This reality was even harder to accept since Jean-Marc comes from a family littered with talented professional athletes across multiple sporting codes.
The need to constantly monitor his condition and the time he spent in hospital to treat his asthma meant Jean-Marc lacked the belief that he could excel at sport, to the point where he avoided it completely.
Then he found skateboarding. Jean-Marc started skateboarding before he was a teenager and quickly discovered a passion for this non-mainstream sport.
“Turning pro became a childhood dream and fuelled my desire to keep getting better. I used this passion as motivation, which kept me going and made me believe that I could do something more,” he recalls.
Fuelling his passion wasn’t easy, though, as there are no suitable areas or skate parks in his community of Athlone, in Cape Town. And it wasn’t a widely accepted sport at the time with very little sponsorship support available to promising athletes.
Jean-Marc took his skateboard around Cape Town looking for spots to practise and perfect his new craft. He honed the tricks that have made him world-famous by skating benches at local taxi ranks or train stations. He recalls using anything he could to keep making progress.
Then, at the age of 11, he entered his first skate competition and won! That was the moment when Jean-Marc knew that he wanted to pursue a career as a pro skateboarder.
“I felt such fulfilment from my success and enjoyed the feeling that came with achievement. This fuelled my dedication and passion, which is what I believe makes me a successful pro athlete today.”
Jean-Marc realised his childhood dream at the age of 17 when he turned professional and has gone on to secure multiple podiums on the local and international stage, including the first gold medal for South Africa in an international skateboarding competition.
In 2022, Jean-Marc achieved more international podiums after placing third at the Skate Park Open and first for the Open Shred Session at the FISE Skateboarding Open Freestyle Tour in Switzerland.
“While my asthma is still a challenge, I’ve worked relentlessly hard for the past year and a half to come out of lockdown stronger than ever,” explains Jean-Marc.
“When I go to a session, it doesn’t matter how I feel. I get it done. I constantly aim to become a better athlete by challenging myself by learning new tricks. And it is this relentless mindset that helps me create the daily habits that keep me progressing.”
Jean-Marc skates every day and is at the gym working with a trainer at least twice a week.
When he is on the skateboard during the week, Jean-Marc focuses on intentional skills-based sessions where he spends 2-3 hours a day learning new tricks or perfecting older ones. You can generally find him ripping at his favourite skate park – Battery Park in Cape Town.
“These sessions are important to build muscle memory, which is vital to compete at the highest level.”
On weekends, he takes a more relaxed approach, predominantly skateboarding freestyle for some fun.
“On weekdays, I work with a trainer from 5am until about 8am. After that, I skate for a few hours, and then I head to the physio and Athletic Recovery Centre.”
Jean-Marc works with a personal trainer at FitFreak Training in Claremont, Cape Town. He follows a functional training plan that is specific to his skateboarding style, which includes lots of plyometric explosive power development, as well as strength, endurance and core work.
“We spent a long time developing my strength base before getting into the more specific work. Our focus is on getting stronger without adding too much weight from muscle so that it doesn’t change my skateboarding style.”
Friday is his active recovery day. This is when he skates less and includes a lot of mobility and stretching. He also visits the Athletic Recovery Centre in Cape Town, where he spends time using the infrared sauna, compression boots, and the Compex EMS machine.
Since turning pro, Jean-Marc is also more focused on his diet and nutrition. While he keeps things simple, his focus is on quality nutrition to support his energy and recovery demands. And Biogen supplements play an important role in this nutritional equation.
But Jean-Marc is not just content on excelling in the competitive skateboarding arena. While still in high school, Jean-Marc watched his childhood idol, pro skater Rob Dyrdek, break world records on MTV. What he witnessed planted a seed that would grow into a burning ambition over time.
“It was only later in my career that I felt I could break records. My recent dedicated and focused training approach has helped my break 10 world records to date, with another three still pending ratification.”
In 2019, Jean-Marc broke the record for the most skateboard fakie heelflips in one minute (12). In 2021, he broke his idol’s previous record of 12 backside big spins by completing 18.
He followed up these achievements with two new records in 2022 after new marks for the most skateboard 360 frontside spins in 30 seconds and the most consecutive skateboard ollies.
Jean-Marc’s two new Guinness World Records include:
Most skateboard 360 frontside spins in 30 seconds: 7
Most consecutive skateboard ollies: 323 (tied with the UK’s David Tavernor)
Jean-Marc attempted both records on the same day, one after the other. While bad weather forced a last-minute change to his original plans, his tenacity and grit once again shone through and he achieved his objectives.
“The records cap off an important year for me. It was the first time I was able to travel to compete overseas after lockdown. It was good to see where skateboarding is internationally after such a long time, and achieving a double podium in October was definitely a career highlight for me.”
What makes these achievements all the more special are the challenges Jean-Marc has overcome to reach this point. In addition to his own health issues, it has been difficult to chase his passion in a non-mainstream sport.
“Sponsorships were hard to come by and acceptance in my community took time. But I think proving myself on international and national platforms has helped to reshape perceptions about what is possible for local athletes and for the sport itself.” believes Jean-Marc.
While he has his eye on a few more world records in future, his focus is now on winning more events in the Pro Open category.
“I would also like to open a skate park in the community where I grew up in Athlone. I think this will play a big part in growing the sport locally. We have so much talent and passion in this country and I hope my success will encourage other skaters to chase their dreams,” he concludes.