ANDREW BURNS INTERVIEW | AGAINST ALL ODDS
By Rob Lemay | Photos [o] Ben Girardi Andrew Burns. That name goes hand in hand within Canadian snowboarding. It’s one that...
December 14, 2017, and Craig McMorris is spending his 26th birthday with friend Anto Chamberland to give us the insider scoop on how he balances two extremely demanding careers, one as a Montreal firefighter and the other as a pro snowboarder. Yes, you read that right. The guy is a firefighter AND a pro shred? Who’s got time for that? Shit! Anto Chamberland does. And who better to conduct this interview than Anto’s homie, Craig.
At this point, Anto is in the middle of another battle filming for a 2018 X Games Real Snow part and lucky for us, Craig had just finished his cameo with brother Mark on one of Canada’s highly acclaimed sitcoms, Letterkenny. So the two of them sit and get after it.
Anto, a self-identified snowboard “groupie” lets us in on his early DIY wooden rail-building skills, his relentless drive to seek new spots in the streets, his hangover contest results, and his deep-seeded passion for riding in the backcountry.
So dig in, see what Anto and Craig conversed about…
CRAIG MCMORRIS HERE. GUESS WHO I’M WITH? ANTO CHAMBERLAND. ANTO, TELL ME HOW OLD YOU ARE. I’m 29.
WHERE ARE YOU FROM? Sherbrooke, [QC]
IS THAT WHERE YOU STARTED SNOWBOARDING? Yup.
HOW LONG AGO? I was 11.
WHY DID YOU GET INTO SNOWBOARDING? Because of skateboarding.
50-50 [o] Eric Lamothe
SO YOU SKATEBOARDED BEFORE YOU SNOWBOARDED. WHO DID YOU SKATEBOARD WITH? A bunch of high school friends.
AND THEN THEY ALL GOT INTO SNOWBOARDING AND THEN YOU WERE LIKE, “YO, I WANT TO GET INTO SNOWBOARDING.” Yeah, I was skiing before and then my cousin made me switch from skiing to snowboarding. My dad paid for my snowboard lesson.
HE PAID FOR A SNOWBOARD LESSON FOR YOU? Yeah. And then the dude put me goofy on the board.
REALLY? HE DIDN’T EVEN ASK? I don’t remember it. All I remember is I spent half the day on a snowboard and I hated my life. And then I went back to skiing for the rest of the season. The next year, my older cousin took me out and put me on a snowboard regular footed.
SO YOU WENT SNOWBOARDING AND HATED IT. WENT BACK TO SKIING, THEN YOUR COUSIN TOOK YOU OUT AND GAVE YOU ANOTHER LESSON? Yeah. He’s the reason I’m here.
— FAN, FANATIC AND GROUPIE —
WERE YOU WATCHING VIDEOS AND DOING CON- TESTS AND SHIT LIKE THAT? That same year was the year True Life came out.
TRUE LIFE, [WHAT’S YOUR] FAVOURITE PART? JP WALKER FROM TRUE LIFE? Yeah, just because of his style and the rails. He was super small, and we only had rails. I was snowboarding a lot too, behind my house.
YEAH. The only thing we had is a picnic table pretty much. And then, not too long after, I built a box, the exact replication of the Nixon red box from Jib Fest.
FOR SURE. I was also a big fan of Devun Walsh. I was mind blown by his stuff. Devun Walsh and JP Walker were the main guys.
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE ON THE SAME TEAM AS DEVUN WALSH RIGHT NOW? It’s crazy.
THAT’S A TRIP, EH? ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU GET TO GO OUT AND RIDE WITH THEM. Yeah, it’s a trip. And I now consider him a friend, but still, every time I see him, it’s like, “There’s a guy I always looked up to.” It’s more than just, “Oh, now he’s my friend, it’s chill.” Every time it’s still like, “I should make him sign my copy of True Life. I should make him sign his old Forum pro model I’m keeping in my basement.” It’s weird what it does to you.
YOU’RE INTO IT. I’m still a snowboard fan, and I’m still… What’s the word? A groupie?
Frontside 720 [o] Erin Hogue
— ANTO “THE HANDIEST” SNOWBOARDER —
YOU SAID YOU BUILT YOUR OWN BOX? HOW OLD WERE YOU? 12.
SO YOU WERE 12 YEARS OLD WHEN YOU BUILT YOUR OWN BOX? AND A LOT OF PEOPLE DON’T KNOW THIS ABOUT YOU, BUT YOU’RE THE HANDIEST PERSON. YOU GO INTO A RESTAURANT WITH A DEWALT BAT- TERY TO CHARGE IN THE WALL. I WOULD SAY YOU’RE PROBABLY THE HANDIEST… NO, I GUARANTEE IT. YOU’RE THE HANDIEST SNOWBOARDER. WHERE DID THAT COME FROM? YOUR DAD? WHO INSTILLED THAT KNOWLEDGE IN YOU? My dad. He was always able to do everything, for some reason. So my entire life, when I was young, I was raised into, “Well, we bought a house so we need to remodel it.” So I was raised with tools. On the weekend, me and my dad would build a patio because he just bought a pool. So I watched that and went through it. I think it was just in my head that my dad was doing all that stuff every weekend. My dad wasn’t going fishing, my dad wasn’t going hunting, my dad was fixing stuff at the house and constantly making stuff for us. Pool deck, or the carport. I remember building a carport with him. I was on the roof with him when I was 15, doing the roof. So yeah, I was very young with a hammer in my hand.
THAT’S CRAZY. SO THEN YOU WERE LIKE BUILDING BOXES AND RAILS AND STUFF LIKE THAT. Yeah, many rails.
THAT’S SO SICK. But what was sketchy is we couldn’t afford to buy metal or to weld or anything. I had a lot of wooden rails.
YOU MADE WOODEN RAILS? Dude, I can find you photos of it. I would be riding on this flat, down, flat made of wood, snowboarding on that. And then, at some point, I got a little more budget and we bought some recycled plastic, and then we put the plastic over it but you could still catch edges.
SO LET’S GET THIS STRAIGHT. NO SNOW ON THE GROUND AT ALL. No.
YOU LOAD UP THE WOODEN RAIL, THE FLAT, DOWN, FLAT. AND THEN YOU GET THE SNOW FROM THE HOCKEY RINK? Yeah.
THAT IS SO GNARLY.
Tailpress [o] Eric Lamothe
—RAIL JAMS AND HANGOVERS —
WHEN DID YOU FIRST GET SPONSORED? It was the Sherbrooke Board Shop. It’s called Illusion Board Shop. One of the employees there was also the park ranger at the mountain. The shop was doing contests and I started to win a couple, and that guy hooked me up in putting me on the team. And that guy actually, he worked for Burton as a rep in Quebec and he eventually brought me there at some point. When he moved to work at DC, he mentioned me to them and that lead to me riding for DC. He’s still the rep for DC in Quebec.
NO WAY. Yeah, anyways, riding for DC was the first time I had any money from snowboarding. I remember it was a $1,000 and $500 of travel budget. And that was the most insane thing to have some money for snowboarding.
I REMEMBER YOU CRUSHED RAIL JAMS FOREVER IN QUEBEC, LIKE FIVE, SIX YEARS AGO. WHAT WAS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE ONE? Well, you were there at one of the craziest nights of my life.
IN BRECKENRIDGE. YUP. THAT WAS CRAZY, YOU JUST SWITCH BACK TWO’D ONTO ONE OF THE GNARLIEST DOWN RAILS EVER. But that was probably the first contest in the States for me. So it meant a lot, and you guys picked me as the winner and it was pretty insane. I was there by myself, too. The second contest, the Istanbul Rail Jam, was pretty rad too. And the fact that my filmer Mat Gibo was there with me was really fun.
SO, YOU DID A RAIL JAM IN ISTANBUL, TURKEY. DID YOU JUST FLY THERE FOR THE RAIL JAM?
It was very well organized. I left on a Friday night, partied and visited the town. The whole day, on the Saturday, full tourist mode and very interest- ing historical stuff. And Sunday was the rail jam the whole day. And then we would fly out on the Monday.
AND YOU WON THE EVENT? Yeah, it was like, $2,000.
HOW JET-LAGGED WERE YOU WHEN YOU LANDED IN ISTANBUL? Pretty jet-lagged, but I partied through it.
YOU PARTIED THROUGH IT. IT’S CRAZY HOW IT ACTUALLY HELPS IF YOU JUST CRUSH DRINKS. It was one of my biggest contests being hungover. So weird.
REALLY? Yeah. I also won one of the Snow Mission contests in 2010. I was so hungover.
REALLY? WHERE WAS THAT SNOW MISSION CONTEST? It’s always the same town, it’s around Rimouski, [QC].
OH, YEAH. SOMETIMES THEY GAVE AWAY LIKE A SNOW- MOBILE OR SOMETHING Yeah, that’s what I won.
YOU WON A SNOWMOBILE?! SUPER HUNGOVER? Yeah. And that’s funny because you know, as much as anybody, I don’t party that much.
50-50 [o] Eric Lamothe
NO. But sometimes… I do drink sometimes, when I’m having a great time.
YEAH. BUT YOU’RE NOT THE KIND OF DUDE WHO PARTIES EVERY NIGHT.
— WHISTLER FAIL —
THIS IS A STRUGGLE THAT A LOT OF PEOPLE DEAL WITH, IF YOU WANT TO BECOME A PRO SNOWBOARDER, THERE’S LIFE AND ITS PRESSURES, AND YOU GOTTA MAKE MONEY AND YOU GOTTA DO ALL THIS STUFF. WHAT WAS IT LIKE COMPETING, MAKING A LITTLE BIT OF MONEY, GETTING SPONSORED BY DC, AND HAVING TO GO TO SCHOOL TO BECOME A FIREFIGHTER, WHICH TAKES A LOT OF PRACTICE, A LOT OF FOCUS, AND A LOT OF STUDYING? What most people don’t know, when I finished high school at 16 years old, I drove to Whistler.
WHAT KIND OF CAR WERE YOU DRIVING? I was driving a Plymouth Acclaim ‘91 that I bought from my grandfather. I drove that bitch all the way to Whistler, and I gave myself a year to become a professional snowboarder.
WHICH SEEMS, LIKE THAT’S THE GNARLIEST… IT’S NOT GONNA HAPPEN IN A YEAR. YOU’RE NOT GONNA BE ABLE TO BLOW UP, YOU KNOW? Yeah, but that’s what people were doing. Like JF Pelchat, DCP… all those guys, they moved to Whistler and became pro.
YEAH. THAT’S A DIFFERENT TIME, THOUGH. What we knew about snowboarding in Quebec is that you have to move to Whistler. Any French Canadian had to move to Whistler. It was not some- thing that people were doing to become a professional street rider, or whatever we call ourselves. So I moved there for a year, and I was insane. I was working as a night cleaner for Whistler Roundhouse. I was working from 3:30 p.m. to Midnight or 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. every night. Five nights a week. And I was snowboarding every day. I was getting tired and I hurt myself a few times. And then that year went by, and I was not even close to being a professional snowboarder.
YUP. So all those things, after a year, there was no way to get known. I didn’t know I had to go to Grouse to win some real contests. I didn’t know I had to go to Seymour, or whatever. I didn’t know anything. So going there for me was just a complete fail.
— MAKING IT WORK —
AT THE TIME, IT MAY HAVE SEEMED LIKE A FAIL, BUT IT WAS AN IMPORTANT STEP IN YOUR CAREER.
Yeah, there was probably many things that were good at the time. But I was not even close to having a sponsor.
WAS THIS BEFORE DC? Yeah.
OKAY. THIS IS WHEN YOU WERE 16? I was riding for Rome and Sepia Autoworks, and I felt pressure from my parents in a way that they were scared I would just become a ski bum. I knew I was interested in firefighting, so I drove back.
SO YOU DROVE BACK THAT SUMMER, AND THEN ENROLLED IN FIREFIGHTING SCHOOL?
So I did the summer camps in Whistler, had a blast, and drove back in August and got into school. And then I had to make a choice, because my family wasn’t very fortunate, my parents couldn’t afford to pay for my school, so I had to work and make a decision. I decided I was gonna do contests on the weekends instead of working.
SO DO YOU PUT THE SAFETY HARNESS IN THE BAG AND SAY TO YOURSELF, “OKAY, I GOTTA WIN THESE CONTESTS IF I WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL.”
Yeah, I took a fucking risk, and had taken a student loan from the government, which you pay back after your done school. So I was paying my rent and all that with that loan, and then I was trying to do contests and pay it back as soon as possible. So every weekend I was doing a contest for those three years.
THAT IS SO CRAZY. It was in those years that I finished third at a Ride Shakedown and I finished first at Snow Mission. And I kept filming during this time as well. If there was a contest on a Saturday night, I would shoot with Brother’s Factory some nights in Montreal after school, then I’d go shoot on a Saturday morning, then go to a rail contest, then shoot rails Sunday morning.
YOU ALWAYS MAKE THE SPOT WORK, WHICH IS CRAZY. THE AMOUNT OF WORK YOU PUT IN IS JUST PSYCHO. SO FOR ANYONE WHO IS GOING TO FIREFIGHTING SCHOOL ALL WEEK, AND THEN FILMS CLIPS, AND THEN GOING TO CONTESTS TO PAY FOR THE SCHOOL. THAT’S INSANE. OBVIOUSLY, IT’S HELPED YOUR
WORK ETHIC. Of course, firefighting made me a better snowboarder, too.
LIKE WHAT? Well, I mean work ethic. Firefighting is kind of a little bit like the military too. Like, we have quarters, we have grades, and we have officers and everything. Firefighting is just… you have to fix people’s situations. You have to make the best out of a bad situation in a very short amount of time. And that’s very comparable to getting to a spot and facing all the issues we deal with. Like, even today, stupid winch cord issues, the tripod we had to build for the pulley to redirect the winch cord. All that stuff…
PROBLEM SOLVING. It’s a problem that we need to solve in a short amount of time before we get kicked out. It’s basically the same thing.
YEAH IT IS. SO AFTER YOU GRADUATED FROM FIREFIGHTING, DID YOU PAY BACK YOUR STUDENT LOAN WITH ALL CONTEST WINNINGS?
THAT IS SO CRAZY. I mean, I had a couple of big chunks that really helped. I ended up with a little bit of debt, but it was a way better choice to snowboard and win contests than work and flip burgers.
SO, YOU FINISHED FIREFIGHTER SCHOOL, AND THEN YOU GOT A FIREFIGHTING POSITION RIGHT OUT THE GATE, OR WHAT? No. I actually applied in Montreal, but it’s a very hard process and you go through many tests. The year when I finished school, Montreal opened 25 [firefighting] spots. And there were 2,000 graduates looking to apply. In my head, I was not going to get a spot and I was just going to snowboard. But it would have been dumb to not try and see the process of being hired. So I tried it, and I got through the fourth test. They called me and told me they wanted me.
YOU HAD LIKE A BACKUP PLAN AND IF YOU DIDN’T BECOME A FIREFIGHTER THEN YOU WOULDN’T HAVE BEEN SUPER-DUPER BUMMED. SO YOU GET HIRED ON, DID THAT KIND OF THROW A WRENCH IN YOUR SNOWBOARD CAREER? The process is long. I applied like eight months after school. I was snowboarding full time, and working in the summer. But when the Montreal Fire Department called me two years after I finished school and went, “You’re up.” And then I was like, “Okay.” And I wasn’t making money, really, at that time snowboarding. So it wouldn’t really make sense for me to say, “No, I don’t want a job.”
YEAH. And I knew with firefighting you can trade shifts in a way that you can stack some free time. So then I was like, “Well, I’m not really making money snowboarding, and firefighting is probably one of the best jobs in the world for me,” as a hyperactive guy that can’t really sit behind a desk.
THAT’S SICK. SO YOU GET THE JOB. THAT’S WHEN YOU STARTED FILMING FOR… It was the year of DC’s Must Be Nice. So I got a really good video part in Must Be Nice, and it’s after that winter that I started full-time.
HOLY. SO YOU’VE BEEN A FIREFIGHTER FOR FIVE YEARS? Seven. Cause I did part-time, and forest firefighting before that as a certificate.
BUT THE STAIRMASTERS PARTS ARE WHERE I THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE REALLY TOOK NOTE. AND THAT’S WHERE YOU SEPARATED YOURSELF IN THE AMOUNT OF SPOTS THAT YOU HIT, AND WHAT YOU DID, AND WHERE YOU FILMED EVERY YEAR. HOW DO YOU COME BACK TO THE TABLE EVERY YEAR AND ARE LIKE, “HEY, I’M GONNA RE-UP THIS; I WANT TO FIND SOMETHING BIGGER. I think just my brain keeps thinking, always. It just keeps thinking whatever and wherever I am, I’m thinking about spots. I’m firefighting and when I go back to the station, I’m looking for spots in the truck. Like, just a constant thing in my head. It’s stronger than me.
— RISK VS. REWARD —
YOU KNOW HOW WHEN YOU LANDED SOMETHING PSYCHO YOU’VE BEEN WORKING FOREVER? WHAT’S THE BEST FEELING TRICK YOU’VE EVER HAD? Well, the off-the-roof huge gap to the steepest down ledge. That was the ender of my third Stairmaster. That was the gnarliest thing I ever did.
OH, THE BOARDSLIDE? YES. Super, super steep. And I think I brought you there. I think you saw that spot.
NO, I’VE NEVER BEEN THERE. THAT WAS THE SPOT WHERE YOUR DAD CAME AND WAS LIKE, “UH, I’M NOT GONNA BE HERE.” No, I asked him to leave.
OH, REALLY? Yeah. He came because he knew I was there, and then I asked him to leave because I thought there was too much risk of me being hurt attempting it. In everything, you don’t really want your kid to get hurt.
SO YOUR DAD’S AT THE SPOT AND YOU’RE LIKE, “YO, GET OUT OF HERE CAUSE THERE’S A CHANCE I MIGHT GET FUCKED UP.” No, but he’s super smart and he knows everything that I do is very well calcu- lated and he knows I’m taking as little risk as possible, even if I’m still taking risk. So he knows I’m really smart about it. But, shit happens.
FOR SURE. And even if I think about everything, shit still happens, and I didn’t want him to be there if it happens. And I got it, and the first thing I did was to go to his house and show him the clip. He’s super down, he loves it. He’s a fan, and he’s proud when I send him every good clip I get.
THAT’S SO SICK… WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PART YOU EVER FILMED? My favourite segment for Stairmaster 2015.
OKAY. So it’s the one that I do the front board on the concrete triple and the gap boardslide. The 50/50 on the rails that I jump over another one and break a board, if you recall.
I DO. I like the 2017 X Games Real Snow part, too.
— BACKCOUNTRY LIFE —
WHAT’S THE BACKCOUNTRY LIFE BEEN FOR YOU? CAUSE YOU ONLY GET TO GO OUT THERE A MONTH AT A TIME. BUT YOU’VE BEEN DOING IT FOR THE PAST FOUR, FIVE YEARS? Some years I got really unlucky because I was hurt. I didn’t go or couldn’t really. What backcountry has been to me is pretty simple: I sled and have a really good time. I try to find spots and I don’t. Then you guys find the spots, and I build it because I’m…
YOU’RE THE BEST BUILDER IN THE WORLD. I’m good at that I guess…
DON’T BE HUMBLE, YOU ARE. I’m good at building anything. And you guys are ready to hit it and you ask me if I want to hit it first, and I’m like, “No, I don’t care.”
I DON’T WANT IT. But I really enjoy to be out there more than anything. Going into the backcountry has made me feel closer to snowboarding. Cause, I mean, we can say whatever we want, but rail riding is… I feel it’s more skateboarding than snowboarding. And the fact that I actually now snowboard for real in the mountains and really get to ride in the backcountry is completely new to me. It’s a new learning process for me and it’s very exciting. Like you said, I did a double cork last year. I did some really big jumps that I never thought I would do, and I love it. I love to try new things, and the backcountry is really making me happy.
WELL, IT’S FUNNY, CAUSE YOU’RE ONE OF THE ONLY FRENCH DUDES FROM QUEBEC NOWADAYS THAT FILMS A FULL STREET PART, AND THEN GOES IN THE BACKCOUNTRY AND CRUSHES. You’re right, there’s not many.
IT’S A DYING BREED OF DUDES WHO DO BOTH, AND I THINK IT’S REALLY SICK. AND I THINK THAT YOU SHOULD KEEP DOING IT, CAUSE YOU’RE GOOD AT BOTH.
I would love to, but it’s tough.
Ollie Transfer [o] Andy Wright
— STILL HUNGRY TO SNOWBOARD —
WHERE DO YOU WANT YOUR CAREER TO GO IN THE NEXT COUPLE YEARS? Like I said, I felt so blessed for the first pay cheque I had snowboarding. All I want now is to keep being paid to snowboard. I think that’s all I care about.
YOU HAVE A GOOD BALANCE; YOU FIREFIGHT AND YOU TRADE SHIFTS, AND THEN YOU’RE FILMING SNOWBOARDING. Snowboarding’s super expensive. I’ll never be able to afford to spend two months in Whistler, even just to ride the resorts, I’ll never be able to do that again. And the fact that I have a little bit of travel budget and that I can afford to snowboard that much is because I’m paid to snowboard. I’m a very realistic person and my feet are on the ground and have always been. But I know it’s gonna come up, and kids are good. I still feel like I’m doing good and I’m not gonna stop. Where I want my career to go is to just keep filming.
KEEP DOING IT, YEAH? Yeah. Being invited to compete in Real Snow meant everything, and covers make me really happy. I really enjoy the way I can create stuff in snowboarding. The way I can go somewhere and then picture myself doing the trick. But the actual photo makes me really happy. And the fact that it ends up on the cover means a lot to me. For photos, we talked about how many photos could be a cover and you think, Oh this could be a cover. But when it happens, it’s truly insane.
YEAH, FOR SURE. People forget about your video part, there’s just so much on the internet. But a cover, you remember.
YEAH. I don’t know. I like magazines. I like covers.
THE ONE THING YOU HAVE TO REMEMBER, YOU’RE A SNOWBOARD FANATIC AND A FAN AND A GROUPIE. I AM A SNOWBOARD FANATIC AND A FAN, AND THERE ARE A LOT OF OTHER SNOWBOARD FANATICS OUT THERE. Yeah.
YOU’RE DOING SOMETHING RIGHT. Thanks, buddy. I appreciate that. I think I have an answer to your question too.
WHAT’S THAT? WHICH QUESTION? I don’t know, what’s like my goal or what’s my…
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO KEEP DOING? WHAT’S YOUR DREAM IN ANY SITUATION, DO WHATEVER YOU WANT? I want to keep filming video parts because I really love it, but in the last four or five years, I’ve been having kids coming to me and being like, “Can I take a photo?” And I like that. I like that I’m bringing people to snowboard.
LIKE A ROLE MODEL. Yeah. For me, I snowboarded and looked up to people and I was really inspired and wanted to do it more. If I bring people into snowboarding, I think that’s pretty cool.