This is a story of courage, passion, soy sauce and the power of believing in dreams. Organically grown by the sunshine of La Jolla California, Nirvana fell in love with snowboarding at 12 years old on a family trip to Big Bear Mountain. Years of yoga, surfing, and snowboarding have given way to a unique style grounded in a creative balance of artist and athlete. Embodying the heart, soul, and spirit of a snowboarder, her motivation to excel in and expand the sport comes purely from the desire to pass on the joy it has brought to her life. Currently, her focus is making snowboarding accessible and more inclusive to underdeveloped markets. Co-founding "Jetpack" dedicated on female initiatives, and co-founding Soy Sauce Nation focused on Asian minority exposure. Stay tuned because this is when the story gets good, as you will see Nirvana is one of a kind and a hero to many. - AK
Birthdate: February 18th, 1991
Current title: Snowboarder, Mixed Media Creator & Community Builder
What does your current position in the snowboarding industry entail? Describe a typical day on the job.
My first role in the industry is being a snowboarder, then the roles that come after that are all part of it. Since the inception of Jetpack with Marie Hucal, Amanda Hankison, Danika Duffy, Isabella Borriello and myself during our crucial years at High Cascade Snowboard Camp that really was the catalyst that made me realize that I liked being part of the production. We were the snowboarders, the filmers, the photographers, the editors, and had to make things happen ourselves. What was dabbling in Final Cut at first turned into editing my friends’ video parts and making little insta edits along the way. Taking film photos and writing journal entries has always been a hobby so it was second nature to document all the happenings during trips. That production and people are what makes things in snowboarding special and those principles held true with creating Soy Sauce Nation and now most recently with Think Thank's Falling Leaf.
I do have some hustles going on between being an athlete, holding a camera, editing, graphics, and jobs. Before, I've done everything there is to do in the food industry, to being a school teacher, to gig life, all to keep funding the next snowboarding trip. Right now, Ted Borland and I have Falling Leaf Printhouse where we've been printing soft goods for our entrepreneurial friends. I've also been contributing to blogs that bring awareness to POC in the outdoors like Melanin Base Camp and How Not to Travel Like a Basic Bitch as well as gathering content for my own website/blog.
When it comes to a typical day as a snowboarder, it depends on the time of year. During the fall and preseason, I usually spend my time at the Bonezone at Brighton. There we'll work on the park for the first hour (or more depending on the day) then go board. It's really fun because anyone can come to ride as long as they bring a shovel and try to help out. You don't even need to know how to build a lip, but at Bonezone you can learn. It's a place where you can get your feet under you before the lifts start turning or snow hits the streets.
Then the days are dependent on if there's snow in the city. If there isn't, I can be found riding at Brighton -- whether it's park or pow, it's always super fun and where all the friends go. If there is snow, then I'll go out with a crew that wants to go film. Days like that it goes: wake up, hit up your friends, have a spot already in mind the night before because you've been religiously checking the storm, load all the tools into the vehicle (shovels, salt, bungee, pushes, winch, water, torch, charged batteries, cameras, etc.), get in that van or truck with your friends, go to said spot, build, test, maybe get clipped up or maybe you don't. Getting the shot all depends on motivation, group love, determination, weather -- the variables are endless but the result of being with people that love the same thing you love never changes.
Where are you from and where do you currently call home?
San Diego grown, and I currently call Salt Lake City and Brighton Resort my home.
How did you start snowboarding?
My family! My dad took us all to the local mountain when my little brother was old enough we went up to Snow Summit. Mom fell in love and the rest of us did too. From that winter on we spent weekends up in the mountains and haven't looked back.
At what point did you realize that you wanted to work in the snowboard industry?
Growing up in Southern California, my dad got me into surfing and I was quickly immersed in that culture. Naturally the next progression in board world ended up being snowboarding. When we were just starting I was juiced on snowboarding but back then there wasn't much internet content and the only way to watch anything was to watch videos. Saturday nights I would run over to the Lopiccolo's house across the street to borrow snowboard movies -- From With Love, Escramble, and That were stock. From then on I knew that snowboarding was something I wanted to do and be in.
And how did you make that happen?
After years of competing in the Grand Prix, US Opens, and World Cups I found myself pretty burnt out on it. I tried going to the 2014 Winter Games for the Philippines, but funding and logistics didn't work out. That same year I ended up getting a job at High Cascade for the summer and realized that there was so much more than competing. There I met people that are now lifelong friends and we set off to make a difference in how we wanted to see snowboarding. All those videos I watched and people I looked up as a teenager all culminated to those years spent on the glacier then carried over to the streets.
Who did you look up to in the industry for inspiration?
Early on at Big Bear and Mountain High the snowboarders that I looked up to were Laurie Currier, Blake and Kyle Loppicilo, Mikey Raziwon, Desiree Melancon, Harrison Gordon, and Scott Blum. They had it dialed, they were the ones out there filming, doing Sunday in the Park, making videos, traveling.
The people leading the push for positive change in the industry, especially for women in particular, are Mary Walsh and Christine Savage (Beyond the Boundaries), Jess Kimura (The Uninvited), AK (Soy Sauce Nation) and the Strout's (Crab Grab). I also look up to my amazing fiancé Ted and all the guys from Think Thank -- they make snowboarding so much fun.
What do you feel has been your biggest impact in your line of work?
The biggest impact has been being able to connect People of Color and women together and create a network of people that can all relate, become friends, and grow the community. That community aspect of snowboarding is such an integral part and being able to bring more people in has been a huge goal for me. Also hopefully inspiring anyone to go snowboard. I hope that creating things like edits, clips, parts, and photos get more people psyched on boarding. And then that segues people to pick a camera or iPhone or whatever and go film, make things with their friends. Get after it!
What do you want to accomplish that you haven’t yet?
I want to continue filming video parts, I've got something going on for Falling Leaf and I really want to keep going! I would like to accomplish a sustainable track with being a snowboarder and staying in the industry. I also hope that being an advocate for POC and bringing attention to issues within the industry I will continue to bring people in for discussion and to ultimately encourage more progressive changes from within.
Anyone you’d like to thank?
My family, Ted and Louis, Desiree, Kevin, Greg, and the Salomon family, VS, the K-Unit, Jenna Kuklinski, Jared Winkler, Laura Rogoski, Cobra Dogs, Melissa Riitano, Madison Blackley, and AV club 2013.