Sam Taxwood // Germany // PHOTO: Cole Martin
Sam Taxwood // Germany // PHOTO: Cole Martin

Sam Taxwood: Three Knee Surgeries In and Still Kicking

Originally ran in the October 2017 issue of TransWorld SNOWboarding. Check out more here!

A couple years ago, Sam Taxwood was selling boots on the shop floor and getting flowed samples from the local rep. It's not that he was an unknown; if you've been paying attention, you've heard Taxwood's name for a while. The point is: a lot has happened for Sam as of late. After two years traveling and filming with Vans, he locked in a standout part in one of the most anticipated snowboard films to date. More recently, he finished a day of manual labor in Montana, where he'll be until the season starts. You see, Taxwood has earned what he has, and his path has been forged through a blue-collar work ethic, his genuine humility evidence of this. Growing up on the steeps of Snowbird, his mother and father's workplace, gave Sam style and versatility usually seen in more established pros. But the setbacks he's felt aren't typical of someone his age either. His blossoming career has been marked with ups and downs. He's learned with each obstacle, however, and emerged as one of snowboarding's most solid individuals, on a board and in character. At 23, Sam Taxwood is both wise and talented beyond his years. – Taylor Boyd

What have you been up to now that Landline. has moved from the filming to viewing stage?
I'm helping build chairlifts up in Montana. Right now we're doing a lot of concrete work and tying rebar. I got this job some years back but wasn't able to continue because my knees were messed up. Then, this spring I was like, "Yeah, I think I should be able to make some money this summer." So I just figured I'd jump back on the fuckin' program. We work 60 hours a week with Sundays off, and that's it. This is my first time living outside of Salt Lake, which is cool. I think I'll go home around the first part of December, when the season starts.

What have you done for work in summers past?
I usually work at Milo in Salt Lake. That's my original gig. I've been going in there since I was seven or eight years old. I would spend my spare time hanging at the shop, and then I got a job when I was sixteen--sometime around then. Then I started doing the chairlift thing. When I blew my knees out three years in a row Milo was a sweet gig 'cause I couldn't do too much, but I could cruise around the shop and help people out.

Sam Taxwood // PHOTO: Aaron Blatt

Both your parents work at Snowbird. How do you think growing up riding there affected your snowboarding? That mountain is gnarlier than most.
Yeah, both of them. They met at Snowbird. My dad is in charge of trams and lifts, and he's been there coming up on forty years, which is crazy. Then my mom has been there 30-plus years, and she's the head of the season pass office. My grandpa was the manager of the hotels up there way back. My daycare was the Snowbird Ski School. I started off skiing when I was three, and when I was six I started snowboarding. By eight I was going to random little USASA contests and stuff. I was really stoked on riding park, so I started riding Park City with Griffin Siebert. I went back and forth between Park City and Snowbird for five or six years, then I stopped doing contests and focused more on just making edits and just riding with the homies. Then I started filming with Keep The Change. One hundred percent--I don't think I would snowboard the way I've grown to if I didn't grow up riding Snowbird. It's the type of place that will put you on your ass quick. You don't need a terrain park with that mountain; it's pretty rad.

And you got started with Vans at the rep level through Shawn Gruenhagen, right?
Yeah, so I was working at Milo, and I met Shawn Gruenhagen, the Vans rep in the Rockies. He's the coolest fucking dude out there, and I could go on for an hour about how incredible that guy is.

Me too.
Right! So he and I built up a relationship, and he started giving me boots. Him and some others told me I should get in touch with Kevin Casillo [Vans' team manager]. So I did, cold-call style. I was riding Snowbird that day and skipped out on a run to talk to him. I was so nervous; I was shaking. I was stuttering when I talked. I was just like, "Hey man, I talked to a few people who said we should get in touch. I've spent some time with Shawn out in Utah. I don't know what you're thinking as far as an AM team goes, but I'd love to be a part of it if that's a thing." And that day, he was like, "I'm down. Let's do it." That was insane. And that was it. Then I went to SIA and met [the Vans crew]. From there, I went to a Hi Standard event while my knee was messed up and helped judge it with Darrell [Mathes]. That was sick cause that was the first time I met Darrell and got to hang out with him.

I imagine he's a good resource to have as you're navigating a career in snowboarding.
I don't even know how to explain it, dude. He's the sickest person to spend a trip with 'cause he's seen it all. Like, we're cruising around Montreal, and he's like, "I got my first cover on that spot right there." Things like that, you know. That's crazy. We're on a street corner and he looks out the window and he sees a spot where he got a cover. He's so good at choosing the spots he wants to hit too. He has awesome footage in the movie. I'm really stoked to see his part. He's had the best style forever and still does. He's always given back to snowboarding--even down to the little things. When he's at a spot, if he's not snowboarding, he's shoveling. And he's taking photos. Then he has HOWL, and I think it's so rad what he's built that into. He's a staple for Vans; he's been on for so long. He's a really good look as far as snowboarding, and then outside of snowboarding, just as a human.

Sam Taxwood // Bulgaria // PHOTO: Bob Plumb

When did you start filming for Landline.?
Two seasons ago. Everyone went up to Colorado and stayed at Copper for a week. We stayed at this house that was the nicest place I've ever been in. I was coming off my third knee surgery, and those were some of my first days on a snowboard in a while. Then I went up to Mt. Bachelor for the Dirksen Derby. Everyone was really hyped up 'cause it snowed a bunch. I was like, "Sweet, I'm fucking snowboarding again; this is awesome." I took a solo run, kind of cookin', and launched this hip. Mid-air I realized I was going to smash into a stump. I hit and bounced off. I was by myself, laying on the run in a ton of pain. My knee felt terrible. I thought I really screwed my shit up. I was wearing a knee brace at the time, and the brace fucked my leg up. I think it may have saved my ligaments and everything, but I had this huge hematoma where the brace was.

At this point you still thought it was just a one-year project too, right? So that setback was an even bigger deal at the time not knowing the window for filming was going to be extended another year.
For me, that was my third season in a row of this. Before that it was three straight years of knee surgeries, and so when I ate shit I was like, "Dude, I can't do this again." I was kind of tripping at the time. After a week or two went by, I saw my doctor and saw this therapist and a couple of massage people, and everyone was like, "You're good; don't worry." It was a really big scare at the time. I was just happy that I didn't have to go through any serious repercussions because of this. I was expecting it to be over at that point because I was limping super hard and could barely walk for like four or five days, but it got better pretty quick after that.

When that healed, what was the first trip after that?
We went to Logan, Utah, and that was my first experience riding a snowmobile. It was terrifying. I was borrowing Hans Mindnich's snowmobile, and I put it into a tree. I thought I was toast. I was just screaming. Fortunately, the damage was cosmetic, and I just bought him a new plastic piece. Then we went to Japan to ride pow. It was me, Jake Kuzyk, Blake Paul, and Danimals. We had a pretty sweet crew, and it's been a dream of mine to ride pow in Japan. It was good timing 'cause the terrain's not too intense there. Plus, the food's really good, and everyone is super cool. So it was a great first long trip for the video for me. I was like, "Sweet, I'm riding in powder; I don't have to jump down some stairs or some drop." It was a pretty good way to start feeling good about riding my snowboard again.

Your knee was feeling good on that trip?
Yeah, it still hurts to this day, unfortunately. It probably always will. But it was feeling good enough to feel comfortable riding. Some days are great, and some days aren't.

Sam Taxwood // Pemberton, BC // PHOTO: Oli Gagnon

How do you think dealing with those injuries has changed your perspective?
Honestly, you learn a lot about yourself. I just remember being in the doctor's office for the third time and them being like, "I don't really want to say this to you right now, but you need another [knee surgery]. It's done." I was sitting there, and I just started crying. I was by myself. It was just this super overwhelming, helpless feeling. But then once you come out of surgery the only thing you can do is focus on getting better, obviously. The number one thing I've learned is just to use my head and understand my capabilities. On my snowboard, I have to really think about what spots I want to hit and what trick to try. I think things through. When I was younger, I'd just be like, "I can come up short or overshoot, or try it over and over." Now I'm like, "Alright, I can't keep going; I'm tired." I'm not willing to go through that again. I'd rather ride tomorrow then maybe get the sweetest trick I thought I could do. I've learned to take a step back and think about the big picture rather than one moment.

Have some of the more seasoned guys on the crew offered any advice or perspective on that stuff, or in general?
Totally. Pat [Moore] is super supportive--a really good person to talk to for me. Every time I was at a spot with him, he was a good person to get advice from. If I was struggling with something, I could talk to him and get his two cents. He'd always have good insight as to whether I should keep going, try something different, or just move on to a different spot. He's been through it all, and he's had a lot of time out there. It's cool to go into a new situation knowing that most of the guys you're with have been doing this for years. Like Jake Price, he's a filmer, but he knows so much about the backcountry, and just angles and everything. He's a very interesting and inspiring person, so it's cool to have that. Wolle [Nyvelt] as well. I didn't spend too much time with him, but it was just cool to even like--I don't know; it was very much a fanning-out moment. It was crazy to show up to Revelstoke, and someone you've watched snowboard your entire life is just chilling there. And the next day you go snowboarding and sledding with them. I had a lot of cool moments like that on this project where I was in a scenario I could have never imagined myself in. It was so sick on all levels--the people, the places, and the experiences.

Right. You're part of one of the best snowboard teams ever created. Do you realize that?
Yes. And honestly, it's psycho. I cannot believe it. Everyone on the team has a unique take and style. Pretty much every trip I went on for the video I was in awe and stoked and felt so fortunate to be a part of something like that, because everyone's real close. I can't believe I'm friends with these people I have looked up to for so long. These two years have been surreal.

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