Séan Garnier burst onto the freestyle scene in 2008, when he won the very first Red Bull Street Style World Championship. In the years since, he’s become an icon – entertaining, teaching and advocating the sport worldwide, and building a massive following.
Séan, how you doing?
You know, usually I’m traveling constantly. So I’m taking this time to be with my family and to focus on projects, and I’m also trying to keep training.
Speaking of training, in freestyle all you need is a ball. So how are things in the freestyle world during the current situation?
The most popular sport in the world is football. But in a time like this, you can’t play football and there are no sporting events. And what I noticed is that all the football fans, they are doing freestyle at home. Not only freestylers, but even famous players, they’re always playing with the ball. Which is really, really cool.
For those who don’t know, can you explain how you started out in freestyle?
At first, the only platform I had was playing for people on the streets. Then I was lucky enough to be the first-ever World Freestyle Champion by winning the Red Bull Street Style 2008 in Brazil. It was like a dream come true. I was a kid from France who didn’t speak English and hadn’t traveled in my whole life. My first trip was Brazil, and I won the World Championship. And from there I’ve become an ambassador of the sport. The competition was the best platform a guy like me could have to express himself.
You were a commentator at the World Final in Miami last November. How was it?
I’ve followed each edition of Red Bull Street Style, seeing the new talent, the new kids coming up, and I’m really passionate about that. The progression has been amazing. For a while, progression in the sport was happening specifically on the technical level. And that’s great, but last year, I also saw progression in attitude. The battles were really a conversation between two guys, and I loved that. The 2019 fight for the title produced the best battle in history.
In 2020, for the first time people will watch the Red Bull Street Style World Final on screens only, rather than in a crowd. What do you think about bringing the sport to people this way?
I like change. And, if you think about how freestyle football grew since the beginning, it was from videos on the Internet. Kids watched online, then started to practice themselves. So the Red Bull Street Style 2020 will be something new, but at the same time it will be going back to the roots of freestyle. And it’s a good chance to showcase freestyle to a massive audience who maybe have seen it only as a means of expression, not as a sport.
The online qualifiers organized in collaboration with the World Freestyle Football Association will enable anyone 16 or older to submit a video and take their shot at contending, right?
Yes, this gives a chance to everybody in the world. It’s open for everyone, and that’s what we want – equality.
Do you think this first-ever online World Championship might tempt you back into competition yourself?
(laughs) When you play anything – chess, cards – you need to understand the game. Red Bull Street Style in 2020, it’s a new game. Once I’ve studied what it’s all about, from A to Z, I can question myself and see if I can really win this game, or at least bring something to the table. That’s my answer for now.
OK then, Séan, while you’re considering it, what would you say to anyone else who is thinking of entering Red Bull Street Style this year?
If you’re someone who likes to play with the ball, and you do skills all day and you don’t know where to express yourself, I think Red Bull Street Style 2020 is definitely for you. You have to take your chance. You have to practice at home every single day. And maybe you can be like me, a World Champion. I can tell you, it’s going to change your life, my friend!