Florentin Marfaing isn’t the common skateboarder. Always down for a sesh anywhere, he notably destroyed the Dome ledge in Paris over the years like nobody else. We recently had the opportunity to seat down with Flo for a small talk about his skateboarding carreer, his own griptape’s brand and a lot more.
How is going the filming for the video Blaze ” Ceremony »? how advanced is your part ?
Great! I’ve just come back from a trip to Paris where I filmed a few tricks and I still have a week where I’ll shoot all the way in Barcelona to finish my part.
You live for some years in Barcelona now, why have you decided to come and live in Spain?
Mainly for skateboarding! Looks like the architecture of the city was designed for it. But the climate and life in Barcelona in general also made me want to move there.
What is your typical day in Barcelona?
I get up in the morning to look a bit my emails, be it my sponsors but also for my Souljah’s customers. The afternoon I deliver products Souljah and I go in session trying to film some stuff. By late afternoon I post on instagram when I have a clip and I speak a little with my riders and my partners Simon (Cronenberg) and Alex (Carolino) to developing the brand. If I can go to the beach between both it’s cool !!
Are you in charge of the Souljah’s Instagram ?
Simon manages the account but I largely send the content for it. The account is still small because we really care about the product development at the moment. Alex is now in charge of the brand in Brazil.
Is it already distributed in Brazil?
Alex is currently working on it but yes there are already a few shops that sell our products!
You have traveled a lot, which tour you got the most marked ?
Many things impressed me in different ways, but the Lordz trip to Japan in 2003 remains one of my best memories. It was my first trip with Alex and that’s where I really got to know him, there was a big motivation in the crew and we were greatly well received. Bastien managed to spend an evening with us while he was in Quicksilver trip. I think everyone has good memories of this trip where we were welcomed very warmly by the Japanese people.
In your recent parts we much has been seen of a lot of tricks in Parallel, what do you think of the spot since his renovation?
I will be very tough because we have to! It was the best manual pad. Now compare the new with the old, it is difficult. Basically the project was not this one. Actually it’s skatable, but it’s not the same. The new manual pad is in a downhill. Honestly it’s not very pleasant to skate.
You should also know that at the time it was a junkies spot and when it started to be skated, it cleaned a little bit the spot. In the end, skateboarders made Parallel much more pleasant. We can’t say that we got respected on this one. I even had friends of mine like Johannes Bayer who sent mails to the administration for return the old manual pads !
Remove a manual pad like this one in skate, it’s the equivalent of removing a piece of the Gaudi Cathedral in art!
How is Souljah (the griptape brand Flo created with Alex Carolino and Simon Cronenberg) doing
It’s going very well! We are doing more and more products, the team is growing, Alex deals with Brazil . We are in a good evolution. I think everyone realized that our grip has some details that make it better than some other griptapes. Today I’m just proud to have consistent products for the market and for the friends also because we remains a small brand. It gonna make 5 years that we had working on it and it’s not always easy!
Flo latest clip for Vans
Where does the name Souljah comes from and how it all started?
I found it. It can have the meaning that anyone wants. You can see the name as a cool thing but it can also remind the soldier name. The first grade in the street is a soldier, and as it is a 100% street brand compared to the team and the image I consider that it fitted perfectly. We have started small, we are the little griptape’s soldiers.
I also found that over the years there has been a decline in the quality of products, both in the grip than in textile, it is also what made me want to do at least as well or better. We are in a quite perfectionist atmosphere, we corrected a lot of details to lead to our Souljah’s formula, a grip that I consider as premium that we sell in roll. Take a look at the website for more informations.
When you started the project back in 2010 are you headed directly toward griptape before creating the brand ?
I thought a long time to make a brand with Alex, but a brand of boards or skate shoes is too much investment so I thought why not to make a small company.
I’ve been without a board’s sponsor for a while and I started buying boards in stores. I’ve realized that there was not so much griptape who actually grip well despite prices remaining the same.
This is my personal opinion because I skate since 88 and I have seen many products scroll. Towards 2009 in those skateshop I thought the grip was particularly declining relative to other categories.
Souljah is a griptape’s brand but also produces screws, wear and recently skate tools, do you have any other upcoming projects for the brand’s development ?
Keep making quality stuff ! I like to have the feedbacks from all the team when I’m making something to make them know where the brand is going. So we’ll keep to develop the wear collection, maybe some joggings and some accessories but it’s a lot of work !
For example have you thought about making bearings?
Yes we thought about that and we also would have been able to make decks or anything but we chose to remain focused on the creation of a true quality grip with our own formula. Now we think that the grip is almost perfect so we can focus on the rest !
So where the Souljah griptape is made ?
It’s manufactured in China such as 90 % of skate products. Most factories are there, but the quality is really good if you stay attentive. The most difficult is to deal with the people there, we worked a lot on that to get to the final result that suits us 100%. In the development the most important is to follow all the production’s stages that I did for three and a half years for Souljah.
How you came to the idea to skate the Dome ledge while filming you with an iPad?
Who gave me this idea already? I think it’s small Kamel from the Dome !
I did it first try yeah, really spontaneous ! I thought I had already done a lot of noseslide on this spot before each session so I thought I could do it directly.
Yet the last time that you filmed with your ipad got a wicked ending !
haha yes a downhill that ended badly at 35 km/h ! I took a gnarly slam but I managed to save the iPad anyway ! I was torn for 3 weeks with thick crusts on all upper body !
You’re one of the few European skaters to have achieved a promodel in the US. I’ve heard that Josh Kalis himself called you to come in Phily. How this experience was ?
It went super well, wicked holiday in Philly with Josh in addition, a skater I always appreciated ! In fact I was already in the Alien German team and it’s my favorite brand. The image, video, graphics it motivated me to go skate.
So they invited me and pick me up and after a few days Josh said he will make a new brand with Alien and he was willing to put me in the team. Everything went well until Alien’s boss Chris Carter had to stop Seek to focus on Habitat which was declining at this point. Everything was done respectfully so I never had any problems with that.
From there I’ve started to buy some boards it last a while until Alex call me from the US explaining that he is with Jeff Kendal from Santa Cruz and he wants me to ride for them since a long time ! So I went back and Jeff was super cool. After there were other problems in Santa but it had nothing to do with him.
I was a little bit disgusted with the states, I had no more motivation to seek sponsors over there but Alex remotive me well with that ! The project was good with Lee Smith who was the team manager at the time and we have released a small very cool video (note : Out There). Last year it went less smoothly unfortunately.
Remove a manual pad like this one in skateboard, it’s the equivalent of removing a piece of the Gaudi Cathedral in art !
Now you’re pro at Blaze (French Brazilian brand), what are the main differences between these two situations?
There are no real differences. You got your name on a board so it’s cool, if the graphics and quality are there everything is perfect. There is no reason to be ashamed because we ride for a European brand. The Americans will have to realize that in Europe we now have good brands. Compared to Blaze, what I really like is that it is a french brazilian brand and I think there is a link between the French and Brazilian in the way of thinking, to do things and to see life in itself, there is something similar. I think these are two countries far from one another and very different but there is a kind of connexion.
In an interview in 2014 you said do not know how long you would stay pro, you have a better idea now ?
I don’t know what to answer you in relation to that ! Until I find my skate is still good I think I can stay pro. As soon as my level will be down I would have no more board and it will look normal to me. I would not have a board with my name and no having the level and had nothing to do in skateboarding. I would especially like to see young Europeans like Titi Gormit or Patrick Zengraf to have their board in shops and get paid normally.
A word for the end?
So the final word, if you are young and you just start to skate, don’t think directly to the sponsors, enjoy first, me this is what I do every morning. In the end the most important consideration is to skate and have fun with your friends !