Call it sport, a passion, a quest to defy the odds, it’s all of that and more for professional skateboarder Jean-marc Johannes, 29, from Penlyn Estate.
An understated achiever who has quietly broken many records over many years, Johannes recently established his seventh Guinness World Record and the first of its kind to be recorded at Cape Town Stadium.
Eighteen 360 degree horizontal spins is no mean feat (it’s not called a “Big Spin” for nothing). That’s exactly what he did when he beat the previous record of twelve 360 degree horizontal flips set by former international skateboarder Rob Dyrdek 14 years ago.
He also holds world records for most Nollie heelflips in one minute (broken twice), most Fakie heelflips in one minute, most Nollies in one minute, and winning the first SA International gold, silver and bronze medals for competitive skateboarding.
His latest exploits follows a string of accolades that includes becoming the first SA skateboarder to win an international gold medal at the Fise World Series event in China, in 2016. He also became the first south African to win silver and bronze at the same event in two consecutive years, between 2017 and 2018.
“In 2019, I was invited to attend the highly-rated Skate Street League event in France,” he said.
“So this is basically known as the NBA of skateboarding events, it’s biggest skateboarding league in the, bigger X-Games and even the Fise world series. I managed to rank in the top 100 Olympic rankings globally,” he said.
With plans for this year’s Olympic Games set to take place in Tokyo later this year, Johannes can barely contain his delight at the prospect of representing the country at the highest level.
“Two days ago I received my first invitation to take part in the USA Dew Tour, this is one of the final competitions before the Olympics,” he said.
This is one of the biggest skateboarding contests in the world and a dream come true because I have watched this contest so many times on TV before,” Johannes said.
Like all sporting events, last years’ Games was postponed due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.
“Covid interfered with the process of how things were going. It made things more complicated because of restrictions, but we’re trying to align everything correctly and working with RollerSport South Africa in making sure everything is on track,” he said.
Johannes said that as a youngster, he was advised not to participate in any sports as he grew up with chronic asthma and spent many days in hospital.
“In school I was told I could not partake in sports. I loved sports so much and this made me lose confidence. I then saw children after school skateboarding and to me it was something different. This was something I could do on my own.”
When he got home and asked his parents for a skateboard, to his surprise they had one tucked away. It was rather old but usable.
After a year of skateboarding, he won his first competition.
“I started skateboarding at the age of 9 and won my first pro-am contest at the age of 11. Something stuck in my mind that there was a lot more to what I was doing than simply skating. Ever since then, I’ve been chasing my dreams of becoming a professional skateboarder. At the age of 15 was ranked in the top 10 of South Africa
“Today I am in the top 10 ranked skateboarders in the country. I still have my chronic asthma, but I train a lot outside of skateboarding,”
He takes a lot of inspiration from local skateboarders but said he is definitely looking forward to the Tokyo Olympics.
He still has to attend a few more qualifying events, as the pandemic halted many of them.This is the first time skateboarding is being recognised as an Olympic sport and it has already been confirmed for the 2024 Games.
“With regards to the Olympics, it’s very surreal to be able to be at this level. I am grateful every day and I know I work hard.
“I always think of others from Athlone or other communities and feel that I do not just want to represent my country, but I want children to see the word ’impossible’ is not to be used any more.
“I want to change the narrative of skateboarding,” he added.
(Additional reporting by Africa News Agency)