It's funny how people always think Eric is the older brother between us. Maybe it's because he's so enthusiastic about everything he does, or because he'll take your money in a dice game, or 'cause he's got a man beard like Grizzly Adams, or simply because he hits man-sized shit. Either way, E-Jack is the man, and even though sometimes it doesn't seem so, he's my baby bro. There's really not enough space here for me to describe the amount of radicalness in the big son . When he sets his mind to something, there's no stopping him. When we were younger, he wanted to be a truck driver. If you could get a driver's license at age nine he would've kissed mom and dad goodbye and been truckin' cross-country, but snowboarding came before he got that chance. At that young age he started shredding with so much passion, just like everything he does: skating, flyfishing, music--he learns quickly and never quits.
The kid truly inspires me; he's got the heart of a lion and never compromises. His talent in snowboarding has been overshadowed by injuries the past few years, but he won't let anything set him back. He knew he was going to slay, and with patience he grew stronger. This is just the beginning. I can't tell you how stoked I am to see him have a year that reflects who he is and how he shreds. Now he's getting an interview in TransWorld! I get so much joy in writing this intro, I'm super proud of my little bro--Hell yeah! And he's not just my little brother--he's Eric Jackson!--John Jackson
Words: Joel Muzzey
This was a big year. You said you feel like your snowboarding has just begun...
I do. So many things led up to this point. Being hurt for the past two years and not being able to do what I love really set it off. There was a fire burning inside of me that I couldn't control and the only way to let it out was on my snowboard.
After two back-to-back winters on the couch, this year was make or break for you.
Yeah, there was a lot of pressure. It came from all different angles. From sponsors, from within--what I expected of myself. Pressure is an interesting thing. It can destroy a person, but it's also a very powerful tool that you can harness to fuel the fire, and that's what I tried to do, dude. It wasn't easy--it took time for me to learn how to control that pressure. I still don't have it all figured out, but I realized that letting the pressure get to me was only gonna hurt me. So, I used it.
Your sponsors were starting to stress?
Injuries happen in snowboarding. Especially now, it's getting gnarlier and gnarlier every season. And that's something my sponsors understand, but there comes a point when they have to start asking themselves, 'Is it worth it for us to pay this guy? Are we getting what we need from this rider?' And dude, I was hurt. I had a year left on my Nike contract when I broke my foot the first time and finished that out, and then I did my foot again and got a six-month contract. That was like, the biggest pressure. I knew if I didn't have a good year I was gonna get chopped, man. But I reached a point where I was like, "I'm just gonna go snowboard." That was my mindset: just go and go and go and try to stay healthy. I knew that as long as I stayed healthy, I could do it. I just had to be smart on my board.
But you got pretty low.
Yeah. Anybody who's been hurt knows how down you get. When you're you're in that pit, your mind plays tricks on you. Midwinter--it's a good winter, there's snow, you're seeing web videos and hearing all the stories--you get down. It's hard to stay positive in those times. Am I going to be able to pull through, am I really cut out for snowboarding? Can my body take it? I would be lying if I said these thoughts didn't go through my mind.
I questioned whether snowboarding was the route for my life, but I never thought about giving up riding, I just knew that I was coming to the end of my leash with sponsors. On one side, I'm out there destroying myself riding and I want to have something to show for it. On the other hand I'm like, 'If I get cut by my sponsors I'm done, how will I keep snowboarding?' But that's just a bad voice in my head. You gotta go back to the roots: I love snowboarding. I will snowboard forever. And when I realized that, it reassured me.
How did you dig yourself out of that pit?
Well, it started when I read this book called Mind Gym: An Athlete's Guide To Inner Excellence. It's a sports psychology book about the importance of the mental game. It's all football and baseball players, but it's about mental strength, so it applies to any athlete. Everyone goes to the gym or the trainer and takes care of the physical side, but when the pressure is on, do you have the mental toughness? It's about strengthening your brain. And that's what it takes to step to the next level. The book sparked an interest so I contacted the author to recommend a sports psychologist.
What was it like visiting a sports psychologist?
It was weird, like I was in a movie. You know, going to the shrink with all these problems and opening up to somebody you don't know...but it helped me. Maybe I just needed somebody to tell me I was good enough and that I could do it. I did this mental stuff after I got hurt the first time, so when I got hurt the second time; my recovery period was way easier. I was prepared for it and knew how to deal. And I continued reading books and pressing on, getting myself as strong as I could for this season. Anytime you're feeling good and confident, you're going to perform--on your board or in anything else in life.
So you got that figured out and then you get bumped from Standard Films?
That was hard for me, for sure. I felt like Standard was my family. Mike Hatchett and Travis Robb have taught me so much in snowboarding: about terrain, avalanches, everything. Them putting me in the movies brought me to where I am today. The details of what happened with Standard are irrelevant, but it resulted in me joining up with the People Crew, a totally new outlook. Fresh and new.
Pushed out of your comfort zone?
Totally. You know, everybody says change is good, but I've always been kinda scared of change. I get in my comfort zone. When I go to lunch, I get the turkey sandwich every time. I love turkey, you know? At the beginning it was really hard. I had no idea what this crew was gonna be like, never worked with them before. I know the Standard guys back me, do these guys back me? I was in a position where I would have to prove myself to these guys, too. I was like, you know what, I'm just gonna snowboard. I have a good attitude, I know the fundamentals of a crew--it's a group effort--you help each other, you shuttle each other. When someone's not landing something, you encourage them. It was all stuff I learned from Standard. So, I just took the attitude that I wasn't going to worry about the new crew, I was just going to go out and snowboard.
The first trip of the year I went to Sonora with Shaun McKay and [filmer] Justin Eeles, and we had an awesome time. Lots of laughs, got a few tricks, and that was the start; I knew right then, this was going to be an awesome season. I could tell by the way Justin films and the way he conducts himself in the backcountry, that this was what I needed. The vibes from the People crew were good. It was more fuel for the fire.
You also bounced around a bit, filmed with other crews...
Yeah, in the past I had never broken out of my film crew and done something else. This year I went on a trip with DaKine to Golden, BC with Curtis Ciszek and Annie Boulanger, and that was super fun. After that I went on a heli trip with Danny Davis and the Mitrani brothers. Jake Blauvelt invited me on a trip to the interior of BC, so I packed up and went with him. It was cool and refreshing to break out and do these different things. The People guys are so laid back and mellow, they were cool with it. It wasn't like that in the past for me. It's a different deal than Standard. They have their spots, and they've pioneered so much terrain--they have that protective element, which is totally understandable. Respectable. But with People it's like, they work with the other crews, you tell them what you're going to hit, where you plan to go. Everyone is going to pretty much the same zones anyway. If we went to one spot and another crew went to another spot, we compare how the snow was later, what we saw, like avalanches, it was just more of a community effort and it was awesome. At first I was tripping on that. In the past everything was pretty hush-hush but People was a totally different vibe.
So you fit right in with the new crew?
Yeah, but it didn't really matter if I fit in. What would I do if I didn't fit in, change? No. I am who I am. It's funny though, Eeles had a totally different idea of me. He thought I was like this rapper kid, E-Jack! Which is not even me at all. He said he was a little concerned at first, you know, about if I'd mesh with the crew.
Film crews are tight-knit, especially when they've been working together awhile.
Oh, for sure. But we clicked. When JP and Simon came out with me, Eero, and Shaun, it was like a big, happy crew. A lot of the time, JP and Simon were just out there for moral support, you know, sniffing shit out. They did a lot of sniffing. But it all comes back to the fundamentals of a crew. If someone's looking at a feature, it's like, you shuttle 'em up, get 'em up on top to look at it--hype them up. I try very hard to be a positive person and bring positive energy to the session.
You took a lot of negatives and flipped every one of them. How?
Well, I had a trainer, a guy named Paul Henniker. He worked me. So I knew my body was strong. My mental game was the strongest it had ever been.. Yeah, I had a ton of pressure: sponsors, new crew, but the biggest fear I had wasn't whether or not I was going to snowboard, it wasn't would I mesh with the new crew, but could I stay healthy? Could I ride all winter without getting wrecked?
But it's not like you played it safe. Your part starts with 20 tomahawks and has some big flights.
True, but everything I did I felt really confident and comfortable with. There was one line I sledded past every day for a month and a half, just looking at it. I watched all the snow conditions come and go and change, until one day I was finally comfortable with the snow, then went up and hit it. You've gotta listen to yourself. When you're in the middle of a season and you're feeling good; you're landing stuff, you just start to push it. Yeah, you're gonna tomahawk, that happens, and you're going to be sore as shit the next day, but you just stretch, maybe drink some of McKay's muscle recovery drink.
You said that in your old video parts, all the Whistler partying kinda showed through in your riding. But this year you went up to Canada on a mission.
When I was 18, 19 years old, living in Canada with my truck and my sled, I could drink legally, girls everywhere--I'm a kid, you know, I'm partying. But then you realize that's only gonna take you so far. Do you really want to take your riding to the next level? I did, and so partying became the least important thing in my life. I posted up in Squamish and grew a massive beard, almost like a statement. Like, I don't give a f--k. I wasn't there to get girls or go to bars, I was there for one thing and that's snowboarding. Anytime I wasn't snowboarding, I was fishing. Those are the two things I love most in life, and up there I got to do both within close range--the best of both worlds. There were weeks of down days, and all I did was fish. It keeps you sane.
There were a lot of people banking on you having a good year, but there's no way you did it just to satisfy other people or lock down a contract.
Definitely not. It goes back to the first day in my backyard on John's old Craig Kelly. The roots grew so deep from the very beginning--you couldn't rip those roots out. When it comes right down to it, it doesn't matter who you are; you are snowboarding for yourself. I wanna make my sponsors happy but I'm gonna snowboard how I want to snowboard. Back me or not, no hard feelings.
Your brother John's riding casts a long shadow. How do you deal with that?
There's no getting around that. John is just killing it, one-hundred percent. He's on his own level. But instead of looking at that as discouraging, like, 'He's so good, am I ever gonna be that good?' I just look at him like, 'Yeah, I want to be that good and I have it in me to be that good.' I try to use his riding as motivation. I try to take every situation and bring out the positive in it. That's the only way to live.
He's your mentor.
Obviously, he's my brother and my best friend. He knows what's going on in my life. We talk about everything. He was like, "You gotta kill it this year," and that was my mindset, like, 'I'm on it--stay healthy and just destroy shit.' He was kinda coaching me on riding smart, analyzing terrain. And we talked about tricks. Like double corks. I'd never tried them, he's got all four in his part, obviously, he's got them dialed. And he was hurt on the couch, so I knew his position, he was hating it, not able to ride, you know? So we talked on the phone a bunch. He called me up one day after I had got the backside double and told me he thought I should try it frontside. He explained why it would be easy for me because of the way I do switch back fives, real corked. So he told me to do a really corked front five then just hold it and it goes right into a corked switch back five. Breaking up the tricks like that helps. It was seriously so crazy how what he said worked perfectly. So then the right jump presented itself. We had it all ready to go but we were hitting this pat-down right beside it, thinking we had plenty of light. All of a sudden we realize we're running out of light and I just hit the panic button, like, 'Let's do this now, I want to try the frontside double ten.' I had to leave the next day, too, so I was like, this is it. I won the ro-sham-bo, so I hit the jump first. I had never tried this trick before. I was up there, strapped in, got the green light that everyone was ready, and I did it exactly how I pictured it in my head. Put it down. It was like a double FT. First time hitting the jump, first time trying the trick. I landed and was riding away with my hands up like, could not believe it. I linked my head to my snowboard. I had a crystal clear vision of what I was going to do and I did it to a T. Something just clicked. And that is so good for your confidence.
The elusive mind-body connection. Somehow everything floating around in your head just solidified?
I guess, but you know, when you're out there, you're just thinking about riding, not about any of the other shit. What was different for me this year though, was that I was focused: thinking about the weather, the light, the wind, the landing. I was just more in-tune than I've ever been in the past.
You're growing up.
Definitely. I've started to separate out what matters and what doesn't. Partying doesn't matter. Sure, it's fun--I have partied, the best shit ever--but it's the same thing over and over again. You get older and you start to get that gauge, like, I can do this, this is good, but I can't do that. You see the roads you could go down, where that path might lead you. I guess it's just life, experiences. You learn. I can't stress over the things I can't control--like the weather and the snow.
Can you confirm rumors of a new project?
Oh yeah. For years John and I rode together filming for Standard. But the last time we actually spent a winter together was filming for Catch The Vapors. From there we moved on and did our own things. For years now we've been talking about making our own movie. Finally we're both at a spot where we can make it happen. John recently signed with Red Bull and they're supporting him--and me--to do this new movie project. It's something that will be different. Something nobody has ever done. I can't tell you too many details but it's going to be a trip. John being Rider Of The Year two years in a row, starring in The Art Of Flight and me coming off my best year ever, there's no better time than now. I can't wait to be out there riding with John again.