Are You Kidding Me?

Two days in the life of the Burton army’s youngest recruits.

By Chris Coyle

{Intro}

When the powers that be gave me this assignment, I thought, “No problem, this will be easy.” I suckered Photo Editor Nick Hamilton into going with me. “We run up, you grab a couple photos, I’ll lay down the interviews—we’re out like puka shell necklaces,” I promised. Obviously, I had no idea what was in store for us—these micro machines packed more energy than that damn Energizer bunny. Only it wasn’t battery acid they were runnin’ on, it was pure glucose—which made our jobs downright hilarious.

This is in no way a complaint. Fact is, those few days got me more stoked to shred than anything I’d done all year. In the little self-contained world of snowboarding, it’s easy to get caught up in all the crap: who’s doin’ what, how big that jump was, how many stairs so-and-so backside lipslid—the crap. So, spending a few days with a group of pro snowboarders who where just as pumped on stuffin’ half a pack of Sweet Tarts in their face-caves as sticking a backside seven was refreshing as hell. It brought back memories of a young me, so innocent and naive, ready to grab the world by the tail and stuff it on my pocket … I promised myself I wasn’t gonna cry …

Day One

As the rental car pulled up in front of a house Burton rented for the summer, five boys ranging from twelve to fifteen stood on the porch holding water pistols. “Oh man,” I thought out loud, “I hope I’m not going to have to kick some twelve-year-old ass.” Thank god the house monitor, Adam Moran, was the target in their sites. Minutes later a soaking-wet Moran introduced us to the crew—Mikkel Bang, Luke Mitrani, Oliver Gittler, Tommy Emanuelson, and Freddie Austbö. These were the very kids we showed up to hang out with.

We had arranged a night shoot on the glacier, so there were about two hours to kill before heading up the mountain. The kids took this time (as well as every other free moment) to ingest sugar in any and all forms.

Seeing as the lifts were closed, Timberline had a snowcat give us a ride to the jumps. What’s typically a near-deafening sound of churning gears and diesel motor was drowned out completely by the four mini-shreds’ rendition of top-40 hits and movie quotes, which slowly evolved into freestyle raps about one another by the time they got to the park.

The second they stepped on snow, their personalities really began to show. Those kids love to snowboard. While they are definitely in the mix of the “pro-snowboard lifestyle,” they haven’t yet figured out it’s a job. Sure, to some extent they know that without producing photos the gravy train is gonna dry up quick. But, in their eyes, that’s up to whoever is pointing the camera at ‘em. It looks as if the same session would be going down with or without paparazzi.

The car had barely come to a stop back in town when all of ‘em made a mad dash to the Village Store for another diabetic-coma-inducing amount of candy. Somehow all the crap they wolfed down that day still hadn’t spoiled their appetite—which is a good thing, since Luke’s mom (who travels with him as much as possible) had made dinner. The five plopped down in front of the TV for some entertainment while eating. Tonight’s pick—the same channel they’d been watching for days on end, a loop of bad “extreme” sports movies, which they know by heart. “Here it comes, here it comes!” Tommy yelled right before a skier threw a triple backflip and destroyed himself trying to land it. The laughter was so hard and contagious from the boys it quickly spread around the room.

After dinner it’s off to High Cascade’s mini-ramp setup, where it became apparent that a couple of the kids are no straers to the stuntwood. It took staff putting a chain across the ramp for them stop skating. That allowed just enough time for a couple milkshakes before heading home and passing out.

Day Two

The fact that it was about one second from pouring rain did nothing to deter the boys from waking up and getting ready to ride. The only reason I bring it up is, unbeknownst to me, I was sleeping directly in their get-ready/play-pool zone. But, thank god, my presence didn’t stop them from launching pool balls off the table directly at the couch, which I was napping on.

The weather didn’t seem to bug them one bit—in fact they still squeezed in a mellow two-an-a-half hour rail session before the weather got really bad and we had to head home. Quicker than you could say insulin, the mob scurried to the store for more snacks. They returned with handfuls of Mountain Dew bottles and a plan. “Can we go to Windell’s?” each one asked individually. Divide and conquer. Next thing I knew, Hamilton and I had a rental car full of kids screaming Big L lyrics at the top of their lungs.

As soon as the car hit the parking spot at Windell’s off-hill compound, the contents scattered like senators in a brothel raid. It took a good ten minutes to track down anyone. When we caught up to Freddie, he was going absolutely nuts on the mini ramp. Turns out the fifteen year old won the European Open Of Skateboarding—in the pro division. Yeah.

Meanwhile the other four were taking advantage of all the activities, in about fifteen-minute, back-to-back increments. After jumping on the trampoline for a few, it was straight on to the BMX bikes. From the bikes to—where else? The snack bar. Then straight to the basketball courts, on to some skating, and repeat. This cycle went on for, let’s see, we got there around noon, left about 10:30 p.m.—you do the math. Stopping every now and again to work down a large glass of some sorta orange drink that left stains from ear to ear. Fortunately for me, this made tracking them down a lot easier. “Where’s Oliver?” Nick would ask.

“I think that’s him stuffing a corn dog in his mouth,” I’d reply, pointing in the direction of the snack cart. When the facility finally shut down, it still took damn near 30 minutes to get them all in the car.

{Outro}

Hamilton and I returned to the office from the trip relaying stories like doting fathers. “And then Luke says, ‘Different languages are cool’,” would come echoing out from the photo office. Then I would run in with, “Tell ‘em about the car ride … ” This went on for about two weeks. It’s funny how something as simple as two days’ worth of shreddin’ with the right people can make your whole month. Oh no, here come the tears again …

{Profiles}

Name: Mikkel Bang

Age: 13

Hometown: Oslo, Norway

Sponsors: Burton, Anon, Aloha Hemp, Globe, Bikes And Board, RED

It’s no wonder he’s so damn good—Mikkel grew up riding with Daniel Franck and Terje Haakonsen at Hemsedal, for god’s sake. Haakon even asked him to be one of the mascots at last year’s Artic Challenge. I tried to interview him, but I couldn’t keep focused. He just kept shoveling some weird candy into his mouth that dyed the entire bottom half of his face bright blue.

Name: Luke Mitrani

Age: 13

Hometown: Stratton Mountain, Vermont

Sponsors: Burton, Oakley, Mountain Dew, Stratton Mountain, U.S. Snowboard Team, LEGO, PowerBar, Windell’s Snowboard Camp, RED

There is only one way to describe little Luke: stoked. Always first to strap in and last to leave, there aren’t enough hours in a day for this kid. He was so stoked in fact, that changing his socks was not in the schedule. Check the skate photos, those are snowboard socks, and the opener—yep, them again.

Name: Frederik Austbö

Age: 15

Hometown: Stravanger, Norway

Sponsors: Burton, Anon, Etnies, DP, Session, RED

Freddie is the quietest of the bunch—you almost get the feeling that he could take anything and make it his own. Wouldn’t matter if it was underwater welding or snowboarding—he would master it with ease and add his own touch. Here’s an interesting fact: right before we met up with him, he, Tom Penny and Eric Koston drove around Europe in a limo putting on skateboard demos. Yeah, you read that right.

Name: Oliver Gittler

Age: 12

Hometown: Grenoble, France

Sponsors: Burton, Anon, Volcom, Speed City, RED

Born in Boston, Massachusetts and currently residing in France, Oliver was always leading the charge for more candy. In fact, Burton Team Manager Jan Prokes gave him the nickname “Candy Man” due to his intake. Besides the tie-dye-esque fruit-punch stains constantly on the front of his shirt, there was always a smile hidden behind the ring of chocolate that was his face. It would also seem snowboarding isn’t his only talent—his baseball team, for which he plays catcher, is going to the French championships.

Name: Tommy Emanuelson

Age: 12

Hometown: Stowe, Vermont

Sponsors: Burton, Oakley, Misty Mountain, White Collar

Tommy has more personality than most 30 year olds. There was never a problem getting an answer from him—not shy in the least. In fact, I got more personal info talking to him for two minutes than I usually get in two days from “older” pros. Here’re two of my favorite Tommy facts:

  1. He would quit snowboarding, but only for a zillion dollars and a zillion girls.
  2. He was so sick at Nationals last year, after completing his run, he threw up.
he skate photos, those are snowboard socks, and the opener—yep, them again.

Name: Frederik Austbö

Age: 15

Hometown: Stravanger, Norway

Sponsors: Burton, Anon, Etnies, DP, Session, RED

Freddie is the quietest of the bunch—you almost get the feeling that he could take anything and make it his own. Wouldn’t matter if it was underwater welding or snowboarding—he would master it with ease and add his own touch. Here’s an interesting fact: right before we met up with him, he, Tom Penny and Eric Koston drove around Europe in a limo putting on skateboard demos. Yeah, you read that right.

Name: Oliver Gittler

Age: 12

Hometown: Grenoble, France

Sponsors: Burton, Anon, Volcom, Speed City, RED

Born in Boston, Massachusetts and currently residing in France, Oliver was always leading the charge for more candy. In fact, Burton Team Manager Jan Prokes gave him the nickname “Candy Man” due to his intake. Besides the tie-dye-esque fruit-punch stains constantly on the front of his shirt, there was always a smile hidden behind the ring of chocolate that was his face. It would also seem snowboarding isn’t his only talent—his baseball team, for which he plays catcher, is going to the French championships.

Name: Tommy Emanuelson

Age: 12

Hometown: Stowe, Vermont

Sponsors: Burton, Oakley, Misty Mountain, White Collar

Tommy has more personality than most 30 year olds. There was never a problem getting an answer from him—not shy in the least. In fact, I got more personal info talking to him for two minutes than I usually get in two days from “older” pros. Here’re two of my favorite Tommy facts:

  1. He would quit snowboarding, but only for a zillion dollars and a zillion girls.
  2. He was so sick at Nationals last year, after completing his run, he threw up.