Q&A with Pierre-Luc Gagnon: Canada’s Unsung Skateboarding Hero
Pierre-Luc Gagnon overcame a serious hip injury to win his ninth gold medal at the X Games. But the skateboarder is upset about the lack of support he's received in Canada.
Photo by Bryce Kanight
This story originally appeared on VICE Sports Canada.
After being sidelined by a serious hip injury at the end of 2014, it took Pierre-Luc Gagnon only five months to return to championship form. In April, he was back on the track in Shanghai, China, and came in first place at the World Extreme Games. At 35 years old, the Boucherville, Quebec, native is unquestionably one of the world's greatest vertical ramp skateboarders, with 21 X Games titles, including nine gold medals.
Last weekend, Gagnon won the vert final in Austin, proving once again he is far from being over the hill and that retirement could still be years away.
Despite his amazing track record, Gagnon's achievements continue to go largely unnoticed by media in his native Quebec.
We caught up with PLG after his latest victory.
VICE: Congrats on the gold medal! Are you happy with your run at the X Games in Austin?
Pierre-Luc Gagnon: I'm super happy, man! I wish I did better for the best trick contest, but honestly, I wasn't that ready for it because it was announced at the last minute.
As usual, media in Quebec didn't talk about the success you had at the X Games. Does that bother you?
Obviously, it's not something that I appreciate. It definitely sucks, but I guess I got used to it. Quebec media will be talking about the Montreal Canadiens in August, but this is my 21st X Games medal and they don't even mention it. It's a shame. It's embarrassing. To be honest, I feel that Canadian medias are a bunch of disconnected old guys. It's time for you to retire! I got nothing against hockey, but there is more. There is so many skateboarders in Montreal!
You are now applying for American citizenship. Will you continue to compete as a Canadian?
I think I'll keep competing as a Canadian, but I'm pretty disappointed with the support Canada is giving to skateboarding. It's a fucking bummer. I grew up in Quebec, I'm competing on an international level and I've been really successful, but I've never had support from my country. I've had more support from Americans. I care about my fans, my family and my friends who were there for me. But for the rest, I don't give a shit. We barely have public skateparks in Montreal, this is pretty fucked up! In the town where I live, Encinitas, California, there is two amazing skateparks. There is nothing like that in Canada.
Do you think that this attitude toward skateboarding would change if it became an olympic discipline?
I think the Canadian media would wake the fuck up and do something about skateboarding. They must realize that this is something that is really big! Just look how famous Nyjah Huston is! Medias will talk for hours about Alexandre Despatie, the ex-diver. But tell me how many kids are fuckin divers in Quebec. They are making a big whole deal about it! Who gives a flying fuck? But they won't say anything about myself or other great Canadian skateboarders like Ryan Decenzo, Matt Berger or T.J. Rogers.
You were injured pretty badly last year. How did you manage to win the competition?
Last year, in March, I tore a muscle in my hip. It took a long time to figure out what the problem was. I saw multiple doctors and they kept telling (me) I had low back problems. But I knew it wasn't the problem! I've tried to compete at the X Games last year, not skating so well because I had a lot of pain. I had no clue what I was doing that was wrong. I finally met a doctor in December in Montreal who figured out my problem in 20 minutes. He gave me a program to get this muscle fixed. I took December and January off to rest and do physiotherapy. At the time of the X Games, I was back at 100 percent.
Your last gold medal at the X Games was in 2012. Why do you think you won this year?
My confidence was back. After skating was taking away from me last year, I feel it gave motivation to do it again and really appreciate more than ever to have the ability to compete. I'm 35 now, sometimes skaters get tired of skating for so long. A lot of it is mental.
You've been skating since the age of eight. After three decades, is it still important for you to innovate?
That's what skateboarding is all about. It's an art form. It's about being creative and unique. I feel like what is really important is to try to bring something new that's never been done. If you are just doing stuff that other people have been doing, what's the point? I know few guys that skate really well, but there is no tricks in their run that no one else can do. The reason why I've had success is because I was able to innovate.
Street League became a huge thing and there is less vertical ramp events now. Do you feel that the vert scene is becoming less relevant?
More than ever, there are up-and-coming vert skaters. Paul-Luc Ronchetti and Sam Beckett, who got 2nd and 3rd at the X Games, are under 25 years old. But, at the same time, it's harder to get sponsorship money for events, especially with the economy in the United States. I think that vert skating took a hit, but it's not because it's dying.
You had a baby last August, how did it affect your routine?
Being a dad definitely changed my lifestyle. I think it also gave me new motivation. I have to provide for a family, it's not only about me.
You are 35 now, are you thinking about doing anything other than skateboarding?
As far as right now, I feel that I have a few years left. I'll make those years count. I'm skating great and my body is feeling good. I'm back on track. The past few years were tough, but it's part of skateboarding. Injuries are going to happen, and it's not about age.