Words by Eddie Wall
"It was a dream come true. I lived on Top Ramen and peanut butter sandwiches for a full season and had a smile on my face the entire time. The heating in our house was almost nonexistent, so we slept with our snowboarding gear on. This was one of the best winters of my life."
Basements are dark and cold. Starting at 12 years old I worked in basements every summer break. My father installed plumbing and heating systems, and the majority of the work is done in these dim spaces. But, you see, he had a different way of looking at them. He always said basements were the best place to work because they're cool during the hot summers, and you can warm them with a space heater in the winter. They protected us from the harsh East Coast weather. This is when I learned there are two ways to look at any situation. You can see the negative or the positive. It's all up to you.
When I was 18, I left the basements and headed to the West Coast to follow my dream of being a pro snowboarder. I wasn't even sure what that meant, because I was from a small town in Pennsylvania and wasn't sure if pros could even make money. All I knew is that they got to snowboard more than anyone else, and that's all I wanted. I became a nighttime janitor at Kirkwood, California. You could view cleaning up human feces as a negative job, but considering it left my days free to snowboard, it was the best gig on the planet. After a winter of unclogging toilets, my dream of becoming a pro hadn't become a reality, so I made the pilgrimage to Mount Hood to snowboard all summer.
Thanks to my friends Danny Sheehan and Benny Grammarosa, I was fortunate enough to get a job at Windells. I was the dishwasher in the kitchen. They didn't have a machine washer, so I scrubbed hundreds of campers' dishes every morning and evening. I didn't get a paycheck. Our payment was a pass to go ride the camp during the day. They also gave us a small run-down hotel room to share with six people. We woke at five each morning and washed dishes until ten, then did the same thing in the evening from four until eight. This was high-speed work, and by the end of each meal our clothes would be completely soaked and covered in half-eaten food. It may not seem like an ideal job, especially not getting paid, but once again it left the days open to snowboard and try to progress. We worked hard and rode harder. I had about $50 to my name, no bank account, no laptop, no cell phone, and very few belongings. I still consider this one of the best times in my entire life.
After that summer at Mount Hood, my dream of becoming a professional still hadn't come to fruition. Although I was scared and intimidated, I moved to Mammoth, which was the epicenter of snowboarding. Once again, I applied for the position of nighttime janitor and got the job. By this point, my resume of cleaning skills was pretty impressive. After a few months at the new job in Mammoth, I got my first break when K2 Snowboards offered to sponsor me. During all these jobs, I was riding eight hours a day, learning new tricks, slamming, stretching, studying videos and magazines, and not partying. I didn't have beer money. K2 signed me for $500 a month. In my mind I had made it. I was being paid to snowboard. I was a pro. So I gracefully retired from my janitorial duties.
Once I left my job, I realized I also had to leave employee housing. I found a room in town for $460 a month. I also needed $20 a month to fill up my 1978 Toyota Corolla to get me to the hill. This left the other $20 for food. A $20 monthly food budget sounds miserable, but in my mind I was rich! I could snowboard all day and didn't have to go to work at night. It was a dream come true. I lived on Top Ramen and peanut butter sandwiches for a full season and had a smile on my face the entire time. The heating in our house was almost nonexistent, so we slept with our snowboarding gear on. This was one of the best winters of my life.
Near the end of that season, I met Kevin Jones. He put me on Jeenyus, which eventually joined forces with Forum, and my life changed after that. No more living in tiny rooms with six people, no more wondering if I would have enough money for my next meal, no more cleaning toilets or washing dishes. My dream had become a reality. It's all perspective. Things can always be worse, and sometimes what we see as our lowest points are what shape and define us. Just remember there are always two ways to look at any situation. You can see the negative or the positive. It's up to you.