Words: Graham Hiemstra
PHOTOS: Tim Peare
2012 was a hell of a year for young NW native Austen Sweetin. After landing heaps of magazine coverage, and laying down some seriously spooky shit in the streets for #Forum, the all around ripper was just as stunned as the rest of the industry when Burton announced the “restructuring” of its affiliated brands in late October. While snowboarding saw an end of an era, the departure of The Program also ended one for Sweetin, who spent six years head to toe with Forum and Special Blend. Now in the new year, Sweetin finds himself on a couple new rosters--NOW bindings, 686 Outerwear, and YES snowboards--and filming for a part in the upcoming TransWorld video. As 2012 came to a close we caught up with Sweetin in his hometown of Seattle for a cup of joe to talk about the wild ride with Forum and what’s in store for 2013.
First off let’s tackle the old before getting to the new. How did word that The Program was ending officially come through?
AS: I officially heard from all the head guys over at Forum around 8am. They called the whole team a couple hours before the press release and just told us. It all came so sudden. We found out the same day everyone else found out because that’s when Jake made his decision to stop doing The Program and all that. I had like three or four different phone calls that covered all the bases.
It was crazy. I talked to the whole team that day. Everyone was talking. It just hit all of us so hard, it was a shock.
By hearing the news at essentially the same time as everyone else, were you and the rest of the team just put out on the street?
AS: Not necessarily. The people that were under contract are still doing Forum throughout the season so they have time to find new sponsors and get back on their feet. They also helped the rest of us all out with finding new sponsors. [Kevin] Keller and [Bryan] Knox and those guys helped me get in touch with a couple brands I’ve been talking with. For as big of a shock of it was, they definitely helped and made it a little easier. It still sucks because I’ve been on forum for six years, and other guys have been on there for longer... Pat’s been on there for I think like 11 or 12 years.
Now two months later you find yourself on NOW and YES.
AS: Yup, that’s where I ended up. I took my time with it though. [YES] hit me up the day after it happened. They were out having drinks with Peter [Line] and they were all talking about it and the next day I got a call. I got boards, tested and tried them out. And then two months later, now, I finally made my decision to stick with them. It’s all pro snowboarders that run it, and they make good product. So it just felt like a good family to be with.
It’s funny you mention family, which is a way that Forum always portrayed itself. With the Forum 8, and up until the end with the last crew that you were in, they built their legacy on a tight knit team. Is that something you’re looking to find at YES, or is that even something you can find?
AS: I mean, I don’t think I could necessarily find what I had. Just because I feel like forum was such a unique brand. Peter started it in the 90’s and put together what he thought was his favorite and the most progressive riders. And throughout the years if you watch the Forum videos the team changed here and there as they got older, but a lot of the guys were on there for a while. And then there was the new generation I feel like. It was just a tight knit crew; we spent 12 months traveling together. We are all homies. So I don’t know if you can make that again. But with YES I feel it’s a similar vibe. Just how it’s rider driven, and how those guys started it. They’re all homies. And if they want me to be a part of it that it just makes me more excited to be a part of it. I feel welcome. Welcomed to the team I guess (laughs).
This all seems to be coming together just as you begin filming for the new TransWorld video. How is it riding with a bunch of new dudes rather than just the same old Forum team riders?
AS: I mean it’s a lot different. It has its ups and its downs. But riding with a new crew is cool. I’m excited, especially because I’m filming with a couple good friends this season who are also doing TransWorld. And now I can take all the stuff I’ve learned from Pat [Moore] and Andreas [Wiig] and Jake [Welch] and all those guys over the past four years of filming and I can share it. I feel I’m somewhat knowledgeable. And now going with new people is opening my eyes too. [With Forum] we all rode together so we all developed a similar... not style, but idea of stuff to hit. So now going on a trip with like Forest Bailey I’m seeing new stuff that I didn’t see before.
I feel like this season I’ll have a lot more variety and a broader range of tricks. I feel like there's a little more creativity...but I still want to keep what i’ve been doing-- a lot of big stuff, like wall rides, gap rails. I still want to do everything big. Because that was one thing we were really persistent about [at Forum], we wanted to produce A-grade shots. And I definitely want to keep doing that. But mix it in with some other stuff; add a different flavor to it, you know?
When #FORUM dropped I remember you mentioned being bummed that your backcountry footy got cut. Forum liked to show you as the rail rider--a street rider--which isn’t a miss-representation, but it doesn’t show the whole picture.
AS: I mean, last year I spent a lot of time in the backcountry. I spent like a month in Whistler backcountry with Mario [Kaeppeli] and Daniel [Ek]. It wasn’t anything about my footage or any of that; they just wanted to keep the video short. So it was really just the way the video laid out. I’m not upset or anything, but I do have footage that hasn’t been seen. And I’m working on getting that out. So hopefully you guys will see some backcountry footage soon.
Are you hoping to get more of a chance to show the other side and get back into the BC with the rest of the YES guys this year?
AS: I’m definitely looking forward to riding in the backcountry with the YES dudes. They’re some of the best BC riders out there, so it’s going to be sick to just get out and push my limits. I’m really excited to get up to Whistler with DCP and JP (Solburg), to explore more of that area. They hit a lot of natural stuff too, on top of the big jumps. So it’ll be fun. I'm definitely excited.
Any word on outerwear sponsors?
AS: I got some secrets but they’re for me (laughs). I’m still working on it. Soon though...
Ed. Note: Austin just signed with 686 outerwear
New year, new sponsors, new video--what are you most looking forward to in 2013?
AS: Just snowboarding.
AS: That’s it. I mean, yeah. Keep doing my thing. I don’t plan on going anywhere. Keep pushing it each year, hopefully film full parts every year-- that’s my goal. Maybe do a rail jam here or there, I don’t know. It could happen. Maybe I’ll go to the Olympics (laughs).
Check out Austen in this video from the opening of The Streets at Seven Springs, and be on the lookout for his backcountry part, coming to TWSNOW.COM soon!