You might think that you know who you are, your character, your personality, your failures, but there is an old saying that has been around since the dawn of mankind that goes, “Mother knows best!” Lille-born and now Paris-based Öctagon and PACCBET rider Val Bauer has a very good relationship with his mum Emmanuelle (although she’s living quite far away from him in Zurich now) and no problem to let her do the talking for him in his interview.
Emmanuelle: He was a very independent child. Always moving. He slept for a very short time and woke up early. And he always wanted to go somewhere, to see someone, to sleep somewhere, to do something.
E: When he was two, he already wanted to travel, wanted to sleep at every friend’s home. He said, “I’m ready, I got my pajamas, and I’m going with you tonight.”
Valentin: When we had guests or we visited a family, I always asked if I was allowed to sleep over.
E: Or friends or colleagues or people he never saw… No problem.
E: He was fearless, but he never wanted to be in the center of attention. If we were in a circus and a clown called for a child to assist him, Val was like, “Not me.”
E: Yes, he has changed in that regard.
E: He was interested in fashion when he began to play soccer. He wanted the jerseys from Marseille, Lille, and France. When he began to skate, he wanted all the clothes he saw in the Zeropolis Skateshop. He has had his own style since he was 18 I think. Skateboard fashion from 14 to 18 and now he really has his own style for everything. It’s very difficult for everyone in the family to make gifts to Val because of that.
E: It’s awful. To please him with a gift is very difficult. You’ll never know if he’s going to say, “Wow, it’s gorgeous!” or “Well… No.”
E: Last Christmas! I bought him a beautiful shirt from “The Kooples” and when he saw it, he was like, “Thank you, I’m going to wear it.” The day after, he told me, “Mom, I don’t want to wear it.“
V: [interrupts]: Actually, there’s a story to this situation. My parents are divorced. The day after, I was celebrating Christmas with my father and he gave me a G-Shock watch. He had the best intentions, but I would never wear it… I was like, “I have to be honest, I can’t wear it.” On the third day after Christmas, after I was with my mother, I felt really guilty. I didn’t want her to waste money. I had to tell her the truth. It was so hard, but finally we were smoking a cigarette outside and we were alone and I took the chance and told her that I’m not going to wear the shirt. But she was fine. She said that it was cool that I told her.
E: Yes, we go in Zurich and in Lille, too. And we are okay when it comes to fashion. Whatever he wants to wear or whatever I want to wear is fine.
"We assumed that he was using drugs like every teenager nowadays, but we didn’t really see anything. Except for one Christmas."
E: Yes, we ask for advice sometimes.
V: I helped her with the jeans she is wearing right now.
E: And we were always tie-dying clothes when he was young.
V: Back then, during the Shane Cross era.
V: I would say so.
E: Except for soccer cause I hate it.
V: I was playing soccer till I was twelve. My mother really hated it.
E: Because my ex-husband was always playing soccer instead of spending time with me.
E: Yes, it was very different because I don’t really like team sports. And skateboarding was something special. Every boy is playing soccer at one point in his life and when he was playing soccer, I often went to see his matches and I was happy for him, but it was boring for me and people at soccer were…
V: Rednecks. Where we come from, almost all the people who are into soccer are rednecks from the suburbs.
E: And the other mothers kept on shouting and screaming. It just wasn’t my world. And when he started to skate, I thought it was a good idea. I was only afraid of him getting injured, but it was a big problem for his father because he loves soccer.
E: They were different, but I didn’t see them a lot. In the early days, I was only driving him to the skatepark or to some competitions. But I was afraid that he’d get into drugs because there probably are more drugs in skateboarding – but in soccer there’s beer. So it basically made no difference.
E: Yes, he was. But we talked about it after he stopped. I’m proud that he understood that it could become a problem for him, that it wasn’t good, and that he decided to stop.
V: But we’re talking about weed. I never did any hard drugs though.
E: But at that time, he was living in a flat with friends. We assumed that he was using drugs like every teenager nowadays, but we didn’t really see anything. Except for one Christmas.
E: My second husband, the man I’m living with now, came to the flat to pick him up for Christmas to go back to the family house. And when they opened the door, they were smoking weed. When he came back, he said, “I have something funny to tell you.”
V: His reaction was really funny. When he entered he was like, “Oh, you guys had a barbecue?” He used to smoke when he was younger, too, and was pretty understanding. But I only talked about it with my mother and my father by the time I had already quit. I was smoking every day for several years and told them, like, six months after I had quit for good.
E: I worried about him during the sabbatical he did. I accepted it and even convinced his father that it was a good idea, but sometimes when I was lying in my bed and didn’t know where he was sleeping or who he was with and saw something happening on TV in Lyon or in Paris, I was afraid sometimes. But I never told him.
E: All I want for my children – I got four, nearly five because the son of my husband is living with us since he was six and he’s 15 now – is to be happy. And to lead their life however they want it to be. The only problem for me is that he isn’t able to earn enough money for the rest of his life. That must change, but it’s no problem. It’s funny if you’re invited to a friend’s home and they are like, “What are your children doing?” One is a professional skater, one is studying medicine and everybody wonders, “A skater and a doctor?” Yes, whatever they want. Tim wanted to be a doctor since he was eight. It’s great for him. And Valentin decided to be a skater and I think he is really happy with his life. The only problem is that he has no steady income. I hope this will change over the next three years.
E: Good question. But I’m not a mother who wants to enforce anything.
"When people go like, “Ugh, a skater,” I don’t talk to them anymore."
E: Some people understand. The people in the family who understand him are the ones who are really talking to him and not only saying “Hi” and “Goodbye”. When you talk to him, you can understand it. When people go like, “Ugh, a skater,” I don’t talk to them anymore.
V: For example, my grandmother completely understands.
E: I think that all the people who know him understand, but at least half of them think it’s not a good life. My brother doesn’t understand.
V: Sometimes he’s giving me shit for living like this. Telling me to earn proper money or something like that.
E: When he wanted to take a sabbatical year. I was proud because he said, “I will take this year off and then go back to school to get a degree for my life.” And he did. After he got the degree, he returned to skating, but he did what he had promised.
E: I don’t give any advice to my boys. They can do whatever they want to do – as long as it makes them happy.
E: He was good, but not as good as he should be. He could’ve been very good, but he only worked as much as he needed to.
V: Legal minimum.
E: I think he was like this because he didn’t choose to go to school, he just had to. But if he wants something, he will do everything to get it. If he didn’t manage to do something, it was because that part of life isn’t his thing. Because he’s doing all he can to make his dreams come true. You’re laughing Val?
V: I would call myself determined as well, but it’s funny to hear your mother talking about this. It’s more beautiful than the truth because it’s your mother talking about you. And your mother can’t talk shit about you.
E: He’s sensitive, clever, obstinate, and a resourceful person. Very, very resourceful. For example, when it comes to finding sponsors. During his free year he always slept somewhere, but he didn’t really have any plan. But he always ended up at someone’s place and he managed everything without driving since he only took the train.
E: We speak about skateboarding a lot when it’s about where he’s going, when he’s going, who the photographer is, and how he’s getting the money to travel. But the names of the tricks are like Chinese to me. And I prefer to see him on video because I know he’s safe. But when I look at him while he is doing tricks, I’m afraid. I find no pleasure in seeing him skating in real life.
E: Like two or three. But only because I can see pictures of him on their feed. But not always from skating… When he’s at the party, when he’s drunk. It’s funny to see him through his friends’ eyes. I got Instagram because of him. Because when he started to travel all over the world, it was difficult for us to keep in contact. The Wi-Fi wasn’t as good a while ago and calling was expensive. I could see him every day because of Instagram. But very quickly I got interested in it. And I have my own now. I love it and post almost every day. I love to see him on Instagram because Tim is in France, Valentin is in… well it depends, we’re in Zurich – but we are all on Instagram. They can see her little sister, I can see what they are doing in Japan. That’s like a family party each day. Instagram is like having your whole family inside your pocket.
E: I think I am, too, but not as much as him. Sometimes people challenge me to go 48 hours without Instagram, but what’s the point?
E: Creativity, I think.
V: Thinking too much probably too. I got all the “good” things from my mother. Stress and anxiety are all coming from her father and I have to deal with it.
E: We have a certain kind of humor in our family.
E: I’m always really proud. I was even proud when they were singing at school in third grade for the New Year’s party. But I was very proud of the sabbatical year. I was very proud of the first poster he had in a skateboard magazine. I’m proud because he’s living skating to the fullest even though he’s not having a steady income and he has been managing it for so many years now. And I’m proud because he is himself. He’s my boy.
E: Yes, I have all of them in the house in France. It’s a private collection, but actually, I keep them for him.
V: I told her to keep them for the future, so I can show them to my kids someday. I don’t trust myself when it comes to keeping them safe.
"He really has his own style for everything."
E: The same advice for everybody: when you are a child, your parents are doing their best. Some things they do are good, some things are bad, but parents should do everything they thought was good about their childhood and just leave out the bad stuff. That will be your way.
E: There are two things. When I left France to live here, I didn’t want to leave two of my sons in France. They were old, but I didn’t want to. So I was very sad, and Tim and Valentin left me a paper in the kitchen with a note saying that they love me to the farthest star and back. And that’s what I always used to tell them when I brought them to bed. I used to say it every night. But I began to cry when I saw the letter. It was a very beautiful thing. And the second thing was when he visited me in Switzerland on Mother’s Day without telling me that he was coming.
V: I just knocked on the door.
E: And he filmed it.
V: Yes, I needed to, so other family members could see it. I knew it was important and I wanted to keep it as a memory.
E: I have one myself. He was talking about it for a long time, so I wasn’t surprised. What surprised me was that the first tattoo he got was the name of the song he was listening to when I decided that I wanted to get divorced. It hurt me a little bit of course, but my parents are divorced, so I know that it’s not always easy for a child. We are always laughing because his father keeps on saying that the problem with tattoos is that you always want more. I wouldn’t like if his body was full of tattoos. I think that’s not beautiful.
E: Yes, the other one is the G of Gabrielle-Rose, which is his little sister.
V: Because my sister is from my mother and her new husband. In my head… When my parents got divorced, I was 15. And I got the “Sunday Morning” tattoo when I was 17, being an angry teenager. So when my little sister was born, I thought that it would balance things out again.
E: I’d like to see him having hair sometimes. My husband looks like that, too. They both look beautiful, but I’d like Valentin to grow out his hair. He has so much of it.
V: I’m super curly. I have really strong curly hair, so when I first shaved, it was a big difference.
E: I really don’t know what the day was. But I really remember the day I decided to have him. We were with friends for my birthday, eating French cake for Epiphany at the beginning of January. And there’s a cake and there’s some china hidden in it. And when you find it in your piece, you’re the king or queen of the day. And I wanted to have the child and Valentin’s father wanted to wait. And my friend said, “If Emmanuelle is the queen, she can have the child. Are you okay with that, Bruno?” I was lucky because he was a gambler and said “Yes”. And I had the piece and he was born in November.
E: There is one very important thing. When he was eight years old, he had a Playstation and he loved playing Street Fighter. And he was playing it in the living room and when we heard “You win”, everything was good. But it was awful when he lost. He was so angry and crying about it and I stopped the game by pulling the plug. Then he was even more mad because he didn’t save anything to the memory card.