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...
By William Fraser
Well, folks, I’m happy to present to you a man with a Colgate smile, Stevie Bell! Cuz really, where the heck has this guy been? We deserve to know, considering he is one of the most recognizable faces in snowboarding. I mean, how many black athletes has snowboarding had over the years? Not many. But, what’s he doing now? Is he a chef? A pipefitter? A programmer? A professional poker player? Answers are coming, but, as per usual with this series, we’re going to start from the beginning, although it’s a late beginning this time.
The first time Bell Bell willingly stepped onto a snowboard he was 16 years old. Before that, he only boarded because junior high gym teachers told him to. It definitely wasn’t love at first slide. But once he chose to give the board a chance, no one could stop him.
Throughout high school, Bell buried his head in the park at Brighton, Utah, and within a mere two years he was in the company of guys like Aaron Biittner, Vinny, Derek Dennison, and Cole Taylor. Bell was born to be. When asked how he progressed so fast he says, “I just basically attacked it like skateboarding. I went out there, did my best, and had fun doing it. I think some of it was luck and some of it was pure tenacity to make things happen.”
After high school, Bell went to college and insincerely buried his head in a bunch of hardcover books for his parents. He knew it wasn’t going to lead anywhere, but it made his parents happy while he continued to snowboard. Thankfully, Bell says, “I ended up getting a call from Cole Taylor at Technine, just randomly, being like, “Aye, you wanna come film a video part with us?” And was like, “Oh shit. Uhhh, yeah I’m down.” Literally, right after that, I went to [my] house and grabbed my snowboard gear, met them at a rail about one hour away from where I lived, and ended up getting a couple shots.” Those couple of shots became his part in Technine’s One Love video, which is an insane accomplishment for someone who had only been snowboarding for three years at this point. But, despite this almost miraculous achievement, Bell wasn’t free from school yet.
The year following One Love, Bell found himself in a similar position: chair pulled tight to a desk, nose in the books, and feeling like an imposter. Bell’s One Love part, however, did help him meet some of the right people. After it came out, he says, “I got introduced to the Forum guys because my friend, TJ, knew some of the local Forum reps. They put my name out there.” A couple months later, just before Bell’s 20th birthday, he recalls getting the call from Forum, offering him a contract: “I remember I was at home studying for midterms and I just took my midterm and threw it in the trash… I didn’t even go back to school after that. I didn’t show up one more day after that. I just threw my shit in the trash and was like, I’m over it, peace. Then a big ‘ol box of Forum stuff showed up to my house like three days later, and the next thing I knew, I was at Park City with the whole Forum team and we were doing a catalogue shoot.”
Tailpress, Helsinki, Finland [o] Rob Mathis
Bell went from snowboarding for pretty much the first time at the age of 16, to getting a Forum contract by 19. At 20, he filmed his part in That, which is one of the most iconic snowboard videos, ever—even my mom would stop to watch it. After That, the sponsorship floodgates opened. For the next six-ish years, Bell did turns for companies like DVS, Matix, Spy, Special Blend, Nixon, Stance, Celtek, Skullcandy, and Park City. He also produced burly parts and hilarious intros for flicks like First Chair: Last Call, Forum or Against ‘Em, Forever, Fuck it, and Vacation. Vacation being the last part before the Forum empire began to sink. Bell remembers, “After Vacation, the next film year we didn’t really film much. We kinda knew something was going on. We went out and did a couple trips but nothing like the years before. Then summer came around and I got the call [saying] we are not going to go on with your contract—which I kinda knew was coming anyways.”
Bell wasn’t too shook by the layoff. After getting dropped from Forum, Bell picked up some other sponsors like Nitro, iPath, Ethika, and Neff, but nothing compared to being on the Forum team. He floated for about two years until he was 28, and then realized he didn’t have a passion for snowboarding anymore, so he called it. Looking back, Bell explains, “Even the year I was filming Vacation, I didn’t love [snowboarding] that much. I did it because I had to do it, not because I wanted to.”
Post-snowboarding, Bell moved from Park City to Long Beach with a friend and went full business. He’s been full business for three years now, working in the health and wellness community. A community that we all know has big bucks. Diet and wellness trends move so quickly, both from the shelves and from fad to fad. One week you’re eating a potato and the next week it’s a superfood.
But, keeping up with fads doesn’t seem to be what Bell is about, so I asked him to elaborate on what it means to work in the health and wellness community. “I coach people on how to take their health to the next level and teach them to build businesses [from home].” This answer was still a little vague for me, so I tried to pull more from him. “So life coach-type stuff?” I ask. “No, I’m definitely not no certified life coach, but I’ve spent a lot of time with Tony Robbins’ top coaches… people who teach you the right mindset for [success].” Another difficult answer to decipher.
Eventually I just settle on the idea that Bell helps people be successful, in any area of their life, and I moved on. For the rest of the time we had a really engaging conversation about life and success and passion. Here are some fun and thought-provoking quotes I’ve pulled from it.
“People don’t ever design their life, they just kinda live in conformity, letting everyone else design their life. You know… if you show me your five friends, I will show you your future.” —Stevie Bell
“People ‘shoulda’ all over themselves. I ‘shoulda’ done that; I ‘shoulda’ done this. Shouldas [aren’t] going to get you anything. Shoulda doesn’t make things happen. Shoulda is just an excuse to let you sit on the couch and chill.” —Stevie Bell
“I mean, it’s 2017, the fact that people still go to work today is crazy. You can definitely build a business from home.” —Stevie Bell
After all the chatting, Bell expressed a sincere appreciation for what snowboarding did for him. He said it taught him about what is required to succeed, and it gave him a laundry list of good friends and good times. He also said that he was happy he quit when he did. He felt ready to move on. Since quitting three years ago, Bell hasn’t boarded much. “I just don’t have the passion to go,” he said. Although, during this conversation his girlfriend reminded him that they’re going to Lake Tahoe over Christmas. I guess they won tickets through their company…