Simon Chamberlain first entered the general consciousness of snowboarding when he was featured in Mack Dawg’s “Game Show.” A Canadian upstart who bested the field at the Nixon Jibfest, Simon caught attention with his textbook style and humble demeanor. Since then, Simon has developed into one of the statesmen of modern jibbing, continually raising the bar for himself through his professional endeavors, both on and off-screen. He’s a self-starter and since founding Nomis with his brothers in 2004, he’s been able to develop his company while contributing to his stake in snowboarding through a collection of serious video parts. As the snowboarding landscape has changed, specifically through the influx of social media and digital offerings, Simon is one of a handful of riders whose careers have successfully straddled the before and after. Even five years ago, riders who filmed a year’s worth of secret spots and tightly guarded makes offered their work up in their yearly video part, but facebook, instagram, and twitter changed the game and spot leaks became de rigeur to keep up with fans who weren’t content to wait until September. Soon, webisodes entered the arena and everything changed even more. What was a rider’s best bet: film with a crew and release a full part or take off on their own to create a constant stream of content? Instead of choosing a side, Simon joined forces with JP Walker to form “Jibberish” and for the past two seasons has been cranking out timely edits that are anything but filler, as well as releasing a hammer heavy full part. As his past year’s efforts have just come together (and believe us, this year was good to him), Simon sat down with SNOWBOARDER to discuss filming, traveling, being a new dad, and what the future has in store.
– Mary Walsh
The Jibberish full part teaser is really unique. How difficult was it to film that?
It was kind of hard because JP and I don’t ride the same way. He’s regular and I’m goofy and you have to keep the shots consistent, so whenever I wanted to do a trick or he wanted to do a trick, either one of us was doing it switch, so that was kind of tricky. Then we had to really think of whatever we did before filming it, like where to be, because editing it would be difficult because it’s half your body. It was a challenge. Surprisingly, I think we worked on it for two or three days in the Whistler park and it worked out pretty cool, so we were excited about it.
You’ve been with Stepchild since day one and the brand portrays an often boisterous, rowdy image. How do you find the balance between your own image and that of the brand?
(Laughs) Well, I’m kind of the complete opposite of that because I don’t really party that much. When I got on with them, Sean Johnson was super cool. He was just like, “keep doing what you do and just have fun. That’s what we want you to do.” I didn’t have to try that hard to find a balance, I just did my own thing and those guys are all cool, so it was pretty easy.
Often when people discuss Canada’s jibbing contingent, they immediately think of Eastern Canada and the crews in Quebec. But, Western Canada has a really strong stake in the streets as well, with riders like yourself, Jake Kuzyk, and Jed Anderson. What is the rail riding scene like in the western provinces and why do you think snowboarding doesn’t give it more attention?
I’m from Ontario and I moved to Whistler when I was seventeen, but I didn’t really do that much street stuff when I was younger, until I started filming video parts. The thing about Canada is that the security isn’t as strict as it is in the States. There are obviously some encounters, but they’re not sue-happy up here, so I think that when you do street stuff, it is less of a bust. Now, people get that vibe and a lot of Americans come up here. There are so many good jibbers from places like Calgary, Alberta, and BC, and it’s sweet to see those guys get noticed, like Kuzyk, Jed, and all those guys. Obviously, the Quebec scene is amazing. I don’t know why it really doesn’t get as much attention out here, but I’m sure it will just keep going and going and going. The thing that is cool, too, about BC, is that you can snowboard for so long here. There are kids that go up to Whistler and jib in the park until August. They get really good at rails and when the snow flies, there are tons of spots in Western Canada. I think the jib scene is pretty strong up here. You go to any park and tons of kids rip, so it’s pretty awesome.
You’re part of a growing group of riders who film webisodes and also release a full part online. What have been the benefits and challenges of doing both of those things as opposed to just doing one or the other?
Well the thing is, for our project we are a pretty small crew. It is pretty much just JP and myself, and a couple guys here and there. That makes it kind of hard on some trips because you don’t really have manpower. I remember when we used to film for videos, we’d always go on a trip with at least like four or five guys and you’ve got all this help to do your thing. I think the challenge for us is just that. But, it’s kind of cool because you have full control of what you want to show; it’s not like you do your filming and then at the end of the year your part comes out. We save our best shots for the full part. We have been filming video parts our whole career so far, and that’s the hype at the end of the year that you want to see, that one segment. So, that is what we wanted to do and we just went that way. I think that is what is kind of unique about our [webisodes].
Have you guys considered growing your crew?
Yeah, I would be down to have more people for sure and I know JP would, too. It’s just hard to organize a bunch of guys, because in the fall everybody has their plan to do something. You’ve got to get people on board earlier. But, we are totally willing to have more people involved for sure. Make it more heavy, that’d be awesome.
You and JP spend a lot of time together throughout the season, traveling and filming and everything. How does the collaborative process work between you guys?
It’s funny, because we come up with a lot of this stuff as we go. Some things, like that backyard jib thing, we wanted to do that for a few, then it just kind of happened this year. JP was talking about his handplant contest for a couple years and that just came up, and we’ve always wanted to do a Spot webisode—so there are always these things that we’ve had ideas of doing and we worked them into our schedule and it all worked out. JP is really good at the technical side, editing and stuff like that. So, he did a lot of the website stuff, but anything that we do we both talk about and make sure we are on the same page before anything comes out.
You and your wife just just had a baby, congratulations! Now that you are in the Rad Dads Club, how will this affect your upcoming season?
I’m just going to go at it just the same way as I always do—I’ve got a really supportive wife. I’m sure I won’t be going on any trips that are a month long or anything like that, but I’ll make sure I spend quality time when I’m home and when it’s good, go get my work done. It is kind of a new motivation in a way—when you’re a dad, you’re thinking about family, so it makes you want to work harder. I know a lot of guys, like Jeremy Jones and Seth Huot, who have kids and they make it work and kill it. I’ve got good examples in my life.
You’re pretty active on social media, communicating with people that are stoked on your riding. With all the various social media options, you now are given even more of a chance to provide your own marketing and promotion. How has social media affected the last few years of being a pro snowboarder?
I think it is a great tool. When I would film parts five or ten years ago, you didn’t really know anything that was going on, where anyone went, or anything like that, and now it’s cool because kids can say, “oh, hey, I remember that photo when JP was in Japan in March,” and then see that shot from the video part. I feel like kids connect more to your end product in a way, so I think that is pretty neat about social media these days. It’s always good, too, that you can hit up shops, or if shops tag you in things, you can be like “hey, let me get stoked on the brands you’re repping,” and stuff like that. I think it just helps with everything.
What’s next? You’ve done two seasons of Jibberish. Are you guys planning to do a third season? What would you like to accomplish this winter?
We’ve talked about it. We don’t really know what’s going on yet. There has been talk of maybe Stepchild doing their video, but we don’t really know if that is happening or not, so it’s open to discussion. The group will probably chat in the next month to figure it out. My goal is just to keep snowboarding as much as I can and just try to improve, and that’s it.
Would it almost be a little weird if you went back to just doing a video part, not having to worry about putting out webisodes all winter?
Oh yeah, it would feel mellower for sure. It’s just a different vibe. It would be nice in a way, but then at the same time you’d probably miss when you were like, “oh, there is a picnic table here. Let’s make an edit out of it.”