The Changing Role Of The Professional Snowboarder

In a controversial and sometimes heated discussion, a packed room of more than 120 industry members first listened to four different opinions about the changing role of pro snowboarders, then expressed their own thoughts.

The panel included two sports agents, Peter Carlisle and Steven Connelly, and two team managers, K2’s Dave Billinghurst and Forum’s Travis Wood.

Summing things up nicely, Wood said, “The role of the rider all depends on if the rider fits into the company program.” He stressed that it is important that snowboard companies build heroes out of their team riders: “We need heroes to keep the industry exciting.”

Although the team managers said they tried not to work with riders’ agents, the managers agreed that their goals were similar and it would be inevitable in the future.

“We don’t use sports agents,” said Billinghurst. “There’s a perception that they’re like Jerry Maguire, but we’re not opposed to them. We’ll learn to deal.”

He briefly touched on his company’s involvement with big corporate ad campaigns for Volkswagen and Jockey. “We think these are a good thing for us and help promote snowboarding. We’re approached by a lot of people, but we only work with the ones we feel would be positive for the sport.”

Connelly said that his role as an agent was to make sure the rider was contributing to the company and the sport as well. “The role of the rider is to create excitement and to sell product.”

Some in the audience wanted to know what the actual definition of a pro rider is, while others thought that maybe snowboard companies could do more to educate and inform riders of their objectives.

“You’ve got to let team riders know what’s expected of them,” said TransWorld Senior Photographer Eric Berger.

It was agreed that professional snowboarders are an integral part of promoting companies and the sport, but some felt that pros efforts could be directed in different directions. “We’ve got to get riders out there to bring the mainstream into the sport,” said Nike’s ACG Director of Equipment Brian Stewart.

–John Stouffer