Meet the chronic asthmatic Cape Town skateboarder who holds 7 Guinness World Records

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Jean-marc Johannes from Athlone recently bagged his seventh Guinness World Record. (PHOTO: Ference Isaacs)
Jean-marc Johannes from Athlone recently bagged his seventh Guinness World Record. (PHOTO: Ference Isaacs)

South Africa’s pro skateboard king Jean-marc Johannes has clinched his seventh Guinness World Record, with 18 big spins in one minute – breaking the previous record of 12 held by American Rob Dyrdek since 2007. 

Jean-marc (29), from Athlone in Cape Town, smashed his latest record at Cape Town Stadium on 6 April.

A big spin, if you were curious, is when you rotate the skateboard 360 degrees in the air, as you’re turning yourself 180 degrees, to face the opposite side from where you started – basically, it looks like you and your board are spinning around.

“I am honoured to have broken the record and happy to make skateboarding part of the rich history of Cape Town Stadium,” says Jean-marc, who set his sights on smashing records years ago.

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“When I was younger, I had a Guinness World Records book. It was one of my favourites because it featured Tony Hawk, one of my favourite skateboarders. I looked at the book and thought to myself, ‘It’s impossible for a kid from Athlone [to make it in here]’.”

He was 11 years old when he got into skateboarding in a serious way. Having had chronic asthma, he couldn’t take part in many other sports but Jean-marc loved skateboarding.

He was with friends at a skateboarding competition when one of them entered him, as a joke, to compete against professionals. No one was laughing when he won the competition, though.

“I never knew what that victory meant long-term, but I knew that there was something to skateboarding. In my mind I started focusing a lot more on it.”

By the time he was 15, Jean-marc was ranked as one of SA’s top skateboarders.

He is an international gold medallist and the current FISE Am World Series No 1 skateboarder. Jean-marc trains on his skateboard for three to five hours daily, and says he chose his latest record because the big spin has always been a favourite trick.

His favourite move, though, is the hardflip, which he spent 18 months learning.

“It is a combination of a kickflip and a frontside shove-it. You pop the board with your back leg and kick out with your front leg which causes the board to rotate, then you land on the board with both feet.

“One day everything just clicked. Because it took me so long to learn how to do the trick, I made sure I did it every day after that just so I wouldn’t forget it. Now it has become my signature trick.”

This year he officially became a pro skateboarder, something his dreamt of since childhood.

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Jean-marc has performed in the USA, China, Indonesia, the Middle East and parts of Europe, and he loves it.

“I love the endless possibilities skateboarding has, as a creative art form. The tricks you can do on a board and the tricks you can create and combine are endless.”

And yes, this job does come with injuries but even that hasn’t deterred Jean-marc.

“You’re going to feel pain, but the one thing skateboarding teaches you is resilience. Even if you have an injury that puts you out for two months, you come back because of that resilience. No matter how many times I fall, the goal is to land the trick. The goal is to walk away with that sense of achievement.”

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