Tom Sims sponsored Rocket Reaves his first year of riding-from there, it was on. The explosion of snowboarding in the early 90s turned a lot of young riders into professionals before they knew what hit ’em. Many assumed their role in the scene with the swelling coverage and fame it afforded. Other riders simply rode the wave, in the name of good times and the promise of better terrain. Veteran pro Rocket Reaves falls into the latter category. He’s maintained his misty legendary status as an incredible big-mountain butcher by occasionally resurfacing in magazines and films, just when we begin to wonder where he’s been.
Rock’s the breed of snowboarder who’s spent his time in pursuit of powder over press-heli time over hype. He’s been around and is at his best in the steep and consequential realm of the backcountry. He’s also known as the honorary mayor of Truckee, California.
“I had a pointed head,” he says, when asked the origin of the name Rocket. “It’s from my family. My grandmother even calls me Rocket-everyone does. That’s the way I learned to write my name, it just says John on my license.” But by now, he’s really earned the moniker.
His longtime friend and Limited teammate Andy Hetzel recalls, “Rocket was probably the first youngster to come up in shredding. I remember the Rocky Mountain Series, and seeing him-a giant, six-foot-tall, fourteen-year-old boy. He was always hanging with us, which was a rough crew at the time. He’d hitchhike to contests, and was just getting by, but he was happy and not afraid to get out on the open road where they play for keeps.”
The kid from Telluride showed promise in all disciplines, which landed him on upstart brand Aggression Snowboards. Former teammate and TWSB Associate Editor Cody Dresser offers, “He was a freestyle kid for sure, but he’d go to these contests and enter the slaloms and giant slaloms, too. All the other guys were wearing speed suits and training, and Rocket would just dust ’em all-wearing baggy, regular snowboard clothes. He never trained or thought about racing. He just won.”
Through the early to mid 90s, Rocket was a regular in the Standard Films’ TB series. His parts feature straight-line pitches and cliff-drop footage shot from the heli. After Aggression, he went over to Liquid Snowboards, which made his second pro model. Rocket was a working, traveling pro making a living on his snowboard. He bought a home in Tahoe, and on top of that, was logging some serious bird time.
With his mind on riding, photo shots, and filming-the busy schedule his profession required-Rock’s personal financial affairs suffered. “Well, I wasn’t paying my monthlies and some other taxes, and I ended up owing the IRS a bunch of money. They were going to take my house, so I sold it to pay ’em off. Now I’m debt free.” His tangle with the taxman didn’t even slow him down. Breaking up his work as a rider/carpenter in Tahoe by making annual trips to Alaska and B.C., Rocket has stayed on the board and on his toes. He also mixes in a little skateboarding, motocross, and snowmobiling.
Hetzel recently brought Reaves onto Limited Snowboards, which has released yet another board bearing his name: “My good friend and great tattoo artist Greg Morris drew the graphics, and they’re all-time,” he offers. “I’m proud to back Limited-L-T-D, living the dream. Right now I’m having more fun than ever.”