A remembrance of JP Auclair, by Johnny Decesare

A remembrance of JP Auclair, by Johnny Decesare

As told to Henrik Lampert.

I remember meeting JP, 100 percent. It was in Vail, 1998, in this little coffee shop at the top of the main village. He was with Shane Szocs, who I’d known for a while. JP spoke pretty decent English, actually. I asked, “So, how’d you like State of Mind?” He responded, with the best accent, “Yeah, it was super cool. I didn’t even know I was going to be in it!” I remember laughing at that, ’cause we never really filmed together for that movie. He was in there because of Mike Douglas and Szocs. I’d been gathering footage from those two, highlighting guys like JP, Vincent Dorion and JF Cusson. That was basically how I put that film together. And that was it—that was the day I met JP.

It was the weekend of the US Freeskiing Open. The very first one. We ended up going out together as a group, and we shredded Vail Mountain like it had never been shredded before. We built a road gap, and we did all this wacky stuff. I filmed everything. The guys were jumping off of everything in sight, spinning around in circles.

Eventually, we made our way back down to the base area, as those guys had to register for the event. It turned out registration was already full. They’d missed the boat. I went and spoke with Mike Jaquet of Freeze magazine—they were hosting the event—and I was like, “Dude, you’ve got to let these Canadian guys compete. They’re going to win. They’re the best dudes I’ve ever filmed in my life.” It took some doing, but Jaquet ended up making space for them. And of course, they won. JF took the slopestyle, JP the big air.


JP Auclair, U.S. Freeskiing Open, 1998. Photo by Flip McCririck.

That night, these skis arrived that they’d been talking about forever. It was the first-ever Salomon twin tip. JP got ’em after the comp, and when he went up on stage to collect his prize that evening, he lifted them above his head. That changed everything.

The clip I shot during the awards ceremony was featured in the trailer for Degenerates, our next film, and became one of my all-time most iconic shots. I ended up shooting with JP for the whole weekend, and we became friends right away. I was like, “Dude, you’re awesome. Let’s film some more!” He was like, “Cool, yeah. Let’s film some more!” And things just took off. Degenerates took off. It’s amazing to think back … that was a long time ago.

I went to his house. It was so cool. I was like, “I’m going to Québec. I’m going to film with these dudes.” It ended up being mostly JP, ’cause Vincent and JF were super flaky. But if JP said he was going to do something, he did it. That’s why he was the guy for me to work with for such a long time.

We slid the first urban rail in Canada, I think. It was in front of his house, like two feet off the ground. JP did that, and then we got all gutsy, and we slid an aluminum rail underneath a bridge by the Saint Lawrence River. It was this little park. That was literally the first urban rail I ever filmed. And it was JP. It was awesome.

Degenerates. Man, that was the one. Such a classic. I focused on the New Canadian Air Force and a few others, too, but the Canadians—they were the guys. JP, JF, Vincent, Douglas, Szocs … all of them were amazing, but JP had it. He worked the hardest on variation and wanted to create something special. His part was so epic. The backflip mute was the best. He’d say such funny things. “It’s all about the tweak.” He always said that. And he’d tweak so damn hard. I really have that weekend in Vail to thank for the birth of Degenerates and my friendship with JP.


Vincent Dorion, JP Auclair and J.F. Cusson. Photo by Chris O’Connell.

He was always the guy who really just went with it. Went with the flow. And if he got into something, he’d get so into it. He’d send it. He would do that with everything in his life. Like, the Kendama thing. He flew to Japan and did the whole certification. That’s the one thing—he goes all the way, with everything he does. In the end, that guy was so damn busy. I think he was probably the busiest guy I ever hung out with. It’s so endless, so hard to describe.

He was always so funny. He came to my house a few summers in a row, and he brought his surfboard bag. He’d take the board out and leave it outside. Then he’d bring the board bag in the house and inside was a pillow and sleeping bag. He was like, “Dude, I brought my own bed!” He was always so prepared. That was super JP.

He was an amazing listener. I taught him to surf. Then we showed him how to edit video. He wasn’t the fastest editor, but he was the most thorough. He and Tyler Hamlet would edit through the night, then they’d go surfing. I’d wake up to put coffee on, and they’d be coming in the door. I was like, “You kidding me? You didn’t sleep? And you just surfed?” They’d do it all the time. JP was such a go-getter.

Losing friends is such an awful thing. It’s part of life. It happens. But this one, it’s a real mind blower for me.

I was visiting with JP in Zurich, Switzerland, last year, about a year before the accident—totally nonbusiness. I was there with my wife. One night, we went to this amazing dinner with JP and his girl, Ingrid. I remember her and my wife just giggling, and I was like, “What’s going on?”

My wife was like, “Well, Ingrid just told me she’s pregnant!”

And I’m like, “What?! JP?!”

JP goes, “Hey! You weren’t supposed to tell anybody!”

I guess Ingrid just couldn’t help it. It was so funny. It was such … this intimate moment. Real friendship. JP had been dying to tell me, but he couldn’t. And suddenly it was just out there. It was so fun.

Thinking of that, and thinking of JP now, it reminds me to be better to my friends—and to remember my friends. We pass by so many people. They come and go. You hang for a bit, then move on to the next. But, somehow, I’m wanting to rekindle my longstanding relationships. I want to make these people more relevant in my life. If there’s one thing on my mind right now, it’s just that friends need to get together once in a while. We can’t lose sight of that.

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