BALANCE - The Joris Coulomb Interview
“You need to invest yourself first and be determined to be a part of this big BMX family.”
Intro and interview by Ben Bello / Photos by Antoine Sabourin and Ben Bello
Watching Joris grow up and becoming such a creative and easy-going human made us want to know more about his spiritual quest. Connected to krishna consciousness, it was easy to invite him to go back to India for a BMX journey, from the busy streets of Delhi to gigantic Mumbai, with an important stop in the holy city of Vrindavan. On his search for balance, on and off his bike, Joris appeared like an exotic curiosity, a mix of sadhu wisdom and energetic western youngster, although this was not to say he wasn't very welcome in this culture he respects and learns about daily. This short film produced by Soul BMX with the support of Nike takes a different path and dives into Joris' devotion and unique style of riding. Along with the release of the film we sat down with him to better understand how he manages to mix these two worlds.
Let’s start at the beginning for those who don’t know you. What did your childhood and teenage years look like? Tell us about the environment that you grew up in?
I grew up with my brother in a small (French) town near the countryside in a simple environment. In spite of my parents’ separation, I was never missing their love and support. My parents are a great source of inspiration and they gave me the chance to learn many things and especially the urge to learn! I was travelling with them since early childhood and it represents a great part of my education. By the age of 11 I had started skateboarding (after trying most of the ‘classic’ sports) and with that I had finally discovered the place where I could express myself without restriction, and at my own pace.
How did you find BMX?
Back when I was 12 I was skating and usually going alone to the main square in the city centre. One day a group of about ten BMXers showed up and started jumping in all directions. There was such nice group cohesion that it attracted me right away. It almost seemed like a team sport where each rider could express himself in his own manner, according to those natural and subtle rules that we all grow to learn through BMX; beauty, style, originality, danger, character, technique. Shortly after my parents got me my first BMX bike for my 13th birthday!
Tell us about the Bagnols sur Cèze scene which has seen quite a few other notorious riders come though the ranks, like Tommy Lauque and Nicolas Badet.
As I was starting to ride the scene was super active and the skatepark had just opened. I was going there to meet the guys and I already liked Tommy Lauque’s style but then I heard that there were some trails in the woods. With little direction, I went to look for them and just like I was naturally led, I didn’t have a hard time finding it. A very small path in the middle of the woods directly took me to the spot. There were so many jumps and even a dirt bowl. I really couldn’t believe it. So much devotion, passion and peace.
Who and what influenced you when you started?
In the beginning I started with skatepark and trails, but I was also always riding a bit of street. I really liked building spots too. I was influenced a lot by Ruben Alcantara, Mike Aitken, Van Homan and Sergio Layos. At the time, there wasn’t so much difference between street, park and trails or even flat.
How did you come to ride more street? Was Garrett Reynolds a factor back then?
I think that I arrived just as BMX had evolved. Of course Garrett was one of the first to stand out from the crowd in this new wave/generation of riding, but there was also Sean Sexton, Nathan Williams, Danny Hickerson and many others.
"It’s really incredible to be on the same team as some of the best riders on the planet... but I enjoy their personalities even more."
- Joris Coulomb
When did you first appear in the media?
I think it was in 2005, when I was 15 and I got my first magazine photo. It was in an issue of Cream, I think, with a cross footed whip fakie during the King of PACA at the Prado. It was right before Sunex contacted me to offer me to ride for Proper.
It seems that your collaboration with Proper didn’t come to fruition, do you regret that sometimes BMX doesn’t have the means to match its ambitions?
I rode for Proper for six years and I have very good memories of that time. They gave me the chance to do my first trips (UK & Barcelona) and I started to discover the BMX industry and almost my first signature frame. They were promising a lot of things but it didn’t always happen, which taught me patience, perseverance and humility. I was always doing my best to play my role.
You’ve been with NIKE for ten years. How did that opportunity arise and, looking back, what does it represent for you?
It all began after riding in the Pro finals at the Cologne Masters 10 years ago. I was 17 (Editors Note: Nike 6.0’s plan was to recruit young promising riders under 18). John Petit, who was the French Nike 6.0 team manager back then, came to ask me if I wanted to ride with Maxime Charveron on the French Pro team. It was the very beginning of Nike 6.0 so I was really happy and excited! Today I realize how important that was in my life too. I got to travel, meet, and share good moments with all my idols and many more extraordinary personalities.
What is it like to be on the same team as guys like Dennis Enarson and Garrett Reynolds?
It’s really incredible to be on the same team as some of the best riders on the planet... but I enjoy their personalities even more. They are also the ones who give a lot of energy and inspiration to do the same thing.
Joining Shadow/Subrosa was an important step in your career, it seems that you’ve found a real family; and with Simone Barraco you make a nice duo of creative riders.
Yes everything happened very naturally. As soon as I met the team at Chad Kerley’s contest in The Bakery (Editor’s note: what used to be Brian Kachinsky’s private park in Chicago) we got along straight away. Actually we met just at the right time and as Simone had played a part in that, we just had to be on the same team. Soon after, they asked me to ride Shadow and Subrosa parts. There were no promises but everyone was excited. Today we’re all very close and there’s a nice bond between all of the team and staff members.
You were telling us that all of these sponsors reached out to you, tell us more about your views on gaining support.
Exactly, I’ve never asked for a sponsor or even filmed a video with that idea in mind. They always came to me before I even thought of such a thing to be a possibility. To be a Pro rider, you need first to enjoy riding for yourself. You shouldn’t wait for the sponsors to pay everything for travelling and going to contests, jams and trips. You need to invest yourself first and be determined to be a part of this big BMX family. Looking back, I realise that sponsors will notice you once you’re already personally showed some involvement and devotion. Only then can some brands believe in, and invest in, a rider.
“You need to invest yourself first and be determined to be a part of this big BMX family.”
- Joris Coulomb
Tell us about your frame model and its name, which means a lot to you.
First of all it came as a big surprise. I didn’t know anything about it and one day Ryan Sher (Subrosa’s founder) tells me about a frame they have just designed and wants to know if I would like to try it. It really seemed perfect. A bit later he asked to make it my signature frame. The frame was exactly like I would have imagined it if they’d had asked me to design one. Its geometry is a change compared to the other Subrosa frames. Short chainstays and a high BB, high seat tube, higher head tube as well. As a rider it means a lot to have a signature frame so I wanted to take this opportunity to give back as much as I could from all that was given to me in this adventure. I’ve learnt a lot with all the trips and meetings. Today I start to understand what soul is. And once someone understands the soul and its role, he becomes eternally happy. Those who know this soul culture say that the answer and all the wisdom are held within the transcendental sound named Om (ॐ). By naming the frame ‘Om’, I hope to help some people remember their origins and to be happy.
Talking about encounters, it seems that meeting Alex Kennedy was important in your life.
Of course, he even had a direct influence on me. Each person that we meet and spend time with isn’t here randomly. There’s a pattern for each person and everybody receives what’s waiting for him. I met Alex a long time ago at a contest in Germany. It was like we already knew each other and nature got us together. We share the same focus and the same philosophies. We’re growing up together sharing our discoveries and learnings every time we meet. He introduced me to crystals (lithotherapy), essential oils and various books. If we look closely, everyone is the Guru (the spiritual master).
How did you discover Krishna? Could you explain what it is about to you?
Actually, it revealed itself. I don’t recall a particular moment from where it all started. Like I said, if we know how to listen, everyone is the Guru. Each moment of life serves as a learning. Through each moment a lesson is given, all you need is the will to listen. Krishna only reveals itself to those who want to see it. I’ve always searched to understand the origin. Where did the Big Bang exist? What’s soul? What’s the infinitely small and the infinitely large? What is past, present, future? If each living being has a conscience, the supreme being must have a conscience too. Like the salted ocean’s water drop, salted as the ocean itself. Only when someone asks himself these questions with purity, sincerity, determination and devotion can the answer reveal itself little by little. It’s something one can not run after. One day, in an hotel in India I opened the ‘Bhagavad Gita As It Is’ and just by reading the names of the chapters I knew it was the end. The end of knowledge. A knowledge from the outset. A transcendental knowledge, final, unchanging and infallible. A knowledge that doesn’t depend on us but on the contrary a knowledge on which we depend. A knowledge as infaillible as an object’s shadow moving always exactly with the sunlight. This knowledge was communicated on Earth 5000 years ago by Krishna himself. (Editors note: He took a while to show up…)
What does it bring to your everyday life ? Serenity. Regardless of the situation, I settle for serving Krishna. Nothing lasts forever in the material world. One just needs to learn to tolerate the change of seasons, good-bad, warm-cold, happy-sad. They call it ‘illusion’, maya, like a cloud hiding the sun. It may rain but it doesn’t mean there’s no more sun. By meditating on the sun well above the clouds, we keep the faith and happiness. It’s even possible to receive the benefits of the sun on a rainy day, just by meditating on it. By staying connected to Krishna through the spirit, it enables us to tolerate clouds like sadness, lamentation, misery, anger, envy, desires... and to live in peace with love for all things.
How do you manage to mix your BMX life and your devotion to Krishna ?
I don’t mix anything. There isn’t an element that doesn’t come from Krishna to begin with. The principle of devotion is to dedicate everything. Everyone helps according and in proportion to his capacity and position in the world. The real eternal religion (Dharma) is to accomplish our duty and to offer the fruits of our labour to Krishna. Actually there isn’t a person who doesn’t already serve Krishna directly or indirectly. The difference is the conscience. Every trip, trick, video, the bike itself etc, I do it in the name of Krishna (God). Each service I can give back to my family, friends and all other persons, I do it in the name of Krishna. Fear disappears when we realise that nothing is ever separated from the whole. Everything belongs to Krishna and Krishna belongs to everyone.
How did your meeting with the devotees in India go? They’ve been living a radical and disciplined life for years…
I had a very good contact and it was really interesting to speak with them as they embody a true purity and wisdom. The sadhus or bhaktas (devotees) are a benediction. They cultivate, preserve and share this eternal knowledge and make it possible for others to understand. One moment of association with a devotee can entirely spark the Krishna awareness in someone.
"Through each moment a lesson is given, all you need is the will to listen."
- Joris Coulomb
Would you be ready to leave everything to dedicate your life to Krishna ?
Completely, but it’s not for me to decide. If it has to happen, it will be inevitable and indisputable, according to Krishna’s will and for the benefit of all. In the meantime, I do what I do best, the best I can and I devote the fruits of my labour to the source, Krishna.
What do your loved ones think about this perspective ?
Today they don’t like the idea too much but if it has to happen one day they’ll be ready, I fully trust them.
To close this interview, what message would you like to give to those who read this.
First of all thank you for focusing on all of this. One shouldn’t run from anything… there’s a time for everything. The essential is the intention, we’ll never be perfect and that’s in our nature. In contrast, to follow the example of the Perfect and Absolute being, Bhagavan (Krishna) is already perfection. One needs to learn to take example of the infallible laws of nature and to break away from this material conception of things. We aren’t this body and all duality is relative, it stems from the three functioning modes of the material world (goodness, passion, ignorance). Some talk about renouncing as if one should stop everything, all material and mental activity… but that’s impossible. By definition soul is eternally active so one should not abandon everything but accept everything in the name of God, Krishna! The true renunciation is the acceptation or attachment to Krishna! The devotion to Krishna means being without any personal material desire. Everything is devoted to Krishna since it all belongs to him and that he already organises everything.
For that we must turn towards those who know, the free souls bona fide Krishna devotees. It is all told in the Bhagavad Gita where Krishna explains to Arjuna this eternal knowledge which, like a sword, cut the node in the heart that ties our soul to this material world.
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