Kurt Wastell doesn’t have a board sponsor-he doesn’t even live in the mountains, and he’s had injuries in the past. That’s enough to drive most pro snowboarders into an ugly bitter panic. I mean, the lot of riders who expect things from snowboarding would’ve hung it up by now. But not Kurt, he has too much ambition. Actually, he has too much character. How else do you describe a guy who rides with so much heart?
Through all the injuries and fallen sponsors, Kurt always comes up smiling. It’s his nature to do so. He laughs about it. His recent hardships aren’t his fault, and he doesn’t point fingers elsewhere. He blames all that on dumb luck.
This interview is a testament to his hard work, for which he has no one to blame but himself.
You’re only 22? I thought you were older.
For some reason, I figure all you washed guys were at least 25.
Laughs I’m not washed. It’s just a lot of people go out of business when I ride for them.
I don’t know. I haven’t really figured that out yet.
How have you been paying the bills, traveling without a board sponsor?
Fresh Jive has helped some, Vans, but it was pretty much just my Visa this whole past winter. Val Surf bought my spring pass at Mammoth-that helped some, too.
So you paid all your travel by yourself?
Pretty much, yeah, except for a few plane tickets that Jive paid for. All my food, hotels, Hood and Mammoth, and stuff like that.
How’d you eat?
I was mainly in Mammoth, so it was mostly on my Visa.
You didn’t take any handouts?
No laughs! I just budgeted pretty good, I guess.
You didn’t live off your friends just a little bit?
A little bit, I guess-I stayed in my friend’s mobile home for like a month.
How was that?
It was cool. It was just me-I definitely overstayed it. There were three or four different partners in the home, and I guess the others didn’t know about me staying there. They kind freaked out.
But I really cleaned the place up-it was like a sty before I got there. The fridge was stinkin’, and I cleaned it up pretty good. So I returned the favor.
How’d you figure out you overstayed your welcome?
I left to come down to So Cal for a couple days, and then I was going to go back up, so I left all my stuff in the mobile home. I guess hours after I left, one of the guys showed up, and sees all my stuff- my boards, etc. and freaked out and locked it all up in a shed. My friend had to pick up my stuff for me. I never really knew exactly how it ended, I just got out of there laughs.
So Visa is your main sponsor?
Well, it was until it got denied at some deli in the Valley the San Fernando Valley-then I knew it the charge amount was really high. Not as high as some people’s, but high enough for me.
How many people do you have in your family?
Let’s see, there’re three brothers and a sister, a stepbrother and stepsister, so there’re seven kids total. Nine when everyone’s home.
Tell me about growing up in a big family.
Growing up was cool. I pretty much did whatever my older brothers did, followed them around hung out with them-I mean I hung out with my friends, too, but I idolized my brothers growing up, so whatever they did, I did. That’s how I got into skateboarding and snowboarding-following my brothers.
Your brother Jeff was riding for Joyride-were you also riding for them at that time?
He had already been riding for Joyride, and then I got on. I think it was ’93. I remember getting my first board at the ASR trade show, the first one show I ever went to. It was pretty cool.
How old were you then?
I was almost sixteen.
And you were living in Southern California?
Yup, riding as a Big Bear local … well, not total local, but weekends. I’d go to school five days a week, and ride two days of the week most of the time.
What was going on back then?
I did the USASA pretty mu every weekend. Steve Mendelson got me into that. He was a rep and he ran shop-Surfer West in Simi Valley California. He was a rep for Solid Snowboards and Wave Rave, and I went along with him. He got me into the contests and got me on my way.
So sixteen years old, did you go to snowboard camps?
Nope, I never went to snowboard camp until I was eighteen and riding for Solid, when we all went there as a team.
I mostly rode every weekend until I finished high school. I graduated a semester early and moved to Colorado, and then I started riding every day. I remember I was stoked when I rode 50 days.
What made you move to Colorado?
My two older brothers lived there, and I always had a good time riding when I went there. It was a good change, I guess-to get away from Southern California for awhile.
You were living in Breckenridge?
I lived in Frisco, I lived in Silverthorn, I lived in Breckenridge, I lived in Alma-I lived all over that place in three years. It was pretty cool, though. I just got really burned out on it … and then Solid went out of business.
And then you moved back?
No, I stayed around. I moved back February of ’97. I stayed an extra year in hopes that some investor would buy Solid. And then Scott USA happened, I spent one season with them and then they were done. And Twist, of course, they’re done.
How come you’re such a Shleprock with sponsors?
I don’t know. I’m a hard worker, you know? I promote everything how it should be. Laughs I guess it’s bad luck in a way. I mean something comes around, and something goes, and then something goes. Now it’s been ever since Scott, I haven’t had a board sponsor. Luckily I’ve got Fresh Jive, they’ve been really good. Vans has always been steady-the last four and a half years I’ve ridden for them.
Are you going to compete this year?
As much as I can. I know that Vans is going to help me out this winter more, especially with the contest series that they have, and travel in general. I know Jive will. But I’m gonna try to make it to as many contests as I can. I still want to get as much movie stuff done as possible. Freeriding is important, too.
What about being a pro snowboarder living in Southern California?
Well, it’s my home-like it’s really my home, not just a place where I spend my summers. I like it. I’m with all my good friends from high school. It’s actually been very convenient. Don’t get me wrong, Snow Summit’s fun, Mammoth is fun, too, but it’s also just easier to travel from than Colorado and a lot of places I can think of. The weather is nice, I can surf and do other things during the winter, too-so I won’t get burned out on snowboarding. I see my family as well, and that’s important.
How long have you been skateboarding?
Ten years. I skated the Basic Bowl the other day. I kinda got remotivated to skate again. I’ve been scared because of my ankle.
That’s right, you hurt your ankle. How long were you out with that?
It was January 24 when I hurt it, and I waited eight weeks before I rode again. And when I rode, I hurt it right away because it wasn’t better yet, so I was out again until April in Mammoth. That’s when I started filming with Justin Hostynek. I hurt it quite a few times up there. I just had to tape it real tight.
How frustrating is that?
Especially after how good of a winter it was. I missed out on all that powder.
How’d you pull out of it?
I don’t know, I was bitter on the couch and then I found a good mindset.
So what would you say to a one of our readers who is recovering from an injury?
Give it time to heal, and don’t hurry.
Who would you like to thank?
I’d like to thank Justin Hostynek and Bill Gallon; my sponsors Scott Sisamis at Vans, Randy Butler and Rick Klotz at Fresh Jive, Jeff Jewitt at Smith, Willie McMillon at Bluebird, Damon and the whole Val Surf Posse, and everybody who’s hooked me up with boards to ride during my sponsorless periods; my friends Justin Prior, Robby Dean, Scott Stocking, Mike Moss, Brendon Garcia, Eric Pritchard, Tony B., Mike Bagnuolo, Kerry Keyes, Cagney Henriksen, Hugo Bermudez, Ryan Cox, Chris Sutton, Jay Nelson, and Marc Frank, and the three missionaries-Matt, Casey, and Nate; my dad Richard; my mom and stepdad, Jennifer and Ed Villa; my brothers and sisters, Jeff, Andy, Julie, Van, Tina, Eddie; and my girlfriend Maria Bonn.boards to ride during my sponsorless periods; my friends Justin Prior, Robby Dean, Scott Stocking, Mike Moss, Brendon Garcia, Eric Pritchard, Tony B., Mike Bagnuolo, Kerry Keyes, Cagney Henriksen, Hugo Bermudez, Ryan Cox, Chris Sutton, Jay Nelson, and Marc Frank, and the three missionaries-Matt, Casey, and Nate; my dad Richard; my mom and stepdad, Jennifer and Ed Villa; my brothers and sisters, Jeff, Andy, Julie, Van, Tina, Eddie; and my girlfriend Maria Bonn.