Banned In The USA?



A staple fixture in the U.S. pro skateboarding scene since he went pro for Rhythm Skateboards in 1995, Chany Jeanguenin has spread his general good aura throughout skateboarding, and specifically North County San Diego, so much that if it weren’t for his often mispronounced name and his blissfully ignorant use of the English language (always with a smirk, smile, and a laugh), you’d think he was born and raised right alongside skateboarding itself.
When Chany’s not utilizing his casual style by making the lip of a vert ramp look like a schoolyard ledge (yeah, he started off as a vert guy), he’s on street missions with upstart teammate and P-in-C Kenny Hoyle. If it’s not skateboarding related, he’s most likely dealing with loads of paperwork-paperwork that entitles him to legally be in the United States on a work visa as a professional skateboarder.
On a filming mission and family visit back to Europe this past summer (and with a piece of L.A. real estate in escrow), Chany’s visa expired and he was denied access on the way back to what’s truly become his home. While in limbo from the States and bouncing between Switzerland, France, and Spain, we managed to catch up with the man who’s usually just a stone’s throw away from 353 Airport Road.-Eric Stricker

Why is it that in the U.S.A., an NBA star from Russia or China, who, by the way, were our enemies, can live here, leave when they want, and travel as much as they like and never have a visa problem, while professional skateboarders such as yourself seem to have an endless battle with immigration?
Well, do I really have to explain? I mean, this is common sense-what do I have to offer here? I always bring some chocolate and cheese to the immigration officer on my way over, but sometimes it’s not enough to get in. You’re talking about NBA players compared to someone who’s going to disturb the streets by shredding benches and get chased by security all day. I wouldn’t let myself in (laughs). No, of course they should let me in-I’m a good alien. I never did anything wrong. But you can’t compare the NBA money to skateboarding, even though skateboarding is bringing millions of dollars in the U.S. every year. Nobody has to explain what basketball is about.

Do you think the problem is related to the old men in government and the U.S. society as a whole who do not accept skateboarding as a legitimate sport, or is it that they all have a deep-seated hate for anything that’s an art form or is out of sight of their narrow-mindedness?
Well, I don’t know if skateboarding is the reason that I got denied for a visa. I’ve been fortunate to receive a working visa here for ten years. This is the first time I got denied for the reason being that I wasn’t supposed to have full residency in the U.S. without having some kind of residence back in Switzerland. But yeah, it hasn’t been easy to get them and prepare them. It’s hard to keep up with a law that changes all the time and all the regulation you have to go through to actually have the visa printed in your passport. I do have lots of stories of being stuck at the border next to a handcuffed Indo guy or some Chinese crooks who got deported a couple years back. I got sent back to Australia once coming back from a contest after fourteen hours of detention at the border or traveling all the way to the U.S. embassy in Madrid with just a backpack-that had to be the worst episode, but it would take me a whole day to tell you all the stories. Basically, it’s just part of my life now. I wake up in the morning and work on some kind of visa problems. That has to be why 90 percent of the officers are foreigners. They probably have to deal with so much of their own immigration sh-t that they become officers themselves. Don’t be surprised if you see me working there soon.

Do you think if Converse had not dropped their skate program you’d have an easier time going from Switzerland to San Diego and vice versa?
Goodld Chuck could have definitely helped out (laughs).

How about just getting married to an American chick? Would that solve the problem? Would you ever do that if you were stuck in Switzerland permanently?
I love the States and I hope I will always be able to get back there, but with the year there, I’m realizing that it isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Being in Switzerland, it isn’t all that bad. I think it’s one off the most beautiful countries that I’ve ever been to. Truthfully, I don’t know if I want to live in the States forever. It’s kind of like Disneyland there-it’s fun for a while, but you need to get out sometimes. Being stuck in the States, I go crazy and just need to go back to Europe sometimes. But don’t get me wrong, I would do anything to come back to the States, and if marrying someone is the only way, then I’ll consider it. I like it over there, and I miss all my homeys.

When you first got to the States, you moved to S.F. looking for a vert ramp to shred, but found nothing but street spots? If this is true, is S.F. where you honed your street skating or were you already shredding street in Switzerland?
It is true. I was a vert skater lost in S.F., and I didn’t even know that EMB was there before I left. I was picturing all these vert ramps I was going to skate, and there I was in S.F. in ’92 with no vert ramp, just asking myself questions. I knew of the spot because I did street skate before I even skated vert, but I wasn’t on top of it at all-to me, it was all about vert. But once I got there, it was definitely fun to be able to skate EMB, and I’m glad that I got to live a little bit of the EMB days when they were the best-it was a great experience. And yeah, with time I started to only skate street and turn myself into a street skater. But deep inside of me, I know I’m a vert skater. It’s like riding a bike-you don’t forget too much.

You’re heavily into collecting swords and practicing your sword play at odd hours of the night in your garage. Have you ever had any drama arise due to your passion for the forged blade?
I don’t really have a collection of swords, but I do own few weapons. I’ve taken kung fu for many years, and we need to know how to use a few weapons, so when I get home after skating, you can catch me practicing in the dark alley sometimes. I’ve never gotten in trouble-I’m not really worried about that, although I probably should be. I’ve got a broadsword, two butterfly knives, a dagger stick, and a spear in my truck at all times, but I don’t care at all. What am I going to do, slice someone up?

There are only four skaters in the world who smile 24/7, 365-you, Shawn Mandoli, The Breeze, and me. I get hella shit for being a smile-happy human. Have you ever caught any flack for it?
What? Hey, I can name a few more like my good friend Karl Watson and big dreaded Adelmo Jr. But no one’s said anything, at least not in front of me (laughs).

Your parents both work for Rolex-do they have any funny stories from the factory like anybody trying to steal watches or gems?
Yeah, my dad has been working there for 37 years and my mom for 26. I get hit up for watches all the time-if it was up to me, I’d give watches to everyone for free. I’m from Bienne, and that’s where all the movements for every Rolex in the world are made. It’s not strange to work there if you live in this city-they have about 2,000 employees. As for the thieves story, I just asked my dad and he said coldly, “At Rolex, we are serious people.” So no stories, sorry.

So where is the Nazi gold held, Zurich or Geneva? Don’t tell me that you’re neutral-it’s against human nature to be neutral. Tell me really, where is the gold?
(Laughs) I don’t know if it’s in my blood, but I’m a neutral person by nature. I don’t like making quick decisions or taking one side. I always have to hear both sides of the story and analyze it for a while ’til I know why both people act a certain way. I don’t know where the gold is, but it’s certainly not at my house. I know they returned most of the money to the people by now.

Do you flip a coin every morning trying to figure out whether you want to go shred with Daughters and Kenny Hoyle at some L.A. spot or just drive down the street to the Encinitas vert ramp and kill it all day without having to stress the bust or tickets?
I’m a victim of peer pressure, so most of the time I go on an unsuccessful mission that really gets me mad, especially when I could’ve skated something better. I wasted a lot of time last year. I really like to skate vert-the DC ramp is the best. It’s fun to skate the bowl at the Y with (Chris) Miller. I’m learning, but I could definitely do that every day. Sorry, Daughters, you don’t like to hear that.

Is BMW really the ultimate driving machine? Have you ever driven the autobahn in Germany? And have you ever wanted to go on the Gumball?
I only had one Bimmer and I still have it. It’s a really good car, and it’s never broken down. We drive so much here that I thought I needed a nice car, plus I was doing all right back then. But even though I love it, I still prefer riding my bike back in Switzerland. Anything that uses gas isn’t good, and if hybrids were a little cheaper, I would trade the Bimmer in right away. I’ve been in Europe for two months, and I don’t miss it one bit. Plus I don’t like having to deal with keeping it nice because I care about it-I wish I didn’t.
I’ve been on the autobahn before, but I wasn’t driving and as far as Gumball goes, I think it’s a really stupid thing to do. I understand how it’s cool to go fast in a cool car, and I used to be one of those idiots, but wasting gas for no reason? We’ve already abused this planet enough, don’t do it on purpose now. Have a race down the coast cleaning the beach the fastest-then you’ll have real merit.

Your skate skills are still as young as your face, yet you don’t get the recognition you used to get a few years back. Do you think it’s your lack of a defined image other than just being a really goddamned good skateboarder? Is there a future for pros who don’t put out some kind of crazy image?
Well, I think everything in this world works the same way: You’re only as big as people make you-skills and image individually can only take you so far. Now if you have both, you’re a complete package, the dream for a company. If you only have an image, eventually people will catch on and you’re going to get sour at one point. But with only skills and no image, then you’re still not in a better position. There are a lot of good skateboarders out there who don’t even have a shop sponsor, but you need someone to back you up. You know, without that advertising dollar, it’s definitely harder to make it happen by yourself.

What happened to the vert sequence you were supposed to have for this interview?
We lost it, and I haven’t got a new one yet. I guess I’ll get one if you let me have another interview in the future. I swear.

Who would you not like to thank?
I don’t know, maybe that one dude, but I’m not mentioning his name.

y. I don’t know where the gold is, but it’s certainly not at my house. I know they returned most of the money to the people by now.

Do you flip a coin every morning trying to figure out whether you want to go shred with Daughters and Kenny Hoyle at some L.A. spot or just drive down the street to the Encinitas vert ramp and kill it all day without having to stress the bust or tickets?
I’m a victim of peer pressure, so most of the time I go on an unsuccessful mission that really gets me mad, especially when I could’ve skated something better. I wasted a lot of time last year. I really like to skate vert-the DC ramp is the best. It’s fun to skate the bowl at the Y with (Chris) Miller. I’m learning, but I could definitely do that every day. Sorry, Daughters, you don’t like to hear that.

Is BMW really the ultimate driving machine? Have you ever driven the autobahn in Germany? And have you ever wanted to go on the Gumball?
I only had one Bimmer and I still have it. It’s a really good car, and it’s never broken down. We drive so much here that I thought I needed a nice car, plus I was doing all right back then. But even though I love it, I still prefer riding my bike back in Switzerland. Anything that uses gas isn’t good, and if hybrids were a little cheaper, I would trade the Bimmer in right away. I’ve been in Europe for two months, and I don’t miss it one bit. Plus I don’t like having to deal with keeping it nice because I care about it-I wish I didn’t.
I’ve been on the autobahn before, but I wasn’t driving and as far as Gumball goes, I think it’s a really stupid thing to do. I understand how it’s cool to go fast in a cool car, and I used to be one of those idiots, but wasting gas for no reason? We’ve already abused this planet enough, don’t do it on purpose now. Have a race down the coast cleaning the beach the fastest-then you’ll have real merit.

Your skate skills are still as young as your face, yet you don’t get the recognition you used to get a few years back. Do you think it’s your lack of a defined image other than just being a really goddamned good skateboarder? Is there a future for pros who don’t put out some kind of crazy image?
Well, I think everything in this world works the same way: You’re only as big as people make you-skills and image individually can only take you so far. Now if you have both, you’re a complete package, the dream for a company. If you only have an image, eventually people will catch on and you’re going to get sour at one point. But with only skills and no image, then you’re still not in a better position. There are a lot of good skateboarders out there who don’t even have a shop sponsor, but you need someone to back you up. You know, without that advertising dollar, it’s definitely harder to make it happen by yourself.

What happened to the vert sequence you were supposed to have for this interview?
We lost it, and I haven’t got a new one yet. I guess I’ll get one if you let me have another interview in the future. I swear.

Who would you not like to thank?
I don’t know, maybe that one dude, but I’m not mentioning his name.