Whiplash: Scotty Wittlake Interview

By Gerhard Gross

Scott E Wittlake is the one that got away. Influenced by Portlands early 90s hardcore punk scene he lives by his own damn-the-man code. The snowboard world loves someone who isnt afraid to buck the system, so when Scott Es first part in Kingpins The Revival came out in 1999 it didnt take long for a buzz to form. And his minimalist style, like donating 100 percent of his royalties to the charity Food Not Bombs, only solidified him has a strange and interesting character. But by 2004 he was ready to quit professional snowboardinghe now says that he hated being recognized and wasnt getting any better but other people were. He also didnt want to milk it and the whole situation made him feel like kind of a fake. Of course, the move made him all the more real. After a seven year hiatus, Scott E. teamed up with Bryan Fox to make the short shred flick The Rascals last winter so we sat down with him to see where hes at.

Are you happier after you quit snowboarding professionally?

The short answer is yes, absolutely. Those first couple years I had nothing to do with the scene and I had more fun snowboarding than I did in a long time. I felt like l was better after I quit, maybe because I was riding so much.

Does being a pro snowboarder represents everything that snowboarding is about?

Our society puts a huge emphasis on the definition of success being fame and fortune. Not nearly as much emphasis is put on how you get that fame and fortune, or what is physically happening to get there. If youre a pro snowboarder you have fame and fortune, at least to some degree, as opposed to someone who goes and snowboards for the pure love of it. Getting better at snowboarding isnt an easy term to define either. With snowboarding and skateboarding, the better you get, the more able youre to use your creativity. Its more of a creative outlet because you have more control over what you want to do. Your limit becomes more your brain than what your body can do.

Why did you want to make The Rascals?

Bryan asked me and I said yes. Hes always wanted to make a little video that he could have his say in. Ive been friends with him for a long time and when were both in Oregon we snowboard together at Mount Hood. But I was leaving the snowboard industry right as he was coming in so we rode a bunch but never filmed together. It was a bit of an excuse to ride together more.

Scott E’s part in Kingpins Brainstorm

Was The Rascals your first project on your own terms and just for fun?

All the videos I did were fun to film. The Revival was really fun because I didnt realize I was even going to be in the movie until it came out. I just got invited along because I knew Blaise [Rosenthal]. Then the filmer invited me along a couple of times. I could only go so much because I was working nights at Squaw. There wasnt pressure because I was just a kid that no one knew anyway. No one expected me to do anything and I never expected to be paid.

So it was never a goal to be a pro snowboarder?

Of course it was a goal. Every kid that skates or snowboards has fantasies about that, but I didnt think it was attainable for me. When my part in The Revival came out I was like, Whoa, Im going to be officially sponsored now. I thought maybe Id even get a little bit of money. None of that happened until later. Someone told Oakley about me though. They were the first to fully hook me up. They backed me from day one. They sent me tons of stuff, even though they didnt know anything about me. And with The Rascals, they were the first ones to be down for sponsoring it. They didnt fk around with us. To this day Oakley sends me all the goggles I need.

What are your feelings on snowboarding now?

It depends on what day you ask that question. Some things are really cool. There are still companies that are down. This summer I worked on a commercial salmon boat in Alaska and I realized I didnt have sunglasses and I was leaving in two days. I just emailed Matty Swason at Oakley and he had someone overnight glasses to me. Theyre super fancy, polarized glasses, like the fanciest ones you can get. That was really cool. Some people are always just down. But then some people, not so much.

But the state of snowboarding in general? Its kind of weird I guess. Making The Rascals Ive realized a lot of people at snowboard companies will tell you they want to do something, but its just a bunch of bullshit and they dont follow through. At my age I dont care to deal with that. Im not going to kiss someones ass so they give me a free snowboard. And if they wont, someone else probably will, and if they dont I can always just buy one.

Scott E’s part in Kingpins Happy Hour.

What else have you been doing to keep busy?

I worked construction for a while and I was a bike messenger in Portland for four years. I rode my bike across the country once and was a bike messenger in New York for a couple months. This summer I worked on a fishing boat in Alaska. I helped Holden design a bib pant and a really waterproof jacket. Mikeys backed me before Holden was even making clothing. Ill probably work for them forever. I guess technically I snowboard for them.

Any plans for a real comeback?

Short answer, no. I look at people like Travis Rice, Mark Landvik, Nicolas Müller, Jake Blauvelt, Gigi Rüf, and Bode Merrill and theres no way I could snowboard on that level and I dont want to pretend Im snowboarding on that level. I wouldnt be the real deal so I dont want to.

But well be seeing you on the slopes?

Unless something physically keeps me from doing it. I snowboarded almost every day last winter. There was a point where I so beat down. I thought I was getting old then I looked on the calendar and I went 20 straight days. Being in Northern Washington its easy to access backcountry without a snowmobile. Whether its splitboarding or hiking its nice to get out and do some long backcountry runs. If I work hard during the summer and make enough money I can live cheaply and snowboard as much as my heart could desire. Thats the ultimate freedom, when you dont have to answer to anyone.