Words and photos: Jenna Selby
Mange tout, mange tout Rodney…there’s your hint for the location of this months girls skate interview. You’ve guessed it, representing the land of frog’s legs, garlic strings and berets is 2007’s French Women’s Skate Champion: Claire Alleaume.
Hailing from Caen in the lower Normandy region of France this skater is one of the first to represent Globe Girl, the new team to replace the now defunct Gallaz skate team. Claire is one of the most modest people you will ever meet to the point the only way I was able to wean any valuable information about her background was by harassing Lisa Jacob over pizza at a late night house party in the deepest depths of Paris.
Jenna Selby asked Lisa to give a brief introduction to Claire’s interview, this is her response:Claire is crazy. Sociable. She doesn’t actually skate that much but she’s really into jet skiing. Claire is a must have accessory at parties…kind of like a jack-in-the-box!
Bonjour Claire, how’s it going – do you think Lisa’s description of you is fair?
Hi! I’m fine thank you, trying to revise some semiotics. I think Lisa’s description is pretty fair, although I’m not crazy, only sociable (in good measure!), which Lisa thinks is crazy as she’s a-sociable! However I am totally into jet skiing and knitting. You can’t make waves or jumpers skateboarding can you?
Putting Jet skiing aside, let’s dive straight in (Sorry about the dad style pun!): At the end of the last year you were crowned Skate Champion of France for the girls, how did that come about?
Hmm. In France there are comps organised throughout the year by our Federation, in different parks across the country – (Claire won 3 out of 5 contests to get the title.) It’s all a bit too “federated” to my liking, but to be honest the comps are great fun. We all get together and have a nice weekend, not much else you could wish for! Apart from no competitions, federations, or crowns, of course… It’s good that someone is organising fun events, but I’m not into this sporting bollocks.
This Federation, besides organising skate comps and crowns what else do they do exactly?
You could associate the French federation for skating to the UKSA in terms of what their roles are, but the FFRS doesn’t do what it really should do. First of all, it’s with rollerblading and hockey, so they haven’t got much interest in the wooden plank.
The comps are good, but the Federation should also be helping councils put up worthwhile skateparks and showing the general public how skateboarding can be an environmentally friendly way of getting about, a great eye-opener, and an efficient way to lose weight! (although it’s not working for me yet.)
You’ve been skating for 6 years; I guess skating with the Poseuz Crew helped push your level
It’s been great skating with the girls all these years. It has definitely pushed me to try more stuff and just keep on skating.
Sorry quick step back, for those who don’t know, can you explain more about the Poseuz crew (pronounced Posers Crew en anglais!).
The Poseuz Crew is just a group of girl skaters from France and Germany. It’s Lisa Jacob, Mathilde Bouvet, Pascaline Pouzols, Claire Essertel and Juliana Marinho from Munich. We met through skating and just meet up when we can and have a skate. We made a website but it hasn’t been updated lately, it has old vids on it though, and you can come round to the forum for a chat!
How long have you guys been together?
I have no clue! Sorry. Some years, I’d say.
What sort of comps did you go to and which countries did you travel to?
We went to the comps organised by the Federation, the Gallaz comps, the European ones, the local ones… We traveled to Germany, England and Wales, Slovakia, Austria etc, and around France. I love traveling, it’s exciting!
I know you have the website – www.posseuz-crew.com – to represent you but did you ever get round to making a video?
We were meant to make one, but of course we never finished it. There are old clips on the site, and you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of Lisa and I in a banging video called Patchwork by Ludo Azemar, out soon sometime!
Maybe one day we could perhaps do a Rogue v’s Poseuz?
That would be fun. All kickflipping to fakie on banks. Counting how many we land in a row!
Kickflipping is a big thing for girls in France too?
That’s all we do. To fakie, if at all possible.
There always seemed to me that there were a lot of very good girl skaters in France but you say the numbers are very few, why do you think that is?
No, there aren’t many girls skating in France, there are many more in England I think. I’m not sure why girls aren’t skating; I suppose many sociological aspects come into play, and ideas that skateboarding is image-damaging or something! Whizzplanking hurts though, let’s be honest. I can understand quite easily why people don’t want to get hurt! More and more girls are getting into it over here though (skateboarding, not getting hurt).
About 7 or 8 years ago in England all the big comps like Urban Games, NASS, King of Street had a girls section in their respective competition and there was a real boom in numbers of girl skaters and also level. Since they have been dropped, the number really has really curtailed off in the last few years to the point that we’ve got very few younger girls coming through. Is the same happening in France?
In a way, yes, even though that does contradict what I just said earlier. It seems it’s a tie between two tendencies, girls getting into it and older girls not skating anymore. There used to be the Gallaz comp which was a big thing, with girls coming over from the US, Australia, and Europe. You don’t need a comp to keep on skating, but I appreciate the fact that it may be easier to be motivated when you can skate with other girls once in a while and use a comp as an excuse to move about.
I never made it over to the Gallaz comps, what were they like – have they replaced it with anything since it ended (2005)?
It was fun, but sadly it hasn’t been replaced by anything since. We’ll get a session together and you’ll be invited, no worries! I’ll give you a VIP pass, if you give me some of your chocolate.
Did you have any big names traveling over for it?
All the girls from America, like Vanessa Torres, Amy Caron, Violet Kimble, and Australian steez maestro Monica Shaw. There were also the European girls and the Frenchies, trying to manual while balancing a baguette on their heads!
You’re now representing Globe Girl, what’s your/their plan for world domination etc? How’s it differ from Gallaz?
Apparently Gallaz was too fashion-orientated, so Globe decided to start Globe Girl, with a range of more functional skate shoes. It’s basically Globe shoes, in “girls” colourways. I’m stoked on the tartan Finale myself! I think Gallaz still exists, but not in France anyway.
I know you banned me from mentioning it but I felt the public had a right to know: Let’s talk about your record for the most kickflips landed in one minute (Check out the footage of her and Cedric the 360flip champ here).
Who said you were allowed to mention it? Ha, it was a thing on TV, a record-breaker program, ages ago. I did 8 heelflips in a minute on some shit platform, and I spent a nice weekend on the beach and got paid a bit. I can’t see what the fuss is all about? Haha. And I can’t believe “Guinness World Record” posted it on Youtube!
Ok ok, so moving on swiftly, although we conducted this interview in Paris, you are quick to point out that you don’t come from these parts (the reason why no portraits with Parisian landmarks) and are very proud to stay true to your Normandy roots.
I hope I didn’t sound too proud, but I am happy to be from Normandy. I like how there’s nice countryside, yet I live in a quiet town which is big enough to have Steve Reich come to the theatre and small enough for the only real jazz club to be in the back of a truck! I’ve always lived here so I wouldn’t mind a change, but as long as I’m traveling I think Lower Normandy is a nice place to be!
Your English is so good that I wouldn’t have known you were French. ..if we weren’t umm in France! How did that come about?
My Mum is English, and she has always spoken to me in English. At home it’s a bit of a bilingual fair, as we all speak both languages. I’m very lucky!
You come over to England twice every year in part to visit the area where your family is from, which is where exactly?
My Mum is from the fantastic seaside town of Weston-Super-Mare. I still have two uncles there, and my other uncle lives with his family in London. It’s great visiting them all. Thanks for everything, by the way.
Ha ha are you as proud of your Weston Super Mare roots? Lisa mentioned that you tried to impress her with the place, although all she seems to recall is old people!
Ha ha. Weston isn’t quite as wonderful, is it? Full of junkies and oldies! We did go on a trip there with the Poseuz crew and although it’s not full of spots, we had fish and chips on the (brown, mushy) beach, by the (old, rutted) pier.
Just a side thought, I was under the impression France was famous for it’s wines but you tell me that in Normandy it’s Cider (and William the Conqueror)…you must have a taste for it because of your Somerset English roots!
Let me tell you, the best cider is from Lower Normandy! Well, I admit I haven’t tasted them all yet, haha. It is true that there are great cider farms over here. French Cider generally doesn’t have as much alcohol as the English Cider, but otherwise it just depends on the types of apple and the “savoir-faire”. There are other nice drinks made from apples here, like Calvados and Pommeau.
Anyway, there are definitely more cider farms than vineyards in Normandy! Anyway back to the interview, how long did it take before you were allowed to break away from the family routine and skate over here?
I traveled very early; my Mum has always thought it was a good thing for me to get out there. I was about 12 when I started going to places, on my own or with friends. We used to camp for 5 weeks in the summer with my family in England and Wales, and progressively I started skating around and going to London more.
Where else have you skated in the UK, I know you’ve been impressing Zac down at Canti!
Oh I love the Lowes! I’ve skated in Manchester, Stockport, Brum, Leeds, Caerdyff, Newport, Bristol, Cornwall, London etc. I love the UK.
What’s planned for Claire’s New Year?
I want to skate more as I haven’t been skating as much as I wanted to lately. I want to try and make the most of my last year doing this course at uni, read all the books lying around in my bedroom, take more photos, travel somewhere special, go to the Boardroom and Scotland with Tamsin, go to more exhibitions, learn more about many things (notably about philosophy of music), and spend time with my boyfriend and friends. I’m being way too optimistic, but I’ll give it all a try!
On wrapping up the interview Claire is crying over the extremely strong cheese she has bought. What is your French people’s obsession with this pungent dairy craze – it would definitely clear a park in 2 seconds flat!
All I’ll say is, strong cheese fo’ life.
Cheers Claire, any shout-outs?
First of all I’d like to thank you for coming to Paris and for the good time we spent! Thanks to Greg at Globe Girl for everything, and thanks to Zac. I’d also like to thank all the girls (Lisa for Queen, Mathilde for rock star), all the boys, my friends Ophélie and Antoine at Uni (Aposa love), Tamsin (miss you), Kev, Fos and the Londoners, the skaters in Caen and Bud Skateshop (R.I.P Cyril), Théodorine, Manu and Barricade, my friends in Paris, the Sidewalk forum lurkers, everyone who has let me stay at their place, Waits & Brel, McGregor & Wittgenstein, Roo & Susie & the kids, Ben & Ed, Mum & Dad, Bros & Sis, and last but not least, my lovely boyfriend Erwann!
And finally the most important question of all: Do you wear garlic and a beret?
Every single day, walking to the bread shop to buy my baguette.