A few years back during the summer months at High Cascade three good friends, Travis Parker, Jesse Grandkoski, and Paul Miller began to discuss creating a snowboard company in a different way then the standard. In their eyes, something was missing from the way they envisioned snowboarding. Therefore, in that summer Airblaster was born, and the three jumped in headfirst to make their dreams of doing exactly what they wanted a reality. A few years have gone by since the summer they started Airblaster and after putting in blood, sweat, and tears, those dreams are becoming a reality.
The Body: How did you first get into snowboarding?
Jesse Grandkoski: I started snowboarding when I was fourteen. I’d cross country skied from when I was five or six years old, but I found out quickly that free heels and skinny boards are really hard to catch air on—hard to land on anyway, but easy to scorpion. I tried downhill skiing about ten times the season before I started snowboarding. That was a little wild too, I had about a twenty-four inch stance, and would just go buck wild trailer court style and blast off of anything that I could find. I wasn’t afraid to launch and blow up.
That was fun, and I think it was great entertainment for my friends, but I would always break or lose my rental equipment—I really hated having all that equipment to keep track of. That’s about the time I heard about snowboarding, 1988 maybe. I knew a couple of kids that did it, and they were doing things called stale fishes and roast beefs, and they had really bad bandannas on their heads—looked like fun to me. We ran Elfgen bindings, and Pac boots with a fresh daily wrapping of duct tape to keep your heel down, and trying to learn grabs with some wild kids. Dusty Ostler could do mean stale fishes, and Lance Kober was pulling hard for over-vert tail grabs. That’s where you tweak your board vertical and beyond. I think that was before spinning was invented, but definitely after style was invented.
When did you meet Travis Parker?
We met in Whitefish, Montana. Travis moved up there when he was fourteen, and we both started snowboarding that year. I know we hung out before we started snowboarding together, but the snowboarding really launched our friendship.
When was Airblaster born?
September 2002 maybe. Paul Miller, Travis Parker, and I had a brain orgy and Airblaster was born. After we spent a day in the basement writing on boards—like masonite, not snowboards—that we’d put up on the wall. I think the common experience that we shared was that we all loved snowboarding so much but we thought that often, the way that it was being presented to kids in magazines and movies was way off. The media and advertisements have an affect on peoples’ behavior and we saw that. The element that made us fall in love with snowboarding had been kind of lost in all the growth and shuffle. The key element was under-represented—have fun with your friends! Also, we wanted to invest in something that was our own, and that we could be proud of—out of all that came Airblaster. It’s a vehicle to spread some of the ideals that we believe in. It keeps us snowboarding, and we don’t really have to worry about being cool, or sick, or tough, or trying to fit a mold that’s already out there. We do whatever we want—we snowboard and have fun.
Did you have any formal training in running a company?
How much of your time is spent in your office, and how much of it is spent ‘boarding?
Too much time in the office and not enough time in the snow and fresh air. But I’ll always say that, even if I only spend one day each month in the office—I snowboard tons. Running your own business is more work and stress than you can imagine, especially if you’re just learning as you go. But it has its rewards—if you can get the work done that you need to get done, then you don’t have to come into the office and pretend to work. Another is that you havee to go “product testing a lot, or maybe go “do some marketing or something—go snowboarding, basically.
What’s your drive to continue to produce new, and different products, as apposed to staying more specific with what you make?
Our main motto’s from day one, the basement, has always been “We do whatever we want. Now that’s an easy phrase to take the wrong way, but basically what it meant to us is that we were making it a point from day one to remain free to design whatever we want, and make whatever we want, as long as it makes sense to us. So, if I dream up a one piece long underwear suit with a crap hatch, and I want to call it a ninja suit, I put the idea out there and we take a look at it. If it makes sense to Paul and Travis, and its gonna make a day of snowboarding better, we let it fly. We’re not like, “Well the market isn’t ready for this type of idea. There’s no such thing as a ninja suit. It’s too risky. No, we just go, “Do you want to ride in that? Yeah, well me too. OK, lets make it happen.
Another thing we wanted to avoid was being classified and put in a box. Boxes are very restrictive—they put you in a box when you’re dead. So, people can usually understand Airblaster ideals pretty easily. But often times they can’t really wrap their minds around the thing that we do unless they know exactly what things we make. I think that’s a part of America. “Oh you believe in such-and-such. Well cool, but what do you make? A lot of people really want to classify everything; box each thing up, label it, and put it on the shelf. No surprises please.
So, our answer, in order to keep from being trapped or classified, is that we make original fun products. So if we have an idea for a sharkskin butt pad, and we love it, it’s comin’ at you.
Yes. It’s called the Shark Butt.
For more info check out myairblaster.com