On Fire – Pierre Luc Gagnon

Pierre-Luc Gagnon has quietly become part of vert's elite. Dominating nearly every contest he enters, the 23-year-old French-Canadian has become a major force, unleashing his trademark mix of street-inspired tricks and sky-scraping airs. Indeed, PLG's skating has always done the talking. This time around, it comes from the man himself.

How was your session at the DC ramp today?

Unbelievable. I went up to Point X with Danny (Way) to do all the big stuff, like the long jumps and the big quarter-pipe. It's amazing because it is something totally new. It's like learning how to skate vert again.

Did you jump out of the helicopter?

No I didn't do that. (Laughs) Maybe some other time. That quarter pipe is so big and the tranny is so mellow, you don't know how fast you're going until you fall. We've been riding it with real big boards with long wheel bases, like 215s or something. We use super-tight and wide trucks so we don't get speed wobbles, and we use wheels that are around 64mm. On vert, I ride 58s. The boards we ride at DC are funny, 'cus they end up looking like go-karts with the wheels sticking out of the side so much.

You've brought a lot of technical street tricks to the vert ramp. What kind of new things are you working on for 2004?

I always try to bring something new to the vert ramp. I just try to be original in the way I skate, coming out with tricks that no one else does. A lot of guys only do what's cool or they copy what other people are doing. That's fine, but I'd rather put more thinking into my tricks than that. Not only do I want to go big, but I want to be tech also.

What are the most difficult tricks for you?

No-handed flip grabs or flip slides. Learning how to skate that big jump shit was pretty crazy too. It took me a couple days. I felt so stupid the first day I skated with Danny. He was doing all these crazy tricks when I could barely jump it.

Did you get hurt?

Not yet, knock on wood. We skate it with hip pads, gloves, the whole setup. You have a ton of hang-time, so you usually know if you're gonna land solidly or not. You have so much time, when you mess up a flip grab, you can still make it because you have time to recover in the air.

What kind of things have you pulled on it so far?

A lot of stuff. I can't really talk about this because Danny would kill me; he's filming bonus footage for the DC DVD. Like he said in his ad, he was just warming up. I don't even think he f–ks with regular vert anymore‚Äďall he's been skating is that big stuff.

Do you think the 900 is overrated?

It's a really hard trick and it takes balls to do it. I think the other guys should step up and make it, 'cus Tony's been the only one to do it so far. So I wouldn't say it's overrated, but I do think a lot of tricks are underrated. There are some tech tricks that are as difficult, if not more difficult than the 900. Still, I can't diss the 900 because I haven't made it yet.

It's crazy how much press the 900 got from mainstream media.

Tony (Hawk)'s like the poster boy for ESPN, so they just jump on everything he does.

I doubt Daewon or Rodney is going to be on the 10 o'clock news anytime soon. Do you think there is more fame and money in being a vert skater?

It's different. We're a little bit more mainstream than the street guys. There are a lot vert guys out there who don't make nearly as much money as Tony and Bucky (Lasek), and they're out there flying themselves to contests hoping to make money. There are only a couple vert skaters who make a really good living.

Contests like Boost's Pro of Skate help a little bit right?

Yeah, they're stepping up a l. But they have to because all of the TV networks have made so much money off of us. They're using us, and we're starting to realize that. We feel entitled to a fair share of their profits, because we're not gonna put our bodies on the line if they're the ones making all the money. There's no show without us.

With so much cash being thrown around these days, does it affect the way you think about skateboarding? Are you more competitive because there's $50,000 on the line?

I'm not more competitive; I still skate the same way and want to be as innovative as I can. Truthfully, if there wasn't that much money on the line, I would only do a couple contests per year. But I don't feel like I'm selling myself out by skating contests, because at the end of the day, we have to be able to live off of skateboarding.

So where does the line fall between keeping it real and selling out?

If you just skate contests and don't worry about filming tricks or shooting photos for magazines, and you only work on your contest runs, then it gets wack. Too many guys only worry about their contest tricks, and they don't do any of the difficult work.

What do you think about Tony Hawk doing Doritos commercials?

I think commercials can be OK if the commercial looks decent. I've seen some really wack commercials but I've seen some really good ones too.

Aren't you sponsored by Right Guard?

Yeah. It's one of those deals where I just have to put a sticker on my helmet when I skate contests. I ain't gonna lie: it's not the sponsor I'm most proud of, but all I gotta do is put a sticker on my helmet. Could you really say no to putting a sticker on your helmet for all that money? I'd be stupid to say no.

Do you use the product?

No, I was getting allergies from it. (Laughs) There were all these rashes under my arm. Seriously though, I back Right Guard because they're helping sponsor all of these events. Unfortunately these contests couldn't happen without corporate sponsors. The skateboard industry really doesn't give a f–k about contests. A lot of vert guys who don't have sponsors can only make a living off contests, so I support them.

You've been placing in the top five in nearly every contest you've been in over the past few years, but all we ever hear about from mainstream media is “Tony, Bucky and Andy.” Has it been your choice to keep things humble, or does EXPN have beef with PLG?

You know my personality is like that. I always keep it low-key. I never act out or do things I wouldn't normally do because I'm at a contest or in front of a crowd. I'm going to be myself no matter what I'm doing. The big events try to find poster guys and they try to market them aggressively. Plus, I'm French-Canadian, so I'm not exactly the right guy for them.

What about Burnquist? He's Brazilian.

Yeah, but he's also American. He grew up here.

When did you move to Carlsbad from Montreal?

In 2000. You know, Bob Burnquist has an American name, and I'm (in French accent) “Pierre-Luc Gagnon.” If I had known before I got into this, I would've changed my name to be a little bit more American so I could be more marketable.

But you have a cool name though. It's better than Bob, Matt or Tony.

It's different. It definitely stands out. But at first, it took people forever to figure it out. People thought I was from France and all that. It was annoying telling people how to pronounce my name. But it's all good.

Is Pastras still living with you or has he found a place?

No, he just moved out not too long ago. He recently found a studio apartment in L.A. so he can work with Jason Lee on Stereo.

What was it like having your team manager live with you?

It never really felt weird. He was more like a friend than a team manager. It was so easy to get stuff done with him because we were living together. I never felt like he was putting pressure on me to go do something or whatever.

Where are your favorite places to skate?

I like Bob's ramp a lot, but the DC ramp is my favorite spot. I also enjoy going up to Point X. It's just amazing there.

Do you think it's weird that you skate in private places? Your average kid can't exactly go skate Bob's ramp or Point X.

Yeah, it's pretty weird. I get bummed out sometimes. I wish I could bring anyone I want to those places. But the people who pay for those structures want to keep it exclusive to their riders so they can market their company. I wish the YMCA could have a setup as good as the DC ramp.

How often do you thrash the streets?

As much as I can, usually when I'm touring. Lately, I've been stoked on vert. I tried to film a couple street tricks for my part in the Osiris video. I used to skate street a lot more when I was a kid. But I ended up skating vert 'cus I was always a little better at it.

Does it ever bum you out that vert isn't as popular as street skating?

I wish magazines would publish more vert skating. But at the same time, I wish vert skaters would worry more about shooting photos for magazines. Also, I think street skaters should worry more about learning vert or pools. Because Danny, myself and a lot of vert guys are trying to skate more street.

Danny Way's part in the DC video was a turning-point in the way street skaters looked at vert. What will it take to excite your average kid to learn vert skating?

I don't know. You can definitely go much bigger and faster when skating vert. And you never get ticketed for skating vert. (Laughs) Maybe that would motivate them. But I'm not telling kids just to skate vert. They should definitely diversify their skating, rather than picking one or the other.

son Lee on Stereo.

What was it like having your team manager live with you?

It never really felt weird. He was more like a friend than a team manager. It was so easy to get stuff done with him because we were living together. I never felt like he was putting pressure on me to go do something or whatever.

Where are your favorite places to skate?

I like Bob's ramp a lot, but the DC ramp is my favorite spot. I also enjoy going up to Point X. It's just amazing there.

Do you think it's weird that you skate in private places? Your average kid can't exactly go skate Bob's ramp or Point X.

Yeah, it's pretty weird. I get bummed out sometimes. I wish I could bring anyone I want to those places. But the people who pay for those structures want to keep it exclusive to their riders so they can market their company. I wish the YMCA could have a setup as good as the DC ramp.

How often do you thrash the streets?

As much as I can, usually when I'm touring. Lately, I've been stoked on vert. I tried to film a couple street tricks for my part in the Osiris video. I used to skate street a lot more when I was a kid. But I ended up skating vert 'cus I was always a little better at it.

Does it ever bum you out that vert isn't as popular as street skating?

I wish magazines would publish more vert skating. But at the same time, I wish vert skaters would worry more about shooting photos for magazines. Also, I think street skaters should worry more about learning vert or pools. Because Danny, myself and a lot of vert guys are trying to skate more street.

Danny Way's part in the DC video was a turning-point in the way street skaters looked at vert. What will it take to excite your average kid to learn vert skating?

I don't know. You can definitely go much bigger and faster when skating vert. And you never get ticketed for skating vert. (Laughs) Maybe that would motivate them. But I'm not telling kids just to skate vert. They should definitely diversify their skating, rather than picking one or the other.