Forest Bailey interview

Ted Borland

Doesn’t this photo make you wanna poke Forest on Facebook? You should. Nagano, Japan. P: Mike Yoshida

Sean Lucey Think Thanks

Sean Lucey Think Thanks

P: Huggy

Sochi Airport

P: Mike Yoshida

The original title of this interview was “Down To Earth And Out Of This World.” Despite it being somewhat cliché, my intention with this name was to try to be clever and catchy while conveying Forest’s humble personality and fascination with space. With deadlines looming and our Art Director Davey Steigerwald putting the final touches on this issue, Forest called at the last minute asking if we could change the title to “Made With Love.” Forest’s take on it was simple. He feels that his riding and his art, as well as the choices he has made in both his career and in life, have all been made with love. This is the symbolism behind the hearts he injects into many of his paintings, including those he has created by hand for this layout. It is also why he has an irrational drive to succeed where others are dispassionate. In a sense, my titling this interview was putting a label on Forest and just as Forest abstains from labeling others, he denounces the idea that he himself can be typecast by anyone else. I have known Forest for the better part of a decade now. Our relationship is more personal than professional and I have seen him manifest his dreams on his own terms. From the projects he signs on for to the signature gear he endorses, there is no aspect of Forest’s life that he hasn’t exerted control over, so it should come as no surprise that this interview would be any different, all the way down to the name.

words: Pat Bridges

Artwork: Forest Bailey

PB: Lets start by talking about last season.

My year was good. I filmed for SFD. It definitely wasn’t my best year due to a couple injuries, but it all came together and I was actually super stoked on the winter.

Do you have a pretty thought out list of goals going into each season?

I don’t have goals for tricks necessarily, but I do come into the season thinking, “Where are some cool places I can visit?” Then I try to use my time wisely so I can have the most productive winter possible. As for developing tricks, I don’t even know what that means. I always have a million tricks that I want to do in my head. It’s more a search for the spots so I can do those tricks.

Is it more satisfying when you find the spot that lets you do something that you have been thinking about, or when you go someplace with an open canvas and come away with a trick that you hadn’t imagined doing up to that point?

They are both just as good. When I’m snowboarding I’m so in my own head and in the moment. I’m the most present in my life when I’m snowboarding. I’m never stressing at a spot, I’m just snowboarding. I’m not the type that goes to a spot and sets up for a day and rides for a half hour. I am someone who goes to a spot and sets up for 20 minutes tops, and rides for three hours straight. I let the progression happen naturally. I’m not trying something crazy right away. I learn the spot and I figure out the best possible thing I could do and I go home once I’m satisfied.

What was it about last season that you started getting hurt?

It’s me not being able to control myself in the moment. When I’m snowboarding I get so wrapped up in it. I don’t think, I don’t breathe. I don’t do anything but snowboard. When I broke my arm, it was pretty obvious that it was time for me to stop for the day, but I couldn’t give up. That’s an issue that I’ve always had with snowboarding and skating. I don’t know when to quit. I’m going to do it until I get hurt or I land the trick. Usually it works out but on this occasion, I broke my arm.

What where you trying?

It was that spot that I did a back three onto in the movie. It was this pretty unique looking rail. I was stoked on it.

Think Thank in Russia

Everything came together for Forest on this separated rail in Nagano, Japan. P: Huggy

The separated rail?

The separated rail. It’s five rails together in a row. You can still grind them or slide them or whatever. There was this tree branch above the rail and I was thinking how sick it would be if I could get up onto the tree, grind it real quick—almost like wallie off it—and then get over to that rail and fifty it. It was looking like it was going to work. I was hitting the tree and airing over the rail into a bank. I tried it for like an hour and I got so close so many times. Then I gave up and I went and laid down behind the van because I was losing my mind. I was so frustrated with myself. At spots I am battling myself more than anything else. After fifteen minutes I walked back and John Cavan was still ready to film and Huggy was still ready to shoot the photo. Everybody was waiting to see if I was going to tell them I was over it. I can’t do that. I’m not good at being over it. It was sunset and I continued to ride. I hiked back up, hit it again, the speed changed and I broke my arm. I basically just aired down the whole set to my arm.

Talk about the Japanese hospital experience.

Nobody that we were with really spoke Japanese. Our guide spoke Japanese but he couldn’t translate to English very well. It was a mess. As soon as I saw the X-Ray, I knew it was broken. I took a train back to Tokyo solo and the next morning I flew home and went to another doctor. They wanted me to get surgery but I decided against it. It’s one thing with a knee but our bodies heal themselves. That’s what it’s supposed to do. That’s what it’s been doing since the beginning of time. Surgery hasn’t always been a possibility. Now it seems like every single time you get hurt they want you to get surgery. It is only within the last hundred years that you were even able to get surgery. So I didn’t get surgery and my arm feels just as good as it ever has. I wonder if I hadn’t gotten surgery on my knee if it would be fine within a year or so but that’s more of a risk.

How did you then hurt your knee?

I broke my arm in late January and took seven weeks off. Then in March we went back to Japan to film again. I had an incredible trip and was feeling better about bringing my part together. I met up with Pat McCarthy to get a couple extra shots sledding up at Mt. Baker. Then I went to the Gerry Lopez Big Wave Challenge. The first run of the day, it was icy. I hit the hip side of a step down rather than going straight off it. I came off weird, drifted a little and landed on my knee. I knew right away that something was wrong. I was in denial for a month because so many of my friends have gotten knee surgeries and it was always something that I was constantly trying to avoid. I tried to skate a month later and tweaked it again. I knew after that second time that my knee was fucked. I got an MRI and sure enough they said I had absolutely no ACL left. I got surgery two weeks after that. Where the medical system in this country is at right now, it just seems so corrupt. They just want to give you the painkillers and sell you the drugs. No pills are going to help you heal. There are much better ways you can heal naturally.

What is it about Japan that keeps drawing you back there?

There is always snow, which is definitely becoming more and more rare. They have a good culture. I like the people and I have friends there. It’s a sort of home for me but I feel like a lot of places are some sort of home for me. I feel good when I’m there. In Europe, everyone is still white and everyone is still speaking English in some respect. When you’re in Japan, you feel like you’re out there. Everybody looks different, talks different, and you really feel like you are not in as much of an Americanized place. The world seems to be turning into a monoculture. Everywhere you go in the world you see a McDonald’s, you see a Hilton hotel…

A 7-Eleven store.

7-Eleven is a perfect example for Japan because they are everywhere. I want to find places that are less Americanized where I can actually feel like I’m traveling because so many times it doesn’t seem too much different than where I am from.

Ted Borland

If people from the States drive a car in Japan, can they claim driving switch? Forest front boards in Nagano, Japan. P Huggy

Think Thank in Russia

Think Thank in Russia

P: Mike Yoshida

Think Thank in Russia

You are a citizen of the United States, but you are also a citizen of the world, and there is a difference.

It’s scary that the rest of the world looks at our American mentality and they take notes and think that is what they need to be doing. We have been such a successful nation, but in reality, we might be the worst people they could be taking notes from.

If you look at the world as a high school lunchroom, we’re like the jocks, the cool kids, and then the Japanese are the nerds.

Okay, we might be getting a little too far ahead of ourselves with the generalizations. But we started this whole business bullshit and global economy initiative. The whole world right now is how can we make the cheapest product and sell it for the most money. That is American business. The same thing goes for the prison system, the medical system, the education system and basically everything. Business in this world is really fucked right now. We ship all this manufacturing business overseas, give people small wages, and treat these people like shit. Then they send this stuff back and we charge as much as we can for it. That is so backwards. It’s humans using other humans and we are all just getting lazier and lazier. Yesterday my dad and I were talking about who he was taught were the most important minds in this world. Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, all these people that invented things we use so frequently that we don’t even realize that we are using them. In reality, these might be the people who made the worst discoveries in the history of mankind. In the last 200 years this planet has changed faster and in the worst ways than it ever has. How did that happen in 200 years? Now, every single person relies on computers to make any decisions. Eventually, you’re not going to need a brain, because your computer is going to be your brain. Your iPhone is becoming your brain. What’s the point of learning anything if you have all information in the world at your fingertips? It gives me anxiety to think where we are headed, honestly.

You said Japan feels like one of your homes. What other places make you feel that way?

I feel at home almost anywhere because with snowboarding, regardless of where you’re traveling, that’s what you’re doing. I go to Russia and I meet up with kids that are the same age as me, that have lived the same life as me, skating, snowboarding, partying, having friends, traveling around, going on road trips, camping…but they just happen to be from Russia. Being born in America does give me more opportunities. I want to do something positive with those opportunities. Right now that’s being a professional snowboarder, but I want to do more than that with my life. I want to evolve that into working on something positive for humans rather than becoming another drone of society. I want to change the system rather than fall into it.

Think Thank in Russia

Maybe this 50-50 front 270 to switch front board is so clean because Forest did it on a set of bleachers Nagano, Japan. P: Huggy

I see our hanging out in three different states in three weeks as an example of snowboarding itself being a home.

My dad always equated it to being on tour with The Dead, where you don’t see someone for two weeks but then you all link up at a show and it’s a party. Then you leave and do your thing but you know you’re always going to go back to that family, your group, your community, every couple weeks. Snowboarding is the same. All throughout the winter, everybody is busy going on their solo missions, doing their thing, but you know that you are going to meet up with 200 of your friends at some event in three weeks or so.

You’re 23 and have lived in Vermont, Lake Tahoe and Colorado and now you’re working on laying down roots in Portland, Oregon.

You say laying down roots, but in reality I know maybe 20 to 30 people here because I travel all the time.

And they all snowboard.

I have been making an effort to try and meet people with other interests because I don’t want to talk about snowboarding and skateboarding all the fucking time. But I do. I think about it all of the time, but it’s nice to be able to talk about other issues in this world. It’s cool to do art, because maybe someone sees that I snowboard and do art, and that I have all of these other thoughts besides snowboarding. When I was a kid, all I thought about was snowboarding. Now, I think if I had some other interests my life could have gone a different way. I’m really happy that it went the way that it did, but it’s cool to test out a lot of different things and see what else you’re interested in.

And the downtime healing from your injuries has given you more time to pursue other interests.

If definitely has. If I were skating all summer, I probably would have created one-fifth of the things that I did. I really like doing art and art is such a broad thing. It’s just like skateboarding and snowboarding. There are no rules. There are no limitations. Whatever you think of, you can make.

Do you feel the same satisfaction when you’re painting as when you’re snowboarding or skating?

Not quite yet, because the difference for me is being active. I can sit down and paint for seven hours but I’m not going to be tired at the end of the day because all I did was sit there. When I go skateboarding or snowboarding, I do that for an entire day and I come home and all I want to do is pass out. I love that. This summer, not being as active as I usually am has been really hard.

Ted Borland and Max Warbington

Despite the retaining wall in this photo, there is nothing holding him back in snowboarding. Nagano, Japan. P: Mike Yoshida

Max Warbington

One dude and ten frames equals three cheers for Forest. Nagano, Japan. P: Mike Yoshida

Max Warbington

Max Warbington

P: Huggy

Max Warbington

P: Mike Yoshida

Are you like a Scott Stevens, spending hours consuming snowboarding or skateboarding?

Movies? Not at all. I used to be like that. I love watching snowboarding and I love watching skateboarding, but really only the things I’m passionate about. I don’t want to watch a hundred park edits from a hundred kids. I want to see my friend’s footage that they worked really hard to get, but that’s pretty much the extent of it. I’m not a snowboard nerd. I could never watch a basketball game but I love to play basketball. I’m much more interested in the action than the nerding out on it.

You came up as a prodigy at Stratton and became a big fish in small pond at a young age, winning all the East Coast contests. Then you moved west and pretty quickly put out serious video parts and were given a pro model. You’re 23 and have checked off a lot of pro snowboarding goals already.

I’ve always had goals in snowboarding. My mom likes to tell a story about it. When I was a little kid we would have “Authors Tea” in school where we had to write a book. Then we all drank tea and everybody presented their books. For my book I wrote that when I grew up I wanted to be a pro skateboarder and a pro snowboarder. There was no light at the end of anything else for me besides snowboarding and skating. I was willing to commit my life to it. My dad would drive me to every skate and snowboard contest on the east coast and we would sleep in his car. I started paying my own bills when I was 16 through snowboarding. When I was 17 I dropped out of high school and I moved to the west coast and bought a car and went straight to Mt. Hood with my own money. My parents haven’t helped me financially since. That’s pretty rare I think. I’m sure that a lot of people have those exact same thoughts when they’re young but it doesn’t work out, which has provided added inspiration for me wanting to do something positive with it.

Your sponsors have given you the opportunity to really be hands-on and make a statement with everything that you are putting out there that has your name on it.

Even from a young age, GNU was really down. I knew what I wanted to do. I had creative concepts for how I wanted everything to be. I was very into space at the time, and I still am, because it is infinite. You see it every day but you don’t really understand it. We probably never will. 686 was a little harder because it was designing clothes. Designing clothes is difficult but I had a very specific idea of what I wanted my stuff to look like so I pushed for it. Now I can work with them to design exactly what I want. That has been another reason why I’ve been doing art for the last five years. It’s just now getting to the point where I’m confident enough to let it be used for everything.

Well obviously the first person to meld his art with his image in skateboarding or snowboarding was Gonz.

Who is a big inspiration to me. I met him once at this photo show he had down in LA. Just shaking his hand with him was all I needed to feel complete in some way. I’d like to get the opportunity to go on a trip with him and skate or take him snowboarding or even just hang out.

Did you ever think you could go down the path of skating instead of snowboarding?

Yeah, when I was like 13. I wanted to be a pro skateboarder, and I still do in some respect, but I’m not ever going to be like a pro skateboarder. Actually I’m so glad I didn’t go down that path because skateboarding right now is crazy. You have to kill yourself to make it. I’m glad that I can skate as a hobby and do what I choose to do on my skateboard. I don’t want to be jumping down a thirty-stair rail on my skateboard. That doesn’t seem fun to me. On a snowboard at least there’s some snow.

At what point do you think you had a consciousness about being Forest Bailey the role model?

I think I noticed it from a pretty young age. I kind of had a name for myself in Vermont way before I was anything in snowboarding. I’m very conscious about how people look at me, and it’s kind of impossible not to be as a pro snowboarder. It fucks a lot of people up, and it has fucked me up in a lot of ways. Regardless of where I am in snowboarding or life, I’m still a 23 year-old kid. I’m still confused about so much stuff. I’m no different than anybody else. I am still going through the process of being in this world and being alive and figuring out what it’s all about. I don’t know anything more than any other 23 year-old. But I have been given all these incredible opportunities and I’m trying to stay sane and present.

Your riding for Red Bull was a big part of how you came up in snowboarding.

Oh yeah (laughs).

That seems so contrary to who you are as a pro snowboarder now. At what point did all that change?

I think when I was young Red Bull was pretty cool. Not necessarily because of the product they were making but because of all the events they were doing. They were putting a lot of money into what I loved. Then it came to the point where they wanted to give me money for snowboarding and I was like, “Well, that sounds great.” I signed a contract with Red Bull when I was 16 and I was getting paid. I realized pretty soon that I didn’t like drinking Red Bull. I didn’t really want to support it but it was one of the brands that was supporting me the most. It was this weird contradiction. They wanted a logo in every photo and in every video clip. So it was like, yeah, they support my industry but they also sell a really unhealthy drink to every single human on this planet. I don’t want some little kid to see a photo of me in a magazine with this Red Bull logo on my hat and think that’s what I’m all about. I feel better about snowboarding when I don’t have a Red Bull sticker on my board or a Red Bull hat on. If I feel better while I’m doing it, money doesn’t matter. Red Bull supported me in a lot of ways. I couldn’t have done a lot of shit without them and I’m grateful for that, but I’m glad that it’s over. At least Red Bull is an independently owned company where as Mountain Dew and Coca Cola, those are real mega corporations. I ride for adidas and that’s a corporation too, but at least that is a snowboard-specific thing that they are trying to create.

And it’s a product you use.

I like using their boots and I like being a part of helping them with making a better boot. I go into their office and it’s all skaters and snowboarders working on the stuff.

Max Warbington

P: Mike Yoshida

Max Warbington

Max Warbington

P: Mike Yoshida

And you have moved on from Gnarly?

That was a really hard thing. That’s the negative part of being friends with all the people that you “work” with. It’s really hard to separate that and you don’t want to end friendships. The last thing I want is to not be friends with those guys. I love every single person that works for Gnarly, and I think it’s a rad brand. I was going through a lot at the time I left and I just needed to make a change for personal reasons and go on my own path. Lately, I’ve been designing some clothes for Matix. It’s pretty cool that another brand would let me design stuff right away. I want to learn the process of designing clothes and I want to be able to use my artwork. I did just have 80 t-shirts made on my own but it isn’t to sell them. I want to have a little gift to give to all my friends when I travel around. I make money being a snowboarder, which is the most ridiculous concept in the world already. I just want to make stuff for fun. Hopefully people are stoked on it but it doesn’t matter. What’s important is that I’m just making it.

So why not start your own brand?

First of all I don’t have a name. I can’t decide on one. I wanted to think of one and get it copyrighted before I made any t-shirts but just thinking of a name was stopping me from making any. So instead of continuing to think about it as a brand, I just got them made.

It reminds me of the story of a kid from Auburn, Washington who went to a trade show with a logo but no brand name. After a few days of shops asking for and writing orders for the clothes with the “four squares” on them he had found a name for the brand.

Peter Line.

It’s a true story.

That is sick. I don’t care what the brand is called and I don’t think it really matters. I recently got a Friends Of Curb t-shirt in the mail, which is Dave Marx’s little homie thing he’s doing which is just t-shirts and stickers. I also just got a t-shirt from Andrew Aldridge that he’s making out of Salt Lake City. This shirt I’m wearing is from my buddy Joey from Salt Lake City. It is called “Isle of Ew”. He makes patches and t-shirts. Anything handmade or directly from somebody’s hands to another person’s hands just feels more special. Anything with a brand logo on it doesn’t feel the same. I had my t-shirts done by a couple who has a screen printing setup right in this neighborhood so I’m able to support the community in a smaller sense.

What prompted you to have the initiative to grab the reigns of so many facets of your career?

I guess I’ve seen people get screwed over for a long time. I remember talking to GNU when I was pretty young and being like, “Okay, here’s the deal. I dropped out of high school and I want to be a snowboarder. I’m going to commit my life to this.” I laid it all on the table. I wanted to be able to buy a house from snowboarding. I wanted to be able to call it my career and do it for along time to come. They trusted me because I was genuine about it. That’s how I feel and maybe they saw that passion. You trust me and l will trust you and we will work together and do this. If we are going to make something with my name on it and something that people are going to buy, then I am going to be as involved as I can.

Do you think you’ll live in Portland for the long haul?

Honestly, I still have no idea what the heck I want with my life. I’m constantly looking for what I want to be doing later on. I know that I’m not going to be snowboarding forever. As much as I want to snowboard for as long as I can, it might not be possible to snowboard forever. I want my snowboarding and skating and art all to evolve into something that is positive and gives my life more meaning. Portland is a great place for now, and I’m so stoked that I have this house, but I don’t see me being here for the long term. I really want to buy some property. I want more space. But I’m 23 years old and to actually make that commitment is too much because I have so much other shit going on. I need to be in a place where I can travel out of and I need to be in a community because I’m 23 and I’m single and I’m not going to just go live out in the woods by myself.