Perspectives: Forest Bailey

Forest Bailey is all grown up. When I first met Forest, it was at an event called The Launch and he was Red Bull's new up-and-coming rail kid. He was kind, quiet and explosive on his snowboard, his on and off hill personas in stark contrast to each other. However, over the years, I've watched Forest grow into a well-respected and well-rounded professional snowboard, but moreover, I've watched him grow into a man, an adult, with conviction and opinions and artistic vision, and with that, his snowboarding evolved and he rocketed to the top of pro riding. Recently, Forest has had some time to sit back and reflect on life and snowboarding due to a knee injury but he's back, better than ever, and he's got big plans on the horizon and a refreshed outlook on shredding and life. I had a chance to catch up with Mr. Bailey last week and pick his brain on a slew of topics as well as peg him about his upcoming plans for this winter. Read on to get Forest's perspective and keep an eye out for what he's got in store for all of you in the near future.
—T. Bird

Forest in the forest. PHOTO: T. Bird

You said you just got back from the gym, how are you preparing for this upcoming winter?
Yeah, well, I work out with my friend Becca, it's pretty funny because I go in there and we just joke about how bad I am at working out. She's super rad. She's a super good homie and I like to support her little PT business, but I've probably been in there like five times in the last six months or something. I want to do it more regularly but I'm also just skating all the time and doing other shit so I just do it when I feel like I need to.

Forest Bailey in the Lake Tahoe backcountry. PHOTO: T. Bird

Well you're a pretty active dude, so I'm sure even if you didn't go to the gym you'd be pretty good, but it probably helps just to kind of get the muscle memory back and get certain things strong again before you gotta shovel and land in pow.
I never went to the gym my entire life until I had knee surgery, and then that was a turning point where I was like, "Oh shit, time to change my way of life a little bit and start taking care of my body, man." I only got one and I want to be active for the rest of my life. You can only be a little kid for so long.

It's all about staying strong and keeping your body healthy.

It's just being able to keep doing what I'm doing. You see people who are in their sixties who are still super active and you know that didn't just happen randomly. You have to work on your body constantly if you want to be able to continue doing what you love to do.

Normally someone takes a picture of a bird in the forest, but this time a bird is taking a picture of the Forest. PHOTO: T. Bird

Absolutely. You mentioned the knee surgery, I know everyone copes with injury a little differently. Introspectively, how did you cope with it? What were some of the mechanisms you used? Were you bummed? Were you motivated? Were you distracted by other things like your art?

Yeah, it definitely changes your perspective on life, for sure. What it did for me was really kind of forced me into a different lifestyle. All of the sudden I wasn't wanting to hang out with snowboarders and skaters all the time because they only talk about that type of stuff and they only meet up when they're going skating or when they're going snowboarding, so it kind of forced me to look outside of my normal friend group and find some new people to hang out with that have different interests and are exploring other ways of living. A lot of my friends now don't really skate or snowboard and I like that. I like being able to surround myself with other types of people, but then I also still love hanging out with all my skate and snow homies, too. A lot of the people that I skate and snowboard with are interested in a lot of other things, too. The knee injury really gave me a lot of time to think about my life and it gave me a lot of time to paint. Luckily, I'm supported by some pretty awesome companies that are willing to wait it out and not just be like, "Oh shit, Forest had knee surgery…he's done." It happened at a pretty high point, I'd say, in my career. I'd been filming parts every year since I was 18 years old until I had knee surgery and now I'm looking at coming back to snowboarding in a little bit of a different way but still trying to shred at a top level.

Forest Bailey with a tail-y? PHOTO: T. Bird

It's funny you mention that because I've known you for a while now and you seem like the type of person that absolutely loves snowboarding and you're completely consumed with it in the wintertime because it's your job, but you also need other outside influences in your life. Is that a pretty correct assumption?

Most definitely. Snowboarding is a big inspiration for me but a lot of things inspire me to live. I'm definitely looking for inspiration outside of snowboarding. I honestly don't even really pay attention to snowboarding. Like, I watch all the stuff that I feel I need to watch, but there's a lot of stuff that I don't. I mean really, what's even coming out in snowboarding right now? I don't know, it's like I'm just waiting for snowboarding to kind of give me something that I want to watch.

You've probably been so consumed with it at this point for the last 10-15 years that you've almost seen it all.
Yeah. I'm 25 and I've been snowboarding for 20, 21 years, and I've been a pro snowboarder for almost 10 years now.

And I feel like when you put in that much time to something, you've consumed so much in the realm of snowboarding from videos to photos to magazines, that you kind of earn the right to be a little bit more picky about what you want to consume from there on forward. You know what you're going to like, you know which riders are going to put out stuff that's going to stoke you out, so you'll watch that. But the rest of it just kind of falls into the fray.

Yeah and I'm always stoked to see some new kids too and find some new stuff, but it's not like skating where people can film all year round. It's so seasonal and it's so hard to make it happen and put out something creative and different and new. But I definitely see it and there are a lot of riders that I'm stoked on what they're doing right now.

What do you think are the main factors of influence in your approach to art?
I was pretty lucky from a young age to start working with designers, creating board graphics before my art was at a place where I felt good about putting it on something, so having that outlet going into making my art I'm like, "As soon as I make something that's good enough, there are all these places for it to live." It can live on a snowboard and it can live on a jacket, so all of the sudden there was so much motivation to start putting a lot of energy into that because once I got to a place where I felt like it was my own, then I could put it on stuff and have it grow. I just like to paint things that I want to see on a board, paint things I want to see in my house or in a friend's house or just try and create what's on my mind.

Forest’s art on full display at Mt. Baker. PHOTO: Erik Hoffman.

It's difficult to explain I'm sure because you're just creating what you know you're going to like but it's really hard to explain to someone what that necessarily is before you do it.
Yeah. You start with one little idea and then that idea evolves and changes and then over time you become more comfortable with making certain things. I'm just making stuff all the time. It starts getting kind of crazy. Honestly, with the knee surgery and everything, it seems like art has become almost as big of a part of my career as snowboarding in some way because my job isn't only to just snowboard now. I also am constantly working with companies, designing stuff, and there's pressure that comes from that as well. So now it's not only just pressure to snowboard but also pressure to create.

Do you see a correlation between your artistic vision and your approach to riding a snowboard evolving year over year?
Most definitely. Everything is constantly changing. I just want to make art and go skating and go snowboarding and hang out with my friends and I'm pretty lucky that I just get to do that so I'm just going to keep that going for as long as I can. As I grow and change so will the thing that I do. Nothing is ever the same, everything is different.

“Honestly, with the knee surgery and everything, it seems like art has become almost as big of a part of my career as snowboarding” – Forest Bailey. PHOTO: T. Bird

You're heading off to Europe in a couple of weeks?
Yup. That's the plan. I'm going to go over there for a month with my homie Seamus. Just skate and snowboard and hang out. I'm in this group art show in London with Jamie Lynn and Bryan Iguchi and Schoph.

Very cool. Lastly, what are your plans for the upcoming season?
You'll see more about it soon. I'm just trying to make something that I can be proud of. Snowboarding is so weird right now because there are no videos that I could see myself filming for. There's no place where I feel like I'm gonna fit in so I guess that just kind of leaves me to just try and make something on my own.

I'm looking forward to seeing it. I bet kids are going to be psyched on it.

Yeah, I hope. I should probably talk more about it but really it's just making a movie with my buddy Seamus and we're just going to skate and snowboard and make art for the next year and try and make something cool.