Citizen Kain: An Interview With Parker Szumowski

From the outside, Parker’s carefree, rips with loose precision, and flows from place to place with ease. But what goes on behind closed doors for him to get the nickname Citizen Kain?

Citizen Kain: An Interview With Parker Szumowski

From the outside, Parker’s carefree, rips with loose precision, and flows from place to place with ease. But what goes on behind closed doors for him to get the nickname Citizen Kain?

January 31, 2024
Words By Torment Staff InterviewsIssue SIX

Interview by Ian Boll
Photos by Oli Gagnon

When Parker calls, you’re gonna want to pick up. Settle in—it’ll be a long one. Topics could range from breakfast foods, to dirt bikes, to thoughts that keep us up at night. See, that’s the thing, everyone’s got fears and having a friend to chat with allows you to throw those fears right out in the open. Works every time. Parker knows this game. From the outside, he’s carefree, rips with loose precision, and flows from place to place with ease. Collectively, we’ve watched him grow up through his video parts from Route 9 and Rendered to Evergreen and Brown. But the video parts are surface level, begging the question, what happens inside his head? It’s certainly not hollow, though we’ll get to his theory on that. 

Parker’s got plenty to say but doesn’t spend much time blasting it. It’s hard for a humble person. He seems to embody an archetype of the past, an original pro of sorts. The person who could do it all with no complaints and no need to talk about it. Hang with him for a day or two, and you’ll know what I mean. Year after year, Parker has delivered without excess recognition, his understated passion and restless mind leading him farther down the path he’s always been on. It occurred to me, as our talks have become more frequent, that I’ve had a clear window into what’s going on in there, and I wanted to let him get a bit of that out there. So this time, as we get to the bottom of it, it’s like you all are answering that phone. 

Benefits of being landlocked. Brighton, UT.

You just went to Burning Man with Forrest Shearer. Did you survive?
It was kind of like getting stuck in a snowstorm, I guess. Seemed like news headlines made it out to be worse than it was, but then again, some people do not enjoy crazy weather. It was just a storm one day, then it was over, the sun came out, the mud dried up, and it was all good.

What was the coolest part?
I went for a quick bike ride after we got in super late at night, and it was like a shock to the system, just thinking in my head how much it seemed like Star Wars [laughs] with everybody dressed up in their Burning Man attire. Probably the craziest, most interactive art I’ve experienced in my life. Larger than life type stuff. Watching the man burn in a 60-foot bonfire was sick.

Fireside chats.

You’ve been hanging with Forrest over in Ventura for the last month or so. What’s it like being there? Been trying to surf a lot, like almost everyday. I’ve been skating with Harrison [Gordon] and going to chill at his house, have a coffee and stuff in the morning. I’m liking it. It feels like I’m kind of on a six-week trip and I can settle down and post up to see what it’s all about, living in California.

Other than this trip, you’re normally in Salt Lake. What’s it like as an East Coaster living in Utah?
It’s been sick. I just miss the ocean a lot. I grew up 10 or 15 minutes away from the beach. Last summer, I just felt trapped in the center of the country. I’ve heard people refer to living in the center of the country as being landlocked. I never thought it’d be an issue ‘cause you can kind of drive to the coast within a day—but it’s a pretty long fucking drive.

You’ve kind of been cruising around a bit. Do you think you’re looking for a new place to call home? Potentially, yeah. I can’t call it yet, but it’s good while I’m young to try new places. Still love the East Coast, love Utah, but it’s good to dip your toes in a new place if you have the opportunity—and you never know, you might fall in love with it.

Top Right: Finland hospitality, backyard QP Andrecht. Helsinki.
Bottom Right: “Fuel Oil Tanks, In a Container Outside.” If you were wondering. Helsinki.
Bottom Left: What East Coast kids dream about. Jackson.

You love to surf. What do you like about it?
It just makes me happy. On a selfish, individual level. It’s something I like to do with my friends, but it’s also something I like to do by myself. It’s nice to have something like that. Some people like to go on runs, some go on bike rides. I like to get in the ocean.

It’s also just fucking cool that these waves roll in from who knows where and you’re like, I’m gonna ride this thing.
[Laughs] For sure. I started surfing when I was 14, and I definitely have a distinct memory of a couple long rides and just being amazed that it was possible to ride a wave without any sort of power or energy besides the wave. It was one of those things where I wanted more—never enough time in the ocean type of deal, and it still feels that way. Every time I want to go until my arms feel like mashed potatoes.

Your sister said when you were 12 or 13 you’d set up hockey rink snow in the front yard of your moms house.
Yeah, my buddy Evan [Boches’] dad had a big Toyota Tundra, and at the time we were living right down the street from the Henry Graf Jr. Memorial Rink in Newburyport, [Massachusetts] so we’d do like two or three loads and set up a thin lane of snow, a black corrugated tube, and a street style jump on either side of it, and just ride it all day. I’d have a group of my friends over to hit this thing for hours. Sometimes even light up the spot with a shitty work light.

Live demonstration of Hollow Skull Theory. Front board. Tampere.

You’ve always wanted to just keep riding?
Yeah. Never satisfied, in a way, or always just wanting to learn.

What were you like as a 13-year-old?
Energetic, annoying, and happy. Just stoked to be doing some physical activity besides team sports. Even though I did team sports too. [laughs]

Same, that’s what being young was all about. So, how did the Root 9 video come together?
So I met Cole [Navin], Bar [Dadon], and Eli [Olson] riding at Waterville Valley in the hike park. They were already filming some snowboard stuff with Eli behind the camera, and I was hiking with my buddies Robert [Connors] and Matt [Schwartz], and we were all just trying to get better at snowboarding, so we became good homies.

Left: Multi-generational, East Coast jersey.
Center: Frontside crailslide. Kittery, ME. Mike Azevedo.
Right: A man of class. Chess and whiskey with Rav.

Looking back at your Rendered Useless part, you’ve got pow slashes, resort riding, rails, jumps and all this stuff… You approached snowboarding from a bunch of angles. Do you feel like that’s changed at all?
I guess it’s changed a little bit. I’m pretty jaded on riding the East Coast snow now after living in Utah for a while [laughs]. Growing up watching a lot of the Forum and Eastern Boarder videos, seeing people hitting backcountry jumps in Tahoe and Salt Lake, then hitting a bunch of street spots on the East Coast, I was inspired by people riding everything. That’s what I always looked up to and thought that was what it’s like to be a professional snowboarder.

And that goes beyond snowboarding. You seem to ride anything. Surf, skateboard, snowboard.
I kind of attribute it to where I grew up. I worked at this surf shop called Zaptix in high school. The owner, Mike Paugh, grew up with the O’hara brothers, one of which started Pioneers Board Shop, Steve. He was part of the early Burton days in Vermont doing race events before freestyle, but they all grew up surfing and skating in the Seabrook/Hampton, New Hampshire area. I didn’t know it at the time, but getting to know them later in life made me appreciate it.

It’s cool to have those influences. Do you strive to do all three well or just enjoy it?
I don’t put too much pressure on myself. Snowboarding, early on, meant really wanting to be at a certain level, and that made it a little more important than skating or surfing. Some of my earliest inspirations to pursue snowboarding were my friends Robert [Connors] and Matt [Schwartz] ‘cause they had sponsorships when they were like 15, did well in local contests, and had some regional shine. That was early inspo to show up, go to events to meet people, and try to be a part of the scene, more or less. From that point on I would work all summer so I could snowboard all winter. Now, to have the opportunity to surf and skateboard more outside of snowboarding is just simple math—it’s what I’ve always wanted to do.

Hardway front board. Grand Rapids. | Photo: Colt Morgan

If you can, you should. By the way, the people want to know where your footage from four years ago is when you went to Alaska with Jamie Lynn.
It’s in one of the vaults [laughs]. Locked away somewhere.

Well, when’s it coming out of the vault?
I don’t know. That’s a question for Jake [Price], but I think it’ll eventually see the light of day.

What was it like getting that call to ride in a helicopter with Jamie Lynn?
I feel like going to Alaska was something I agreed to do without much thought, which is kind of something. I like to take opportunities when they come my way just ‘cause maybe I’ll never get to go again. So I just said yes. It definitely felt big, but it was one of those things where after you say yes, you just go and surrender to the fact that it’s happening and you’re there.

Pinedale pillow poppers. Wyoming.

You were really thriving up there.
I fucking loved it. It was so intense, even up to the last day. Every time you get in the heli it’s just such a thrill. But you kinda get with the program. Like I figured out where to stand, what an LZ [landing zone] is, all the terminology. So at a certain point, I don’t want to say I was desensitized, but it was like okay, we’re going flying, it’s gonna be really fucking loud, there’s gonna be people shouting, and then we’re gonna be on top of a big ass peak. And I’ll probably drop behind Jamie or something, and it’s gonna be fuckin’ scary, but it’ll be sick ass powder.

You’re pretty easygoing. You can go on a trip with Rav and feed off his energy, you can go to Alaska with Jamie, and you can hang with Forrest. What do you attribute that to?
I’ve always had respect for people who’ve experienced more than me or might have more experience or knowledge than I do. I feel I learn best from watching people do what they’re good at, and then trying to adopt it myself through trial and error. Whether it be surfing, skating, snowboarding, networking with people, making friends, or having a good time—there’s always people who’ve done it before you. Just watch and learn.

Rav and Parker, Hi-8, stoned and hungry. Finland. 

Is it hard for you to step out of your comfort zone, or does openness come naturally?
I feel like it’s all situational. It’s really easy to overthink things and I definitely consider myself an overthinker. As long as you have some good friends to bounce ideas off, or talk about how you’re feeling, it makes it better. Being in the right place at the right time for an opportunity really takes an open mind, and I guess I try to embody that in every aspect of my life. And I’ve definitely blown it many times, but I think I’ve learned a lot from scaring myself or putting myself outside my comfort zone—whether that’s on a board or hanging out with certain people in different situations.

In a way, I’ve always strived to have what some would consider an unconventional life. Never wanted to work a 9-5 job and sit behind a desk, which I guess has always pushed me to try things that’ll keep me away from that—never wanting to conform to what people tell me what I should or shouldn’t be doing.

So far, do you think you’ve done just that?
Yeah, I think the last year of my life has been really eye-opening. Realizing how setting rough goals for myself has been really good and seeing how beneficial that can be in the long run. Feels good to get recognition for what you’ve spent a lot of time and energy pursuing.

A knightly backside 720 for Brown. Jackson.

Do you think that’s something you’ve felt more in the last year with things, like getting your Vans boot and having your name on shit?
Yeah, but I guess there’s always been the little things too. Something I recently got reminded of was that the little victories you accumulate along the journey are just as important as reaching your end goal. Like all the little things that kept me going. Meeting people like Cole and Bar, and making videos with friends that are like-minded and have similar paths or goals in life… [long pause] Have you ever had a High Noon that’s tequila-based?

I’m not sure, but I would love a beer right now if I am being honest.
I just learned about them and they are delicious.

[Long pause] Okay, I poured a glass of wine. What’s your favorite summer drink?
This summer wine has been pretty big, rosé to be specific… but my favorite drink from the summer… I think it’s called a Hugo Spritz—basically a lemon Aperol spritz but no Aperol. It’s a light, refreshing summer drink.

Yeah that sounds delicious. Could also go for a glass of rosé from Casot wine bar.
Casot SLC has been huge. It’s been a blessing.

Interpretive art. | Photo: Sammy Rowse

It’s kind of been a breeding ground for ideas and inspiration. How was the latest Lampshade.Brotha board meeting there?
The last board meeting was more of a celebration and send-off before we all parted ways for the summer. We’ve only had two official meetings—Monday debriefs—but it’s nice to get the community together and get on the same page.

What’s Lampshade.Brotha, for those who don’t know?
Nik [Baden] is the mastermind and CEO behind the brand. By default of living with him and watching him develop his skills on the loom, I’ve been blessed with inclusion. It’s basically a grassroots hat company—actually, I’m not going to box it in. It’s just kind of a lifestyle brand. Our motto is when you’re here, you’re family. Right now we’ve got a rapidly expanding team of global amateurs and an elite professional team consisting of Cannon Cummins. He’s kinda the frontman.

Tell Nik it’s only up from here. How does it feel to have a Vans movie centered around you and also a full part coming out the same year with Brown?
It felt like a lot of moving pieces. I was just taking advantage of the time I’d have with each project. Whether that meant enjoying the crew or trying to get a lot of clips, but also just not trying to put any crazy pressure on myself to do anything that wasn’t feeling dope, I definitely wanted to film as much quality footage as I could. That’s always my goal.

I heard maybe you felt that you didn’t do the best job juggling both?
Yeah, I think at times I felt like I didn’t. But in hindsight, it makes me happy to think I did my best to manage the time between both projects and not feel like I regretted spending more time here or less time there; just happy that there’s people to film with all the time. I definitely don’t feel like I was lazy this winter, so that’s good.

An Orson Welles approved frontside 7. Wyoming backcountry.

What’s your favorite thing about Brown Cinema? 
Just the homie vibes. Everybody’s happy to be there, no matter if we’re being super productive and scoring good conditions, or not. At the end of the day we’re getting to travel around together and express ourselves freely while making a full-length video. And I feel like that’s pretty rare these days. It’s cool to not have to worry about footage getting cut. Not that there isn’t selection, sometimes there’s just a little too much emphasis on perfecting certain aspects. I grew up really liking the Givin videos and how long they were, just the whole vibe is so sick because it portrays the feeling of the group and its organic nature. Feels like we are making a video for ourselves rather than for someone else. 

That’s the best part about it. The rainbow log spot in your Vans part looks insane. What was up with that thing?
Fuck. That was something I wanted from the first time I looked at it, but it didn’t seem realistic. Also, Jared had given it a try before, so I felt weird about hitting it after him.

[Laughs] What was the deal there, did you have to ask him? 
Jared hit it with Butters, I believe. Sorry Jared… [Laughs] I think I hit him up and was like I’m gonna hit this thing, heard you came off early type of deal, and he was like, “Yeah I did, it didn’t work out, go for it.” Then one day we were in Pinedale with the Vans crew and Oli was really motivating me just like, “Let’s just do it, dude. I’ll go up there and help you build it, this’ll be a sick photo.” And I was just like alright, let’s do it. Him and I went up there and there was already an icy run-in that Jared had worked on a bit, but we basically moved the jump a little closer so you can kinda ride on it with just a little bit of speed to ride the entire log. There was this knob right in the middle though. So, I sorta just tailpressed over it and just ended up breaking it off with my board and then basically riding off the end of it as best as I could. Oli got a sick sequence, Harry [Hagan] aced the clip, and [Mike] Rav filmed it on the Hi-8. I was stoked.

Jared’s worst nightmare. Tree ride 5050. 

Can’t wait to see that clip. So, your new board colorway came out today huh? 
Yeah, today was the day they released the new colorway, and it’s just a trip to have the opportunity to have my name on any sort of product—snowboard, no less. Huge shoutout to K2 and Tommy J for supporting me. They’ve been my only board sponsor and a good way to do it is to stay loyal to people who support you.

Longevity matters. Is that something you think about in your career? So many come in and out and go off the map. You just do what you do year after year. I think that’s recognized.
Yeah, it’s important to also not have any expectations, not feeling like you deserve more. Just being like, I’m happy to even be here and I’m glad that these people support me at the level they do. All the opportunities you get, whether big or small, don’t stick around forever. A good attitude and a little bit of elbow grease goes further than you’d think. 

And if you just let your boarding do the talking, I think that goes a long way in today’s world of everyone hyping themselves up. 
Yeah, I agree. I feel like I struggle with that a lot. There’s so much hype around marketing yourself. I think I just have anxiety around trying to create a personal brand or promoting myself a lot, if that makes sense.

Hollow Skull Theory. It's real.

It’s easier to do the snowboarding itself. 
Yeah. Actions speak louder than words.

So we have two questions from our dear friend Cole St. Martin and they go like this: “Parker, you’ve been the ultimate boardsman since I can remember. You checked all the boxes, slept under the stairs, ate carrots and peanut butter at times of low funds. Where many have given up, you’ve taken the opportunities, progressed, and delivered. Where does that perseverance come from?” 
That’s a big question. I think my mom’s a huge inspiration. Growing up with a single mother, more or less. My parents divorced when I was 11. So she just kinda made shit happen and always supported my endeavors on a board. Whether that meant taking me surfing before school—and maybe I’d occasionally lock the keys in the car while we were at the beach—or dropping me off at the skatepark to skate all afternoon or evening. And just working multiple jobs to support my sister and I. She just always instilled the fact of doing what makes you happy is what’s most important. 

[CSM] On a similar note, how do you handle some of the criticism from some of the funny antics over the years? What gives you the stones to push through the bullshit and keep it real? 
[Laughs] The stones. I don’t want to say it’s fueling the fire, but deciding not to listen to people that aren’t going to positively support you is really important. There’s this quote I recently saw and I don’t know who the fuck said it but it’s like, “Worrying is using your imagination to create an outcome that you don’t want or desire.” That’s almost Hollow Skull Theory. The more you can not worry about something, the better. Not letting other people tell you how to do it. Trusting your gut. And I’ve got a pretty fucked up stomach so that doesn’t even make any sense, but I guess somewhere deep in there it knows best.

What up Travis. Frontside 5. Jackson.

Always trust your gut. How did you get your nickname Kain up at Hood four or five years ago?
So, Kain is my middle name. I think it kinda spawned from me drinking too much and having an alter ego, as some people would say, when I was rather torqued. I shaved my head and had a really big beard so I kinda looked like that wrestler from WWE, I think his name was Kane with an E. [laughs]

What’s better: 10 hours of sleep or partying all night?
10 hours of sleep.

Rate your brain function today during this interview on a scale of 1-10.

Rate your brain function after Burning Man.

Hollow skull theory?
Less thoughts, better outcomes.

Should we let our readers know that you’re single?
Yeah, why not.

Kain explain it. On the drive home from McCall.

Favorite person to travel with?
Jake Price.

Do you think the government has aliens in their possession?
Yeah, definitely.

Why don’t they want to tell us about them?
Haven’t they already? Well, conspiracies are just ideas, and if you’re closed off to new ideas then you’re putting yourself in a box.

Looking back on your snowboarding, would you change anything or do anything differently?

We’ve had a bunch of conversations over the last eight years or so, and some of them end up going down the road of what is the meaning of all this. What, for you, does it all boil down to?
Wowowow, what does it mean? I think just finding the silver lining every day. Being happy with where you are at. Find what makes you happy, and once you do, share that with others.

What else you got?
I got something that I wrote down…

The other day I was just thinking about traveling and good friends and making the best of everything. And this has probably already been said, but I think that where, what, and when don’t matter, it’s more who, why, and how that really matters. All the best shit is about who you’re with, why you’re all there, and how you got there. 

Pulling up a seat at the round table. Boardslide in the birthpace of JCPenny.

Damn. How’d you think of that?
I don’t know. I was just laying down thinking about why I’m here, how I got to California [laughs]. It’s been an absolute blessing to spend some time here after a really busy winter of moving around a lot. I’m just really grateful for it.

I think we can end it right there. Words of wisdom from Kain himself.
I had one Kain night at Burning Man.

Went full Kain, huh?
Yeah, just the first night of that storm, did too many picklebacks out of the bottle [laughs]. Tried to walk home in the mud alone, went down like a sack of potatoes.

Kain down.
Thought I blew my knee out. At fucking Burning Man… Not really a ‘festy guy… Yeah, sometimes Burning Man just gets in the way of things.

Like us trying to do this interview. What’s up now? You hitting the road?
Yeah, I’m headed down to Oceanside for the rest of the week, maybe stay for the weekend. There’s this girl I met down there. So maybe I’m not single, maybe I am.

After rearranging furniture and breaking lamps all night, Parker came clean with this bs 5050.

Read More of Issue SIX Now