On Mont des Arts by Vincent Crémer

Vincent Crémer, 45, is a world champion skateboarder born and bread in Brussels.

Even before Brussels had its own skate park (Skate One, in Etterbeek), we already used to go to Monts des Arts to skate. We started going around 1976-1977.. We’d tell our parents we’d be gone for a few hours, then hop on the tram from Uccle and skate for a few hours. Esplanades such as Mont des Arts were pretty rare at the time so Mont des Arts really was our only option back then. Actually, at the very begining, I used to go alone, then others started joining. I used to be there all the time, day and night. Even at 3am, which used to be rather creepy because at the time Mont des Arts also used to be a gay meeting point.

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I’d say that between 1980 and 1984 Mont des Arts was a No Man’s Land. I’d be the only one there, with one or two others, but other than us, no one. The first time i came to Mont des Arts, there were 60cm-high borders and 1m50-high walls. So I began with the small borders first, and worked my way up. The thing is, when you skate, there are certain walls you don’t even see at the begining, you just never imagine you can do something with them. Then they start appearing and, the next thing you know, a year or two later they’re all absorbed. And that’s the nice thing : Mont des Arts evolved in my brain, it transformed the better I became. The curb really is in your head. Once the bug hits you, you pretty much can tackle any wall, half-pipe, ramp or 90 degree inclination. That used to be the dream. To hit a vertical but in the street. And that’s really how the Monts des Arts become a school for many first-time skateboarders.

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A lot of local skaters started here. And a lot of them went on to great things. Mont des Arts gave the world a lot of skateboarders. And people used to come from all over to skate here. Even Natas Copas came to skate on Mont des Arts in the 1990s. What makes Mont des Arts so special is how the space allows you enough room to gather just the righ speed. Then you have those long borders, and those fucking walls. Even if they’re completly worn out now, at the time they used to be paradise to skate on. It had this little Japanese-garden vibe to it.

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Nowadays you have the skate park at the Ursuline so Mont des Arts has emptied itsellf a little. Plus its surfaces are pretty worn out so not really ideal for skating. But nonetheless Mont des Arts has spaces and surfaces the Ursuline doesnt. You need to keep in mind that Mont des Arts wasn’t always so open to skaters. In the early days, things were pretty mad. There used to be guards patrolling the place and we had to duck, hide and wait for them to go before being able to skate for a while. We had some pretty fucked up shit happen to us, with Yves Tchao and others, but we always managed to skate. And it used to drive the guards bonkers. One used to always call the cops so we’d have to make a run for it. In the early days, we used to get shit nearly all the time. Now though they’re cool about it all. At least they dont confiscate our boards anymore.

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