop him from doing his thing. Alexis, his board and his crew were inseparable, but he never thought about going pro. “I simply wasn’t good enough”, he states. “I don’t think many of us were thinking about that. The best thing you could have, were some shoes and boards from a shop. Later there were some sponsored guys like (Paris skate legends Ed.) Camilo Reyes, Raquique, Stéphane Larance, but none of them were pro. That kind of deals happened quite a bit later.” – Continued below ⇓

nb_pub_santiago_031Skateboarder Santiago Sasson from the Nozbone team | Photo: Alexandre Pires

Skateboarding had a different value for Alexis though, maybe worth even more than money: “Skateboarding is fun, perseverance, freedom and friendship; it’s all these values it gives to you. You never forget Skateboarding once you got into it, even for little a bit.”

Ironically Alexis now still is involved in the skate scene and making a living from it as the owner of skate shop Nozbone on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine in Paris: “I used to work in the music market mass retail and was fed up with the way they manage people and their business vision. Owning my own skateboard shop was always a dream of mine, since I was a kid. After many years of learning at other jobs I finally did it and opened my own store in 2003.” It was the best decision he ever made. “I don’t have to ask why I’m doing this every day”, he explains. “After thirteen years we still have the same idea of how we want to work. We want to keep it simple, be happy and try to pass on our passion and vision about skateboarding to the new generation. And the best thing is that I can meet my friends every day.” – Continued below ⇓

lequipeNozbone team photo with Alexis in the middle with the white shirt | Photo: Alexis Papadopoulos

In the last decades skateboarding has more and more become a global phenomenon. This means it has changed over time and this hasn’t passed Alexis. In the USA a lot of great spots were closed, like the famous Love Park in Philadelphia, but Paris is still pretty skate-able, says the skate shop owner: “Today the skate scene in Paris is quite strong. We at Nozbone have a team with more than 15 skaters. The new ‘République’ spot gathers lots of skaters and reunites many scenes in Paris. It’s not only the best skate spot, but the square where everybody gathers for demonstrations and stuff like that. It’s a street culture melting pot in a way. We are quite lucky in Paris, even though many spots were shut down too like Bercy or La Vague, but we have many new ones like République, Austerlitz, Diderot and many to come for sure.”

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noway-01-mai-juin-1989-18  The infamous Nation skate spot featured in Noway Magazine|Photo: Noway Mag, Jeff Lubrano