Photography by Charles Pigneul

It’s one and a half days until I have to send this issue to the printer (a very common sentence in any skateboarding magazine) and I still have to transcribe this interview. You see, when I visited Thibault Gortina and his companion Charles Pigneul (who took all the lovely photos in this article) in Brussels a week ago, Charles told me about a handy feature in Adobe Premiere that could transcribe any audio you threw into it. Surely, that would revolutionise the way I could do interviews! So, I spent the rest of the week postponing this interview, doing other design and writing stuff first, and also building a new side table for my living room. After all, transcribing this interview would only take five minutes, is what Charles said to me.

Well, Charles, listen to me. I had to download a new version of Premiere for this, for which I had to update my Macbook, which was in turn not possible as there’s not enough space available. Freeing up space did not work either, so that left me with one option: listening to my own stupid voice asking shitty questions for 30 minutes. Great!


In case you do not know who Thibault Gortina is: Thibault is a very nice gentleman, currently 25 years old, residing in Brussels but originally from Angers, France. My plan was to interview a actual Belgian skater, but somehow I ended up talking to two Frenchies, as Charles is from Angers as well. Maybe if I’d have paid more attention during Abdel’s French classes in high school, I could have done the interview in French, but alas, I was too lazy and now I’m left with French skills that are just above the level of the average Dutch tourist in France. 

Anyway, during my visit to Brussels, it was cold and wet, making skating pretty much impossible. Not the ideal circumstances for visiting someone you never met, while the aim is to create something featuring the thing we all love: skateboarding. On the other hand, being forced to do something different than skating does help with the process of getting to know someone. After I arrived at Thibaults home, where I had no trouble finding the correct doorbell, this moustachioed Frenchman welcomed me warmly. After Charles arrived, we quickly went outside again, cursing at the floor for being wet, and sat down for a coffee at one of the standard cafés Thibault and his crew frequently visit. As Mark Baron, a friend of the two, arrived, the decision was made to walk to a classic burger spot, where we also ate a burger and potato waffles. Yes, that is a potato, fried in the shape of a waffle. 

Frontside noseblunt

Desperate to skate and with no good indoor options in Brussels, we made our way to Mechelen to skate the Awarehouse Collective park. It’s big and massive and scary, but Thibault still managed to apply his natural talent to various obstacles. However, most of the flying was done by local legend Pieter de Clus, who was probably born in the deep end of a pool, shooting out and instantly knew how to do a frontside grind on pool coping. Some just have it like that. Despite having the park for ourselves, we called it a day after a few hours and made our way back to Brussels to close the day off with some beers. That was the plan, at least. Even though the temperature outside was getting close to freezing, it was apparently still an option to sit outside at the same cafe we drank our coffee earlier that day. Combine the cold weather with 75% of the crew being tired from yesterday’s party, and me tired of a train adventure I won’t tell you about, and you have a freezing group of skaters, all falling asleep.

So, in hopes of Sunday being a dry and skateable day, everybody went home to catch some deserved sleep.

I woke up around 08:00am on Sunday, as my biological schedule does not allow me to sleep in till late, and I heard rain falling down on the roof of the classic five-story high building. After trying to figure out the architecture style of the house, I had to land on eclectic; there’s so much going on in the neighbourhood of Saint-Gillis that it could take me four more days of research and I still have an interview to transcribe. Coming to think of it, so far, I have failed to describe Thibault’s skating style. Sometimes, it’s quick footed, other times it’s fast and about distance, then another clip he’s flipping out of a bluntslide. Creative, but never gimmicky. Eclectic, isn’t it?


The day started by drinking coffee with his housemates, then going outside to grab some croissants and meeting up with Charles. As the cafe we were at yesterday was full, we walked a bit further to another establishment. Despite it being busy inside with people having Sunday brunch with their loved ones, I figured it was a good idea to start recording for the interview. 

The first question is:

So, you’re from Angers, in France, right?

To which Thibault replied:

Yes, I’m from Angers. 

As he did that, he rectified my complete failure at pronouncing Angers. I said it with a hard G, he said it with one of those lovely French G’s that immediately bring you to a small village in the countryside, where pretty ladies with Peugeot bikes and baskets filled with baguettes and wine cycle around, from one picnic to another. 

Angers is a small town in the west of France, two and a half hours from Paris. Both Thibault and Charles were born and raised there. 

Thibault: I started skating because of my brother, who was into the style of skating: wearing bigger shoes, stuff like that. For me, it went a bit deeper, looking at videos, until I asked my parents to buy me a board. I’m 25 now, and started skating when I was eight years old. I’ve been in Brussels for four and a half years now, studying graphic design at first, and now that I’ve finished school I like to stay here. I’m surrounded by friends, good people, and there’s a lot of good projects going on! I’m good here.

One of these projects is the Vans Belgium Brittney video by Harry Billiet, which has already premiered by the time you read this and might be playing on one of the big skateboard magazines sites too! And if not, look at any of the photos in this article to prepare yourself for Tibo’s footage.

In between Angers and Brussels, Thibault lived in Barcelona for a few months, following a friend from his hometown who left right as Thibault arrived. Thibault was forced to leave Barca as he broke his arm quite badly, and had to go back to France to get proper healthcare. After he got his arm repaired, Brussels called, as Charles was already there. With scars all over both of his arms, it led me to the question of skating differently when your arms are the weakest point of your body:

Thibault: A lot of people always say to me that I’m holding my hands closed, because maybe in my mind I still can’t forget breaking my arms! I used to skate with a brace a lot, but now I quit that. I think it reminds me of falling, and now that I leave it at home I’m never thinking about it when skating! I still have to take care of it, because there’s metal bits in my arm now. It’s been broken three or four times now. I had to focus on push ups, to get some muscle so I wouldn’t break my arm again! Now I can slam without my friends worrying about going to the hospital again. 

Charles: It happened once, just when he moved to Brussels, actually.

Thibault: Yep, I broke it in Barcelona, France, Spain and Belgium! The one in Belgium was during the covid era, so I had to stay in the hospital for a week to wait for surgery, while they were busy with covid patients. No visitors allowed! But it’s been a long time now since breaking it.

  • Noseslide to
  • switch 5-0

And the ankles then? Well, he never rolls those. Lucky bastard. Apparently he was good at trampoline while he was practising gymnastics for six years. After that, he told me that he also tried football for a year, but didn’t like it. Of course, it doesn’t exactly help if somebody puts a skatepark right in front of the football pitch! So, he got a board from his parents who were fully supportive of his skateboarding endeavours.

Thibault: Actually, my dad was helping me a lot, pushing me to do what I want. He worked all around the country, so I would always join him, putting my board in the car and tagging along. He’d visit customers, and then afterwards we would go to skateparks in different cities. I’m really thankful for that. 

Your first skate trips! 

Next subject: the scene in Brussels. Somehow, it’s quite hard to get the whole scene together. There are not a lot of times where everybody skates together, people and their crews are always split up in between various spots among town. Spots that, according to Thibault, are not the easiest to skate too. And during my quick visit, but also from the video’s I’ve seen, that makes sense: most of the spots have a shitty ground situation, or are crusty in some other ways. I guess that adds a certain charm, but that makes having consistent sessions with everyone, altogether a bit harder as well. 

Then there’s also the division between Flemish and French-speaking crews. It makes sense that one leans more into the French side of town if that’s your native language, and the other way around. It is surprising though, that the capital of Europe has a scene that is so hard to bring together. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not all doom and gloom, this year has seen the release of multiple Brussels based videos: ‘Holy Shit, The Way You Look’ by Charles, ‘Fine, Go Skate…’ by Pierre Alexandre, and the Vans Belgium video premiering in Brussels in December. 

We move on to other cities, Antwerpen, Mechelen, talk about DIY spots, learning to skate transition spots. Thibault, like many skaters with comparable characteristics as him, likes to venture into different places, learn new things, never do the same thing twice. That translated into moving around from Angers, to Barca, back to Angers and on to Brussels, but is also visible in his skating, as it has that mix of everything. Thibault’s favourite skaters around? Victor Meyers (first part in ‘Fine, Go Skate…’) and Tomas de Keulenaer, just so you know.

When he’s not skating, Thibault is working on animations and graphic design. He’s already made animations for various skate videos, and works as a visual commications intern at 7Hills, the organisation building skateparks in Jordan. A laptop and a scanner are his only tools, for now. He hopes to have a big atelier in the future, but these two basic tools work just fine for what he’s up to now. 

Thibault: Right now, I’m putting up drawings for projects all over my room.

One time, I opened my window, so I lost a drawing! Now, it’s gone forever. 

While we’re doing this interview, I see one of Thibault’s housemates walking across the square in front of the cafe, where a market is held as well. She’s carrying four leeks, and since she was a victim of the same night of partying as Charles and Thibault, the leeks can only be understood as a semi-desperate attempt at getting healthy again.

I’m thinking of the above anecdote while the interview is playing from my laptop’s shitty speakers, and I’m hearing myself talk and listen to stories about Thibault’s previous intern job at a board printing company, board graphics and meeting Dustin Dollin. Then the conversation shifts to Gogole Skateboards, a board company he and his friends from Angers started while living there. They were sued by Google at some point, as the name sounded too much like the big search engine, so they made the front page of the local news. In a way, that’s the first cover Thibault got through skateboarding! Funny fact is that in one of the graphics, they stole the font of Globe, so if Google hadn’t pursued legal action, they still had the chance to be contacted by the Globe legal team. 

As I’m reaching the end of the audio file, space in the Indesign document is also running out. That means there’s not much room to talk about our touristic walk in search of a magnet for my fridge anymore, or the moment we saw a big shepherd’s dog almost eat a little dog. Maybe there’s enough space to talk about the Italian deli Charles took us to, where we picked up an amazing panini. Or, what about the vintage store, where I bought a scarf that says ‘WESLEY SNEIJDER’, only to find out the scarf is a bit short, ironically? 

All basic Sunday activities, much like walking around the vegetable market with four leeks. Wrapping up the interview, Thibault talks about the places he might end up living, but he doesn’t have a certain favourite. Wherever he goes, he’ll fit in, adapting his style to his new surroundings, making the eclectic even more his own.