The Louif Paradis Interview
2017's Rider of the Year weighs in on the making of his new signature film with Tom Monterosso.
The term "One in a million" is often thrown around haphazardly. However, if used in its proper context, it's quite impactful, and if it's applied correctly, it's the best descriptor of a unique individual who has changed the landscape of an industry, profession or culture. And in the case of Louis-Felix Paradis Lemieux, it is applied correctly.
Louif is one of the most impactful riders of this generation, and he's done it on his terms, the way that he's always wanted to. His personality is dually in contrast and congruent to his riding. At times, both can be subtle and succinct, giving exactly what is needed to inspire a result or reaction, but at times, when his riding kicks into overdrive, it can be explosive and spontaneous—improvised, if you will. In person, Louif is thorough in all aspects. He's matter-of-fact. He's rather quiet. He only speaks at times that he deems appropriate, but when he does, he usually says something of larger substance than the current talking point. Plainly put, Louif is not just one of the most intriguing riders of this era, but one of the most outstandingly original human beings I have ever met, and after a multitude of international acclaim like X Games gold medals, award-winning video parts and Jibber of the Year titles, he's finally been granted his own signature film project, aptly titled Beacon, available on iTunes now. With Beacon and with everything he does, Louif thought this out. It has a point. It has a vision. It has a meaning. He aims to put out a relatable snowboard film free from artificial speed provided by winches, bungees and buddy pulls. He wants people to see him snowboard, not just "jib." Together, with longtime friend and famed filmmaker Hayden Rensch, Louif's legacy will forever be engrained in our culture; the very same culture he hopes to feed and nurture for years to come. In other words, maybe Beacon is Louif's subtle and succinct way of bringing us all together through his vision for the greater good. Just maybe.
Talk a little bit about where you're from, where you grew up snowboarding, and who you grew up riding with.
I am from Quebec City, I am 30 years old, and I grew up snowboarding there on the little resorts around the city and the parks. Also the downtown stuff because we get snow all around the actual city. I grew up riding with Laurent [Nicolas-Paquin] and all the Sugarshack dudes that we ended up doing Deja Vu with. We all met at Stoneham Resort and rode park and then started doing little edits. VHS edits at the time. But then, yeah, we just kind of stuck together.
When did you start hitting actual street spots, not just riding all the rails in the park?
I don't know, maybe I was like 16, 17. Everything we would see in snowboard videos was not in park, a lot of it was in the streets, and we knew we had those spots in town cause there was a bit of an older generation finding them and showing them in Focus Productions.
That's actually kind of a perfect segue. Who were some of the riders that you really looked up to when you were growing up?
Well my first video was Decade, so I really enjoyed watching all the riders in it. JP Walker really stood out to me and Jeremy Jones and Peter Line, too. JP and Jeremy had a lot of street stuff, things I could relate to, and they had it with their style. That was really easy to like at the time.
That's awesome, but also on kind of a regional level, like the non-superstars. Local dudes.
Yeah, there was Focus Production and then there was the Gathering, and in the Gathering, there was Etienne Gilbert. That was maybe my favorite one back then. And then like all of my friends were also influences, but for older people that I didn't know, those guys.
Hell yeah. Alright, and so kind of transitioning into the making of Beacon— you've been in TransWorld and SNOWBOARDER videos, you've been in Videograss films. What inspired you to partner up with Hayden Rensch to make Beacon?
The first time I worked with Hayden was for my Real Snow part. I don't think I worked with him
Before that and I just called him out of nowhere and was like, "Hey, do you want to do this one with me?" From there, we did the Deja Vu project together and then after that, well, we did the TransWorld and SNOWBOARDER movies. So I was ready for something else, something maybe a bit more sophisticated than just a part-based video. I kind of wanted to work toward something a bit different. He and I had talked about different ideas with one format in particular, and all my sponsors were kind of offering me to do my own thing if I wanted to, so I just took it.
Do you see it as an accomplishment in your career? Are you kind of flattered that you got to do your own signature project? Because not a lot of pro snowboarders ever get that chance.
Yeah, for sure. It really means a lot to me and it was a huge honor to have that chance and I still probably don't realize it, because I didn't really treat it like an autobiography and I really didn't want it to be like that.
How was it working with 16mm film as opposed to shooting with a digital camera. What are the pros and what are the cons of it? What do you like about it?
Well, we worked with 16 in all the tricks that were going to be quick, like only a couple tries and when there's pow landings. Pretty much all of Japan, except one spot, was all 16. And then Russia, a lot of the street stuff that is going to take 10 tries or more, we would go with HD whatever. We would get everything else with 16. A lot of the in-runs and ride-aways and lifestyle shots. But in Japan and some other locations, a lot of it was shot on 16 and what's crazy with that is you don't really see the clip so you're not sure what it's going to look like. You're not even sure if it's going to come out at all. That's a bit crazy but it was more exciting. A lot of the time you land a trick and you know if it was good or not. I kind of liked it. It was a surprise.
A big thing I want to talk about is the motivation behind the whole natural speed feel that you wanted to go for. That is a big part of the movie.
I think I was watching snowboard videos and kind of getting like…almost not that excited to snowboard. Some parts I would get excited for but, I don't know…I kind of wanted to make something that was…how do I say…I'm trying to find the right word for like, when everything makes sense and is in order.
Yeah! Congruent. Yeah, so I wanted to make something like that with a lot of flow. That's what Hayden and I would refer as we were just saying make something "flowy" from beginning to end. Something that almost looks like it was just one run the whole time, kind of.
Let's get into a little bit the riders you chose to session with. Why did you choose these specific guys? Just kind of run through the list and talk about each guy and a couple things you like about their riding.
I don't know if I need to say it but I'll say it anyways. I had a pretty big list. I don't know if you remember seeing my list of riders, but it was huge, like the people that I had in mind for this. We only did basically five trips and in reality, we did two Quebec staycations and then three real trips. It goes quick and we were just one crew at a time. Basically I wanted to go with people that I knew would not have a problem with those natural speed restrictions and people that already kind of seem to want to ride that way and stuff. Phil Jacques, I'm a big fan of Phil's riding. He's super precise and light with it. It's a good style and he's my good homie from Quebec, so I kind of wanted some of my local dudes with me in the project. Then we went with Alek Oestreng. I had never ridden with him but I was just super impressed by his style and I was trying to think of someone to bring to Japan, and I thought he would fit because he rides street, park and pow and he hadn't ridden in Japan before. I just thought that he would be kind of the best person to mix everything there and try to ride the stuff that I wanted to go ride there. Mark Wilson, I had a really good experience riding with him the year before in Quebec. I've always been a big fan of his street riding and I thought that it'd be cool to see him ride lines in Russia. I had done one trip with Tommy Gesme for Salomon in Japan and I got along really well with him, but I had never actually ridden street stuff with him. Ben Bilocq was with us all winter, too. It was nice because I didn't know really how it was going to go, but early in the season, Ben was like, "If you need any type of help with this project, I'm down." I've always really liked to have Ben on trips because he just has the best eye ever. He's always down to work and get stuff done. He also has a really fun perspective to be around. He's positive. He appreciates the simple, little things in life, which is awesome. We had quick appearances from Mammouth Durette and Frank Bourgeois. Unfortunately, I hit those guys up a little late in the season, but they still had some energy left. We hit two spots each or something while in Quebec. It was cool.
I want to have you quickly give a couple quotes about Artem Smolin. What was his deal with the film?
I had been trying to link up with him for a few years now. I had been talking to him on Facebook. I've been attracted to Russia for years and I never was able to go and Artem was always my guy because I watched his video parts and I've always been a fan. I really like his style and he was in the Postland stuff and he was in the adidas TransSiberia edit and everyone at adidas told me he was cool. I just wanted to link up with him. He was just as much a rider as a guide over there. It was cool because he speaks Russian fluently but I didn't want to just have a guy who just stays in the car. I really wanted him to get just as much footage as us. He got hurt a little bit, but in the first couple days he was able to get some footage that I really like.
The last signature project that I saw that I felt like portrayed the person for who they were and was also a little bit outside the box in terms of being a viewer was 9191. Jake Price did a phenomenal job of throwing in some unique, abstract stuff that kind of only started to make sense after the second or third time you watched the movie.
Yeah, and that's one of my favorites. That was an influence. Music-wise too, it's not like pop music or something that sounds good right off the bat. We weren't necessarily trying to please the general public. We wanted to please us first and then if we like it, I'm sure the right people will like it, too.
What's the ultimate goal that you want viewers to come away with? If you could have a kid say one thing about Beacon after watching it, what would that be?
When I ride this stuff, I want snowboarding to look accessible, in a sense. To let kids know that you don't need to be super techy. You can just go ride downhill and find pleasure with the rhythm and the flow that you find on your snowboard and it's just as important as the tricks that you do. I feel like the way we're showing snowboarding in this film is maybe a little different, so it could be attractive to people who have never snowboarded before.