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...
WITH | Max Parrot | Darcy Sharpe | Mikey Ciccarelli | Tyler Nicholson | Seb Toutant
The pepper and beef stew first started to simmer in the late 1800s. By the 20th century it took over Texas. Soon it was everywhere. Goddamn chili parlors scattered throughout the entire west. Then, in 1967, the game changed forever. The first-ever Chili Cookoff World Championships was held. And it was lit.
Leave it to us compulsively competitive one-uppers to ruin everything with competition. Not even a delicious chili is safe. Despite its ruthlessness on the digestive tract chili is not aggressive by nature. There’s never been a bean ready to do battle. Nevertheless, it’s been forced to fight for over 50 years now.
There must have been controversy over whether or not this cookoff should happen in the first place, right? “This cookoff will fuel chili progression for the greater good,” said someone who was boss at making chili. Others backed that statement up: “Competition will expose our chili to a bigger audience. This cookoff will drive appetites and sales! Everyone wins!”
Others must have disagreed, insisting, “Chili isn’t a competition. It’s an art. It’s a representation of personal style and soul.” Who was right? It didn’t matter. It was all too late. A chili world was divided forever.
Last year, hundreds of thousands flocked to Las Vegas for three days of heartburn. They tasted the top bowls at the 50th Anniversary of The ICS (International Chili Society) Chili Cookoff World Championship. While millions of others were in small groups around the world: camping, hiking, sitting inside on a snowy day, quietly enjoying a chili with a few friends around a fire. No cameras, no judges, no followers. Just chili. Pure satisfaction. Maybe some of them would talk a little smack about the chili whores in Vegas simmering up to the judges, serving it for the cameras. The showy ones, only in it for the money, the fame, the glory, hoping to strike it rich off a grocery distribution contract—Fuckin’ sellouts.
As a “core” group, we’re opinionated and passionate about our hobby. We care about how snowboarding is shared, treated, and about the direction it progresses and how it’s represented, especially when it comes to competition. And while the ice caps are melting and the snowboard industry is fighting to maintain participants—we’re at civil war with each other. Segregating a segregation within a segment and creating even niche-r audiences over the way we believe snowboarding should be done.
(One hand up emoticon) We’re guilty. As a source for snowboard media, King Snow has promoted a distinct brand of boarding. We’ve steered clear of covering the competition scene (and despite tasting a little bit of bile every time some claims another Quad Cork), turning a cold shoulder to boarders who compete seems a little silly. These riders are amongst the best snowboarders in the world. Strapped in they feel the same love for snowboarding as us who only spin in the triple digits do.
This is a glimpse into why these guys compete, what the trajectory for competition holds, where progression is headed, and how they feel about the chili cookoff resistance.
“We all have the same passion; it doesn’t matter if you compete or you just film or you just ride. We’re all having fun boarding. I don’t feel that we should hate on any side of it. And if you don’t like contests—don’t watch.” – Seb Toutant
Seb Toutant Montreal, Quebec
Age | 24 Sponsors | O’Neill, Red Bull, Oakley, Nitro, Giro, Lifeproof, Empire Board Shop
Squash the Beef
I know a lot of guys that film, and I think what’s happening out there is a lot of people that film don’t really know the contest riders. They’ve never met them personally. It’s a lot easier to talk shit about riders when you’ve never met them.
When you meet them in person, it doesn’t matter what you do on your board, we’re all related through it. We all have the same passion; it doesn’t matter if you compete or you just film or you just ride. We’re all having fun boarding. I don’t feel that we should hate on any side of it. And if you don’t like contests, don’t watch. That’s how I feel about it.
Different Strokes Same Vibe
I actually filmed before I completed. It’s fun to work with a crew, work all day to get one or two shots, and the next day it’s another battle. In a way snowboarding it’s about showing your style, showing control. When you film, I feel like you’re really able to show that, because you’re working on one clip or one sick trick. Then, if you land it, you have to make it as perfect as possible. People are going to see all the little details. I like that, I like to work on one trick at a time, and make it perfect. Contests don’t really allow for that.
With contest it’s that day, that moment. You have to do the whole run perfect. There’s always a feeling, like, “Ah, I could have done that better.” Winning a contest takes a lot of effort, a lot of work to get there. But I feel filming gives you the same reward. At the end, when you get the shot, you have the same kind of relief of like winning a contest.
Competing To Stay On Top
In everything I do, I like competing. I love to match up with someone, and personally I’ll try to get better at anything and everything. Contests push me to be at my highest level, every day, which I think it’s good. It’s either you have a competitive side, or you don’t.
I’m back to a mindset where I need to progress, I need to learn new tricks, and I need to switch up my run. Make it interesting. I like having to learn new tricks, too.
It’s nice to be a winner, and it’s hard to keep winning. You know, you got to work really hard to get there and stay there, which is what I like about it.
Staying on top of new tricks for me… the hardest part is really the schedule. We have a contest pretty much every week; it’s pretty crazy. The tricks we have to do in contests take a lot of energy, and are not the funnest tricks to practice. There’s a lot of risk in it. Doing Triples, when you miss one, it hurts. If you’re doing a 720, and you miss it, it’s fine
The Love is Real
People maybe don’t know all the riders at the contests; we have such a good vibe together. We all cheer for each other. It’s not like in the riders lounge nobody talks to each other. It’s a really friendly environment and it makes it really fun. You watch it on TV and you don’t really see that. Of course we all want to win, that’s normal, but I feel like it’s a really, really good vibe.
Maybe the judging needs to get better. We’ve been having the same judges for a long time, and it’s fine, but maybe it needs to be mixed it up a little bit. I feel judging rails is so much different than judging jumps. It’s not super bad right now, but I feel there’re always at least one true mistake made at every contest. I know it’s super hard to judge a contest, but maybe it could evolve in the future.
The courses and formats too. I think the courses are trying to bring something new, but it’s still not there yet. Every contest could have their own format as well. Sometimes just changing a format can change everything, and give some riders a chance to do better. It would never be the same people winning. It brings a new flavour to snowboarding, like recently at Dew Tour the level of the rails were way higher than what we’ve seen in the past, because having to do just a rail line you have to focus on rail tricks.
The Canada Snowboard Advantage
I feel like the support they give us is really nice. Instead of just giving us money, they help us by doing jump camps. Building a sick jump for us to practice and having some sleds to use, that’s more of what we need from them, because if you want to get better you need to ride good jumps, you need to ride good rails. At contests they’re there to support us, making sure our boards are tuned, if we’re hurt we get physio, we’ve got trainer, all of that. It’s gotten a lot better; I feel like they’ve really adapted to snowboarding.
I always told myself that if snowboarding becomes a job I will quit. And I feel like I still really enjoy snowboarding, just like when I started. I still have passion. I ride at my best when I’m having fun, and riding with my friends. Every trick that I learn I was always riding with someone, and I was always having fun doing it, which is the most important thing for me.
If at one point contest becomes to be too serious, and I don’t know, I don’t have fun anymore doing it, and then I’ll focus more on filming. For now, when I’m on my board, I really feel the passion, and I’m still stoked to wake up every morning and go board.
Seb Toutant, Cab 540, Whistler Blackcomb. Photo: Crispin Cannon
Max Parrot Bromont, Quebec
Age | 23 Sponsors | Nobaday, Ski Bromont, Monster Energy
Love’s a Challenge
I love challenges. That’s why I love contests. In contests you’ll ride for a whole week and then you’ve got, let’s say, just two or three runs to put it down. This is the time for it. Sometimes there’re snowstorms, and you’ve got to deal with all those challenges and that’s really fun. The adrenaline you get when you start your run. The feeling when you put that run down, it’s just amazing. And I love winning. Getting some trophies, medals—it’s fun.
When I started competing and started traveling, I was at the bottom of the ranking list and the bottom of the trick list, and I knew the path to get to the top, because when someone’s already there, you know there’s a way. You gotta do the same things and you’re gonna get there. I landed there a couple years ago, and now I love the challenge of progressing to keep up.
I don’t really know where I’m going, I’m just creating my path. It’s important to be creative, it’s the key, creating new tricks now and progressing as much as I can. It takes a lot of effort, it’s not easy at all.
Strength is Padding
Yeah, I think the gym is important. I definitely fall a lot of times during training and actually trying new tricks that have never been done before. It’s a lot of risk, and when you fall what’s protecting you is your bones and your muscles. So hitting the gym is important.
X vs. O
I’m in love with the X Games, it’s a really fun contest. Everything there is shaped perfectly. The Olympics are definitely another big one. We get a lot of coverage out there. I think it’s just really different. If you compare an X Games start list with the Olympic one and you will actually have better riders at the X Games versus the Olympics, because there’re only a small amount of people that can go to Olympics. Spots are equal by country; there’re five or six Canadians that should be going to the Olympics, but there’re only four spots for us. Not all the best athletes will be there. It’s just different. I feel like at the Olympics you ride more for your country than for yourself.
I With Friends
There are definitely a lot of competitive personalities between all of us. The thing I really like about snowboarding is that we actually are all friends. I don’t think there’s anyone hating on one another. When we’re at the top and somebody’s dropping, everybody’s cheering on him. Someone wins, everybody’s happy, everybody’s gonna be at the bar after and cheering for him. That’s what I really like about snowboarding, instead of other sports. Especially at the Olympics, some sports actually can’t talk to other countries, it’s pretty crazy. We’re just a bunch of homies having fun, and I feel like we’re competing more with ourselves than with others.
Winning Isn’t Easy
A lot of people are actually doing the same tricks now. I think if you traditionally have a couple bigger tricks in hand you’re in good position. But I think now it’s really the precision: Who’s gonna land the cleanest? Who’s gonna go the biggest? Who’s gonna grab the longest? Who’s gonna have the best style in the air? I think this is really what matters now.
Quadruple the Inspiration
One of my main goals is to inspire as much people to try snowboarding as possible. When I did the Quad a couple years ago, definitely a lot of people were hating on it. If it wasn’t me doing that trick, it would have been somebody else. But I actually met a lot of people; kids telling me that they started snowboarding because of this video. I think I inspire people, and the ones that are hating are snowboarding anyway, so I don’t have to inspire them, I’m just trying to inspire others. I’m trying to be as positive as I can. You can’t please everyone in life, whatever you do, there’s always gonna be somebody either jealous or hating. I’m just doing my thing, and I’m doing it for myself. That’s it. At the end, snowboarding is my passion, and when I strap my feet into my snowboard, I snowboard for myself.
There are many other tricks I have in my head that I want to learn and put down in the next few years. I’d really like win all the contests that I haven’t won yet, just put a check next to that, that would be a big achievement for me. Besides that, I definitely want to film more. Filming is definitely something really cool and fun to do. More filming, and do more tricks, and win contests I haven’t won yet.
“There’s always gonna be somebody either jealous or hating. I’m just doing my thing, and I’m doing it for myself. That’s it. At the end, snowboarding is my passion, and when I strap my feet into my snowboard, I snowboard for myself.”
Max Parrot, 1080 Double Cork, Whistler Blackcomb. Photo: Crispin Cannon
Darcy Sharpe Comox Valley, BC
Age | 20 Sponsors | Burton Snowboards, Monster Energy, Giro
It feels like the established pros who focused purely on filming and Banked Slaloms think they’re too cool to fuck with us when it’s like, “Man, we’re all just boarders.” We all went through different steps in our careers, too. Most people did contests back when it was mellower and funner. Times are different now. That’s the only thing about it. I’m so down for those guys, and I see them at the top of the mountain, and I go throw them all high fives. One out of three of them, I can feel their vibe is like, “Don’t even fuckin’ give me a high five, kid. You’re not my friend.” To me, it’s like we’re all friends. We’re all boarding for the same reason. Having fun, creating a living through something that we really, thoroughly enjoy.
Spin To Win? Blame the Judges
I would daringly maybe say, yes. I think it’s because the judges did a bad job at creating a platform where we wanna progress in all aspects, rather than just the risk-and-spin aspect.
I don’t think it’s our fault. I think it’s the judge’s’ fault. Then it goes, I think it’s the fault of a snowboard tour that’s not wealthy enough or organized enough to have a pro-level judging system. Depending on how you wanna throw your responsibility, that’s the thing. It could go above the judges, too, to the guys running all the contests.
That shit needs to get more consistent, if the vision gets clearer, the judging will become clear. Instead, it’s a bunch of random judges getting assigned randomly per contest. Sometimes it’s consistent, but… some of these guys are working other jobs, “Oh, you wanna come judge?” And they’re like, “Hell yeah.” They’ll go judge, and head home getting paid the same amount whether they fuck up or not. Nothing really changes.
A Terje Talking To…
I was hanging with Terje for my first time, and he laid into me about going for the Olympics, about being sponsored by an energy drink company, about how I can’t say shit about human rights, or environmental issues, because I support the Olympics, which supports Coca Cola, which supports McDonald’s. All this shit. It was actually crazy. But it was really cool. People that I have told this to get a little bummed, like, “Oh, why’s he digging into you?” I’m like, “Dude, it’s so badass.” He’s a legendary shredder that has strong opinions, which I agree with, but then I tell him, “What else am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to not try for the Olympics? Trying to make a living off something I enjoy?” He’s not giving any other options, he’s just saying don’t do it. I’m like, “Dude, you grew up in a different time.” I think that’s a big part of it too.
I’m not gonna say I like that some people hate on contests, ’cause I wish everybody was just kind and friendly and one happy family. But, I think it’s badass to have opinions and I do think it’s part of our culture. To stand off from progressing in a mainstream way, it’s such a core sport that, up until now, has just marketed to people in the sport. That’s what I think, we’re still just a bunch of punks on sticks.
Oh my gosh, there’s so much good in contests. The fact that we get to travel around the world, with a community that feels like family now, it’s the coolest fucking thing ever. I just get to travel the world with people that have become my best friends… no matter where we are, no matter what we’re doing, no matter what kind of slave work it feels like. Whether that’s hiking up scaffolding jumps or hitting a gnarly jump in a blizzard when we shouldn’t be, it’s like you’re always with those close friends. It kind of always feels good, no matter what.
I compete because, at a young age, contests kind of came naturally. I’m at my local hill and wanted to win prizes. It just developed from there. I’ve always really enjoyed it. I’m really thankful for that, because I do want to film, and I do want to do all that backcountry and street stuff. I think that one of the toughest avenues is to win contests, ride parks, get your foot in the door, and then go over with your whole bag of tricks when your skillset is ready for the backcountry.
I think having a flow is really important now. Lots of people are losing that. With the progression of tricks, they forget about riding their snowboard in between. I think judges pay attention to that. They’re starting to pay attention more as the trick margin gets closer and closer. They really watch how you ride your snowboard, how you ride your edges, feature to feature. It may sound crazy but once you land off that rail, and get into the next feature, there’s a difference that they pick up on sometimes.
A lot of kids are losing that mid-level progression right now, ’cause they see what needs to be done to win, and they’re trying to play catch up. They forget to learn a Backside 12, they forget to learn a Frontside 9, then the next thing you know, they can do Front 14s, Back 14s, but they can’t do all the tricks in between.
I want some X Games hardware, which is cool to think about ’cause last year my thinking was I just wanted to go to X Games. X Games was the coolest thing ever. It was my biggest goal in snowboarding, which I’m really happy about. Now I want some hardware there, then I want to film a full video part. Other than that, I just wanna stoke kids that wanna go snowboarding.
“Some of these guys are working other jobs, ‘Oh, you wanna come judge?’ And they’re like, ‘Hell yeah.’ They’ll go judge, and head home getting paid the same amount whether they fuck up or not. Nothing really changes.”
Darcy Sharpe, Laax, Switzerland. Photo: Blotto
Mikey Ciccarelli Ancaster, Ontario
Age | 20 Sponsors | Burton, Anon Optics
I compete because I love the feeling of competing. You get this rush when you just ran a run, or mid-run… I don’t get that feeling from anything else. Your adrenaline is going crazy, it’s like no other feeling. Especially if you do well, you’re just so stoked. It’s like you’ve worked so hard and everything that leads up to it and goes around it. It’s really fun.
The motivation for it? I just want to be able to snowboard for the rest of my life. If contests are going to help me do that, I’ll do it. It’s more about doing a run that you’ve been dreaming of or tricks that you haven’t put together, and then finally you’re able to put those tricks together. That’s probably a main motivation. That and being able to snowboard every day.
Keeping Up With The Kardashians
It’s tough, for sure, but… I love the feeling you get trying a new trick or learning a new trick. You get a crazy rush. There’s so much time that goes into it. You’re just thinking about it before bed and waking up, running a trick through your head over and over. It’s overwhelming but it’s something I love doing.
The Contest Beef
I don’t think it gets that bad, but there are some people that aren’t down with it for sure. It’s probably the same in skating I would imagine. You have the people that aren’t down and then you have your people that are.
I guess some of these sponsors that are supporting the bigger contests and stuff, they try to pigeonhole snowboarding into something the everyday person can understand. You could say it’s like the sellout mainstream look at snowboarding. There really is so much more to snowboarding than just contests for me.
You know, when Austin Smith posted that photo of the big air scores. All the same 1440 Mute Grabs qualifying for finals. We’re bummed on that, too. It bums us out as much as anyone else. We don’t like seeing that either.
Doing It All
Filming and competing well is difficult. I think Seb and Mark are the only one’s who’ve done it recently. Film a full video part or rail part and do all the contests. That is so heavy to do. Now it’s like you kind of have to be a rail rider, or you’re a backcountry rider, or you’re a park rider. It was different back in the day, people would do everything. You would compete, you would film, you would ride rail jams, you would do everything. I think there’s a lot of respect for the guys who can do it all. For me, I have way more respect for them.
There’s a lot of changes going in contests. That’s probably the best thing these days. They’re just trying to make it better for us and better for people to watch; they’re trying to change the formats, make it more style-influenced; they’re scoring rails heavier now, too. They’re trying to make it more fun for us to ride in and for the viewers to watch. Changing it up. They’re putting transition features into slope runs, now you have to be a little more well rounded. You have to be able to hit some tranny, the jumps, and rails. That really shows the best riders. Everybody’s doing the similar tricks. There needs to be a way to separate them that might be with having the quarter pipe in the contest, or having a hard rail that no one’s seen before. Something to separate the field. Overall, contests are in a good state right now for sure.
The Big O
It’s tough for us. There’s like seven of us Canadians competing for four spots. They’ll give two spots up this year and then two more the year of the Olympics. It’s just going to come down to who can put it down and who is the most on point. There’s definitely some buzz, and plenty of outside media. We’re on CBC just because they’re coming in for the Olympics. They want to see the journey. It’s a weird thing because we wouldn’t have a national team or do most of this if it wasn’t for the Olympics.
I try not to get caught up in the hype of it. I would love to go, and I’m going to ride my hardest to get on the team, but it’s not going to define my snowboard career. There are so many other avenues, so I’m not going to be like, “Oh my God I didn’t make the team.” And just break down. It’s just going to be like, “All right.” I’m just going to keep shredding. It’s not going to make or break me.
I just want be able to ride as much as I do and continue to ride as much as I do. Maybe be able to compete at that level with all those guys. Beyond the contest circuit, I’ve always wanted to film in the backcountry too. I just love snowboarding so much I want to be able to do it for as long as I can. Regardless of sponsors, because there’re so many, there’re so people who are passionate about snowboarding will work all summer just to go shred. That gives me so much motivation to stay grateful and keep doing it and riding hard. I’m so lucky to be in this position.
“There’re so many people that are so passionate about snowboarding that they’ll work all summer just to go shred. That gives me so much motivation to stay grateful and keep doing it and riding hard. I’m so lucky to be in this position.”
Mikey Ciccarelli, 1080, Laax Switzerland. Photo: Blotto
Tyler Nicholson North Bay, ON
Age | 21 Sponsors | Rockstar, Under Armor, Von Zipper, Lib Tech, and Celtek
When the circus comes to town…
I don’t really know why there’s hate on contests and contest kids. I think just because it’s progressing so quickly. People like the style side of snowboarding and it’s pretty hard to put style into a Quad Cork nowadays. I don’t really have a good answer to that question at all. Contests let people see a different side of snowboarding, it’s not all about the videos. There’s so many people that come to the events that don’t really give a shit about snowboarding, they just come to party and come to hang and it’s a good time. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Are we making progress?
Everyone’s just trying to add another 180 or another 360 or another flip. People have to remember there’re many more ways to progress snowboarding. Why do a Quad Cork when a Switch Double Backside Rodeo 1080 hasn’t been done? Shit like that, you know? There’re so many cool moves to do in snowboarding. It’s all about the grab, tweaks, and just trying to differentiate yourself. Personally, I don’t want to just do another Back Triple Mute, I’d rather do like a Switch Backside 12 Japan.
Where it goes?
It’s kind of all up to the judges. I think so. A lot of 1260s with a cool tweaks are starting to beat all the Back Triple Mute Grabs, so I think the judges are starting to want to see more creativity. I think that’s why Sage Kotsenburg won the Olympics. Just look at his snowboarding, it’s so cool to watch. I hope there’s more style involved in snowboarding going into the Olympics. I don’t want to see a Backside Quad Cork in the Olympics.
People think, “Oh, how are those tricks fun?” If you have a huge jump and you greased a 12 or a14 and it feels effortless, because you have really good timing and it just almost feels casual. It feels insane. I don’t get how people hate on it and say, “Oh, that must feel whack.” No, it feels insane. A perfectly stomped 1440 is just like a different feeling. You can’t get that feeling from doing a perfect 360 or 720. It’s so burly, it feels like you’re in another world. A different kind of adrenaline.
Win. Loose. Or Draw.
I think it takes very technical, clean riding. You have to have a very technical, good-flowing rail line, and spin all different ways in the jumps and keeps your hands off the snow. Have good pop and not pre-spin and stuff. You just have to be dead clean.
I definitely want to go to the Olympics. What contest snowboarder doesn’t? If you’re a contest snowboarder and you say you don’t want to go to the Olympics, you’re lying because it’s the biggest contest in the world.
There’s a lot of hype on the Olympics and there’s also a lot of hate. My view is that it’s pretty cool. It gets so many people watching it and so many people will probably want to try snowboarding because of it. Snowboarding looks cool at the Olympics.
Friends on a Contest Day?
Yes and no. I assume everyone is super hyped for everyone no matter what they’re doing, whether it’s they’re learning new tricks or killing it in the contest, but at the same time, you see new tricks going down and you’re trying to do well in contests, you’re like, “God, I got to do that now?” Like holy shit, you know? It’s a all for fun and we’re all homies, but at times, yeah, I feel like a few people get jealous if you do a new trick or shit like that.
Backcountry. The hype is real.
I definitely want to go to the Olympics and then after that have a good long career filming well-rounded video parts for as long as I can. Hopefully I can do it like Bjorn Leines. He’s going on 41, still filming epic video parts. That’s kind of my dream.
I think backcountry snowboarding’s straight up cooler. Depending on the way you look at it. It’s a lot gnarlier. Doing a Backside 900 over a road gap first hit in my books is gnarlier than going off a jump throwing down as hard as you can, grabbing mute and going up and down three times. They’re both gnarly in their own ways but the unknown in the backcountry is a little bit gnarlier than being able to have a snowmobile pull you up the jump a hundred times a day. That’s why the mags give those guys all the props, they deserve it. But we need some love too [laughs]. I love snowboarding and I want to snowboard as long as I can and have as much fun with it as I can.
“You see new tricks going down and you’re trying to do well in contests, you’re like, “God, I got to do that now?””
Tyler Nicholson, Frontside 360, Saas-Fee, Switzerland. Photo: Chris Witwicki