Dustbox: In The Age Of Wonder
| May 31st, 2022 |
Words by Mo Jennings
Photography by Oli Gagnon & Colton Morgan
Addictions come in many forms. Drugs, sex, money, pride, fame… But why be obsessed with freezing cold temperatures, dirty vans, cheap shitty sleeping arrangements, and poor nutrition? Because somewhere in between all that lies a unique type of euphoria that only comes from solidarity, and having a shared purpose with the ones around you, and being committed to each other’s success and failures unconditionally. Maybe that purpose doesn’t make sense to 99.9% of the world, but for the 15 of us in the “Dustbox” van, it’s all that mattered for 60 days.
The Dustbox is probably recognized by less than .0001 percent of the world’s population, but in the snowboarding world, it’s become a household name. Some might even say that although the Dustbox crew is following a tradition of street snowboarding, they’ve committed to the road with a type of occult dedication unlike anything we’ve seen before. The D.B.’s success can be attributed to its power in numbers. They’re grossly obsessed with jumping in the van in search of snow and spots, constantly doing whatever it takes for everyone in the crew to get clips. Like a bizarre love triangle, the Dustbox supports each other in this romance, but like any kind of sick and twisted love story, it’s uncontrolled.
Their origins remind me of the Dead Poets Society. By the time they were together and decided they were an Item, most of them should still have been living with their parents, but their folks must have recognized the unique spark in the crew and let their chicks fly the coop before they’d even hit puberty. See, they all met and came together like this. A bunch of like- minded individuals with sophisticated worldviews and specific intentions. Their independent motivation drove them together and once that happened they were almost unstoppable.
I would like for this story to unfold like one of those conversations you have late at night, on the road in the middle of a long drive with your close friends. So get comfortable, crack a beer, roll up, do what you do, and follow along as we dive into an “unexpected journey.”
The majority of the Dustbox were on snow before they were even able to form true sentences. Some of them were even deemed extreme sport prodigies via media outlets like the Disney Channel. No lie. Sure the boys may have found some success in contests as kids, but still they saw an opportunity to turn in their USASA jerseys and dive in on some different shit. Some of them ditched the east coast super young to head to Colorado to snowboard every day. The Colorado kool-aid didn’t hit as hard as they expected and they soon found themselves looking for something different. But like I said this origin story is complex, so I am going to let them fill in the pieces.
Then came the summer of 2017. They talk about the summer of 2017 at Mount Hood as a very sacred time in all of their lives. It was that lightning in a bottle type moment for them as a group. Some of them by plan, and others by chance, all came to stay or hang around the Burton Demo Center under the supervision of Dave Massie.
They were all together and they soon realized they were all on the same program. To keep things going, the next move was SLC. Again, one by one, the whole entire squad eventually invaded the home of a young skier named Garret Whaley. Apart from the members who already lived in SLC, the majority of them fell upon Garret’s house which was given the name “the Dustbox.”
DUSTBOX PRESENTS: YEAR 1
Everyone has to learn some time, and year one was just that. Some of the gang had a pretty good handle on the process, others had never really even hit a street spot. But they kind of had a plan… well if they didn’t have a plan they at least had a squad and they also had an old peach orchard van named “Chains.”
Headed to a place where they didn’t speak the language or had a guide, they fell on the mantra of “all for one, one for all,” as they barged the Canadian border. Somehow border officials let the group of teenagers driving a Mary Poppins van into Canada. Like peas in a pod the whole squad soon realized their dreams were becoming a reality. They all felt they were right where they needed to be and that feeling shines through in “Dustbox Presents.” They did it, through the goddamn stoney fog they did it. And they did it their way, as they explained:
DUSTBOX, I WANTED MOST: YEAR 2
After the Dustbox Presents, the whole group was energized seeing the potential of that first year come together. Colton was filming Snooze Global and showed a video the night Dustbox Presents premiered. I happened to bartend the event. Colton and the Dustbox had been talking about joining forces for the upcoming winter. Colton was basically my snowboard filming professor and when he asked me to jump in the van with them that year, I went from Dustbox bartender to Dustbox filmer.
The squad that came together was Dan McGonagle, Cooper Whittier, Robby Meehan, Cody Warble, Noah Peterson, Jonas Harris, Reid Smith, Brett Kulas, Benny Milam, Peter Cerulo, Jordan Morse, Colton Morgan, and myself. We had a big gang and “Chains” had a space heater this time around. Spot after spot, the box ran with the momentum they had gained. This is where the 60-day formula came from. Everyone was having such a good time they didn’t want to leave. Covid literally forced them to put a pause on the good times otherwise the van probably wouldn’t have made it back to SLC until April.
The formula for editing a Dustbox video is similar to the formula used to film the video. First, it’s collaborative. No one person has first say or authority over anyone else. The group’s voice is the loudest voice and that’s the way it is. It takes a lot longer than say one person editing all the footage, but that’s just not the Dustbox way. The collaborative process of editing continued to bring the whole gang closer and it was a saving grace during covid.
Honestly, the response to the release of the video was more than anything we could have expected. To see people enjoying the vid gave us the sense of accomplishment we needed. And not only that, but it was a catalyst to outdo ourselves that next year. Because of course the Dustbox was going to make another video as soon as the snow started to fall. It was an exciting time, we had some new additions to the squad that year, we had Tommy Towns and Ryan Collins in the van. Bean was also planning to come on a couple trips and then the Dustbox laced the #1 snowboarding draft pick of all time. Jill Perkins. She really wanted to get in the van with her friends—we were honored to have her.
WINTER 2021: YEAR 3
Then one fine mid-December day, while we were in the studio together, a storm announcement for NYC hit the airwaves. It had been a while since we’d seen a snowmageddon in New York City where the snow really stuck. If you street snowboard, being able to film in NYC is like getting to the final boss, NYC is Bowser from Super Mario. Now, normally the Dustbox vans set sail January 5th each year. That gives the gang time to finish school and visit family for the holidays. But shit, a chance to go to New York before Christmas was too good to be true.
Initially, Cooper was leading the charge, but it didn’t take long for everyone to follow. We had a problem though, normally the Dustbox keeps it cheap: drive the vans and split gas. That wasn’t going to work. So we had to figure out 12+ flights, lodging, and rental cars. But we didn’t have the budget. With Dan at the head of a stoney strategizing session, he suggested that some of us go to Boston, stay with his family, drive his family’s car, and ease up the financial burden. So for the first time, the Dustbox was splitting up.
Colt went to New York with “A Squad” and I went to Boston with Jilly P & the boys. “A Squad” got on their flights early the next day and made it to NYC before snow even hit the ground. Budget was tight, so the best option was a U-H moving truck and two seats upfront, with the rest of them thrown in the back like John Candy and his polka band in Home Alone.
At this point, Jilly P and the boys were feeling the FOMO. Our flights didn’t take off till the next day and A squad was already in New York scrolling through Google Earth screenshots and getting eyes on them.
It really didn’t take long for our plans to completely shit the bed. Flights direct to Boston from SLC are rare and expensive, so we hit Dallas, Texas for a quick layover. It hadn’t started snowing yet, the layover was short in Dallas, so we were feeling confident we’d make it. I was wrong, so wrong. Never go to Texas. Period.
To make a long story short, our flight to Boston got cancelled so we decided to rebook through Philly, but it was snowing when we got there, and again, our flight was cancelled. We could have walked outside the airport and set something up–except we couldn’t. Our bags were tagged to Boston. In this situation you have to try and make a request to an airline employee, who hates their job, to go out of their way to go through all airline luggage to find your bag. So we waited.
Finally, like a fucking bridge over troubled water, American Airlines baggage claim employees had a shift change. We bribed a kind employee the first chance we got. We didn’t care whose ass we had to kiss, we told him we would give him 100 bucks. We needed those bags—our mental well-being depended on it. After 8 hours in Philly, we finally got our bags and around 2:30 am got on the road. It didn’t matter how much of a blizzard was between us and New York, we were going to get there.
Meanwhile, A squad was in New York rallying. Reid didn’t hesitate to step to some big shit early on. The whole gang was vibing, getting clips. Cody had finally made it after waiting to sneak on a standby flight out of SLC, classic. At the first spot Cody pulled up to, Colt locked the keys inside the U-Haul at the same time they were about to get kicked out. Somehow Cody finessed getting the keys out with a stick, then he quickly got the trick before they got booted.
Jonas looked right at home in NY, it was a nice compliment to his aesthetic. Robby was actually home–like he’s from Long Island–bumping 22gz and sliding through kinked rails. Everyone was riding a snow induced high that could only come from being in New York. Even as the snow started to melt, the boys scraped up what they could to keep it going.
I was able to get in a few days with Jilly P and the boys while we were traveling towards Boston. We thought we might not even get to snowboard, but the group made the drive from Philadelphia to Manhattan after the airport dilemma. We spent our first day at Jerome Banks, Jill got a last minute banger, and then we hit the road. We were leaving NYC with a stack of clips, on our way to Boston with smiles on our faces.
Both squads had felt like this early trip in December was a bonus round. New York provided and was the gas this fire needed. Over the course of the next 4 months we drove over 10,000 miles through Omaha, Iowa, Milwaukee, Minnesota, NYC (again), Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Denver–just to name a few. The trips had their highs and lows, but the highs always out weighed any deficit we faced. Over the next handful of pages the gang tells the story of the year: the good, the bad, and all that weird shit in between that makes what we do so memorable.
Brett Kulas Mentality
It was mid-January and this winter was heating up, literally, but the low temps of Minnesota allow the snow to stick around. So we headed to Minneapolis. For once, we had a decent Airbnb. The squad was at max capacity, we had Brett Kulas back on board after coming off an injury from last year. You could tell Brett approached this year differently, he had a strategy.
PARTY VAN: BACK TO NYC
“We get to Minnesota and in an instant, two weeks flew by. Then February 1st, early in the morning, Dan and Cooper are like on some straight Art of Flight shit, looking at the weather patterns and snow forecasts. They were like it’s happening again in New York. Meanwhile, we still got 15 homies who haven’t even woken up yet–and the Airbnb is trashed. We were supposed to stay a handful more days, but Dan and Cooper were like “we got to leave right now, we are already blowing it.” It was big Rob Roethler’s bday that day and he had taken time off work to fly into Minnesota to meet us. Initially, he was like “shit I got to go back to work,” then he was like, “hell nah it’s my birthday I’m going to New York.”
Dan, do you have a favorite van moment?
“When we were leaving New York and heading to Pittsburgh, Reid had to pee and attempted to pee out the window of the van. He was just pissing in the wind and it was just blowing back on Jonas in the back seat. At first Jonas didn’t know what was going on but when he realized, it was absolutely hilarious. That’s where the piss jug got created. Pee in the jug, pass it around.”
DES MOINES HAUNTED HOUSE
After the holidays and the New Year, we started with a long ass drive to Omaha from SLC. We watched all the extended versions of Lord of the Rings and felt inspired by the success of the young hobbits. Pulling into Omaha, it was low tide and the rain had washed most of the snow out. Once again the power of the green shovel army proved successful. If you have 8-10 homies scraping snow, in 30-minutes, odds are you’ll have enough to make something happen. We stole Tommy Towns from the Torment crew and our worries were wiped clean by his natural ability to make the whole gang smile. And he pulled off one of the largest slappys ever seen.
John P from the Bronx Interview
Many times in NYC we found ourselves all hanging at the spot walking back and forth from the bodega, interacting with people walking by. John P from the Bronx greeted us with some true hospitality that nobody would be able to forget. I caught up with John P to talk to him a bit about his interaction with us and his life in the Bronx.
Mo: So we are doing this article for this snowboard magazine and I am trying to describe what our vibe for the winter was and what it was like to snowboard in New York City.
John P: Don’t get it twisted, people do snowboard in New York, hit a hill or a slope with snow on it or whatever, but the way I saw those guys doin’ it was unfathomable. They were on 199th Street launching over shit from all over. Shit you only see in videos bro.
So tell me about yourself?
I’m from the Bronx, I know New York like the back of my hand. I was a chef for many years and my profession took me all over the city. I skated back in the day, my favorite skaters were like John Cardiel and Ray Barbee.
Where did you see the Dustbox at?
I was on my way home from work, it was snowing. I was having a drink, about to pop into the bodega, and I see the homie flying down this rail eating shit and jumping right back up. It brought out some type of youthful emotion for me, I just started watching and they let me be a part of it. I realized they lived in Utah so I eased up on the energy—I didn’t want them to think I was on some funny shit. They told me they hadn’t had a bacon egg and cheese yet from BX Metro Superette. I lost my shit. I bought them all bacon, egg and cheeses right there. I was moved by their vibe.
What is bodega mafia?
It’s like being a part of a fraternity. Being from New York you kinda grow up as cornerstore boys. Ya know the bodega raised us, that’s where people would congregate for good and bad reasons. But nonetheless the cornerstone watches you grow up from a boy to a man, watching you grind through life everyday. That’s what the bodega mafia is.
Is Dustbox bodega mafia?
JP- Definitely, they down, when you come back to New York imma jump you all in.
Iowa was different this year, the year before it was fun and new. It felt like we ran out of spots fast and it was blown out with a ton of other crews. It was March and we were operating as a skeleton crew at that point–not full capacity. Ryan, Colton, Jordan, Cooper and myself wanted to see if we could catch a miracle march in a small city in Iowa. But we were greeted in Iowa with a bunch of gnarly kickouts from local business owners. And the cops had all our info from the start. We couldn’t catch a break.
Soon the local law had seen enough and they were trying to get us to come down to the station to discuss damages claimed by a local business owner. It was nonsense and we were feeling like we needed to get the fuck out of Iowa. We packed up and set sail for SLC. But first, we attempted one last spot that ended with us meeting an adorable elderly couple that brought us a 24 pack of Busch Light.
Four hours later and we were almost home free. So we hit a couple souvenirs at the Flying J crossing. As soon as we gained speed, we heard a loud pop and the engine started to sputter and we lost all ability to accelerate. We weren’t going anywhere, the van was toast. It felt like Iowa was trying to trap us. We called for a tow truck, couple hours they said. Luckily my parents live just across the Nebraska border in Omaha. They were willing to come pick up some of us and leave a car for Colt and Cooper to have when the tow truck arrived.
We thought what better way to stay positive than to get baked. Our foggy haze was quickly interrupted by lights pulling up behind us. Perfect, the Iowa law. Quickly, the boys opened the doors, and Ryan ran down the hill to chuck the doobies. The cop’s flood lights perfectly captured the clouds of smoke billowing out of the van. He walked up to me on the drivers side where I calmly smoked my cig and explained the noise the engine was making. As I looked at him I could see him analyzing the scenario. He looked at me and said “sorry boys the only thing I can do is check back on ya to make sure the tow truck arrived.” We jumped back in the van and took a deep breath. Close call. My parents arrived with an extra vehicle so Colt and Cooper could stay with the van till the tow truck came. Colt and Cooper ended up hanging in the extra vehicle listening to music while they waited. 2 am rolled around and it was evident the tow truck wasn’t coming. Colton and Coop just figured they’d drive to Omaha and head back in the morning for the van. Upon trying to turn the key to fire up the car, they realized they had drained the battery listening to music. Time to give up, Iowa wasn’t going to let them leave. Luckily they had sleeping bags in the van, so they got cozy for one last night on the side of the highway, semi trucks rocking them to sleep.
DENVER: THE LAST STOP
We finally made it back to Salt Lake after 60 days in the van. It was grueling no doubt, but it was the time of our lives. Right when we thought it was over, it didn’t take long for talks of a last minute storm to start buzzing around. So we found ourselves in Denver, it was an exciting thought to get everyone back together in one last chance for romance. Plus, mystery guest and Snooze Global vet, Pete Cerulo, would join us after being out with a knee injury all year.
Coincidentally, Oli Gagnon hit the Box up about trying to make it to Denver. For someone who has shot pinnacle moments in snowboarding for the last 20+ years, that call was insane to get. Not to mention—we are all fans. It was on. He flew to Salt Lake, jumped straight in chains, stuffed his feet in the trash, and got cozy. He was the first out of the van to throw a shovel and was never bummed when we sessioned something till 4 am with no success. Not only is he one of the best behind the lens but he is tip top human. Thank you Oli.
Denver was like a magic carpet ride. We got clips, we hand marked some enders, we got to see our friends, and it was a great way to end the year. It felt like everything had come full circle and again we were able to find magic on the road. We left Denver feeling rich with priceless memories, immensely grateful for the opportunity to have so many good days together.
These last years have proven that the Dustbox have not only found a way to make great snowboard videos but they have a great way to live their lives. Their riding is undeniably great, but it’s so much more than that. In a world full of turmoil, they’ve built a safe haven. Built by homies for the homies, and the more homies the merrier. If they aren’t doing it together, then they don’t do it at all. If one of them is down, they’re all down. If one of them is up, they’re all up. If you have bought a tee, smashed the like button or just said some kind words about the Box, ya family. Everyone desires to build or be a part of something that outlives themselves. The Dustbox is here to stay and the Dustbox is for everyone.