Forward 15.8: Gigi RÅf

Dedicated to the memory of “my friend Oli Breuss, and the funnest sessions ever.”-Gigi

Many people could claim to have discovered Gigi RÅf, but the fact is, a rider of his ability will without fail make their presence felt, no matter who spots them first. Christian “Gigi” RÅf is one of those kids. His natural talent and style demanded recognition-and sure enough, it came. Gigi’s riding is an enviable mix of finesse and raw power-something like Peter and Bjorn, even a little Mark Gonzales thrown in. But these comparisons are lost on Gigi-he does his own thing and looks only as far as personal progression and enjoyment for motivation. And it’s that outlook that delivered him from obscurity into the ranks of today’s top pros.

Growing up in the Alpine farming village of Au, Austria, the youngest of three kids, Gigi learned the value and virtues of hard work. Before being consumed with snowboarding, he spent summers working on the family farm. The RÅfs also have guest cabins up on the surrounding mountains, which they work to maintain. When Gigi’s not traveling he returns home to Au where, “We have three horses, two cows, some chickens, and there’s one rabbit left. Our ducks in the fishpond didn’t survive attacks from out of the wilderness.” Gigi’s secret hideout is his uncle’s cabin, just beyond the boundary ropes of his home mountain, Diedamskopf. He and the Forest Crew ride and chill “easy style” up there, building kickers with their old snowcat and sliding rails his brother makes. “When there is fresh powder,” he adds, “we go out snowshoe hiking.”

Gigi explains, “I became sponsored by the usual route, I would say-through a regional cup I qualified for a national competition.” This was back in 1995. He cruised around the European countryside chasing the contest circuit in the back of his sister Bernadette’s car, with close friend Sani Alibabic. At that time, the little guy was riding a 129 cm board but already going big. He eventually made his way onto Burton, and came to the States for the TWSB Team Challenge in ’00, officially making his mark on the American scene.

His display of technical prowess and casual style catapulted him into the spotlight, instantly earning him the TransWorld Rookie Of The Year Award and a loaded feature in our Interview Issue 14.6. That same season he went on to film a killer part in Kingpin’s Destroyer. Gigi had arrived where all his friends and supporters knew he would-among the world’s most sought-after snowboard talents.In 2001 Gigi filmed for the movies Brainstorm and Transcendence and traveled relentlessly, while still making time to get back to his hideaway in the mountains of Austria. Upon returning home he says, “There are a few people I call when I get in close, for an airport pickup maneuver. Once I’m home, my dad usually asks for a story about my journey while eating Mom’s dinner. Then I try to get the jetlag over with sleep-my bags stay unpacked for a day or two in my room.”

With his team managers cracking the whip, he’s been back on the nomad program this season. Gigi’s traveling near and far in pursuit of powder, pictures, and footage. In his downtime he makes occasional visits to So Cal, where he’s picking up surfing and “really starting to like beach activities,” but for the most part he’s got a one-track mind-snowboarding. Gigi is currently representing Burton, Volcom, Dragon Optics, Clae, and Backyard snowshoes on his nonstop world tour. He credits his parents for his success in snowboarding and life, because, he says, “They always told me to hang on and finish what I started.”