My folks’ feelings towards skating were always just whatever. Pretty sure they would’ve been happier to take me to a hockey game or skiing instead of spending their Saturdays waiting for me next to the stinky helmet lockers at the old Taz skatepark on Berri, but they did it anyway. When I was nine or ten, during one of these endless Taz missions, my dad came looking for me in the park, running in between dudes, yelling
I had to come see this guy in the vert ramp. I was embarrassed, but it was cool to see him pumped like that. The vert skater was straight murdering it, floating in the air like a feather. Little did I know the guy was actually a well-respected French Canadian skateboarder named Pierre-Luc Gagnon, who would later change the game in vert skateboarding. Until I got to learn who he really was a couple years later, PLG was the guy in the white shirt who made my dad understand that skating is f*cking sick.
So, you’ve been pro for 20 years. How does it feel?
Feels good man. Much respect to you guys for highlighting this milestone. It means a lot to me.
Boom! Let’s start from the beginning of the time line. Where are you from?
I grew up on the South Shore of Montreal, in a town called Boucherville. Pretty much lived there until I turned 20 and moved to California.
How did you get into vert Skating? Was there even a ramp to skate close to Boucherville?
Actually, yeah. There was a skatepark right by my house with a weird asphalt bowl, a quarter pipe, benches, flatbars and a 12 foot tall vert ramp. Since vert skating was actually the main thing at that time, a lot of cities had a blue metal ramp just like this one.
Dude, we had one just like that where I’m from too! We were mostly skating the blue flat rail though. yeah, a lot of towns had the same exact blue park. When did you Start Skating?
Around ’96. Street skating glory days! See, I started going to the Boucherville outdoor park in ’89 or something. Even before the big pants and small wheels craze of the 90s.
With all those vert ramps around, why did your dad decide to open a skatepark in your hometown?
It was just so hard to skate in the winter man. Indoor skateparks are a necessity here, but they never last too long. After renting multiple warehouses around our area, building a sh*tload of ramps and witnessing the death of most indoor parks we had, my dad went to the city of Boucherville and convinced them that skateboarding was good for the kids. The city ended up giving us money to open up a park, which my dad ran from ’92 to ’98. Since the city gave us just enough money to afford rent, he had to put $25,000 from his own savings to build the first couple ramps. Then at one point, he got his money back by charging the skaters $3 for a session or something.
After renting multiple warehouses around our area, building a sh*tload of ramps and witnessing the death of most indoor parks we had, my dad went to the city of Boucherville and convinced them that skateboarding was good for the kids
That’s so cheap!
That’s what I think too, but we experienced the same problem every indoor park has to deal with here: no one wants to pay to skate inside when it’s warm outside. We would still make enough money to get by and build new ramps. At one point, the park was pretty amazing. In ’98, a furniture company bought the warehouse and we got kicked out. That sucked.
Was that a motivation to move To California?
Yeah, for sure. At that point, nothing was going on vert wise in Montreal. I needed to go where the best vert ramps were and where there is actually people skating them on the regs, so I just went. Drove my car across the country with my dad, booked a vert demo in Colorado to finance my trip, got to Cali and never came back. I’ve been living in Encinitas for the last 17 years now.
Who was your original skate crew when you first got there?
Basically, anyone who was at the Encinitas YMCA. From Colin McKay, Mathias Ringstrom and Brian Howard to Bucky Lasek, Tas Pappas, Jesse Fritsch and a bunch of other rippers. I was there every single day. That ramp was just so perfect.
Any crazy party stories from your early days in Cali?
A couple, yeah. I’ll tell you the best one. It was the night after X Games 2012, I think. The year Jake Brown took the slam of pain. That day, Shaun won first place, I got second and Jake survived the gnarliest slam in the history of skateboarding. He basically became a celebrity that one night. It was all over the media. That evening was just meant to be rowdy. So, when you win money at a contest, there is that unwritten rule saying you have to hook up your crew with 10% of your earnings. With the amount we were winning at X Games, 10% would be way too much, but still, we were spending big money. After the contest, I invited all the homies at the house and ordered a $900 sushi catering for everyone. Shaun booked a limo so we could all hit the club afterwards, which was like a 30-minute drive from the house. Everything was cool until it was time to head back home. As we got out in the parking lot, the limo was gone. We couldn’t find Shaun either. Called the limo company to find out he had left the club by himself.
He didn’t tell anybody?
No. We were like 12 people with no ride home. Danny Way and a bunch of other heads were there, super pissed. I called the limo company and they just said since Shaun was the one paying, he had the right to leave when he wanted to. The guy didn’t want to come back to pick us up either. Three taxis and a couple hundred dollars later, we got back home. As we pulled up in our cabs, we saw the f*cking limo parked in my driveway! The driver guy was angry because Shaun puked everywhere before passing out in the back of the limo. I opened the door, looked into Shaun’s pockets, grabbed his credit card, paid for all three cabs, carried Shaun back to the house and kept partying all night. His sister had to come pick him up super late while he was still throwing up in a bowl.
Drove my car across the country with my dad, booked a vert demo in Colorado to finance my trip, got to Cali and never came back.
Well at least he paid for your way back home.
The best thing is that at 8am the next morning, as people were still up partying, the limo came back to my house. A random dude came to the door saying he was looking for a guy named Shaun White. They were tracking him down because his credit card bounced after paying for all the taxis! He also had to pay an extra $400 cleaning fee for puking in the limo. No hard feelings though, I think he was just way too drunk to even know what he was doing.
Do you still hang out with Shaun White today?
I haven’t heard from him in a while. He’s all up in Hollywood now and sh*t, being famous and all. Back in the days, I was down for that kind of stuff, but my current lifestyle is way more laid back, especially now that I have a son. I mostly just chill when I’m not skating. It would be cool to see Shaun again though.
Do people know your full name in Cali? How did PLG come about?
I would say most of my friends know my name, they just have a hard time pronouncing it. When I first moved here, they would just call me G. Then it just turned to PLG. They’re just my initials you know. I wasn’t trying to find a nickname for myself or anything, it just came randomly.
Is PLG an official American citizen now?
Yes he is.
Was the citizenship process as crazy as they say it is?
I definitely had to go through some bullsh*t, yeah. When I first came to California, I was riding for Vans and they got me a work Visa that allowed me to work in the States for a maximum of two years. At some point, when I came back to Canada to visit, I got pulled aside at the airport customs because I had cheques from different sponsors in my backpack. With a work Visa, you can only get paid from one employer, which was supposed to be Vans. I think I had a cheque from Electric Eyewear and from my clothing sponsor or whatever.
What did they do?
They wouldn’t let me go back to the States! I was stuck in Montreal for over a month in the dead of winter. Couldn’t do sh*t. Then this immigration lawyer named David Kussin, who is now my good friend, came to me with a solution: Instead of being an “independent contractor“ with many “clients,” I would work for an agent.
Like, the agent would get the cheques from my different sponsors, put it all together and then pay me, like he was my only employer. It worked. Got allowed back in Cali. Thank you David! After two years of work Visa, ten years of Green Card and an unimaginable amount of paperwork, I finally have dual citizenship now. I’m hyped on it. I’d like to get my son Leo on the dual program too.
Does it mean you’re thinking about coming back to Canada?
Well, you know, I think I still have a couple good skate years ahead of me, but I love Canada. My parents have a nice house near Mont Tremblant and I could easily see myself living close to them. You know, with the whole family. The calm, the nature, air quality, less traffic…all that good stuff. Canada is killing it, things are way less hectic over there I think.
Especially now, with all the craziness in US politics.
I don’t know much about politics, but all I can say is that I’m glad I got dual citizenship. If anything gnarly happens with the US, I’ll just cruise back to Canada with the family.
Well, I hope you keep on killing it in Cali for as long as you can. Anything else you’d like to say?
I’d like to give a shout-out to everybody that supported me throughout the years and who support vert skating. I especially want to thank Dan Mathieu for making this possible. His photography means a lot to me. Anyone else I forgot, thank you.
2002 X Games
2002 Gravity Games
2005 X Games
2008 AST Chinese Invitational
2008 X Games
2008 Maloof Money Cup
2009 X Games
2010 X Games
2010 Maloof Money Cup
201 1 Dew Cup
201 2 X Games
2015 X Games
interviewer Phil Lajeunesse
photos Dan Mathieu