France-Amérique: Over the last 12 years, Riding Zone has forged a reputation as the leading extreme sports show in France. What sets it apart?
Tiga: We are the only show on French television focused on board sports and alternative cultures! We show our viewers mind-blowing performances from extreme sports athletes. We also recently began appealing to a wider audience by using fewer technical terms and explaining the tricks and movements featured on the show. Every week, I present an immersive report that focuses either on a competition or an athlete’s life. I find out how they live, train, and prepare for each event. Viewers should be able to identify with them and understand their need for adrenaline and excitement. The show also features a selection of the best (and wildest) moments and clips we found online, plus a section on the week’s Top 5 tricks across all disciplines. Of course, Riding Zone is focused on winter sports in the winter and water sports in the summer, but we manage to shine a light on every discipline.
You also give the athletes challenges…
We love finding experienced champions who do not take themselves seriously and giving them crazy challenges. For example, a roller-blading race in which the athlete has to beat the subway in Paris, or hidden-camera pranks!
Extreme sports are seen as part of a “young” or “2.0” culture. Is that really the case?
It is true these disciplines are more represented online since athletes promote themselves in their own videos. But they also have their place on television! As for the question of age, we may be categorized as “young” and “street” but our viewers include a large percentage of families. So-called “extreme” sports are more accessible today, and lots of people are trying surfing and paragliding. Everyone now dreams of skydiving to see the world from above! People often think that extreme sports athletes are risk-takers or reckless, but that is wrong! Behind the spectacle, there are values of hard work, challenges, and personal commitment.
What are the current challenges faced by the world of board sports and alternative cultures in France?
There is every type of extreme sport in France, and more appearing all the time. We have as many sports as the United States! But French riders lack visibility and therefore financing. We want to cover these sports to generate sponsors, events, and partnerships! I am delighted that the International Extreme Sports Festival, which was launched in 1997 near Montpellier, now has an edition in Japan. I would love more major events just like it!
What was your most recent great experience with a guest on the show?
I generally try to keep up with the news to see who is coming to France and to stay informed of upcoming competitions so I can choose my guests. I recently met American athlete Kai Lenny who was in Anglet on the Basque coast to add his plaque to Surf Avenue, a street inspired by the Walk of Fame in Los Angeles. He is the sixth person to be invited there, and he is just 26! Lenny is a true champion; he excels at anything he tries. And he has now understood how the ocean works and so is in perfect symbiosis with the water.
How do you raise awareness of the risks inherent to these sports?
I do my best to warn people but without scaring anyone. You have to remember that base jumping, kite surfing, rock climbing, and all other sports on the show all have their own specific risks and require an enormous amount of preparation and knowledge. Some of the athletes who have been guests on our show have later had accidents or even died. There is no way you can become a top-level professional without taking a few knocks! Our viewers do realize there is a lot a work behind each performance, and we regularly feature reports on risks and safety techniques. For example, with skiing, we talk about off-piste techniques, fun tips, the importance of not going out alone, and the right equipment to have.
You recently met the athletes from the Girls Skate Camp and several para-athletes. Do you want to promote figures who receive less media attention?
There is so much to say when it comes to the leading champions, but I also want to talk passion – not just performance. Philippe Ribière really moved our viewers. He is an athlete who was born with malformations in his forearms and hands, but he is now a top-level climber. I also advocate for women to have a bigger place in the spotlight, as they have their own style of surfing and skating, a different mindset, and are often more active in environmental protection.
The show Riding Zone is broadcasted on TV5MONDE USA every Sunday at 7:30 pm EST.