Meeting… Vincent Coupeau!

Photos: Thibault Le Nours (unless noted)
Interview: Benjamin Deberdt

"[…] all the Brits that ride for the brand are the most respectful, shy almost, behind the dozen of offensive tattoos!"

 Thibaut Lenours

When you will read this, Vincent will be on the road, most likely camping illegally with his buddies, somewhere in between Switzerland and Italy… Nothing to complain about!
You might have met him behind the counter at the Cosa Nostra skatepark, the Parisian scene winter saving grace, but chances are better that you’ll cross his path somewhere made of harsh to negotiate concrete, with a camera within reach, but mostly on his board… This young man has more than one talent, and to top it off, he’s a great guy, in my book.

What came first, skating or photography?
Skating, about 14 years ago! It’s been adding up!

How did both come about?I’m not sure how skating came in the picture. I must have seen it somewhere and thought: “I have to try this!” So, my brother and I made sure we got boards for Christmas, like many other kids do, and we got started in front of the house. He gave up quick. I met some nice kid at the local skatepark, in Bondy, and he motivated me to keep going. I would go there everyday, and then we would tour all the local spots. I still skate with him, every now and then…
As I was reading a lot of magazines, I started to get interested in the photos, and quickly I made up my mind that I wanted to do the same. It was some sort of goal. I remember collecting posters from the mags, and putting hem on my bedroom wall. I loved Eric Antoine’s work, in black and white. So, I ended up sending him an email, asking for tips, and he taught me quite a lot. I owe him big time!

Can I say you were raised at the Cosa Nostra skatepark?
Yes, Cosa has always been my second home. I’m a skatepark child! In the summer, I was there more than at home! It was 12 Km away, and sometimes I would ride my bicycle there: I would arrive tired, but then would skate all day. I think that, like many others, I shaped my personality listening to Mathias Thomer [one of the co-founders, Ed’s Note]. This guy was our life coach! He will put you back in tracks if you get lost. A great source of inspiration. Then, I got friend with Mathieu Forafo who started there alter, and who in many ways pushed me to skate even more and taught me a lot. To this day, these are the people I evolve with the most. Olivier Stepniewski, the third guy, has taught me how to build obstacles, draw blueprints and also drink rum…

Describe suburb and Paris life, when it comes to skating, also…
Whether you’re in the burbs or in the heart of Paris, you have people that are motivated; it’s just totally different for other things. I really don’t like Parisian life. People are under pressure. I am a stress case, and quite shy, so all this mayhem, the crowds on the sidewalks, the busy trains, I can barely stand it. And, then, that’s a generalization, and people are going to get mad, but in Paris, there are too many never-ending parties, almost every night, all year round, so everybody just wakes up real late. Sessions starts around 16h00 in the summer, that’s a shame. That’s not always true, but it is my experience…
In Chelles, we are lucky to all live close to each other. So, we wake up, drink coffee at someone’s place, ump in a car and go hit some spots: it’s a great atmosphere, even if we are a lot less under the media spotlights. In the end, we sometimes have better spots, but no one knows or they think it’s too far. So, it’s all good! [Laughter]

 Thibaut Lenours

Backside smithgrind.

You are part of the “digital generation”. What made you want to shoot film, and spend your money that way, since it is so expensive now?
What I liked first with photography was black and white. It’s what I always wanted to do, and I learned that film, even digitalized, still had a different look to it than just turning your image in B&W in Photoshop. So, I kept at it, despise the prices, developing my films, doing my own prints in my bathroom or my bedroom. I did two years of studying photography techniques, and that reassured me in those ways. Digital is great, but it’s not very enjoyable, in the end… It’s too quick; I like to take my time…

You are not just shooting tricks; you also document a lot what is going on around you. Where did you get that?
One of photography’s principle is to record moments and memories. I always had that fear of forgetting certain moments, so by taking photos, I try to keep a trace. I like to be discreet, and capture moments without anyone noticing anything. I have never been good at setting things up, so I’d rather take things, as they are, raw and simple.

Skating wise, you are a bit on the “uneasy transitions” side. How did you grow into that style?I’m not a very technical skater, I can’t do any combo, I never really do flip tricks, or skate ledges and things like that. But, after 14 years of rolling, I did develop some balance. So, I can do my basic tricks everywhere. Well, I try! It’s another type of challenge.

You skate for Witchcraft. Describe French and his crew to people who wouldn’t know…
When people mention them, they always picture –from the whole dark imagery they push– those guys as being completely out of their mind. While they are, actually, the most adorable people I have met in skateboarding. French is always in for a laugh… And all the Brits that ride for the brand are the most respectful, shy almost, behind the dozen of offensive tattoos! It’s funny. They are also always down to skate, without looking for any sort of performance, even if they are all quite good! That suits me, I don’t worry about skating a complicated way, but more on the fun side… And I drink a lot of tea, also! [Laughter]

A good story from that Las Palmas trip?
When we arrived, Olivier Arroyo, who was our kind guest, explained us that the locals were not necessarily really nice to strangers, especially skater –because of the noise and all– but that you could turn it around with a smile. And we did see it happen a couple times. On such a small island, drenched in sun, the human relationships are a lot less complex. People are in a good mood. So, us Parisians, used to spend our time complaining about everything, we got two weeks of smiles!

 Paul Grund

Ollie. photo: Paul Grund

Did you know the place already? You have been quite on the move lately. A favorite trip, so far?
I didn’t know a thing about it. Actually, I thought it was circa Ibiza or something, close to the Spanish coast. So, in the plane, two hours after Barcelona, I actually opened a map and realized it was of the coast of Africa! [laughter]
Thanks to Converse, I have been traveling quite a bit this year, yeah! Well, I might have lost my girl because of that, but I’m young, so I should enjoy it as much as possible. I think Las Palmas has been my favorite trip so far, actually. The island is worth the trip, everything is stunning, and the locals are adorable.

Your projects for August?
I rented a van with my Chelles homies: we are going all around Switzerland and a bit of Italy. I’m happy to go with my new roommate, Dimitri Kostoff and his buddy Carl Sansac. You should be hearing about them soon. Yep, it’s looking up!

Let's take a look back on that Las Palmas trip, with Vincent and the Converse homies ripping:

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