There must be something different about Reunion Island; it might be the air they breathe, or that salty breeze coming in off the Indian ocean- but it's fair to say that the tropical island has produced quite a lot of talented skateboarders, all with a way-above-average technical skill level.
Lawrence Ravail is a pure product of that skateboarding environment. Not afraid of going big if the spot requires a carcass-throw, he also has the patience and board control needed to pull the craziest ledge combos- which you may have seen appear on your Instagram feed, at some point. We caught up with the 25-year-old French skateboarding adventurer upon his return from the WST World Championships last month, in order to find out the down-low about skateboarding in La Reunion, contest stresses, stacking clips and much else besides.
Interview & Photography: Greg Poissonnier
Hi, Lawrence- so you recently moved from Reunion Island to mainland France; what’s the story, there?
I recently moved to the mainland after my integration into the French team- it facilitates a lot of things, especially when it comes to travelling and stuff… but, also, to have more opportunities.
When and how did you pick up skateboarding?
A little over ten years ago, a skatepark was built in Saint-Pierre on Reunion Island. My brother brought me there along with him, as he was skating a bit- so I wanted to try, too. I was hooked instantly; I’ve never stopped since that day.
How was it growing up skating a tropical island in which surfing is the main activity? How is the scene there? What are spots like?
One of the major advantages of skating on a tropical island is the weather: it's nice and pretty warm all year long- about 20°C in winter- so you can skate pretty much every day. When I started skating, the scene wasn't really developed- it was quite small. Pretty quickly, I ended up skating with with the older dudes, who were only skating street. On the island, most of the best street spots are often located in schools with are difficult to access; weekend spots only- and quite a bust, as well. The other spots are really sparse so you get around them very quickly. On the surf side, there weren't many surfers in the skateparks before the shark crisis- but since then, skating has grown a lot in popularity. That’s one of the reasons why the cities created more skateparks and the scene keeps developing- the motivation and vibes are pretty high!
You’re pretty well known for going big as well as super tech- who did you look up to when you were growing up skating?
When I started skating, I didn’t actually like watching videos- so I was inspired by the skaters around me.Growing up, as I became more interested in skateboarding culture I enjoyed watching P-Rod, Kyle Walker… or Carlos Ribeiro, for example. So I'd say those guys influenced my approach to skating.
You’re currently seeking proper support to take your career to the next level; what’s your take on the current situation regarding sponsorship opportunities and the industry in general?
Since the Covid crisis, the skateboarding industry seems to be taking a break- almost like being on standby; brands don't hook up riders that much, and marketing budgets seem to be less important than they used to be. So, of course, it’s not the ideal time to get in touch and talk to brands about potential deals…
How do you get by these days?
At the moment, I can get by thanks to Zebox Skateshop and their financial support.
You’re currently in the process of finishing a video part, and at the same time working hard to improve your contest abilities to try and qualify for Paris 2024; how do you manage both aspects of your skating?
Both aspects are quite complimentary- when I'm filming in the street, I can try tricks that I've been practicing during my 'training' sessions. Filming also allows me to free my mind, and get back to an aspect of skateboarding that I don't really feel when I'm training. Most of the time, after spending some time on the streets it gives me confidence and more motivation back for the next training sesh.
What do you like, and dislike, about contests?
What I like the most about contests, is that they give me the chance to travel, to meet people and transcend myself. On the other hand it is a very stressful environment, where there is often disappointment and questions.
And conversely, what do you like and dislike about hitting the streets to stack clips?
I absolutely love the atmosphere and the moments shared with friends while we’re on a filming mission. It is during these very moments that I really open up, because in these type of sessions we're all hyping each other to try to get best footage possible. The downside would be the abuse suffered by the equipment we use, through those rough, rugged spots and repeated tries!
So, you just got back from Sharjah and things didn't really go according to the plan you had in mind- tell us how things went.
I'm a bit disappointed that things didn't really go the way I wanted them to- but that's part of the game, and why we like it! You can work and prepare yourself for months or years, thinking you're ready, and totally blow it. Regarding Sharjah, I really thought I was going to go further in the comp- the park suited me well, and I was feeling great. Practice sessions were shared between 20 riders and it was pretty complicated to prepare your run; I didn't get the chance to complete my whole line once and time it out. I guess you could tell when I did my run- it was pretty obvious. I thought I had enough time to go for my last trick, but I was two seconds late. So, yeah: disappointed for not having being able to complete my run and prepare accordingly- but, still, I'm proud of myself. I landed all my tricks, and had a great time.
It was your first time visiting the Emirates, right? How did you like it? Were the people welcoming? What about the street spots ?
Yeah, it was my first time there; I was impressed by the size of the buildings and cities. It's a very nice place- filled with perfect street spots. We got to skate a pole jam spot in a back street- people came out of work to check it out and film on their phones. There was a very good vibe. We also skated an amazing spot with marble banks in the middle of a roundabout where a couple of kids showed up willing to try to skate, great times. It's those kinds of moments that make me love street skating so much: bringing people together and creating great memories.