Tom Gilles Interview

By Ari Evan Gold

The first time I met Tom was when he and Brian Reilly stopped by my ramp to skate. Being the ramp slumlord included many privileges. A sacrifice to the ramp is an unwritten ritual, and our ramp was no exception. Tom and Brian came up with a sixer–the perfect sacrifice.

Sadly, the ramp died four years ago, but Tom remains a positive bright-white light at any session; he exemplifies the happy-go-lucky minstrel. He’ll break into song at any given moment, and the songs he chooses always have a positive note. A person who truly respects Mother Earth, he’s definitely a Native American at heart. His compassion, honesty, and reverence for Gaia are exuded throughout his daily activities, skateboarding, snowboarding, and, of course, singing. He definitely has the stage presence to make it big in the music industry. His voice, on the other hand, needs a brilliant producer.

Kidding aside, the persona of this monkey-flipper extraordinaire is a ray of light into the sometime darkness of professionalism. He is constantly joking and making those around him laugh. This trait is what best exemplifies his demeanor and his candor. Enjoy this delve into the world of an ancient Native American warrior reincarnated to flip, spin, and above all else, sing.

In retrospect, who has most influenced you on the path to snowboarding?

All the people who came out of Tyrol Basin before me, Nate Cole, Jake Blattner, and Joey Curtes. I remember being a little grom and riding with those guys, thinking, “They rip, they rip, they rip.” I just wanted to figure out what they knew, what the secret was, and how to ride so clean. Those are the guys who influenced me to get to this point.

What about the hat?

When I was a little grom, the Burton Crew stopped at Tyrol Joey Curtes, Nicole Anglerath, and Iguchi. I got my Brewer’s baseball hat signed and wore it until it fell apart. Those guys were pretty influential–just because I was a teeny-bopping little kid.

Why did Jimbo Morgan start calling you “Junior”?

Well, I was underage when I first moved to Tahoe. He’s all, “We gotta get ‘Junior’ into the bars.” They knew enough people so they’d say, “He’s of age, he just forgot his ID.” That’s how “Junior” started. It’s kind of fizzled out. Just a couple of old friends use it every once in a while.

Who calls you Tommy?

The girls.

Where do you have a pass?

Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows–just because I live close to them and they have the terrain I really enjoy.

Do you have to pay for them?

In one way or another, yeah.

What’s your favorite snow terrain?

Steep and deep with some rocks and exposure involved.

What’s your favorite flip trick?

Corkscrews–frontward, backward, whichever way I can. Switch, regular, upside-down, grabbing–preferably nowhere in the middle of the board. It takes more control to grab on the exterior ends.

What’s your favorite grab?

Probably the nose, just because it’s so damn fun.

How do you feel about tindies and tailfishes?

Oh god! They’re the worst. They mean you’re not flexible enough to grab the real thing.

Do you always ride the same board?

No. I’d most likely ride the same board if all I did was one thing; but here, one day it’s powder, one day it’s pipe, one day it’s kickers. I’ve also been trying to ride longer boards lately because I want to go faster and bigger.

How did you figure out which stance was best for you?

I still don’t think I know. change it all the time. I know how wide I like my stance twenty and three-quarter inches, but I change the angle degrees all the time. Sometimes it helps to do tricks better, sometimes it makes you fall better.

What does it take to make it in professional snowboarding?

I don’t know. If I did, I’d probably be making it right now. Instead, I’m just hangin’ out, surfin’ with my friends down the mountain.

Who’s the best amateur right now?

They’re all so good. When I go to a contest I don’t even know who the amateurs are and who the pros are. I mean, these kids are putting a lot of time and dedication into what they really want in snowboarding. It’s different from when I grew up. I just wanted to ride. Now, these kids want to win the halfpipe contest, win the big air, win this, win that–X-Games, Gravity Games–win it all. “I wanna be on TV. I want more!” They always want more.

Who is the best pro?

Everyone who came before me. They made the sport what it is now. Hopefully, we’ll all have our little bit of influence upon it.

Three words on Alaska?

Larger than life

Three words on Squaw?

A training ground.

Three words on Northstar?

Big vert ramp.

What was your worst slam?

A backside 180 over a four-foot fence and I just didn’t make it–by an inch. I caught my heels, flew back, and landed on my back on some ice and ended up ripping apart my spleen. I spent four-and-a-half days in intensive care. It was kinda beat. Luckily, they didn’t have to operate.

What should a sponsor always do?

Give back. I guess what it boils down to is support. If you’re gonna ride and support them, I definitely think they should give back and support you. It works well that way–a partnership.

What movies have you been in?

A couple of the Hatchett’s films, a couple TBs, TransWorld’s video mag, and Snowboarder’s 1999. I just happen to get little parts here and there. I never commit to enough filming to really get the job done. I’ve gotta change that.

Who is your favorite filmer?

Probably Richie Van Every, even though he’s such a basket case. The guy is a really cool friend–he just has to slow down and think about what’s going on at the moment. Then, he’ll kill it.

How many days in a season are you on a sled?

I’d have to say, like, 35 to 40. It just depends.

Who’s your favorite superhero?

The Incredible Hulk. If someone does him wrong, he just freaks out and gets ’em–makes them take responsibility for their actions.

Who’s your favorite actor?

The late Chris Farley. That guy had some skills.

What is your favorite movie?

Caddyshack. Although, Mall Rats comes in a close second. “Buuuuy Bushwood–never!”

What was the last book you read?

The Flowers of Wiricuta. It’s a spiritual Indian Native American book about life and death, and giving back to Mother Nature.

What is your favorite food?

Ahi tuna. I could eat pounds of it.

Raw?

I could eat it raw, or I could eat it grilled. Raw is good–put a lot of wasabi on there. Mmm–I could eat it all day.

There’s a power you get from that fish, huh?

It’s a buzz, man. Yeah, totally. Powerful. Ready-to-go energy, unless you eat too much, then you’re going to sleep.

What’s your favorite color?

I’d have to say forest green is my favorite color. I think it looks good on pretty much anything.

What does red and green mean to you?

Green is grass and red is fire–passion and love.

What makes a woman a woman?

That look. That look that she’s in control and we’re just putty in her hands. When she knows how to do that, then she’s not a little girl anymore.

What makes a man a man?

Passion and honesty. That’s a good start.

What’s your dream job?

Working somewhere on an island, teaching rich people how to

surf.

You don’t want to be a singer?

That’s semi-realistic.

Do you sing in the shower?

Oh, yeah! In the shower, while snowboarding, riding powder, in the pipe, and skateboarding. You can tell when I need energy–I need it when I’m not feeling it.

How do you think the coming millennium has influenced the youth of today?

I think people don’t expect as much out of life. I think they’re more into living for the moment. They’re gonna go out and do it. They’re not going to do the norm–go to school and get a desk job. They’re out there, more or less, wanting to experience life. They read about it, they’ve seen it, and now they want to experience it. Why read about it, when you can go out and do it?

Do you believe in a higher power?

Oh, yeah. Definitely, man. Just looking at the world we live in, I think it’s easier to believe than not to believe.

Does it have a name?

I just think it’s the Great Spirit. My family is pretty religious and so was I for a long time. I still am. Every religion has their own Allah, God, whatever. The meaning of the Great Spirit is, I’m open to all of them. Religion is supposed to bring us all together, but it really rips us apart. It’s like, “We’re right, you’re wrong.” The whole belief thing can be very possessive and mind-washing. You’ve gotta be careful. Just believe in a goodness–a great spirit out there looking after all of us.

So, you probably identify more with the Rebel Alliance than the Galactic Empire.

Definitely the Alliance. I like to think there’s good out there, and good will conquer evil. Things happen in circles. You’ve got to live your life how you want to be treated. Hopefully, things will come back to you that way.

As all life eventually comes to an end, what is the outcome? I don’t know. I hope there’s a meaning when all is said and done.

Are you a momma’s boy?

Yeah, I like getting spoiled by her.

Whose products do you proudly endorse?

Salomon boards, Swag clothing, Spy goggles, Tracker beacons, and Reef shoes.

Would you like to thank anyone?

My parents and my family, just for being there. They’re really important to me–they keep me well-centered and grounded. Also, all my friends from Wisconsin and Tahoe have really been understanding and easy to get along with–very supportive. They definitely make my world go around.

“Tom and I met on his first day riding in Tahoe, and from that day on his energy has infected the area. Since that first day at Mt. Rose, Tom has not wanted to stop for the camera, and it’s no different today. When we ride or film together, it’s all about charging for fun. Gilles just goes nuts on whatever he can, taking you with him for the ride if you’re lucky.

“Tom Gilles has risen from the masses to express his individuality in the competitive world of snowboarding today. With his original skate style and flair, he incorpor green is my favorite color. I think it looks good on pretty much anything.

What does red and green mean to you?

Green is grass and red is fire–passion and love.

What makes a woman a woman?

That look. That look that she’s in control and we’re just putty in her hands. When she knows how to do that, then she’s not a little girl anymore.

What makes a man a man?

Passion and honesty. That’s a good start.

What’s your dream job?

Working somewhere on an island, teaching rich people how to

surf.

You don’t want to be a singer?

That’s semi-realistic.

Do you sing in the shower?

Oh, yeah! In the shower, while snowboarding, riding powder, in the pipe, and skateboarding. You can tell when I need energy–I need it when I’m not feeling it.

How do you think the coming millennium has influenced the youth of today?

I think people don’t expect as much out of life. I think they’re more into living for the moment. They’re gonna go out and do it. They’re not going to do the norm–go to school and get a desk job. They’re out there, more or less, wanting to experience life. They read about it, they’ve seen it, and now they want to experience it. Why read about it, when you can go out and do it?

Do you believe in a higher power?

Oh, yeah. Definitely, man. Just looking at the world we live in, I think it’s easier to believe than not to believe.

Does it have a name?

I just think it’s the Great Spirit. My family is pretty religious and so was I for a long time. I still am. Every religion has their own Allah, God, whatever. The meaning of the Great Spirit is, I’m open to all of them. Religion is supposed to bring us all together, but it really rips us apart. It’s like, “We’re right, you’re wrong.” The whole belief thing can be very possessive and mind-washing. You’ve gotta be careful. Just believe in a goodness–a great spirit out there looking after all of us.

So, you probably identify more with the Rebel Alliance than the Galactic Empire.

Definitely the Alliance. I like to think there’s good out there, and good will conquer evil. Things happen in circles. You’ve got to live your life how you want to be treated. Hopefully, things will come back to you that way.

As all life eventually comes to an end, what is the outcome? I don’t know. I hope there’s a meaning when all is said and done.

Are you a momma’s boy?

Yeah, I like getting spoiled by her.

Whose products do you proudly endorse?

Salomon boards, Swag clothing, Spy goggles, Tracker beacons, and Reef shoes.

Would you like to thank anyone?

My parents and my family, just for being there. They’re really important to me–they keep me well-centered and grounded. Also, all my friends from Wisconsin and Tahoe have really been understanding and easy to get along with–very supportive. They definitely make my world go around.

“Tom and I met on his first day riding in Tahoe, and from that day on his energy has infected the area. Since that first day at Mt. Rose, Tom has not wanted to stop for the camera, and it’s no different today. When we ride or film together, it’s all about charging for fun. Gilles just goes nuts on whatever he can, taking you with him for the ride if you’re lucky.

“Tom Gilles has risen from the masses to express his individuality in the competitive world of snowboarding today. With his original skate style and flair, he incorporates the variations necessary to stand out. When the music comes on, Gilles begins to sing or scream. This boy is one to watch and admire. If you get the chance to meet him, don’t let him slip by.”–Rich Van Every

 

Pull Quotes:

They read about it, they’ve seen it, and now they want to experience it.

I hope there’s a meaning when all is said and done.

Oh god! They’re the worst. They mean you’re not flexible enough to grab the real thing.

It was kinda beat. Luckily, they didn’t have to operate.

rporates the variations necessary to stand out. When the music comes on, Gilles begins to sing or scream. This boy is one to watch and admire. If you get the chance to meet him, don’t let him slip by.”–Rich Van Every

 

Pull Quotes:

They read about it, they’ve seen it, and now they want to experience it.

I hope there’s a meaning when all is said and done.

Oh god! They’re the worst. They mean you’re not flexible enough to grab the real thing.

It was kinda beat. Luckily, they didn’t have to operate.