In The Spotlight
Ahem, Lukas Huffman steps up to the mic.
By Sean Kearns
If there’s anything that burns my soul, it’s sucker holes—little gaps the sun shines through on a cloudy day that make filmers and riders think the weather’s good enough to shoot. But just as you get ready, the clouds close in again—laughing at the stupid humans for thinking Mother Nature isn’t a bitch. This past season was the worst I’ve ever seen for weather in Whistler. In short, I really got to know Lukas Huffman—he and I spent five months with photographer Dano Pendygrasse chasing the promise of clear skies.
The most interesting dynamic of sucker-hole chasing (or window shopping) is that when the sun finally does show through, the rider has to perform like it’s been sunny all day. I’ve seen this phenomenon turn riders into shivering piles of chunt—and rightfully so, because they’re doing something life-threatening while cold and frustrated. I’ve never seen anybody keep it together like Lukas, though. No joke, that poor crazy bastard stood on a 50-foot cliff alone for three days waiting to do a Cab seven. The sun would pop out, and he’d strap in and go. Dano looked over at me many times and said, “My money’s on Lukas,” or my favorite, “Holy f—k!”
Anyway, filmers also have a disease have called the “there’s no possible way I could understand being in your shoes” virus. For example, it’s perfectly sunny, deep pow pow, and the virus starts creeping into the filmer’s brain, making him wonder why everybody isn’t doing 900s and 1080s off everything in sight. Lukas is the first rider I’ve ever come across who suffers from this, too. If the conditions are right, he thinks, “Why waste time doing what’s safe?”
Devun Walsh may land more often, and Kale Stephens doesn’t know any better, but as far as day-after-day, psycho balls-out shit, Lukas is the king.
What stops you from questioning yourself when you’re performing in front of the camera?
I have to know what I’m capable of, how much speed is needed—that type of shit. I’ve been riding a long time, and snowboarding is almost second nature to me, and that gives me the confidence to make decisions about what’s too dangerous. If I’m getting nervous and questioning the situation a lot, then I don’t do it. If you’re nervous, you get hurt.
The fact is, I don’t really question too much from my snowboarding. At this point in my life, it’s one of the things that I’m best at and probably most confident with.
One time this winter, you and I were building a cheese-wedge kicker, when all of a sudden we looked at each other and thought, “This is lame.” Do you think your average person understands why it’s lame? And can they comprehend how much harder tricks are off natural jumps?
Well, we’re in the backcountry almost every day with all the big features. We know how intimidating or difficult it is to ride that stuff. If you haven’t stood on top of a 40-foot cliff, it’s hard to even imagine that feeling you get. It looks impressive to everybody—rocks, moving snow, all the hectic stuff. I’m sure most kids appreciate that type of snowboarding.
As far as cheese wedges versus natural terrain, I can only speak for myself—cheese wedges can be a real good time. You get to session one spot for a bit. You can try some new tricks, and it’s a fun way to hang out with your friends. I don’t have an affinity for them, though, ’cause they always take too long to build. Sometimes you spend all day building a jump, then you don’t get to hit it until the next day. Also it seems so contrived—all this planning and organizing goes on, just so you can go flying through the air on a snowboard. I kind of like patting some shit down, then launching it—it’s a moment that may never happen again.
What does caring about the “soul bro” have to do with you getting the fat check? After all, the souul bro can’t afford a big old Lukas Huffman pro model.
Well, part of being a caring person is not caring who a person is. If I meet a snowboard head I like, then I hang out with them. I like to spend time with people who aren’t super involved with industry stuff, ’cause they have new views and different perspectives on things.
Also, I think about snowboarding and do it so much that I need a break from it—so if some soul bro wants to do powder eights and talk about photosynthesis, it’s usually a refreshing change of pace. I don’t even have a pro model out right now, by the way, but how it probably works is that people who respect what you do want to support your shit. The only way I’m getting a pro model is if I work my ass off—if somebody really wants my model, they’ll do whatever it takes to get it.
You went riding with Shawn Farmer this past year—what was that like?
Holy crap—it was amazing. I feel like I don’t ever have to snowboard again. Farmer came up and filmed with us late in the spring. We were all so burned out on shooting—I was really toasted at that point. He was supposed to fly in from California that day, then heli up to meet us. Long story short, Farmer didn’t get there ’til six in the evening. We were all gripped ’cause there were only two more hours of sunlight left. We had this tiny kicker all built for him, and I had a Farmer board that Nitro made earlier in the year.
He was so stoked when he got out of the helicopter—the whole day went from zero to 160 miles per hour in an instant. I gave him the board, we snowmobiled around, and he was pumped—it was infectious. Then we had the most intense fifteen minutes of snowboarding all year. He was sessioning the little kicker doing backflips. He tried a backside rodeo and ate shit. Then we did back-to-back grassers. It was a dream come true. All the while, the helicopter was flyin’ around filming from the air. I feel like snowboarding has come full circle for me after that day. It all makes sense now.
One of your favorite things to say is, “Listen, here’s my dream plan … ” referring to the way you’d like things to go in the immediate future. What’s your dream plan for the rest of your snowboard career and five years after?
Hmmm … I have a hard time thinking about my future as a pro snowboarder. Up until now, I’ve ridden every season like it’s my last, because each summer I think about quitting to go do other stuff. But I’d be an idiot to not travel around the world getting paid to snowboard.
I do know that I’m going to film my ass off—I can’t help that. I have a bunch of tricks I want to do on certain jumps. Also, I want to find new stuff to ride—and go to Russia. I want to snowboard new shit in crazy places—change the scenery a bit. Anyway, I always have a hard time wrapping my mind around the future when the moment itself is so crazy.
“Lukas definitely takes an organic approach to riding, as well as life. He’s all about positive vibes and large airs.”—JP Walker
“Lukas is on the next level. He does the hardest tricks off huge cliffs—stuff most pros can’t do on normal powder jumps. He calls it his comfort zone—I call it something you won’t see me doing.”—Mikey LeBlanc
“Huffman’s a freak! He’s always making first tries.”—Jeremy Jones