boarding in Alaska

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Magazine Mondays: Alpenglow

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This is not the traditional magazine shot but the rules are somewhat loose here. As long as it’s been in print then it works. This was the promotional poster printed up for Alpenglow when they sponsored my movie “Nice! Gordon.” The main shot and the first of the three stacked photos are of myself. The karate kid is Andre Spinelli and the stylish backside 180 is Walter Bombeck. All the shots were taken by Alex “Lord have mertzy” Mertz. And only I can take credit for the ridiculous fake Burberry jacket.

I chose this one because I always have such a fond place in my heart for Alpenglow. The oh so popular diving board platform that I’m launching off seems like a great feature to mess around on but it serves as a reminder of the greatness that once occupied that space. The platform is the base of the top tower of the lift that was once on that side of the ski area. “The military side” as it was simply known was as simple as Paris Hilton’s mind yet held an endless potential for fun. The one lift was run by the military until it was shut down and the lift and lodge removed in 2003.

As I grew up in Eagle River, Alpenglow was the spot to be and the military side was the spot to get busy. The military side boasted a round lodge with a fireplace in the middle, a cook named TC that was the saltiest sweet old lady you ever met, and a manager named Jeff who’s hair-do had one of the meanest spiked parts and a solid mullet foundation. What they also had was a willingness to open the mountain to us and let a shredder shred. They gave us the freedom we sought and reeled us back in if we got out of line. And through that give and take a great deal of respect formed. It’s amazing how angsty teens will act if you don’t treat them like a fire that you’re sure will rage out of control the second you take your eye off of it.

I’m starting to turn this into a throwback thursday so I’ll try to pull it back. The photos were taken in the spring of 2004 when I was shooting “Nice! Gordon” and it was awesome to work with Alpenglow. The year before, when working with Jesse Burtner on “Steezin for no Reason”, Alpenglow also came through with help in the form of features to ride and film on. I was just really happy to be able to give the mountain some dues for all it had given me in my snowboard infancy.

I have always been incredibly proud to have come from Alpenglow and I was just as proud to feature the mountain in my movie. The coat I’m wearing…. well, I probably won’t be as proud of that down the road.

Thursday I’ll give you another shot from Alpenglow and tell some of the adventures that I’ve been through on that hill.


Magazine Mondays: Gus “The Bus” Engle

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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.”

 


Magazine Monday: Bounce wid it!

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This photo was taken around April of 2000 by Cory Grove. I’m not too sure what Cory is up to these days but I do know he is behind the Cobra Dogs phenomenon. He is also a great guy that i miss hanging out with at Hood. But enough about my bromances lost.

The picture is of the World Championships at Whistler Blackcomb. This is the one and only time I’ve ever ridden a resort in Canada. I didn’t do so well at the slope style but I was pumped for the big air. As a matter of fact i was so pumped up that I nearly popped during practice. The event staff opened up practice the night before the contest. Seeing as how this was about 13 years ago I am a tad fuzzy on the details but I’ll do my best to keep them straight.

This was a pretty amazing trip for me. First of all it was the spring. It may have been more towards the end of April because the season was pretty much done after this contest. There is always a bit of excitement about the end of the season. You know there isn’t going to be any more powder, just slush if you’re lucky, so it’s time to start enjoying the summer and getting on the skateboard. I got to skate the snake run I had seen ripped up in the Plan B videos as well as all the new park additions and they were all about a minute walk from the hotel and mountain.

This was also one of the first times that i really made an effort to be social rather than locking myself off into contest zone mode. I don’t drink and never have so typically I didn’t find a lot of joy in going out to the bars and living it up on contest nights. Whistler didn’t drive me to drink but the party environment there did inspire me to go to the Maxx Fish (the main club spot) and bust at least three moves, maybe four. There also may or may not have been a night at “The Boot” which is not a strip club but more of a bar with strip club tendencies.

Back to the hill. So practice, the night before the contest, started and this was a time where I was really in tune with my big air jumping. There were big air contests constantly and I got to hit a lot of them. I was excited to hit the jump and go through the bag of tricks. I liked to work my way up through the tricks, start with small stuff like a 180 or 360, then a 540, a 720, a 900, and flips. Well the drop in looked like it was far enough up the hill and there would be plenty of speed but looks can be deceiving. I can’t remember if it was my first or second hit  but what matters is that I came up short. I believe it was a backside 180 and I landed about 5 feet short of the knuckle. Plenty of people come up short but i think it was because i was facing back up hill that I couldn’t compensate for it and everything was really compressed.

Coming up short was quite a shock to my legs and back but nothing was blown out or broken so all that was left was to complain. I called it a night after that and the hurt set in like a hipster feels when he realizes he’s not the first guy to grow a beard, wear a flannel, and part his hair. By the next morning I could barely walk. Really I’m not exaggerating; my whole body was viagra stiff. I started the Advil regimen and trying to soak in the tub every two hours. The contest wasn’t until night so I had all day to get back to riding and I needed every minute of it.

The contest finally got underway and it was a cirque du soleil show on snow. People painted silver, 6ft stilts, lights and fireworks shooting everywhere, and a dj spinning an obnoxious techno soundtrack for it all. It was a head to head format until riders got to the final 4. I warmed the muscles up and found a game face in the gift shop to put on. I ended up in the finals and landed two solid tricks to take second (backside 900 tail and switch 360 backflip; aka borgarial haha).

As you can see from the results Peter Line got first. This is twice that he squeaked past me for the win when it should have been my back pocket that the extra cash went into. Now before you go yelling about sour grapes and what not, just relax. Pete always took any chance he could, even to this day, to rub in any win he got over me (I still have a print of him that he signed saying “I beat you at MTV S&M HAHAHA”). He is a legend, an inspiration, and an innovator as well as an expert at talking shit. Haha. I am secure enough to be able to admit when he beat me and take the ribbing but it goes both ways. With that said, Pete, you can email me for my address to send the medals and check to. Hahaha.


Magazine Mondays: Brady Farr!

ImageThis week Brady Farr is featured with a beautiful cover shot on the 2005 photo annual for ONBOARD Magazine. Brady has been ripping for so many years and he’s riding as strong as ever now. Alaska had a tight scene in the Boarderline years so everyone knew everyone. It was easy to see when someone was coming up and starting to make a name for themselves. Just as soon as Brady laid the groundwork to becoming one of AK’s hot up and coming rippers he quickly moved to Colorado. At that point I would only really see him at our summer shred camps up at Alyeska. Normally people say “Out of sight, out of mind” but Brady made sure that was never the case. Every summer he would blow everyone away with his leaps and bounds of progression. Brady is back living in AK full time and still pushing his riding with all the hunger of an up and comer trying to make a name for himself. 

Here’s what Brady had to say about the shot:

“Austin Gibney and I headed to Reno to meet up with Gary Milton. This was the fall of 04, the following season after filming for nice Gordon. There was no snow in town so we took Austin’s truck up to rosé mountain and loaded it with as much snow as we could fit. Gary was friends with Ryan Hugh’s so he met us at the rail around 10pm. It took me about 3 hours to get the trick, the lights kept shorting out not to mention a lack of snow. We all ate toco bell at 2 or 3 in the morning to celebrate the night.”

Sounds like they ended that night with a blowout in more ways than one. Thanks Brady. 


Magazine Mondays: OH SHIT!!!!

ImageThis photo was taken by Ryan Hughes (now the Snowboarder Magazine photo editor) and appeared in my interview in Heckler Magazine, 2003. The rail is in Portola California. I did the rail for the JB Deuce (Boarderline) movie “Steezin for No Reason”.

Now I’ve given more than blood, sweat, and tears in my pursuit of snowboarding. I’ve also given a crap. I’ve given a crap three time to be exact and I’m not talking about caring about three different areas of the sport. I’m saying that I’ve crapped my pants three times during my 23 years of snowboarding. I would say, all things considered, that’s not a bad average.

The other two times were both during boarder-cross events. The first time was in Maine at the CBS “Masters of the Board” event where the riders competed in boarder-cross, slope style, and half pipe all in the same day. During practice I overshot a jump and landed way out in the flats. The force was more than my weak colon could handle.

The second time was during an MTV winter event at Snow Summit. Boarder-cross and slope style events took place back to back on the same day. Again during practice I watched some riders and thought I had the speed mapped out. I was wrong. I overshot a steep volcano like jump and dropped about 15 feet to complete flat ice and wrecked myself. Rectum? Damn near Killed ’em. The details can be left for another time but I did well at the event. But really, who gives a crap?

This all leads us to the fecal hat-trick, the triple crown of crap that was completed in the picture above. I’m shaking my head as I type this; what a proud moment in life. Haha. Anyway, we drove about an hour or so to get to the rail and took another hour to set up the ramp and shovel snow into the landing and take off. At the time I had a signature model helmet with Pro-Tec and wanted to get a photo for them so I decided to do the warm up shots with the helmet on. Little did I know that my head wasn’t where I needed protection. “Depends” who you ask I guess.

I dropped in, planning a 50-50 (riding the board down the rail just like it is in the picture for those that might now know). I ollied up and slipped out right as my board touched the rail. I stayed in the air until my stomach hung itself over the flat section of the rail like a towel over the clothes line. Basically i flew down 14 stairs to my stomach. Now if you have any doubt about what happened then I have an easy exercise that can demonstrate things very clearly. Take a full tube of toothpaste and remove the cap. Now grab it by the bottom end, opposite of the cap. Raise the tube over your head, grit your teeth and tense your shoulder muscles to make sure you get the maximum amount of energy built up. Now turn that potential energy into kinetic energy as you slam the tube, with all your might, onto the edge of the sink. Thats about what happened to me.

With all the dignity available in the moment I told everyone,  “hold on and I’ll be back.” To be honest, I was more concerned about internal injuries than a cheap pair of Gap boxers. I walked over into the bushes, took my underwear off, cleaned up with some slushy snow, put myself back together and got back to hitting the rail. After all, Im not going to drive that far and go through all that effort just to let some little turd ruin my day. I ended up getting the shot for the magazine and video part so I considered it a win. In my eyes it was just one of the many small tolls we pay to pursue our dreams and push ourselves. Yes it’s embarrassing and humbling but I’m not ashamed of it. Snowboarding is something that I would die for. It truly means that much to me and I am pretty sure that each of you has something in your lives that you love that much. I walked away to snowboard another day so now it’s just another funny story.

Until next time my friends, go get some turns.


Magazine Mondays: Jerry Smyth

Magazine Mondays will be a new post every Monday featuring a picture of an Alaskan skater or snowboarder that has been published in print form. This means a real life, hold in your hands, tear it off and put it on a wall picture. There will also be a story or any interesting details about the circumstances of the picture as told by the rider. The idea is to show what Alaskans can and have accomplished in their struggles to live their dreams. I hope it also serves as a little inspiration to all the other kids that are trying to get sponsored, make it in the game, or just have something to show the girls so they can hook up.

This feature starts off with a bang. The first Magazine Monday is Jerry Smyth’s cover shot. “Lobster” is one of the funnest people I’ve ever skated with. He’s got a ton of energy, amazing skills, and a huge heart. Enjoy.

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Photo by Tony Vitelo

Jerry Smyth: “This was shot by Tony Vitelo, Fausto Vitello’s son who owned thrasher at the time. He had not shot a cover up until then. Jake Phelps didn’t want to use it because I was some un heard of dude. Tony didn’t care and got it ran. Right place, right time, right person…rather be lucky then good any day.”