By Hasi and Bene Heimstaedt

I have seen the future, and it’s a skinny frail-framed Austrian kid with shaggy hair who goes by the name of Gigi RÅf. Gigi’s a real-life comic-book character. When he rides, it seems like his featherweight body is being carried by the wind. The first time you meet Gigi he may seem quiet and shy, but don’t let that fool you-underneath the thick accent is a goofball who enjoys having a good time more than anything else. I wish I could speak Austrian because I know what he says in broken English is just a mere inkling of what his mind is trying to express.

It’s a given that Gigi’s riding is good-hell, it’s f-king gnarly. There are a lot of good riders out there, but it seems like many of them are just bland clones: shitty copies of original people with unique style. Gigi isn’t one of those. Gigi’s no jock, either-he doesn’t train, he rides. He snowboards because it’s fun and because he’s a natural at it. Gigi makes the most technical tricks seem ridiculously easy, and he makes snowboarding look fun. When people see his part in Destroyer, they’ll most likely say, “Where the hell did this kid come from?” All I know is that he’s undoubtably here to stay, unless he finds something else he enjoys even more than snowboarding.-Whitey McConnaughy

Where in Europe are you from?
Au, Austria is my home with my family and about 1,800 other villagers.

How was it growing up in Au?
Au is surrounded by steep mountains, so we’re always looking forward for the snowfall. Summers pass slowly, though. There’s nowhere to skate or bars to go out to. Most of my friends from school would help out the farmers.

How did you get into snowboarding?
I’d already been snowboarding for two seasons when I got to ride with one of my sister’s friends. I’d heard he was in this crew of four snowboarders doing mad stuff. When I first started riding, I wore button-downs, a big beanie, and my mom couldn’t hold me back from putting on huge baggy jeans. It was all about new school. My sister always backed me, though, and my parents were easygoing about most things.

A friend kind of hooked me up with this board shop. The owner, who also runs the distribution for Purged, Haz Mat, Yang, Black Flys, and Volcom, gave me a board, baseless bindings, and some stuff to wear. A season later, Sani Alibabic joined. We always met at contests or hung out at the house of our sponsor. He was riding real well and pushed me a lot. Also my sister was sponsored, so once she got her driver’s license we were on the contest tour in Austria. A lot has happened since then.

Did you ever think you’d be a pro snowboarder? Do you consider yourself a pro?
I was riding a lot ’cause I wanted to get out of school. The teachers gave me too much shit, so I was over it. I changed grades and graduated within a year. My parents weren’t so down with that, but my mom realized what was going on, so it was all right. I thought I had to go to the army right after school, but things happened differently and I became pro. I don’t like to consider myself pro yet, though.

Normally everybody in Austria has to go to the army. Can you tell us why you don’t have to go, or is that top secret?
I’m not out of having to join the army yet. I don’t really know what’s going on. At the army checkup, they told me after I finished school they wanted me to wait another two years before they’d check me again. Maybe they’ll use me for some purpose then. They also said I’m too weak and didn’t want me to have my service far from home.

What’s your home mountain like?
We have a couple resorts nearby with a lot of natural hits, some cornices, and fun lift runs. Last season the resort bought a pipe shaper, but they only shaped the pipe once a week. When the snow was shitty, we’d just dig a channel. But our main playground is my uncle’s cabin in the backcountry-it’s a real big house. We build kickers with his snowcat, and there’s an old snowmobile up thereWe threw parties and put some camps together, which was a good time. The camps were more family-style, but my friends are making them bigger this season. My brother built some rails, too, ’cause we spent a few days of the Seven Burton team shoot there. Except for Jeff Anderson, who was hurt, the whole crew showed up. Last season was rad.

What’s your favorite terrain and resort?
I like lift runs when you can cruise your line with friends and have tons of fun. That’s probably why I had so much fun inRiksgrÑnsen last year-there were so many things to hit. Stuben at Arlberg is sick, too-when there’s good snow.

Which do you like more, Europe or North America?
I don’t know North America very well. I just spent some crazy good times in the States, though. But I like Europe a lot and know what’s going on there-Euro style, easy style.

What do you think the biggest difference in riding is between the two continents?
I don’t see any difference in the riding, except that in the U.S. there are so many good riders on every mountain. You can ride all sorts of perfect park setups and see the pros doing their thing. In Europe, the kids have to wait for summer camps to get something like that.

Are you ever pressured into doing things you’re not too stoked on?
In some situations, like at photo shoots, or when there are things going wrong while traveling, or on tour-I’m not so stoked to be out there.

Do you dream of winning a gold medal in the Olympics?
No, that’s too much pressure. When it comes to contests, I’m not good at competing.

What’s the worst and best thing about traveling?
I don’t like to fly ’cause planes are sketchy. Somehow I always think of crashing, the food’s not good, and when I finally get off, I’m jetlagged. Plus it takes a lot of time. Traveling itself is not bad, though. I’ve been to a bunch of places and seen a lot of different things. My parents haven’t traveled at all. Do you ever feel homesick?
Sort of. There’ve been situations when I wanted to go home real bad. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’m missing out on with my friends.

Who do you hang out with when you’re home versus when you’re traveling?
At home I hang out with a couple friends a lot, including Sani-we’ve been through all kinds of shit. When traveling, I get to know a lot of different people. If I meet someone, we hang out.

Girls?
I like them.

Did you ever take advantage of the fact that there’s no drinking age in Europe?
Not advantage; in fact, it’s just normal. You drink or you don’t.

Your video part in Destroyer came out sick! How do you like your part, and what’s it like to see yourself in a movie?
Thanks. I feel all right watching it; it’s a good movie. I like Mikey’s part a lot, but everything turned out good.

After filming with you, Whitey McConnaughy called you “his next superstar.” It’s also the first place North America has really seen you. Are you already a superstar in Europe?
I’m no superstar-especially not in Europe.

Destroyer’s the first major video production you’ve done. What impressed you most during those weeks of production?
When I was in Tahoe filming with Brad Kremer, I wasn’t sure I could pull something like a part. We were out there and I just tried to ride hard-there was nothing to stress about. I was impressed because I realized I was where a lot of past snowboarding films have been made.

When you became a member of the Seven team, you were known by only a few people in the industry. How and why do you think Burton chose you?
I don’t know why, but people must’ve trusted me. It was Hasi Heimstaedt, our team manager, who came up at the Junior World Championships and asked me if I had any ideas for boards. I looked down at my board and didn’t know if he even wanted me to say anything. Two weeks later he called me to go to Innsbruck and since then I’ve had a lot of top-secret meetings.

What’s AG all about?
Analog snowboarding. Greg Dacyshyn, who designs the Burton outerwear line, and a lot of other good people are behind this. I’m proud to be a part of the AG squad.

In the latest Burton ads with your face on them, the caption says, “Gigi Smalls.” Where’s that nickname from, and what does Gigi stand for? Is it a common name in Austria?
Gigi’s from my family; they’ve called me that forever and everyone calls me Gigi now. It’s maybe from my sister ’cause she couldn’t pronounce my real name. The notorious “Gigi Smalls.” Browner Chris Brown dropped that sometime. My real name is Christian.

Where would you be now if there wasn’t snowboarding? Still riding mopeds in Au?
I will always ride mopeds at home. For sure I’d be in Au, but I’d probably have a tuned Golf GTI that I’d race against my friends.

Do you ever think about what you want to do with your life after snowboarding?
Yes, but it doesn’t really make sense to me yet. You never know what’s coming at you.

Shoutouts?
My sister Dette, Mom, Dad, two brothers, and dog; Sani and Hasi; Blotto, Brad, Whitey, and the pleasure crew; my friends and sponsors-Backyard, Burton, Dragon, and Volcom; and all the people I’ve had a good time with. Over ‘n’ out.

Pull Quotes
When traveling, I get to know a lot of different people. If I meet someone, we hang out.

I’m no superstar-especially not in Europe.

Stats
Name: Christian “Gigi” RÅf
Born: October 9, 1981
From: Au, Austria
Years riding: Eight
Local mountain: Diedamskopf
Likes: No worries
Hates: People talking shit behind others’ backs
Stance: Front: 17 degrees, Back: -3 degrees
Sponsors: Burton, Dragon, Volcom, Backyard
Worst injury: Cut finger
Hobbies: Skating, returning home
Days riding in a year: Don’t know
Movie parts: Destroyer, Luminous Llama
First snowboard: Burton Air
Favorite trick: Poppin’ my tooth
Food: Mom’s
Actor: I don’t know about actors.
Movie: I like movies a lot.
Music: Various, mainly hip-hop
Snowboarders: Can be wacky
Skateboarders: Sick
og snowboarding. Greg Dacyshyn, who designs the Burton outerwear line, and a lot of other good people are behind this. I’m proud to be a part of the AG squad.

In the latest Burton ads with your face on them, the caption says, “Gigi Smalls.” Where’s that nickname from, and what does Gigi stand for? Is it a common name in Austria?
Gigi’s from my family; they’ve called me that forever and everyone calls me Gigi now. It’s maybe from my sister ’cause she couldn’t pronounce my real name. The notorious “Gigi Smalls.” Browner Chris Brown dropped that sometime. My real name is Christian.

Where would you be now if there wasn’t snowboarding? Still riding mopeds in Au?
I will always ride mopeds at home. For sure I’d be in Au, but I’d probably have a tuned Golf GTI that I’d race against my friends.

Do you ever think about what you want to do with your life after snowboarding?
Yes, but it doesn’t really make sense to me yet. You never know what’s coming at you.

Shoutouts?
My sister Dette, Mom, Dad, two brothers, and dog; Sani and Hasi; Blotto, Brad, Whitey, and the pleasure crew; my friends and sponsors-Backyard, Burton, Dragon, and Volcom; and all the people I’ve had a good time with. Over ‘n’ out.

Pull Quotes
When traveling, I get to know a lot of different people. If I meet someone, we hang out.

I’m no superstar-especially not in Europe.

Stats
Name: Christian “Gigi” RÅf
Born: October 9, 1981
From: Au, Austria
Years riding: Eight
Local mountain: Diedamskopf
Likes: No worries
Hates: People talking shit behind others’ backs
Stance: Front: 17 degrees, Back: -3 degrees
Sponsors: Burton, Dragon, Volcom, Backyard
Worst injury: Cut finger
Hobbies: Skating, returning home
Days riding in a year: Don’t know
Movie parts: Destroyer, Luminous Llama
First snowboard: Burton Air
Favorite trick: Poppin’ my tooth
Food: Mom’s
Actor: I don’t know about actors.
Movie: I like movies a lot.
Music: Various, mainly hip-hop
Snowboarders: Can be wacky
Skateboarders: Sick