I Won’t Punch You: Jess Kimura In Her Own Words


It takes strength of character and a sharp, creative mind to live a life beyond the boundaries of other people’s expectations. And it’s never easy. But for Jess Kimura, fitting in would be selling out. She has always defined herself in her own terms, making choices and taking action in ways true to herself alone. On her journey to the top of pro snowboarding, Jess didn’t take the well-worn path of her peers. She blazed her own trail—taking detours, smoke breaks, and beatings on the way.

Not since the heydays of pioneering women Janna Meyen and Tara Dakides has a female pro charged so hard that everyone—guys and girls alike—shook their heads in mutual amazement. Jess brings that rare universal appeal. Guys like her go-for-broke approach and the emphasis on action. Girls see progression, possibilities, and fire in her eyes. Yet for as much as Jess has captivated fans of snowboarding, relatively little is known about this hardcore Canadian from Vernon, British Columbia. So far she’s put out a pair of award-winning parts, taken lots of ambulance rides, and injected some serious juice into women’s riding, but it still feels like we haven’t seen the half. Nobody knows what to expect next from Jess Kimura, and that’s precisely the reason she’s become one of snowboarding’s most compelling characters.

The conversation I had with her for this feature was long and rambling, jumping back and forth in time then twisting off on tangents. And again, this isn’t the half of it. Jess has a lot to say, but rather than try to squeeze her passionate outpourings into the mold of a cute little Q&A, the format is raw. It’s Jess Kimura in her own words. Try to follow along.

Joel Muzzey

 

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Jess Kimura just wants to get you stoked to snowboard. That’s all.
PHOTO: Mark Wiittanen

 

Here’s how it all started:

I couldn’t turn toeside my entire first year. Then one day—the turning point—we were riding out by the parking lot where some snowboarders had built a jump. We were like, “Can we try it?” And they were like, “No, this is our backflip jump, it’s only for backflips.” And I was like, “I can do a backflip,” because I was heavy into gymnastics. I still couldn’t turn toeside, so I just pointed it straight to the jump and hucked a backflip onto my head and cartwheeled into the parking lot…but the dudes were so shocked they shut up because I actually tried it. From that moment I was pumped.

 

Then it was on.

… I remember going into the park for the first time and the only girls I saw would go up to the jumps so slow, just crawl over the lip and land on the top. When I cleared the tabletop for the first time, after tucking it from the bottom of the halfpipe, it was the most insane feeling. Once I figured out that all it took was balls, it got more exciting—I was hooked. I never skied again.

… There was a crew of hardcore dudes on the mountain, and there was this one guy named Tulsa—he was the best rider at Silver Star, but he was kind of a super huge dick, like screaming at people all the time to get out of his way. Everyone was super scared of Tulsa, but for some reason he was cool to me. He started being like, “Hey you, try this instead next time…” He kinda took me under his wing, and it helped me get more confident.

 

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This isn’t the first time Jess has spread her legs to get in the magazine. In fact she’s had several one-footer shots published. Facts aside, she might actually throw that punch when she reads this caption. Quebec City, QC, Canada.
PHOTO: Oli Croteau

 

Something clicked.

… I liked the respect I got from the dudes when I was hucking tricks, or going big, or whatever. The respect was genuine, it wasn’t like, “Oh, we like your tits, how’s it going?” They were like, “Whoa, you just made him look like a pussy.” That was my ammo—I felt like each time I did something like that, those were little victories for girls. There were a couple of girls that I saw, like Tara Dakides, Janna Meyen and Marie-France Roy in video parts, and I was like, “F—k yeah, that chick is standing up to the dudes,” and even if girls’ snowboarding is never going to surpass guys’ snowboarding, the only thing we can do is get up and do our best to change that.

Gender issues.

… As females, we’re kind of told to be careful our whole lives.

… Right around the same time I started snowboarding, I remember doing all my projects in school about gender, stereotyping, and discrimination. I just thought it wasn’t fair that we were all supposed to be this one way, and it’s hard when you’re growing up and all these messages are coming at you and you feel like it’s totally wrong and you’re selling yourself out.

… I feel this stuff holding me back all the time—being scared, overthinking stuff, or doubting myself—because generally, boys and girls are treated differently from birth. You see a little boy and you wrestle with him; a girl, you would never do that shit to. The message that’s basically programmed into our heads from day one is that boys can do gnarly stuff and will grow up to do something great. Girls get to plan their wedding and be a housewife. Look at the toys that kids have, too. All the boys’ toys are action heroes and superheroes, so that becomes the grown-up image of themselves. They see this empowered, powerful hero. Girls’ toys are like, dress-up stuff, kitchen stuff, Barbie stuff. It’s like, sweet, the grown up version of you is a housewife not a hero; it’s not something spectacular. Up until the age when you can think for yourself, if those are the messages you get, then of course when you try stuff you’re going to pull back and be apprehensive. Something inside you says, “This isn’t really what I’m supposed to be doing.” I was just naturally super pissed off about that.

… Meeting Dykeboy was rad because finally I found someone who felt the same way as me, and we were so stoked when we found a group of dudes down to shred with us who didn’t treat us like girls. I was offended that everything had to be sexualized. I was offended that guys would look at me as just something to hook up with. So I was walking around pissed off, like, “How dare you put me down to just being that.” But then all the other girls were going along with it. It really got to me, but I’m over all that stuff now; I grew up. I feel like my role can be to show girls something that gives them a bit more hope than their Barbie convertible.

But wait! There’s more! Click on to the next page to finish the interview!