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I’m always on the lookout for passionate people in snowboarding that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. I’m drawn to the up and comers, and under the radar rippers that I believe make up the backbone of our culture. Gabriel Ostapchuk, or Gabe, is setting the foundation for his home in this community. Through his creative lens and love of the environment, he is leaving his mark. Gabe inspires me to look at things differently and reflect on my own contributions to our community. I hope he can do the same for our readers. Gabe put together a short video called Levitation from last season. A unique edit that looks at snowboarding with a fresh perspective. I caught up with Gabe and he shares some of his inspirations and we gain an insight into what to expect from him in the future. Enjoy. –Rob Lemay @_lemay
Gabe, where were you born and where did you grow up riding?
I’m from Ottawa, Ontario, and I grew up riding in Quebec at a little hill called Camp Fortune.
At what age did you start snowboarding?
I started skiing really young until one day when I saw some guys in the chalet that were wearing snowboard boots and I was like: “Oh man, that looks so comfortable.” And this dude really embellished how comfortable they were. He was like: “Oh, it’s like a pair of sneakers.” Right then and there he turned me over. I was eleven.
The boots got ya.
Oh man, it was like -40 and my feet were icicles. I was down for some sneakers.
What was the first snowboard movie you watched?
I don’t really remember, but the ones that stand out for me when I was younger were all the Think Thank productions. Those were definitely my favourite videos.
More for the creativity you think?
Oh yeah. Watching Scott Stevens and all those boarders go wild and have so much fun. Their vibes were so positive and creative that it really inspired me.
Do you consider yourself a creative or an artist?
An artist. Filming and photography is a way of using yourself as a medium between what’s actually occurring in the world and letting other people see it. Being able to do that is so cool and it’s the best when I’m not even thinking about it.
What do you think was your biggest inspiration to make Levitation?
Snowboarding brings me a lot of presence and happiness. When I was a kid watching those movies would always make me want to go snowboarding really badly. I would finish watching them and was like: “Where’s the snow? Let’s go!” That was my inspiration for this film, to try and give even just one person that same feeling. If one person gets that feeling, then I feel like my job is complete.
I like that, pure and simple. I have also seen you as a bit of an activist on your platforms. Do you also consider yourself to be an activist?
I don’t identify as an activist, however, I care very deeply for Mother Earth and all that she provides for me and the entire human race. Considering we have the luxury to live here on earth, I believe it’s our duty to protect her. We wouldn’t be here without her. I consider myself more of a protector just out supporting the people that are already doing it. Like the indigenous population who have been living symbiotically and protecting the earth for thousands of years. I’m just trying to be an ally for them and be a vessel of assistance wherever I can.
Essentially you’re supporting those who help protect the earth.
Exactly. We’re riding down mountains on this crystallized water and it’s so much fun, but we won’t be able to it if we don’t protect it. We’re seeing glaciers receding, annual snow depth getting smaller, so the more we protect it, the more we get to have fun snowboarding. I’m just trying to do my part wherever I can.
I imagine you’re faced with adversity from time to time. How do you handle someone with strong opposing views?
The best tool is education and knowledge. I try to educate myself as much as I can, so that I have more tools in the shed for when people come at me with that type of confrontation. The other thing is respect. I have no idea what this person has gone through in their life and why they feel so opposed. I respect them on a human level and try and to communicate that I’m coming from a positive place.
That’s a good way to approach things. Always good not to be combative. So what’s next for you? Did you shoot more this winter? Do you have a new project in the works? Are you planning any protests?
I did do some snowboard filming in the winter before a big trip to Kenya. I’ll have a film about the Kenya trip coming out soon. As far a protesting, right now in Fairy Creek they’re planning to cut down some of the last remaining old-growth forests on Vancouver Island. In response, a group has set up a blockade called the “Fairy Creek Blockade”. Anyone reading this, please support in any way you can. An injunction to the blockade has officially been served and this is the last stand for those old-growth trees. They need people on the front lines now.
I’ve seen people sharing that. It’s gross that they want to harvest any old growth at all. It’s insane.
Yeah, it’s really painful and illogical.
What’s the Kenya project about?
I went to volunteer with a nonprofit organization helping provide clean water to people there. I also worked with a recycling startup. They basically burn trash in the streets there. I care a lot about how we accumulate waste and how it ends up in our oceans. It was a really big learning experience and I’m really grateful to be back to dive more into snowboarding and rock climbing this summer.
What was the biggest culture shock in Kenya for you?
It was the police with assault rifles in the streets. I had seen it before in Chile, but it was a big standout for me when I got off the plane.
It wasn’t in a protective, comforting sort of way.
No. Not at all. The pure extortion and corruption in the police as well as any authoritarian figures was very eye opening. We have our own corruption here in Canada such as cutting down of old growth and pipelines without indigenous consent, but it all happens behind closed doors. In Kenya political opposition isn’t tolerated. Tourists and light skin people are extorted for money at every possible angle, and the police are in on it. Although Canada isn’t perfect, at least we can still stand up and fight for Mother Earth without being executed. I believe we should utilize this privilege before it’s too late and there’s no more water crystals to shred down the mountains on!
Are you sticking around this summer?
I’m going to snowboard until Seymour’s over, and then I’m going to move into a tent in the forest in Squamish and rock climb all summer.
Nice. It sounds like you got your priorities in order.
I do man. I have to allocate those funds to where they’re needed.
Rich in life. That’s awesome, Gabe. Thank you for taking time out of your day to chat with me. Is there anyone that you would like to thank for helping you with your video project Levitation and anyone who has helped you along the way?
Thank you to the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island for protecting this land and continuing to practice ancient and sacred traditions.
Thank you to the Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish and Lil’wat Nations as well as all of the Coast Salish Peoples for protecting the land we snowboard on.
Thank you to all of the homies at Big Mountain Media for getting me into the backcountry and changing the way I live my life in the mountains.
Thank you to Geoff Brown and Out Of Service Snowboarding for bringing me sledding.
Thank you to Houston Matson-Moore and the Highland Eyeway Band for the Super 8mm footage.
Thank you to Hugo Serra for running to the hills with me when everything shut down and thank you Stone Snowboards for supporting him.
Thank you Jack “Sketti” Spettigue, forever inspiring me to make every day the best day.
Thank you Rob Lemay and King Snow for this interview.
Congratulations to Fonduh and Rhythm, little Q’s coming any day now!
Thank you snowboarding <3