Kidwell in 1991. photo: Bud Fawcett
Kidwell in 2014. photo: Blatt
Who else was in your scene at the time?
In the very early years, I was riding with Tom Burt when we were doing a lot of hiking. Once we found the halfpipe, Tom was into the mountain experience more than the skate-style. Bob Klein and I rode all the time. Also, Keith Kimmel and Allen Arnbrister. There were a few guys from Sacramento. Randy Katen and this guy KJ, and another guy for sure, I don’t know his real name. That was really our main clique in the early days. We would all go out and ride together.
Do you remember the first contest you ever entered?
The 1983 World Championships at Soda Spring, California.
AT THAT TIME, WE HAD NEVER HEARD OF A SNOWBOARD EVENT. IT WAS PRETTY DAMN AMAZING; RIDERS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD SHOWED UP. I THINK THERE WAS A LITTLE OVER 200 PEOPLE THAT CAME TO RIDE.
Was that something you did because it was the World Championships or was it because it was the first contest you could do?
Had you met Tom Sims before the Soda springs Worlds?
I want to say we met in the ‘82 season, the year before he did the World Championships. The first time we met was at the Tahoe City halfpipe. I think Tom was like, “Oh my God! This is the future of snowboarding. The way these Tahoe kids are skating on their snowboards.” His eyes just opened wide. He was thinking this is the coolest thing we could be doing, airs and slashes like surfing. That was basically the birthplace of the idea for having a halfpipe event.
How did the Tahoe City Dump pipe even come about?
A friend of ours, Mark Anolik, had mentioned something about this ditch that he had found over the summer. It was up at the Tahoe City Dump. Alan Arnbrister and I were four wheeling around looking for this place. It was really hard to find because it was off the main dirt road. We were looking around with our heads up high while we were driving and we saw this little wall so we stopped the truck, walked over, and were like, “This must be what he is talking about.” As soon as we saw it, we knew we had to come back when the snow fell. The main hit was probably a ten foot, 45 degree angle wall. So we showed up the next winter, did some digging and started riding the Tahoe City quarterpipe.
How often did you ride the quarter?
Oh God, back then I was probably getting 160 days on the snow, just going out every day I could. I bet we were getting around 80 days on that quarterpipe. I would work my ass off during the summer in the Bay Area at a construction company, then I would move in with Mike Chantry in the winter and would try to support my riding as much as I can. In those days, it was a lot of Top Ramen and living as cheap as you can so you could go ride everyday.
When did professional snowboarding become your career?
It was around ’82 when Tom Sims showed up to the Tahoe City pipe and instantly gave us free boards. That was my first sponsorship, some free product. I went to the first World Championships in ’83, and did pretty good. In ’84 I won my first Halfpipe World Title, but I still wasn’t really thinking too much about it being a career. By the 1985 World Championships, I had won the halfpipe again and Tom had let me design my first pro model. I ended up making a couple dollars off that. Still, I wasn’t really thinking that this was going to become a career. I had to work in the summer to support my wintertime fun. By the time ’86 rolled around, I had my second pro model and the royalties were a little bit better. Then I started getting more attracted to the idea that I might be able to make a living off this if I held out and keep riding because the sport was growing at such a fast pace. As things evolved, things were probably just going to keep getting better as long as you were doing well at the contests.
What year did you win the first ever U.S. Open pipe?
1988. Jake Burton had the first halfpipe out East and that was the only time I won the U.S. Open. I still look back at that as one of the highlights of my career. As it turns out, that was actually the last time I placed first place at an event in the halfpipe.
And all the dudes were there! Palmer, got what, fifth? Did Craig get second?
You know what, I am not too sure. Going back that far, all that I remember about that event was all the other halfpipes where hand dug at the time and we show up and they have a big back-ho or excavator on tracks in the halfpipe, digging the wall with a five-foot wide bucket. It was the most amazing thing to see that. The first piece of equipment that I know of that actually dug a halfpipe out for us.
And it was just a giant leap forward for the riding.
Oh, for sure. Since ’83 to the superpipes of today, the halfpipes have kept steadily getting better for the most part. Every major event that we showed up to was basically the best pipe that we had ever ridden up to that time, almost every time.