Nicole Boronat

Nicole Boronat was born in 1962 at Vitry-sur-Seine near Paris and took up skateboarding in the late 1970s when her high school friend Laurence Lannes introduced her to it. Lannes had a family home in Biarritz where she enjoyed surfing and skateboarding, and then shared the love with her friends. Boronat expressed gratitude to Lannes in her 2004 interview with Claude Queyrel and how they were once on a team called Starboard together. Nicole’s early boards included a generic skateboard from a supermarket and the classic wooden board with roller skate wheels.

In 1978, a 4-page article in the magazine Skate France International (Issue No. 5) called “Le Skate Au Feminin” celebrated Boronat and Lannes along with Noémie Harris and Corinne Dupin. The crew was evidently having a good time practising kickflips and messing around in a rowboat. Their style doesn’t feel dated at all, and you could easily imagine hanging out with them today!

The caption explained how early in 1977 it seemed like there were no competitive female skaters in France but that gradually more and more girls have stepped up, including names like Christine Mitrano and Valérie Chenkoff. Nicole (age 16) from Vitry-sur-Seine had been skating for one year and thought it was a fantastic sport for guys and girls, Noémie (age 15) was mindful that there were still fewer women skaters but that it was changing, and it was nice that the guys were no longer laughing at them! Corinne (age 17) from Paris and Laurence (age 18) of Vitry-sur-Seine echoed similar sentiments.

The article shown some limelight on a growing movement of French female skaters in a culture that historically placed more value on a woman’s appearance / sex appeal than her athletic abilities. I even stumbled upon an interview of a pioneering male French skater who was asked if he had hooked up with any of the female skaters discussed in this bio! Bizarre.

In July 1978, the French Championships in Marseille was hosted and skaters like Boronat, Harris and Mitrano made their presence known. Nicole won the slalom competition, which was the first downhill race to be hosted at Luminy campus, and received a trophy and media coverage for her efforts. In 2004, Nicole vaguely remembered her Freestyle routine which included 360s, walk-the-dog and kickflips, but it was the speed run that helped her become recognized.

Skate France International (Issue No. 6) conducted an interview highlighting Nicole’s win where she reported that she was happy to be sponsored by Santana (after only 10 months of skateboarding). Alain Hasse was the manager and knew Nicole from hanging out and skating at the Trocadéro plaza, AKA “Troca” which was a popular meet-up spot across from the Eiffel tower. Santana was a family-run business, which Nicole liked, and there was hope of a U.S. tour after the America team came over to perform six days of demos. Nicole briefly had a wheel sponsor called Ultimo, as well which she promoted.

Nicole explained in her 1978 interview that when an exciting new skatepark called Béton Hurlant opened up on the edge of the Seine River in Saint-Germain d’Issy-les-Moulineaux, she became a regular. Nicole was also passionate about skating transition, challenging herself to get above the coping. She loved the atmosphere at the park with music playing and good energy but it was a 3-hour drive to get there. The park had a half-pipe and freestyle track with bowls where she could chase her friends! She also liked the snake run at La Villette, another small park.

When asked about why girls were a minority in skateboarding, Nicole was mindful that they could be scared or intimidated, but she was having fun skating with her friend Noémie Harris and wore protective gear. Nicole stated that she loved sports from surfing to windsurfing, volleyball and basketball. Her message to girls was that they shouldn’t hesitate to try, and she gave them an invitation to come out to the park.

In her interview with Queyrel, Nicole explained that there wasn’t a rivalry among the girls, compared to the guys, as they were focused on having a good time. She was also fortunate to get paid to perform demonstrations for Santana in shopping centres, car park, department stores terraces, pubs and even on television. Her worst memory of skateboarding was falling off a super narrow ramp at a demo at Ivry-sur-Seine! And there was the challenge of not often being home and juggling her studies when her teachers didn’t know what she was up to.

This wave of skateboarding popularity in France unfortunately ended quite abruptly with both the La Villette skatepark and Béton Hurlant closing at the end of 1979. Xavier Lannes, who was the big brother of Laurence remembers seeing Nicole skating the bowl and half pipe at Béton Hurlant just before it shut down, and how awesome the vibes were being oblivious of the imminent closure.

Nicole’s family moved to Hyères close to the Mediterranean and not far from Almanarre which is known to be a windsurfing mecca. Naturally, Nicole took up windsurfing and went pro at age 24. Her love of ocean sports was shared by partner Stephane Etienne, and the power couple have documented their surfing, windsurfing and paddle-boarding adventures through a blog and website, although she always regarded herself as a skateboarder first, simply adapting to different boards and following the trajectory of adventure.

Nicole Boronat 2011 in Canary Islands

Nicole had a great perspective on women in skateboarding, which I totally align with. When Queyrel suggested that the hardcore “Skate and Destroy” culture of skateboarding in the 1980s eliminated women, she replied [translation]: “Girls are often in the minority, but those who throw themselves into an adventure or an experience are often amazing.” She knew they were out there!

Thanks to the website for archiving some of the vintage articles and photos!


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