16 July 2013, 13:44
3091 |

Urban blades

With so many talents in his possession, it’s no wonder that Greg Mirzoyan, a professional skater and photographer, has chosen the task to take the world by storm. Mixed with his insatiable hunger for travel, Mirzoyan shows just how far you can go with a single pair of skates and plenty of drive.

All great love stories start with a moment – a single glance, the first interaction. For Greg Mirzoyan, it all began shortly after he learned to walk.

Born and raised in Paris by French and Armenian parents, Mirzoyan grew up hearing stories about the Armenian culture from his father who tried to keep the traditions alive – not surprising for a native of the city with the long-established community of the largest population of Armenians in Western Europe. At the age of four, Mirzoyan’s parents gave him his first pair of rollerskates with plastic wheels painted in fluorescent colors. From the second he slid his feet into those vintage four-wheeled skates, he was hooked. Skating through his childhood into adolescence, Mirzoyan eventually decided to dedicate his life to the sport. Thus, his parents’ gift marked the beginning of a lifelong love for rollerblading.

Mirzoyan trained every day to hone his skills. His techniques ranged from free skating to aggressive skating, which focuses on spins and grinding down stair rails. Next, he transitioned to bladercross competitions in which skaters have to maneuver around obstacles to the finish line. His talents came naturally and were mastered through practice. When he was younger, he participated in many of the bladercross competitions, including those in Russia and Korea, and won most of them.

A pivotal moment came in 2004 when he won a bladercross competition in Paris. After his victory, he made another investment in his future. “With the prize money, I bought a camera so I could take pictures of my friends skating,” Mirzoyan explains. “I enjoyed taking pictures a lot. I eventually sold my first camera and bought a bigger one.”

Once he had the camera in his hands, his journey truly began. Without much thought, he was naturally able to mix rollerskating with photography. The skating competitions slowly left his life, and sport photography took their place. Even though Mirzoyan was always talented in skating, he admits that participating in competitions was not for him. “I don’t like the idea of competing,” he says. “I’m too polite to do that. I think I’d rather let other people go first.”

With dedication to his sport and his craft, Mirzoyan became a professional skater and starred in skating videos that became popular on the Internet. In 2008, while attending an event in Paris, he met the marketing manager of Rollerblade International, the company credited with creating the first modern inline skate. At the event, the marketing manager of the company told Mirzoyan about a rollerblading video he had seen and that he wanted to meet the skater in the video. As luck would have it, Mirzoyan was the man the marketing manager was looking for.

Shortly after that fortunate encounter, Rollerblade International signed him as a professional skater.
Eventually, Mirzoyan took over many of Rollerblade International’s visual projects, including shooting pictures and videos of skaters in dozens of countries. Throughout the years, Mirzoyan has zoomed through countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, India, Russia, China, and other countries throughout Europe and South America. During each of his trips to a different country, Mirzoyan goes sightseeing with eight wheels on his feet. But he does not skate in a straight line toward his destination like the majority of the population. The type of skating he practices is considered “aggressive,” the fast-paced, adrenaline pumping cousin of street skating.

Videos of Mirzoyan document him in Brazil, jumping from the sidewalk to the wall with the Christ the Redeemer statue looking over him. On the city streets of Beijing, with the bright lights as his backdrop, Mirzoyan effortlessly jumps up and down staircases and swerves around hundreds of pedestrians. In the more suburban parts of town, he rides calmly by rivers and pagodas, under colorful paper lanterns and canopies of trees. Instead of walking by the Bird’s Nest stadium, the iconic building that hosted the 2008 Olympics, the skater explores the area on wheels, jumping off benches and traversing the green lawns with the crisscrossed wooden beams of the stadium acting as his spectators.

In Los Angeles, he tests the infamous traffic by speeding alongside buses while holding onto the front fender. The crowds on Hollywood Boulevard do not deter the courageous Mirzoyan from skating down the iconic street, weaving around tourists and costumed men.
While the majority of his skating occurs in relatively low-risk situations, Mirzoyan is no stranger to performing daring feats. In Poland, he took his adventures to the next level by rocketing down a dark and winding underground salt mine, coming abruptly to a halt before a dead end. Outside, he rides in the middle of the street with the rest of the cars as his roadside companions, as if he were not a man on skates, but his own version of a motor vehicle.

Watching Mirzoyan glide smoothly on the streets and surpass every obstacle with ease is an incredibly hypnotic experience. The ebb and flow of his jumps and rides fill his audience with serenity, even during the most complicated tricks. The calmness he exudes with his every move is the mark of a true master, of a man who has been refining his skills for a lifetime. Skating comes as second nature to Mirzoyan, much like a fish in water.

With all the stamps on his passport, Mirzoyan has met a wide variety of skaters in different environments, from rural Indian villages to the skyscraper-laden streets of Asia and America. His observations of athletes in their own cities revealed to him what skaters have in common, and what their preferences are when it comes to how they get around on eight little wheels.

“People love to meet in one place where no one is disturbing them, and that’s pretty much the same in every country,” he says. “In the U.S., people don’t go from place to place on skates because everything is so spread out. In cities like Paris, it’s much easier to move around on skates because everything is much closer together.”

Just like his talent for photography, his passion and dedication to skating took off from the beginning. In the past, Mirzoyan tried many kinds of jobs and studied a large variety of subjects, but never liked any of them. It wasn’t until photography and skating entered his life that he found hobbies that stuck around for life. That’s because roller-skating is not like other sports, and Mirzoyan was not an ordinary child.
“When I was a little bit younger, I liked to do things a little differently,” Mirzoyan recalls. “I think that’s why I was so attracted to skating, because it’s not what everyone else did.”

Although the connection between his two passions and traveling is not obvious, the skater intertwines them in his work and in his everyday life. He says, “When you travel, you have a scope of things that not everyone has. It’s very personal. When you start doing this, it’s like an addiction.”

Because he travels for work, most of the cities he visits are locations where skating is just beginning to develop. Sometimes, his travels evolve into semi-permanent arrangements. Before moving to Barcelona in 2011, the skater called England, India and Switzerland home for a short period of time.

“When I lived in other countries, I learned how to be a professional photographer,” Mirzoyan says. “I mixed photography with skating because it was obvious, and I also made sure that I was taking pictures of all the things I encountered because it’s nice to have a variety of work. It came naturally. My work is my whole life,” Mirzoyan admits. “It’s difficult to balance. I’m always thinking about my work. I can spend entire days working. I just go for it 100 percent.”

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