‘And everyone is skating together, no one actually cares about your origins or skin color here and that is something the whole world should learn from.’
Tell us something about United Arab Emirates (UAE) people do not know?
Hello! Well, I guess we can start with the fact it is not as restricted as many people think. In fact, you can live a pretty great life here with everything the western world could think of. On top of that, it is super safe, you could leave your phone on the table for 1 hour and no one would take it. Try that in France! Also, it is pretty multicultural, only 18% of the population are locals, I might be wrong with the exact number but it is something like this.
Tell us something about yourself?
First of all I would like to start by saying that everything I will say here about the culture and the scene is based on my experience only, so it might not be what other people think and I apologize to everyone if I forget to mention something! About me, I’m Florian, or Flo, I’m French, 34 years old, I’ve been living here for about 8 years and skate for about 20 years.
How does a French Skater end up living in Dubai?
I came here for work. I always wanted to discover the world. I used to say the world is like a house. Why would you stay in only one room, you need to see the rest! I applied for many airlines, and I got a job as a flight attendant here for one of the biggest airlines in 2014.
How big is the skate community in the UAE?
It is fairly big. It’s nothing to compare to cities like Paris, Sydney or New York obviously, but it is getting bigger and bigger and is gaining more visibility through the last few years. What makes it great and special is all the different nationalities you can find in it, such as Americans, Filipinos, British, Russians, Egyptians, locals, French and many more! And everyone is skating together, no one actually cares about your origins or skin color here and that is something the whole world should learn from.
What are some of the best skate spots in the UAE?
Union Fountain is definitely the most famous. And one of my favorites without a doubt! It’s not only about the spot itself and the benches, it is about the community spirit that it brings, it is a place where people meet, connect, one of the most beautiful aspects of skateboarding. It is located in Deira, the older Dubai, among with a few spots. You also have media city plaza, which is pretty new, we started skating it in 2021, Mag in business bay too. The new spots usually have an amazing ground, plenty of ledges, but security is very strict!
Are there any official skate parks?
There are so many! If you compare to Europe or France for example, the quality is there, the city really put in the effort in there! There is X Dubai, Business Bay, Design District or Damac Hills. Honestly, I don’t even know how many we have now, and most were built in the past 5 years.
‘The new spots usually have an amazing ground, plenty of ledges, but security is very strict!’
Has any pro rider/teams showed up for a demo/tour?
Many times actually! In the last few years we had Paul Rodriguez, Tiago Lemos and others filming for ‘We are Blood’ here, also the Baker team came with Andrew Reynolds, Collin Provost, Cyril Jackson and Attiba Jefferson. There was a Vans event with Chris Pfanner, Robin Bolian, and more recently Madars Apse came for a Redbull event.
Any talented local kids that are making a name for themselves?
He’s not a kid anymore but there is Karim Nassar (28 years old), originally from Egypt but he was born and grew up here. He’s the first Arab to sign for Nike SB so it’s a pretty big deal. Check him out! A lot of people are actually killing it here! But as I said the local people are only a small percentage of the population, so we have a lot of nationalities skateboarding. Some kids are actually very talented, I’m thinking about Francis Solomon (17, Lebanese) for example.
How many skate shops are there around?
There are 2 or 3 physical skate shops I would say, Rage, that was one of the first ones here and used to be pretty big in organizing events, contests and getting the community together. Then we have Frame, which is the shop that released the Dunk Habibi with Nike SB that was sold out in no time! Now, the community is mostly turning to our 2 online and skater owned skateshops, Habibi skateshop that was created by Maysam Faraj, originally Syrian, OG of the skate scene here and even in the Middle East, and Casino Hardware, created by Karim Sami, originally English, his brother is Layth Sami from Skateboard Cafe in the UK.
Are there any local brands?
Again, I would say Habibi (mainly decks) and Casino (decks and clothing). We have also Tyme skateboards that just started out. It was created by Alex Mizurov who moved here in September last year. He is for now selling in Germany and on Habibi and Casino websites but it will definitely become bigger very soon. You might want to check it out!
What are some of the challenges people face in UAE every day?
Maybe not every day during the whole year but at least half of the year, I would say the heat! It becomes pretty unbearable from June to October (or longer depending on how strong you are!) Imagine you open the oven door and try to skate inside it, you will have an idea of what we’re going through here! We actually don’t stop even during summer, but we have to go late, around sunset time or earlier if you want to film with a good lighting, but it takes strong lungs and energy to manage to ride! We actually need an indoor skatepark and we used to have a facility in World trade Center, but the quality wasn’t amazing and now we’re left with nothing.
‘Imagine you open the oven door and try to skate inside it’
Let’s talk about your skate film/documentary project called Objectif Skate Film. What has triggered the idea to document skate scenes?
I’ll try to make it short! I lost my job in 2020 because of Covid and all the flights grounded. They had to get rid of half of the cabin crew here. Two weeks after I got injured climbing and had to go through a knee surgery. I had then no job and was unable to skate for a long time (the doctor said a year, he wouldn’t be happy!) Then, I started filming to remain close to the scene and avoid being depressed. This led me to make connections, and slowly I started riding again, met the whole scene. I created Objectif Skate Film on IG and YouTube to showcase the different skaters that I was meeting and filming with, it was very fun! Then the airlines started calling people that lost their jobs back as business was picking up again. I realized it was a second chance and decided to take it. Why not using my new ability to film while I was traveling to document not only Dubai but the entire World? Then I came up with the name ‘’Dropped in’’ for the documentaries as I will be ‘’ dropped in’’ places briefly and try to make the best of it and present the skate scene. I’m super stoked with this project and hope it will give a positive visibility to the power of skateboarding around the World.
What other projects are you working on?
As I’m making my ‘Dropped In’ episodes, I’m also taking pictures with a film camera and send them to my friend Covalsky from the French online magazine ‘La Skateboarderie’. We then make a written interview about my experience while filming for each destination, it is a super cool project!
Last question: If you could interview a person, who would it be and why? What would you ask?
I would love to interview Paul Rodriguez, or Eric Koston. They are my favorite skaters and icons, it would be quite an achievement! I guess I would make it simple and ask them to tell me anything that comes to their mind about their personal experience in the beautiful world of skateboarding!