When it comes to sports, Montreal is typically associated with two major franchises: the Canadiens and the former Expos. If you're a skater, though, you also link Canada's second largest city with growing skateboard franchise Pierre-Luc Gagnon, aka PLG.
Over the past decade, PLG has gone from a schoolboy trying to stay out of trouble to a professional skater earning his way on wheels and living it up in the unofficial capital of skateboarding, Southern California.
STACK caught up with PLG while he was preparing for the ASA Action Sports World Tour stop at King's Island amusement park in Cincinnati. We learned what made him cross the northern border, how he prepares for competition and more.
STACK: What about skateboarding caught your eye?
Pierre-Luc Gagnon: Skateboarding is just something you can go out and do on your own. It's all about being creative, unique and doing your own thing. There's no one telling you what to do, how to do it. It's just about making up your own tricks and having fun doing it. There's [no] required moves or tricks … so the art form and the lifestyle of skateboarding [were] really appealing to me.
STACK: What was your road to becoming a pro skater?
PLG: I started skating in Montreal. In 1996, I won the Vans Warped Tour, which was a tour … across America and Europe. The winner of each stop would win a trip to the finals in Hollywood, California … [and I] ended up winning the finals. Vans gave me a little contract and a travel budget that allowed me to leave Montreal. I got to travel and go to events, and that's pretty much how I got started.
STACK: What did your family think when you decided to become a pro skateboarder?
PLG: Unlike other parents, my dad was always really supportive. He was like, "As long as you are doing good in school, I'll support you in skating. Just keep getting good grades, and then it doesn't matter if you don't get a good career out of skating. You'll have school to fall back on." He just wanted me to have fun growing up, [and] it was a way to keep me motivated in school. If I wasn't doing good, he could take away skating. It pretty much saved my life, because it was something positive I did; it kept me out of trouble…gangs, drugs [and] all that stuff.
STACK: How do you train for competitions like the ASA Action Sports World Tour here in Cincy?
PLG: I just go to the ramp every day [and] work on new tricks, work on lines, combos [and] new combinations of tricks. I usually … do some [core work] in the morning, then go skate in the afternoon.
STACK: How do you come up with new tricks and combos?
PLG: A lot of times I get inspired by street skaters. I'll see them pull a ledge trick, and I'm going to try to pull it up to a vert ramp. Or I'll see a trick that I am really into, and I am going to try and combine [it] with another trick. I just try to be creative and come up with something new—untapped stuff no one has done…like the Nollie Heel Flip Indy 540 and Switch Heel Flip Front Side 360.
STACK: Did you go from street to vert, or did you always skate vert?
PLG: When I started skating, vert was really big; and there was a vert ramp by my house, so I pretty much started on vert. I have always skated street, and it really helps my skating on vert. 'Cause if I learn a trick on a ledge or on flat, like a Switch Flip, then I can go and do [it] on vert. I have been doing a lot of 360 Kick Flips on flat so it really helps me if I want to do a Trey Flip Mute on vert, 'cause it's basically the same trick; I'm just bringing a trick I'm doing on flat ground to the vert ramp.
STACK: Any misconceptions about skaters you want to set straight?
PLG: We are just average guys; we just enjoy skateboarding and doing our own thing. We don't really like being told what to do. This is why we pick skating, 'cause it's about doing your own thing. I guess we have a bad rep because of how we look or how we may dress—we might not conform to the average look of a teenager.
STACK: Any advice for younger skaters trying to make it big?
PLG: Have fun doing what you're doing. If you are not having fun, it's really hard to get good. Find whatever your passion is; that's what it is all about.
Pierre-Luc Gagnon's Fakie 720 Melon
I start by going up the pipe with a lot of speed and my body slightly twisted at the waist. I keep my front foot over the front bolts and back foot on the center of the tail. I begin initiating my spin at the top of the coping.
Once over the coping, I begin my spin.
At about 180°, I grab my board melon slightly behind my left foot with my left hand.
As I'm spinning, I'm really trying to stay tucked and turn my body.
Keeping my head tucked to my right shoulder at 540°, I look to spot my landing.
I land at the top of the ramp, extending my legs to get into a good landing position so I can get ready to go into my next trick.
"It's a challenging trick, but it feels pretty good to spin two full rotations in the air, then land and roll away from it." - PLG
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Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock