Missing In Action; Russell Winfield 16.1

Missing In Action: Russell WinfieldInterview by Cody Dresser

Russell Winfield was the first brother to go pro, and to date he may still be the most recognizable. His snowboard career started at his local NYC golf course on a Burton Elite, but soon he was a serious pipe competitor at the Nationals for Mistral Snowboards. Notoriously outspoken, the following year he was promptly ejected for telling the judges they sucked. In ’91 he joined the Burton amateur team briefly then turned pro for upstart Ride Snowboards. Russ helped to assemble an all-star cast, and when Mack Dawg’s The Hard The Hungry And The Homeless came out, he and teammates Jake Blattner and Dale Rehberg hit pay dirt. Russell’s Fat Albert pro model was selling out. Shenanigans and gratuitous globe-trotting ensued. Attitude and alcohol quickly earned him a reputation steeped in infamy worldwide. Eventually, years at the beach living larger than life caught up with him-his career timed out. Although rumors of sightings in the Northwest and Los Angeles surface occasionally-snowboarding had lost one of its most colorful characters. Articulate and sober after years of seclusion-Russell picked up the phone and called me.

Where have you been?
After I kind of quit and got fired by Ride, I had a little start-up golf company called Technical Fifty Eight. It was a really good experience for me. I was in charge of all things creative-from ads to shoes and clothing. It was cool, but I put everything I had into it mentally and physically, and it didn’t really work out in the end. We didn’t get the investors we needed.
But you gained a lot of experience?
I learned Illustrator, PhotoShop, Freehand, Quark, and all that. Some of the best graphic designers showed me the ropes. The one thing I’ve learned with computer rendering and design is you can only be taught so much-you have to be creative. You can go to school for graphic design-but if you don’t have it, you don’t have it.
After the demise of Technical Fifty Eight, you bailed out?
Yeah, I was over it-the industry was just changing really fast, and the ideals I held weren’t changing with it. I was burnt out and bummed out on myself, as well as the people around me. So I decided, “F-k it, I’m just going to play golf and do my own thing.” I went and worked at a golf course for the next couple years. Don’t get me wrong-I helped my own demise, I was a drunken idiot. But I’m driving the wagon now, pretty much-I’ve got a little daughter named Nikita. She’s 23 months, and she’s everything to me.
What’s your next move?
Get out of Seattle and back down to So Cal into the thick of things. I’ve been shopping myself around from a distance, and it just doesn’t work. I want to work, but I just can’t be the warehouse guy-that’s squandering my talents. There are companies where I’d fit in very well-it’s just convincing these people I can pull it off. We’ll see-I’m no fortune-teller.
Do you feel haunted by the past?
Well, it’s hard to change an image people feel comfortable with-even if they don’t like it. If you act like an idiot, it makes other idiots feel good about themselves. So when you clean up your act, some people don’t like it-it’s rough.
What about snowboarding?
I’m not really content with how I left my riding career, either-there are a few things I’d like to do before I hang up my boots. When I was partying, I was so poisoned and diluted there was no link from my mental to physical being. Now I’m one with my body. In the next few years you may see me doing a multitude of things-doing design work and still riding a bit.
Thanks to Four Star Distribution, Northwave, Oakley, and Drake for their support.