“Screening the Cube” – An Interview with Cooper Whittier

“Screening the Cube” An Interview with Cooper Whittier

| December 4th, 2021 |

Interview by Jon Stark

Jon: Yo, what’s up Coop?

Cooper Whittier: I was getting my ducks in line. Trying to make an Instagram post. 

Haha, oh yeah?

Yup. That’s all I do now. Getting my ducks in a row. Damn ducks. 

Why was it so hard to get a hold of you the last few days? 

[Both laughing] My phone’s broken.

What was up with your phone? 

It’s been kind of—it hasn’t been broken for a while but it has been actin’ up for a minute and I’ve been goin’ no phone for a week at a time. 

I guess not having your phone has its perks, eh?

It feels so good. But then at the end of the week I get a big rush of, “Oh my god, I’m not posting anything on Instagram. People probably think I don’t care about the video that just came out. People probably think I’m just cocky or something.” 

Haha, but little do they know you just have a junker phone. A few days of chasing you down and I got you here. 

Yeah, you got me here. 

photo by Colt Morgan

What have you been doin’ since Dreamcastle came out? 

I’ve just been snowboarding. Which actually feels so nice. Kind of just been on that bum life. Snowboard, hangout with friends, go home, sleep, snowboard. Now I’m just kinda working, makin’ clothing. Doing that and doing some graphic design stuff.

What was the process like finishing the editing of Dreamcastle? What was the delay all about?

Haha, well the delay was this Bladee song. It got fully flagged for copyright. But, the situation prior to that was already a serious process, to say the least. It was a whole week and a half in Colton’s basement just buttoning up everything.The last four days were fuckin’ ridiculous, honestly. We’d be in there for insane hours. Then of course we go to post it and Colton and I—I think Mo was there—we were so juiced, we were watching it upload and then they’re like, “Ok, we’re gonna go get some food, do you want to come?” And I was like, “No, I’m just gonna watch it upload,” because I was kind of paranoid. I watch it fully upload—I’m there with my best friend from back home, Henry. He’s been waiting there for like eight hours at this point. It fully uploads and it’s doing the processing then it’s just like, “Banned in all countries.” And I almost started crying. Like are you fucking serious. I just knew it wasn’t gonna be an easy fix. It was like my favorite part of the video too, the part that got banned. 

It kind of added to the lore of the Dustbox a little bit. The video getting delayed produced like twenty-four hours of really funny memes. 

It definitely had its allure. And I do know that it is so on point with how we operate. It’s never that proper, something always gets messed up. It was on brand, as they say.

Likewise, over here at Torment. [Both laughing] 

A bunch of bozos.

Shit has one hundred thousand views already. 

Yeah man. 

What is up with Dustbox that contributes to that? I mean, last year’s success is clear but, you’re following it up—I know this is your third video, but it is always really hard to follow up success with success. A quarter million views last year and here you are well on your way. 

I don’t know, it honestly is that one, this YouTube channel has been there for a bit and has been racking up views for a while now. Like four plus years. I have no clue, I’m not going to try and act like I know how the algorithm works but, I do know that it trusts some channels, ya know? 

photo by Colt Morgan

How much does the culture mean to you when it comes to a snowboard brand?

Everything, I guess. Yeah, that is what represents the brand. That is the brand. Obviously they have their image, but it’s easy to create a fake image. So, I’d say whether it be a brand I am just admiring as a consumer, or brands that I am admiring as a rider, or even our own brand like at Dustbox—that is everything. That is what embodies it, aside from who wears it, or how they wear it. 

GNU was willing to provide more of an opportunity for you than they had in the past. You decided you would rather move to Public. Why? 

It just didn’t feel right. I just started to see myself looking at snowboarding differently. I started to care about—I don’t know. Like, oh am I getting enough support? Or, am I valued enough? I think that was a big wake up call. Why am I even looking at snowboarding like that? That’s not what this is about and if I don’t feel comfortable with what’s underneath my feet, whether it be a graphic, shape or how the board rides, that is enough for me to take a step back and be like, “I really need to start valuing what actually makes me happy.” It was just stressing me out so much. Like obviously trying to promote GNU and represent them well. But, at the same time it’s like, “Dude, I don’t even feel like this is me.” It just felt so fake. Not on their end, but on mine. I am really grateful for all that they did for me. Helping me get into the Snowboarder movie and supporting me from a young age. That was huge. I hope that it doesn’t come off like I’m ungrateful, arrogant, or ignorant to the fact that they did so much for me.

Nowadays there is a much slimmer opportunity to make a livable wage from snowboarding, did that have an affect on your decisions as well?

Oh yeah, totally. I think that was a big part of it. What is this thing that I am trying to hold on to? It’s not what it once was. I see a lot of people trying to pretend that it is what it was as far as pay wise. Obviously, some people play their cards really well and can make a really good living off of it. It’s just, I don’t really see the benefit of it. I would rather work all summer, and then just treat it as something that’s pure. I couldn’t imagine treating it economically. That doesn’t even seem realistic for me right now. Especially with the landscape of the industry. I didn’t know what I was holding onto, honestly. I think I started to look at older riders and people who are in the industry who are just so burnt on snowboarding. I felt myself going down that path. Like, yo what—at this time I’m nineteen years old. I need to be protecting myself from that at all costs, ya know? Like, this is fun. This is what I live for. If it’s gonna be my life, I’d like to enjoy it. (photo by Oli Gagnon)

 

I have a lot of respect for you to have that kind of foresight. It’s really incredible. What is it about Public that fits for you? Anything specific that has made this an easier choice for you? 

Oh totally. Just the fact that I get to call Joe and talk and get advice. Whether it be about the business that me and my friends are trying to grow or my “career.” It fills me with happiness. When I get off the phone with him I feel so inspired and it just feels real. It’s still run by snowboarders, who all care about snowboarding. I relate to Joe and he can relate to me. And Josh—he’s a genius when it comes to graphics. I guess that’s why I have respect for it. He puts his everything into his work and it shows. And they’re only doing it for the reason of uplifting snowboarding and that is powerful. 

photo by Oli Gagnon

I hear you weezing into the phone right now, how much of those screen printing chemicals have you been huffing these days?

Dude, I’ve been trying to be better about standing away from the plastic while it’s burning. Probably too much. It’s always too much. Even ten minutes in there and you’re like, “Oh god, I gotta get outta here.” It’s bad news, haha. I’ve been thinking about getting a mask or something. I think it’s time. 

When someone supports the Dustbox by purchasing merchandise, how are those resources used? How much of that goes to weed? 

Haha, none of it goes to anything like that. It goes to paying filmers, paying for Airbnb’s and paying expenses like van payments. I never thought it was gonna get to that point. Especially when we first started makin’ em. Like, “Oh, this would be cool. I don’t know what we’re gonna use the money for but we’re makin’ t-shirts.” And then it fully became something that is a big part of the Dustbox. 

photo by Oli Gagnon

So there’s a direct correlation between you guys doing a merch drop and getting everyone out there and filming?

Every single person that bought something over summer of 2020, their money got us to New York City on that first trip for Dreamcastle. We barely slept and just worked our asses off and used every penny of it. I’ve tried to stash away as much money with the gang this summer going into this winter. We have big ideas. 

There’s been a lot of talk about the Dustbox and why your relationships made it so successful. Would you say that was the number one reason for its success? Or, is there another factor at play?

Oh no no, that is one-hundred percent the case. If that wasn’t the case we’d all hate each other. Most of us would have moved back to the East Coast or quit snowboarding. The amount of time that we have spent together is insane. Even in the first year of filming with our first big video, dustbox presents… If we weren’t all really good friends, it’d be a nightmare, this would not function the way it does otherwise. Obviously it can get heated, like any group. No matter how much bullshit gets tossed in there, we always find a way to remind ourselves that we are just friends. If it weren’t for that we would be in shambles. 

Without friction we don’t have mountains. 

As far as the relationships that we have with people outside of the group that became good friends with early on, like yourself, and like many people in the Salt Lake community, those relationships gave us the ability to feel confident and give us the resources to do what we do now. It would not be anywhere if we were just good at snowboarding. (photo by Oli Gagnon)

What are you working on personally, in relation to your own growth as you move into your twenties away from your teenage years?

Well, I’m in school and I’m trying to do that. While doing this stuff with Dustbox, I am really trying to learn how to balance it. I’m trying to figure out what the hell I want to do, and how I want to do it. That’s about it. Go to school, try to learn as much as I can. Do something cool after snowboarding. Trying to keep moving forward while keeping the options open. 

Have you declared a major?

Yeah business. But inside business I have not declared what I wanna do. I was thinking about marketing because I have been around it and understand it. It’s a very easily applicable degree and I feel like you can do a lot with that. I’ve also been thinkin’ about the entrepreneurship route because it’s obviously something I hold dear to myself. I love starting stuff and trying to run it and I kind of got the bug for that. Even with Dustbox, as a group it’s like, “Oh, we wanna start this. We want to try and grow this, and uplift it and do cool stuff.” That was the most amazing journey that I have ever been on. If I could keep doing that kind of stuff for the rest of my life then I couldn’t be more happy.

What is something super obscure that you’re interested in right now? Just right off the top of your head. 

I feel like I’m always getting sucked into some weird shit. Whether it be like weather patterns or weird music shit. Not that this is obscure at all, but I’ve been obsessed with ambient music recently. That definitely is a little weird to some people. Just listening to these crazy crazy mixes. It’s like barely music but it’s so nice. I don’t know but I’ll send you something. All my stuff comes from YouTube. I’m always getting sucked into some random shit on YouTube. [Both Laughing] I haven’t been reading as much as I should be. That’s for sure. That’s the shit I should be getting sucked into. 

What keeps you up at night?

T-Shirt graphics, snowboard shit, if I’m doing good enough at keeping in contact with my loved ones, friendships, intimate or family. I stress out about that a lot. I get so tunnel vision on stuff that sometimes I’m not the best at keeping in touch with people… Ideas. I get crazy motivated at night like any person normally does. I’m trying to figure out a way to box whatever I’m feeling in art or whatever it may be. I get so stuck up on that shit. A lot of t-shirt graphics keep me up at night though. Screen printing, that is just so bad. I’ll go to bed just stressing about a screen that I’ve been stuck on for a couple days and wake up stressed out. [Both Laughing] Last week I was battling this screen for three or four days. There was just this one line in the screen that was getting over-exposed. I could not figure it out for the life of me. It was just bad. 

Take me back to the night at the Creeper to back tail, same way back lip, same way in New York. 

It was at a New York City college. The night started out with us realizing that we didn’t have the bungee and we had left it at a spot earlier that day. So we’re like trekking through the snow late at night trying to find this bungee. Somebody had taken it, of course. We’re like, “Ah, shit. I don’t know if this spot is gonna work.” That was the start of it. So we just decided to shovel pull into it instead. We pull up to the spot and there is no snow. I kind of already knew that it was gonna be a Tech Nine, Salt Lake City in June spot before. So we just started shovelin’. We could see the security guard from the spot. He was like in his room. He obviously wasn’t watching close enough.“We’re like we’re going to get kicked out immediately. But, we have to try.” But dude, we were just shovelling so much. And it wasn’t like the snow banks were close. It was an assembly line. It was like a bunch of little ants grabbing crumbs and bringing them back to their ant farm. Reid’s [Smith] homie didn’t have a shovel so he was filling up traffic cones with snow and bringing it over to the lip. It was just the most jerry-rigged spot ever. It should not have worked at all. And yeah, did the creeper to boardslide first, and it was definitely a little bit underwhelming. Cody was like, “I bet you won’t go backtail sameway.” Cody pushed me to try it and on the first attempt I fell off once into the driest stairs but I was fine. The second time it just happened. The boys believed in me.

clip filmed by Colton Morgan

How many tries in total?

In total on the spot probably six or seven tries. A stressful six or seven tries. Thinking we were going to get kicked out during every attempt.

Damn, didn’t know it was so few tries. What’s the worst flaw of our Dustbox article? 

There was one thing that got cut out right at the end where it was Brett talking about his mindset in the [name of video] video. It’s not my story to tell, by any means. That’s the only flaw. I just wish that little piece had gotten tossed in there. It honestly was pretty heartfelt and it would have been cool for people to hear. That’s the only thing I can think of. 

[Laughing] The article got finished the same way Dreamcastle got finished.

Oh yeah. Colton learning InDesign in two days. We’re just looking at him like, “I don’t know man, I don’t think that color would look good with that. [Both laughing] Honestly, Colton really bossed up with the design part of it. He definitely put a lot of that on his shoulders. But at the end of it we’re looking at each other thinking wow, we could probably make a magazine. 

photo by Jon Stark

Haha, be careful what you wish for!

I mean, you can find flaws in everything. The fact that that was pulled off is pretty incredible. Mo is the ultimate MVP for that. If he wasn’t driving the story it obviously wouldn’t have been as cool and it wouldn’t have encapsulated a little bit of it. People would have gotten a good idea about how we operate. But Mo really went above and beyond. 

Where does Dustbox go from here?

Zumiez, right? Isn’t that the next best thing? [Both Laughing] 

We can just end it on that.

But, just like try to stay happy, try to stay healthy and keep doin’ it. Sometimes it’s like, “Oh what do we do now?” But, it’s like dude nothin’, don’t do anything. We’re just gonna keep doing what we do. Maybe we keep getting bigger and maybe videos get more views and more people get into snowboarding. I think we all wanna do stuff once we’re in a position to do something for the community. That’s one thing we all feel pretty passionate about. I think about it a lot. Just because I feel like we’ve been kind of blessed to be put in this position. I’ve got tons of ideas, but just give back to snowboarding because snowboarding has given us so so much. 

https://thedustbox.club/clothing

“NEIGHBORHOOD” a film by Cole Barash

“NEIGHBORHOOD” a film by Cole Barash

| November 15th, 2021 |

Directed by Cole Barash

We are always after insight. Especially when it surrounds a subject of interest. Hearing Blake Paul and Dan Liedahl explain what snowboarding means to them, at its most basic and premature element, the art of resort riding, scratches that itch and provides context we may have overlooked. And most importantly, you end up wanting to ride and replicate those expressed feelings. With a lot of the same these days, this is not your average snowboard film, as Cole Barash explains: 

Neighborhood is a short film that taps into a place from where and why I began snowboarding. A place that is about the feeling of riding your local hill, doing a million laps and having a shit eating grin the entire time with your friends for no reason than to just be. It was what you had and you made the best of it because it was the best.  

Within this piece, I went to spend time with Danimals at his home in Minnesota, and got a taste of the absolutely amazing rope tow culture—so rooted it feels ahead of its time. Then I spent a chunk with Blake Paul where he lives in SLC riding Brighton. The access to terrain, big squad vibe and the Milly chair.  

I hope in the end, some crew of young-ass groms from the middle of nowhere sees this film and gets them hyped.  Hyped to not need a helicopter, fly to a city to jib, or to be stressing on stacking. Just fired up to go up and take some laps, talk shit to each other and have a good time. As at the end of the day that’s all that really matters.” 

Directed by Cole Barash

Edited and co/directed by Pep Kim

Cinematography by Michael Cukr, Harry Hagan, Pep Kim, and Cole Barash

Music by Thom Pringle, Billy Mcfeely, and Ray Barbee

Supported by Vans Snowboarding


This film was made in conjunction with Hillman, a zine shot by Cole. If Neighborhood is the motion picture version of the project, then Hillman is the photographic, tangible extension. As said before, it comes free with each copy of Torment Magazine Issue FOUR.

“living room” a short film featuring Cole Navin

“living room” a short film featuring Cole Navin

| October 27th, 2021 |

Torment proudly presents “living room,” a full feature film showcasing the movements and renderings of Cole Navin and his friends. Join us as we document the deep dive into Cole’s altered world.

additionally featuring tommy towns, reid smith, spencer schubert, savannah shinske, forest bailey, jill perkins, mark wilson, parker szumowski, nick erickson and dan liedahl

directed by cole navin & jon stark

filmed by jon stark

produced by ian boll & jon stark

8mm shot by cole navin, marc o’malley, jon stark, ian boll and tanner pendleton

16mm shot by ian boll, jon stark & tanner pendleton

additional filming by harry hagan, jake durham, tanner pendleton, marc o’malley, cole navin, savannah shinske, cam boll, colton morgan and reid smith

locations
portland, or
providence, ri
omaha, ne
new york city, ny
worcester, ma
denver, co
mt. hood, or

This film was made possible by

The North Face

Vans

Ride Snowboards

living room | trailer

living room | trailer

September 15th, 2021

Coming October 27th…

A film based on the snowboarding and mindset of Cole Navin.

Alongside Parker Szumowski, Savannah Shinske, Dan Liedahl, Spencer Schubert, Jill Perkins, Tommy Towns, Forest Bailey, Reid Smith, Nick Erickson and Mark Wilson.

Presented by The North Face, Vans & Ride Snowboards

Join us for the world premiere of “living room” October 23rd at the Torment Mag Issue FOUR Magazine Release party in SLC, Utah along with “Good Sport.”

An ode to Chris Brunkhart

An ode to Chris Brunkhart

June 26th, 2021

Written by Tanner Pendleton

There’s a tendency to separate the artist from the work they create. That is to say, how often does one consider the complexities of the person behind the shutter when thumbing through their favorite magazine? Chris Brunkhart’s work demands such consideration. Opting-in to a deeper understanding of Chris as a person enriches our perspective of his vast archive of black and white photography—including the many years he spent documenting snowboarding pioneers, like Craig Kelley, Barrett Christie, and Bryan Iguchi. Similar to the impossible task of learning to turn with the finesse Craig had, Chris’ photography has delicate layers that will never be duplicated. 

When I first heard that Chris was gay, I was met with mixed emotions—giddy at the idea of a queer lens shaping the early years of snowboarding, while heartbroken knowing that Chris is no longer with us. I learned that Chris struggled with his sexual identity, keeping it a secret for the majority of years he shot snowboarding. As I explored Chris’ photography, I was perpetually drawn to the work he created in his later years, outside of snowboarding. As if racing against time, he documented everything—from travels to Morocco and Hawaii, to years spent living in New York City. These images are poetic, mysterious, and brimming with a feeling of angst. Perhaps I’m projecting, but more than likely, these images are touching on an experience shared by myself and many LGBTQ+ people. 

photo by Chris Brunkhart

In his monograph How Many Dreams in the Dark (2010), Chris describes his affinity for photographing swimming holes. Many of these images portray youth observing the sheer beauty of water surrounded by dense forest; sometimes on the edge, as if contemplating taking the plunge; sometimes in mid-air, surrounded by a void of whiteness, as if jumping into the unknown. It’s hard not to connect such imagery to the queer experience—the swimming hole becoming a metaphor for self-acceptance and tranquility; the unforgiving terrain surrounding the pool of water representing the journey to get there. Whether or not these were Chris’ intentions, I can’t say. However, there is no shortage of similar themes and motifs throughout Chris’ work. One can only wonder if these internal dialogues date back to the snowboard years. At this point, we are only left with conjecture and a stack of negatives—but most importantly, a call to revisit and re-evaluate Chris’ work.

To end this week of queer pride in snowboarding, we would like to honor Chris, recognizing his queer identity, and the many contributions he made to the world of snowboarding. With the help of Chris’ husband Zeke, we are running a limited sale of three images from the archive. 100% of proceeds will go to Outside In. Since 1968, Outside In has transformed thousands of lives by helping break the cycles of chronic homelessness, poverty, and poor health among Portland’s LGBTQIA+ community, people of color, those experiencing homelessness, and the underserved.

Click here to purchase Chris’ Prints

photo by Chris Brunkhart

Emma Crosby’s Pride Memoir

Emma Crosby’s Pride Memoir

June 25th, 2021

photo by Taylor Lundquist

As a kid growing up in Minnesota, I had no idea what it meant to be gay. I remember being in high school and the only gay person I knew was the coach of a younger soccer team. There were no gay references in the media or any representation around me, so I thought that to be gay, I had to look and act like her. She had short hair, a built figure, self-confidence, and an insouciant swagger—all things I didn’t have. At the end of my senior year, I was at my friend’s graduation party and noticed a female couple. They both had long hair, dressed like I did, and were far from every stereotype I thought you had to check. It was the first time I saw a gay couple. In one instance, that experience provided an alternative narrative for me. For the first time, I saw myself in another person in ways I had never allowed. 

That only grew in 2014. I decided to move to Salt Lake City to go to college and board. Snowboarding became an outlet to be creative and confident, which coincided with an empowering expression of my identity. I was surrounded by more diversity in my classes, on social media, and on the TV shows I was watching. It made me realize that there were other people like me out there. My friends in and out of snowboarding were essential in the process. They showed me that sexuality and figuring yourself out didn’t require labels, and I could be whoever the fuck I wanted to be. They paved the way with their bravery and created the most welcoming environment for my curiosity. Without them, I know my story would be different.

photo by Mike Nauman

“Snowboarding became an outlet to be creative and confident, which coincided with an empowering expression of my identity.”

Labeling has always been really hard for me, as I think it is extremely difficult to define sexuality. I know that labels help some people understand and connect, and that makes total sense. On the other hand, I don’t want to diminish this exciting experience of discovering yourself and sexuality without borders. I think for me, this is something I am still kind of figuring out, and I think that is okay too. In the past I’ve dated men, but I fell in love with a woman. I’ve often been asked: If I wasn’t in my current relationship, would I date a man or a woman? To me, this completely invalidates my current relationship and doesn’t seem fair to her. This is the relationship I’m in, the one I have chosen, so nothing else really matters.

When I was first asked to write something for this month’s Pride Week, I was a bit reluctant. I didn’t think there was anything I could say that wasn’t perfectly said in last year’s pieces, and to be completely honest I was nervous to be vulnerable. Putting yourself out there always comes with the risk of pain, and I never wanted to be hurt because of who I am. Times are changing, but constantly knowing that we are not fully accepted is what makes it hard. Then I thought a little bit more about how representation was so crucial for my own well-being in seeing myself in that couple at the graduation party. I realized that sharing wouldn’t be for myself, but for others. If even one person reads this and something resonates with them, that’s worth it. The more people to come out and talk about their experiences, the more stereotypes are broken down for what it is to be gay. When people see more representation of themselves, it fosters a greater affirmation of their identity. If you don’t see yourself, you will feel like you don’t belong. Representation matters, so let’s expand the circle of inclusivity.

Chelsea Waddell’s Pride Interview

Chelsea Waddell’s Pride Interview

June 21st, 2021

All photos by Jesse Dawson

Introduction by Jill Perkins; Interview by Tanner Pendleton

I met Chelsea back in 2013 at High Cascade Snowboard Camp where she worked as an office employee. Aside from managing phone calls, handling logistics, and assuring hundreds of parents their children would be safe and happy, Chelsea also made camp a magical place where everyone felt welcomed. With open arms and a warm heart, Chelsea was my first beacon in the snowboard world. I will never forget her carving time out of her days to share with me, a total stranger, insight into her life and love for snowboarding. Her strength and passion have given me the courage to take a chance on my own dreams, and I know for a fact others feel the same. She continues to show us that this world can be a beautiful place if we, as individuals, work hard and true for the things we believe in. 

Through her ability to buckle down, Chelsea has contributed in creating a more inclusive culture and industry as a whole. I’ve had the privilege to share in Chelsea’s ideas, conversations, and dreams while simultaneously watching her cross bridges that once seemed damn near impossible. For example, her tenacity and unbiased approach recently elevated her to the role of North American Athlete and Ambassador Marketing Manager at Burton. But more importantly, she consistently offers a perspective and a voice that is uniquely hers and inspiring to everyone. Throughout her ongoing journey, Chelsea constantly gives back to the snowboard community, which has now opened the doors for her to embark on her lifelong dream. 

With love, Jill


Tanner: Hey Chelsea what’s up?

Chelsea: Hi Tanner! I’m in Vail right now with the squad for summer camp at Woodward Copper.

Who is the squad, Burton crew?

Yeah, the Burton team, it’s tiring, but it’s good. 

Well, thank you for taking the time to do this. I know doing anything on a trip other than just surviving is a lot.

No, I really want to do it, so I’m hyped.

Okay let’s get into it. Where are you from and what got you into snowboarding?

I lived a little bit of everywhere growing up. My mom was in the military for 26 years, so I moved around a lot, but I’ve lived in Salt Lake City for a long time now. I learned to ski first, at Bogus Basin, when I was four, then I skied till I was eight. That’s when I saw snowboarders and wanted to try it. My mom took me to what was called Nordic Valley at the time, I think it’s called Wolf Creek now, and put me in a lesson, and I never skied again.

No way, eight years old. That’s crazy. How old are you now?

I’m 28 now—so 20 years of snowboarding.

Amazing. So maybe jumping ahead a bit, but when did you come out?

I came out to my mom when I was 22. She was the first person I told, and I came out as bisexual. I just felt like that was more digestible. I told her over the phone, because I was ready right then to say it, and I knew if I didn’t just do it right then and there, I might never. She took me to dinner the next day and she was actually the person that was like, “I don’t think you’re bisexual, I think you’re probably just gay.” And I was like, “Yeah, you’re probably right.” As far as friends go, I came out to a ton of people in my sphere at a snowboard premiere. I actually think it was Rendered Useless. I told everyone I could that night. 

That’s so awesome that you came out to your friends at a snowboard premiere. It seems like your queer life and your snowboard life have been intertwined since day one, which is rare.

Yeah. A lot of people think Utah is really conservative, and for the most part it is, but Salt Lake is this little oasis of pretty liberal people. It has a major university, and it’s a bigger city, so a lot of people who live there are from a lot of different places, and that includes the snowboard community. So, when I came out in snowboarding, I didn’t really know many out queer people in the industry. Honestly, I’m not sure if I knew of any, but for some reason I felt really comfortable coming out in snowboarding, which at the time was a very unique feeling. Honestly, I’m not entirely sure it’s that I felt comfortable coming out in snowboarding, as much as I just finally felt comfortable with myself. At that point I was just in a “take me or leave me” mindset. 

That’s so awesome, just making your rounds, telling everyone!

Mm-hmm. I was ready.

“As cheesy as it is to say, I really feel like the women in the industry before me walked so I could run, and I hope the women after me are sprinting.”

Since then how has your experience been being queer in the snowboard world?

I didn’t really know anybody else in the industry who was queer and out at the time, but since then, it has just gotten easier. Some of my really good friends who were friends with me even before I came out have started to come out too. Some of my very best friends. And now that it’s been five years since I came out, I feel comfortable in my skin, in and out of the snowboard world. 

What is your experience being a woman in the snowboard world?

It’s interesting. I feel like when I was younger, it was a lot harder. The confidence wasn’t quite there, but I did have some awesome women in the industry to look up to. I always looked up to Susie Floros, Annie Fast, Lesley Betts, Mary Walsh, and a lot of other people. So there was a bit of visibility there. Also, a lot of women work at Burton, and a lot of them are at high level positions, so I always saw that it could be a path for me, but it was, and still is, hard. What’s hard is people just assuming you can’t keep up on the hill or whatever, or even just generally. Sometimes feeling like there’s some positions out there that you can’t have just because you’re a woman and those positions traditionally were held by men.

You mentioned people like Susie Floros, who was a guiding light for you in the industry. As more women enter snowboarding, start killing it, and getting support, what does that visibility mean for the next generation?

I don’t think I would’ve believed that there was space for me in this industry without seeing other women do it first. After seeing them there was no doubt in my mind that it was possible. I think there are more and more women being incredibly influential–and not just influential in women’s snowboarding, but just in snowboarding in general. As cheesy as it is to say, I really feel like the women in the industry before me walked so I could run, and I hope the women after me are sprinting.

What is your experience being Black in the snowboard world?

This one is interesting. I do want to acknowledge that I am a light-skinned Black person, which comes with its own level of privilege, but as a Black person in snowboarding, there’s not a lot of people to look up to. I always remember watching Gabby Maiden in the Peep Show Films, and she was the only one who looked even kind of like me, but at the same time there’d be these little weird microaggressions. I’d be at Mount Hood and people would think I was Gabby. We don’t look anything alike. We both just happen to have similar colored skin and curly hair. So that’s weird, getting mistaken as people all the time. No one likes to feel like they don’t have their own identity. Especially, it being highlighted by the fact that we don’t look anything alike. It’s just like there’s so few women of color, or Black women in snowboarding, that we must all be the same person. It’s kind of like thinking all Asian people look the same. It’s just not true, it’s racist. Other than that, it’s just the lack of influence from people who look like you. It can just feel like a reminder that your people don’t belong here. 

That’s heartbreaking.

You just don’t see yourself represented in marketing or the media of snowboarding, so when I say seeing other women in snowboarding showed me there’s a place for me, there’s still this other layer where there aren’t Black women in it, so is there really a place for me?

I think being a Black queer woman, you are forging a new path, as far as being visible for future generations that haven’t existed in snowboarding, which is just so amazing.

I’m trying. I think all the time about the layers that make me me, and how it hasn’t been easy. I’ve worked really hard, and it turns out you can be a queer, Black woman, with a job in snowboarding. And not just any job, but the job you dream of. 

By the way, congrats on your new job, tell me about it!

Oh, thank you! I just started as the North American Athlete and Ambassador Marketing Manager at Burton.

Wow.

So, I’m like the North American team manager, and I work with all the ambassadors as well.

No way. That’s awesome.

It is, and I’m stoked. I’m honored. I never would’ve imagined a brand like Burton would hire a gay, Black woman to take on a role like this. Susie was the women’s team manager for a long time, which was amazing, but I’m also thrilled that things aren’t separated by gender like that anymore. I’m literally here right now with six boys from the team. So, in all the ways I thought you couldn’t be a woman, or Black, or gay and experience something like this, it was the hard work on my end, as well as time it took for the industry to open up a little bit, but now I’m here living my dream. 

That is amazing. Congratulations. Being a team manager, you really have the opportunity to build the future in snowboarding…

Exactly, and that’s part of the discussions I’ve had with the other people in team management, is bringing a new perspective and taking us into a new chapter with that perspective.

Now that we’ve discussed all these pieces of you and your experience in the industry, do you want to talk a bit about intersectionality?

Definitely. So I think intersectionality is super important to talk about because each piece of my identity as a gay Black woman matters, and they all intersect. Meaning, you can’t look at me and see those things as separate. You have to see all of them collectively at the same time. Intersectionality is where all the different things that define us intersect. Being gay and Black is not the same as being white and gay, being a gay woman is not the same as being a gay man. You walk through life in different ways, and have different experiences because of these things. So, right where they meet in the middle I feel is where I exist as the truest version of myself. I’m not saying anything would’ve been necessarily different or easier if one of those pieces changed—well, maybe I do wonder if things would’ve been easier if one of those pieces were changed from my identity. Like if I were a man and I was gay and  Black, or if I were a woman who was straight and was Black, I wonder if my journey would have been any easier. You never really know, but all those things do exist for me, and so right at the center is who I am and each piece matters. 

So, this idea of intersectionality originated with the Combahee River Collective, a group of Black feminist lesbians in the 1970s. Their solution was to destroy these systems of oppression, with the end goal of liberating all people. In your opinion, what systems are in place today within our snowboard bubble that we can destroy to make room for a better future? 

Well, the first thing we should destroy is the misconception that Black and Brown people are poor, because that’s not necessarily true. So, before diving into how we can make snowboarding more accessible and affordable, we need to understand that it is accessible and affordable to a lot of people, we’re just not welcoming them into our circle because they’re not seeing people like them in it. That’s the first thing for me. Not just assuming that Black and Brown people don’t have the money to spend on skiing and snowboarding, because there are plenty of wealthy Black and Brown people out there. And then, looking beyond that to anybody of any race, color, ethnicity who might not have the financial freedom to buy a $1500 season pass and take time off work to ski and snowboard. I mean, lift tickets are ridiculously overpriced. Maybe I just don’t know enough about that industry to understand why that is, but it’s wild to me that you can get a snowboard for $400, but it’s like $200 a day at some places. I would love to see more public parks and public areas used for small ski hills. I feel like a lot of people feel this way. I know there’s one in Denver (Ruby Hill). Or even Woodward Park City is a great example where it’s not free to ride there by any means, but they do monthly passes that are like $95. So, comparatively it’s super inexpensive and you can go as much as you want. Honestly, I don’t know if I could afford to snowboard if I didn’t work in snowboarding.

For sure, it’s ridiculous. I’m really excited for you to take on this new job. It seems like you’re not just there to do what’s been done, you’re there to do something new, which I think is really awesome.

Right. Again, this is the job I’ve dreamt of since I was 15, I’m not afraid to say that, so I’ve worked really hard for it, but I’m also thankful to be given the chance. And I think the consensus is that we need a new perspective, and I can bring one. I also hope to be a mentor for younger riders who are coming up who either identify in similar ways as me, as well as those who want to learn how to be a better ally. I want them to know that they have someone they can come to who offers a safe space for them to mess up and ask questions to get better. As long as they are willing to get better. 

For sure. I love the way that you said that, that ‘it’s a safe space to mess up and ask questions to get better.’ While we’re on that subject, do you have any words of wisdom for anyone who wants to be an ally? 

I think it’s really important to take the steps to educate yourself and try not to lean on your friends who identify in these different ways to teach you. Try to take some time to learn by yourself. But also, don’t be afraid to ask questions. I think 99.9% of the time, if you’re genuinely asking, “Is this terminology okay to use?” or whatever, it’s better if you just ask instead of finding out later by  offending someone. I think 99% of the time, people understand that you genuinely want to learn and grow, but you have to learn from your mistakes. I would love to see more people in snowboarding, especially professional snowboarders, talking about these topics, even if they don’t identify as such. Let people know you’re an ally. Because there’s plenty of athletes who can come to me and ask me questions or confide in me, but it’s different confiding in your peers and knowing that they’re there for you, even if they don’t identify in that way or even fully understand. Snowboarders, be there for other snowboarders and just let them know you’re there for them.

“I would encourage riders that have been around for a long time…to remember that younger riders look up to you and we have the opportunity to change a generation, in the way they think, speak, and act.”

One other thing that I think is really important is just listening. 

Yes, listen to people. When someone tells you something, just believe them. You might not understand what a microaggression is and how just something small that someone says can be offensive to someone, but it’s really not up to you to decide what’s offensive or not. Be thankful for those who are willing to teach you, listen to what they have to say, and put it into practice.

For sure. That was so well put. Sometimes I pick up this vibe from the snowboard community that they’re walking on eggshells around myself and the queer community.

That’s the weird thing, if you’re walking on eggshells around someone, that’s probably because you’re afraid that you might say something that would offend them, right? It’s not expected for you to be perfect all the time, but to be willing to listen and learn. Usually, if someone is telling you that something you said is offensive but they’re still talking to you the next day, they’re probably just trying to help you out. But I’ve felt that way too, that I don’t want people to think that I can’t take a joke or that they can’t be honest around me, or they have to watch what they say. It’s not like I’ve never said the wrong thing before. But at the same time, if “watching what you say” simply means not saying things that are tearing people down and hurting feelings, I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

For sure. It’s tricky because these microaggressions are so ingrained in our culture that with absolutely no malintent they might say something that’s offensive. And then it’s this awkward thing where you’re like, “I know you didn’t mean to, but that was harmful because….” Hence, the walking on eggshells. But it’s really no big deal, it’s just a simple heads up.

I mean, I’m not going to get mad about it unless I’ve had to tell you repetitively. People slip up, and I know it’s hard to change language. I’ve had to work to change some of my own language. I think when people keep it real with their friends about the things that they’re saying being wrong, that’s a way of showing love. It’s protecting you from saying it in front of someone who’s not going to show you the same level of love. And I think the thing is, I would encourage riders that have been around for a long time, just coming from a perspective of team management, to remember that younger riders look up to you and we have the opportunity to change a generation in the way they think, speak, and act. That said, I can tell them a lot of things about how to be better, but they’re not going to listen to me as much as they’re going to listen to their peers who come before them and say, “Hey, man. That’s not cool. That could be detrimental to your career to say something like that. It’s time to learn and change.”

I think you’re so on the money there. Telling someone they messed up is not an attack. It’s an act of love. You’re saying, “I do care about you, I want to maintain this relationship, and make it better.”

Exactly. And if I’m attacking you about it, you’ll know the difference. That’s all I’ll say. 

I love that [laughs]. So what’s your relationship to queer culture? Any queer icons that you look up to?

Oh, yes. I love queer culture in movies, music, sports. Again, I don’t have a ton in snowboarding, but Emma and Jill are two of my best friends, and I look up to them a lot. And we don’t really talk about it, but I think we’ve all helped each other along this journey. Outside of snowboarding, I’m a huge Leo Baker fan. I think they are just a sick skater, and super authentic and they’re really blazing a trail in action sports, and just in sports in general. I’m a huge soccer fan in general and there’s a lot of queer women in soccer, but Megan Rapinoe is really good at standing up for the queer community and speaking on behalf of the queer community, but she’s also really good at elevating voices of the Black community, which I think is a great example of using your platform and your privilege to hold other people up. In music, I have a ton, but I really love Brandi Carlile. She’s a gay mom, married to her wife with two daughters and making her way in country and Americana music, which is a place that queer people don’t really seem to belong. I guess I just like these outspoken trailblazers who move forward in their spaces without compromise.

“Before diving into how we can make snowboarding more accessible and affordable, we need to understand that it is accessible and affordable to a lot of people, we’re just not welcoming them into our circle because they’re not seeing people like them in it.”

That’s amazing. Since it’s Pride Month, what do you think brands could be doing to help beyond just rainbow washing their logo and having a one-off sale?

There’s a lot of ways to do it right. But in my opinion, what’s most important is letting queer people tell the story by passing the mic instead of trying to tell the story as a brand. I just want to hear from the queer people for a minute. And thinking internally, how are you elevating queer people in your business? Support them, educate the people working around them, give them opportunities to learn and grow, and the chance to reach higher level positions. All of this leads to more decisions being made by queer people, which leads to a new and diverse perspective. Feature queer people in marketing campaigns, add them to your snowboard team, and pay them to be featured in those things. Compensate them for their work. Hire them to design a board graphic or film your movie. Hire them and pay them, all year round. Not just during Pride Month.

There was this post going around that was essentially saying if all of these corporations and companies that were changing their logos to rainbows took a stance against these anti-trans bills that are happening, they might not pass. I don’t know if Burton is on that level, but maybe it is… What can companies do behind the scenes to make a difference?

I guess I don’t really know either. I think that is the thing with Burton, it’s big in snowboarding, like it’s a big global company, but it’s not Target by any means. But at the same time, many hands make the load lighter. You can never have too many companies supporting doing the right thing, even if they’re smaller. And it doesn’t always have to be this company’s going to donate a million dollars to this LGBTQ+ non-profit, but there’s a lot you can do with things like lobbying. Burton does a lot around lobbying with Protect Our Winters, a lot of other brands do as well, going to DC and talking about these things and fighting for legislation to make change. There’s no reason snowboard companies can’t do that for the LGBTQ+ community too.

What you said, “many hands make the load lighter,” is beautiful and so true. If every company, big or small, took a stand together we might see some real change…

Yeah. And also, the other thing is companies can sign queer folks and trans athletes and give them money and opportunity, but you don’t always have to talk about it. You’re allowed to just do it without making it a thing.

100%. What does the future of snowboarding look like to you? 

I definitely can’t imagine the future of snowboarding without more inclusion. I think that what’s interesting to me is that we all know it was built on anti-establishment. It was made for the outcasts and the misfits and somewhere along the way I think we got a little lost. It became more expensive and less accessible. And also, our world has changed, the skin tone of our world, and especially our country, has changed. It’s darkened, and it will continue to do so. And that right there is a call to action for brands too. The world is getting more and more mixed race over time, it’s just natural. That’s just the way the world works. So, I would like to see snowboarding reflect the diversity that this country has. In all the different ways people identify, because I think when you love something, you should want to share it. The world isn’t as Black and white as we like to try to think it is, and I think snowboarding’s the perfect place and industry to really embrace and express that. Yeah, I’m rambling, but I just want to see more people who look like me and more opportunities for people who look like me, and I would just like to see such a beautiful industry full of beautiful people embracing even more beautiful people who are different from them.

Amazing, anything else you’d like to add before we finish up?

I guess one more thing I just wanted to say to the people is, just hold your friends accountable. Don’t always leave it up to the woman or the person of color or the queer person to call them out. Call your friends out. We’ve heard that a million times, but really, please do, because it makes a difference. It sends a different message. I think if they’re your friends, they’ll listen to you. And it can be extra difficult to do it if you’re the minority yourself. I already feel really vulnerable in the world. Again, I’m super lucky and privileged, but there’s still a level of vulnerability in being different for anyone. And so stand up for people who are different. Hopefully they’ll understand and they’ll listen and we can all get better together.

Toilet Paper and Vodka: “Good Sport” in Russia During the Pandemic

May 18th, 2021

Photos by Marc O’Malley

Words by Spencer Schubert

As much as it pains me to say this, Derrek, you were right. 

Before our flight to Russia, the world was a different place than it is as I write this. Covid had begun to enter conversation, but I didn’t want to hear it. The world was only beginning to realize the scale of an incoming pandemic, but Derrek’s mom is a nurse and warned him of an inevitable lockdown. The day before the flight, he tried to explain the severity of getting stuck abroad, while I tried to convince the crew otherwise via group text. We’d had a slow start to the winter. It seemed this trip, a month in Murmansk, was going to be our saving grace, and I wasn’t going to let anything else hinder our project. I was willing to justify just about anything to get to Russia. It’s an intimidating place, but I never thought a virus would become our biggest fear.

This ledge led up to military personal apartments. You could say this front board was a run and gun. Tommy, front board for Good Sport

The wild times started before we even left. Marc missed his flight because his Visa didn’t arrive in time, Derrek went to the hospital the morning we were supposed to fly out because he was feeling sick—the doctor said it was just stress. Upon landing in Murmansk, Tommy, Colton, and myself were certainly feeling the stress as well, as doubt grew that the car we rented would ever show up. But we made it to our hotel, and Artem arrived later that night. The other boys were only a day behind. Once everyone was there and got a few clips, it seemed as though it was all falling into place.

We were only a few days in when the boys woke me up in the middle of the night. News broke that Europe had issued a travel ban to the US.  We piled into one hotel room, sitting on hold, the echo of awful elevator music resounding on repeat as we tried desperately to talk to anyone at the airlines. After an hour of panic we realized we weren’t in Europe. We were in Russia! The ban didn’t apply to us. So like any smart people in the middle of a global shutdown, we went back to bed to deal with it later. This set the tone for the trip.

“Good Sport” Day In, Day Out episode in Murmansk, Russia

Day by day, we spent breakfast arguing if that was going to be the last day we filmed in Russia. I called Chris Grenier, who had rushed home from Finland. He said it was a shitshow at customs and that we should fly back immediately. I withheld that information from the crew.  Derrek was reasonably explaining that we should probably not get stuck in Murmansk, while I continued to make empty claims that the virus wasn’t anything to fret. We rationalized this by telling ourselves that customs back in the US would be packed, and we might as well wait that out.

“I’M NOT FUCKING LEAVING!”

Tommy became an Instagram god when we threw that Wolf of Wall Street scene on his story, as people across the globe panicked to get home. While the world settled into quarantine, we were running through flocks of pigeons and feeding wild dogs. I remember concerned texts from friends asking why we were still snowboarding, to which we would respond, “Yeah, Russia is loose. Fuck it.”

Artem is the best driver I’ve ever seen. He’s on some Liam Neeson in Taken type beat. Back lip fakie.

What wakes you up in the morning quicker than coffee?

Checking the news on your phone from a Russian hotel room in the midst of a burgeoning pandemic. Russia was only reporting a few Covid cases, maybe eight in total or something. That was somewhat comforting, but Russia isn’t the most historically honest country either. Perhaps you remember Chernobyl? Russian borders were closed to most of Asia but still open to The States. Europe gave a few days’ warning before they closed the borders, so based on that we figured we were fine for the moment.

Not knowing how long we had, my priority was the blue rail next to the one Dillon Ojo famously hit. We went there with the intention to drink a Corona in his honor, and to our surprise, there was a rail just like his but with an extra kink. I had brought my Ojo pin and shirt, so I wanted to get a clip as a tribute.

I think we made it a week before it became clear that we needed to go home. People were already in full lockdown mode, and as much as I was relieved to leave, I was nervous about what we would return to. Quarantine memes were the main source of info I had as to what life looked like outside of Russia. Joking, I texted my roommate to ask if we needed toilet paper. Turns out we did. He said the liquor store was a madhouse too. So I left behind a beat-up board and my old boots to make room for what I would need for my journey home, toilet paper and vodka.

Derrek with a Switch 5050 creeper
Spencer paying homage. 5050, first try.

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