Paul-luc Ronchetti - Knowing Me, Know Paul-luc - Sidewalk Skateboarding

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Paul-luc Ronchetti – Knowing Me, Know Paul-luc

Photography by Andy Horsley – Massive thanks to The House Of Vans

Paul Luc Ronchetti is one of Britain’s top vert skateboarders, growing up in Norfolk before moving to the more big ramp-friendly location of Carlsbad, CA. There he can often be found, pumping away with those gristle-like muscly legs and swaying from side to side in his own inimitable skateboarding way.

In case this is all going over your head, I would basically find it impossible to interview a skater from Norfolk without cramming in as many Alan Partridge quotes as possible. As such the interview will be peppered with questions formed entirely with the purpose of getting a cheap laugh from an I’m Alan Partridge, The Day Today or Welcome to the Places of my Life paraphrase, much like the first two sentences of this introduction. I have to amuse myself somehow!

Anyway, get stuck in below to some questions with Pulsar X watches ambassador PLR and some photos from a House of Vans session fitted in during a recent visit – he must have a foot like a traction engine!

How was growing up in Norfolk, miles from the nearest vert ramp? Did you make do with nearby parks and street, or were you forced to make a regular vertimilgrimage?

Norfolk is a nice place to grow up but skateparks are pretty sparse. Vert ramps are another story. The Norwich skatepark was really fun and they even had a small vert ramp that I remember dropping in once, but they closed down about a year or so after I started going there when i was around 9 years old. Right around that time an indoor skatepark in Great Yarmouth opened up and that’s when I met and started skating with Sam Beckett. It didn’t have a vert ramp but there was plenty of smaller stuff to learn on. I was lucky in that my parents saw that I was really interested in skateboarding so they were happy to drive me around so that I could skate. Usually one weekday after school, my younger brother Jordi, Sam, my friends Elliot and Rory and myself would all pile up in the car and my mum would take us to Yarmouth. After a holiday in SoCal when I was 10, I came back to the UK in awe and in search of vert ramps. At that time the closest vert ramps were either Birmingham, Peterborough or London so nothing under a 2 hour drive. Birmingham, 3 hours from my house, seemed to be the main “vertimilgrimage” and that’s where I met a lot of people. My mum and dad would take turns to drive me there every Sunday and sometimes Sam’s dad would take the wheel and drive us to skate too. I was lucky enough to get one vert session a week and that’s far more than I could have got if my parents hadn’t have been so cool. It was usually Yarmouth on a Tuesday and a vert mission at the weekend. Once the Corby skatepark with a decent vert opened up, it wasn’t as bad of a drive but it was still a 100 mile trek and not always easy to line up a session.

There has always been a solid scene around that part of the midlands, what got you started? And who were some of the skaters you looked up too early on?

I remember first rolling up to Creation skatepark (Epic skatepark at the time) in Birmingham and seeing the vert ramp in the back corner with a pretty heated session going on. It fascinated me and I knew that’s what I wanted to skate. It was there I met guys like Sean Goff, Jim The Skin and the Coventry crew, Bobby Male, Dave Allen, Wingy and a handful of rad dudes. I was a little kid doing kick turns and early grabs so seeing the kind of stuff these guys could do was mind blowing and I thought it was so cool. The first contest I entered was the “Blockless Combat” contest in Birmingham, organised by Jim. I ended up winning B-group bowl and vert. All those guys were really friendly to me and it felt great to be a part of something. I also remember doing the Red Bull progression sessions with Pete King, Dave, Ali Cairns, Andy Scott and Renton Millar. Those influenced me a lot and pushed me to keep skating. It was also great to have Beckett to skate with because there were hardly any kids our age skating vert at the time, we pushed each other.

Welcome us to the places of your life – you now live in the US in Carlsbad, how was the culture shock for someone in their mid-teens moving to the other side of the world?

It was pretty wild at first but I had no trouble adjusting! It was kind of like a never ending holiday and I still get that feeling. The only thing that was a little bit difficult was adjusting to the school system but it’s not so bad now. It was always a dream to come and live in Southern California so When it became a reality I almost couldn’t believe it. The weather, skate scene, places and opportunities are amazing. It’s weird now because it feels as if I’ve always lived here and I can’t imagine moving back.

Full pelt Nosferatu claw front tail in the deep.

Who are the crew on your average vert session around Carlsbad?

The thing is, there are about 6 vert ramps in San Diego, all within 25-30 minutes of each other so it’s likely that there may be three or four different sessions going on at the same time on the same day! A session at Tony Hawk’s ramp will differ from a session at Elliot sloan’s place, which will also differ from a session at the Y in Encinitas for example. It’s crazy how spoilt for choice we are. I love that I can skate a different ramp or park for every day of the week. I usually skate with Jimmy Wilkins, PLG, Danny Mayer, Elliot Sloan, Mitchie Brusco, Marcelo Bastos, Alex Perelson, Sam Beckett, along with a crew of the ladies like Mimi Knoop, Lizzie Armanto and Allysha Bergado. You’ll find professional BMX rider and fellow Brit Simon Tabron riding with all of us as well. The list goes on. There’s also a big crew of Brazilian rippers who usually skate at Mancha’s (Evandro Menezes) backyard ramp in Vista. Those sessions are wicked. Not to mention you’ll find guys like Paul Wisniewski, Owen Nieder, Scott Taylor, Tony Magnusson and Bucky Lasek who will often be skating at Bucky’s own gigantic bowl. So much choice!

You also snowboard, did you start doing that whilst still in the UK or did it come about after moving States-side?

I learned to snowboard when I lived in the UK. I’m not that good but it’s a fun hobby. The closest mountains are about 2-3 hours away from my house so there’s no excuse not to get up there for a bit during the winter. SoCal is one of the few places where you can surf, snowboard and skate all in the same day if you want to.

I’d imagine that skating vert at an internationally competitive level means a different approach to injuries than for the average skater in the street, who may be more tempted to say ‘f* it’, ignore it and keep trying to skate. Do you have to take a couple of months to rehabilitate injuries, or do you bounce back fairly quickly?

It usually depends how gnarly the injury is. I definitely don’t want to go into a contest feeling uncertain. If it’s something I can power through then that’s fine but if it’s more serious then I’ll get it looked at properly and make sure to give it as much time as it needs to heal. If that means having to miss a contest or two then I can deal with it. Rehabilitation is definitely important and so is listening to the body. I also do some extra workout stuff as well as skateboarding for injury prevention.

Staying on the subject of vert living, how much of your time is taken up by the contest circuit? Do you have any tips to dealing with the rigours of regular touring/contests?

There aren’t as many vert contests as there were about 5 years ago so probably only a month and a half, if that, is spent traveling to contests during the year. I’ve been fortunate enough to get a few demo gigs the past couple of years however. I did a 3 month demo tour across America with ASA visiting high schools at the end of last year and at the end of 2013. You definitely have to love traveling and you have to deal with the good and the bad.

You were just over at Vert Attack 9 – one of the most grass roots vert events anywhere in the world – you’ve been to it a bunch of times before haven’t you? What is it about Vert Attack that makes it special?

This year was my second time at Vert Attack and I enjoyed it even more than last year. It just gets better every year. It’s an event where it doesn’t matter who you are, how good you are or where you come from. Anybody can go and have a good time. The total mishmash of people of all ages, genders and different countries coming together to skate vert and have fun is what makes it special. Everybody will make as much noise for Tony Hawk as they do for the dude who just scrapes an air over the coping. It’s become a pilgrimage for vert skaters across the world. It’s also a perfect time to meet old and new friends. It was great catching up with all the UK lads while I was over. Roll on Vert Attack 10!

Your co-pilot Mr Beckett snagged first and you came in third – how was that? Two Brits on the winner’s podium with the likes of Bob B etc in the running is pretty crazy eh? Have you vert groms finally come of age?

It’s crazy how we both went to the same primary school and now we still skate together and compete against each other all over the world with guys we saw in magazines and on video games. We always learn from and feed off each other which is rad and that’s how it felt this year at Vert Attack. It was like a session where we were all hyping each other up. Sam Absolutely destroyed it this year! Ollie 540 Rock n roll, what!? It was sick.

Were there any new vert faces that you saw at Vert attack who shocked you, and if so, who/why?

Shocked might not be the word, but I was stoked to see Mike Frazier and Matt Dove appear. They’ve given great influence to vert skateboarding over the years and I’ve looked up to them. It was also the first time I’ve really got to have a session with them, not to mention they’re part of the GreenIssue skateboards family too! Seeing new groms each year is pretty shocking though! Some gnarly skateboarding went down in the juniors final and most of them were under 12 years old.

So you are an ambassador for Pulsar watches how did that come about and what does it involve?

That’s correct. Pulsar approached me through my website and wanted to know if i’d be interested in being a part of the PulsarX launch (Pulsar watches designed for action sports) and I’ve been a PulsarX ambassador for almost a year and a half now. They supply me with gear/watches to wear and I represent them at all of the contests, events I take part in and on the social media. It has been great so far and It’s amazing to have their support. Their watches are top notch too!

You have a Pulsar watch signature colourway, that must trip you out?

Yeah, it does trip me out. I just got a hold of it the other day, it’s really cool. It was kind of a surprise because I’d forgotten they were making one. Never thought I’d see a watch with my signature on it!

Back smith on the skinny steep one. An uphill run up doesn't help either...

You play drums in indie rock outfit Bearfoot Beast – how do you manage to juggle rehearsals and giggings with skateboarding?

Like skateboarding, there are busy times and times where not much at all is happening with the band. Our bass player has been going to school up in Santa Barbara and I do a fair bit of traveling so We get together whenever we can. I like the busy factor though. If I can rehearse with the band, skate and play a gig on the same day, I’m stoked! It feels productive and it all flows together. We’re currently working on an album and should be playing some more local shows soon. I also play in a band (Satellite Sons) with Simon Tabron and Scott Taylor who I skate with regularly. It’s kind of inspired by The Smiths and Interpol. We’ve been working on some recordings lately too.

What got you started drumming in the first place? Did that or skateboarding come first?

I would say the music was first. My dad grew up a musician. He plays piano, guitar and can shred the drums too. I think that’s what got me started because he was always playing a variety of music at home or in the car. I would always kick my legs to any beat that I heard playing and one day I randomly set up various boxes and tins and started tapping on them while he played piano. That became a regular thing so fairly soon after that I took lessons and my parents bought me a drum kit.

Skateboarding and music stem in many ways from the same creative impulse – how do the two connect for you?

It may sound a bit cliched but skateboarding and music are both art forms that allow you to express yourself. I feel like that’s what they both do for me. I’m not the most outgoing person but when I get on my board or get behind a drum kit, that’s when I can get a lot of my words out, figuratively speaking. They also both have so much to do with rhythm and timing. I listen to what’s going on when I play alone or with the band, the same way I skate with others or compose myself at a contest. Interlocking the drum and bass to make a nice groove is kind of like getting a perfect pop off a nose grind or landing right underneath the coping after an air for example. They are also both similar in that it’s not always about you but when it’s your time to shine, you give it some!

Staying on the subject, what music amps you up to go skate?

I don’t think there’s only one type of music that gets me psyched to skate. Its funny because slower, funky or melodic stuff can get me just as amped to skate as up-tempo rock or metal does. I love a variety.

What equipment makes up your drum kit?

I currently have a Pacific LX series kit with a Stuart Copeland signature snare and Yamaha Floor Tom. I have an amazing Zildjian Ride cymbal, Paiste crash and Hi-Hats. I really want a 15 inch Zildjian Hi-Hat though (I hope they read this haha).

Hefty madonna in the deep.

Besides skateboarding, snowboarding and music, what occupies your time?

I’m currently taking some courses at MiraCosta Community college. I have yet to focus on a specific major but I feel like it’s good to stay involved in school, even if it’s just a little bit. Other than the above, I’ll be chilling at home with the family or hanging out with my girlfriend Naomi.

Do you ever hit the vert ramp padless? That seems to be a growing trend these days with Grant Taylor, Chris Russell etc.

I never skate vert padless. I don’t see the point because I would just be limiting myself If I did. Some people thrive off padless skating though and that’s totally cool, it is skateboarding after all and you choose how you want to skate.

As a regular face on some of the bigger vert contests i.e. the X Games, what is your take on vert skating becoming part of the Olympics?

This is really controversial. Part of me says it would be great to give vert such a massive international platform and bring it to the attention of the world! On the other hand, skateboarding has always been a raw and individualistic art form, not many coaches or rules etc. Also how do you score it as a competitive sport fairly? style is everything in our sport but style is really hard to judge consistently and fairly. all things considered I would love to see vert skateboarding go to the next level and feature as an Olympic sport.

Favourite trick to do? Madonna.

Favourite trick you wish you could do? Frontside invert.

Have you ever skated the megaramp? No!

Cheers Paul, any final shout outs?

Thanks Sidewalk and Pulsar Watches – My friends at Etnies, Bones wheels, Greenissue skateboards, 187 Killer pads, Division gaskets, Bombas Socks, Señor Grubby’s (who do the best burritos in Carlsbad) and all of the vert riders out there busting their asses to keep the vert dream alive.

Blazing wheels and barking trucks...


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