Jess Kimura Feature Interview from our November Issue

Job training at Wendy’s taught Jess to dress the burgers in red, white, and green That’s ketchup, mayo, pickle, then tomato, onion, lettuce. Combining those colors now means a much larger paycheck. Beefy front blunt to fakie. Quebec City, QC, Canada.
PHOTO: Kealan Shilling

Taking the bib off.

… I think it’s important for girls to film video parts and not just do contests. Otherwise all they have to look forward to is standing on the podium. Even though girls may be doing insane, progressive, stylish tricks in their runs, no one sees that. It’s just who came in first, second, and third. I feel like I’m not doing this just for myself, as much as for the hope of the next generation of girls. You can follow your own path and you don’t have to conform to all that contest bullshit.

… I moved out on my own when I was 16 and got a job working at Wendy’s, and then I had random housecleaning jobs. Shit kind of hit the fan that year. Supporting myself was really tough, and then at 17 and 18, I didn’t ride very much because I was struggling a lot, just dealing with life bullshit. I was still trying to take some classes in high school and graduate, and work at the same time.

… When I was younger my mom always got the family pass, so I had a pass to ride, and if I really needed it, my parents would hook me up with money to go to a competition, but it wasn’t like I could go very far. When I was 18, Dykeboy and I did a huge fundraiser so we could go to Quebec for Nationals. This guy at the local newspaper was super hyped on us, writing articles like, “These poor, athletic girls really want to go to Nationals.” So we hit up the newspaper asking them to write an article for our fundraiser, and we had a lot of friends who were in bands, so we did a hot-dog sale at Safeway then put on a show at a bar in Vernon, and our friends all played for free. We were hustling, and we ended up making enough money to go to Quebec, staying in this pimp hotel. I think I got second in boardercross at Nationals that year and Dykeboy got fourth.

… When I started riding rails I realized I could win freestyle contests and do the same tricks as the guys.  Then I realized there’s street stuff that made it so I didn’t have to buy a pass and I could just build my own setups and ride them—I loved that, and loved the feeling of working all day to get a trick on something, or being able to slide a whole rail that none of the dudes could do.


Jess says in five years she wants to be the “Nicolas Muller with tits,” but if she keeps hitting rails, she’ll remain more of a Jeremy Jones with jugs. Gap out to lipslide. Salmon Arm, BC. Canada.
PHOTO: Alex Mertz

Waking up in Whistler.

…  When I moved to Whistler I think everyone thought I was a total kook, but it didn’t matter to me because in the end I wanted to move beyond that shit.  My goal wasn’t to look cool or to fit in with a crew—it was to snowboard in a way that fulfills this raging fire inside me.

…  Everything is really cliquey, especially in a place like Whistler. I never wanted to fit in with the girls’ crew. I wanted to take my own path. To me, riding with girls was only going to make me second guess myself, because every time I rode with them I felt like they were telling me, “Stop, don’t do that, this is what could happen to you, you’re going to get hurt, let’s go home, this is sketchy, let’s not do that.” I didn’t like that. I was there for the riding. And to this day I feel like so many people have a different picture of me than what I’m really like. I’m not like, “Let’s smash bottles over our heads and go crazy.” I’m not chucking myself because I’m stupid or whatever; it’s because there’s so much that I want to do. I have to at least try, and the focus unfortunately gets put on how much I fall, usually. But if people actually pay attention to my riding, watch my parts, I hope that they’ll see stuff being done switch, or see something that’s never been done by a girl before.

… There’s been a bunch of times when I almost said, “F—k it” and gave up. My second year in Whistler, I was just like, “This is it, this is my last year” I was looking into courses and trying to save up money to go back to school. I told my parents, “I’m moving home, back to Vernon, I’m going to quit if this doesn’t go anywhere this season.” And it didn’t go anywhere industry-wise, but where it did go somewhere was my riding, because of all the energy I was putting into it and just feeling so desperate, you know?


Straight to video.

… At the time of that first backflip I knew I wanted to be a pro snowboarder, because I was like, “This is easy. I can be good at this just by going faster and bigger,” you know? We were filming constantly from the start. The first video I made was called The Cause and it was rad, but then I realized you’re actually supposed to land the tricks you put in your part, and so it was just everything, all my dude friends hucking rodeos on to their faces and stuff…

The thing with video is it’s put down in history, it’s there, it’s tangible. You can watch it again five years later, 20 years later. I remember watching MFR’s video parts with tears in my eyes, just surging with inspiration and the feeling I got when I watched Tara do a switch back rodeo into pow. They were doing stuff that people never even though was possible for girls snowboarding. If it wasn’t for those types of moments, I probably wouldn’t be pushing so hard today. My goal is to give to girls what was given to me, and the best way I can do that is by filming video parts.

… My Think Thank video part dropping was so rad for me, but winning the awards and stuff—that was too much. I wasn’t ready for that, and I almost got neurotic and paranoid about shit, like, “You’re not as good as people think you are, and now you’ve got to follow through.” I think that’ s why when we were filming Defenders Of Awesome that I kept getting hurt, because I wasn’t in the right headspace. Even though I was hurt the whole time and it’s not the video part that I wanted to film, I guess I still made it happen.

Jess can take some drops. It really ain’t no thing.
PHOTO: Alex Mertz


The age problem.

… I’m not 26—I just turned 28. Basically, for me, it had come to a point where I was doing everything humanly possible to make it in snowboarding and it wasn’t going anywhere. I’d hear from people that if you’re starting your career later than 19 or 20 years old, your time is up. I felt like people would think my time was up and they wouldn’t give me the chance, so I lied about my age. I knew what I wanted to do and what I was capable of, but I had so many setbacks for so many reasons. I just thought that if age is the one thing that’s going to make someone not even look at my sponsor-me video, everything I’ve done on my snowboard so far has come to nothing.

I had my first profile in Snowboard Canada, and it was called the “Up-And-Comer” issue. When I saw that I was four or five years older than anyone else in that thing, I was like, “Oh my god, when I try to make it in the States, they’ll be like, ‘You’re too old, you’re done.’” I knew I wasn’t, but then my next “Check Out” interview came. When they asked me how old I was, I told them I was two years younger than I really was. And once you say it once, you kind of have to keep going with it. In my mind it was going to be like, “Okay, sweet I get my one chance, my one year of paychecks, and I’m out.” I never thought I was really going to make it, I never thought anybody was really going to give me a chance anyways, you know?

… Everything that I’ve done has been so raw and honest and so straightforward, and this shit with my age is the one thing that I’ve felt super shitty about. Like I didn’t believe in myself enough to just be exactly who I was. It’s been eating at me, so I just wanted to say it—set the record straight once and for all. At this point I’m not worried about losing opportunities based on how old I am; it comes down to what I do on my snowboard, and no one can contest that because it’s on film. Everyone takes a different path, and I’ve never fit into the regular mold of anything.


Breaking trail.

… Now that I get paid to snowboard, I don’t have to work construction, so I have time to put effort into all these different facets that I couldn’t before because I couldn’t afford it or take the time to do it. I’m basing everything in my life around looking for weaknesses in my riding and just being really honest with myself: “Okay, you’re crazy, fearless, and determined but look at the bad parts—you’re kind of out of control, you don’t think about stuff before you do it, you’re not strong enough to do some stuff that you’re trying.” I feel like if I can put that all together, maybe I can do stuff that I never really dreamed was possible. People have all these preconceived notions about me and what I’m like, and the kind of riding that I’m doing; they think I’m just some street rail kid, but I rode rails because it was free, you know? You don’t need a pass for that, and now that I can afford a pass and I can afford a sled, let’s see what the f—k’s going to happen now.

… The only way that I can possibly contribute to the overall progression of snowboarding is doing tricks and making guys look at them and be like, “If that’s what a girl can do, I gotta do better.” Guys are always going to have to be better than girls; otherwise they feel like pussies. I can definitely contribute to pushing the level in girls’ stuff, which pushes up the bottom level in men’s snowboarding. And I think a lot of guys—regular dudes out there—feel like girls when they watch Travis Rice’s stuff. But when they see someone who’s at a total disadvantage—a girl like me—they can relate. And I hope that inspires people.

… If I am a crazy, loose maniac, it’s because of all the heart and determination that’s coming behind it, pushing me to try something that’s maybe stupid, but if I do it, it’s going be something good and hopefully push women’s snowboarding. And I need to step back a bit, I’m an overthinker, I analyze every part of everything and I’m a lot nicer than people think I am. So many people have said to me, “I was so scared of you before I met you and you’re actually nice.” All the kids in Japan said that: “We were so scared to meet you, we thought you’d punch us,” you know? I’m like, “Dude, I won’t punch you. I’ll carry your board up the hill for you and build you a jump.” It’s for the cause, man. It all comes back to that, and people can perceive me however they want, but ultimately I want my riding to do the talking.