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rowing up in Canada in the mid- to late-’90s there seemed to be few cities in the country where skateboarding was accepted and flourished. Sure, every town had its own scene, but it seemed like above all, Vancouver was exploding into not only a Canadian destination, but also worldwide skate mecca. So, like most skaters during that time, I packed my bags and headed for the West Coast from Ottawa. My cousin, Adam Green, who also lived in Ottawa at the time, was a few years younger and instead chose to head back to his birthplace of Montreal. Sometimes I wonder if he made the wiser decision.
Montreal always had a vibrant scene and there was never a question that it was also rife with talent. I remember often visiting the old Taj Mahal and watching guys like Barry Walsh, Marc Tison, Eric Mercier and Raj Mehra destroy the place on a level I thought only existed in videos. But even with such talent MTL seemed to somehow remain off the international radar. That is until recently… Today, Montreal is finally getting the recognition it deserves. Brought in by a new group of skaters who have been mentored by the old guard, the city has continuously bred some of the rawest and most diversely talented
skaters on the planet. Furthermore, the Montreal’s influence has spilled over its geographical limits, drawing in skaters from across the country and abroad. I’m willing to bet that you could ask any top Canadian skater, be it AM or Pro, not from Montreal, that they have spent time there. Whether it’s the allure of its women, food, culture or just a litany of new spots, it’s safe to say we may be on the verge of a Montreal migration! So if you’re thinking of visiting La Belle Province’s most well known city, here are a few tips for you when you visit… or relocate.
Brandon “Beaster” Bandula b acks mit h p o p o u t
No French? No Problem. Now, the first thing I always hear from people who haven’t been to Montreal is that there is a real concern about the French language barrier. But what most people don’t know is that you’re very rarely stuck in a situation where English can’t be used. New Brunswick-born Josh Clark was never intimidated by the potential problem. “I went to a French school for 10 years, so I am actually fully bilingual, but I have a lot of friends that are completely English here as well. For example, Kyle MacDonald moved here the same day I did and he has gotten by fine. His girlfriend is actually completely French and he is fully English and that has not affected their relationship at all. Montreal is completely bilingual, like if you don’t speak French you can still get by, 100 per cent. Like anywhere you go to eat or order something, the people working will
most likely also speak English, if not them, the person beside them. You don’t need to know French to come here. That is just a lie to scare people away.” A fact that most are unaware of is that the language door swings both ways. While it’s unlikely that you’ll find someone from Quebec stressing about their lack of English as they travel throughout downtown, Montreal’s West Island is predominantly English. JS Lapierre is one Quebecer who actually learned the majority of his second language after moving to the city. “I’m from an hour south of Montreal—a little village in the middle of nowhere called Notre-Dame de Stanbridge. I’ve been living in Montreal for about four years. I moved in with Josh [Clark] and Adam [Green] when I was 16. At first I didn’t speak very much English at all. I could have little
conversations but I had a really strong French accent so it was hard. I think I’ve gotten better since. I also think living with Josh and Adam made a big difference ‘cause they were always speaking English around me. It really helped me out.” Thanks to a unique vernacular that has been developed by French and English speaking population of the province (better known as Franglais or Frenglish), newcomers with little knowledge of French can even follow along with most conversations. Adam elaborated, “The way we speak French here is terrible. I mean anyone who has ever taken even a French course in high school can understand the conversations. We really have the most broken French in the world here. We’ve basically butchered the language. It’s not uncommon to hear something like ‘J’ai bession de new shoes.’ Totally broken [laughs].”
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“It’s a very liberal city.
I’m not saying other places like Vancouver or Toronto aren’t, but Montreal is just very open to any lifestyle and any desire.” Adam Green wallie to b ack lip
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Drivers Need Not Apply: Stick To Your Board One of the more unique aspects of Montreal is that there is little need for a car when visiting the downtown core. With a series of one-ways and narrow alleys, visitors and locals alike will opt for alternate forms of transportation, which as a bonus by-product has fostered the discovery of numerous previously unknown spots. When asked about how he get around Adam noted: “We used to ride Bixi bikes [public bicycle sharing system] but they got too expensive, so now I ride a cruiser board everywhere unless we’re actually going skating. On those days I just bring my regular board. The way I see it is, there’s no point in paying for public transportation in this city. Everything is really
accessible and everything is close enough to skate home from any spot.” Mitch Barrette spends most of his time bouncing from Ottawa to various locations but knows when he gets to Montreal it’s best to park his ride. “There’s so much stuff to skate that you don’t really need a car. It’s really easy to skate from place to place. It seems like in other cities like Vancouver or whatever you have to do a lot more driving to get to spots. And Montreal traffic sucks; jams happen at the weirdest times, you never know where or when it’ll hit, so it’s best to just avoid the situation altogether.”
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If You Can’t Handle ‘La Joie De Vivre,’ Beware of Montreal! One thing Montreal doesn’t have a lack of is beautiful women and great nightlife. Being skaters, it’s no surprise that we’re drawn to the island city. When speaking to JS, he was quick to point out the merits of living in MTL, “The lifestyle is way better, in my mind anyways. It’s like when you go to Ontario getting beer and stuff is way harder, it’s a real hassle. That is, compared to here where you can just walk out your front door and down to the Dep [short for Dépanneur, basically a corner store]. There is always stuff going on in the city, too.” But much like it’s European relatives, the ability to always avail oneself of alcohol and other vices, a few have found it easy
to become party trap prey. “It’s a very liberal city,” said Adam. “I’m not saying other places like Vancouver or Toronto aren’t, but Montreal is just very open to any lifestyle and any desire. Like, we’ve had to send people back to where they came from because they get here and have too much access to booze and drugs or whatever.” Reaffirming Adam’s out-of-towner suspicions, Mitch said, ”I definitely do a lot of drinking and partying when I go there, so it can be hard at times to get up the next day and skate. But if you can find a way to balance the two, the city can be pretty perfect.”
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Josh Clark: Tour Guide Extraordinaire When visiting a new city or moving there for the first time it’s good to know the right people. After living in the city for some years now, Josh Clark has become Montreal’s unofficial tour guide for out-oftown talent. When thinking back, I remember him showing around Sean Malto while he stayed in the city. Asking Josh how he landed the role he said, “Yeah, I don’t really know how that all happened. I guess my name just gets thrown around. Like if a team comes to town I will often just get a call and they’ll be like: ‘Hey, come show us around.’ I’m super down for that cause and they will often have a car so we can go to some really sick spots outside of the city’s core. I really do like showing people around, even when I’m not the one doing the tricks. I like to be a part of skating as much as possible. So I’m not sure exactly who made the tour guide thing happen for me, but whoever it was, thanks ‘cause I’m stoked.”
As a fellow local, Adam has also done his fair share of playing host to outsiders but admits his time spent performing guiding duties pales in comparison to Clark’s, “Honestly, I have done a little bit, but Josh is really the guy who has taken over that department. But just off Sherbrooke alone, there are tons of spots. And it is mandatory to bring them to our later-in-the-day spot, Parc Lafontaine. It’s pretty much where we just chill, drink beers and there are a bunch of ‘C’ benches as well. But yeah, going back to the point, Josh really is the official city tour guide. He knows all the young kids and now because of his new TM job our house has basically turned into the DC hostel [laughs].”
Andrew McGraw b acks id e 50 -50
Montreal, ‘Je T’aime!’ So once you have visited the city, should your buddies and family be worried that you’ll be ditching life in your hometown for life in MTL? According to the members of Montreal’s premiere skate house, absolutely. “I have never even thought about leaving. Not once!” said Adam, “I mean, if I had all the money in the world, I may go to SF for the winters or something but I would always come back to Montreal. Just to be here in my backyard, in the alley, hanging with my guitar and my dog. I couldn’t ask for anything more. Plus, you would be a damn fool to deny that the women here are insane as well! Not to mention that the ratio is a thousand to one for us as well [laughs].”
Similarly, JS was fine for a short trip but never liked straying far from home. “I do miss it a lot when I go. I suppose it depends on where I go, like if it’s the States or something, I really like coming back home. But if it’s Ottawa or somewhere close, it’s easier ‘cause I’m not so far away.” And of course, Montreal’s most well-known tour guide, Josh Clark, couldn’t imagine living anywhere else outside the city’s limits, “I think Montreal will be my home for a while. It works perfect for me and I feel like you will see more and more people start trying to make the move here. There’s just so much untouched stuff to skate—it’s amazing!”
Published on Dec 10, 2012
Words: Matt Meadows // Photos: Brian Caissie // Design: Meep Creative There’s no doubt that MONTREAL is one of the most fun and culturally...