The photo was taken by Alex Mertz, 2005 at Hilltop Ski Area.
This week we feature an odd creature. Gussias Shredorsus. If you don’t recognize him from his genus/species name then perhaps you will know him better as Gus Engle. If you’ve ever taken a biology class then you have probably had a bit of an introduction to evolution through the process of natural selection. If not then please allow me to butcher the concept in order to make a weak metaphor describing Gus.
The idea of evolution through natural selection is (and please understand I’m trying to make this as simple as possible rather than a detailed research project) that genes produce characteristics and those can be different among a species. The characteristics that work the best allow those that posses them to survive and most likely mate with others possessing those characteristics causing those characteristics to pass on through the population. Conversely those that don’t posses the characteristics that best allow for survival tend to take an early dirt nap. As this goes on then eventually all of the species end up with that trait. Google “Darwin’s Finches” for further explanation.
Snowboarding has always been an evolving animal. The skills have evolved, the trends in tricks change, the popular disciplines shift, and the fashions are about as safe as a kid in the shower with Jerry Sandusky. Gus also has evolved through the years from little grom, to baggy pants kid, to rail guy, to creative soap-dodging inspiration. Gus has figured out the parts of snowboarding that work for him and put a smile on his face and let those characteristics of his riding carry on while the other parts die off.
While most up and coming shredders try to figure out how to do a press like Joe Sexton or narrow their stance like Jed Anderson they seem to forget that snowboarding isn’t about being like others. I don’t think snowboarding is about not being like others either; it’s really just about being yourself. We will all find inspiration from others but a key part of snowboarding, or any other art form, is to use that inspiration to uncover our own vision. We should strive to uncover our own truth and by truth I mean seeing what is inside ourselves and releasing it. Release it not in hopes that everyone sees it and recognizes a rider for it but rather because releasing it is what frees us. Snowboarding is about freedom and making up your own rules, not caring what others think, and doing what makes you happy. If you can’t find any of those things in your riding then you are snowboarding for the wrong reasons and you should just get it over with and go buy some skis.
Gus has found his truth and his freedom in snowboarding the way he wants to. I haven’t always liked the tricks he does or the clothes he wears but I love that he has the desire to do those tricks and wear those clothes (and for the record, as well as Gus’s sensitive feelings, I do like most of the tricks he does). Snowboarding would be boring if everyone all did the same tricks and all looked the same. Snowboarding needs riders that aren’t afraid to follow their heart and snowboard on their own terms. Snowboarding needs Gus.
Now that i’ve written a novel about him, here is the short and sweet of what Gus had to say about the picture.
“Here you go Borgy:
This picture was taken by Alex Mertz back in 2005. I originally had planned to firecracker that 120 stair you can see in the photo. but due to my fear of death I decided to move the whole operation over to the to the oh-so-alluring stagnant swamp puddle and go surfing instead.”