By Jennifer Sherowski

Sometimes rumors are more important than the truth. The facts about Brandon Ruff are simple-he was born and raised in Utah and has spent the last decade and a half dueling boredom with a P-tex-and-metal javelin. But if few have borne witness to his riding firsthand, it’s because Ruff is a shadow, a dark horse. Instead of in-your-face video parts and extensive exposà‡s, we get myths-unconfirmed tales of him butchering the Utah backcountry. Is there really a Brighton cliff named after Ruff? Was he truly the only guy in an all-star session with the grit to hit a monster gapper last season at Mt. Bachelor? The questions remain unanswered.

With a segment in 2002′s Notice To Appear and this tight bundle of photos, though, Brandon has given us a fleeting glimpse of the kind of raw talent that makes a major snowboarding assassin. You might wonder why he’s had such a rough time with sponsorship, then. A breakup-and-makeup relationship with Ride snowboards has left the shredder to his own devices and soured him on the game more than once over the course of his career.

“I think it’s due to the fact that I enjoy Michael Bolton’s entire collection,” says Ruff. “Who in their right mind would want to blow up a person like this? It would ruin their cool image, then they’d go bankrupt and probably be bought by K2.” Yeah, it’s tough to kiss ass and promote yourself when you don’t care what people think. But that’s the thing that makes Brandon so great-and keeps him out there in search of the next sweetest slasher instead of the next biggest break.

Using anger and frustration to sharpen snow-bound weapons, Ruff’s now back on it with a new sponsor (Palmer) and a fresh lust for blood. And luckily, he doesn’t have to fight the battle alone: “I wouldn’t have any future plans if it wasn’t for photographer Stan Evans saving my dumb ass,” Brandon admits. “He really went out of his way to help me and my family pull the knives out of our backs this past winter, even when things were tight for him.”

So are the rumors true? We really couldn’t say for sure. One thing’s certain: earning the esteem of the Utah pro scene is no easy task when it includes riders like Jeremy Jones and JP Walker. Ruff has succeeded there-even if he isn’t as famous as all the “dudes” who pay him respect. And whether or not the stories floating around are accurate, they all point to one real, fundamental truth-Brandon Ruff is a badass.