Our Nation rider weeks kick off on Monday with Forest Bailey. But in the meantime check out his interview from our September Issue.
Take The Trip
An interview with Forest Bailey
By Liam Gallagher
Forest Bailey is a little tripped out.
He doesn't know what to say. He stumbles over his words. Pauses a lot. Keeps saying things like, "I don't know," 'It's crazy," "Wild," "A whirlwind," "I can't believe it."
"Everything's just happening so fast. I'm kinda blown away. Just how quickly it's all happened. And now...to be getting this interview...I don't know. I'm kinda speechless. It's just crazy how far snowboarding has taken me in the last four, five years. It's wild. I just can't really believe it, sometimes."
Then silence. Seriously, he's speechless.
Forest is at the wheel. Seeing perfectly straight. Headed for Mt. Hood. I'm sitting shotgun. We're going up to ride, try to, Windell's. It's cloudy and threatening rain, but Forest really wants to go. He's a fiend for it. And then after a minute, talking again...
"There's tons of homies up there right now," he says. "I think it'll be fun. Hopefully, not too stormy. We'll see."
Then some more small talk: The Summer is off to a great start. He's loving living in Portland. He's been here a couple months now, he's sharing a place with his sister and her boyfriend, and his girlfriend is living with him. He's got a garden, Burnside is just a bike ride away and Hood is about an hour drive. He's got a pass to Timberline and he's psyched to ride a bunch this Summer. Even more psyched to be able to cruise back to Portland at the end of the day. Avoid some of the chaos of Govy. Lurk less. Hang at home more. He's part introvert. And balance is becoming increasingly important for him. It's been a little off lately. Literally. He jacked his ankle skating a couple weeks back and it's still feeling a little tender. It's not that bad. Not bad enough to stop him today. He can't wait to ride.
"My addiction is serious," he says. "All I want to do is snowboard and skateboard. I just can't take a break, even though I know I should. Maybe that's why I always tweak my ankles right around now. I subconsciously hurt myself for like a month or two in the summer, so I'm forced to let my body heal."
We laugh, knowing he's only half joking. Knowing, yes, the subconscious is a powerful thing.
Forest gets a text. It's a weather report from Hood: "Pretty misty up there, clouds, low visibility."
"Huh. Well... we're already going, right? What do you think, should we just go?"
Yeah, we're going.
"What else are we gonna do?" That's a good question.
For Forest, snowboarding's been it, forever. His first love. His longest obsession. All he's ever thought about. Well, that and skateboarding. Always both. He grew up out East, in Jamaica, Vermont. It's a sleepy little artist/hippy/tourist town just outside Stratton. He was introduced to the snow early. He lived just minutes from the base of the mountain. He tried skiing a couple times but remembers hating it. His dad carried him off the mountain crying. But, the next winter he got a snowboard.
"And that's all I've really been doing since I was five years old," he says. "Yeah, snowboarding and skateboarding and school. But, school obviously didn't last very long."
Forest is a drop out. He never finished high school. He actually left home when he was just 17. Went West.
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"Yeah, I moved to Tahoe and I actually tried to keep going to school," he says. "I had this program where I had to go to school one day a week and just do homework all week. But the class was on Friday and all these kids I lived with went to college out there and on Thursday nights they'd always be partying. So that made it pretty tough to go to school on Friday. So I just stopped going."
Sounds like some bad influences.
He laughs, pauses, and then puts it bluntly; "Yeah, but I really didn't care about school at that point. Instead, I was putting all my effort into something that I loved to do, not just something that I had to do."
That still sounds like a tough sell to the parents, right? Not Forest's.
"Yeah, I mean they weren't like. 'It's a great idea' or anything. They weren't stoked. But they knew I was at a point where I could make decisions as an adult."
Forest grew up quick. He had a lot of freedom from a young age. "Tons of freedom!" he says.
Probably more than most kids his age could've handled. But he handled. He had a lot older influences and young parents who were like peers.
"Even as a kid I was always just surrounding myself with older people," says Forest. "I grew up skating with my dad's friends. My dad was probably like mid-30s and then all his friends were like mid-to-late 20s, I was like mid-teens, early teens. So, the age difference between his friends and me was the same as between them and my Dad. So, yeah, his homies were picking me up infourth and fifth grade, to go skating after school."
You can hear his love in how he talks about his family. There's no residual teen angst or veiled animosity. Never was. He has nothing but respect for both his parents. And he can't stop talking about how cool they are.
"My dad, he's the coolest. I've always seen him more like a homie. He worked at Stratton when I was growing up, so I'd always be up there with him."
"And my mom, she's the best. Best. Mom. Ever. She's a very spiritual lady. A bit of a witch but in the best of ways. She's always making her little potions and medicines. She makes a lot of salves. And she's just an insane artist. They had this little hippy shop in Jamaica, it was called Moonsplash."
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His parents were hippies. They followed the Grateful Dead for a while, sometimes with kids in tow. Yep, Forest saw Jerry Garcia perform. He was four maybe five. He's seen Furthur a bunch of times since. He loves the music. But, the scene...Well...
"It's definitely a weird scene," he says. "It became a lot of my friends' lives. I'd say half the people I grew up with are just making money to go on tour or just making money on tour. Some of them ended up becoming really fucked up."
I ask if he thinks he could've ended up down that road? On Tour? On that Bus? "Um..." he thinks. "No. I just always had skateboarding and snowboarding."
That's what kept him occupied, active, and never partying too hard. And, yeah, it'd be easy to assume that a kid like him, who grows up around Dead Heads, leaves home at 17, drops out of high school and travels the world, might be prone to partying. But, that's not Forest.
"I mean, yeah, my life is a party," he says. "I'm just not that into partying. It's just not good, like, over doing it. It's just not good for your body. You gotta take care of your body. It's all you got."
How old is this kid? Clearly old enough to know better. Because, well, he's seen what hard partying can do. Knows how it can wreck the body and mind. He'd rather take his beating on the mountain or mini-ramp. And when you think about it, the two paths-- following the dead and following snowboarding--aren't all that different. Both are escapes. There's a tribe. They travel. And everyone is really just looking for fun, friendship, and some inspiration.
"Yeah," says Forest. "And my Dad always uses that analogy; how snowboarding is similar to when he was on the Dead Tour, just traveling to places with no idea what to expect, and just ending up making new friends and seeing people that you've known since you were a kid."
Like what we do as snowboarders.
"Yeah, they're actually really similar," says Forest, now pausing again..."There's happiness and darkness in both. You gotta just always try to see the happiness. See the good things. Not really focus on the bad."
And what do you think the draw is? What is it that brings all these people together? Is it really the music? Or the snowboarding? Why travel all over the world? Why invest all that time, money, and energy into something like snowboarding or music? What are they looking for? What are you looking for?
"Well...I think that's the question," says Forest. "Everyone's looking for something, right? I don't really know what I'm looking for? Not yet...maybe I'm a little lost."
And then he's speechless again for a minute...
"I think it's just about all the good people you meet," says Forest. "Once you get fully involved in a community like that, then you feel bad when you don't stay involved, because you feel like you're missing out on seeing all those people."
So, it's the community.
"Yeah, exactly. It's the family vibe. It's true friendship. That's definitely it man. Snowboarding is just a way to connect with other humans, other humans who like an exciting activity."
But there's more to it than that. Forest knows it. He's thinking about it. Half-gazing out the window. Pausing again, collecting thoughts, then continuing:
"And there's other reasons too," he says. "Like...just being able to stay young. It's just about trying to stay youthful. Being a kid is being happy, so I think that's a big part of it too. It's the search for eternal youth. Look at my Dad, he's one of the most youthful people I know and he's almost 50."
Cool parents can be good role models. Forest agrees and continues.
"There's also the progression aspect of it," he says. "The drive to keep getting better, doing better, always improving. I've just always had a drive to snowboard better, to improve myself, and my skating and everything in my life. I just want to keep moving forward, always be moving forward."
That's important. Not everyone sees the value in that. Again, Forest has his parents to thank.
"Yeah, my family instilled it my brain," he says. "My parents were just so supportive and such good people. They were always down with all three of us, my sisters and me, to do whatever we wanted, and they were fully going to support whatever that may be."
Like, letting their son move across the country and drop out of high school? Yep, that's supportive.
We're getting close to Govy. The skies are clearing. Forest is fired up.
"Oh yeah, it's looking good," he says. "Its gonna be fun up there." He loves it up here. Compares Oregon to Vermont. Sees a lot of similarities between the two places and the people. And actually, Hood is where he first lived when he came west. Before he moved to Tahoe he spent the summer lurking around Govy.
"It's been a crazy five years since then," he says "Such a whirlwind...Just so much stuff happening."
Forest came up quick. Dude had his own board after putting out just one video part, the opener in Dump Em Out.
"Ya, Dump Em Out," he says. "It's so fun to say, 'Yeah my first video part was in this video, Dump Em Out.'"
He laughs and goes on to say he only went on two, maybe, three trips to film that part, and he really considers it more of a half-part. But watch the part. It's on Vimeo. You'll disagree. There's no question. It's a full part. And full of inspired snowboarding. So yeah, after that part dropped, people started taking notice. Not long after, Gnu pressed his name into a board. And the pressures began to mount.
"Yeah, getting that board made me feel so much more pressure," he says. "That kinda lit a fire under me, like damn, now I have to live up to something. Well...I don't really care...but, yeah...I guess sometimes..."
Sometimes he thinks about it like that. But he tries not to. He tries to play it cool. But it's obvious he feels some pressure these days. Things escalated quickly. He's getting pulled in a lot of different directions now. He's got more people to please. The game changed and it continues to change. His approach: roll with it and always enjoy the trip.
"I've already been catching myself taking it too seriously," he says. "So yeah, I don't know, I just gotta chill out and let it happen as it's gonna happen. Once it starts turning into something that I feel stressed about, it's not going to happen as well, it's gonna become a lot harder and I won't be as happy, so I don't want it to get to that."
You can’t not read the end… Head to the next page to wrap it up.
Forest knows the importance of balance. Especially finding a balance between time on and off the job. That is, time snowboarding and time at home with the lady and/or family. For Forest each is essential. He needs an even dose of both. He says he worries about getting burnt, getting too deep into snowboarding, losing touch with life outside the tribe.
"I need to have stuff going on outside of snowboarding or else...I'll just go crazy," he says. "I've always kept in touch with friends outside of snowboarding. It just evens out your brain. I like to talk about stuff besides snowboarding too, like what's going on in the world."
The son of nature lovers, he grew up with a strong connection to the Earth. He worries about the state of the environment. He doesn't have any answers, but he thinks often about what should be done.
"It seems like there's going to need to be a major change in the way we do things, a change in the way humans live," he says. "We're consuming resources way too quickly. We're repopulating way too quickly. And we're just not treating the Earth with much respect."
And yeah, he acknowledges that he's part of the problem. His job is clearly at odds with his intentions. But he does little things.
"Like that little garden we have at the house...like how much work does that take? Not much. You can grow your own food."
He wishes more people would try. More people would work together. More people would think about future.
"You gotta think about the future and what it's going to be like..."
It seems like Forest thinks about the future a lot. He tells me he thinks about how all the homeys he has now will eventually be coming around, visiting and hanging out when he's got a family of his own. How it'll be like when his parents' friends from Tour came around, when he was a kid.
"It'll be awesome!" he says, smiling.
He says he thinks about how he can keep doing this forever. How he admires Temple Cummins and Barrett Christy for the life and family they've created around snowboarding.
"I have so much respect for those two," he says. "I love seeing people taking their snowboarding to a place where they can continue to be involved without still being a pro snowboarder. They're involved in snowboarding because they love snowboarding and that's what they've done their whole life. Like McCarthy."
Forest looks up to Pat McCarthy. Admires how he's made a career out of snowboarding, stuck with it out and really set up a nice life for himself. That's what Forest wants to do. Eventually. He talks about buying a house, being smart with his money, settling down somewhere. But, then again, he's just not sure if he knows where yet. He's lived in Vermont, California, Nevada, Colorado, and Oregon and, well...he still wants to see what's out there.
"How do you choose where you want to live?" he asks?
Another good question.
Forest is a wanderer. Has been his whole life. There's no doubt he inherited wanderlust from his parents. And then snowboarding validated the lifestyle. So now...he's still wandering.
"I just need to keep moving," he says.
ADHD? Maybe. He's definitely self-medicating with snowboarding. And it seems to work. It keeps him fiercely focused.
"I think about snowboarding constantly, man," he says. "There are just so many possibilities being strapped to that piece of wood. It's crazy. There's still so much stuff to be done.
And it keeps him up at night. Seriously.
"Oh yeah!" he says. "I'm so addicted to filming at this point. All I think about is filming, I want to film video parts, for the rest of my life, or as long as I can..."
He laughs, knowing he's only half-joking.
"Snowboarding is the best. I love it. It's just so fun...and funny. Like, we're not even wearing our normal clothes. We wear these funny costumes, you know. And you gotta put on these big boots. And I just always try to remind myself how goofy it is."
Forest is good at keeping it goofy. But don't be fooled. He can be dead serious about snowboarding when he wants to be. When he's working for a trick and wrecking hard and hiking for another go. He's got the fire. Real passion. And he's dedicated. He's serious about self-improvement. And as goofy as he'll say snowboarding is, he still works hard at it. There's still a lot he wants to do. Like spend more time in the backcountry. He talks about filming a full part, with an equal number of backcountry and street shots. That's the plan. He's buying a truck and a sled this fall. Going for it. All in. He's excited to learn, as always.
"I just want to take advantage of how lucky I am. Make the best of it," he says. "So, many people try so hard to do something with snowboarding, or with whatever it may be, and they may never get the chance to so I just want to keep it going. There's just so much to learn."
Then I ask: What's the most important lesson you've learned from snowboarding?
Again a quick fit of speechlessness. Then an answer:
"You've just got to take advantage of being put on this planet," he says. "We're so lucky to be born into a planet that we can breath on. It's crazy man, we live on a magical planet, it's a magical place. So, instead of just watching TV and being on the computer and playing video games and shit, you should take advantage of the world. Travel and see some other places that are foreign to you, scare yourself. Live."
In short: Take the trip.