Riders to Watch
From the January 2013 Issue of TransWorld SNOWboarding
Who To Watch from This Past Winter and the Next
Interviews with Ståle Sandbech, Frank April, Danimals, Johnny Lazz, Forest Bailey, Rusty Ockenden, Helen Schettini, and Brandon Cocard.
The names of certain riders start popping up again and again throughout the season. We hear rumors about whose part is coming together, witness some of the tricks go down firsthand, maybe even help pull a bungee or pack a lip for some of them. When winter's over, we watch the new crop of videos, scour photos, and look at contest results. From there we start a list on which riders we think should get an interview. It's got a lot of names at first, but it gets shorter. Just because someone put out a good part this year doesn't guarantee him or her a spot. They've got to have momentum built on solid riding in the past, but also show promise that they're in it for the long haul. Get to know these eight riders. They're pushing the level of riding today, and we hope they'll do so for a long time to come.
Birth Date: January 12, 1988
Hometown: Truckee, California
Sponsors: Capita, Airblaster, Union, Porters
Video: Absinthe Resonance
Interviewed by Mark Dangler
Brandon is an incredibly diverse rider, one who can walk the fine line between "fun" and "gnarly" all with a style that makes you forget there could ever be a division between the two. While he embodies a carefree, vagabond sort of attitude that has helped make past Airblaster segments memorable, he has also been able to lock down a standout segment the past two years, the most recent amongst an Absinthe crew stocked with veteran heavyweights. —Mark Dangler
When you were coming up were you thinking of it as "I want to be a pro snowboarder," or did it just happen for you?
No, I always wanted to be a pro snowboarder. It's kind of weird. One fall, before I even had a snowboard, my dad brought home Simple Pleasures and Decade and after that I was like, "Whoa, man. People do this for a living? I want to do that!"
So you had never seen snowboarding until your dad brought home those Mack Dawg videos?
I mean, I had probably seen it on a Butterfinger commercial or something, you know? [Laughs] But seeing those videos, and what those guys did, it definitely opened another world to me—one that I really wanted to be a part of.
Was there ever any frustrating times when you were coming up?
Totally, man. My parents really wanted me to go to school and I wanted to go to school, too. So I tried to go to college and that was definitely hard and frustrating. School took up all my time. I just wasn't able to put everything I had into snowboarding to give it a good shot. Eventually I had to make the decision: school or snowboarding. I remember the defining moment. I got an e-mail from Blue [Montgomery] like, "Hey, you want to go to Superpark?" That was my first real chance, you know? In my head it was a done deal, but it turned out that week was also the week of finals. So it was like, "Superpark or finals? Superpark or finals?" I bailed on my finals, dude. I went and I ended up getting my first published photo.
What's been your approach to get where you are now?
Up until now my approach has been to keep doing what I've been doing. That's what everyone would always tell me. I would ask my friends on the chairlift who were sponsored, "How'd you get sponsored? What's the next step to make it in snowboarding?" Their answer was just to keep doing what you've been doing. I've been keeping that in the back of my head.
What's your approach to filming video parts?
Put action in the frame. Get in front of the lens and seeing what's going to make a shot. When you have a lot of options it's good to take a step back and do a quick survey, see what's going to be a shot, and what I have to do to make it happen.
Has that method changed throughout the years as you've gone from filming for Airblaster, then Capita, and now Absinthe?
I learned that whole action in the frame thing from Travis Parker. He said that one day and I was just like, "That makes so much sense." That's what you're giving people, just something cool to look at. If you can find anything that's going to translate through the lens and onto the TV how it felt—that's what gets people stoked, if they can feel it, too. But yeah, it's been different through the years. Starting out with Airblaster, everything was fun and goofy. Then Capita was the first step into the real video part scene, especially filming with dudes who have been doing it for so long. To take a step back, and look at how they approach it was definitely a good learning experience. Then with Absinthe it's like these guys have had it down forever. So being a part of that you learn quickly.
How was it coming into the Absinthe group as one of the young guys?
It was kind of a mellow transition because I got on with Shane Charlebois and traveled with him all winter. Bode [Merrill] and Cale [Zima], those guys are my friends anyway. Immediately, I had a couple ideas of how it would go. All of those ideas were stressful and crazy, but as soon as I jumped in with that crew it was a good feeling right off the bat. As soon as we started getting shots, everybody was on the same page.
Where are you trying to take your snowboarding?
I want to learn new tricks every year, and I want to ride good snow. I guess what I want to become is a well-educated snowboarder. I want to learn about the backcountry, how to be safe, and how to have a good time every time I go out there. It definitely takes a lot of work. There is a lot to study up on.
So are you just going to bail on the streets? Are you trying to get away from that?
No, no, I'm not trying to phase out the streets. I like it. I like the missions. It's just a different side of snowboarding and it's good to have both, you know?
You may have never heard of Danimals. That's fine, but you will after this. With his effortless style and unique trick selection, we have a feeling everyone will be seeing a lot more of him. —Hondo
Are you able to make a living off of snowboarding, or do you have to work a second job?
I work a second job at a bike shop. During the summers it's a bike shop, and during the winter it's a ski and snowboard shop. In the summer I fix bikes and tune them and build them. In the winter I tune skis and snowboards all day—you know, wax them and stuff. But I haven't really been working too much in the winters, it's been mostly summers lately.
What's it like having all these influential people calling you the next big thing? Do you ever feel like there's too much pressure?
No, I don't think about it like that. It's mellow. I ride with all my friends, hang out, and just don't think about it. Honestly, I don't hear that much stuff about myself since I don't really own a computer. I have a computer, but it's so slow and I can't watch videos on it or anything. I rarely go on the computer, like it's pretty much when I'm at a friend's house and we're not doing anything. So it's really once every two weeks when I'm on a computer and checking my e-mail.
How did you end up filming for Videograss?
I don't know really, I guess I just have a bunch of friends that ride for VG and I met Justin [Meyer] from going up to Bear and riding with Jonas [Michilot] and Jake [Olson-Elm], and Joe [Sexton]. I also met Lance and Mike [Hakker] from Ashbury there. Also a good friend of mine is a filmer for VG, Riley Erickson, and it all just kind of worked itself together somehow.
What is it about Minnesota that keeps people there? It seems like that state creates some pretty sick snowboarders.
I think it's just because everyone lives close by. Like I go to Highland Hills every day, and a lot of my friends go to Highland every day. I never have to call anyone or anything, I can just go there and everyone's there. In the winter it's awesome because you just know you're going to run into someone wherever you're going. Hitting rails there is awesome, too. We get a lot of snow, we just don't have mountains. But it's still super fun to be there. Highland, Trollhaugen, Buck Hill, Wild Mountain—every place is similar. I can wake up, eat a little bit, go to Highland, grab lunch. It takes me maybe 10 minutes to get to Highland from my house, go hit a spot, go back to Highland. I don't know, it's just awesome. It's real easy.
Now that you're on Quiksilver, do you think you would go on a heli trip to Alaska with Travis Rice? [Laughs] I'd like to. I think that would be sweet. He's a pretty wild dude. He just runs off adrenaline. But I think it would be sweet to do that.
What do you think about contest snowboarding? Or kids who go to snowboard academies?
I don't know, I guess I think about it. Like back home we have this thing called G-Team. There's a ton of G-Team kids at Highland, and it's the same thing like a school—they learn new things and do contests. I guess that's kind of cool if that's what they're into. It kind of goes both ways, like there's contest kids and there's kids that don't do contests, and there's always going to be the little turd contest kids running around that don't have their head straight. But there are also awesome contest kids, too. It's the same way with kids who film parts: there are little turd munchkin kids, and there's cool-as-hell kids. It's really all about how they look at it.
What do think the biggest problem in snowboarding is right now?
Kids just need to be into more cool shit. It's hard to explain, 'cause I don't think about that that much. I just have fun and ride with my friends, and I don't really worry about anything. I think a lot of kids are just so focused on trying to get sponsors and get free stuff, and that's not really what it's about. You're just riding with your friends for fun, and it will just happen. If you get a sponsor, or get hooked up, it will just happen. It's nothing to try and push and do all this stuff. It might help, but kids' priorities just seem a little backwards.
What's one thing every snowboarder should do?
Every snowboarder should go somewhere with a towrope, snake some kids, get snaked, and not get mad about it.
Continue to next page to read the interview with Frank April…
Birth Date: June 1, 1987
Hometown: Riviere-du-Loup, Quebec, Canada
Video: Videograss Enlighten, Yes Snowboards Yes It's A Movie Too, Brother's Factory Hungry
Sponsors: Yes Snowboards, ThirtyTwo, etnies, LRG, Dragon, IFound, Now, Empire Boardshop
Interviewed by Andrew Sayer
Last season, masked beneath a man-worthy beard and an oversized snow-crusted hoodie, "Frank the Tank" put a hurting on man-sized obstacles everywhere. Hammering out clips at an astonishing pace, the man also known as "Big" Frank is Quebec's next great export. Ask not why it took so long for the Tank's big break, but how. Without any gimmicks, he's made a name for himself the proper way—with his skills on a snowboard.—Andrew Sayer
Is your official nickname "Big Frank" or "Frank the Tank"?
"Big Frank" is from [Chris] Grenier. I don't know why, probably because when he starts talking he can't stop and somewhere along the line he found a nickname like that. "Frank the Tank" is from everybody from the US that I met in a party or something. They started to call me that, but I'm not sure if it is good or not, because I haven't even seen the movie Old School yet.
What's with the beard? How long does it take to grow back if you shave it off?
I don't really have the choice to have the beard, because I shave every morning and at noon it's like a few inches long. The doctor said it's not dangerous, but I have a super beard power.
You've been putting out solid video parts for years. What gave you your big break recently?
I'd have to say it was because my friends Alex Cantin and Louif [Paradis] invited me to ride with them when they filmed for Videograss. After that I got some shots in Louif's part in Shoot The Moon and some shots in the friends part in Retrospect. After filming with Justin [Meyer] and Hayden [Rensch] a few times they wanted me on their project.
How has your life changed now that you do this for a "job"?To be honest, my life didn't change much. I still work in a restaurant all summer, and winters are spent the same as always—trying to find spots to get unique shots, only now I have to travel more. But that's a good thing, and I'm not sure I'm gonna go back to my restaurant job.
What does Quebec snowboarding mean to you?
It's probably the same as Salt Lake snowboarding or Minnesota snowboarding. It means riding rails with friends. But Quebec is only another place. The city and all around is my favorite place to film, though, because I'm home, we have snow for few months in the winter, we have nice girls, and nice poutine.
There are so many talented Quebec riders all filming the same terrain. Is there ever any resentment when someone lands a big trick?
When I hear somebody did something nice at a spot I think, "Wow, that's sick. I don't know how he did that." Other times I'll think, "Too bad. Next time I have to do that first before somebody else does."
The Quebec scene seems down for a good party. What's your best/worst adventure?
I was on vacation in Annecy [France], and I was with some friends and my girlfriend. After the bar everybody was super drunk and we took a cab to go back to the campground, but the driver didn't know where it was. So I said, "I'm gonna show you the right road," but it was my first time in Annecy. I tried super hard to remember where it was and we told the cabbie a few times, "It's here, stop!" But it was never right and we continued to say the same thing a few times before finally we found the campground. The driver was super stressed, and he pressed a button that added 10 euro to the fare. We paid him anyway and went outside. All of a sudden the driver shot me with a gun, but inside the gun was cayenne pepper, and the pain was really, really bad. After two or three showers and a lot of water in my eyes I went to bed and slept. When I'm really drunk though, sometimes I sleepwalk. Early in the morning I woke up and my girlfriend said, "Congrats, Frank, you did a pee in the corner of the tent again."
People talk about powder being the "soul" of snowboarding. Does urban riding now fit into this description as well?
I'm not sure about the soul, but we find something inside the rail riding. Not the same as going down a mountain, but you can have so much fun setting something up in the streets and riding it the way you want with all your friends sessioning.
What role has Brothers Factory played in your snowboarding?
A lot. It's with this crew I filmed the most with and I learned a lot—how to find a spot, set up the spot, how to deal with people.
Your kink riding is one of your strongest points. What is your approach?
I don't know. Maybe close my eyes, don't think, drink a 26-ouncer of Grand Marnier, and jump on [laughs].
What's the biggest problem in snowboarding?
I think sometimes it's hard for the kids to have a place because the industry gives so much hype to some people that don't deserve it.
Do you feel like you've proven yourself in snowboarding?
Not yet. The best is still to come.
Continue to next page to read the interview with Forrest Bailey…
Birth Date: November 9, 1991
Hometown: Jamaica, Vermont
Sponsors: 686, Gnu, adidas, Dragon, Red Bull, Gnarly
Video: Givin's Too
Interviewed by Ben Gavelda
Small towns have their share of freedoms and constraints. Forest Bailey, who was born and raised in the Vermont countryside near Stratton, knows this well. He was fortunate to grow up with a hill not too far from his house, offering free rein on the slopes, but stale rural schooling had him trapped. So at 17 he bailed. Now he has numerous pro model products, an ender video part, an X Games gold medal, and inked deals with big names like adidas and Red Bull. Not bad for a dropout. —B.G.
Where did you grow up riding?
I grew up riding Stratton, Vermont. I was born in Jamaica, Vermont, which is like 10 miles from Stratton. It's just a little town with a couple of art shops, an elementary school, and a gas station. I was born in my house, and when I was three months old we moved to the house that I lived in until I was 17. My dad worked as a waiter in this restaurant at Stratton, through that I got a free pass and would just go up there all the time, cause a ruckus at the mountain. It was a pretty great childhood, wouldn't ask for anything else.
How did you get to where you are now, what was your path?
I just noticed from a young age that what I wanted to do was snowboard, and that was all I wanted to do. I kind of just worked as hard as I could and made it happen. When I was 17 I noticed I didn't want to do contests anymore, and I really wanted to focus on filming. At this point I had started getting paid a little to snowboard, but was still going to high school. So I decided to drop out, move to Tahoe, and start putting all my energy into filming. That season I filmed for Colton Feldman's movie Dump 'Em Out. We had a lot of fun making that movie, and I think people were real hyped on it. The next summer Keegan [Valaika] and Jon [Francis] hit me up about riding for Gnarly. I was really into the idea of riding for a small company run by my friends, and then when the idea for making Givin came about I jumped at the opportunity to do another small film project involving all the homeys. I really didn't want to film with random people I didn't know; I just wanted to be with my friends. That first year of Givin was really amazing—me and Keegs went on some of the best trips of my life. I also started trying to film backcountry that year, which was a pretty funny experience. I still have much to learn on that front. Now our second film, Too, just came out, and I think it's even better than the first.
What do you mean by hard work? Because everyone uses that term—like, "He's a hard worker." But the core of snowboarding is all about fun. Shouldn't we be saying, "Damn, he's the best at having fun!"?
Yeah [laughs]. It's just staying motivated and making everything fun and not being too serious with anything. Not thinking about snowboarding like it's some task or like it's your job, just always keeping it true to your roots and just having fun and snowboarding with your friends. But regardless, filming isn't some stress-free simple thing; you still need to put in a ton of effort and time. So really, it's all about finding that perfect balance.
How does skateboarding influence the way you ride?
I skateboard honestly more than I snowboard. It's pretty much where all my inspiration comes from. It's the most free you can be on a board. Snowboarding is great, but skating is just different to me. There's some infinite freedom to it that makes it feel so right, just endless possibilities, I suppose. I think skating is cool because it's all man-made. And surfing is cool because it's all natural. But what's so sick about snowboarding is that it's the best of both worlds. It's all natural—riding fresh snow and hanging out deep in the woods with your friends, but then you can go to a frozen city and make it more like skating, hitting whatever crazy thing you can find.
What outside of snowboarding inspires you and stokes you out?
Music definitely. I went to a bunch of festivals this summer. And hanging out with friends that I grew up with and seeing how they live, just seeing how other people live outside of snowboarding. Not getting stuck in the industry, because it's pretty easy to do since it's so tight-knit. So just keeping in touch with people that I've been friends with since I was little and just, I don't know, not living or staying in one place for very long, trying to stay on the move, and trying to keep moving forward all the time.
Birth Date: October 9, 1984
Hometown: Kamloops, BC, Canada
Sponsors: Billabong, adidas, YES Snowboards, Now Bindings, The Circle, Airhole Facemasks
Video: Yes Yes, It's A Movie Too
Interviewed by Ben Gavelda
It's not easy to make it to this list as a female. And the reason we picked Helen is not because she's a total babe (because she is). It's her tunnel vision and pure stoke that's elevated her snowboarding status. While the snowboard world is primarily populated by hordes of hairy knuckle draggers, there's a small tribe of women breaking down boundaries, and Helen is one of the leaders.—B.G.
Why did you start snowboarding?
My brother got me into it. I used to ski race, and he'd been snowboarding for a few years, so he made me try it 'cause he loved it so much. So I borrowed his extra board and tried it one day and switched instantly. It was just too much fun.
Sometimes there's a lot of fear in snowboarding. How do you get over it and convince yourself that you'll be all right?
I'll be on top of a line scared out of my mind, and I'll think about how at the end of the day I'll be sitting on the couch and am I going to hate myself for not doing this line? Or am I going to know that I made an educated decision to back out because it was way to sketchy? And that's what I think about, because I hate living with regret. So most of the time that's what gets me going. 'Cause I'll be so scared, I'll be like, "I do not want to do this," but I'll be like, "I'm going to feel like such a pussy tonight," because I know I can do it, and I know it's just nerves stopping me. My peers wouldn't let me get on top of the feature if it was that dangerous.
People know you for riding backcountry, but what came before that?
Once I started snowboarding I joined the snowboard club in Kamloops and I did halfpipe and boardercross contests. That's what I loved doing, and I moved to Whistler to keep doing them. I remember all my roommates would be like, "Let's go shred pow!" and I had no desire to shred pow because all I really knew were halfpipes and park. So I would go up with a bunch of people and dig out a halfpipe hit on those powder days that I now live for. I just didn't appreciate it at the time, but over the years I started to ride with them on those days, and it was so much fun it was unbelievable. I later "acquired" a sled, and at that time there were a few other girls and I had a really good guy friend who started taking me out sledding, so I just got thrown into the deep end. We'd go out, and he was like, "Okay, you have to get to the top of that hill, so figure it out." As much as those days really sucked and I hated them, I appreciate everything that he did for me and it's made me a much more experienced backcountry rider.
Who are the people that inspire you?
Honestly there are a quite a few people in the industry, but I think the people that inspire me the most are all my good buddies that don't have any involvement in the snowboard industry. They're the ones that snowboard because they just love to snowboard. I appreciate those people the most because they're not out there looking for a sponsor or looking for the next whatever—you know, trying to get famous, trying to get recognition. Those are the guys that work the night jobs. They inspire me because they want it the most. I find it frustrating that a lot of the snowboarding community and industry doesn't snowboard, and it's insane to me. And I understand it's a job and it pays your bills, but you have to do it because you love it. It should be something you enjoy to do.
What's it like now that you do this for a living?
I feel so blessed. Sometimes I'm sitting here and I'm like, "How the hell did this happen?" I will never take it for granted. I don't think I'm lucky, I think I worked my ass off for it and I've gone through some really shitty times and some great times, but regardless, I'm very blessed to be in this position. I hope I can motivate people to enjoy every moment of snowboarding, too. I've been so focused and so driven that I have a hard time living in the moment. But at the same time you have sit back once in a while and see what you've accomplished and be thankful that you've gotten to that point—because the point you're at is where you've been looking to get for a long time—and now you're there, so you need to appreciate it. Still, I will never keep going in this career if I'm not feeling snowboarding. You have to wake up and want to shred. And I hope, and I think, you can see that in the way I ride.
So you've filmed video parts before, you had the opener in Rome's The Shred Remains, yet this year your riding really stood out. What made this year different?
This year honestly I was just trying to be patient. I was just trying to take my time and stay positive and healthy. I told myself that I was going to snowboard on stuff that I wanted to snowboard on, and I was going to snowboard when I wanted to snowboard. Like, any group of kids can just hop in a van and drive across the country, and hit every rail and go to Canada and hit those rails, and like, have every single trick. Everyone's doing that, but there's no personal part, like nothing stands out for yourself. But at the same time you have to balance having fun and maintaining your attitude and keep f—king ripping. Just going for it. 'Cause it's just that gut feeling that makes your palms sweat, that puts a smile on your face. It makes you put your hands in the air when you stomp something that you've never stomped before. You get a shot and it's just like, "Hell yeah. F—k yeah. Awesome. Shit."
Did you ever think that you would make it to where you are right now in snowboarding?
Dude, when I was a little kid all I would do was dream about being a pro snowboarder. Everyday I would walk out the door with my snowboard, my little 135 Burton Punch, just dreaming about becoming pro. I just had it in my head, man—growing up in Tahoe, it was around me. It was in my life every single day. And some things came easy, and some things I had to work my ass off for. But to get that out of it, to have that feeling of knowing that I worked hard, it's paying off. It took me a long time to realize that it's actually happening. It's just a dream feeling, man.
Do you ever get worried that too much partying could cut your career short?
Yeah, I totally get worried. Every day I think about this. But dude, I party on my snowboard all the time. It doesn't have to mean drinking or drugs. It could just mean bullshitting with your friends on the hill—that's still partying. But yeah, I get worried about getting injured because of partying all the time because it happens all the time. Look at Danny Davis or even Jeff Anderson. It can happen. I'm like ultra paranoid about it. I think I stress about it so much because I care about it so much.
Do you ever worry that because you're so animated and have so much fun all the time people look at you in a different light? Like, they look at you almost like a cartoon character and not a snowboarder?
No. 'Cause I am a snowboarder. I was born and raised a snowboarder. I think people see who I am. And if they don't see who I am then I guess I am a character. But when they get to know me they'll find out that I'm a snowboarder, and I'm a human being. I'm a human being with a tongue, hair, and a dick just like everyone else [laughs].
What was it like filming with a video crew this year rather than filming for a team video?
Well, the main difference was that I didn't know anyone at the start of last year. It was all new people except for Shaun McKay. The rail kids that I was rolling around with were Scot Brown, Jason Robinson, and Jason Dubois. It's funny, though, when I was younger Scot Brown and I didn't like each other at all. Then I didn't see him for years, and we were both little punks, but when we started filming together we got along great. We even had our own handshake. But dude, don't even get me started on how sick it was filming with Pierre. One time Corey Koniniec, when he was filming for People, invited me over to their office in Tahoe City and I thought that was such an opportunity. I just remember walking in and the lights were off, and there was like five computer screens. Pierre had his back turned to me like he's Darth Vader or just some bad guy in some movie. And he's just geeking out, making it work, making it happen. And now for him to be sitting in front of my footage, making my part, it's just so sick.
On not stressing about filming a part.
This season was the first time I've actually had companies put money into a video for me. At first I was super stressed and I was like, "I better show these guys that I know what I'm doing." Then instead of stressing I realized, "I'm in the mountains, in some real cool parts of the world that a lot of people don't ever get to see in their whole life." I mean there's no point in stressing. I used to dream about doing this as a kid and when I'm old and look back on it I don't want to be like "That was stressful." I want to remember how amazing and lucky we all were to be out there in the first place. That really helped me appreciate the season. I just had to go up here, have fun, and film. It was sweet.
On learning to sled at age 17.
When I was 17 I moved to Whistler and got the shittiest truck and sled. I worked all summer, laying bricks and at Sachi Sushi as a busboy to pay for them. Every time I went out, I was scared something was going to break. But at least I was going. I never went out with a Devun Walsh or someone who was like, "Hey, we're going to go do this." It was just kids, like lost kids trying to figure it out. I learned a lot with Mikee Pederson. We were a pretty sweet team for about five years.
On keeping snowboarding fun.
To me no other video has touched what the Robot Food movies have done, still. I want to get bangers, don't get me wrong, but when I watch a video, especially when I watch my own part and it's just like, here's my tricks and that's it, I always feel let down. There's so much more to what we're doing than, "Hey, look at my big jumps and tricks and shit." When you watch a video and it has those random candid moments, it reminds me how much I love snowboarding. Instead of watching the video and being like, "This guy's sick, that guy's not," you watch a video and you're like, "I wanna go snowboarding! This is fun." I hope other people feel the same way when they watch a video of me.
On Gary the orchid.
It seems like guys never have plants. One time this girl was at my place and she was like, "You don't have any plants!" And then I was like, "You know, you're right. I'm gonna get a plant." She even gave me an empty pot. So I went to the store and I was looking at plants and the lady said, "These are orchids. They're hard to keep alive." And I was like, "I got this!" So I got the orchid, and I built him a nametag. His name's Gary. He's still doing well. But one day I put him on the deck because when I water him, the water leaks out of the bottom, and I forgot him out there all day. Gary got super sunburned and lost three leaves. Now he's only got one leaf left, but he's still alive, still killin' it.
On sturgeon fishing.
Last year I went sturgeon fishing and didn't catch anything. This year I was like, "I'm going to catch a fish that's bigger than me." We go fishing at Lillooet in Fraser River. It's maybe an hour and a half drive from Whistler. I pull railroad spikes out of the train tracks and use them as a weight—they sink the bait to the bottom of the river. It's super ghetto. Then you clip a bell to the rod, put it in a holder, and drink beers and play guitar. It's fun because you're basically just hanging out, and all of a sudden you hook into a dinosaur. The first fish I caught was so big it broke the line. The next day we linked up with a friend who has a boat and we went out with him and caught about 12 fish. The biggest one we got was six feet, eight inches. They're like prehistoric. It's insane.
On what's next.
There's just so much to do. You could snowboard your whole life and always be finding new things. I would love to get off of a helicopter in a mountain in Alaska and just shit my pants. Hopefully I will get a chance to do that. I want to splitboard. I see these old dudes going up Peak Chair and splitboarding away into the wilderness, and I'm like, "That is badass!" One day, man, that will be me. I'm not there yet; I'm having fun sledding and hitting jumps and stuff, but yeah, one day. I want to do it all.
Birth Date: June 3, 1993
Hometown: Rykkinn, Norway
Sponsors: Oakley, Burn, Rome, ThirtyTwo, Hoppípolla
Video: RK1 Season Recap
Interviewed by John Poulin
After one year of high school, Ståle Sandbech knew that his life was on the road, snowboarding. So he hit it, started living life "easy style," as he calls it. But the 2012 TTR Overall Title winner is bidding for a spot on what's sure to be a heavily stacked Norwegian squad at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, already his second Olympic appearance. It's no school paper, but it's one hell of a project. —J.P.
Did you always have a drive to become a professional snowboarder?
Well I always had the dream, but I never stressed about it. I don't know, it just came naturally. I was riding a lot with Alek Øestreng at our home mountain, Kirkerudbakken. We were neighbors growing up. We'd make bets on doing certain tricks, so we'd learn a lot that way. It was a super good little hill with a bunch of dudes, riding around snaking alpine skiers, doing something weird every day. We were just riding every day after school.
Who has influenced your riding the most?
My brother was a big influence because he hooked me up with a snowboard and was with me my first day, but just Alek and all my friends—too many to name. I saw Mikkel Bang at Kirkerudbakken a couple times when I was a kid, and he was like my biggest idol, I was just, "holy shit." Just the vibe there, just people riding and smiling was the thing, you know?
Did you grow up doing contests?
Yeah, there was this Norwegian "Cup" or whatever you'd call it, that's where you met everybody from the whole country. All the parents were around, just a bunch of us kids. It was fun, mellow. So for sure, I did them growing up, but back then we were just messing around, it was just riding, and then all of a sudden it was your time to drop and you'd have to rush up there. Now with contests it's just waiting around. But it's still fun, you know, if it's not fun then it's not worth doing.
What is the Norwegian snow culture like?
We're kind of old school, like the priorities are cross-country and alpine skiing. Ski jumping gets all these new facilities but there are no new ski jumpers. They spend so much money building a new resort for them and they have more jumps than jumpers. Snowboarding is definitely a cool sport for young people, but still… The owners of the resorts, they're old school skiers, so it's still kind of hard for them to see the benefits of putting money into the parks. It's making progress, though, and we have a bunch of parks around, but it's not like in the US where they have the biggest budget for the parks and stuff. Hopefully in a couple years.
You went to a snowboard academy for a while, right?
I went there for one year but I was never there, so I dropped out after a year of high school. We'll see when I finish; I put it on hold, but when you have the chance to travel and just do what you like, why not take it? You can always do school, you can't always snowboard like this, travel and do it as a living. I was away like 110 days the first year, and the next year I was gonna film and do contests so I would have been gone even more. It got stressful and my grades got worse because I was never there. I didn't learn anything, so I just figured I would learn more traveling around and snowboarding. And I think I did. It's not a basic education, but not as many people have this kind of experience in the world.
What do you think about the X Games becoming part of the TTR?
I think it's great to get one big ranking going. It's weird they didn't figure it out earlier. I'd like to see one big tour, with bigger high-profile events but a fewer number of stops throughout the year. Like in surfing, they have it pretty figured out right now, that's what I would like instead of doing a contest every weekend and never having time to just go ride.
Are you trying to go to the Olympics? Are you hyped on them?
Yeah, I'm competing a lot so I'll go for it. There are so many good slopestyle riders in Norway. The Olympics are a huge contest, for TV and all that stuff, and it will help grow your name, but to ride the FIS qualifiers the year before is a lot of hassle and stress. I like the normal snowboard contests but it's so big, you know, such a huge event. It's hard. I don't know what I think about it. I was at the Vancouver Olympics for pipe. It's pretty cool to just be around. It's still kind of wack though, what they did to the snowboard tour back in the day. But FIS just runs the qualification for the Olympics, not the Olympics. Like the old school snowboarding was so sick when everyone was so loose and it was all about rock 'n' roll. Now it's getting way more serious. But I just try to go with it.