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It’s a hot summer’s day in late July at the river Seine when Laureline reaches for her camera. The majestic light from the blood-red sun setting over the Parisian skyline illuminates the entire surroundings. The young French girl frames the silhouette of a cruising longboarder along the docks, waits for the magic moment and captures her shot of the day. As daylight slowly vanishes and dusk sets in, she swaps her camera for her longboard, claps it down onto the asphalt and glides gracefully back to her group of friends on wheels. For just over a year now, longboarders have been breathing life, action and movement into what was once a busy main road for cars along the banks of the Seine in central Paris. As an extremely visual activity for participants and spectators alike, the dynamic and challenging activities in front of Musée d’Orsay, underneath the Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor, have quickly developed into popular happenings where people of all ages gather to participate.
Alex Massin and Lotfi Lamaali, two long-time friends and passionate boarders, found this space to be perfect for regular longboarding meet-ups. Their aim was to expand the local boarding community and shine a light on local talent, as well as unite the longboarders of Paris. That’s how their idea for Docksession was born. Hosting numerous skating events around France throughout the year, as well as a weekly meeting every Thursday in Paris, Docksession is open to everyone willing to brave a set of wheels and give it a try. Regulars at the docks are keen to lend a hand to newcomers and share their knowledge of the sport. When Laureline describes the weekly gathering, which has influenced her and others greatly, she uses the words friendly and fun, music and learning. Together with her friends, she spends as much of her free time as possible at this place that not only unites longboarders but also helps improve their creative skills. “Docksession has changed my life. I met lots of people, most of them became best friends. We are a family!”
A good friend of Laureline is Tonia. A regular at the docks, she can often be seen cruising along, sporting a pair of bright orange reflective sunnies, tuning out to her favourite songs on her headphones. The sound of the wheels hissing over the surface like a jet stream intensify her movement as she elegantly manoeuvres across the asphalt. Tonia and Laureline are among a growing number of girls who have taken to longboarding at Docksession. While skateboarding still appears to be a male-dominated sport, the accessibility and elegance of longboarding has helped to redefine the common rebellious stereotype. “Longboarding is more stable, less aggressive. Great to move in my city. The docks are closed to cars. It’s a very large place and flat”, illustrates Laureline, whose favourite trick is the so-called Peter Pan, an impressive flatland movement that gives the light-footed appearance of dancing on the board as it drifts.
Often referred to as sidewalk surfing, the charm of longboarding lies less in the stunts and more in the swift glide of urethane wheels on smooth concrete. The elongated design helps to propel the board along, allowing for easy acceleration and increasing room for cruising tricks such as cross-stepping. The ability to maintain a relaxed posture while riding emphasises just how similar cruising on a longboard appears to riding a wave, drawing from its traditional roots, the surfboard. “In longboarding we can dance and slide. But we mix it together”, highlights Laureline. “It’s funny, the tourists stop and take pictures of us because this sport is graceful, surprising and amazing”. In addition to her interest in skating, Laureline takes photos at most Docksession meet-ups, and by doing so has developed a natural talent for photography. “It’s a pleasure for me to take photos, and for longboarders because they are happy to see themselves in practice. Moreover, this allows them to see their progress”.
Docksession has transformed the lives of many of its participants who use the space as a social hang-out, and as a result have initiated dozens of other cultural activities and installations. At night, the docks are often transformed into extravagant festivals of music, light, laughter and longboarding, with local and international bands and DJs performing for the crowds. What started as the Docksession in Paris might soon become a worldwide network of longboarding events. The founding members have already successfully expanded to other cities in France, such as Bordeaux, Toulouse and Nantes, and have recently initiated several international sessions in countries as far away as Japan. As the community continues to grow, it will encourage people to discover longboarding, along with the lifestyle and the feeling that comes with it. Laureline defines her feelings towards longboarding as liberty. “When you’re longboarding, you think of nothing else. The body and the mind are busy. They feel like one!”