The Devun Walsh Interview

Words: Cody Dresser

There are two constants in British Columbia-endless backcountry powder and the remarkable yearly accomplishments of Devun Walsh. Over the last decade, B.C. has received powder dumps like clockwork until the region had a stunningly dry winter, once-an anomaly to be sure. The same cannot be said of Devun Walsh. Since he came on the scene as a youngster, more heir apparent than up-and-comer, neither his next-level performances nor his work rate have ever faltered. Influential pros have risen and fallen, yet Devun Walsh remains a boss: Learning the Forum crew in Whistler’s backcountry, steering the Wildcats. In the supposed winter of his career, Devun simply keeps pushing and improving with the times-rotating more and jumping farther-further cementing his position, in my opinion, as the greatest Canadian rider of all time.

I keep hearing you had your best year ever.

I could have had a better year. Everyone around me has been telling me I had the best year, but I don’t think so. When you called me about getting an interview, I was thinking I didn’t even have any photos-I was tripping, like, “You guys are drunk!” When I came down to TransWorld and looked at ‘em, they were actually pretty good-but they could have been way better. It’s not just me being hard on myself either-I was out there. There were so many things I didn’t get that I tried and wanted to land … there’s always next year.

That’s cool, that’s human of you. People need to hear that you actually struggle. MFM and I were watching one of your movie parts and saying how sick it was and laughing-’cause really, when haven’t you had a good movie part? That’s the Devun story, right?

Except when I got hurt. I hurt my knee in that Resistance year … it was short-but come to think of it, that was actually still pretty good.

And the only other major injury was damaging your voicebox and losing your front teeth, right?

Yep, but I came through with a pretty good part that year too … you make a good point.

Are you still going bigger than you were last year or the year before? Is that where progression lies for you, in size?

It seems that way … I’m probably just going bigger. I think maybe that’s why I felt like I had such a crappy year. The kids I’m riding with try the most technical shit! They weren’t landing it, but they were basically a fraction of an inch from pulling the gnarliest stuff ever. Jake Welch and Jake Blauvelt go way too big-and they’re not worried.

And the backcountry is pretty new for them, right?

Oh yeah, absolutely. And maybe that’s just it-maybe some of the stuff they were trying just wasn’t landable. On some days I’d see them do something and be like, “Woah, I wouldn’t even try that.” Then I’d go get my three bangers off of it, and they’d get nothing. That’s also experience on my part.

I’m going to be rude and eat my bagel now.

Sure, okay. Your last interview in ’02 focused on riding with the Wildcats. Now you’re filming with lots of new young dudes.

It’s a bit of a breath of fresh air to be around all these kids. These guys know no boundaries, where some of the older guys are like, “Oh, that’s not possible,” so then I start thinkin’ it’s not possible either. The new kids are like, “Why couldn’t you do that?” And they’ll go and try it.

And the other thing is I can bring them under my wing and show them a little bit of my experience-where the sweet spot of the landing is for example.

Do you have an opinion on why you’re still at the top of your game when a lot of other pros have kind of pulled back or absorbed into the industry?

I really pumped my breaks on partying, because I actually got to a point where my back just hurt-I needed to get in shape. I was bending over and I had no posture left because my muscles were so weak. I started spending 65 dollars an hour to see a personal trainer, and my back improved. And you know, boozing just didn’t t into that. It was kind of one or the other-I couldn’t party and work out.

Plus, I was dating my wife-I had someone solid in my life, so there was no reason to be at the bars anymore.

Your position in the sport is unchanged because you have huge amounts of natural talent, but also because you’ve modified your behavior.

Yeah, I lasted this whole winter without any major problems. And the other thing that keeps me driven is having this amazing lifestyle. I get to golf the majority of the summer-and if I have a down day in the winter, I can do whatever I want. It’s hard work, but it’s also just nice to have this lifestyle. I want to stay focused so I can continue for as long as possible.

If you’re doing it right and making money-it’s a complete dream job.

Totally. I was always thinking kids would get over you once you got older. But I’m going to the premieres and half the kids are my age. I mean, there’re the young kids, too, but I’ve still got a lot of people who are backing me. It’s such a young sport that no one’s really tested it yet. I mean, Dave Downing is kind of the only older guy who’s really focused. And I snowboard with J.F. Pelchat and he’s got a kid, and he’s still going for it.

Your fans are growing up with you. Aren’t you and J.F. running Wildcats now?

Yeah, with all the owners not being in there, like me, J.F. and Dionne Delesalle, a couple of bad decisions were made. J.F. and I had to intervene and take over. We ended up splitting Wildcats and Whiteout Films, and they’re on completely different paths now. Dionne and Anthony Vitelli are taking care of Whiteout, and J.F. and I are taking care of Wildcats. So now we’re just trying to break it down to the beginning and get back to square one-get people stoked again. We’ve got a bunch of young kids like Iikka Backstrom and Eero Niemela on board.

As far as Whiteout Films, you’re an owner and you’ll be filming with them again next year.

Yeah, I really would have liked to have been filming with them this season, but I was filming for That. Next year I’ll definitely be back.

What’s up with your role at IS Design?

I’m trying to play a bigger part over there, just to help out with decisions and stuff. I mean, there’s not really much for me to do day-to-day, so there’s really no point of me going and just sitting in there. I’m in the office a couple times a week-I especially try to help with the marketing side.

The IS Design ads are sweet. IS and Lib Tech are the only companies that still manage to have a sense of humor. A current IS ad still could have run in an old Big Brother mag.

I think it’s just Canadian humor. And the Lib guys are in Washington, so they’re pretty close to the Canada border.

Maybe that’s it. I was born in the wrong country-that’s the problem.

Your parents are probably immigrants from Canada.

Yeah, I need to check my family tree. Do you have an opinion on who the best Canadian snowboarder of all time would be?

Probably Kevin Young, but one of the most inspirational ones is Sean Johnson. Kevin Young really changed the amount of exposure for Canadian riders. He just did amazing stuff all the time-f-ked-up shit.

And he has sick style. How long was Kevin a force in snowboarding?

Well, it was definitely cut short, but he had a good five-year run or something.

And that’s the heavy part about your whole scenario, Devun … are you even close to understanding how long you’ve been riding? Like, my intro here in ’02, I was writing about when you spun front 360 over the snakerun at Bear Mountain in ’93.

That was my breakthrough year though. Just leave that part out. We don’t need anyone knowing I’ve been around that long. No, just kidding.

Thirteen years, dude-you’re pretty much the benchmark of longevity.

I was thinkin’ about that the other day-and about Peter (Line). And I’ve been around probably before Pete, and now Peter’s kind of out, you know? I was kind of tripping on that …

I had all these funny questions written up if you denied that you’d changed your lifestyle. Like, do you still snowboard drunk? But you copped to all your healthy endeavors, so …

I can’t snowboard drunk anymore.

But it’s a gift you used to possess, right?

Absolutely-we jumped some big gaps. I remember going in for lunch and downing triple pitchers, and then everyone would go do big tricks. Now I have a beer on the hill and I’m like, “Oh, I think I’ve got to go down.” I used to skateboard drunk, too. Sean Johnson says it’s like feeding a race car shitty gas: “If you feed a shitty car shitty gas, it’ll always run-but a race car might not even run on shitty gas”.

He’s a wise man. Okay, everyone is spraying about what a great year you had despite turning 30. Thirty has a negative connotation for an athlete.

But you’re supposed to be in your physical prime at 30. It’s when you get your man strength.

Thirty? Really? I didn’t know that.

I’m pretty sure. Because, not to compare myself, but Tiger Woods, he’s 30, and they’re always talking about how he’s in his prime now. But it’s easy to get whipped out of shape at this age, too.

You’re in your prime is what you’re saying.

Yeah. Kind of like Doc Holiday-I’m in my prime.

So you didn’t get all weird and sad?

No, I had a party. I celebrated it. You know what the best is? Getting I.D.’d. I’m thinkin’ now that I’m 30, maybe I’ll grow a little bit, too. I’m 5’5″ and 140 pounds now, so maybe I’ll be 5’7″ and 155 pounds after this year.

You might be 5’5″ and 155 pounds-I know that happens, for a fact. Actually, I bet you’ve gotten shorter from all those landings. If you were technically micro-measured, you’re probably at least a quarter to a half inch shorter.

Yeah, I was actually thinking that.

Because I’m sure that getting squashed down for a decade would make anyone shorter.

Don’t talk like that.

Then again, your posture’s better-you could be taller. So now you’re all grown up, on top of your game, and married even! Tell me about it.

I got married in Hawai’i on May 22. My wife’s name is Julia, and it was awesome. We’d been dating for almost seven years, so it was about time. We had about 30 friends and family come over. We had the absolute best trip of our lives. Just ten days of hanging out, partying, playing in the waves, and goofin’ around. It couldn’t have been better.

And is everything different now?

No. Exactly the same. We already lived together, so nothing really changed.

I like to strategically use the word wife.

It’s fun to use it in public.

Like, “My wife will have the sea bass. I’ll have the steak.”

I always used to call her my wife just for fun, but now when I actually say it I’ll be like, “My girlfriend,” and then I’ll be like, “Wait, no, my wife.” It’s funny, because when you call somewhere important, like the bank or something, saying “my girlfriend” just sounds like shit.

I think I should have your sponsor list in here.

Forum, Special Blend, DC Shoes, IS Design, Wildcats, Fenix Management, ICA Headwear, Matsumoto Wax, The Source.

Any weird sponsor shit I need to talk about? You used to ride for DC Shoes, then you didn’t, now you do …

Yeah …

It is cool to hang out at the DC Mountain Lab. Yeah, okay, let’s call this good.on that …

I had all these funny questions written up if you denied that you’d changed your lifestyle. Like, do you still snowboard drunk? But you copped to all your healthy endeavors, so …

I can’t snowboard drunk anymore.

But it’s a gift you used to possess, right?

Absolutely-we jumped some big gaps. I remember going in for lunch and downing triple pitchers, and then everyone would go do big tricks. Now I have a beer on the hill and I’m like, “Oh, I think I’ve got to go down.” I used to skateboard drunk, too. Sean Johnson says it’s like feeding a race car shitty gas: “If you feed a shitty car shitty gas, it’ll always run-but a race car might not even run on shitty gas”.

He’s a wise man. Okay, everyone is spraying about what a great year you had despite turning 30. Thirty has a negative connotation for an athlete.

But you’re supposed to be in your physical prime at 30. It’s when you get your man strength.

Thirty? Really? I didn’t know that.

I’m pretty sure. Because, not to compare myself, but Tiger Woods, he’s 30, and they’re always talking about how he’s in his prime now. But it’s easy to get whipped out of shape at this age, too.

You’re in your prime is what you’re saying.

Yeah. Kind of like Doc Holiday-I’m in my prime.

So you didn’t get all weird and sad?

No, I had a party. I celebrated it. You know what the best is? Getting I.D.’d. I’m thinkin’ now that I’m 30, maybe I’ll grow a little bit, too. I’m 5’5″ and 140 pounds now, so maybe I’ll be 5’7″ and 155 pounds after this year.

You might be 5’5″ and 155 pounds-I know that happens, for a fact. Actually, I bet you’ve gotten shorter from all those landings. If you were technically micro-measured, you’re probably at least a quarter to a half inch shorter.

Yeah, I was actually thinking that.

Because I’m sure that getting squashed down for a decade would make anyone shorter.

Don’t talk like that.

Then again, your posture’s better-you could be taller. So now you’re all grown up, on top of your game, and married even! Tell me about it.

I got married in Hawai’i on May 22. My wife’s name is Julia, and it was awesome. We’d been dating for almost seven years, so it was about time. We had about 30 friends and family come over. We had the absolute best trip of our lives. Just ten days of hanging out, partying, playing in the waves, and goofin’ around. It couldn’t have been better.

And is everything different now?

No. Exactly the same. We already lived together, so nothing really changed.

I like to strategically use the word wife.

It’s fun to use it in public.

Like, “My wife will have the sea bass. I’ll have the steak.”

I always used to call her my wife just for fun, but now when I actually say it I’ll be like, “My girlfriend,” and then I’ll be like, “Wait, no, my wife.” It’s funny, because when you call somewhere important, like the bank or something, saying “my girlfriend” just sounds like shit.

I think I should have your sponsor list in here.

Forum, Special Blend, DC Shoes, IS Design, Wildcats, Fenix Management, ICA Headwear, Matsumoto Wax, The Source.

Any weird sponsor shit I need to talk about? You used to ride for DC Shoes, then you didn’t, now you do …

Yeah …

It is cool to hang out at the DC Mountain Lab. Yeah, okay, let’s call this good.