Focus / Lionel Dominoni

Interview and portrait: Benjamin Deberdt
Photos and vidéo: Julien Sola

 Benjamin Deberdt

Lionel is one of those skaters that just don’t seek the media attention, but still manage to stay a conversation subject for many… Where is he, what is he up to? I won’t guarantee any scoop, only a confirmation of the thing that makes people talk: his talent for manipulating his board with total ease and smoothness, at least for what it seems to us onlookers. A talent many would envy, really…
End of the day, Lionel will not change to fit any mould, and this is quite a nice sight in our very conformist little world. Lionel does Lionel, and if ya dig, ya dig, if you will… But, as I am no rapper, I’ll just state that Lionel does what comes naturally to him, does it good, and we should adapt to that!

Introduce yourself, for those who have never heard of you…
I’m 25, and in my seventh year of living in Paris. Before that, I did two years of high school in Nice [South of France, Editor’s note], and before that I was living in Africa. I did one year, as a baby in Djibouti, then on to Benin for five years, then Ivory Coast, then Togo for another five years. That’s where I met Boris Proust and started skating, while in High school…

Did you move to Paris for school?
Yes, school, and Nice hadn’t really made much of an impression on me… I would come here often for holydays, I ended up meeting a few people while skating, like at Bercy… So, I thought: “Well, why not just move here?”

And now what are you up to?
I quit university about a year and a half ago, so I’m just chilling… [Laughter] And skating!

Weren’t you speaking about moving to Barcelona, at one point?
It was an Erasmus project [the European Community student exchange program, Editor’s note], but it didn’t happen. Barcelona is a sought after destination, and there are few spots for many volunteers. It’s based on your results, and also girls are favored, as they are supposed to be more serious. Which is true, actually! So, if there are about 16 spots, they’ll give around 10 to girls. You better sell your case! [Laugther] Looks like I didn’t sell mine very well…

 Julio Sola

Switch ollie in Zagreb. Photo: Julio Sola

Sponsor wise, where do you stand, actually?
I have been skating for Nike for a hot minute. I was on éS for a little while, and when the brand folded, I was asked if I would be into getting shoes from Nike. Which was fine, by me! And I have been skating for Element for a while, and Nozbone skateshop.

Are you ready for that new Nozbone video project I have been hearing about?
[Laughter] Well, mentally, yes… Yep, it will be good. If we can organize a couple trips a bit out the ordinary. And the crew is cool, traveling and skating with all them is always cool!

You don’t travel that much, doesn’t it get boring skating in Paris, after a while?
Well, it’s true that after a while of going over and over to the known and usual spots, you lose motivation, but this can also spark something else. Because you know there are many spots left and right, but you don’t go because of laziness, because nobody wants to go, because there are too many pedestrians, well, because you skate in Paris, right? So, you motivate yourself and you realize there are many places to go to… End of the day, if I’m going to stay in France, might as well be in Paris, you have everything you need, if you move your ass a bit.

So, you would be more into going somewhere foreign… What kind of destination?
Just from gut feelings, I wouldn’t mind going to the West Coast, San Francisco. From what I have seen, for skating, and to explore, it looks really different, and just good! I’m into it! Also, most people that have been to Australia, like Yann Garin, seem like they fell in love with the place. It’s a big trip, but I’m tempted, if the option is there.

I wanted to speak about how your part was mainly build on lines, and end of the day on a skating you actually practice everyday…
It wasn’t really conscious… When I film, I’m not thinking about doing something that wouldn’t be me. That whole time I was filming with Julio, I was in a mood for lines. So, I get out the house, and if the spot turns into a line, it wasn’t premeditated; it’s just the way I skate.

 Julio Sola

Switch frontside heelflip in Paris. Photos: Julio Sola

What do you think of the fact that media, and mostly magazines, are in demand for those big tricks?
Actually, I find it that, lately, we are being shown a whole lot of different aspects of skating, from different crews. Sure, most Americans stick to the hammer format, but in Europe, see Palace or those type of guys, they show something else. Like Chewy Cannon: people seem to dig what he does, and I think it’s a great side of skateboarding to be pushed. That shows you don’t have throw hammers, nowadays, if you dig, you can get out in the streets and show lines, you don’t need NBD’s!

[Laughter] We are on the same page… What are your projects for the summer?
None… Being young and broke in Paris! [Laughter] Try to be less broke, and work…

You were mentioning Palace, have you ever skated London?
Non, never been to London, but from the videos and what I hear from friends, it seems really cool… And it’s so close! That could be a cheap compromise for a trip!

Well, life in London isn’t exactly cheap, but its only two hours away!
If someone has a trip lined-up, I’ll go! This is one of my favorite things to do, so I’m open. I dream of far away things, just because, but I’m ready to go anywhere.

On a final note, what skates have been getting you amped, lately?
Loads… Who’s above the lot? Palace crew, I find them so interesting, so innovative while still being gritty! And then, I still have my old influences from back then, Marc Johnson, Jason Dill, Jake Johnson… And in France, well, Lucas, the master! It’s always motivations to see footage of him, and also seeing all the guys in South of France putting out so much, that’s so great!

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