Introduction by Dave Bloom Interview by Dave Bloom & Oliver Nermerich Photography by Jacques Ginet, Jean-Charles Caslot (M6 mobile by Orange) & Benjamin Brillante
Hey Taig, how are you doing? Where are you right now and what are you up to?
Hey man, I am doing great… very busy traveling. I just arrived in Paris today from Brazil. I went there for two days for some meetings. In two days I am off to Italy for more meetings and after that I will be spending ten days in Uruguay for a television show. I know it has been some time since the event.
How has it all settled in your mind and how are you reflecting as you look back as well as looking towards the future?
It’s true it has been some time since the record and I had a chance to think a lot about it. I have so many amazing memories! It was one of the most intense and magic moments of my life. But, I also had some frustration.
How does it feel to have broken and now hold another world record?
To say the true, I don’t really care about the record itself. It was always more about pushing my own limit that mattered. And, to build something unique that can shine inline skating around the world and give a positive image for the young generation. I remember when I started to compete and do shows: I always could see inline skating and action sports being put on the side compared to big sport like tennis or soccer. It caused a bad and sympathetic feeling because our sport deserves much more. So, I decided to work hard and learn everything you can imagine (marketing, design, TV, PR, politics, etc.), everything that could help to change the future of my sport and my own image, of course.
How were you sleeping and handling things leading up to the day of the event? Calm? Worried? Is there anything specific about the whole thing that had your complete attention? Or, are you one of those cool, calm, and collected guys who is just feeling laid back and carefree?
Of course I was stressed and scared before the event. But, I knew I was going to do it, so at the right moment I could erase the fear or stress and just look at the crowd to enjoy as much as possible in that moment. My real fear was not actually the day of the event. It was during the month before because I was working so long to build it all up that I was so scared I might break a leg and not be able to make it. Imagine breaking a leg the day before the largest event of your life, the event you dreamt of for years. And, I knew never again in history would the government allow me or anyone else to build a ramp like that. So, it was now or never.
How did you prepare yourself and your gear for a stunt like this? We’ve seen the videos on training the basics, form, physique, and understanding the physics of the trick itself, but what about all that we didn’t see in the videos? What more is there?
In both of the records I was not able to train for real because the structures were not in existence anywhere in the world. So, both times I tried to find a training regiment that was as close as possible to the real thing. For example, at the Eiffel Tower I was doing bungee jumping to get use of the height. For the long jump I held onto a car at one hundred fifty kilometers an hour to get used to the speed. But, of course the day of the jump everything was totally different and new. I wish I could have had a ramp like that to train on for the months prior. The quarter pipe from the Eiffel Tower was so unbelievably crazy! At thirty meters high it is truly unreal. Just for comparison’s sake the quarter-pipe after the mega ramp at the X-Games is about eight or nine meters high. For the Sacré-Cœur I did much more training. I was training in a flat place, which was very comfortable and safe. I was doing my tricks (front flip and double back) about forty times each day. Then we receive the airbag structure and finally I had to do a twelve-meter drop before landing and realized things were going to be super hard. I also had realized that the past two months of training were wasted.
Why do you feel it is so important to be in peek physical shape? Is that part of the stunt or is it more a personal feeling on health?
I am just trying to be in good shape because with the crazy fast life that I now have I really don’t have any time to skate. So, when I prepare myself I try to practice like I used to do when I was pro.
Did you feel comfortable with the stunt or was this more of a “do or die” attempt? Are you satisfied with how you performed?
For the Eiffel Tower I was very satisfied the day of the jump because I got over my fears and jumped from forty meters up and landed perfectly on my skates. It was such a kick of adrenaline! I felt as though I was fighting against death. Plus, I had almost broken my leg the day before, so I felt good for that not happening. I was just sad and disappointed that the city of Paris didn’t allow me to extend the ramp all the way down on the grass. The day of the event I didn’t really care since we announced earlier that after crossing the two lines I would let myself fall to reduce speed and stop into the airbag. I had sixteen meters to brake from one hundred kilometers into a dead stop. The night before I stayed on my leg all the way until the airbag and the shock was so strong that the ligament of my leg almost broke, which is why we decided to put lines on the ramp and reduce speed by letting myself fall. The problem was that after days, weeks, and even months, people were looking at the video on the internet and were not understanding that I was letting myself fall intentionally. So, even as one of the best days of my life I was mad about this situation and can’t wait to remake a record like that where I have long distance available to land and roll properly. Concerning the Sacré-Cœur jump, I was not happy with my performance. I tried with my crew to think and prepare for every possibility to be able to make the best jump and land it. But, once again the city put many, many roadblocks in front of us making the landing quite difficult. We were not allowed to build a real wood landing ramp because of the weight. They would only allow something very light like an airbag. The problem in that was the airbag had great instability and carried great financial expenses, still lacking the needed width. Finally, we concluded to give me a three-meter wide landing made of resi at one hundred kilometers an hour with a drop of twelve meters after flying a distance of thirty meters, in the end giving me only thirty-eight meters to brake my speed. Visually it may be hard to understand, but when thinking about the actual distance I had, or lack thereof, to stop, it was totally insane. I remember things were going so fast at the landing that I couldn’t even see anything. It was all based on sensation from the moment that I touched the airbag and only a second later crashing into the braking airbag. The shock was so strong that my neck started to feel weird. I realized the Eiffel Tower jump was much scarier but easier while the Sacré-Cœur was so incredibly hard to land. And, exactly like at the Eiffel Tower the night before I almost broke something. With the crazy speed I almost broke my shoulder and crashed breaking the helmet. I went to the doctor because I could not lift that arm. The day after I was at war with myself. I wanted to make the jump and land it perfectly. Unfortunately, the resi was too slippery and even with all of my attempts I did not make it. I went up again and again until I could not walk or stand any longer. At every crash I was loosing 10 % of my capacity. After my seven tries I almost could not stand on my own. The crowd didn’t see big differences but I was very disappointed for not landing it. But, sometimes life is like that. You cannot win every time. At least I’ve learned a lot and I will try to not make the same mistakes next time.
How many representatives from the Guinness World Records committee were present at the event?
There were 2 or 3 at each event.
Why did you take the risk of doing all this? Personal achievement? Pleasing sponsors? Promoting the sport?
I did it for many reasons. Of course the first one is my rider mentality, the dream of doing cool and crazy tricks. I think every rider on this planet would love to jump from the Eiffel Tower or Sacré-Cœur. It was definitely not the sponsors, because the first year at the Eiffel Tower I lost 150.000 € alone just building the ramp. The event cost me close to one million Euros and I didn’t find enough sponsors, so I dug into my own pocket. Everything I had left, actually. Promoting the sport, yes. It was a chance to finally show the world that not only skateboarders, motocross riders, and BMXers can do stunts like that. I could finally build something for the big crowds and promote inline all over the world. I don’t know how many kids started to skate after that, but so many times kids came up to me saying they started inline after seeing those jumps. There are people that obviously cannot share your vision with this.
What are your thoughts on the public discussion that takes place on Facebook and in forums related to our sport? How do you cope with this kind of negative publicity? Has it affected you in any way or is it more or less something that comes with the territory?
I totally understand kids that talk bad about the fact I didn’t land good at the Sacré-Cœur and I do agree with them. It would have given a much better image if I could have landed it perfectly. I am a rider like them and also feel bad about it. But, they have to understand that I take the risk to move things, to build things, to work day and night and almost kill myself just to give light and respect for inline. I may have not done it perfect every time, but I tried so hard. The people that wish to talk harshly should experience it for themselves. I would gladly like to see someone else try and even shine better. The more exposure to inline the better, so please, go ahead. Without experiencing it yourself you cannot understand how it feels to try something that no one else has ever done. Jumping from forty meters up or landing at one hundred kilometers an hour after flying thirty meters far during a twelve-meter drop is insane. Also, the industry has to understand we need a variety of characters to help build the sport. We need core street skaters that do crazy tricks in videos. There needs to be a show of style and fashion within our sport. At the same time they have to understand that we also need some older people that link the politics of things, sponsors, various media outlets, and everything else existing in the world to our sport. If we only have core street skaters we will not convince the media to promote us, politicians to build skate parks (remember that I was the one that convinced the politicians to build the huge ramp at Champigny, the big mini ramp at Chevilly, and the skate park in Paris in the 18th area), or sponsors to invest money into our sport. It’s a good and very important balance. In skateboarding for example, Tony Hawk helped so much to bring skateboarding to another lever. I am not comparing myself to him. He is a legend, but it stands as a good example. On many occasions I saw young kids that were skateboarding or biking that decided to stop and start inline skating after seeing me on television or at the jump. We have to understand that we are moving in the same direction. We all want inline to be big, have more places to skate, and grow with more riders around the world. Even if my way is more in the manner of attracting big crowds and promotion I still have so much respect for the core inline skaters. It’s already so hard to build our sport while not letting skateboarders or BMX riders step on us. Why fight within our own sport?
Why do you feel that some people, both within and outside of our sport, are disturbed by what you did? Do you think it has to do with the representation of skating or may there be more to it?
When there is a light on you there is always jealousy or people that get disturbed from that. It is in the human nature. Everyone cannot love you. But, what matters most is that at least some of the people enjoy it while presenting a positive image for the younger generation. I realize with the age that I have now a responsibility towards kids showing them good values. I don’t have the exact number, but I think the Eiffel Tower jump was watched by two hundred million people. And, when I see the reaction everywhere I go, I would say 99 % of them loved it. Of course, the other sports or core riders would prefer me to build more street contests or including different sports. But, the problem is that they don’t have a global vision from the industry standpoint, what television wants, what sponsors want, how to reach the big crowds, how to give passion to young kids for our sport, etc. If I build events like that it is also because most of the people in the world get emotional to watching a show like that.
Taig, so as you may have heard by now, Chris Haffey will be taking a stab at your world record at the upcoming Air Fise. What are your thoughts on this? Any criticism, concerns, or question?
It’s great Chris is also doing a record now. This is important for the development of the sport that we all move forward. It will not be the same record since mine had a 12m drop at the same time, but it will be a brand new record which is cool!