To understand the present, one must first have a clear understanding of the past.

It’s been quite a ride up until now, traveling around snowboarding with Erik. Knowing that he’s had my back and I his the entire time makes all the difference in my life. I’m really lucky to have such a cool family.

My brother has never been neat or organized-his room was labeled “the disaster area.” When it was time to haul some wood for the fire, he would cover up with an excuse. Usually it was, “I’ll be right back, I have to go number two.”

That’s Erik, though, he’s on his own program. At one point he realized he wanted to make a career of snowboarding. The desire and drive were there, but he kept running into minor obstacles. A few bad injuries and setbacks kept him from taking the world totally by storm. Erik possesses great inner strength, overcoming large physical and mental obstacles to obtain the position that he clenches so tightly now. That’s why it’s all so sweet. He became the person that we all knew he would be. Focused and determined, he’s definitely on a charge, and I can’t wait to see what he’ll do next.Bjorn Leines

Let’s clear this up once and for all. Why are you called “The Mule”?

The nickname is a direct result of my alter ego. I was over in Austria back in ’97 with then Oakley Team Manager Joe D’Orazio and my brother Bjorn. Throughout the trip, my peers started to think I was a bit stubborn. Then one night we came home late, and it was such a nice clear night out that I started groveling in the dirt, barking and snorting at the full moon. From that day on, I’ve been The Mule.

You probably just bummed some girls out. All this time they probably thought “The Mule” referred to other things.

They can think what they want.

The other Leines brother Torsten is almost a pro golfer-what kind of cereal were your parents feeding you kids? Talentos?

Our mom’s always been a great cook and never let us skip a meal. But it all started on those family ski trips. Our parents hooked up our gear, put us in the car, and twenty hours later … poof-skiing in Montana.

Our first outing didn’t go so good for me. My parents bought me some bomb 100-centimeter Atomic skis, but the non-releasable bindings they threw on them didn’t work too well. I made it a couple hours and then broke my left leg!

There’s one more reason not to ski. Are you and your brothers competitive?

It’s pretty hard not to be. Whether is was challenging each other to fall down the stairs to see who wouldn’t get hurt or who could jump the farthest off the swing, we were competing against each other from the get-go. But there wasn’t much of a battle once snowboarding started, since we competed in different age groups at contests. I would always be stoked to learn tricks first, because I’m the youngest.

You grew up a Viking in Minnesota-how did you end up a professional snowboarder in Utah?

It goes back to those family road trips. Eventually, the family went out to Utah and found out what mountains were all about. Being bored was a hobby in the sticks of Midwest, so we’d always find something to do. Our dad helped us build a vert ramp, then we started taking our skates onto this hill by our house and riding them down the snow in the winter. Pretty soon it became obvious that the mountains of Utah was the place for us. Minnesota is always going to be my roots, though. I miss it.

Yeah, I’d miss Jesse Ventura, too. What was it like growing up a non-Mormon in Salt Lake City?

It was tough. I only went to public school in Utah for two semesters a year from seventh grade to twelfth, and it was always pretty strange in class. About 95 percent of the kids didn’t even go up into the mountains. I’m not sure if the revolution hadn’t begun yet, because now a lot of kids at that school shred. I was raised a Lutheran, plus a snowboarder-I was an outcast and couldn’t make a friend for the life of me. TThis was a big change from the whole-hearted, hospitable Minnesota attitude. I was really fortunate to have my brothers there to push me, otherwise I probably would have turned out a confused homey.

Your parents were super supportive, going as far as hiringpersonal snowboard coaches for you. Do you ever feel like you’ve had an unfair advantage?

It’s been a sweet gift. I learned a lot from having a coach. His name was Bill Harris-Jeff Davis and Jason Brown sometimes helped out, too. Bill was about 25 and just got off the world tour. Basically he was just helping a little twelve year old trying to learn tricks. Nowadays, kids that are fifteen have been snowboarding as long as me-ten years, so I’m not tripping on my advantage too hard.

How do you stay positive when so much jacked stuff goes on in the world?

I’m stoked that I have a good attitude most of the time. I think my dad having me do manual labor at ten has really helped out my focus in the sport. If you make it to be a pro snowboarder at all, you really can’t get that bummed. It’s a gift, and you should be thankful for that every day. Even if companies treat you wrong or whatever, there’s always a way to keep pushin’ on through-so that’s where I’m at.

Your girl’s dad owns a surfboard company? Sounds like a pretty good gig. And she’s hot, right?

My girlfriend’s dad is Bill Stewart of Stewart surfboards. He shaped me a sweet six-ten last year for Christmas with a mule and some other custom artwork on the bottom. Her family is way cool, and yes, she’s smokin’.

Tell us a little about your newest venture involvingspecial devices specifically engineered to warm hands and protect other sensitive areas?

Celtek came about as a dream over the last year or so. At first I had a lot of ideas about doing a protection company. I had hit my head a few times and didn’t especially like some of the products on the market. I started talking to my friend J.J. Thomas about the idea, and he was pretty into it, mentioning other products like gloves, as well. Then I talked to Bjorn, who’s always wanted to do his own company. My girlfriend’s little brother hooked us up with a guy in San Clemente, California who manufactures gloves and protection gear.

Who’s on the team?

Mikey LeBlanc’s gonna ride for us, along with Chris Brown, Joel Mahaffey, Scotty Wittlake, Nate Bozung, and Chris Hotell.

Shout it out. Mom and Dad. Grandparents and relatives. Bjorn and Torsten. Oakley: Scott Farnsworth, Joe D., Gus B., Scott Bow, and Joker. Volcom: Wolly, Troy, Parillo, Secrest, Twitty, Tucker, Jay Dawg, and E.A. Nixon: Chad and Andy, Will, and everyone else who pitches in. Vans and B. Knox. Ride: Sickels, Scott Mavis, Tara, and the rest of the crew. Gravis: Pook and Mills. Active. JJT. Billy and Jeff. Paul and Abe. Botts and Ben Pruess. Tim Swart. Nancy Carlson. Rene Hansen. Paul Alden. Brunno. Aaron, Joel, Travis, and Adam. The Big Lake Crew. Celtek: Len, Brett, and Nismo. Kane. Stewart Surfboards. ASM. Todd Hahn. Ashley. O’Connell, Marcopolous, Brunkhart, Kelly, Cheski, Galbraith, Baker, Needham, Curtes, Rucker, Roose, Nate C., and all the photographers who’ve had my back. Poppa Hazey, Heinrich, Mack Dawg, FLF, Neil Goss, Jess, Kearns, and Bags. All the people who’ve helped my bodily issues-Chuck Williams, Tim Adams, and all the doctors. Thanks to everyone who’s been there for me.