DIY OR DIE

11 PEO­PLE WHO HAVE SHAPED SNOW­BOARD­ING’S RE­AL­ITY BY CRE­AT­ING THEIR DES­TINY

Transworld Snowboarding - - CON­TENTS - Words: Amanda Hanki­son

The Do-It-Your­self Ethos That Keeps Snow­board­ing Alive

the char­ac­ter­is­tic spirit of a cul­ture, era, or com­mu­nity as man­i­fested in its be­liefs and as­pi­ra­tions

On a late June drive to Mount Hood, some­where be­tween Bend and Gov­ern­ment Camp, I let my­self drift into an ex­is­ten­tial wan­der­ing, the whole­hearted kind that be­comes avail­able when you’ve spent more time be­hind the wheel than at home in the last six months. As my truck bar­reled north­west through the desert to­ward the very moun­tain that taught me how to do it my­self I couldn’t fight the nos­tal­gia. The last seven sum­mers spent on Mount Hood shaped me to be who I am. I grew up at that moun­tain with snow­board­ing as my com­pass, where doing it your­self is true north. I’m one of hun­dreds with the same story. What is the mo­ti­va­tion be­hind doing it your­self though, and why have so many strayed from con­ven­tional lives and nine-to-fives in fa­vor of cre­at­ing their own path? What does DIY give the snow­board­ing com­mu­nity that estab­lished in­sti­tu­tions can’t, and why do we keep com­ing back for more? |

SEAN × GEN­OVESE

The first stop on the way down this rab­bit hole was a con­ver­sa­tion with Sean Gen­ovese—ab­so­lute roy­alty when it comes to DIY. We caught up on the first day of my jour­ney to Hood, in the High Moun­tain Café, a hub for sum­mer­time re­unions. From start­ing Di­nosaurs Will Die thir­teen years ago with Jeff Keenan to the in­te­gral role he played in pro­duc­ing numer­ous Think Thank videos, Sean breathes life into the DIY spirit of his peers and those who look up to him. In ex­plain­ing his take on the con­cept, he mused, “By doing it your­self you take con­trol of your own des­tiny; you have a say in where you’re go­ing, what you’re mak­ing, and who you do it with.”

DIY, to Sean, is not wait­ing for per­mis­sion from a cor­po­ra­tion or the all-pow­er­ful, om­nipo­tent “they” to make a vi­sion re­al­ity. “When we started Di­nos, some of our clos­est friends told us not to, that it was a bad idea to start a snow­board brand,” said DWD co-founder Jeff Keenan. DIY holds you ac­count­able. You can’t blame any­one else for your short­com­ings or com­plain about how it should’ve been done bet­ter. When you do it your­self you re­spect and un­der­stand the process to its fullest. You’re in­vested in it. Jeff and Sean poured their heart and soul into build­ing what they have, and through their hard work, they’ve not only en­sured a fu­ture for them­selves in our in­dus­try, but they’re able to sup­port like­minded cre­ators around the world.

JON × STARK

Bid­ding Sean adieu, I made the short drive down to the Win­dells skatepark, only to see none other than Jon Stark’s un­mis­tak­able sil­hou­ette ap­proach­ing in late af­ter­noon light. As the me­dia land­scape changes, full videos are more rare than ever. They’ve been dis­sected into web se­ries, on­line video parts, and In­sta­gram clips, but the peo­ple who cre­ate videos are not gone; they’re still com­pul­sively mak­ing art out of snow­board­ing. Jon, a film­mak­ing fiend, is tes­ta­ment to the im­por­tance of these visual artists. In nine years, he put 327,025 miles on a Subaru Out­back, fer­ry­ing a vast ar­ray of snow­board­ers across the coun­try in or­der to film sev­eral full-length movies. His cre­ations have shined a light on un­known rid­ers and sparked the ca­reers of some of your fa­vorite snow­board­ers. Jon has given his life to film­ing. When asked why, he an­swered, “It ul­ti­mately en­dorses a healthy lifestyle full of adapt­ing to your en­vi­ron­ment and over­com­ing fears of un­cer­tainty—qual­i­ties that are price­less. Like a lot of skills in this world, it’s a form of art, and when it’s done well, it’s ab­so­lutely beau­ti­ful.” His cre­ative force, when com­bined with in­di­vid­u­als like Cole Navin or Mike Ravelson, to name a cou­ple, has man­aged to doc­u­ment some of the most in­no­va­tive snow­board­ing of our day.

DE­SIREE × ME­LAN­CON

Af­ter skat­ing, I made my way down to Port­land to visit Jon’s for­mer room­mate, De­siree Me­lan­con, an­other artist. I met Des years ago while she was dig­ging at Mt. Hood, cast­ing off into the tu­mul­tuous wa­ters of pro­fes­sional snow­board­ing. Be­fore In­sta­gram, be­fore ev­ery­one had an HD cam­era in their pocket, when video parts were called parts be­cause they were an ac­tual part of a full movie. Since then I’ve watched her teach her­self to draw, paint, sing, and play mu­sic. She’s be­come a pho­tog­ra­pher, learned to film, and how to edit—all the while de­liv­er­ing award-win­ning video parts with Peepshow and Think Thank—built a camper, pro­duced and starred in a mul­ti­year doc­u­men­tary, and slaved along­side her peers to feed the cre­ative fire burn­ing in the heart of snow­board­ing. De­siree has with­stood both in­sult and in­jury on her rise to be­come one of the most iconic women in our com­mu­nity as snow­board­ers.

A small of­fice in her Port­land home holds tro­phies from a litany of banked slaloms, Rid­ers’ Polls, and con­tests—more than I’ve seen in one place be­fore. It’s a col­lec­tion amassed through pure love and ded­i­ca­tion to snow­board­ing, in all its forms. Her grace on snow is matched by the artis­tic ren­der­ings printed on her board, boots, gog­gles—all of her own de­sign. De­siree is DIY. As I dis­tracted her from the board graphic she’s painstak­ingly been il­lus­trat­ing for the last month, she of­fered this: “Ev­ery time you em­bark on doing some­thing your­self you’re com­bin­ing ev­ery­thing you’ve al­ready learned and us­ing all the tools in your tool­box. DIY is a never-end­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of learn­ing new skill sets to be able to suc­cess­fully com­plete some­thing on your own, and that’s ex­cit­ing.”

COREY × MCDON­ALD

As I pulled away from De­siree’s, I de­cided it was time to make some calls to other DIY afi­ciona­dos who have in­flu­enced my path and that of many oth­ers. I im­me­di­ately di­aled Corey McDon­ald, an avid DWD sup­porter and the man that taught Jon, De­siree, and I how to wield rakes on Mount Hood. Dig­ging, the act of build­ing and main­tain­ing ter­rain parks, is one of the most in­her­ently DIY ac­tiv­i­ties in snow­board­ing. The process of mov­ing and shap­ing snow in or­der to ride it be­gan al­most im­me­di­ately af­ter snow­board­ing’s be­gin­ning. Be­fore the sum­mer snow­board camps we know now, rid­ers would con­verge on one of the only patches of snow in the con­ti­nen­tal US hearty enough to with­stand the sum­mer sun, Mount Hood’s Palmer Glacier. They would build half­pipes and jumps by hand, un­know­ingly cre­at­ing the ba­sis of snow­board­ing’s mod­ern freestyle form we know to­day. The men and women who put shov­els to snow on Mount Hood have a le­gacy of con­tin­u­ing on to be­come pro­fes­sional snow­board­ers, film­mak­ers, builders, and well re­spected mem­bers of the snow­board­ing com­mu­nity.

Corey McDon­ald manned the helm of High Cas­cade’s sto­ried dig­ger crew for many sum­mers and runs the park op­er­a­tions at Bo­gus Basin out­side of Boise, Idaho, dur­ing the win­ter. “Grow­ing up in Boise, we didn’t have a skatepark, so we built one in an empty park­ing lot. That’s how it’s al­ways been. If you want to do some­thing, you just have to do it. We never had ter­rain parks at the moun­tain ei­ther. We had to do it our­selves; we had to cre­ate our own jobs.” Corey ex­cels at not only build­ing fea­tures but at grow­ing and lead­ing a com­mu­nity of peo­ple who un­der­stand what it means to pitch in.

TED × BOR­LAND

Some­thing told me it was time I caught up with Ted Bor­land, an­other for­mer dig­ger that came up un­der Corey’s in­flu­ence. When I did, he was in the mid­dle of print­ing up a fresh batch of t-shirts for long­stand­ing Salt Lake City brick and mor­tar shop Milosport. Af­ter his tenure as a dig­ger on Mount Hood, he went on to work at Co­bra Dogs, an in­sti­tu­tion of ini­tia­tive em­a­nat­ing from its founder, Cory Grove. From ral­ly­ing the Think Thank crew around the East Coast in his van to wield­ing a chain­saw at the Bone­zone at Brighton, Ted is con­stantly on the move, look­ing for the next op­por­tu­nity to make an im­pact. Ted’s screen print­ing busi­ness is a new en­deavor with his fi­ancé, Nir­vana Or­tanez. It was estab­lished with in­tent to serve the snow­board­ing com­mu­nity and fol­lows his first year pro­duc­ing Fall­ing Leaf, a pro­ject rooted in Think Thank, meant to shed light on up and com­ing rid­ers. While we talked, he spoke of his time film­ing with snow­board­ing’s le­gendary avant-garde pro­duc­tion com­pany. “A lot of Think Thank peo­ple do it them­selves; we’re kind of like the mis­fit group in snow­board­ing, where noth­ing was handed to any­one. I think [Jesse] Burt­ner was at­tracted to those kind of peo­ple be­cause they’re like­minded. They aren’t go­ing to wait around for some­thing to hap­pen. We like to cre­ate things on our own terms in­stead of wait­ing for some­one else.” When I de­scribed an iconic aerial photo of the Bone­zone packed with early sea­son en­thu­si­asts, he shared this: “It’s an in­cred­i­ble feel­ing. There’s a rea­son why peo­ple that build fea­tures have so much pride in what they make, be­cause its an awe­some feel­ing to see oth­ers en­joy­ing some­thing you cre­ated.”

PARKER × DUKE

In the midst of an Idaho skatepark tour, Parker Duke was hang­ing at Corey’s house. Grow­ing up un­der the tute­lage of Corey, Parker be­came an ac­com­plished builder and rider. His ex­per­tise in shap­ing take­offs is renowned in our com­mu­nity and his pen­chant for high con­se­quence street rid­ing ex­em­pli­fies a well-rounded ap­proach to snow­board­ing. To him, the act of build­ing a spot or dig­ging is as rewarding as snow­board­ing on said fea­ture. “It’s just a part of the foun­da­tion of snow­board­ing. The key in­gre­di­ents. Spend­ing time snow­board­ing with friends is such a unique and gen­uine ex­pe­ri­ence. I have a long­stand­ing his­tory with snow­board­ing—build­ing, dig­ging, and film­ing—it’s still very much what I live for and look for­ward to.” When asked about his in­flu­ences, Parker cites a long lin­eage of builders he looks up to in­clud­ing Corey, Lu­cas Ouel­lette, Krush Kulesza, Luke Mathi­son, and the le­gendary Pat Mal­en­doski. “These peo­ple are such ex­perts at their craft and have played a sig­nif­i­cant role in cre­at­ing the snow­board­ing cul­ture we have to­day. What they’ve been able to pro­vide the peo­ple within snow­board­ing is in­de­scrib­able.”

LEANNE × PELOSI

The next day, I went back to Win­dells for a panel dis­cus­sion. Leanne Pelosi sat next to me, and for­mer pro turned Dakine Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing Direc­tor and de­fault team man­ager, Colleen Quigley, pro­vided Pelosi with an in­tro­duc­tion of mag­ni­tude: “Leanne could be con­sid­ered the per­son who has done the most for women in snow­board­ing.” Fol­low­ing the dis­cus­sion, I talked with Leanne about how she man­aged to earn that kind of pref­ace. Leanne al­ways knew she wanted snow­board­ing to be her job, but her ca­reer’s be­gin­ning was dur­ing a time when op­por­tu­nity for women in our space was less than it is now. She took it upon her­self to start Run­way Films, which pro­vided not only an out­let for her own rid­ing but cre­ated a plat­form for other women to ride at a high level in front of a cam­era, cul­mi­nat­ing in her lat­est pro­duc­tion Full Moon. Leanne echoed De­siree’s ex­cite­ment in say­ing, “When you set off to do some­thing your­self, it can be scary at first but that fear turns to ex­cite­ment. And then you just do it.” Never one to rest, she spent last win­ter pioneer­ing zones in Bri­tish Columbia on her snow­mo­bile—ar­eas that have only been seen from a he­li­copter. Her pas­sion and drive to keep snow­board­ing led her to cre­ate the re­al­ity she now lives in, and it’s a good one.

JESS × KIMURA

Af­ter our panel dis­cus­sion, I caught up via phone with Jess Kimura be­tween waves at what she calls her time­share—a re­built camper she drove from Canada to Mex­ico. Jess leads by ex­am­ple and has set the bar for fe­male pro­gres­sion sky high. When faced with back-to-back in­juries, she fo­cused her en­ergy into start­ing a film pro­ject show­cas­ing the tal­ent she sees in the next gen­er­a­tion. It’s called The Un­in­vited. She’s pro­duc­ing, edit­ing, and fund­ing the pro­ject, which is set to launch ca­reers for the most promis­ing young ladies com­ing up right now. “A lot of times DIY comes down to ‘make it hap­pen your­self, or don’t do it at all.’ Even back when we were film­ing for Peepshow, we used to go to Ra­dio Shack and buy a shitty video cam­era, film with it all day, and re­turn it that night. These awe­some, cre­ative, unique things are born be­cause there’s no other op­tion. You have to take it into your own hands to be able to make some­thing hap­pen and cre­ate that out­let for your­self; that’s what DIY is to me. It’s born out of need.” No stranger to the lim­ited op­por­tu­ni­ties pro­vided to women, Jess’s un­yield­ing com­mit­ment built the foun­da­tion of her ca­reer and has cre­ated hope for a fu­ture with im­proved op­por­tu­nity for fe­male rid­ers

CHRIS × BERES­FORD

Back in Gov­ern­ment Camp, the High Mounain Café was clos­ing for the af­ter­noon as I hung up with Jess. I re­lo­cated across the sleepy main drag to Char­lie’s Moun­tain View and set­tled in. Free­dom to turn vi­sion to re­al­ity com­bined with in­tense ded­i­ca­tion snow­board­ing were the themes stitch­ing these con­ver­sa­tions to­gether. Pas­sion seems to be a driv­ing force for the DIY men­tal­ity. Chris Beres­ford, just as Sean and Jeff did with Di­nos, turned pas­sion into ac­tion with Dang Shades. “In snow­board­ing, you hit a point where it’s like, do you want to do it? Do you want to keep doing it? If the an­swer is yes, then you need to fig­ure out how.” Dang is a com­pany born at the fa­mous High Cas­cade staff sale. “I was 22 and had noth­ing to lose. I was also too stupid to know any­thing else. Peo­ple asked me ques­tions all the time, and the an­swers, well, I didn’t even have any­one to ask. No one in my fam­ily owned their own com­pany; they all worked for some­one else, and that’s what I was sup­posed to do.”

Chris’s work ethic and ca­reer are driven by the need to keep snow­board­ing. With Dang’s suc­cess, Chris is now able to spread the love and cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties for team rid­ers like Ted to ride in far­away places like Ja­pan. From hand­plant tweaks to the oc­ca­sional cab nine, Chris is still snow­board­ing just as much as when spon­sors were pay­ing his bills, but now it’s on his own terms.

JESSE × BURT­NER

A name that con­tin­u­ally arose dur­ing my dis­cus­sions was Jesse Burt­ner. When I tracked him down, what I got was not only a his­tory les­son on how Think Thank, the pro­duc­tion com­pany he founded, came to be, but in­sight into his in­spi­ra­tions and the im­por­tance of en­ergy in all forms. Jesse led Think Thank’s revo­lu­tion with con­fi­dence in know­ing that, “When you put enough en­ergy in, peo­ple are at­tracted to it. You get peo­ple ex­cited, and they flock and bring their tal­ents—the right peo­ple come. It’s all about that com­mu­nity, and it’s fun to be in­volved with en­ergy. You catch a vibe from some­one and you know, like Scott [Stevens] for ex­am­ple.”

Stevens, af­ter giv­ing Jesse credit for launch­ing his ca­reer, spoke of the en­ergy Jesse was ref­er­enc­ing. “I like cre­at­ing en­ergy when I snow­board, and I’ve no­ticed I can do it even if I’m not the one rid­ing. Peo­ple get ex­cited, and I can ac­tu­ally feel their en­ergy be­cause I’m so ex­cited to see some­thing go down.” By col­lab­o­rat­ing with rid­ers like Scott, De­siree, Parker, Ted, Chris, and Jess, along with the cre­ativ­ity of Sean Gen­ovese and Christina Burt­ner, Jesse was able to vis­ually com­mu­ni­cate what snow­board­ing meant to him. By their third movie, Patch­work Pat­terns, Think Thank broke away from the con­ven­tional arc of snow­board films and cre­ated an artis­tic mas­ter­piece that gave con­text to a le­gacy that was to fol­low. “I just said, ‘Ev­ery­body for­get what you thought was nor­mal; do what­ever the fuck you want.’ It was re­ally Micah Hollinger, my long­time friend from Alaska. He set the bar so high for ev­ery­one up there and was dra­mat­i­cally chang­ing his skate­board­ing at the time. We were like, ‘Whoa, okay! This is ex­cit­ing. This is chang­ing ev­ery­thing.’”

Think Thank movies are marked by wild but co­he­sive artis­tic di­rec­tion that gives depth and per­son­al­ity to the film and its rid­ers. Jesse gave the rid­ers the free­dom to op­er­ate within this cre­ative arena be­cause, “I think snow­board­ing, for most peo­ple, is closer to an art form than it is to a sport, whether or not they re­al­ize that. It’s about self-ex­pres­sion and com­mu­ni­cat­ing some­thing that’s in­side of your­self. I think I have a burn­ing de­sire to com­mu­ni­cate with peo­ple, and I think ev­ery­one wants to com­mu­ni­cate with each other.”

AUSTIN × SMITH

Three weeks into my time in Ore­gon, I found my­self atop the Drink Wa­ter Rat Race course. It was the third day of build­ing, and the event was set to kick off the next morn­ing. Be­tween shov­el­fuls of snow and di­rect­ing course builders, DIY phe­nom Austin Smith told me his story. As co-founder of the char­i­ta­ble Drink Wa­ter brand and an in­te­gral part in cre­at­ing events like the Rat Race and Dou­ble Tap, Austin is no stranger to wear­ing all the hats that come with doing it your­self. “DIY is not wait­ing for some­one else to do some­thing, not wor­ry­ing about per­fec­tion and doing it to the best of your abil­i­ties. You’re not go­ing to let the de­tails or the im­prob­a­bil­i­ties or the minu­tiae stop you from doing it. Ev­ery­one has a ton of ideas, but so many don’t get ex­e­cuted upon be­cause of the work it in­volves or the lo­gis­tics or the fi­nanc­ing or what­ever. There’s a hun­dred rea­sons why you don’t do things, but I just try to ig­nore those things. Once you com­mit to doing it, what­ever it is, you can work through any prob­lem that arises along the way.”

Over the years, Austin has formed in­te­gral part­ner­ships with other rid­ers who share this vi­sion, like Bryan Fox and Cur­tis Ciszek. At a time when video projects were pulling peo­ple in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions, they took it upon them­selves to cre­ate their own, even­tu­ally spawn­ing the flip­pantly named Drink Wa­ter Me­dia House. Through col­lab­o­ra­tion, these guys have landed mag­a­zine cov­ers, cre­ated ac­claimed films, and con­trib­uted to those less for­tu­nate. When I asked what role he plays in the pro­duc­tion of these projects Austin re­sponded, “We’re all just kind of in the doing role. It usu­ally hap­pens or­gan­i­cally, and we divide and con­quer. I wouldn’t say any of us have ti­tles of pro­ducer or cre­ative direc­tor. We de­cided to do these things and col­lec­tively we do them to­gether.”

Those who do it them­selves are cre­ators. They are artists, vi­sion­ar­ies, and jacks-of-all-trades. They know how to use shov­els, stand be­hind cam­eras, and how to best sup­port oth­ers in their quest for self ex­pres­sion—all in the name of snow­board­ing. It’s not co­in­ci­den­tal that these mak­ers and cre­ators run in the same cir­cles; the need to com­mu­ni­cate a vi­sion a cre­ate their fu­ture nat­u­rally brings them to­gether. These 11 are only a tiny frac­tion of so many that work tire­lessly to keep snow­board­ing mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion, con­tin­u­ing to grow the core of cre­ativ­ity and in­crease its grav­i­ta­tional pull. Our com­mu­nity, snow­board­ing’s liveli­hood, is de­pen­dent on DIY. Sup­port­ing the peo­ple brave enough to break away from the pack, the peo­ple who cre­ate some­thing new and give breadth to our lin­ear ex­is­tence, is the only way to en­sure our un­con­ven­tional lifestyle re­mains avail­able for gen­er­a­tions to come. Be bold, trust your in­tu­ition, take the ini­tia­tive, and don’t be afraid do it your­self.

Many piv­otal con­ver­sa­tions in our com­mu­nity have hap­pened on Tim­ber­line’s Palmer Lift, be­low one of the most iconic back­drops in snow­board­ing.

Sean’s artis­tic tal­ent has de­fined the aes­thetic for the Di­nos brand.

Jon, Down Un­der with a fa­mil­iar sub­ject in front of his fish­eye, the ev­er­cre­ative Cole Navin.

Sean get­ting ride time in dur­ing DWD’s DIY col­lab­o­ra­tion with Snow­boy Pro­duc­tions, en­ti­tled BARRELy An Event.

DIY isn’t star­ing at this crosseyed crab wait­ing for some­thing to hap­pen. It’s build­ing a lip and jam­ming up and over.

Corey’s hands-on, au­then­tic ap­proach to ev­ery­thing he touches com­mands the re­spect re­quired to lead a crew of some of snow­board­ing’s most ded­i­cated per­son­al­i­ties. Here, he tests out one of his cre­ations.

Kin­dred and in­de­pen­dent spir­its. Snow­boy Pro­duc­tions mas­ter­mind, Krush Kulesza, with Corey at Bo­gus Basin, Idaho.

Ted Bor­land squares up back­wards on a rusty op­por­tu­nity oth­ers wouldn’t look twice at. DIY is in the eye of the doer.

Bone­zone ac­com­plice Jeff Holce among the tools of the log-build­ing trade.

Ted clock­ing hours at the screen­print­ing op­er­a­tion he runs out of his garage.

It makes sense Parker looks so com­fort­able here. He’s spent sum­mer af­ter sum­mer shap­ing this jump with only a tinge of self-serv­ing mo­ti­va­tion.

Leanne’s method has been re­fined dur­ing a ca­reer of cre­at­ing op­por­tu­nity for her­self and oth­ers.

A trio of minds whose ini­tia­tive to make things hap­pen on their own has in­spired a gen­er­a­tion. Taken in 2007, as it was all beg­gin­ing to un­fold.

Doing it your­self doesn’t mean you shouldn’t rely on the as­sis­tance of a friend and a 49cc. Bran­don Reis tows Ted Bor­land.

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