163 lbs — An Interview with Gabe Ferguson

A lot’s transpired since Gabe’s first 720 at seven years old. We caught up with the Bend local and “chillest” Ferg.

163 lbs — An Interview with Gabe Ferguson

A lot’s transpired since Gabe’s first 720 at seven years old. We caught up with the Bend local and “chillest” Ferg.

January 18, 2023
Words By Ian Boll InterviewsIssue FIVE

Gabe weighs 163 lbs, give or take. On some days he feels closer to 168. Other days he feels like 158. He says those days are good because he feels light—better for getting in the air. To me, though, he always looks light. My mental image of Gabe clocks in at 100 flat. I mean that he floats, both on and off the board. Of course it doesn’t matter how much he weighs; this is nothing but an absurd metaphor attempting to explain his levity. He doesn’t stress much. He doesn’t carry unnecessary baggage. He seems unflappable. 

But is there more to this story? From what I gather, Gabe also cares. About style and how snowboarding is perceived, about surrounding himself with good people, about his future. Most importantly, he cares about staying true to himself. That realization may have taken the longest, but it sits with him the heaviest as he now cuts a path for himself. Best we can do is sit back and watch where he goes. Wherever that is, he’ll always be Phat Gabe in our book. 

-Ian Boll

Brown Cinema Satellite Unit. Pemberton, BC. | Oli Gagnon

At what point in your coughing fit this morning did you decide to hike Mt. Bachelor?
It was about 5am, and I realized I could probably get up to where I was hiking with the sun rising, so it’d be a good idea.

You went solo?
Yeah. Well, dude, I’ve been straight coughing for like a week now, so it’s nice to do things a little solo, you know?

What’s up with this cough?
I don’t know. I think it came from Chile when me, Krugs and Iikka were there.

Yeah you just got back like a couple days ago. What was the funniest thing Krugs did while you were there?
Probably just puking on the road up to Valle Nevado mad hungover—we had a big night in town. I think Krugs was actually getting kicked out of the bar, we couldn’t find his bag, and then we bailed that night. The next morning, windy-ass road drive, he was throwing up [laughs].

The snow looked really good too. You ever been?
No, I’ve never been to Chile and the snow was really good. Where we were there’s a lot of wind, so it actually filled in and was still super cold, so it was blower. Mad fun.

You’re from Bend. What was the best part about growing up there?
Best part about growing up in Bend was that all the homies I had were into the same things. I feel like our squad, and Ben’s, was really dope and we were all into snowboarding. He ran with, like, Worm [Garrett Warnick], Max and Gus Warbington, this homie Cole Ortega, and Ben Watts. They were all already just dope at snowboarding. When I was pretty little it was my brother Zach, one of my good homies Dru, Jake Selover, this kid Nate Jacobson, and my homie, Van. Then Jared [Elston] moved to town when I was like 14 and became part of the squad. 

Who do you think the best snowboarder from Bend is, who is older than you?
Oh, that one’s really hard. I think like Curtis’ [Ciszek] snowboarding the most [laughs]. Or maybe Dru Brownrigg. 

No matter what you say, someone’s gonna be bummed.
I don’t know, honestly, probably Ben at this point.

At least he won’t be bummed at you. When did you start snowboarding?
Skied when I was three for a year but started snowboarding when I was like four. Really don’t remember learning how to snowboard at all.

When did you do your first 900?
I have no clue when I did my first 900. I think I was mad young. I know for a fact I did my first 720 when I was seven years old, ‘cause I was all hyped on that.

What age do you think you stopped sucking your thumb?
Like 10 or 11. Maybe even 12, I don’t even know.

So there’s a chance you spun a 900 before you stopped sucking your thumb…[laughs]
Yeah, apparently. 

Gabe behind bars, Mt. Hood | Jon Stark
Gabe and Jared, Bend | Nick Gannaway
Vandalizing a good van, Mt. Hood | Jon Stark

Ben said you’d be at the skatepark all day, whole body covered in dirt except for your thumb.
Yeah. Thumb would be completely clean, so nasty everywhere else. 

What was up with that?
It’s kind of some primal monkey shit, I feel like. My mom used to get this nail polish and put it on my thumb, so every time I would do it, it would taste really bad. And it sucked because it would just make all my food taste bad.

Did that even work?
Nah. I think straight up James Jackson was like, “Yo, you can’t do that anymore.” 

Tell me about the time you broke your collarbone when you were eight.
I was doing an Enter The Dragon contest, and in my last practice run I went for an indy nosebone on the last jump and went full 90 in the air, just back edge catch, and split my whole helmet open. Probably had a concussion. Then first run in the contest my dad’s telling me, “Dude, you gotta hit the big side. Hit Middle, Middle.” I just cased it so bad and bounced to my shoulder, broke it. My mom took me to ski patrol.

So your dad’s on the sideline telling you to go hit the big jump after your slam?
Oh yeah, my parents were always there and super supportive. Definitely were pushing us hard ‘cause they wanted the best for us. My dad’s kind of a blue-collar guy who grew up doing team sports, so I think he’s got that mentality, if you work hard you can be better than the other person. Imagine being nervous about how you’re gonna do, because you don’t want your dad to be pissed at you. Like, that was definitely the vibe for a little bit—when he’s there, you want to bust. 

Yeah. But that pressure seemed like it worked.
The sickest thing about that pressure, and Ben will tell you the same thing, is that it did work. But also, I’ve had coaches tell me, “Alright, it’s the finals, you gotta try this trick if you want to win. Do you want to podium?” And I went down to the bottom after my first run told my pops, and he was like, “Yeah, fuck that, then, just do whatever you want to do. No pressure.” That shit just hit me hard. I was happy to hear that from him.

Do you think that sparked a change in your path? Cause that was probably pretty early on I assume.
Yeah, I was probably like 17 or 18, and I just knew I was at contests for the wrong reasons. I knew going into every contest I could make finals, but I would probably get 5th to 7th. But the happiest I ever was at a contest was after my second run. So I knew deep down, if that’s the happiest I am at the contest, when it’s over, then I probably shouldn’t be doing it anymore. 

Ferg brothers, Copper, 2008. | Dad
Ben and Gabe, Nelson. | Aaron Blatt
Gabe, Jared...Sypniewski? | Jake Price

I wanna dive into that in a sec, but do you remember your first big contract with Burton and how old you were?
I don’t remember my first big contract. I don’t think I ever really had that big of a contract with Burton. I always got to stay at the houses, and I probably got paid, but I don’t think that much at all. My first big contract was probably with Rockstar when I was like 14. 

How’d that go down?
I was mad good when I was younger for some reason. I had offers from Red Bull and Mountain Dew. But the Rockstar one was just more money. And as a young kid I just wanted some cash. I don’t think I fit Red Bull at all.

Yeah, you’re not a wings guy. Did you ever get flack from anyone for it?
Uh, definitely a little bit. I remember Jared used to always give me shit when I’d show up in a Rockstar hat. “Oh, nice Rockstar hat.” Like, yeah, thanks, Jared. Um… [laughs]. Honestly, never really anything. It’s always been chill.

How long do you think it’s gonna be until Jared gets an energy drink sponsor and then you can give him shit?
Probably not that long. He’s on some shit. I bet he’s gonna get an energy drink sponsor soon.

What drink sponsor?
I think Jared is gonna be on like Red Bull or some shit, maybe within a year. I’d like to see him do something sick though, like go with Twisted Tea—something cool like that. 

A Twisted Tea sponsor would be so sick. So, shortly after that Rockstar deal, you got a stupid good Volcom contract that you had to leave Burton for?
Yeah. Volcom came in when I was like 15 or 16, so still pretty young. That was a big chunk of change, bigger than I’d ever seen for a deal, so I was pretty drawn to it for the money—and Volcom was sick. 

How fat are we talking?
Can we just say?

[laughs] Yeah, they offered me a salary. It was like a 50G salary, and I’m like a 15-year-old kid.

"This ollie's gonna be epic." Nelson, BC. | Aaron Blatt

Jesus Christ.
And it was a three-year deal, so that was crazy. Then, straight up, after a year I just got the call from Jeff [Kabigting] that they were basically dropping me. The dude who put me on, Oren [Tanzer], also got fired. That sucked ‘cause I wanted to be on a team, just have a sponsor to rep. Luckily, I got a fat chunk of change for the remaining two years on my contract so I could keep supporting myself and snowboarding. I was on Rockstar and Giro at this point. I had two seasons with no board or outerwear sponsor. It’s just like, Why am I doing this? Is anyone down? At that point I was still in the big contests, and I was doing pretty well, but I knew I was starting to not be as down with it.

What year was that?
This was probably 2017, 2018. And I was still having fun and riding halfpipe with Ben and my friends. But at that point I feel like halfpipe kinda started to die. Other people were losing their sponsors and stuff. 

Run it back a little bit on contests. Why halfpipe?
I did both for so long. I remember a lot of my homies would just do slopestyle or just do halfpipe. And I loved slopestyle. But there was this one Olympic year, The Grand Prix in Mammoth, and there were six contests because all the contests got canceled from bad weather earlier in the season. So I did all six, and I fell on all six of my slope runs, but I did pretty good in halfpipe. 

You liked slopestyle more, you just happened to mess up, huh?
I mean, my rail tricks were always super weak. I’d hit front-lip to fakies all the time. Anything I could do to not hit the normal rail, that was my shit. I think after that Grand Prix, I went to X Games as a frontrunner and no one showed up. Me and Mason [Aguirre] got in just cause we got there the night of the halfpipe contest at X Games. I think I rode pretty good but I fell. For some reason Gunny just saw me there and gave me an invite back next year, like right there. 

Saw some potential probably.
Yeah, maybe, and I think I did pretty good at the US Open that year too. Just came in as a little kid, and went pretty big. I think that hypes up people more than anything, if you go big and don’t look super sketchy. From that point on I was kind of strictly halfpipe.

From there, what was the first Olympics you tried to qualify for?
I tried to go to PyeongChang. It’s like four years after the Mammoth story, still competing in pipe. Ben was already qualified, Shaun [White] and Jake [Pates] were already qualified. It was the last contest, and it’s like me, Chase [Josey], and Danny [Davis]. Whoever won out of all of us was on the team. I didn’t land a single run in finals—fell on all three. Danny ended up getting super broke off, which sucked to see. Chase won the whole contest, so it was like, boom, Chase was going. Right after that we tried to film for Beta and literally went on two trips. Had no idea what we were doing.

What was it about that Beta year that you liked?
So Bridges called me, said that my homie Tyler [Orton] was going to film and edit it, and all of my friends were going to be in it, so obviously I was super down. But it was actually hilarious. We had no clue where anything was, didn’t even know what we were going to build, Tyler’s never been anywhere, we were just fully freestyling it. We had no OGs taking us out and showing us lines or hits or anything [laughs]. But all I had done before this was travel to the same halfpipe and ride the same exact thing. It was just new and fresh. 

You got to experience the freedom of riding what you want.
I was hyped. Going into the next season I was still doing pipe contests, while everyone else was filming. That was just bumming me out. I wasn’t bummed on my footage in Beta, but I thought it would be sick to put a lot of time into a video part. So straight up, went to the LAAX Open and just said, fuck it, I’m done

What was it about that last contest? Just breaking point?
I was under a lot of pressure. Everyone just told me I had good style, so I should keep doing halfpipe. That’s the biggest bullshit reason to keep doing this in the world. Everyone else should try to have good style, too, then it would be cool again. But no one fucking does that. 

Good point. But deep down you just didn’t want to do it.
No, I didn’t want to do it at all. The last contest I had a really  hard time. I was pretty depressed, but my pops was super supportive. Told me I should do whatever I wanted to do. So before the contest, still in practice, knowing I could do these tricks but I just didn’t love them, I was like, Fuck these things. I don’t care about them, they’re not fun. So I just did some lipslides and two front 5s in my last contest run ever, which I’m kinda hyped on. 

Switch frontside 540. Face, BC. | Oli Gagnon

Nik wanted you to explain C.D. for everyone.
So it was me and Nik [Baden], same contest, our last one we did together. We’re in LAAX, chilling in the hotel drinking beers, smoking cigs out of his window, and we’re just like, Dude, fuck this. I’m suffering from C.D., straight Contest Depression. We had the same mindset about it.

[Laughs] At what age?
18 or something. And from that point on we didn’t do contests. I remember later on, we got dropped from the US Team on the same day, five minutes apart. They called him, and five minutes later they call me like, “Yep, we can’t do it anymore.” [laughs] 

That’s sick to have someone to go out with. What’d you do right after that decision?
I immediately went to Innsbuck and met up with Ryan [Finder] and Brandon [Davis] to start filming for Everybody, Everybody.

Just like that. Your ender on Earl Grey was pretty fucked. Run me through that day.
I went and stood on top of the lip the first day I was in Logan and sent a photo to Ben, and he hits me back with, “Dude, you should hit that thing.” I was looking at it like, Fuck, this looks terrifying. Ben knew I was pretty good at back 10s, so of course he said I should back 10 it [laughs]. So we built it the last day, I hit it once, did a back 3, went too big and landed all sketchy. After that I was like, Next hit I’m gonna try a back 10. Let’s just do this thing. I go to do it, edged out on the lip, just go flat base, bitch out and do the scariest straight air of my life. 

And then what…
Just said, fuck it, I’m gonna toss one. Did the 10. Took a couple tries.

Nice when it works out like that. So you bailed on contests and started down the path of filming. Were you ever met with any resistance?
I feel like I tell people I stopped doing contests, and they’re thinking, “Oh you just chill; you took the easy road.” But I actually think I work harder, and I get more out of it now. The feeling you get after you go hit a scary jump and bust something crazy, and you’re alive, with your homies, that’s the best feeling ever. And you didn’t do it for anyone else, not for any judges or coaches. ‘Cause it’s straight up just you that puts yourself there. I love building my own little hit to have fun on; that’s my favorite thing to do. 

During this whole time frame, when did you get on K2? How was getting on a board brand again?
It was after the Everybody, Everybody year, in the summer I went up to Hood and Tom [Johnson] had sent me boards and was down to hook it up. A big thing was Curt [Ciszek] was on K2, and he’s just my homie I look up to a lot. At that point, I just wanted to be on the team and feel like I was a part of something.  

Enjoying himself. | Oli Gagnon

And you recently got on DC and got your ring too, huh?
Yeah, went on that trip last summer to NYC with Nik to surf that wave pool but ended up just chilling with Iikka [Backstrom] and Dave [Sypniewski] the whole time. And Iikka was just down. Got hooked up for one year, then all of sudden got surprised with that ring. That was pretty insane. 

Blake [Paul] wanted to know: You never seem to get mad or anxious. You’re pretty even-keeled, do you have a secret?
Yeah, it’s called marijuana, dude. You just chill out and try and enjoy yourself. 

How does smoking weed and doing contests vs. smoking weed and riding backcountry go?
The best part about contests was after your second run—you weren’t getting drug tested, so you could go blaze one. But smoking weed and riding backcountry is the best. You see a little bank you want to turn on, hit a little blaze, and then you’re like, this turn is gonna be epic

There was a time you didn’t smoke weed, you were 13, and Ben said he tried to get you to come smoke weed in the trees. You told him that, “Weed is terrible for you.”
[Laughs] I don’t remember that, but I had a good mindset back then. I was a good little kid.

Whistler wake ups. | Jake Price

[Laughs] That was probably the smartest thing you could do at the time. Who smokes the most weed in your family?
Me for sure. I got that one. 

Ben’s kinda out huh?
Yeah, Ben’s out. 

Do you think there is a certain age you shouldn’t smoke weed until?
Yeah, probably. If you’re smoking too much weed when you’re young, you’re probably frying yourself. I think you gotta wait ‘til you’re older, like over 18 or something. I mean it doesn’t really matter, just look at Bean, he seems fine.   

Is it true you first smoked hash with Scott Blum and Jamie Lynn?
Yeah, the first time I ever smoked hash was probably with Blum and Lynn. Baldface for sure; I remember having a hash night with Jamie and that was pretty crazy. This was probably Volcom days. Blum was a good influence on me at Volcom I think.

Favorite summertime drink?
John Daly. I’m thinking of a refreshing summertime drink.

What are you gonna pair with that John Daly though?
If I got a John Daly going? Probably means we’re out at one of like 30 breweries here, right? Probably gonna pair it with a burger. Go down to the river. Probably blaze one. 

Definitely blaze one.
You can skate too, it’s just hot during the day. And I’m not that into golf. 

Everyone’s golfing right now. What’s your take on golf?
It’s a fucking rich man sport, and there’s a drought everywhere. Golf courses are ruining everything.

They’re soaking up a hell of a lot of water.
You would think that they would realize that, being snowboarders with climate change in mind. And you’d think all the snowboarders in Salt Lake would be scared of that lake drying up after that news. 

Yeah, that’s for sure going to happen. That’s some scary shit.
The lake’s gonna dry up, release some toxins, and they’re just gonna be out golfing on the golf course, not a care in the world. I’m also pretty bad; I just end up sitting in the golf cart getting too buzzed up for what time of the day it is.

Baker parking lot? | Jake Price

Same here, honestly. Let’s talk about Brown a little bit. What’s up with the project? And what’s the vibe all about?
Yeah, Brown 2023. It’s gonna be super epic, just all the really good homies. I have never filmed with Butters, and I’ve always been a big fan because he cares about what he makes, makes it look good, and makes people look good. Everyone wins. 

It got pushed to two years, right?
I think everyone was a little scrambled last year. We honestly weren’t on it that hard with Jared and I doing Natural Selection, and Covid restrictions. Then I was filming for Ben’s movie, Fleeting Time

What’s it like filming with Jake Price?
Price is such a character. He’s just so rogue, but actually super wise and knows what’s gonna look cool. And literally just knows everyone wherever we go. At least in Canada, he’s like a local celeb. Or we’d be in Valhalla and he’d just look at some face, “Oh yeah, been here with Shandy back in ‘04.” Always dropping knowledge. 

Who you picking from the crew?
All the dudes are my homies, but Jared is one of my best friends. I’ve known Nik since I was like seven or something, so they’re literally two of my best buddies. And I love Sam [Taxwood], I love Parker [Szumowski]. The sickest thing about this project is there’s no one I’m bummed on being on a trip with. Maybe, like, I’m actually that guy? 

You think you’re the weak link?
Yeah, I think I’m the weak link. I think those dudes are all hogs. They’re just gonna be like, “Fuck, we gotta go somewhere with Phat Gabe. What the hell? This kid is just gonna be smoking all the time.”

That’s a good perspective to have; you want a bunch of confidence going into the backcountry each day.
Yeah, like, I’m not feeling it, I just might blaze and chill today.

So do you think your snoring is a serious problem on trips or are people just overreacting?
I don’t think my snoring is that big of a problem. I think there’s people who have a problem with not sleeping hard enough. They’re too light of sleepers. If you’re a light sleeper, you gotta work on that and try to conk out a little harder. 

Director Gabe on set. | Nick Gannaway
Gabe and Nik, when life was good, Mt. Hood. | Ian Boll

You said earlier that you’ve never really had an entire year to focus on one project?
Yeah. I’m so hyped it’s a two-year so I can actually put a full year into it. I’ve never had that before. I already have a little base to work off of, now I get to pile on top of that footage and hopefully make something dope. 

That’s gonna feel good. Seems like everything is lining up and, like Blake said, you never seem stressed. Is there anything that ever worries you?
I feel like I’ve been pretty lucky to where I’ve been put on, had support, and always on some shit I like. But that literally could go away at any point. If you get injured or something, anything can happen. Life is crazy. So you just gotta try to have fun. If you’re not having fun, there’s no fucking point.

It’s like the fear of losing what you have right now?
Yeah, I know at some point I’m not gonna be a professional snowboarder anymore. So that’s mad scary. And then just the thought of, What am I gonna actually do besides that? This is the only thing I’m really passionate about right now. So when this is over, what am I gonna be passionate about? 

What do you think you’ll do when you stop snowboarding professionally?
I love nature, and I love people. I think I could do anything if I’m just surrounded by good people. I would love to work in the snowboard industry, stay hanging with homies. Or just go a completely different route and start a coffee shop, a brand, or just have something to work on. All I’m really hoping for is that I can find something where I feel I’m working towards a goal. I don’t really care what it is. 

Yeah, that’s really all you need. Tell me what’s up with Z Ferg?
Dude, Zach is a freaking legend. Homie’s like scientist smart. He has a biology degree but doesn’t know exactly what he wants to do yet, so he’s just chillin’, building fences in Bend. He has a lady, a dog, and plays rugby on a men’s team too, goes to tournaments every weekend. He’s a boss.

Backside 720 after a shift at the sawmill, Pemberton. | Oli Gagnon

I also have two brothers and we’re all super close. And when I was talking to Ben, he said “I love Gabe like a best friend.” That’s gotta be the best part about having brothers.
My two bros are both so sick. Zach is two years older than me, and Ben is four years older than me. I don’t think I’d ever leave Bend unless my brothers did, they’re just fam. I love chillin’ with them.

Who do you think is the chillest Ferg brother? 
Dude, I think I’m 100% the chillest Ferg brother.

Actually, Zach might be the chillest Ferg, honestly.

You can’t go back on it now. 
I don’t know, now I’m second-guessing myself. We could chalk that one up as a tie. Ben is definitely not though.

Ben was saying that when you were younger, you were more competitive with him. Are you still competitive? 
I think when I was younger I was extremely competitive. It’s little brother syndrome, trying to beat your older brothers all the time. And definitely during contest stuff I was competitive. But as I lost the love for that stuff, I think that feeling went out the window. But Ben’s shit is so gnarly. It’d honestly be hard to be competitive with him.

Roll up? Baker. | Ian Boll

When you were young, you guys were kinda side-by-side the whole way, then you seemed to find your own path.
I remember being younger, riding for Burton with my older brother, on the US Team with him, and I was definitely getting over being in my brother’s shadow. I was 100% on his vibe, which is sick, but he probably didn’t always wanna be taking care of me too, you know? He probably wanted to be doing his own thing sometimes. One reason I left Burton was to do something different for myself.

Feeling like you were following in your brother’s footsteps might have helped you to take that Volcom contract and branch off. 
Yeah, I think I just wanted to be on my own thing. And it’s funny ‘cause now I get to film with him all the time. So we’re riding together, which is epic. But I remember being young, just like, Damn, I’m tired of only traveling with Ben, taking it for granted and thinking I need to get on my own shit.

You had this period of losing sponsors, then changed up your entire program, got out of contests, started filming more, and now it seems you’re much happier where you’re at.
I was talking about this subject with my dad the other day because I fully am. When I was young and quit contests, I didn’t know if it would work out or if I’d ever get on another board company. You know, all these thoughts go through your mind. I’m so satisfied with the fact that I did what my heart was telling me to do and left competitive snowboarding and started riding how I wanted to ride. I was snowboarding well but not really doing it for the right reasons. Then you fucking switch it up and do what you wanna do and stay true to yourself. Then shit started happening for me.

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