[Words: Youri Barneoud. Photos: Scalp.]
Killer DJ? Brilliant impressionist? Sponsored freeride mountain biker? Rock guitarist? Inner city handrail fiend? Backcountry kicker stomper? Aymeric Tonin is all of these. But how does he find time to excel on all these fronts? Well, here are a few clues to better understand the unique path that this promising young French rider has cut out for himself.
Aymeric was born in the mountains of Haute-Savoie, which naturally led him to the snowy slopes of the Grand Massif at a young age. Like most of the kids from the region, he first grew up learning how to ski but was never really into it. He was always more into going skating with his mates from the neighbourhood. These are the guys that would later inspire him to head back to the slopes and join the Avalanche Club in Samoëns. “More than anything, the club was just a group of good friends that helped motivate each other and quite a few pro riders came out of it: Anne-Flore Marxer, Silvain ‘Lami’ Monney, Paul Lambersens and the boardercrosser Sylvain Duclos," explains Aymeric. In fact at 14, he also did boardercross, before swinging over to the other side for good and becoming French halfpipe champion after which he entered the French Rookie team.
LIKE A MAGNET The expensive fees of following sport studies, plus a few problems with the coach of the French federation, pushed Aymeric to follow another path to the contest scene despite his parents’ and teachers’ disapproval, who agreed little with his desire for freedom. “My mum wanted me to be a plumber," he says with a laugh. But this wouldn’t stop Mrs Tonin from preparing her renegade tasty little sandwiches, which all of his fellow snowboarding friends came to enjoy and is how Aymeric ended up adopting the nickname of Quignon.
After choosing to quit school with a BEP in sales, Aymeric found himself looking for work immediately. The day after he acquired his diploma, he started to work in a factory in the valley of Arve – a transition that wasn’t particularly easy.
“The fact that I found myself getting my hands dirty working in a factory really made me think about what I wanted to do. It was always there, inside me somewhere, it was just a question of finding out how to get to it." And as it turned out, inspiration came from a crew of riders from Armada, who spent their time hunting the inner city handrails in their area. Aymeric felt at home and gave everything he’d got. Their thing was to film and shoot as many handrails as possible to try and get things moving and produce images for everyone within their group.
“Armada started out with the idea that the future was more about getting media coverage rather than contest results. The lack of adequate infrastructure in France encouraged us to go away and do our own thing shooting. It’s because of this lack of infrastructure that everything seems to work with crews today in France. The guy that tries to go out and do everything on his own is going to find it really hard to break through. In France, it’s all about DIY," he declares. When it came down to making a nice portfolio with loads of photos and video, Aymeric was quick to recognise that jibbing was the most productive way to work. But then he is pretty talented at it. “The thing is, I’m a goofyfoot when I skate and that helps me with quite a few tricks on handrails, namely switch frontside boardslides, which I actually find easier than frontside boardslides." One or two video productions later, the crew renamed itself Advita (its present name) and Aymeric, having already made a good reputation as a talented jibber, decided to explore new horizons.
A few important get-togethers with some of the older generation of riders would little by little help him to rediscover his skills in the backcountry. Solitary by nature, he finds himself needing to broaden his horizons to find out which path would be best for him.
“I wanted to find my own way, snowboard with different guys. A guy like Routin, for example, has taught me loads of different things." Things like reading the terrain better, spotting dangerous areas, expanding his bag of tricks off big backcountry kickers and testing out Canada’s famous powder runs. All of this has been a great learning curve over the past few seasons; being in contact with experienced riders, even if, as he explains himself, “I’ve always done off-piste. We didn’t have a snowpark in my local resort so I learnt to do tricks down the sides of slopes, building little kickers here and there." In many ways this year was a return to the essence of snowboarding for him. And next year? “My biggest project is to film. I’d like to spend more time concentrating on it. I love doing a bit of everything, even just carving lines down a slope can be fun. I think it’s cool to show that you can do lots of different things. But right now I really want to improve my backcountry snowboarding."
So does that mean him turning his back on the contest scene for good? Not really, Aymeric is conscious that contests also have their place: “When I competed in the Tignes Air Waves last year with Mathieu Crépel, the contest was on TV and it was the first time that my parents got to see me riding!" He also mentions that it’s mainly through contest events that snowboarding can be delivered to the mainstream and allow the younger generation to develop faster as well as change the old rebellious, weed-smoking image of snowboarders which he detests, as he doesn’t even smoke cigarettes! And finally, still on the subject of contest snowboarding, it probably wouldn’t harm him to win a little prize money so that he doesn’t have to depend so much on his job at the factory to make it through the winter season.
LIKE THE BASS PLAYER OF KORN With an already pretty full timetable both in the winter and summer, Aymeric still finds the time to do a few other hobbies. A sponsored downhill mountain biker by the Canadian brand Norco, he admits to discovering the same initial highs that he got from snowboarding, and there are many similarities between the two sports: being able to read the terrain, anticipate, position yourself correctly… Aymeric’s other hidden passion is for music. “I’ve always loved it since a young age. I go snowboarding with music, fall asleep with music, it’s something I’m always thinking about and my way of dealing with pressure." But he doesn’t just listen to music as from time to time he also DJs and plays bass guitar for a rock group, making him the only rock musician I know that wears XXL clothes… What’s that about? “I don’t see the problem! Rap has always used loads of samples from other genres of music like funk, jazz, soul, rock, all of which I love to listen too."
On bass guitar, he likes to play a little Bob Dylan, The Doors or Noir Désir in local bars. And when he gets behind the decks, hip-hop tends to take over; old time Parisian pioneers, as well as some more recent stuff like La Brigade, the Sacred Connexion or La Cliqua. French rap is his speciality – log on to MySpace to get a better idea (www.myspace.com/quignon). Furthermore, it’s thanks to his 5th place finish at the Tignes Air Waves that he was able to afford his latest decks and quench his thirst for mixing music, taking every opportunity he has to get on the ones and twos.
This passion for music is something he has in common with a fair few Nitro team riders and the big group of Scandinavians on the team, nearly all of whom are musicians and into their heavy metal. “Nitro is more than just that! We’re a real family, from our team manager Valérie Bourdier who’s done so much to push the rookies on the French team, to the boss Sepp Ardelt, who I go camping with in Britanny sometimes… I doubt I’d get to do quite the same things with Jake Burton." His arrival at Nitro also presented the opportunity to measure up to some of his greatest idols, namely Mark Frank Montoya. “He continues to be a real inspiration to my riding. For example, you won’t often find me tweaking my tricks like Nicholas Müller!" After all this it’s hard to imagine what this hyperactive character has in store for the future. And it seems like he’s unsure himself. “If I can’t make a career out of snowboarding then I know I’m going to find myself back at the factory," he quips, then admitting that the summer months he spends working there does have a positive side. “There’s no doubt that I’d enjoy taking a bit of time off between seasons, head off to the coast and that. But at the same time, I’ve learnt so much from getting to know the old guys in the factory where I work, I’ve come to better understand the real problems in life and that helps you to keep your head on your shoulders." A smart outlook on life that will undoubtedly stand Aymeric in good stead for the years to come.
JAMMIN’ Number of times you’ve been fined for sessioning handrails: 10 or so, I was taken into police custody once in Megève.
Number of impersonations? French inner-city scum, Belgians, French Canadians and Franglais.
Number of contest wins: 5
A trick you’ve been wanting to work on: switch backside 720
Number of big slams per year: Practically every session more or less, one time out of two. Broken my arm in two places, plus my collar bone, metacarpus and wrist.
Number of videos: Ghetto Blaster, Convictions, Les Vrais Savent, and Chilling.
Number of enemies: One, the coach from the French snowboard federation.
Number of idols: MFM, Devun Walsh, Paul Lambersens and Stéphane Routin.
When are you going to invite Scalp to a hip-hop concert? Once he’s cut his hair and is wearing triple XL!
---- Name: Aymeric Tonin Nickname: Quignon Born: 26 September 1986 in Cluses Favourite spots: Grand Massif, Avoriaz Stance: Regular Board: T1 156 or Misfit Wide 156 for powder Angles: front +15°, back –9° Sponsors: Nitro, Von Zipper, DVS, Skullcandy, Nomis, Dakine, Elm, Protec, Surfpanic shop, Advita crew, Magic potion, Norco (mountain bike)
Big ups: Thanks to everyone (family, friends, sponsors), Valérie Bourdier, Sepp Ardelt, Franck Baratiero, and everyone else who’s given me their support!