Quote This! The Wille Yli-Luoma Interview

PHOTO: Ryan Boyes

One of the nice things about talking with you is that you’ve been part of a lot of different important events in snowboarding. For example, being a part of the original Forum 8. Do you see a lot of the ideas surrounding being a pro have changed since you first came in?
I think we’ve gone through a growing stage. It was almost … easy, when I was younger? Other things I had to work for really hard. There are times when everyone was making a lot of money from snowboarding. The economy was better, the industry was different, and some of the riders had high expectations. People could just say, “I don’t want to go to this event.” Or, “I only want to stay at this hotel.” Somehow, we got away with it for a long time. We didn’t realize how spoiled we were or how crazy those demands were. I look back at it now—specifically, starting your own business—and realize, Wow! What a spoiled little brat I was! It’s kind of embarrassing to look back and think about it, but at the same time, it would be more embarrassing if I didn’t.

Self-realization is a powerful event.
Yeah, it is. But I was never mean or anything. I was just kind of spoiled from so many sponsors and then, well, you just start becoming a brat. You have more demands and think you’re somehow the shit and at some point think you can get away with it—and then you start pushing it and try to get away with other things. I mean … You can be really good and the best snowboarder in the world, but if you’re constantly an asshole, it will catch up with you.

It’s true. They can only sell you being an a—hole for so long.
Yeah, exactly. Even if it’s not to the kids or the industry, there’s just some point that its gonna come across that you’re just not an easy person to deal with as far as working. You become transparent.

PHOTO: Ryan Boyes
PHOTO: Ryan Boyes

Who are you most excited about now? Maybe some of the younger kids that you think are doing it the right way?
There’s not much room for negative energy or a negative attitude anymore. People are getting weeded out. I think that the people left in the industry right now are the ones that deserve to be there. I respect guys like Gigi [Rüf] and Nicolas [Müller] a lot.

For example: I email you, and within 15 minutes you call, saying, “Yeah! Let’s do this!” — And we’ve never met before. That’s pretty amazing. Says a lot.
The fact is, we’re getting paid to do this. And I’m happy to talk to you, of course! [Laughs] But it’s also kind of my job. There are people who blow up, become famous, and they can get away with not replying or not doing anything for so long. Everyone needs to start appreciating that this is a pretty cool thing we have. Why wouldn’t we just respond? It’s not that big of a deal to answer these questions. Why wouldn’t I?

Neb/Alaska. PHOTO: Andy Wright
Neb/Alaska. PHOTO: Andy Wright

[Laughs] Well, thanks for not making me talk through your agent …
[Laughs] No, no. I’ve never really worked with agents. I’ve tried talking to them, but I was never a big fan—I’m glad I never went through all of that. The kids that I talk to that do have agents, they seem to love it. But I’m not interested in all the levels things have to go through before the rider hears.

Do you see your early career as the “golden age” of snowboarding, in a sense?
I do feel that I got to live the golden years of snowboarding, but maybe Noah [Salasnek] and Jamie Lynn and all of those guys think that they lived the golden years of snowboarding, too? Either way, I really do feel that I was lucky. I came in at a good time: the industry was great, there was enough money, and we could travel and go pretty much anywhere we wanted to. Our budgets weren’t so tight. It was fun—I have nothing to complain about. I can see the whole industry constantly shifting. There’s the contest side of it, or having too many outside companies come into the industry—having bigger companies come in and try and get some of the money. And then we need this TV exposure so we cant afford to have this guy film this video so we can only keep one or two of our best video guys … et cetera. To have seen the whole thing from the beginning, where anyone could get sponsored, to getting a little bit tighter and tighter … I would not want to be a kid right now, trying to be a pro snowboarder.

PHOTO: Ryan Boyes
PHOTO: Ryan Boyes

How so?
It’s got to the point where it’s so contest-focused and media-based that it lost a bit of the magic. That’s how I feel about it.

You wonder if the kids ever look back and ask, “What happened to my childhood?” Some are like ten years old, you know what I mean?
Yeah … It’s a lot more serious these days, the whole industry! [Laughs] In the beginning, it was more about people having a good time—not so much of a sport. It’s become a bit too “sporty” these days.

It has, but the appreciators are still out there. Personally, I’ll admit to being a kid that would still much rather see you float a frontside three than a 12-year old do a double cork 1260.
I guess that’s why I still have a job! Thanks! [Laughs] Thanks to all of you guys out there. It is what it is. I just hope that most of the people in the industry right now are trying to lead in the right direction, because it could go in a really bad direction, too.

PHOTO: Ryan Boyes
PHOTO: Ryan Boyes

What do you think your top five video parts were?
Oh, man … I don’t even know what to say … Okay. Volcom’s “Escramble”, Mack Dawg’s “Decade”, both Robot Food movie, and maybe the People movie. “Nice Try”, for sure.

You always seem to have pretty quirky music for your parts. What’s your process was for choosing is all?
You think it’s quirky, huh?! [Laughs] You say “quirky”, but most people say “the best” music …

[Laughs] No, it’s a good things to me! My favorite part song ever was when Todd Richards rode to “Big Country”.
It should put you in the mood to snowboard. The only thing that sucks is when a song gets put in for a video part, you never want to hear that song again! That song is pretty much wrecked for me.

Back in the day, who were the guys you were most hyped to ride with, or the one that got you super hyped as a kid?
Noah Salasnek had a sketchy, aggressive style. I liked something about it, it was almost ninja-like. I wnjoy watching Nate Cole do anything. Jamie Lynn, obviously. I do think that Terje did some of the most amazing snowboarding ever. And Peter Line was the trick man. Who else? I really liked Devun Walsh’s style, and he’s still out there.

BC 'Sender. PHOTO: Ryan Boyes
BC 'Sender. PHOTO: Ryan Boyes

If he just keeps doing no-grab back 180’s down 80 foot cliffs in Whistler, he’s gonna have a job for the rest of his life.
[Laughs] Yeah, he has it set. He knows what he’s doing. Stay in Whistler, ride backcountry, and play golf in Vancouver. Got it all figured out.

It sounds like you do, too, Wille. You got your life, your family, your passion, and your business. Pretty solid combination.
You know, you’re right! I’m not complaining at all. I’m very happy right now, actually.

If you had one thing to tell kids that are coming up right now, what advice would you give them from your experiences?
If you get the chance to be paid and travel, enjoy it and appreciate it. Don’t ever forget why you started snowboarding. You can get lost and start chasing the money at some point. No matter who you are, you can lose focus. Stay true to snowboarding, do it because you love it, and don’t worry so much about your sponsors.

And there’s the whole idea of the internet connections and people being about to put their face out there. The whole self-promotion thing is crazy. I’m not quite ready for that.


You don’t have a Facebook Fanpage yet, Wille?
[Laughs] No, I don’t have Facebook or MySpace or any of that. It feels like losing a bit of your privacy.

So it’s not that important to have the entire world know that you’re making a sandwhich right now?
Exactly. Or where I’m at. Or if I’m gonna go skate with my friends tomorrow. Maybe I’m different, but it scares me.

Website for Heart Roasters?
www.HeartRoasters.com! I’m in the process of making an online store right now.

That’s okay. Those 17 days of snowboarding just get in the way, right?
I haven’t had any free time to take pictures of products! [Laughs] I’m doing this interview! I gotta go!

PHOTO: Andy Wright
PHOTO: Andy Wright