LESSONS | JESS KIMURA
Without a doubt, Jess Kimura has made a substantial impact on snowboarding. Since her breakout part in Think Thank’s Left Brain, Right...
When we were growing up, shredding together was just as much a part of snowboarding as putting on our boots. We’ve been by each other’s side the whole way. So, when it comes to this interview, there is nothing here we haven’t spoken about before. In a way, it’s both a recap and a continuation of the ongoing dialogue between us. That’s why it’s embedded with “we’s” when speaking about things that Finn has done. Let’s not get it twisted—although I may have been there, this is about my twin brother.
Finn is an all-terrain human. Certified road dog, logistical coordinator, snow pant connoisseur, and snow removal specialist are just a few of the many roles that he plays. He has a logical approach to snowboarding that can only be explained by the sheer magnitude of times that he has watched Deju Vu. When Finn is not tastefully jibbing, he’s on the other side of the camera, handling the A-angle, or hiding away in a dark room editing footage with his headphones turned up loud. He’s had the cover, the part in the big movie, and still has gas in the tank for more. I’m proud to be his brother and to share this interview with you. In it, we’ll deep dive into how he got here, where he’s at, and try to catch a glimpse of where he’s going.
By Jj Westbury
How we doing?
Good. Making a little coffee.
That’s good stuff. It’s funny getting together to talk, I feel like we have been chopping it up about life and snowboarding for most of our conscious lives. Nothing is going to be completely new between us. You know?
Yeah. We talk about snowboarding pretty frequently, in a lot of ways.
We’ll try to touch on as much as we can. Let’s get straight to the big one. We have the same gene sequence. I am your older brother by a glorious 90 seconds. How did you end up as a regular footer while I’m goofy-footed? What’s up with that?
I don’t remember exactly. When mom got us into snowboarding, I think we had no idea what stance we were. We were riding regular setups, going down goofy, like switch directional. We both tried to ride both ways if I’m correct. Then it just fell in that way. Maybe one of us went the other way to try to be different from the other.
Yeah. We might not be on such good terms if we were the same stance, eh? We need to shout out our twin sister Grace too, the triplet.
Grace is regular-footed, though, right? I’m going to go ahead and say Grace is regs.
Alright. Two regular, one goofy in the three-pack. Oh, man. If Grace got into it early, we could’ve had it all.
We could’ve been the ultimate trifecta, honestly. But you know what? Maybe Grace will come at it late.
The time is now, Grace. Let’s get you on some steel. Back to the identical twin thing though. What does it feel like to have a certified doppelganger? Sometimes people in the greater snowboarding community think that there’s only one of us. That’s a common recurrence.
I think it’s fresh. When I was younger, I struggled with it more, but now I think it’s awesome. You said it best. It’s just humorous. Obviously, we’re different people. I think we snowboard really differently. We have different styles. Especially now; our snowboarding is more different than it’s ever been, but some people still are just like, “Yeah.”
Well, you’re protecting my street credibility, so I appreciate that.
You did the same though. When I broke my leg and I didn’t snowboard that year, you protected my credibility. Maybe we have something going in that regard. There are a couple of times when we swapped back and forth with being hurt or something, and people were none the wiser.
It’s like having a highly functional stunt double.
Exactly, the most functional… I still need to tap you in on some shit, my bro.
Oh, yeah? We’ll see about that… Let’s talk about Canada Olympic Park quickly, the little hill in Calgary. This is the birthplace of SRD. What does SRD stand for and how did it come to be?
It stands for Ski Racer Die [laughs]. Pretty intense. Sometimes we say Ski Race or Die to tone it down. That came from Tom O’Reilly way back in the day. For context, COP has a really heavy ski race presence, lots of kids training and whatnot. I actually don’t know for sure, but I want to say that a ski racer almost smoked him in the mini-pipe, or he just got over getting heckled in the liftline or something. Either way, SRD was born. It wasn’t until a bit later that you and I fully got in the mix.
Speaking of Tom—the legend ties well into the COP days and doing Riders On Board [ROB]. That set the stage for a lot of things to come down the line. Could you give us a quick rundown on ROB?
I mean, without a doubt the sickest snowboarding club out. It’s cool to reflect on that now. Many of our good friends we met in the club. The two main coaches at the time, Jared [Anderson] and Adam [Brownlie], played a pretty huge role in both of our lives, in terms of how to hold yourself outside of snowboarding as well. It was cool. They were definitely showing us the ropes. Treating us with respect, and also sometimes keeping us rascals in line. It’s funny, for a lot of these questions I can’t even really say “me.” It’s more of an “us” thing. Not even just limited to you and me in this instance, but maybe all the guys that we filmed those first couple of videos with. We all left Riders at the same time to film the SRD clip Volume 3.
Yeah. You went the filming way because the Olympics weren’t looking too good for you, eh?
The Olympics were not looking too good. I remember one contest at COP when we both went down, one after another. Mom was watching and was not having a good time. I think we both had to do the walk of shame over the knuckle of the last jump. Mom was like, “Oh, thank God.”
Well, the contests sucked because we were up there and in the worst conditions ever. You have to snowboard down, and it’s a day when normally you would never snowboard.
In some ways, I feel like that was good for us. During the COP days, we would go snowboarding on days that most people would literally never go snowboarding. It was just an ice box. You’re just like, “How can I make it down this hill alive?”
Coming out of the snowboard club and into the streets, who showed you the ropes with that stuff? We were obviously on some ignorant shit, though there was a bit of guidance as well.
Oh my God. For sure. I mean… When we got our driver’s licenses at 16, the first trip out of the city was up to Edmonton to watch a Shoulda’ Danished movie premiere. That’s Will Fraser, Dale Bailey and Dylan Vachon. There were others involved, but those were the three big dogs for us and for me.
As we were finishing high school, we’d head up and go snowboarding with them in Edmonton. They were teaching us how to film and look for spots, without it really being explicitly spoken about. That’s also when I would say Dylan’s influence really came about, in a different way. In terms of the picky snowboarders that you and I turned into, I would attribute that to Dylan.
How important is it to have somebody with a little bit more knowledge showing kids what’s up with it? As far as filming street snowboarding goes.
I think it’s really important. There are a lot of trials and tribulations in the act of filming. The only way they can really be figured out is by somebody experiencing it. Somebody has to mess up and learn the hard way. Then you can help the next generation… they’re still going to mess up, but those big mess-ups, maybe they can be avoided a bit more. Depending on how you share that knowledge, it can really resonate.
You were talking about getting out there after high school. You, me and a bunch of the SRD homies were trying to get it cracking for a big winter. For that to happen, there has to be some money in the bank. Is working an outrageous labour job an Albertan snowboarder’s rite of passage?
To a certain degree. It’s just one of those things that needs to happen if you want to fund your own snowboarding. At the time it seemed like it had to be a labour gig for some reason, but I later learned that hospitality was the better route for me.
Live and learn, right? So you finished high school and got a job building landfills, working way too many hours a week. What did that allow you to do?
We grinded it out and bought the extreme fisheye, HVX, and a truck. It sounds like a lot, but you and I split all those straight down the fucking middle. We had the winch fever, lugging that thing around and just road dogging across the country. There was always somebody to switch off driving with, which was nice.
That’s critical when you’re bombing out to Quebec.
Yeah. Bombing out to Quebec, or we’d hit Minnesota and then go up to Quebec and spend a few weeks there. You’d see all these spots in the Videograss videos, and then later on, of course in the Déjà Vu movies. That’s where snowboarding was at at the time. We were never going to be able to be a part of those videos, so we just were like, “Well, we’ll just make our own videos, and we’ll just go where they go.” There were years of us not hitting new spots, but just tribute tricking.
Totally. Let’s come back to that tribute trick stuff, but we must talk about Quebec first. I feel like the Quebec influence was big.
We bought the truck to go to Quebec.
Do you think that Quebec and Deja Vu were particularly enticing because they were Canadian?
For sure. I think because they were Canadian, it felt that much more feasible. The other big Canadian influence would be the DOPE videos, but I don’t think we really attached ourselves to those videos as much as to Deja Vu.
Then with Encore too, that pushed deeper into the Canadian greats as well, with Kuzyk and Ojo. What role did Dillon Ojo play for you, as a young Canadian snowboarder?
Another crew that we watched relentlessly was Nowamean, and all the Bruner’s park videos as well. We grew up on that. They were the kind of middle ground between us and Déjà Vu. Something to reach for. Dillon is one of mine and yours, and collectively our era of snowboarding’s greatest influences. Also, in terms of success in the industry… I remember when he made it through to filming with Snowboarder, it was just like, “Oh. Somebody did it.”
Yeah. Dillon did it. He gave hope to the young Canadian kid coming up.
Exactly. It’s possible. He exemplified a tangible progression of becoming a better snowboarder, finding better spots, and even wearing better outfits. Having that, it’s easier to grasp in that sense. There was more approachability. I thought of him a lot when I was doing Snowboarder stuff, and obviously, I still do think of him a lot. It’s hard to put into words.
You just mentioned what I want to talk about next, which is your connection with Snowboarder Mag. You filmed for some of their final movies. What was that like?
I’m very grateful to a long list of people for making that opportunity happen. The two at the top being Kevin [Stevenson] at Salomon, and of course, Pat Bridges. Just making it into a Snowboarder movie was a dream come true. Snowboarder was the catalyst towards getting more support for my snowboarding and meeting a lot of people. That being said, there was huge imposter syndrome with it. To a point which was painful at times. On a multitude of levels, I had a really hard time accepting the fact that I was doing it the first year and you weren’t. I had a really hard time coming home from these trips, seeing everybody around me snowboarding at COP and just feeling that everybody was better and more deserving than me. That was pretty constant throughout that… It was just like, “Why me?”
Was there anything you did in particular to manage that feeling?
For a long time, not much. I let it build over those two years to the point of self-implosion. I just became so burned out. I injured my back around that time too, which was a factor. There’s a multitude of reasons why there might be this more sinister, inner voice. That’s prominent in many people. My mental health wasn’t good at that point and snowboarding paid for it. It was almost necessary, however. I needed, and really wanted, to get back to that nostalgic, childish love of snowboarding and filming, and I realized that to do that, I needed to address some problems outside of snowboarding. Now I’m in a much better place and have a healthier relationship with snowboarding. I don’t need to get a clip every day to justify my sense of self-worth, or to feel like I’m doing something that’s worthwhile of my time and money and my sponsor’s time and money.
Mentioning self-worth is interesting. When you are stewed in something as much as you were with snowboarding, it’s hard to not connect those two, even though they are different entities. Was that something you went through?
Oh yeah, I struggled to find my own individual identity beyond snowboarding. Growing up, it’s easy to latch on to this one thing, which is great. That’s the groundwork. That’s the foundation for something, but there’s so much more. Doing other stuff can also kind of protect you from the ups and downs of something as fickle as snowboarding. If you get hurt, it’s massively beneficial to have something else on deck that is of interest and personally rewarding. On the day-to-day, it makes snowboarding more fun, too.
I hear you on that. Beyond actually snowboarding, you’ve been known to plug in the hard drive and make it happen in the timeline as well. For example, during the Beta year, you also edited the SRD video Buckaroo, right?
Yeah, that came together really naturally. Even at that point, I was used to thinking about editing during the winter and having a project to work on when the snow dries up. The crew was filming amazing footage in Calgary and I gotta stay busy chopping that up, which was great.
This winter, King Snow is making a street video with a stacked roster of Canadian snowboarders, which you filmed for, and you’re editing. This isn’t your first rodeo doing that either. Under what conditions would you give yourself ender? Would you be capable of giving your own footage the final spot?
Nah, my man. You tried. Remember, you said it in Simulation. There was a conversation when I think you were trying to say, “Oh, this should be an ender.” No fucking way. How could that work, really? I don’t watch my own snowboard footage and be like, “Oh my God, that was fucking awesome.” I just don’t. But I watch my friends’ snowboard footage and think that all the time, even when they don’t like it themselves. That’s just the way I see it. I don’t need to get ender in a video to feel like my snowboarding is worthwhile.
Alright, I’ll accept that as a valid answer. Let’s circle back to the tribute tricks. What’s up with that? Actually, for those that don’t know, what is a tribute trick?
A tribute trick is when you go to a spot that has been hit, and you do the same trick that someone else has done already. It’s different from an ABD because you wholeheartedly understand that it has been done. It’s one of those things where you just have to do it. If you want to tribute it, fire it up.
Do you have a personal highlight as far as a tribute trick that you have done?
I would say one of my favourite tribute tricks, because there are multiple levels to this, would be Switch Backside 180 onto the Red Ledge. This is because Will Lavigne did it and then Layne Treeter did it.
Ah, a double tribute, two of Canada’s snowboard royalty, you might say. Confirm or deny, you have a piece of the Red Ledge?
I do. I think it’s still sitting beside my bed. Let me see if I can find it. If it’s easy to find, that’ll mean something to me… I got it. I got it. It’s right here.
That’s kind of a significant chunk of concrete. The famous Red ledge. That’s a piece of Canadian snowboard history right there.
The tributes, though, that shit was just an era in our snowboarding that was awesome. All of us, all the homies, would go to these epic spots that we saw in a VG video or something and try to do these tricks that snowboarders we like had done on them. It was great.
Talking about VG, I have to bring up that premiere, The Last Ones premiere.
That was a big moment for us. We were down in Mount Hood as kids with ROB, and Jared brought us to the theatre to peep it. Seeing the energy in that theatre directly contributed to why we started making full videos, and also why we would always rent out a real theatre in Calgary when we did. Get the video name on the marquee, get the community together and make sure everybody was screaming their heads off. That was fresh. The energy at that premiere was insane.
It’s cool to think that watching one snowboard video at the right time and place can make someone drive across the continent for a handrail a few years later. What’s next for you?
I’m scheming. I’m really excited. This is going to be my first winter not living in Calgary as an adult. I just hit the Vancouver button, which is really cool. I’m excited to see what it’s like out here. I’m going to edit this video and try to do some other video stuff. I’m going to hang out, enjoy it, go to school, film some skating, and try to get you to not go to school next winter so we can film a video.
Oh, man. Don’t tempt me. Is there anything else you want to say to the snowboard readers out there, or just some thank you’s, shouts out, anything?
I mean, thank you really. You’re kind of the reason I’m here. I always felt like snowboarding with you was one of those things. You did something, and I was like, “Oh, I’ve got to do something.” You know? I actually remember pretty vividly the first time we did 360s. I was behind you. You did one good, and I definitely did not do it good, but you didn’t see. I just said I did it, and I claimed it. So, thanks to you. And, thanks to every one of my family and friends, my partner, my sponsors, and everyone else who has helped me get to this point. All the SRD homies. A shout-out to everybody, really. I’m indebted to too many people.
Ain’t that just it. Finn, it was a pleasure talking that snowboarding bullshit with you, man.