Marko Grilc has made an absolutely immense career out of snowboarding. It's not even close to being over yet, either. He's currently in the midst of an unheard of 20+ year relationship with Burton, and has forged partnerships with plenty of other well-known brands including GoPro, Red Bull, and even BMW. What's especially incredible is his ability to adapt – with his eye on the ever-changing tide that is the internet, self-promotion, and content creation. That, and the fact that he is perpetually stoked, even after suffering a back injury that nearly left him permanently paralyzed. So what's next for Grilo? It's getting the next generation stoked on standing sideways—something all of us can agree is an awesome initiative to get behind. We caught up with the ageless Slovenian to see what else he's been up to, to get some perspective on the current state of being a pro, and much more. — Justin Cafiero
How long have you been a professional snowboarder?
I have been with Burton for 20 years now. I was 14 when I got my first real contract and I can't even explain how thankful I am that I have had the opportunity to shred for a living.
What are the main aspects of being a pro that you think have changed over the past decade?
I would say the one thing that has not changed at all is that you need to rip. Everything has else changed big time. Back in the day we lived with no cell phones and no internet, so life as a pro was harder but easier at the same time. It was way harder to get recognized but at the same time once you did, it lasted longer than two days.
What do you think is the biggest change and how have you adapted?
Like everything else in this world, the trends change, and in snowboarding this has happened so many times throughout all these years. First, riding halfpipe was cool, so I did that. Then filming backcountry parts, then doing crazy tricks at contests, then the internet came. So I have always been lucky to be a part of the thing that was cool to do at the time. I feel like you always need to adapt to the changes coming your way if you want to stay relevant as a snowboarder. But I would say the craziest thing to adapt to for me was when we went from filming for a video part to filming for online stuff where we had to produce 10 times the amount of footage all of a sudden.
You're amazing at marketing yourself when many younger kids who should be more savvy are not. How do you stay on top of that? Does it come rather natural, or is it a conscious effort?
I think many people don't realize becoming pro means not only are you getting a paycheck for snowboarding, it means that, as stupid as it sounds, you have a job now. The actual snowboarding is probably 50% of your job. The other part is the stuff that we usually don't talk about. It's still a joke compared to an office job, but there are a few things you need to stay on top of. Communicating with your sponsors and being available for them when they need you is really important. I think that for some people the marketing part comes more naturally than for others, but my advice is that being on point with everything is key.
Any advice for someone trying to collect a paycheck from snowboarding?
So many parents ask me this question it's insane. And I always give the same answer. Having fun while snowboarding is key. If you love to shred and that is all you want to do, and you do it all day every day, and that is the only thing you do, you will eventually get good enough that you will get a breakthrough. Then you fast forward to myself being a pro 20 years later. The only way to keep shredding every day is if you have fun every time you go ride and that is all you want to do, even if that's exactly what you've been doing all your life.
You've been putting a ton of time into riding with your kids – how has having kids changed your relationship with snowboarding, for better or worse?
I had a really bad injury a year and a half ago. I broke my back, and we weren't sure if I was going to stay paralyzed or not. When that happened, the only thing I could think about was, 'I need to get good and healthy so I can go shred with my kids.' So when I got back on my board they were with me. We go shred as much as we can and they love it. My wish is that they love the outdoors and that they grow up into little shred lords. Not really into the "pro snowboarder" way as much as, 'Hey, let's go shred pow, Dad,' way.
I posted one video and I got a few messages that the video inspired parents to put their kids on a snowboard. After that I said to myself, if that is the way we can inspire other young kids to get the stoke for shredding, we should film our trips more often. So we just go and shred now as a family all the time.
What else do you think brands, or the snowboard industry as a whole, could be doing to get kids on snowboards and inspire them to continue?
This year there was a Burton Riglet Park for a few weeks in Slovenia that any kid could try for free, and I saw kids who tried it get so hyped on snowboarding. Now some of the parents that were there are already buying boards for their kids. So these kids are going riding next season, and so are their parents. This family will be in the mountains next winter instead of being in front of the TV. Next year we are looking to set up a permanent Riglet Park at this resort that would be there all season for kids to try out for free. Imagine if every resort had this setup. I will do the math—let's say we get five kids hooked per day. An average family is four people. I found on Google that there are 5,500 resorts in the world. Days per season, 120. Throughout 10 years. 5 x 4 x 5500 x 120 x 10 = 132 million snowboarders. That is a lot of snowboarders!
Are your kids hyped on any other sports or activities, like skating, and how are you supporting those interests?
Yes! They are stoked on anything we can do. Snowboarding is just what we do in the winter.
The kids are into skateboarding, biking, we will go surf this summer, soccer… whatever we get our hands on, actually. We go camp a lot also lately and they love it. And it really makes it easy for us to just shred whatever.
You've been creating Grilosodes for a while now, way before vlogs were a thing. How did you come up with the idea and how are you adapting them now that these behind the scenes videos are getting so popular?
I have been making videos for a long time now. We have changed the Grilosodes into a bit more of a behind-the-scenes style shred video. I am not a big fan of the word "vlog" because I feel like it's not an accurate description of what we do. We try to do something that I would love to watch and that is a mixture between behind the scenes videos and a snowboard edit. It is for sure a lot of fun doing these and I think we got a few people that like them also.