Ri Abderrahmane has been around the Montreal skate scene for thirty years and has what we feel is a very crucial perspective on skateboarding. We are honored to have had the chance to interview him because he’s one of the gnarliest dudes out in Canada and has probably skated more bowls than the amount of years you’ve been alive. Ri resembles the core of skateboarding that many people have lost or never had. He is one of Canadas most OG skate rats who stayed true to the essence of skating by never leaving his foundation. So, if you are concerned with your own future as a skater, the future of Quebec skating, or the future of the skate industry at large, we highly suggest that you take the time to hear what Ri has to say. In this interview, there is a focus on his own life experiences as a progressive skateboarder that was born and raised in Montreal. We talked to him about how he is working to improve his local skate scene through journalism and visiting different skateparks around the world to see how the ones at home could be better.
Let’s start off with what year you started skating. How old were you? What/who got you into it? How long have you been skating for?
My older brother and I got our first banana boards from Miracle Mart (like Walmart but way better) in 1977. I hated my twin tip board so much. My brother had a regular banana board that I stole all the time. I would just cruise down my local hill with it when I had no friends to play with. In 1982 my brother bought a pro board, a Steve Caballero, in NYC since there were no pro boards sold in Montreal. Once again, I kept on stealing my brother’s board until he went back to NYC and bought me a Mike Smith Concave that same year. It was not until 1984, when I started high school, that I started hanging with skaters and learning tricks. So, it has been 30 years that I’ve been doing tricks and not just using a skateboard as a means of transport.
Are you originally from Montreal?
Yes I am from Montreal. Actually I still live in the same building that I was born in.
What are your thoughts on the Montreal skate community? How does it compare to other cities?
From my point of view the skate scene in Montreal, the actual skaters, rock. As with any other large city, there are different clicks but in Montreal they get along together very well. Sure, we might have disagreements about how to design a skatepark but once we are skating, we are all having fun and the beef gets crushed. Most cities I travel to have far more hatred between the different groups and most of them dislike Canadians at first because they dislike Red Dragons. Once they know better (we are not all Red Dragons in Canada) I think they fall in love with us especially if we are travelling with female skateboarders. I have a ton of friends from all over the United States and Europe from my travels.
Do you have a vision of how you would like the Montreal skate scene to progress in the future?
We already have many of Canada’s best skaters in Montreal and they are cool guys. Downtown Montreal is one of the best skate plazas in the world, the bust factor is not even bad. The worst part about skating in Montreal are the skateparks. There are a ton of skateparks on and around the island of Montreal. Just on the island there are over 40 skateparks. The number of skateparks is not the issue, but more the quality of the parks is at issue. Many of the skateparks are prefabricated garbage. Even the skateparks built by skaters have failed the skaters. When there is a new park built, there is tons of hype about it. The kids are super stoked. Then, when most of the local skaters advance from a beginner skater to the intermediate level, the park lets them down. The city ends up seeing the skatepark project as a waste of money because very few skaters continue to go to the park. Kids end up just hanging out there and doing bad shit (illegal graffiti, fires, doing drugs and drinking). All of that makes the skateboard community look bad. When skateparks are designed to continually challenge all levels of skateboarding, much less of the bad things would happen at the skatepark. The city would be happier and the skaters too. Maybe then I could spend less time on the road in search of good skateparks, just maybe.
Ollie by Paul Stewart
What are your thoughts on the skate industry in general?
On the whole, I am not a big fan of the skateboard industry. All levels of the skateboard industry disappoint me from the local shops to the biggest skateboard brands. When I grew up, the local shop was the skater hang out spot; where we would all meet before heading out on our skateboard missions. We would get to chill and watch videos and shoot the shit there. The majority of skateshops now just want you in and out as quickly as possible. What they are forgetting is that, when we chilled at the shop, we spent tons of money there and everyone knew to hit the shop to find us. Those other people would end up buying things too. The shop and the skaters would help each other out.
Now if we start looking at the big players in the skateboard industry, what have they really done for skaters? When is the last time you heard of one of these companies building (paying for) a skatepark for the kids? Yes, there are a couple (maybe three or four in North America) but that is not many at all. They do not even pay their riders well, for the most part. Most of my pro skater friends make more money from energy drinks and shoe sponsors than their skateboard parts sponsors combined. Without these secondary sponsors many of today’s pro skaters would have to find jobs to live, let alone travel.
There are exceptions though; some companies are even kind enough to sponsor me even though I am way over the hill now. These companies do not only help me, but also the local skateboard community with sponsoring tons of events and helping out D.I.Y. projects. If only the other skateboard brands would stop being leeches on the skateboard community and would start helping the community that allows them to make the money that they do. Without the skaters, those companies would not exist.
How have you kept your love for skateboarding alive and honest through the years?
I just skateboard for myself. Skating what I enjoy to skate and I try to help out skateboarding when I can. Skateboarding has given me most of my friends and so much happiness over the years. Skating has helped make me who I am, so I think I owe skateboarding and not the other way around.
Was there ever a time when you quit skating or lost your motivation? If so, how did you overcome it?
I never flat out quit but there were some lean years. In the mid 90′s skateboarding had gone to the darkside. 40 mm wheels and baggy clothes would not stop me from skating but having no one to skate with almost did. Barry Walsh and Marc Tison had moved to B.C. for a bunch of years. My skater friends from high school had drastically slowed down on their skating. We also had no fun skatepark on the island. It was a rough five years or so. I definitely lost a ton of tricks over that period of time. Once Barry and Marc were back in the city and I was working 60 – 80 hours per week. Working that many hours, it’s hard to motivate yourself to go out and skate. As soon as I quit that employment in 2002 the road trips and skating a lot more became a regular part of my life once again.
What do you find is the most fun terrain to skate? What are you best at? What are you still trying to work at in terms of your skating?
Backside grind Big O by Paul Stewart
Everything is fun to skate. Hills, vert ramps, mini ramps, bowls, and the streets are all super fun to ride. As you get older there are things that get harder to do. Losing pop is one of those things that slows our progression. I wish I could still ollie up a ledge but I just cannot anymore. Because of my old age, limitations, and many old body injuries, I am way more into skating transitions now. My favourite is skating bowls. Just zooming around is so fun. Finding new lines is what I seem to be the best at now. I still remember how to do many tricks but my body or my brain makes me jump off. Even though I have lost a ton of tricks, I am still learning some of them back or even new ones. I have never been good at backside tricks besides airs and ollies so lately I’ve been working on my backside lip tricks. They are works in progress for now.
When and how did you get involved with Exposé Magazine? Could you describe what Exposé is to our Chicago readers?
Exposé Magazine is a Quebec skateboard magazine. No snowboarding, bikes, or any of that stuff; not even any longboarding or freestyle skating. The main goal of the magazine, or at least how I see it, is to promote Quebec skateboarding (the industry) and the skaters. This way kids from little town or major cities in Quebec can see the talent that Quebec has in skateboarding. Motivating those kids that are flipping through the pages of the magazine; showing them that they too can make it into a magazine. At the same time giving Quebec skaters more coverage. When you are not skating in the city where the magazine is, it’s always harder to get into that magazine. Now there is a magazine here in Montreal.
Originally I was asked to do a couple of write-ups for the magazine maybe 6 years ago. Then my tasks got shifted away from the print magazine and to the website. In most of my posts, I try to increase the knowledge of the reader on skateboard related topics. Trick names, other types (less in the mainstream) of skateboarding like downhilling, bowl riding, or vert skating and travelling with skateboarding as the goal. Some of my posts that have to do with the industry are not taken well but they are my opinions, not Exposé, yet the magazine usually gets the call and not me. Sometimes I wonder if the magazine would have been better off never having me write blog posts because sometimes I piss off the advertisers. My goal with my posts is to engage the reader and hopefully get them to start asking questions. The status quo of shitty skateparks is not acceptable anymore.
Could you describe your creative process when you write a post for Exposé? What inspires you to write? Where do you get your ideas from?
My posts are based off things that happen to me or that I read. Things that make me happy or down right mad seem to become the best topics for my posts. Often there will be no comments to a post and sometimes not even a Facebook like but then a couple of weeks later I will run into a friend and they will mention that they liked or hated the post. That is what motivates me to continue. Love or hate one of my post is fine with me but talk about it and think about it, that makes me think that I am helping Quebec skateboarding.
Rock n Roll Volcano by Yanick Nolet
We see that a lot of your posts have been about skate trips. What was your favorite trip you’ve been on recently? Do you have an all-time favorite?
Every year I get four weeks off work and for that entire time I try to get out of Montreal to skateboard. Since our parks suck, I need to travel to skate some fun terrain. Every February, I join a bunch of Canadians (from Maritimes to B.C) in Southern California. The average age on the trip must be in the high 40′s. The guys are getting away from their families and getting to skate for a week. The guys go hard every day knowing that they will not be back for 12 months. Every year the crew changes but every year the trip is amazing; even when I get hurt I come home with a smile on my face.
As for the best trip ever, in 1986 I somehow convinced my parents that I should go to Vancouver for Expo86 because there was a huge skateboard contest. At the time I was 14 and had to skip 2 weeks of school. I lived like a bum (freeloading floor space in apts., motels, and camping in a girl’s backyard) for the entire trip. I got arrested for skating from the airport into town on the freeway. Skated a snake run for the first time ever. I even met Jeff Phillips at the airport which I, 20 years later, found out became the beginning of the story line of a movie called Radical Moves. Neil Blender was overheard talking about my skateboard style and the weird tricks I was doing, so epic that it was Blender. On that trip I basically met and hung-out with all the pros of the time. Besides scaring the crap out of my parents because I did not call them for the three weeks I was traveling, the trip could not have better.
What’s the gnarliest bowl you’ve ever skated?
I’ve skated a ton of bowls and pools in my life from illegal backyards to Bucky’s huge monster bowl. There is one that stands out as the gnarliest though, Heymes just outside D.C. That thing is deep, steep, and it may have the gnarliest waterfalls outside of Skatopia. I need to go back there and fight my fears again.
Is there anything else that you are involved in or any other hobbies that you do regularly?
I love sports in general. As a kid I was always outside playing something, baseball, basketball, soccer, skating, hockey, skiing, snowboarding, basically anything athletic. Work cuts into that summer off spare time though. Now I bike all the time. Summer or winter I can be seen biking to work in Montreal. Biking in the snow is really fun actually. I still ski or snowboard whenever I can. It’s just hard to find other people to go with. I am a huge geek too. Computers and comics are my shit. So I do spend a bunch of time fixing my friends computers.
With the start of P45 (Montreal’s biggest D.I.Y. skatepark project), my friend Eric Meunier was amazing enough to show a couple of us the ropes in concrete work. From framing, to rebarring, and even how to work with concrete. It’s hard work but in the end there are a bunch of happy skaters so it’s all worth it. Lately I am part of an organization named Ville-Marie Roule whose goal is to get better quality skateparks built on the island of Montreal. We are willing to raise the funds and even D.I.Y. build them. Doing this all on the up and up with the city has proven to be a long hard process. I can only hope that the group’s hard work will bear some fruit in the future.
Who’s your biggest hero and why?
Heroes are hard to define. One person’s hero may be another person’s enemy. So heroes are hard to find in life. My main heroes are my parents. They came to Canada to make a better life for their future kids. Growing up, my parents tried their hardest to support my brother and I in anything that we wanted to do. When I came home at 12 years old with a leg of street meat and a broken hand (already in a cast) my mom was not stoked but she still supported my skateboarding. My parents sent my brother and I (without them) to Europe when he was 16 and I was 12 to travel around with a Eurail pass. Most parents do not even let their kids walk to school alone at 12 years old now a days. They worked crazy hours to make these things possible for their kids. Travelling has completely changed the person that I might have become without it and it has also made me some amazing friends all over the world.
Keep updated on Ri’s opinions and adventures that have been made possible by a life of skateboarding with his posts on Exposé Magazine: http://exposemag.ca/author/ri/