Chad Unger’s Pride Video Interview
Intro by Spencer Schubert
June 27, 2020
The most defining feature about Chad isn’t that he’s deaf but that he has an intoxicating smile. It’s the first thing I remember about meeting him at some snowboard event years ago. I wanted to talk to him because I was a fan of his edits. He made these videos from Brighton without songs, because obviously he couldn’t hear them. We started chatting by typing questions on his phone and passing it back and forth. That conversation was very surface-level; we were face to face but might as well have been texting from miles away. That’s when I first realized I had never really thought about what it was like to be deaf. Our community in snowboarding seems so small, loving, and inclusive, but I couldn’t help think people viewed Chad as having a disability. People see Chad and want to talk, as if it’s something to do, rather than actually start a friendship—because how? He’s so different.
Snowboarding culture feels like it’s 90 percent talking about snowboarding and 10 percent actual snowboarding. Understanding that, I feel like Chad is more of a snowboarder than most of the people I know. He doesn’t go to the resort to shoot the shit on the chairlift, or talk about what trick to try. He is there completely for the experience of snowboarding itself. I saw that as such a brave act, to immerse yourself into a scene based so heavily on verbal communication, because the snowboarding outweighed the possibility of feeling left out.
It wasn’t until later when I developed a friendship with Chad that I realized so much I thought was wrong. Chad can’t hear, but he can read a room better than someone talking in it. So often we’ll get a big crew of snowboarders together, and waste time arguing opinions on some video or other bullshit, while Chad will go off and silently take an amazing photo. You can pull out your phone to film something, but he will capture it in a way you could never think of. His lack of hearing has heightened Chad’s visual acuity to a point that is almost supernatural.
But just as I thought I understood Chad, my perspective of his involvement in the snowboard community changed again when he told me he was gay. Chad was openly out before, but it wasn’t well known, because few had dug deep enough to ask. Maybe that’s because his snowboard friends hadn’t taken the time to see the world as he does, to take a step back from the banter and bullshit to observe. Knowing that Chad is gay doesn’t change my thoughts on him in the slightest, but it does make me question myself and my peers. Would he have said something sooner if snowboarders were more open? Most pros project themselves as progressive on issues like the environment, but are we as progressive with sexuality? I haven’t asked him these questions, but I’ve been busy trying to learn curse words in sign. I don’t have to ask to know that Chad is fearless. Chad is a photographer, a filmer, he is deaf, he is gay, and he is a snowboarder, regardless of any constructs we have built. That, to me, takes way more courage than hopping on a rail or flying off a jump.