Meeting… Sylvain Tognelli

Photos: Henrick Biemer

Interview: Benjamin Deberdt

"One thing, though, I’m going to change my name to sell more boards […]"

 Henrick Biemer

Sylvain Tognelli has been following his own little path, since his native Juras years… Noticed in Lyon, only Frenchman to be adopted by a very British brotherhood because he did cut it, expat’ in Berlin with more persistence than most, Sylvain rarely does things like everybody else, in life as well as on his board… And this what makes it always enjoyable to ask him questions.
Add a time bustling with news that keep the world talking, and a fresh professional status, and you get an ideal interviewee candidate!

Keep us daydreaming: describe your winter in Berlin!
This winter hasn’t been the worst, but it is still hard to skate outside for five months. Yu get sunny and dry days, where we manage to motivate to get outside, but it really isn’t that good for your joints and tendons. When it is -10° Celsius, your muscle do warm up after about 45 minutes, but it is impossible to really loosen up. As far as technical progression goes, I imagine it is easier to live in a warmer place where you can skate every day of the year.
Nonetheless, winter makes you appreciate summer a lot more than someone in California would. The first days of spring, you rediscover that feeling of skating outside, and everybody is super happy. I also believe that winter is an advantage to open skateboarders to new activities, and make them more human.

That Valencia trip must have been a good break?
Spain is always nice, and Barcelona is still the epicenter of skateboarding, but every other city is a good destination. The police, there, on the other end, is getting worse and worse. We got lucky and got away this time!

For the people that are not in the known, what is your take on the whole Blueprint exile?
Blueprint got bought by an American distributor, four years ago, because the original British owner was going through liquidation. After a couple years, the disagreements with the owner about the direction of the brand kept growing. In the beginning, we tried to get things better; Paul [Shier] invested a lot of energy and time to right the ship. But, slowly, everybody realized that Blueprint couldn’t live up anymore to its original standards, and the decision to leave was the next step. Why skate for a company that isn’t the exact reflection of your vision?
The owner is now trying to re-launch the brand with a new team, while completely ignoring everything that made that company. I wish him luck, because if customers might not always know –whish is normal– shops and distributors, they won’t get duped.

 Henrick Biemer

Frontside smith grind, in Dresden, Germany.

When you all announced you were leaving Blueprint, you already knew what you were going to do?
Everybody tends to make plans with his friends, and not just skateboard companies.

How exciting is it to be part of something still in creation?
This question is a bit rhetorical… It’s fascinating to see a project grow from a strong vision, and shared values, nothing neither concrete nor quantifiable. Often, in skateboarding, projects are backed by external finances, so you have a dialogue between the investor and the creator. In the case of an independent project, everything goes inside a closed circle, only including the ones part of the creative aspect. I believe that help getting to the right temperature, and cooking things better. On my part, I think about a lot of things, but I am not the best at putting them in action. I’m getting there, slowly.

You have been on Lakai for a minute now…
Eight or nine years. First though a shop deal, thanks to Benny and Barbiche at Wall St [Lyon skateshop, NDLR], then through the French distributor, Jérôme, then Mathieu for Europe. I try to favor long-term relationships more than opportunities. As a consequence, I most likely miss out on other experiences, but, eventually, it’s more interesting to get to know the people and give the marketing relationship of sponsor/skater another dimension.

 Henrick Biemer

Frontside tailslide, in Antalya, Turkey.

Back to Berlin, do you see yourself there for much longer? You are part of the rare ones that stuck there for more than a summer, amongst all the skaters that “moved” there…
It must be four years that I live here, but I still don’t feel like I’m fully settled. Filming and taking photos aren’t necessarily the best way to feel invested locally. I’d love to be more involved in life, here. Plus, I still don’t speak German like my girl, and I’m not leaving without speaking this horrible language fluently!

Summer is coming –supposedly– what are your plans, so far?
Interesting trips, and good times in Berlin, finally learning German, and playing more golf! At the moment, we are filming the Grey video, which for me is a bit of a last minute decision. We did that week in Valencia, one week in London in February, now one in Lyon, and then we’ll have a last one in Berlin. Once again, that part will be filmed in about a month, in total. In a way, maybe it’s better that way; it’s easier to shape something in a short period of time. It looks more like your skateboarding, than a collection of your best tricks. Also, it’s fun to be part of many projects, but I think, one day, I will take the time. I’d be proud to put something out more refined.
Then, there is the Nozbone skateshop video that is scheduled for the end of the year another reason to go film with Ludo Azémar qui will do wonders once again. I haven’t been skating for them for a long time, but this is an important project.

Being pro, was that something you were aspiring to?
About six or seven years ago, Nick had asked me if one day I’d like to turn pro. I told him: “Off course not!” Then, I wasn’t ready, I was studying, and being an am allowed me to avoid a lot of responsibilities, so I was fine with it!
Now, it’s about three years that I am only skating, I make a living off skating, and first and foremost, I am convinced that I have something to bring to the table. I see this step more as a challenge for the future, than an objective to reach. One thing, though, I’m going to change my name to sell more boards, something like Silver Surfer should sell a lot better than Sylvain Tognelli.

You really had no idea?
Apart from the aforementioned conversation, I never spoke to anyone about it until a couple days ago, when Nick and Jake Harris arrived at the airport with champagne! Recently, in London, we had an Isle meeting, and apparently, they had spend a lot of time to erase my boards from everything they showed me!

Nice gesture! What’s next for Isle, a video?

Here is an appetizer of what Sylvain should be offering us in the next months:

Live Skateboard MediaLive Skateboard Media

Wait to pass announcement...