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 you’re a good person, good things happen. You’ve heard that before. And there’s a good chance when you were young, your parents told you something like, “If you want it, you can make it happen!” All the above is very cliché, but what if you stuck to these simple guidelines and really lived by their message? Chances are your life only gets better from there. The following pages are a real demonstration of someone who put his passions first, for no other reason than that’s what he chose to do with his life. Marc-André might be the nicest guy out there. He never asks for anything and will do everything for the ones he loves.
From being the little park kid out of Gatineau to becoming the most prolific snowboarder in China, we present you with, the MAS interview.
Words and Photos | Joseph Roby
MAS, Where are you from, how old are you?
I’m from Gatineau, Quebec. I just turned 27.
And for the record, where do you live now?
Right off the bat, your friend Russell Beardsley wanted you to tell us about ‘Spaghetti James.’
[Laughs] It all started one summer we were up in Whistler. I was there for a month and it was a fucking party. Classic Whistler I guess, it was my first time there with friends, and every time Russ was drunk, he was stumbling around like spaghetti. We found out his middle name was James, and we started calling him Spaghetti James to piss him off.
Since Russ really wanted us to talk about himself in this interview, everyone needs to use that name from now on. So, you’ve been riding glaciers in the summer for a long time?
When I was 14, I was begging my parents to go to Camp of Champions. I finally ended up making a deal with them that I wouldn’t have birthday or Christmas presents for two years, in exchange for a week at COC. It was totally worth it. Then, I guess when we came back from our three-month-long trip to China, we had stacked a lot of money. Axel Théoret and Gogo [Alexandre Gauthier] bought a house, and I bought a ticket to Whistler and spent my whole summer out West [laughs]. Met Nic Heringa there, and he brought me down to Hood. It’s been a tradition since then.
Let’s pivot a little. You started riding at Edelweiss, in Wakefield, QC. I was told people thought you were a girl at some point, what’s up with that?
[Laughs] I remember that one time I was in the lodge with all the older guys from the board shop that I was riding for, I was just a kid with a little kid voice and long hair. The lady at the cafeteria literally asked, “What can I get you, my sweet little girl?” I remembered getting super shy, face turning red and everything [laughs]. Then I guess it stuck with the boys for a while. Even at school, people were always calling me out on my style and long hair, but I never really cared about those douchebags. Straight up bullies [laughs].
Then you started working at Mont Cascade?
Yeah, when I was like 15 or 16. Those were the best times, I was working as a park ranger, and we were putting in work because we were the ones riding it. I worked as a park ranger at Camp Fortune after that, head digger Éric Gagné was a legend. He had built a mini ramp in the park staff cabin, and that cabin was literally in the middle of the park run.
Before you started filming with The Bruners, you guys had a crew called Casquad.
Yeah, my friends Sim Lanteigne and Gab Larive were filming the Casquad videos. It started in the park, like a lot of different crews I feel like, and we got into the street to, you know, try to do like the pros we were seeing in the movies.
And when did you start getting hooked up?
Gab Bélanger started hooking me up with Celsius and Signal. Since then I have always followed him through the brands he’s been repping. And he’s the one who introduced me to the Nowamean guys that evolved into The Bruners crew we know today. I remember, that summer after they filmed Renaissance, the last Nowamean production, Julien [Choinière] came to Gatineau by himself, stayed at my house, even though we barely knew each other. He asked me to be part of the crew. I was so hyped.
What a legend. Recruiting all the best guys from all around the province, like Nic Roy from Chicoutimi, Alexis Mailhot from Sherbrooke.
We clicked right away. All these guys stayed at my house on a trip for Renaissance. I didn’t know them personally, but I showed them around Gatineau and Ottawa. Not even sure I filmed a trick, but I was just hyped to be part of that vibe they were creating. Then, when it became the Bruners, I was a real part of the gang. Lots of back-and-forth from Gatineau to Montreal that season.
Then you moved to Montreal. Was it only to film?
I always wanted to move there. I was in a relationship at the time that wouldn’t allow it. But I just always loved the lifestyle of the city. My father is from here, and that’s where I wanted to live my twenties. And, of course, filming snowboarding was way easier living here.
Both your parents are athletes that competed on the world stage, your dad in diving and your mom in swimming. Do you feel like it made them more supportive of your snowboarding dreams?
They definitely were supportive, or at least they understood why I wanted to pursue this passion. They never put pressure on me to stop and go to school, even though they were able to get an education while competing at high levels. Filming snowboarding definitely isn’t as organized as conventional sports, and that’s probably why we like it [laughs]. On the other hand, it’s not like they were just giving everything to me. I wasn’t going to school, so they made me get an apartment, get a job, they made me figure out my own shit, because that’s what real life is. And I am forever thankful for that. Learning how to be independent, be more mature, while doing what I really want to do.
You always made moves to put snowboarding first. Glacier riding, filming parts every year, making lots of big life decisions to do what you love. And at one point every Chinese citizen thought you were pro. Although, you’ve never made any money from being a sponsored rider. Why is that?
It might sound funny, but this was never really my goal to actually make a living by being a pro snowboarder. Even though I always went all in, it’s always been more about the journey than anything else really. When you work, then every occasion to strap in feels like a vacation.
That’s kinda where I was going with China. You might be the guy who went to China the most for snowboarding. How did it all start?
The first time I’ve ever been there was in 2016. Fix bindings put it all together, one hell of a crew. We were like 20 guys; reps, riders, friends involved. We had to pay for our plane ticket, but everything got taken care of when we got there. We were doing contests and demos basically. I guess LP [Dorval], Alex Gogo and I made good impressions during that trip, because we got invited to go back a couple of months after, for a little contest tour, that ended up basically being demos.
No other competitors?
Some Chinese guys who were not touching the rail and just jumping off the lip [laughs].
How long did that tour last?
Man, if I recall correctly it was something like eight stops. Like one stop/per week around China’s biggest cities. All expenses paid, travelling by plane or train, living in fancy hotels. And I was kind of the connecting point between our crew and the Chinese guys that were hiring us. I feel like that’s why they keep inviting me back, just because we kept a good relationship.
How many times did you end up going to China?
If I remember correctly, I went there on nine different trips. Whether in and out by myself, or even one time for three months with Gogo and Axel.
And if we’re talking biscuits. You guys made money off “contests,” but also worked as park rangers. How much would you say you made from boarding in China?
It would be hard to tell what kind of money we took in from these contests throughout the years, but we made somewhere close to $15K for working and riding during our three-month trip. And all expenses were paid; we even got pocket money to spend every day.
Crazy. Even though we’re far away from what some pros are making, it was still a fucked-up experience, and again you reinvested that money into keeping your snowboard journey going. Still doing it for the love.
Definitely a fucked-up experience. During that specific time, Axel and I were living in a tiny bedroom together, and even though there have been some rough patches, being 24/7 with the same guys couldn’t have gone better. We made some brothers for life. But damn did we have a hard time with food over there. Like, there were times when we wouldn’t even eat cause it was too disgusting.
You guys are the pickiest eaters I know, like ever.
Fuck as soon as there was some American food, we’d be jumping on that. But it was only on rare occasions to be honest. Axel was eating two packs of Skittles every day.
So last time we were there together was in 2018, such a dope experience, but also a real culture clash. Do you have any crazy stories from your time in China?
Gogo’s birthday party during our second trip was a wild one. We had a demo that day, where we met this French guy, he invites us to a party later that night. We got into a taxi with an address and no idea where it was. The place ended up being literally an hour and thirty minutes away from where we were. When we got there, the place was a huge nightclub, and it’s packed. And man they were expecting us. We got brought up to this private table, and bottles just started flowing in. Then fruit bowls and then a bunch of girls started dancing for us [laughs]. Everything was free. We partied until 5 a.m.. We got out of the club and some big-shot LA producer we met during the night invited us to an afterparty. So now we’re in another club for a couple more early morning drinks, and as we were walking out, out of nowhere LP [Dorval] starts getting punched by a random guy we had never seen before. He kept punching him while we tried to get in a taxi. And that’s the end of the story, we never understood what happened [laughs].
Back to Quebec. You ended Bruners 3 on a high, then took a year away from filming, what happened to the crew?
Everybody had their own reasons I think. Personally, my schedule was kind of hectic with working at bars in Montreal. It’s hard to get the motivation to go out filming when you go to bed at 5 a.m. every day. I also broke my foot skating that February, which put a stop to a lot of my plans. But we were hyped to come back for Overtime the year after. Julien had his personal issues but was super motivated to film and share his stoke with us. In the end, I don’t think we were able to go out as much as we would have liked, and that’s why we called it Overtime. Everyone on the crew was doing it on the side when they could.
How would you describe this past year, filming for the Bruners newest project, Anytime?
Definitely another challenging year. But it was still a super fun winter. It’s always fun to be out with your best friends. But yeah, pandemic restrictions, Julien dealing with personal issues in his life restraining him from filming, challenging would be an appropriate way to describe it.
We were lucky to be in a place where we get snow consistently.
Yeah, and again, we had fun doing it. I think the other guys in the crew would say the same thing. Even though we might not have the number of tricks we may have expected, I feel like all of us rode spots that we had in mind for a while and that we were stoked with.
What’s your take on taking breaks from the streets to go ride resorts? Do you take the time to do it? Because living in a city where there’s not too many hills to go ride, and a shit ton of street spots, people might think that’s all you actually ride.
It feels so good to ride the resort. More these days than ever before. I had a season’s pass in Tremblant this season; shout out to Vans for that. And man, every time I went there I never even stepped into the park. I rode my big all-mountain board and tried to get first chair to ride perfect groomers [laughs]. I kinda forgot that feeling in a way. It’s been insane to be able to do that.
That’s what we tried to do in Quebec City, too, forced ourselves to go to the resort and reset the mind.
And don’t get me wrong I still have so much fun riding street spots, but it definitely gets crazy sometimes. To just cruise around a city you’ve seen so many times looking for new spots. Of course you’ll find some new ones, but it sucks to spend all your time in a car. I think I’d still choose to hit a sick spot before going to the mountain, but it definitely is a good reset.
You guys went out West to ride Seymour at the end of the season and linked up with the Vancouver scene. Pretty cool to see the respect everyone has for each other in Canadian street riding.
Everyone’s tight for sure, nothing but love for each other. Coming back to Nic Heringa, he introduced me to all these guys a while ago, and we got along right away because we share the same passion and views for snowboarding. It was sick for sure, to go out there and all ride together.
I’d put The Bruners and Mt. Mtn on the same level of the dopeness scale. I’d also claim all you guys would be on the pro career path if you were living in the States. What do you think about the difference between these markets?
I don’t really know. Different-sized markets for sure. There’s way more exposure if you’re snowboarding in the States. And the community of pros will help the younger guys build up their own community. The Dustbox for example, they came to Montreal a couple of years ago and these guys are fucking sick, and they respect what we do here. I’m super down with what they’re doing, and they really deserve all the attention they’re getting. They’re having fun doing it just like we are, and good for them if they’re able to go on some sick trips and get good endorsements. And dude, Mt. Mtn, best style, sickest spots and best dudes. Also, have to mention Seb [Picard], man, my favourite, he deserves it all. I think without Seb there’s a bunch of spots and tricks that I would have never done, just because he’s doing such gnarly shit. Shout out to him for making me better during the Bruners 3 year, it made me step up to some bigger stuff that’s for sure. Best feeling to have him and Nic Roy around when you’re riding any spot.
So, what’s the next step in your life?
I’m starting school at the end of the summer, to become an electrical lineman. I picked that profession because it’s the dopest job in my opinion. Then what’s also cool is that you usually work four shifts of 10 hours a week, which is sick to keep on riding and skating as much as possible during my time off. I had to find something that would allow me to make a good living while keeping my passions alive. That’s what has been driving me my whole life.
Doing it because you love it from start to finish.
Hell yeah, man.
Anyone you want to thank?
Both of my parents, my girlfriend, all of my friends, of course, The Bruners, Jason Broz—the boss, Joe Sexton, the boys from Vans, Horn, Gab Bélanger and everyone who has been backing me up, love you all.