Face it, Tara Dakides has been one of the most idolized female snowboarders in the sport. Her journey through life and snowboarding has been marked by intense highs and lows, dark stories that few know about. In her new documentary Against The Grain Tara recounts the grainy times and digs up the route she took to pave the way for fellow snowboarders. Tara was the only female to land a full part in a Mack Dawg Productions film and her timeline of video footage delivers a renaissance of how well she really could, and still does ride a snowboard. Swimming through drugs, emotional oscillations and a battery of injuries, the film brings forth wise words with a tale to be viewed. Here’s Tara’s take behind the film.
Do you think stirring up your past in the documentary somewhat centered you and gave you a better understanding of yourself?
I learned a lot and revisited the things I have done, but it also made me realize how much I have grown and how many things are in the past. I realized how thankful I am to have had those experiences and become a stronger woman, and I know I can always land on my feet in any situation just by relying on myself—it’s comforting. It brought me closer to my family and kind of resolved, not resolved, but opened up some beautiful and meaningful conversations with my aunts and mom and brought me closer to them. But it definitely stirred up a lot of stuff. It’s when you put yourself out there it’s scary and I don’t like to be vulnerable [laughs].
Looking back at your journey from a teen to where you are now, would you have changed anything?
Yeah, I would have slowed down a little bit more and appreciated each step and instance instead of getting stressed in the chaos of everything when things were happening so quickly. I invested my money well, but I probably would have saved it a bit more. I would tell people who are making more to save it. Have a strategy when the sun starts to go down. If you’re fortunate enough to actually make a really good living snowboarding, it’s not going to last forever. Enjoy it, but don’t be stupid, create an avenue for yourself afterwards or store it away. Other than that I wouldn’t change anything. I partied, travelled the world, and met amazing people and friends I still have in my life now.
Against The Grain Teaser
Where do you think you would be had you not bought that ticket and hopped on the bus to Mammoth with just a few belongings?
I would have continued skating and going to punk rock shows. And I would have figured something out. Before things started taking off in snowboarding, I was body piercing so I wanted to be a hairdresser/body piercer and open up a salon in Venice that did tattoos, piercings, hair, and an acoustical lounge/café. That was when I was like seventeen so there weren’t many places like that at the time and Venice was probably the funkiest spot. I went down a little drug road too for a while, but I know I would have pulled out of it.
How has the film changed your relationship with your family? Did that come before or after the film?
I mended stuff with my family years before this film came out. I don’t blame my mom or my family for the decisions they made. I probably would have done the same thing in their position and I try not to hold onto stuff that eats you up inside. My mom is a great woman and a strong woman who has taught me a lot. Before I went to do the film I had to go to my family and ask them if it was something they wanted to be a part of, and if I should even do it. Not only because it would be exposing for me, but for my family as well. And she was all for it and very supportive and so was my dad, but he couldn’t be a part of it for health reasons. I learned a lot about them in the process so I could say I know more about them, their lives, their stories and the upbringings that got them to where they are. Good question.
All photos by Christy Chaloux
That quote you mention at the beginning of the film, “Everything I have been through in my life and snowboarding has made me realize it is about the journey and not the destination,” how does that fit into where your journey is going now?
I said that because it took me a long time to figure out that each moment is perfect in itself if you let it be or take it for what it is. I think in the past I was always chasing something that hadn’t happened yet or stressed about what was going to happen or not happen, and it really just takes you out of the moment rather than appreciating where you are in the present. I was always living ahead or in the past. I was pretty bad at doing that. But nowadays I’m pretty relaxed and when I’m somewhere I don’t want to be, I try to be present there because there is something to enjoy and figure out. Where I’m going in the future is going day by day for me. I try not to get too ahead of myself. I’ve got little plans ahead that I would like to work towards, but you always have to come back to where you are in the current moment. Does that come through in the film, the moment stuff?
Well, the whole thing highlights a journey so I think that’s huge, but yeah, it seemed like you were just focused on all these little barriers and getting hung up on things like any teenager does. Was that something you really wanted to present?
There are so many things like that looking at it now like, ‘man I wish I would have said that or this,’ but it’s never going to be perfect and I would say Josh did a beautiful job on the film, but I’m not completely satisfied. I just wonder what people get from it, what they liked and didn’t like.
What was one thing you wanted to accomplish with the film?
I was really thinking about kids a lot, but I think anyone can pull something from it because we all have a story of some sort and I was just hoping to inspire kids who maybe don’t have some sort of guidance or mentor and they have to figure out all this stuff on their own. I’m hoping to inspire kids to find the tools to guide themselves when there’s no one to guide them. And hopefully parents get something out of it and get involved in their child’s life because they’re young and easily influenced and it doesn’t take much to send them off a cliff. There are a lot of people who will probably say I shouldn’t be sitting here right now too.
What’s one thing you would change or edit?
I hate that piano music. I would totally take that out. I cringe when I listen to it. You know it’s hard to get a full life story in fifty minutes so in way I feel like it only skimmed the surface. I protected some things and people, but what would I change about it … I don’t know. I would have changed my interviews a bit, I don’t know. I would have added some more things that I do or I’m into.
All the other interests I have like surfing, skating, racing cars, fashion, design, you know some other fun stuff I used to do instead of covering so much of the past and snowboarding.
Racing cars, what else?
I just came from testing monster trucks in North Carolina. And I’ve raced karts, and the baja 1000. Just riding dirt bikes and stuff like that.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to misled youth or someone who feels lost like you were during your adolescence?
Be particular in choosing the people you bring into your life and try to find someone to be a mentor that you can listen to. I read books and that helped. You have so many tools around you and you just have to go out and use them. Run into people and learn from them or just be open to healthy experiences. You have to be really careful about the decisions you make. And then have fun and figure out what you want to do in this life and get after it. Don’t let time pass in an idle position. I see a lot of kids who don’t have a passion and drive for something that’s positive and healthy. Things like creating a business, a sport, writing, music, math—there are so many things. Stick to it and work on developing whatever it may be, and especially at an early age. I mean I started at supporting myself through snowboarding at nineteen and it’s pretty cool to be able to find your independence at that age. And thank God I had a passion and I drive to step to. I think that’s really important. Find a passion, keep your eye on it and don’t get deterred by bad influences or relationships.
You’ve already accomplished a lot for women’s snowboarding, is there something specific that you still want to do?
It’s nothing in particular that I want to and put my finger on. I just want to have fun with it and spend more days in the backcountry and take it day by day. I think when you’re just doing your own thing, cruising along, whoever’s paying attention might take something from it. I don’t need to be breaking any records. I think just the longevity of my career being 33 and still out there riding is enough. I know people older than me that are still out there ripping and that totally inspires me. So hopefully I can break that stereotype of when you’re supposed to stop I guess. I always get pissed when people ask if I’m still snowboarding you know, and I’m like ‘I haven’t stopped since I was thirteen, and I’m probably going to be snowboarding for the rest of my life’ [Laughter].
Who are you riding for these days?
Billlabong, Vans, Von Zipper, Pro-Tec, Fusion Energy. That’s it right now, no board sponsors. I would really like to thank my sponsors for supporting me and this project and I would like to thank my friends and family for putting themselves out there.
So you just spilled you life story, what’s next on the horizon?
I’m somewhat at the stage of re-inventing myself. I’m not going to keep competing into my forties and I want to get a head start and a chapter after snowboarding. It’s a really interesting place to be, it’s almost like being a kid again like what am I going to do?