The Continuing Education of Desiree Melancon—Interview
Despite the video parts, podium placings and other accolades she has earned over the past decade the hardest trick Desiree Melancon ever pulled was convincing the world that she is more than just a fragile person trying to pursue her passions while navigating the expectations of family, friends, lovers, sponsors and society at large. Yet, none of these external assessors can come close to matching the standards by which she judges herself. Sure Des curses, crashes, shocks, stomps, blows snot, smokes cigs and swills cheap wine but beneath the self assured shroud and well beneath the Bud Light tattoo, lies a sensitive, frail, insecure being who also happens to be fearless.
As I pushed recording this conversation my agenda was to try to provide the readers of SNOWBOARDER with a frank portrait of the Desiree Melancon I had come to know over the last five years during long days and late nights sharing the slopes, lapping transitions, learning tricks, road tripping, talking shit, carousing, collaborating and creating. Nonetheless, during this process revelations usurped assumptions as I too learned a lot about someone I thought I knew. Off the cuff but on the record, this is the Continuing Education Of Desiree Melancon.
Words: Pat Bridges | Photos : Marc O’Malley (Unless Otherwise Noted)
Lets start by talking about your snowboarding DNA.
My DNA is composed of the people who’ve impacted me the most. I started snowboarding when I was 15. Growing up in SoCal, I didn’t do much other than team sports. I was passionate about them until I hit a wall. I had a best friend in high school that basically lived at my house from the end of freshman to the beginning of our junior year. Aside from my family, she was the first person I experienced snowboarding with, she’s the first link to the DNA. Like all teenage girls we had a fight over something dumb and we became distant. That winter she died and that pretty much ended my High School experience.
How’d she die?
Driving to Mountain High. It’s weird because my life shifted so dramatically because of something that happened to somebody else. She was the glue to my social life in Riverside… but thank god for MySpace. Through the Internet I met Brandon Phillips. He was the person that exposed me to the magazines and videos and park riding. So, Brandon is the second link to the DNA. Once I started going to Mountain High a lot, I met Danny Duran and we started dating. One day, Danny showed up in a van to go up to the mountain with Dennis Foster and Scott Blum. Scott is the third link in the DNA.
Then it was sayonara team sports?
Yeah. Team sports were never enough. I was too neurotic to stick to one because I needed to see what else I could be good at. It was basketball in the Summer and Winter, volleyball in the Fall, then track in the Spring. I was always spreading myself too thin. I was also constantly let down by my teams. We were never good, we were never the best, and I was so hungry to taste success that eventually I became fed up. Then I went snowboarding. It gave me a satisfaction that team sports never could.
When do you think you started to call yourself a snowboarder?
The first day I went. [laughs] No, I think once I started ditching school to go ride I became a snowboarder.
And that led you to became part of a different clique.
Totally. I found a commonality amongst the people that I was riding with and they became my friends. It was skipping the normalcy of having to be friends with people just because you’re in the same class and the same age. I started hanging with more diverse people. All of a sudden it didn’t matter how old you were, what sex you were, what sport you played, or where you lived. It was the ultimate icebreaker.
Next thing you know, you’re that kid who has their board in their yearbook photo.
I did do that. [laughing] I was way more outgoing back then but there was a lot of shame in those years. I was so concerned if I would be cool and accepted because of the pressure high school put on me. My junior year I took my class portrait with my snowboard. A few weeks later I realized that was the wrong thing to do so I burned every copy. I regret burning them now.
The role snowboarding played in your life grew pretty quickly after that, yeah?
I went to snowboard camp the summer of my sophomore year. The whole Windell’s thing threw me for a loop because it was a taste of a different life. I met so many people and I would hear stories about their lives and mine wasn’t anything like theirs. They went to snowboard academies and did contests some even filmed and were sponsored. I ran into Scott Blum again and he introduced me to Harrison Gordon who became the fourth link in the DNA. Then at Timberline I met Nick Dirks and Jared Hadi. They nicknamed me Destiny and showed me that riding off the run can be more fun than sticking to it. I consider them the fifth and sixth links. The next summer I went back to Windell’s as a camper but when session four was over, I begged the camp director to let me stay. She found me a Counselor in Training job working the Snack Shack. When I finally went home I told my mom I wasn’t going back to school. That’s when things really changed.
What was your parents reaction to you becoming a drop out?
They accepted it. They were supportive and did what they could because I wasn’t going to do anything else.
My perspective is that parents are supportive of anything their kids want to try within reason but there is an unspoken cynicism that everything is just a fad that their kids will outgrow. At some point, that support and cynicism turns to skepticism where they’re like, “alright this isn’t a fad unfortunately”. Then they are left asking themselves “Well, now what do we do?”
More like “What did we get ourselves into?”
And you weren’t competing so they didn’t even have the Olympics or X Games to help them rationalize that you could be the next Kelly Clark or Tara Dakides.
Exactly… Their little 17-year-old girl made a real life decision to stop going to high school so they said, “Okay, how do we get you a degree?” They helped to enroll me in a continuation school for pregnant teenagers. I went there, did my senior year in three months, got my diploma.
Well, the three months is impressive until you consider that the program wasn’t meant to take more than 9 months.
Yeah, [laughing] that is what it’s designed for.
Did you ever play the “at least I’m not going out and getting pregnant like all the other girls in my class” card?
[laughs] I think at some point I actually did say that to my parents. And I’m sure that was a real fear, too. They were just along for the ride. I don’t think they wanted me to stray so far from their path but they didn’t stop it, they helped. I’m so thankful for their ability to cope with the choices I’ve made. Through it all I still get to call them and tell them I love them and I still get to say Thank You.
And this was all before online schooling.
Yeah, that wasn’t a thing. I had applied to Stratton Mountain School for my senior year and was denied. My parents couldn’t have afforded it anyway, but they entertained the idea. We found the alternative education program, which was the compromise. We also agreed that I would start college as soon as possible, and I did. It was always a team effort… but eventually I built up resentment because I would compare myself to other riders whose families were very present and supportive. I regret pushing my parents away because I convinced myself they didn’t understand, I felt like none of the other girls had to work double shifts in Big Bear to be able to do the contests. That’s why I stopped doing USASA when I was younger, aside from rail jams, which I would win money at. Then I decided to just keep getting better at rails. I worked my ass off and back then the snow bum life was more attainable. The McDonalds dollar menu actually cost a dollar. Snowboarding was cheaper to and rent was 300 bucks. I learned what it felt like to be hungry. Work for everything… stay hungry.
You moved to Big Bear when you were 17?
Torah Bright’s got you beat. She moved from Australia to Whistler at 13 to live on her own!
That’s insane. I love Harrison’s story. He was kicked out of high school, and moved to Mammoth at 15.
But 17’s still really young! Who’d you live with?
I lived with Brandon Phillips and four other guys. That kind of started this insane Bear era, and it’s all a huge blur. Joe Carlino was there, Justin Meyer was there, June Bongjhan ended up moving into my spot. She’s the seventh link. So many snowboarders would come thru and Sunday in the Parks were the cool online edits. Our house became this crash pad for everyone. Then I met Lance and Mike Hakker, who are the eighth and ninth links. They helped shape me into a better human.
At this point were you even any good at snowboarding?
Well I only rode park because I didn’t know anything else yet. I knew I wasn’t good, but I think I was different. Here’s a good story. I was a camper at Windell’s and Molly Aguirre was my coach. The first day she tried to tell me to do my back tails differently. To do them like her and Jamie Anderson did them. So I went to the camp director and asked them to put me into a different group because I didn’t like that I was being told to have a different style on my tricks. I got put into a guys’ group the next day.
You have lived in a lot of different spots. You lived in Big Bear. You lived in Tahoe. You lived in Gresham. You lived in Salt Lake. You lived in Bend. You lived in Portland. You lived in Mammoth. Am I forgetting any?
And I lived at my parents house. That’s all of ‘em.
Why haven’t you stuck with one scene?
I went through all of them really quickly, four places in less than three years maybe. I was always looking for where I would fit in. When I would move there was usually a break up involved. [laughs] My entire snowboarding career can be tracked based around each of my ex-boyfriends. [laughs]
That’s not a good message.
No, it’s not, but it’s comical and it’s the truth.
Lets dive into your thoughts on each of these scenes starting with Bear.
Bear was adolescence. It was absolute mayhem. I wouldn’t have gone anywhere without it. It was pure snowboarding every day from the moment I woke up until the chairlift closed. That was also the beginning of seeing what other people were doing. “Oh those dudes have that video camera? We’ve gotta get a camera like that.” Then learning to pawn off the camera on other people. Getting savvy to where I need to be in front of it, but I own it, so who am I gonna rope into this scheme? Brandon Phillips was a big one with that. It was also just riding everyday on my own terms, because it didn’t matter if it was good or bad out. We had nothing else to do, and everyone loved it so much.
Jared Hadi visited me in Bear and we hit my first street rail. The snow melted so Jared and I headed north on a road trip, filming through Mammoth and June then Truckee with my VX. I remember that it was a good snow year. Jared drove my car the whole way under the agreement that I would do his history class homework so he could graduate high school. He flew out of Reno shortly after that storm. I met Brandon Cocard and Tim Eddy my first day riding Northstar. Cocard and I immediately started filming together. We would put a camera on a tripod and push record between hits. I decided to not go back to Bear so I started delivering pizza for Jiffy’s and trading weed to get on the Northstar gondola because I didn’t have a pass. I lived in a mudroom at Nickie Schlecta’s apartment that would flood whenever the snow started to melt. I stayed in Tahoe until a job lined up for me at Windell’s for that summer.
I moved to Windell’s and worked as a coach and a counselor. I figured out really fast that I wasn’t into either of those things. That summer they held the Bonfire Pipe to Pipe and I won three thousand dollars, which was enough to get an apartment and start college. I enrolled at Mount Hood Community College and moved in with Mike McMillin, Harrison Gordon, and Nick Dirks in Gresham. Blum lived six blocks away. Within the first three months, we got evicted, I had my first mental breakdown, drove to California, realized I had to keep doing what I was doing, and drove back to Oregon. We got another apartment, this time with Harrison, Mikey, Nick, Willis Kimbel, and Joe Carter. I was working full time at Baskin Robbins and going to school. We would ride Timberline and Meadows. Towards the end of the school term I got a call from Laura Hadar. There was this project coming together, Runway Films, and it had just snowed in Utah and she said, “Do you want to come filming?”
With Runway, is that when Salt Lake City appeared on your radar?
Yeah. I remember thinking I have to go there now, because they’re making a movie and I’m invited in it. So I bailed on winter term. I went out there and I filmed. I don’t remember how long I stayed but I know after that first trip I did another one to Denver, one to Bear, and then a late season shoot in Utah. I eventually made it back to Gresham and knew I was moving out to Utah. Andy Wright was going to let me live in his basement and that was an insane opportunity because he was actually down to shoot photos… But you’ve got to realize… Hadar was the coolest. That Hadar call was a big one. She is the tenth link and these days I think about her a lot.
I never really think about girls influencing you, but now that you bring up Hadar it makes sense.
I used to call her the Mother Bird. She took me under her wing. She showed me how to film and how to navigate the industry. She helped me to see that I didn’t need to act pretty, and that it was cool to be yourself. But then her injuries came and that coincided with her Nike deal. It was as if she was okay with producing mediocre snowboarding while being marketed as one of the world’s best riders. I stopped fucking with her at that point. I remember wondering why aren’t I getting the same opportunities? That’s when I learned the reality of, “We only need one of your type.” I was comparing myself to Hadar, thinking, I’m doing the same shit that she’s doing… But I wasn’t. That was just my ego distorting my reality. To be fair, she wasn’t the only victim of this. It pretty much goes across the board for women and even a lot of guys. I’ve learned that jealousy is a very real emotion in snowboarding. I have so much newfound respect for Hadar, the path she paved and the one she’s on. Especially after going through my own injuries.
Within your time crewed up with Hadar came Videograss.
Yeah, Team Thunder helped connect me with the Utah guys and that transitioned into VG. Videograss was my friends and all of my favorite snowboarders. They came out of the gates as a core video for the current generation. They set out to do things on their own terms and make it underground and edgy. They also wanted to include Hadar and I, they were down. Incidentally that ended up being the worst video part I’ve ever filmed.
I was naive, hungry, and unaware of my limits. I couldn’t land. I couldn’t do tricks. I was scared. Halfway through that winter Justin Meyer looked at me and said, “Go home, go to Bear for a month, then let’s go film again.” That was hard. I was embarrassed. When Justin showed me my part for the first time, I cried. I cried because I was a part of something bigger that was important and I let myself down by failing to progress women’s snowboarding.
Lets talk about Peep Show.
June and Este launched Peep Show at the same time that Videograss started, and in my eyes it was a very honest representation of women’s riding. Was it groundbreaking progressive snowboarding? No. They didn’t pretend to be that… it was about having fun with your friends and making something. Bootstrapping. After Videograss, Peep Show provided a place for me to pick myself back up and continue to learn how to film. I would travel the states with Marie Hucal, who is the eleventh link. She taught me how to have a free spirit and to try to take snowboarding less seriously.
When did you turn the corner and start winning awards?
In 2011. Peep Show was taking a break and Jess Kimura needed someone to crew up with her while she was filming for X Games Real Snow, and Nike’s Never Not team movie. For anyone who’s counting, Jess is the twelfth link in the DNA. My priority was helping her get the clips, so I would build and shovel and then if I wanted to, I could hit the spots too. She would help me just as much as I helped her. Jess funded those trips for me. She paid for my hotel, food, travel, and provided the filmer, who happened to be Joe Carlino. That winter I took a page out of Jess’s book and everything started to add up. I started hitting bigger shit, I was more picky about the tricks I was doing, and I tried to do the tricks “right.” I stopped taking the “almost” makes. That was also the Salomon Team Vacation year, so I did a trip to Japan and got some clips with Tanner Pendleton. I had also gone to Alaska and filmed with Brandon Hupp and Harry Hagan. The filmers were a huge part of that success. Good filming and editing can make anyone look better. Tanner put together my 2011 season edit and I finally had my first real video part presented by Bonfire. A month after it came out Bonfire cut me.
They were dissolving the team and my contract was up so I was the first one let go. That was hard. I received a Transworld Video Part Of The Year award and knew that I had made something that was unlike my other parts. In my head, I was like, cool, this is a beginning. This is where it starts. Then to get cut immediately after, it was just like, are you fucking kidding me?
How’d you become a part of Think Thank?
I sent Jesse Burtner a Facebook message. That turned into some emails and then a phone call. Jesse was really responsive and into the idea of me joining the crew. I got in the van that December and drove to the East Coast on my 25th birthday.
Think Thank seems like an all-for-one, one-for-all type of program.
It is. That entire crew became such a big part of my life for those three years. Lucey, Ted, Reis, Chip, Hammid, Max, Nial, Mitch, Burtner, Pika, Beresford, I mean, everyone helped me and taught me something to apply to snowboarding. There might as well just be a Think Thank DNA link, so that’s the thirteenth.
How did things change when your Think Thank Brain Dead/Heart Attack part came out?
I fell in love with it more. Going on every trip was like a constant party. You’re with these people who are the most fun people you’ve ever met in your life, and you’re with them for four and a half month straight. I was so happy… But how did things change? Think Thank showed me what I was capable of and how important it is to have a good crew. It’s weird though, because I try to correlate change with monetary success, but the state of the industry was so wishy washy throughout these years. I would make mistakes, too. I was too outspoken. I was too negative, and I was too honest. Nobody likes honesty in snowboarding, or in the world for that matter.
But you won Transworlds Women’s Rider Of The Year in 2014.
I mean who was I up against in 2014? It was me, Jamie Anderson and Jess Kimura. Maybe MFR. Maybe even Kimmy? I felt like the year I won Women’s Rider Of The Year was a fluke because other girls had injuries and it wasn’t an Olympic year for Jamie.
The same could be said about the years you were injured and 2014 was an Olympic year for Jamie. Have you ever had the freedom to just focus on the snowboarding?
That’s perspective. I have the freedom to go snowboarding when I want to, but there’s always a goal with my riding, there’s always a new trick to learn. Then once you learn that trick you’ve gotta do it a certain way. I’ve always had to accomplish something so I can move on to the next thing to accomplish. It’s frustrating. I look back and I wish that I would’ve gotten better. Fuck, I’ve spent so much time doing it, how am I not better? But that’s the endless pursuit, and I think that’s why I’m not sick of it.
These last few seasons you’ve been involved in every aspect of your projects. Where does the drive to put so much on your plate come from?
Maybe it’s the control factor. With United Slopes, there were a lot of issues because I was so controlling over the way that I wanted to present that idea. I still feel really misrepresented as a snowboarder, so there’s this constant push to fix that and provide things that are honest and real. The only way to accomplish that is by taking on more. That means coming up with concepts, getting people to say yes, finding filmers who can commit for the whole season, making the plan, driving everywhere, telling the story, making sure we get B-Roll, checking the audio, checking the film angle at the spots, looking at every photo between hits to make sure it’s the right composition and then standing over the shoulder of my editors to tell them when something doesn’t feel right. You get the picture. I obsess over the act of snowboarding, and now I’m obsessing over the portrayal of snowboarding.
But to my point, right now you are enrolled in school, working on an interview, hand-illustrating your pro model graphics for Salomon, scoring music for other people’s art projects, riding at summer camp, and so on.
It’s the fear of missing an opportunity. I am crazy. Because of injuries I couldn’t get better as a rider so the only thing that I could do was progress intellectually and add to different skillsets. I know that when I “grow up” I have to be involved in our industry. Sure, I’ve accomplished things. I have accolades and I have awards, but the way I view these things is as if they were flukes because they aren’t something that the mainstream knows about or can even appreciate. Through snowboarding alone I will never gain as much recognition for what I’ve tried to contribute as the Chloe Kim’s or the Kimmy Fasani’s or the Jamie Anderson’s or even the Barrett Christy’s and Leanne Pelosi’s will. By expanding my skillset and saying yes to opportunities, I’m hoping to become a part of the bigger conversation… because I care about snowboarding.
Were you happy with United Slopes?
United Slopes was so overly ambitious but I wasn’t going to know that until I tried, so no, I’m not happy with it… but was it worth my time? Absolutely. I learned so much and it was awesome to see it spark something within our industry. People actually reached out and shared their stories and passion for snowboarding. The response that I got from making that project in comparison to any video part that I’ve ever filmed meant so much more because it provided something that resonated with people. The goal of USA was to make people want to go snowboarding. It provided an outlet for snowboarding that is relatable, which is the one thing that’s lacking right now. I was able to tell stories that no one else would have bothered to tell because the only stories being told these days have to directly benefit the sales of products. My biggest mistake was making it about the resorts rather than about the people. Resorts can fuck right off. Why is it that the industry seems to be shrinking? Because no one can afford to go snowboarding anymore. If you can’t go riding, what’s the point in buying the gear? The average ticket price is over 100 dollars and the resorts are committed to providing an experience based around consumerism rather than focusing on the beauty of what the actual mountain provides. That’s a whole-nother can of worms.
You’ve had video parts in ensemble movies, you did a narrative-based episodic series with United Slopes, but last winter you worked on your own action-based signature project, Fait Accompli.
United Slopes was something to do while I was hurt. If you noticed, I’m rarely the person snowboarding in the episodes. That web series made it so I could come back from two knee surgeries and three herniated discs. After United Slopes I wanted to film again. I was itching. Especially because of how good Jill Perkins did last year and how much more active a lot of the other women are with filming. Jill is the fourteenth link on my snowboarding DNA… I didn’t ride at the level that I wanted to with Fait Accompli, but Marc O’Malley and I are making something that I’m really excited to give to our friends.
(It has since been completed.)
How do you balance making something for your friends, making something for your sponsors, and making something for your fans?
I don’t really make anything for my fans. I don’t know how to. I think my fans will just like it. If they are a true fan, they’ll be into whatever gets made. Making something for my friends, that’s what’s natural to me. That’s what I’ve always done.
Well you put so much of yourself out there that it’s almost as if a fan is a friend of yours you haven’t had the chance to meet yet.
That’d be cool.
So how is Fait Accompli different than other signature projects like Subjekt Haakonsen, 9191, Beacon or Reckless Abandon?
Jesus, I can’t believe you’re comparing it to those. It’s not comparable. I’m not doing incredible snowboarding. I wish I was, but I’m not. It’s more or less insight into what my winter was like. Working with Marc is amazing because he’s my close friend and my roommate. He’s a photographer who I convinced to pick up filming because there wasn’t anyone else for me to hire. He filmed every clip and he shot every photo. He pulled double duty. Our work flow is just us, there’s no outside influence on the outcome. It’s almost like an experiment that we are passing back and forth between each other, which is really fun… but we have our conflicts. My snowboarding wasn’t strong enough and I want to tell a story a certain way, he’s concerned because he cant read my mind and wants to make something that isn’t cheesy. It’s a process in communication and trial and error. I want it to feel similar to how it feels to read someone’s journal or diary with inside thoughts and emotions. I want to be intentionally artistic. Not abstractly. To combine art and storytelling with riding is something is going challenging, but I’m obsessed with doing it.
It appears as though you take that same approach with every single thing that your name is attached to.
Everything that I make, I put everything into it.
What do you think about pros who don’t take advantage of the opportunity to really inject their personality into the projects they take part in or products their names are attached to?
It’s not for everybody. Some people could care less, and I respect that. I just have a different take on it. Every opportunity is an opportunity.
How do you feel when you see someone riding your ThirtyTwo boots or your Smith goggles or your Salomon Gypsy?
I get hyped. I get really hyped.
Which artists influence you?
I’ve always been really inspired by filmmakers. Lately it’s been Mike Mills.
So the Visual Mafia, Alleged Gallery and Beautiful Losers type of artists?
Yeah, that whole era, but that’s too easy. Ed and Deanna Templeton are so inspiring. Marc has turned me onto photography more, I think Cole Barash is a genius. I love the illustrations Dirks makes. I like what Durham and Seamus make. I like what Matt Roberge is doing, he’s an artist in his own right. I’m really inspired by musicians too… I could make a list but that would give away all my secrets.
Within the fabric of Desiree Melancon the creator if you could only choose one thread to be content with would it be the photography, the art, the music…
The conceptualization or the art direction.
So is that where you see yourself transitioning to?
Maybe, but that one is hard because with brands I feel like people work their way up to the Art Director position. It takes time and commitment. There are a lot of lazy Art Directors right now with a lot of bad ideas and bad execution. I want to keep telling stories. Art Directors are supposed to tell a brands story.
Lets talk about fear.
The fear thing, yeah. I think at every single spot I rode this winter I had to overcome the fear of getting reinjured. Then it took me ending up in the hospital for two days to finally overcome that fear.
So up to that point you were holding back?
Sadly, yeah. My video part this year is really safe… I know how I ride when I’m strong, but I spent the last three years on the bench. It affected me. Everything was a question mark. I would wonder whether or not I was going to be able to walk away from spots, and they weren’t even crazy. I was terrified because I didn’t want to be hurt again and spend another eight months rehabbing.
So it took you getting hurt this year to get over the fear of injury?
Yeah, because I realized that I’m not made of glass. I landed on my neck. I was scared and emotional. I thought that I was hurt, but six days later, I ended up being fine. It made me realize that I could take the slams. Plus it didn’t hurt nearly as bad as my ego did because that fall happened in front of Louif.
You came up before social media and here you are. How has that changed the dynamic for riders emerging now, or even kids out there boarding for fun, that don’t know a side of snowboarding before the feed?
I feel like it created a lazy factor. It’s so easy to have everything at the tip of your fingers and I’ve come to terms with that part. I’m more interested in the affects of the social constructs that social media is having on our industry as a whole. Everything is an advertisement now, and it’s so transparent to the point that it’s disgusting. Brands are more concerned with their engagement rather than telling an honest story. Social media is overrun with ambassadors, advocates, models, and influencers. Some are better at networking than others and it’s to the point where the true snowboarders, the real influencers, are being ignored or pushed out and losing opportunities because they don’t take the time to build up their following or update enough. If I had a choice, I would delete my social media accounts because it makes me depressed. Unfortunately though, my worth is measured by followers.
When did you start to become unafraid of making other people uncomfortable?
I used to love getting a rise out of people, but it’s exhausting. I think now it’s about finding a way to do it smarter, and to invest more time in it, if I am going to do it. Like not shaving my armpits and legs, that’s taken over a year of investment.
You made people uncomfortable in very public forums in the past but that’s not Desiree Melancon in 2018, or is it?
No, I’m different. Injuries do a lot to your soul.
So have you lost some of your fighting spirit?
No, but I’m restructuring to fight smarter, because that’s what I have to do. It doesn’t work to just stand on a mountaintop and scream your lungs out and demand change. It makes people uncomfortable and instead of acting on it or paying attention to it or getting a response, the only thing you’re going to get, is pushed out. Silenced. People aren’t going to want you around. I’ve had to do a lot of reckoning, which sucks, because I think that has hindered personal growth. But that’s sob story shit… and this isn’t a sob story. What were my experiences the last three years? All of them were new. New experiences. That’s incredible.
Our sport is mirroring society as a whole in that women’s snowboarding is having a moment and there appears to be a conscious effort by our industry to bolster support in that direction. Surely this is a good thing that warrants optimism.
I am optimistic. Look at the level of riding that’s coming out of Jill Perkins, Maddie Mastro, Kennedi Deck, Anna Gasser, Hailey Langland, and Chloe Kim. Not only are they doing actual tricks, but they have style. They’re riding fiercely. But on the industry side, I’m cautious about it. Women have always been celebrated in snowboarding. We’ve never been excluded like in other sports. We’ve had pro models, custom gear, full women’s teams and our own brands. For the most part, there has always been a women’s budget, but it’s always been way smaller than the guys. So right now, in 2018, there’s the women’s movement, and I think a lot of what is happening in women’s snowboarding is because of sponsors or whoever seeing an opportunity to make money, while still investing the least amount possible.
In other words are these newfound initiatives earnest or driven by the profit motive?
Profit motive, because it works. Women in action sports shouldn’t be a trend because we’ve been here the whole fucking time. Now there’s a higher demand for female riders to sponsor, but it’s across the board… women skateboarders, adventurers, bike riders, climbers, runners. All of a sudden… now we’re relevant. The problem with the trend is that it’s making room for, and in turn, celebrating mediocrity. It’s applauding the attempt. I genuinely think in the video part world, there’s a lot of sub par riding being elevated. What were the last undeniably amazing women’s pow parts, and not just a great first attempt? Or for that matter a woman’s video part that was actually well rounded?
You tell me and I say that not because I don’t have an opinion but this is your interview, not mine.
I have yet to be able to genuinely say that I’ve been satisfied. The best well rounded video part is still MFR’s because she could hit street spots and actually jump but the strongest women’s footage is still Tara. We can’t touch what she was doing. Why is that? All of the good jumpers and maybe even most talented rail raiders are all too busy competing.
But back to what’s going on today, this renaissance of women’s snowboarding, where should it lead?
Where do I see it going? I see more women getting involved, more opportunities, attention and support… which is great, but I think a shift is needed within the snowboard brands. It is the brands responsibility and duty to make sure that the women they are choosing to sponsor are actually supported financially with marketing dollars and given the resources in order to get out there and film the good backcountry parts, film the good rail parts, and tell a genuine story. Women need the opportunity to contribute to the culture aside from Olympic medals. In turn, if these brands are picking these women, these women better be willing to provide snowboarding that resonates with us and is at a professional level. Additionally, the industry as a whole needs to provide more places for women. There’s a serious lack of the female voices but it’s exciting to see ladies like Barrett Christy, Dasha Nova, Leanne Pelosi, Kimmy Fasani, Colleen Quigly, and Amanda Hanikenson, who is the fifteenth link, taking it beyond just the act of snowboarding and directly giving back.
Because the fear is that the well could dry up again?
There is a risk that it could ruin it for future generations. As far as being a pro snowboarder goes, if you’re not going to take advantage of the opportunity, then why the fuck are you here? This is a privilege. If you don’t have the drive to progress, if you don’t have the passion to want to improve the current norm, and if you’re only on this path for self-gain, fuck right off. If you’re not contributing back to it, then you don’t deserve anything it gives you. Get involved, share history, support each other, work together, take risks, and strive for progression.
When you look back through the metaphorical scrapbook of your snowboarding career, what are you most stoked on? What makes you smile the most when you think about it?
The summers. Every summer was a turning point. Mt Hood is the final link of my snowboarding DNA. I laugh so much. I fall in love with snowboarding all over again. Every time I look back and think about the summers, I realize my life would’ve been so boring if it wasn’t for snowboarding and for the people I’ve gotten to hang out with.