Sylvain Tognelli Turns Pro For Isle!
While some of us were punching keyboards trying to get the Isle site live at 9am on Friday 22nd March, Nick Jensen and our friend Jake Harris were heading over to Lyon to surprise Sylvain Tognelli with the news that he was going to be our new pro rider.
When we had the first thoughts of starting up Isle, Sylvain was the first person that I wanted to be a part of it. To me he personifies what has always interested me about skateboarding and that goes from his skill to his attitude. I am so stoked to have him part of Isle – and for us to be the company to give him his first pro model, I could not be happier.
Keeping the news secret from Sylvain was difficult (we had to rename and edit artwork files when he was here in the studio so the surprise wasn't spoilt), but we managed it. Sylvain survived a celebratory dousing of champagne and his two debut pro models form a key part of our first season of board releases.
Jake Harris caught up with Sylvain last week to get his thoughts on turning pro:
So Sylvain, how are you finding being a professional skateboarder? Has it changed the way you view your role and responsibilities?
I don't think about it too much. I make plans for trips, sections, all kind of projects. I know that I can bring something, but Isle has just started and what matters right now is what we bring as a group or as a company: I spend more time thinking about this. A lot of friends want to have my board though. It's gonna be a logistical nightmare!
Do you feel at all robbed of aspiration now or do you think the desire to progress will remain natural?
It's the contrary, I feel that I never allow myself to give all I have inside... I want to burn out! I started skateboarding quite late and the desire to progress is definitely still here.
The surprise came at the end of a steady month of travelling when you landed in your old haunt Lyon: what have you been up to?
We were with Nozbone skateshop in Portugal for a bit, filming for their video coming out at the end of 2013. Before this, I was surfing in Morocco with my girlfriend and getting lost in the mountains.
You’ve been roped into filming with me for the Grey video at the eleventh hour. Are you enjoying the cruelty of a post-winter deadline? Or do you not feel as much pressure because of the nature of this project?
I don't feel pressure because I started filming recently so I already have an excuse!
We’ve just been on two filming trips. Since you like to be more considered in your approach to spots, how do you deal with skating on trips given the time and pressure constraints?
On a trip, I look at the spot and I skate it for a bit, then I know if I can do something interesting or not. I try to not force myself to get a clip. With this approach, it's better to see as many spots as possible and to be with a small crew – it fits the VX1000 well. If there is someone trying a trick forever, I'll definitely try to skate, forget about filming and have fun. I trust the other skaters' opinions as well: sometimes it's worth filming something that I don't really feel like doing because I might learn to enjoy it in the process. If I'm really into something, it can take one hour, 2 days, I don't care anymore!
Any particularly fond memories from the past couple of trips we’ve been on?
In Valencia when we spray painted 'Isle' on the boards and feeling that everything was about to be released; in London when we discovered this Fire Brigade training spot and skated the cars with fake dead people on the ground; and in Lyon when you lost your phone, we were texting it and we could hear it was there but it still took you five days to find it!
Your skateboarding relies on precision yet you fall with an equal clumsiness: do you feel injury prone? How exactly did you break your hand recently?
I like to try all kind of tricks. I woke up after a night out in Portugal and we went straight skating without eating or anything. I was basically just standing on my board when I fell and my hand got trapped under my body in a carpark gutter.
To what degree do you feel you will contribute to Isle off of your skateboard?
Time will tell, I'm down for different things. I enjoy following Nick and Chris' work with the art direction and they listen to anybody involved's opinion. I feel that I would be better at marketing or sales though, as I know how most of it works. Shier and all the distributors are handling this perfectly now, so all I have to do is skate. I always thought I could be a good team manager but I don't have a driving licence, and this is a big problem in TMs' world.
Are you excited to be on a mission when we come to visit you this month in Berlin? Do you find it hard to be inspired skating familiar territory or the opposite?
It's harder to be satisfied at home, but there are a lot of interesting spots to skate in Berlin. I'm gonna be busy taking care of all you guys' needs anyway!
Sylvain Tognelli, hurricane. Photo courtesy of Henry Kingsford/Grey Magazine