The World is Your Mountain
Illustration by The Contrabrand
Until virtual reality is not developed enough to satisfy the natural human need of existence in the physical world, snowboarding is hardly endangered. That’s what we learn from professional snowboarder Jesse Paul, who explains what exactly street snowboarding is and how to become really good at it.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am 26 years old, I’m vegan, I love skateboarding, snowboarding, cameras, cats, the future, the outdoors, and I currently live in Los Angeles, California. I grew up in Maple Grove, Minnesota.
As a professional snowboarder, do you come from a family of winter sport lovers? Is that how you first started?
Not at all actually. My brother only started snowboarding a couple years ago, and my mom has gone cross country skiing once — that’s the extent of it. I got into snowboarding through my friends. I have been skateboarding since I was 12 and when I was 14 some of my skateboard friends showed me snowboarding and I just fell in love with it. I realized that my body understands snowboarding more than skateboarding.
When was the moment when you decided to be a professional snowboarder?
One summer, I went snowboarding on Mоunt Hood and I had the chance to ride around a bunch of pros. It was the first time I was able to compare my snowboard ability to the pros first hand. I realized that I might actually be good enough to make something of it. I remember calling my mom and telling her “I think I might be able to go pro someday.” It’s crazy to think back on that time, because I actually made it happen.
Was it difficult to balance between school and snowboarding?
I went to the University of Minnesota and I studied anthropology and product design. It was very, very difficult to balance the two. There were some winters that I was so stressed out and bummed that I was missing snowboarding that I almost dropped out. However, instead of doing that, I changed my schedule a bit and worked through it. I would take spring semesters off so I could just snowboard, then I would take some summer classes and extra credits in the fall to make up for it. It took me 6 years to get it done, which isn’t so bad.
Which part of your education do you think helped you most in what you do right now?
I think going to school has given me an understanding of professionalism and the ability to get things done well, not to mention my ability to write and speak in front of people. I am able to manage my career and my sponsors in a professional way, which I think has helped to get me where I am. It has also helped me with longer term planning. I had to plan out my whole college career to fit snowboarding in and that mindset has helped me plan out my snowboard career.
How did you become a member of Salomon Snowboards?
One winter about 8 years ago, some local guys brought me street boarding a few times. They filmed me as if I was part of their crew and I made it in their video. It was such an awesome experience because I really looked up to them. At the end of the winter, Jordan Daniels (one of the guys) hit me up and told me the Salomon rep was looking for a new rider and asked if I was interested. I freaked out! I was like “Is this a joke?? Of course I’m down!” I couldn’t believe it. Since then I’ve slowly worked my way up to where I am now.
Can you enlighten us a little bit more about the differences between mountain snowboarding and street snowboarding?
Mountain snowboarding is what 99% of the population does and understands as “snowboarding”. Street snowboarding is closely related to skateboarding. When there is snow in the city, I explore with friends and try to find things that look fun to snowboard on. When we find something, we take a bunch of shovels to prepare the spot (making a jump and a landing for example). Then someone grabs a camera while the other one snowboards on what we’ve built. It’s an incredibly fun and creative process.
Is it difficult to maintain a steady life in LA while having a career in snowboarding?
I’m still in an experiment with that one. I’ve only been here for a year and I broke my leg this winter, so I didn’t get to snowboard much. It’s a lot of traveling for sure, but I don’t mind that much. I think it’s good for me because it gives me the space I need from snowboarding to stay inspired and excited. Also, LA is such a lively city that I get inspired just by walking around.
How do you feel about living in the USA, comparing it to the many other countries you’ve visited?
I really like living in the US because I can do most of the things I would want to do around the world in my country. There is so much diversity across the US because it’s so big and there are so many cities and climates. Also, this may sound self-centered, but I think the US is one of the countries that the whole world looks up to and I like being a part of that.
You are saying that you are interested in “the future”. How do you see it?
I have always been really interested in humans as a species. I studied anthropology, so I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about human evolution and culture. Right now we are living in such a unique time in history. I have been hearing that
The exponential rate at which technology advances these days is insane and we can work together across the globe instantly, which is a recipe for dramatic change. In 20 years or so, I think life may be a lot different. I don’t necessarily think it’s good or bad, I’m just fascinated by it.
Do you have any advice for the future generation of street snowboarders?
1) Don’t try to do tricks or spots that are too far out of your comfort zone. I’ve seen a lot of people get broke off trying stupid stuff. If you stick with snowboarding and always try to improve, you will be able to hit those gnarlier spots, but just give it time and know your skill level.
2) Spend the extra shovelling time to give yourself something soft to land on. Your body will thank you.
3) Take pictures and mark the location of every spot you go to and you will slowly build up an amazing archive of snowboard spots.
4) Do the tricks and spots that make you happy. There are so many types of street snowboarding these days that you can make anything cool.
As everything becomes digitalized nowadays, how do you see snowboarding in the future? Will there be place for something as analogue?
I don’t think snowboarding will be pushed out any time soon.
If anything, the internet and social media helps snowboarding because people who don’t live near snow can see it and want to try it. Until virtual reality gets to a point where people can really satisfy that instinctual need to exist in a physical space I think we’re OK.
What’s next for you?
Right now, I’m going full blast with my physical therapy so I can start snowboarding again this summer.