As early as 9 years old, Jean-Marc Johannes found his passion. During this stage of his life, this South African Guinness World Record holder picked up a skateboard and was hooked.
“I mean I would spend hours on end, if there was nobody left in the park, y’know I’d go back home and I’m under the street lights until they went off. It was a full day job for me, with overtime”, he said while sitting in the skatepark he spent his formative years in.
Jean-Marc is also the first South African to appear on the channel run by legendary skater Tony Hawk.
I think the most important milestones in my career was definitely FISE World Series and this would have been the first time I won gold and it was also South Africa's first gold medal for skateboarding.
Skateboarding is viewed as an alternative sport but its inclusion in the 2020 Olympics indicates a shift from skateboarding’s street culture roots into the mainstream.
Jean-Marc’s charity initiative, Fill The Gap, aims to address the in-accessibility for some into the sport.
Young skaters receive new and second hand gear thus allowing them to keep skateboarding. The nature of the sport results in a lot of wear and tear, and many people in his old stomping grounds cannot afford to keep replacing boards and shoes.
“Yeah, he’s the coolest guy, it’s like he skates the coolest here, it’s like when he does the tricks, you must know, he lands the pop-shuvit, everything. So yeah, I wish, I want to be like him one day,” said Angus Van Wyk, a young skater who had just gotten to meet his idol.
Wherever Jean-Marc appears, he’s met with smiles and fistbumps, signs of his popularity on and off his board.
“Kids always talk about him, just want to be him, he’s always pushing the sport in his own way. He’s trying to grow the sport and he’s doing a super good job of it, very inspirational,” said BMX rider, Buddy Chellan.
Jean-Marc said he has a deep desire to continue competing and wining for his country.
“I think the most important milestones in my career was definitely FISE World Series and this would have been the first time I won gold and it was also South Africa’s first gold medal for skateboarding, that was the memorable one in 2016,” he said.
Despite skateboarding’s urban roots, Jean-Marc takes his craft extremely seriously, maintaining a strict diet and regular exercise routine. He’s also the first ever skateboarder to be recognized by the Cape Town Sports Council.
“I felt it fit as the chairman, to give him the chairman’s award to recognize his effort and his dedication and his commitment to making a difference. Not only for himself but for all skateboarders across the world and to be a role model in Cape Town where he lives to the rest of Capetonians and South Africans, to show them that there are opportunities out there and he can make a change for himself out in the world,” said Elton Davids, the Council’s chairman.
Jean-Marc plans to return to the Indonesia games in 2019 and hopes to represent South Africa in the 2020 Olympics.