Words by: Brock Nielsen and Ian Boll
Photos by: Ian Boll
Additional Photos by: Dylan Ross, Colt Morgan, Jake Price, Mike Miller, Sean Kerrick Sullivan, Bob Plumb, and Chad Chomlack
In 2016, Keegan Valaika, Scott Blum, Harrison Gordon, and myself made something that we felt was missing within snowboarding: an independent group project made up of real friends who genuinely want to snowboard together. Thus, Brown Cinema was born. We traveled the world and went to Japan four times in two years, calling it our home. We made friends, partied, laughed, cried, hated each other at times, depleted the Kirin green label beer at every 7-Eleven within a two-mile radius of our rental, and of course, snowboarded. We created what we had envisioned, with no limitations and no one telling us what to do. Just four idiotic friends doing what we do best.
The Brown 2.0 crew is no different. After a hiatus, I felt it was time to bring it back. Instead of giving a cheesy explanation as to why we made this video, let me get into how we got here this time around.
The Brown 2.0 crew came together like a massive Jackson Pollock painting with colors flying everywhere. The interweb of the crew throughout the years is a funny one and goes something like this. I’ve known Stax since he was a 12-year-old picking die-cut stickers at the Celtek warehouse when I used to produce videos for them. Even though Sam dealt with injuries each year, he came through with my favorite part of his to date. I met Blake through some Gnarly trips back in the day. He and I had a wild time on Catalina Island for Keegan’s birthday, and it felt like we were on the show Survivor. He’s a calm and smooth operator. If you see Blake around just yell “FUCK YEAH BLAKE!” I remember seeing Nik Baden and Cody Warble at a Mammoth event we did for Brown 1.0 and I asked Scott, “Who are those little rippers?” He told me their names, and I was like, “Those kids are dope.” Did the Sims thing with them and we are forever brothers. Nik is a wise and old soul, he’s lived many lives and is truly enjoying this one creating his own beautiful path. Although Cody only has one shot in the video, he was in the group text both years. Maybe next year…
I’ve been filming with Cale for 17 years, since the beginning of our BozWreck days. He is my best friend and has always had my back through thick and thin. No sponsors, no support, just pure passion and nothing but love for the work he put in for this project. Next would be Cocard, I have known him for about 10 years doing Absinthe on and off. And of course he is an OG Brown alumni who is one of my favorite snowboarders—always bringing something different and refreshing to the table. I have known Sevey for about six years. We did an Absinthe tour in Europe, and he is an anomaly. Perly was always getting jealous of his multiple fine adventures and scared to bring ladies around him.
I met and got to know Jared while working on some Adidas projects back in the day. At first, I was like who is this cocky-ass little shit? But as I got to know him I quickly reverted my initial thought. He is funny, witty, calculated, and knows exactly what he wants in life, which I admire. As for the rest of the crew, I met and got to know them while working on this project. Through the web of Jared and Nik, the rest of the puzzle pieces were gathered. Gabe, my new fucking favorite, an all-time human and a dear friend. He has one of the best styles I’ve seen in person. Parrrrker! Another beautiful addition of hue to create Brown. He worked on Vans projects both years we worked on this project and came out with his best part to date in my opinion; a natural style master with anything he touches. Mason, the wild card. He came on two trips and filmed his own segment with power and finesse. A true Brown warrior. Iikka will always put a smile on my face. I loved when I first got to know him, he would call me “Butter” instead of “Butters.” He has an Eazy-E tattoo and references me as dad when he’s older than me. Forever young.
As for the back end of the crew, we have a beautiful ensemble—people that I love dearly, longtime friends, new friends, and ones who inspire me and made me want to do this shit. Sir Ian Boll, the most prolific figure within the crew. To know him is to love him. He is loose and calculated. A creative genius, in my opinion, and he loves a challenge. Jake Price, who I had never met up until we started this project and whose work has inspired me above and beyond. I would watch 9191 and IR77 on mushrooms religiously as a youngster and analyze every detail of his films. Still one of the best to be doing it. Shane Charlebois, who I have known for 15-years, is a true legend and good friend. It was so awesome to have him be a part of this project and film together after doing different projects for the past few years. It was a trip for me to pay Shane to film for Brown as Absinthe Films did with me, because they showed me the way. Thank you and much love for always having my back. Jonah Elston, Jared’s brother, was a new addition to the crew who triumphed in every way through the winter season. He is the sled master of the group and can get our dumbasses out of any shitty snowmobile situations. He is a silent artist, with insane knowledge of motor vehicles and can do the longest wheelies I’ve seen. We also had some great help from our friend Dylan Ross, who bought his first 16mm camera from Jake this year. A beautiful host to show you around the wanderlust land of BC.
This project is something near and dear to me. I love snowboarding and the freedom that it entails for us very fortunate individuals. My goal with every video is simple: to create videos with a cast of characters that make you want to go out snowboarding and have the best time with your friends. I hope this video can inspire the next generation of riders and creatives to achieve whatever they have envisioned in their mind as videos did for me as a youngster.
We may not always be the most organized crew, as some say, but that’s what makes us Brown. As Deaner from Ween once said, “The more legit we try and pretend we are, the more it blows up in our face. If you fake the brown, people will figure you out.” He goes on to say, “like when Ween has a rehearsal and somebody forgets to tell two members of the band that we had a rehearsal.” That’s us to a T: We may forget to have photographers out with us, we may even not film tricks and have to rely on the group’s iPhone angles (Mason’s huge method on that hip), but that’s how we do it. Just some exceptional souls living in the moment. Thank you for trusting me and letting me create something special with you all! I wanted all of my friends to have the opportunity to leave their stamp within the snowboard world. I think they’ve all done exactly that. Also, thank you to everyone who believes in what we are doing. Let’s try to keep independent productions alive and well. Snowboarding needs more of it.
So what have we missed? What else is it that you need to know about this hilarious, odd, enlightened ensemble. Maybe we oughta say a little something about when Jared and Gigi met head to head at the top of Spine of God.
Or when Mason Jar constantly said, “I miss Bend.”
Or when Jar asked, “What the fuck is taking so long?” any time he was sitting passenger seat (Jar didn’t offer to drive much and usually was sleeping or complaining).
Or when I blew my sled up on day one, upon Minibike’s exact prediction.
Or when Sam flew 118 feet to his back.
Or the time I finally made it to Ferry Lake, walked into the cabin, and was greeted by Gabe saying, “Yo Boll, I had the first wet dream of my life last night.” He had been there five days already with no one but the crew, and, in fact, I think he was sleeping with Jared at the time.
You know it’s a crazy thing to be trapped in a cabin with eight guys, no running water, no heat but the fire, and less than 100 beers. What if Nik decides to drink 10 on night one, and Gabe drinks 12, Sam puts back 9, then we only have 69 beers left for the remaining days? Dylan doesn’t drink so no threat there. But if Jared decides to toss back a few more than expected, say a total of 8, then there’s really not many left for me and Jonah. You start eyeing the next person to walk out back and fuss with the cardboard box. To be clear, tensions were not flaring; that would be a downright exaggeration.
Ferry Lake was a world on its own. YD, or Young Dave, a legend of past and present, graced us with his cabin: a secluded spot high up an old mining road, only offered to a select few over the years. A place that’s hosted the likes of Johan Oloffson, DCP, Walsh, Huffman, Gigi, Crawford, Shin and Shandy Campos, and Greg Todds. As Minibike said, “It’s like the North Shore of snowboarding—incredibly localized.” Just watch IR77 for some backstory. We felt the presence of snowboard history, if you can feel that at all. The roughness seemed to transcend into grit in the backcountry as well. The crew was pushing on all levels. Personally, I was completely out of my element, but that’s the benefit of having friends that are so dialed. You just look at Nik, he looks at you and gently nods in confidence before you floor your sled up a stupidly steep hill climb. Then out of nowhere you’re trench deep. “Need a fiver,” hits the radio, Jonah close behind to help you. Because really, that’s what it was all about. Fussing and bitching aside, everyone had each other’s back like it was nothing, whether hyping a trick or rolling one up for your homie who didn’t get it.
Oh yeah, back to that Jared and Gigi story. We were still in Ferry, and from the bottom all you could hear was indistinct yelling back and forth. On the radios you could clearly make out, “The Spine of God is mine,” coming from Jared as he approached the top. Tensions between the two had apparently only risen since their NST duel. “But who is this?” asked the Austrian snowboard legend. “Your worst nightmare,” echoes through, like an unbelievable exchange out of a movie, and one that we still aren’t sure was a joke or serious. All we know is that the joke was clearly on them: a 24-year-old pro on the rise calling a 42-year-old legend off his line. But whose line is it anyway? Gigi clearly got to it first, but Jared built the road to get to it. And does it matter who got there first when you have an older brother capable of doubling straight up a 60-degree face? (A true American hero.) The best part was, neither really laced it, and we all left laughing. Ahhh, nothing like an old-school rivalry where no one wins but the viewers.
This sort of tension seems to be absent within the crew itself. Everyone seems to love each other, or we think they do—that’s a valid point. Do they? I’d say no matter the friends, no matter the crew, there are always instances when nerves flare, and I think that’s fair game in a world of everyone having to love everyone all the time. You gotta allow it, while also recognizing that they picked each other to board next to. Truth is, people were barred who tried and people were added to the crew who didn’t. You can’t force and you can’t predict it. There’s a zen mentality in letting snowboarding be the direction, and that seems to be the Brown philosophy.
As Keegan says, “With Brown, the goal was always snowboarding as much as possible with people you love. Invite who we wanted, go where we wanted. Shovel less and snowboard more.”
These pictures here are a funny thing: milliseconds of time corresponding to a similar moment sitting within one frame of film, rolling at 24fps, ending in a video. They tell an incomplete story, but they are there to remind you. Different than other moments we write about, something not filmed at all and better because of it. Like Jar with his hand up, broken and throbbing. “Jar? Question? No? Then please sit down.” Or even better it’s a moment that lives only in our memory, gone when forgotten. Like Nik in YD’s cabin, 12-pack deep, standing in front of all of us, hand aggressively comes to his forehead—the salute—before quickly grazing both hands past the sides of his head, imaginary shaving a Mohawk: our mission the next day. Turning without saying a word to gather more wood, leaving us laughing harder than we have before. And then the moment is gone—unreplicable.
The entire project was unique in that way. How could you laugh at the same jokes and simple moments of hilarity? How does a group come together exactly as it did? How could you relive the rush of the new… You have to go find new firsts and experiences that truly wake you up. Give yourself that freedom to let them come in and find you, then take them for a ride. A ride open to all sensations, of all emotions, and of all the love that you wish to see rained back down on you. But first, you need to put yourself in that place. And I can say without a doubt that every one of these unique people, filmers and riders included, put themselves there. Here’s to this ride and the next one.
A Few Spreads from the Article
Extra + Unseen Photos from the Article