J.B. Gillet


In the late '90s, there were few European skaters who were able to "make it" on an American company. JB Gillet was one of the few who, through talent, will and being in the right place at the right time, was able to skate for US companies while living in France. First visiting and skating SF for a month in 1996, he happened across some of the cities finest. Although he was barely able to speak English, he got hooked up with some boards by a visiting pro from LA, which set the stage for subsequent return visits all over California. These opportunities gave him new spots to skate and more people to get stoked off of his approach. His fast pace coupled with powerful pop helped set him apart from others seeking skateboard stardom in the US. Travel restrictions eventually left him unable to return stateside for a while, but in the past few years he's been getting reacquainted here after being granted a new visa. He's been on a steady killing spree with the Cliché team hitting spots all over Europe and beyond on their never ending quest to film for their next batch of optical stoke.



Loiter at a spot or keep the session moving?
If the spot is good to chill, then chill and eventually session it again later. If not, move. Fuck it, next spot or chill?

As a French skater, how different is your local scene from what you’ve experienced in the US?
I can feel how skateboarding is in the US culture, especially in California. I like how skaters and people look at it in general out there- they respect and enjoy different styles of skateboarding. People are really motivated about it too, but with a good energy. Europe is getting there though. Different generations of skaters are around now, plus with the Internet, the gap between those two worlds is getting smaller and smaller. That wasn’t the case 15 or 20 years ago.

Knowledge of spots and tricks done on them can be a helpful thing. Do you keep things like that in mind when filming?
Yeah. If I film at spot that I don’t know, I’ll ask what’s been done so I don’t do the same trick that somebody else did…just by respect. For my generation, that’s some illegal shit to bite somebody else’s tricks at the same spot. But nowadays, there are so many skaters ripping that sometimes you can’t know.

Altercations with non-skaters are inevitable. What’s the worst one you’ve seen or been in?
Nothing too crazy. Hard to remember. There were a lot of little fights and arguments here and there. One time on a Cliché tour we were skating that spot in the middle of some tall building and a bench full of older guys between 50 and 70 years old from this neighborhood were hating on us for skating their plaza. One dude played hero and walked in front of the double set while Ricardo Fonseca ollied it, and the old dude got fucked up! Nothing serious though. We tried to leave but hella police showed up and we all got arrested. You can see the footage of the slam in some Cliché video. Hella funny.

Inside Europe it’s fairly easy to travel. How many times do you think you’ve crossed the continent over the years?
Too many times. I can’t really count, but when I was 13 or 14 years old I started going to a lot of contests with my crew and friends….Germany, France, UK, Belgium, Denmark, Switzerland…by train and cars, sleeping outside, in the van or in the car, under ramps or skate courses, sneaking into one hotel room with seven people. That’s how that gypsy tour thing came together. Back then it was the only way to do it! Those days, with skateboarding being so small, especially in Europe, contests were the only events were you could see other sponsored skaters from different places in Europe. That’s how you got hooked up with sponsors, so it was the shit. Hella partying all night at the skateparks, not too many rules. Good memories.

Last time you watched Mouse?
Some parts here and there on Youtube, but the full video? Can’t remember. I got it on VHS, but I don’t have a VCR any more. It’s still one of the best videos. Classic!

Is a lot of your inspiration found in the older mid-90′s era videos?
Yeah for sure, that was a good era. It was very authentic. The style, the tricks and also the personality of skaters. There were some real characters! Kind of like some people see rap from the 90′s as the best era in hip-hop. It’s the same feeling of authenticity. Also, there were less videos, just a few a year, so it was something special. When you got a hold of a VHS copy out here you were psyched! You watched it 100 times! Videos like Love Child, New World Order, Questionable, Virtual Reality, 20 Shot Sequence, Trilogy, Mouse, Goldfish, Las Nueve Vidas de Paco, Mad Circle & more…I feel lucky that I witnessed those times.

Many younger skaters might not know that you spent a good deal of time in the states. You’ve talked about it in the past, but remind everyone how you ended up living in S.F.?
The mum of a skater friend in Lyon was living in SF, renting rooms. When I was 16, my friend Malik & I went there for a month just to check it out. That was in ’94. For us it was another world, we were tripping! It was like a Muslim going to the Mecca! We were like, damn, that’s the roots, that’s really where street skating comes from! I was already sponsored in Europe, but it was very limited. No money involved, just free stuff. I went back to Lyon and got hooked up with New Deal in the US through some footage I sent a few months earlier. I was missing school a lot and was not into it at all, so before they kicked me out, I quit and went back to SF a few months later with a couple friends. Little by little the sponsor things started working out: board, shoes, little checks… so I spent around 4 years in SF, going back and forth to France every three months because I didn’t have a visa. Then later on I went to LA. In 2002, on my way to SF, I got denied at immigration in NY and got deported back to France because of visa problems. I couldn’t come to the US for 5 years after that one.

Is moving back to the US an option for you, or are you fine where you are?
Maybe not fully moving back there, but I definitely want to spend a few months here and there in the US, at least once a year. I’ve been on the road and moving around for a while now and I start to feel like I need to spend some time at home too just to catch up with family and do normal stuff.

Travel for some pros is the life-blood of skating. Do you like hitting the open road or flying to foreign destinations or would you rather find new spots closer to home?
I like both.

Europe has lots of cities and spots to offer, what is one place you’ve always wanted to go but have never been?
I never skated the Eiffel tower pool-banks. Few people had the chance because nobody knows when they are going to empty the water and it’s very rare. But truly, I don’t really care. I’m not really trippin’ on any spots that I’ve never been or couldn’t go.

Do you give advice to the younger guys that you skate and travel with since you’ve seen sides of the industry than not many other Europeans have?
Not really! Most of them are smarter and more stable than I was at their age anyway. Sometimes I’m trippin’ that they’re 18 or 19, they’ve all finished school, got laptops, cell phones, a serious girlfriend, know what they want out of life, got things perfectly planned and organized. I wasn’t like that at all at this age. Shit, give me some advice!

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