Taking Flight: The Arthur Longo Interview

A discussion between two best friends, Arthur Longo and Olivier Gittler.


Interviewed by: Olivier Gittler

I was wearing knee pads when I met Arthur Longo for the very first time. It was my second week of snowboarding ever, and it was a bit tough to in- tegrate, honestly speaking. But on the third week, we were already sharing warm baths at his parents’ place after long days of stacking snow in our underpants. Long story extremely short: Twenty years later, here we are making a global Vans movie together, with a maturity level of way less than 20 years old. We might or might not still share baths together—I’ll leave that to your own imagination. We have hardly ever managed to have a fully serious conversation, but here is what the 30-year-old versions of ourselves might attempt to talk about. – Olivier Gittler

I just want to say, first off, that in twenty years of friendship between Arthur and I, we’ve probably had two or three actual serious conversations, ever.
Twenty years? That’s official?

I think so. Maybe twenty-five.
Honestly, I think twenty-two years of friendship and probably a bit more than three serious conversations.

Okay but figuratively, probably like two. So, what’s up? What are you wearing?
This could be the third serious one. I found this pullover last week in a second-hand store and you know how these are not necessarily washed when you buy them? But I love it so much that I still didn’t wash it and I’ve worn it every day.

Sick.
What are you wearing?

I’m wearing nothing. I’m completely naked. I’m waking up, still in the bed. It’s my girlfriend’s thirtieth birthday trip, so that’s why I’m naked in the bed. I’ve noticed that things are sort of getting official with the tattoos?
I wouldn’t say I’m into the tattoo world or a tattooist or anything like this, but I enjoy it a lot and some of my drawings are really simple lines and stuff, so it’s actually super easy to translate into tattoos. A little more than a year ago, I got a machine to just practice. Now I’ve done like thirty tattoos on my friends. It’s very occasional, just when someone feels it. It’s been fun, but it’s nothing that I would want to do too much.

Did you always like to draw? You’ve been painting a bunch lately too, right?
Yeah. Last year, very much. This year less, but yeah, I try to. It’s not like, “Oh I have one day free. I’ll go and paint.” It’s more of a full immersion into something and you’ve got to be inspired. You’ve got to have the gear and everything. You’ve got to try some things that will lead you to something you like. It’s a bit more than having a day free. It is something you kind of have to decide for yourself. I’ve been doing so many events this year that I didn’t paint that much, but I’m trying to find time to do it. Also, the space. We live in a small, shitty apartment. I’m not just going to put a mess where I’m not allowed to.

You’re in Berlin now. Berlin is super graffiti- style. Do you get inspired by the city walls or is it something completely detached?
It’s everything. Definitely the walls. What I grew up with, there was no art visible besides maybe from a movie poster or music, but here, it’s just everywhere because there are a ton of events all the time. There are event posters all over this city and this is something I really love. I love cool artwork. There’s usually a bunch of colors. And there is for sure the street art. It’s not really what I’m attracted to, but there is some that looks more like a mural. There are amazing things to see here. It’s definitely part of what inspired me to do it myself.

Marco was comparing it to where he grew up, kind of remote in the mountains, a little bit separated from the big city culture and art that it could bring.
Yeah. We both come from Grenoble. You can probably get inspired from there, as well. I never really lived in a city before, but having days in Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, all these cities—I don’t know. It’s always been really inspiring to me.

You’re 33 now, right?
Yes.

From my perspective, you were always creative, obviously in your snowboarding, but I feel like this urge to discover painting came later. This whole art thing, do you think it was Berlin that brought it to you or was it just that as you got older, you became more interested in these things?
Yeah. Before 18, I don’t really remember that much. Around 18 or 20, I was really into cinema, watching a ton of movies and maybe those which are a little bit more in depth and not super mainstream. I already loved music. I was actually kind of…it’s stupid, but I was writing some stuff sometimes. Of course, I never dreamed of being a writer or anything like that, but it was attracting me somehow. I never had any creative practice for a long, long time and in my twenties when I started to get tattoos, I wanted to try to draw a little more. When I was around 25, I was drawing a little bit, but what I would’ve loved to do was more film, photography, being creative in this world, and it just never really happened. I think it came definitely with Berlin, which was like seven years ago. Also coming from people like Mike Rav, Jamie Lynn, and Guch—I don’t know if I can generalize, but I feel like in the US, my American friends are super easy about making music. You don’t take it too seriously. You just start to make beats in your room. Rav is also always writing a bit of poetry and drawing, and on trips will have analog cameras. We listen to a ton of music. All this has been inspiring to me—to not be ashamed to create something even though it’s maybe not your main practice.

Yeah, I really see what you’re saying. It feels like maybe the European way—and not to generalize, but I feel like our European friends that do art or music, they call themselves musicians or artists really quickly, whereas our friends in the US, it’s really a thing they live and do, but it’s more about the enjoyment than adding any pressure to themselves.
Yeah, definitely. It’s really the feeling I get. You can make stuff even though you didn’t go to art school. There’s no shame in making something. I think where I come from, the education I had was if you draw some abstract little thing, then maybe someone like my dad would be like, “Oh that’s funny…” You know?

The stereotype of Paris is that everyone is a painter, everyone goes to museums. I guess maybe there’s a bit more pressure from the Europeans if they get into art. Not to say that there’s not in the US, but it’s maybe put more on the forefront.
Yeah, I’m sure I know a lot of people here in Berlin that maybe grew up in families where there was a bit more of this free spirit of creating. I would say there was definitely a break-out moment for me. It didn’t come from dedication I had, it just comes from the second part of my life: travels, meeting friends, and seeing new things.

And obviously you’re going to have to thank snowboarding for that. If you hadn’t had snowboarding, maybe you would have had fewer opportunities to go and see that open, free- mindedness of people just making art to make art and not overthinking it. What do you think you would be doing if you weren’t snowboarding? Do you think you would have the urge to go see things, to travel?
What would have happened? I don’t know. If I wanted to be a cabinet maker, I would’ve probably gone to a school and then my experience could’ve been a bit richer on the education side and less so on the side of meeting different people from different countries. Who knows? I think it is really rich, what snowboarding offers you, but I don’t think you need to travel everywhere in the world to be open-minded or to find a way to realize that all the cultures are different and to be inspired by different people through music, cinema—through so many things. It’s a way to be open-minded. I hope we don’t need to travel everywhere to be open-minded, but that definitely shaped a lot of the way I am.

You might also be lucky to be in a multicultural city like Berlin. You have a spectrum of cultures in one spot. It kind of makes you travel without moving.
Yeah, definitely. In a big European city, you see more than just the culture of the country you’re in. That’s what’s cool. You see people coming from the outside, who have different stories and all this, but we are still all a bit of the same. It’s a little bit of a bubble.

Yeah, like regardless of where you are or where you lived before, the city brings something for everyone that unites with the particularities of who people are. All the skaters are skaters, maybe one has a groovy Brazilian accent, maybe someone has an Australian one, but you’re basically all the same.
A little bit. I would say in snowboarding, as well. It is really a culture where we want to think we are very different individuals, and it’s somewhat true, but in some ways, there are codes even to snowboarding. If we think about what happened recently, how some of our friends came out, things like this came really late in snowboarding. All I want to say is that even though we say snowboarding helps you to be open-minded and travel and all this, even in this bubble there have still been some things that were not totally accepted. Not accepted, maybe I’m out of words to say what I mean. You get the picture.

p: Perly

So, what is my first tattoo going to look like from you?
That’s a good question. I don’t know. Did we decide we’re going to tattoo you? But you look so good without tattoos. Keep it blank.

How many tattoos do you have now?
Fifteen. I counted yesterday.

What was the first one?
That was my crew one, KRS. It’s a crew from back home, so we all have the letters KRS on the wrist.

Then you had the Super 8 not too far after?
I think then I had the mustache on the finger from the Vancouver Olympics in 2010.

To be honest, last season was actually one of my favorites. You don’t have to say the same, Arthur. It doesn’t matter, but from my perspective, I think it was my favorite.
It was your season.

What do you mean?
I don’t know. Everything that happened was to make you happy. Ha.

Haha.
Obviously, there was COVID. We were in Switzerland, which was amazing. After so many years of filming and being on trips, I hadn’t been too many times to Switzerland—what a beautiful country.

Yeah, even if we do have the option to go wherever next season, Switzerland will still be there. I really want to go back.
Maybe you’ll want to go to Colorado.

Colorado. I guess since we don’t compete anymore, that has been semi-long gone.
No, that was a joke because you always want to go to the US in the beginning of the season and so we go.

I do want to see Red Rocks, that huge venue in Denver. But yeah, I had an interesting realization last season about the fact that we were limited to Switzerland last winter, and I wanted to know what you thought. I think it’s like the surfing syndrome: When you know the conditions are so-so in surfing and you go check the first beach and then you go and try another one and you try all the beaches just to come back to the first spot. I know that you’re kind of a weather freak, but this season we almost didn’t look at the weather at all. That factor was completely out of it. You couldn’t say, “Oh, is it better in Canada? Should we go to Japan?” We were stuck in one area. Naively, we always think it’s better somewhere else.
Yeah, it’s interesting in the Alps. The snowpack is not the same all over Switzerland. Sometimes it was shallow and light and then you drive one-and-a-half hours, and it was different snow. It’s cool to realize this; you don’t have to jump from one continent to the other to find different conditions. It’s true, we didn’t really care as much, and that was pretty important for the idea of this movie, ELLES—we wanted to showcase daily snowboarding, wherever you are. The philosophy of riding the resort: You ride what there is to ride. This approach was really important for me. I take this way of thinking to other things, like surfing, skateboarding, whatever—I don’t only enjoy the absolute best banger in the best scenario, you know what I mean? We really wanted to have the perspective of, if there is a rider I like, then I really want to see him turn and what he does between when he jumps and all that. That was really important to us.

Kind of like how Ozzie Wright and Noa Deane surf. Obviously, they surf amazing waves but sometimes you see them rip on “whatever” waves, like semi- bad conditions.
Yeah, and you enjoy watching this because it’s conditions you probably go surf, too. And they also probably really enjoy it, themselves. I mean, that’s what matters the most, that you enjoy yourself and then whatever you film will show it. Also, we knew you were going to be the main filmer, and if just the two of us spent long days in the backcountry trying to film a jump, we wouldn’t have enjoyed ourselves.

Yeah, probably not.
So, we didn’t try to make something that was not doable or enjoyable. I think that was one of the elements on this project which really suited us, along with the fact that we were only in Switzerland.

How would you define ELLES? I know you don’t like to have the spotlight on you, on your shoulders. It’s not at all your style to say, “The Arthur Longo Movie.” So how would you spin it? Is it Arthur and his friends? How would describe this movie in one sentence?
Okay, I’m not going to go for one sentence because originally, we wanted to make a movie with Tanner Pendleton. This was pre-COVID. I would’ve been maybe a little bit of the center of the movie—not the center, but deciding what kind of movie we would make and stuff. Honestly, it would’ve probably looked like way more of a team movie because, as you said, I don’t want to be the main subject. It’s a role I don’t like to play. Tanner knew this. I wanted to include riders I really enjoy snowboarding with and enjoy watching, as well—the guys from the Vans team, pretty much everybody from the team. Sam Taxwood, Blake, Rav, Pat Moore, Jamie, and Guch. I love to snowboard with all of them, so I would’ve wanted pretty much a team movie if I was part of making a movie. Anyway, COVID came and all of this was not possible anymore, so then it was more of an Arthur Longo movie. I became the main subject because I couldn’t ride with the guys. They rode in the US by themselves and we rode in Europe by ourselves. But again, it’s a snowboard movie. We wanted to showcase what snowboarding really is, stepping away from perfect shots and all this—having a bit of a modest approach to snowboarding.

It’s cool that you say a modest approach. I’ve been in contact with Tanner, sending him recaps all the time so he stays in the loop, but I still haven’t met him in person. I really like the synopsis that he sent. He says the movie is “A film featuring Arthur Longo, made with friends near and far during winter ’21.” It’s still a movie that is supposed to showcase you, knowing that you don’t like to be in that spotlight and you really like to portray the others. I found it perfect to describe ELLES as a film made with friends near and far.
Yeah, totally. I think even if we are not able to actually be together, we wanted to feel this connection that you are not alone doing something. Even though I was riding very often alone, we’re still a big crew of filmers and riders in the mountains, so it was made with friends near and far, for sure.

St. Moritz, Switzerland. p: Matt Georges

To talk about crew, you mention that I was the main filmer, but somehow someone pulled a crazy magic trick during this whole pandemic and landed through the magic submarine all the way to Europe. Who was that?
Jake Price.

We were trying to make him come over for at least a month.
In the beginning of the season, we knew he was busy and we also imagined that no Americans could come to Europe. At some point, Jake showed up and stayed the month with us.

He might still be in Europe, we never know.
We don’t know.

Also, I think we didn’t have high hopes. As you said, we were just trying to snowboard as much as possible. For me, I felt that this was a real-life internship with Tanner. He made me get a Super 16 and all that stuff, and then Jake came along, and they both taught me so much. Jake’s arrival kind of put everything at ease, too. Not that we were particularly worried, but we had no clue how to make a move from A to Z. When Jake arrived and took the extra bunk bed in our tiny room, it felt like a season field trip. We really had that crazy energy.
I know what you mean. We were sharing the responsibility of making a movie, the two of us, and suddenly we had Jake. It’s comforting in some ways and we both learned from him. You learned how to film in 16 millimeter as a rookie in moviemaking. That is kind of a dream, I imagine.

Yeah, I feel like Jake was almost teaching us how to live on our home turf, ha.
Totally. He’s always on point and at the same time he really helped us to have this mentality of nothing really matters.

And freedom.
Of course. Nothing really matters, but in our framework.

Did you ever go too big this season?
Yeah. Fuck, I got hurt. That didn’t help us. We took a little breath because we had done quite a lot in February. We had been super lucky. Conditions were good and we were getting shots every day. I feel that in season, there’s a frequency and sometimes you’re on top and sometimes you’re very low, with luck or conditions or how it comes around. We were on this super high in February and then we took this break. Then we came back, thinking, Okay, there’s new snow and a new period of getting shots. On that first day we started to film again, I went too big. Overshot something that was kind of a landing. I went way too far and I injured my back, not to the point where my back was broken, but something was really wrong and I needed to wait a few days and see if it would be better. Ten days after, it still hurt and the rest of the season, we had to deal with this. I would say that half of our filming season was a bit compromised by this. Even though we got shots after that, I know that when we got them, I was not riding super freely.

Of course, it was a compromise, but I think when you got hurt, it kind of put us a little bit back on track, too. You didn’t get hurt to the point where we all had to go home and so we all hung around because you wanted to wait to see if you would get better quickly. Each day, it was mandatory that we had a couple laps in the morning, bags down, all together because that was so important for the vibe of the crew. I think that was Jake and Oli time. We just went shredding, not trying to build big stuff or get proper big shots. We just shredded so much. That’s when the real daily recap thing started, on the funnier side of things. Okay, you could say my McTwist is maybe okay, but apart from that, we’re all about the skits. That kind of kickstarted the goofier part of our season in the sense that we were joking around a lot more because you were resting. When you were fit to snowboard again, we had those amazing Arthur shots, but we had the extra goofiness, as well.
Yeah, I think it was a bit of your time. A bit of a holiday as well, kind of.

Arthur and Olivier. p: Perly

When you came back and we could actually film again, you got amazing shots. You were maybe not on that same frequency as in February, but it added humor to everything that we did. That, for me, was the absolute high time of the season.
That was a fun time for me as well.

[Interview intermission. Oli and Arthur reconvene a few hours later to finish their conversation.]

And we’re back for part two. Where are you now, Arthur?
I’m driving in Berlin.

Are you eating pizza?
I’m getting pizza because it was kind of a crazy day going everywhere around Berlin and I’m not done, I keep going. So, pizza in the car while driving and doing the interview.

What is it that you’re so busy with? Friends, skating, painting?
Well, I started with a little bit of home cleaning, then the interview in the morning, then I had a tennis lesson, then I had to build a piece of furniture for a friend who just had a baby.

If you didn’t have snowboarding, you would be a carpenter. You really love to work with wood.
Yeah, it’s true. I never really learned too much, but here in my studio in Berlin, I can do some woodworking a little bit.

Would developing or shaping snowboards interest you?
Yeah, definitely. Not that it would be related to cabinetry, but in the way of design, I would love to know more about how a snowboard is made.

So the brands you work with really listen to you. They kind of bring people from the same atmosphere together when it comes to the team.
The brands? Yeah, of course. It’s really important. I feel in the long term, if you’re going to stay on a team for a while, it’s probably because their riders are working well together. On the Vans team, before I met the guys, I did not know many of them, but once I started to get to know everyone and once we started to make projects together, I saw that it was a super well-put-together team.

Yeah, you wouldn’t have stayed that long if you didn’t feel at home, basically.
Yeah, you wouldn’t stay for the same reasons.

One of my favorite parts from you was probably your part that you shared with Guch in Stronger. You didn’t have so many days of riding, but it felt like you guys just crushed it. Can you talk about that trip? What was the whole deal?
It’s a bit of what you said. We kind of crushed it. I enjoyed myself in general, but had a pretty bad wrist injury and that had to have surgery. That was in 2016. I didn’t snowboard for more than two months and then the crew was making the movie for Union. Actually, the first day I started snowboarding again, I got a call and was asked if I was able to come to Eagle Pass to shred with Guch on a heli trip. I was like, Shit, can I do this? I still had a cast on my wrist, but I said yes and then probably two-and-a-half days later, we were flying in a helicopter. We were at Eagle Pass with an amazing guide, and we went to a lot of terrain that Travis Rice rode in The Art of Flight. That was just incredible. And I love Guch so much.

So, you’ve already had a part with Guch. If you had to pick another legend that you would love to have a trip with, who would it be?
Who is in the legend category? Anyone?

Legend from your standards.
I don’t know why, but I’m thinking of Michi Albin. Also, Fredi Kalbermatten. I was lucky to shoot with Fredi when I was 18 or 19.

I concur with that. Those two are legends. If you read this, Fredi and Michi, reach out to us so we can make it happen. So, you had a new collection with Vans that came out this year. I love the colors, by the way. You really kind of designed a paragliding shoe. What’s with this new paragliding passion of yours?
It’s amazing. I decided to do mountain boots—like hiking boots. They were like, “Would you be into signing one of them? You don’t have to, but if you want to, that would be amazing,” and yeah, that’s it. That’s the end of the story.

No, it doesn’t end there because you had an extra pair this season, Jake Price wore them, and suddenly you started teaching him how to paraglide.
Yeah. So last season we had a paraglide. Midseason, I decided we really needed a wing. There are some flights to get on sometimes, so we had a wing with us, and I started to teach the guys how to fly. That was great.

You have an Instagram page, right?
Yeah, the one you created.

I manage it. It’s @arthurfliesschoolofflight.
Yes, please give it a follow.

Follow and I think you’ll have a clearer picture of what Arthur’s true second passion is. He does love to teach. I think he’s really patient in paragliding, especially.
Ha. Thank you. That was funny because then I kind of realized how much I loved teaching paragliding— teaching is maybe too much, but trying to get someone into it.

p: Perly

I remember when you really started to get serious about it again, we were doing some camping in spring. It happens that it was more of a paragliding trip and I was just rallying you up and down the hill to paraglide. I had no idea what I was getting into, and you just needed a mate to bring you up and down.
You love to do it.

Now my last question will be, what do you think of next season and where do you think you will take me paragliding with you?
I feel like sometimes you insist on where are we going to go, so I could ask you the question as well, ha. I would really enjoy traveling a bit more in Europe, and I would love to go back to the US or to Canada. There are quite a few things I am going to do with Volcom, with Vans, and with you. Always have a wing with us. Hopefully snowboarding a lot. That’s the goal. Happy to travel but at the same time, maybe get some kind of apartment in the mountains. For me, snowboarding was always somewhere else, never really where I lived or where I could have it on more of a daily basis. I would love to get that feeling.

Sick. Well, get into it and decide where our new home is going to be for the next couple months.
Yeah, we have to get into it. You can choose if it’s not Laax.

I love Laax, but it will be somewhere else. Promise. Anything else you’d like to add? Do you want to thank some people?
Thanks to everybody who makes it happen and makes it enjoyable and fun. There are way too many people to thank, but if I could think of two, it would be you, Olivier, and Jacob Price.

This feature originally appeared in issue 18.2.

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