I remember a conversation between JJ [Westbury], Tom [O’Reilly] and myself during the filming of "Twist". I don’t remember exactly what was said, but I do know that we were all in agreement that if any of us were “going to do this shit for real,” it would be Kennedi. This was mid-winter during Kenny’s first go at filming a full-part, and despite being a tad green, there was an inkling that they had something special. Lo and behold, just over half a decade later, with a healthy series of accolades under their belt, Kenny is really doing this shit. From clean signature boot colorways, and rider-of-the-year trophies, to charming footage in "Evergreen", "Super Glue", and "From the Bottom of One’s Heart", the recent years have been fruitful. Behind the scenes, Kenny is going the distance to make space for queer folk in a notoriously heteronormative space. The following is a brief introduction to the perfectly chaotic mind of Canadian treasure Kennedi Deck.
- Finn Westbury
How was the surf out there today for the kid? Did you get barreled?
Surfing is fucked. Yesterday I met up with my friend Sara and got so smoked. I’ve never been down that long—ya know? [Laughs] I couldn’t figure out which way was up, which way was down. I was choking. Then I just popped up.
Jesus. It sounds like you’re really relaxing out there.
Yeah, it was awful. So, now basically, I have the fear and had to go out today and, you know, really make sure…
You still got it?
I don’t really got it. I was all anxious. Emma [Crosby] helped me paddle out to the back, then I started to catch this one wave and I was in somebody’s way, and he pushed me off. It was awesome [laughs].
That sounds like a good humbling experience. Hey, I don’t know if you knew this, but you’re on a list of Outstanding LGBTQ Youths of 2020.
[Laughs] That’s fucking epic.
On the list, the same year is also Rebecca Black.
The It’s Friday baby?
Wow. She’s gay? What an icon.
You’re the only snowboarder on the list. I wanted to plug you in there. You can put that on your resumé.
You’ve been kinda doing God’s work for this interview, huh?
You and Rebecca Black, in a league of your own. So, you just put out a new project that you were highly involved with. Are you happy with the completion and end product of the Seen snowboarding movie?
So happy. It was so much fun to work on, we tried to keep it more casual and screw around. All the meet-ups and the sessions shown in the video were so inspiring. New people coming out and learning, just hanging out with huge groups of queer people. Mikaela [Kautzky] did such an unreal job with editing and shooting all the photos. I feel like they picked some sick music that encapsulated the vibe of everything. From what I’ve heard, people have been really stoked about it. Everyone’s like, “Oh my god, I cried when I first watched it.” I cry every time I watch it.
There were more tears at the Seen premiere than most snowboard premieres. I think that speaks volumes about how important it was to the queer community and to the snowboarding community at large. Those Seen Meet-Up sessions you mentioned had immaculate vibes. What was it like to be there in person?
The one in Vancouver particularly stands out. Mikaela and I were trying to get some street clips for the first few days until we had this realization that we needed to host a meet-up before the snow melted. So Mikaela, Jake [Kuzyk], and I picked a date and made a poster. The night before, it dumped again—we got a full reset. We woke up early, built some features out of snow, and brought a bench and some construction items that we found. Tons of people showed up, both friends and folks we had never met. We had some extra gear from friends and a pile of boots from Vans. It was constant cheering and encouragement. Pure excitement all over, someone hitting their first jump, someone learning how to stand up on a board, helping people squeeze into boots. Honestly, it was the best day of my winter. Fully unexplainable vibes. I hope next year we can make that all happen again!
Let’s bounce back and talk a little bit about the premiere in Portland with a two-week-long art show. How was that?
The premiere was awesome. I think we had 15-plus pieces in the show. Mikaela was a big leading factor in that—she made tons of stuff. We made some stuff together, then we each had our own individual pieces. Big shoutout to everyone who helped make that happen.
You’re always making something. What drives your creative side?
I feel like I’m always trying to make stuff. Shoot photos, paint, or draw. I think it falls into “keeping busy.” It feels good to be making stuff all the time. I don’t know why, but it’s a way to let things out.
One of the pieces that I really liked was the massive sheet collage. What’s the inspiration behind some of these pieces? Is there meaning beyond visually appealing?
Absolutely—especially with that one. Lately, I’ve been trying to make collages with my own photos, instead of ripping up random stuff in magazines. Just trying to absorb a lot of the things that I’m seeing, that I want to take photos of, and then shaping them into a different piece with paint or markers. I’ve been making a bunch of mini collages lately with this camera that Jake [Durham] recommended. That sheet collage was just a large proportion idea of that with tons of photos from the past year all mixed in with some paint and texture.
Do you think there is a future in making art? What is your relationship between art and snowboarding?
I did a semester at Emily Carr in Vancouver. It was fun, but I didn’t really have the best experience. It was during the lull of Covid. I don’t really know if there is necessarily a clear-cut thing I want to do with art. I think snowboarding is cool in the sense that you can create a lot of art within it, like graphics or little animations for videos.
Kuzyk mentioned the term “skart” the other day to us. Skate-art. I don’t think you really fall into that. You don’t make art for your snowboard career, and if it makes its way in, it’s natural.
Well, thanks. I feel like that’s a compliment. I’m not trying to make art for snowboarding, or for anything really. I’m trying to make some shit that feels genuine to the way that I’m feeling at the moment. If it can correlate alongside something for snowboarding, or anything else, that’s awesome too.
So this past winter, in addition to the Seen video, you were filming for a new Vans flick. What’s the premise of that video, and what made it special?
Yeah, we have a new video coming out this fall. Initially, it was Jill [Perkins], Parker [Szumowski], Cole [Navin], and myself. We got on a couple of trips together, but due to injuries, the crew changed up a bit. Jake [Kuzyk] and Dan [Liedahl] got in the mix, which is exciting. Tanner [Pendleton] was really interested in using 16mm for the majority of filming and then mixing handycam footage in between.
Tell the people about the “SRD smackdown.” What is it and where did that term originate?
So Jake and I were at a spot building a landing, and I was fluffing it up a bit, but then patting it down. Jake was like, “Dude, what is up with you SRD kids, I’ve seen you and Tom [O’Reilly] both do this in landings now. What the hell is up with this SRD smackdown.” [laughs] Shit cracked me up. I completely forgot about it until I was filming with you and JJ during Super Glue and I noticed y’all doing it, and now it’s become a thing I guess.
Old habits die hard. It was cool to hang with you a bit during Super Glue. That was an awesome video—you, Jake, Jed [Anderson], filmed and edited by Hayden [Rensch]. What was your experience like filming for that flick?
Don’t forget, we got you and JJ in the mix! I’m a superfan of Jed. I’ve always looked up to him. So I was both nervous and excited to work together. He really pushed me in a lot of different ways, and it was fun for me to work with someone who I admire so much. And Hayden’s the GOAT. It’s always fun to work with him, even when he’s being a brat.
I’ll never forget the hot chicken incident in Toronto. JJ and I tapped in to cry while eating sandwiches. What the fuck happened there?
Dude, that was insane. We got a rogue wrong order from this chicken sandwich place. Little did you know, it was the hottest sandwich on the menu. It came with a waiver you had to sign on the receipt. Dude, that was insane. We got a rogue wrong order from this chicken sandwich place. Little did you know, it was the hottest sandwich on the menu. It came with a waiver you had to sign on the receipt. You had a bite and started freaking out, so naturally, all of us thought you were being a bitch, so we had to try it. Bad call. I was literally crying and gagging. Hayden was pissed. I think he drank a glass of milk and went straight to bed [laughs]. Never again!
Let’s not dwell on that horrific night. What’s the most obscure place you find inspiration?
Lately, it’s just being outside, being in a city, seeing new things. If I go to downtown Vancouver, it’s the buildings, the garbage, outfits that people are wearing. Recently, I have just been trying to do a lot of new things. Whether it’s walking home a different way or eating somewhere new or traveling to a different city.
On the Vancouver tip, what compelled you to move there from Calgary?
I lived in Calgary for a couple of years. A bunch of friends moved out to Vancouver. I was going on trips with Jake and he was like, “You gotta move there, it’s so fun, you’ll love it.” I was really trying to skate a lot more, and there’s a larger skate scene out there. You know, just more people and opportunities. I wanted to flip the switch.
Was the move a catalyst for becoming a more authentic version of yourself?
I think so. A bigger city comes with more types of people, more experiences. I got to meet a lot more queer friends in Vancouver. I think no matter what you are into or who you are, being around people who share the same interests or have commonalities with you is the best. I personally find it really helpful.
There has been a recent shift in visibility for queer people in skateboarding and snowboarding—partially due to projects like Seen. Do you have any frustrations about the current state of queer snowboarding?
I’ve been over the moon about how things have been going with Seen. Obviously, there is room to grow. I think continuing to have inclusion is big. I think that if brands want to fly the gay flag during pride month, make sure you’re actually backing it. Do you have queer people on the team? Follow-through is really important to me. People have to remember they need to put their money where their mouth is. Put their representation where their gay flags are.
True! People are watching. How would you differentiate between an organization doing something for a marginalized group as performative or genuine?
That’s a tricky one. For the record, I’m still learning too. Everyone is learning. I’m not about making anyone seem like a bad guy; I’m probably going to fuck up too. I don’t know if there is necessarily a cut-and-dry way of explaining what’s performative or not. I think it’s pretty easy to just tell what is genuine and what’s not, you know? I don’t know if I do know. What is genuine to you? For me, it comes down to representation. If your company wants to do a pride campaign, you better make sure some queer people are pushing that ahead. Include people in the conversations that are about them. That goes across the board. We need more people of color, people with disabilities—all kinds of folks. We need different perspectives to help us move forward. Would you say a preliminary line we could draw between performative and genuine action is the idea of tokenism and having one person that stands for an entire group? Yeah, absolutely. I think you gotta start somewhere, but having one token on the team is not cutting it. It’s not fun for anybody, let me tell you.
I don’t know if I do know. What is genuine to you?
For me, it comes down to representation. If your company wants to do a pride campaign, you better make sure some queer people are pushing that ahead. Include people in the conversations that are about them. That goes across the board. We need more people of color, people with disabilities—all kinds of folks. We need different perspectives to help us move forward.
Would you say a preliminary line we could draw between performative and genuine action is the idea of tokenism and having one person that stands for an entire group? Yeah, absolutely. I think you gotta start somewhere, but having one token on the team is not cutting it. It’s not fun for anybody, let me tell you.
You’ve been there.
I’ve been the only “woman” on a team or on a snowboarding trip. I’m pretty used to that shit and it’s not that fun. You get on a trip with people more like you, different shit happens and it’s pretty sick.
It would be a more positive experience, granted there is an entire conversation we’ve had about the harms that come with microaggressions from people who don’t know any better.
I’m not going to lie, I say some twisted shit. I’m not expecting people to pussy-foot around me or other people.
[laughs] Case in point. What do you feel like you contribute to snowboarding that is uniquely you? [Laughs] Is it fucked if I say nothing?
The question suggests that to answer it, you have a firm grasp of what you are.
That’s the thing. I don’t bring nothing to snowboarding. I think what I bring to snowboarding is ever-evolving.
As you’re figuring out more about yourself, it comes with the territory.
I think what I bring to snowboarding is being my genuine self and continuing to be… me.
And that is always changing. You don’t have a set self that is always showing up. That’s unique. What would it take for snowboarding to have more women and queer leaders in positions to make changes?
I feel like people are always asking us what they’re supposed to do, you know? Like, figure it out.
This could be a one-line answer. Like, fucking hire them.
Literally, hire them. Step down, move over, make room, and make space. I don’t know how to say it in any more different ways. There is not a magic wand that you can wave to appear diverse. Take chances, put people on, and put ‘em in places to make decisions that you can’t make.
When exactly did you start snowboarding?
I started snowboarding when I was five, and I was a little demon. I wanted to go as fast as possible. Riding on my heel edge so fast, then I would catch sluff on my toe edge and smash my face into the ground. Snow all in my goggles, I’d get up so mad, crying, can’t see, and keep going.
In the past, you’ve gone on record saying there was a point you were determined to be a professional snowboarder. Do you feel like you’ve checked a box that younger Kennedi had created?
I was 15 when I thought this is what I want to do for a living. I didn’t really know what that was going to look like. I have to remind myself often about where I am at, and how things are going. I don’t think I’ve sat with that.
Where was your head at when you started going through the design process for your first boot at Vans?
Honestly, I was like holy shit. You’re not going to say no. At that point, I had filmed my Evergreen part, and it was that summer they called me. The part was going to come out in the fall, so I was like, okay, this kind of makes sense. The boot doesn’t come out for like two seasons after you start working on it. These people see longevity. They see that I want to keep going, I want to keep being better. It was exciting. At that point, I didn’t feel like I deserved a boot. It lit a fire under my ass to make sure I did deserve it.
You showed up. You got that opportunity and ran with it. Where were your inspirations for that first boot?
I follow this vintage Vans shoe account on Instagram and saw this Era shoe that was a I follow this vintage Vans shoe account on Instagram and saw this Era shoe that was a light blue/navy. Not the classic colors—it was a little different. Honestly, blue is my favorite color and I just ran with it. I tried to copy that style, that retro-vintage vibe. I have a white one coming out in the fall that I’m super stoked on.
I feel like I send you pics all the time when I’m the only person not wearing your boot. What does it feel like to see people wearing your boot or shoe?
[Laughs] It feels fucking crazy. Growing up I was like I want a pro board, I want pro gear. I want my name on some shit. Then to get your name on something, and see it everywhere? Mad people who don’t even know who the fuck I am are wearing my shit. That’s so fresh.
Where did the desire to have a gender-neutral boot come from? How was that process, from initiation to roll out?
I was thinking about how I wanted to be represented. Did I want to have it be our newest women’s boot? I didn’t want that. I wanted it to be a snowboard boot. Not to mention, there are 15 guys on the team and three girls. How many friends do I have that are guys, or trans, or non-binary, who maybe don’t want to wear a women’s specific snowboard boot? I just wanted everyone to be able to rock it. That was the leading push. I communicated that to Vans, and they were like absolutely. We had the boot in both the men’s and women’s lines, and it was cool that the colorway was available for everyone.
Are there improvements that could be made to gender-neutral products moving forward?
I think what we did was kind of a band-aid fix, you know? Pushing deeper, why can’t we have a boot that is gender-neutral or unisex? Everyone brings up tech. Honestly, I don’t give a shit. I know so many people who ride gear that doesn’t align with their “gender.” I don’t understand why we can’t just make a product that works for everyone. I know brands are working on figuring it out and I am excited to hopefully be a helping hand in that.
That’s awesome Vans is working with you on making these changes! You mentioned you have a second colorway coming out soon. Along with that, there is a flurry of more Kennedi Deck professional products, right?
[Laughs] A fleet.
How deep is the fleet? What’s your drive behind designing these pieces?
It’s a pretty good fleet. We’ve got a pant, a jacket, a bag, and the whole shoe/boot situation. After working on that collection, I’m inspired to continue to make things that are a lot more inclusive. I am trying to figure out how to break down some of the bullshit molds that we have in place in snowboarding to make some stuff that anyone would be hyped on.
You encapsulate the idea of goals, products, and identity having this fluidity. What is the end goal, if anything?
For right now, the goal is to make space—gear, situation, teams, videos, all of that shit—for people who haven’t been represented as much as other demographics in snowboarding. My forever goal is to film a video part that I’m stoked on [laughs] which might never happen, but we keep chipping away on that one.
Do you get satisfaction seeing your complete video part?
I think everyone gets some sort of satisfaction. I’m trying to not be as hard on myself. Even this year, I’m stoked about a couple of clips I have coming out. But by no means am I satisfied at all.
How are you approaching trying to not be as hard on yourself?
Let yourself have some room to be like, yeah, I did that. Maybe I could have tried a little harder, but it’s here and it’s done. I’m ready to move on. Waking up without judgment of your past and focusing on what you want to do moving forward is helpful. Sometimes you have bad days, bad weeks, or even bad years. Trying to be a little bit better than the day before is a good way to start. Honestly, sometimes it doesn’t go down like that, and that’s okay too.
Filming video parts is kinda the icing on the cake in the life of a snowboarder. It’s a reflection of oneself, in a way. Does trying to be less hard on your footage ever help you ease up on yourself in general?
[Laughs] Yeah, I think it’s all connected. This shit is mad cheesy but I’m trying to be more in the moment. Just sit with what’s going on around me, and how fortunate I am to be where I am. Obviously, I want to continue to push myself and do more and be better. Especially when there is a younger group of folks coming up who light the fire for progression.
What do you feel are the major shortcomings in snowboarding today? This is maybe where you throw some shade.
Instagram. Brands are having a really hard time figuring out if they want pro snowboarders or influencers. It’s funny having grown up in a time where snowboarders were able to just do their shit and be their own person, but now I feel like there is a lot of pressure to be pushing content for brands all the time, or to be super involved and present on social media platforms.
It’s interesting seeing sponsored ads and shared posts with sponsors. When you see that, does that challenge the authenticity of what someone is sharing?
Yeah, I think that snowboarding is supposed to be authentic. Isn’t that what pro snowboarders are supposed to be? That’s what it used to be about. As a kid, I liked specific snowboarders because I liked who they were, or who they were being portrayed as, at least. How are you going to continue to show people who you really are? Not that I think Instagram is the best tool for that, but it kind of is.
What’s next for the evolution of Kennedi Deck? Maybe a couple of surf clips?
[Laughs] Fuck no, dude. I’m so bad. I think right now I’m just trying to be genuine, as corny as that might sound. I want to continue doing the things that I want to do, wearing the shit that I want to wear, making the art that I want to make, and snowboarding on the things I want to snowboard on. I want to continue to do stuff that feels like me and makes me feel good.
We acknowledge that we currently live and play on the unceded traditional territories of the Coastal Salish people, including the Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh Nations. Furthermore, we would like to recognize our history on the stolen land of the Treaty 7 region, including the Siksika, Piikuna, Kainai, Tsuut’ina, as well as the Stoney Nakoda First Nations (Chiniki, Bearspaw, Westley), and the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region III.
-Kennedi & Finn