Anyone who has followed professional snowboarding the last decade is well aware of the talent of Norwegian rider JP Solberg. Here's a man who bleeds style like no other -- especially when it comes to the freestyle backcountry scene. For years he has wowed us with technically progressive tricks done at maximum volume, off maximum-sized jumps and spiked with a style that is quite literally unmatched.
A rider of this level, for years he was sponsored by Burton -- naturally. Shuttled across the world, his skills were documented by the biggest company in snowboarding for the world to see. From endless tours to private photo shoots to playing the part of a walking billboard for any number of marketing campaigns, he was living the life of a true professional.
More appropriate, it's safe to say that life was living him. So when his contract was not renewed last summer JP was able to finally step out of his bubble and see snowboarding from a different point of view. Here JP talks about that, rediscovering snowboarding, and how it all spawned a company that he can call his own in YES Snowboards.
If you like, tell us what happened...
Well the thing with Burton ran its course unfortunately...but fortunately in the end, if you know what I mean. Lucky for me I had an idea of what was happening and was able to make some moves early on so that last winter I could be set up, at least a little bit.
As for YES, all the news was negative right out the gate in respect to being a pro rider looking for a new contract. All of the economy and blah blah blah...it doesn't take a genius to know that times are tough and the best rider in the world is still going to have a hard time locking something down. So the three off us that were let go from Burton, (DCP, Romain deMarchi and myself) we decided to do our own thing. We decided that this time we would take control of the situation. Now I have a company I can call my own and things are great. It's a different, growing, learning experience but things are better than they have been in a long time.
We are basically taking a little piece of snowboarding and doing what we want with it.
What is up with the name YES?
Well at one point we already had this company in the works, if even just to make boards for ourselves -- just no name. We decided this because in one respect prospective board sponsors were all giving us the "no." We had been hearing that damn word across the board in so many different facets of our snowboarding life as well so it became a bit of a joke. No, No No...it was all about the NO! So being at our maximum fill of negativity we started saying YES WE CAN out of frustration. It became kind of comedic and ironic at the same time. So it just seemed like the right name at the right time. We are basically taking a little piece of snowboarding and doing what we want with it.
But here it is and this is why I am so happy: At the end of the day I get to travel the world and shred my own board and my own terms and laugh all the time doing so. There is so much more freedom in JP's everyday life now!
How did this new way affect your travels over the winter because with Burton I'm sure it was a lot of "go here, do that", but at the same time they were fronting you with a pretty hefty travel budget I'm sure. Did that make things difficult?
The money thing changed it a little bit because with Burton I would just get my travel taken care of. Right now I am still paying off my credit card bills from this past winter. But without somebody holding your hand the whole time you find different and smarter ways to travel. It was more like growing up real quick. Now I guess I am like everyone else out there struggling to make the dream happen, pulling all the strings and all that. This season I spent a lot of time in just a few zones and really got to know them. Where as in the past I would get to a spot, drop in, and before I even figured out the potential of the area I would be shuttled off to a different place.
It's just pure joy at this point in my career. I used to get pulled away from the best shredding in the world to go to a meeting and discuss shoelaces! I don't need to submit a weekly report anymore... none of that that sh*t that takes away from true snowboarding. So many times I have left epic places to go talk about some crap that I could have taken care of over the phone. When that happens over and over and over you get discouraged. I didn't know it, but I needed change and did I ever get it.
How do you expect this to influence your riding?
Before, it wasn't like "Oh I need to be one upping this or that," it was just to always be doing something. Lets put it this way: I know what I need to do in order to get ready to shred and what makes me a better snowboarder and I was feeling so much stuff that was the complete opposite of that towards the end of my time with Burton. It was to the point of everything being the complete opposite of why I started snowboarding in the first place and truthfully it made it harder for me to progress as a snowboarder with all of that influence.
We are going to ride. We are going to ride hard. And we are going to have a lot of fun doing it. It's not a competition with us anymore to fill up our library with too much stuff for multiple different ad campaigns and crap like that.
Explain how filming with Absinthe this year was...
Filming with Justin [Hostynek] I accumulated a lot of footage. You will see in the movie "Neverland." You know we paid to be in that movie because we wanted that to be a strong showing for us. It's more of a YES part than an individual part. I think there is a message in there people can relate to.
So what is up with your new outerwear sponsor Helly Hansen?
The thing about them is that they contributed huge to this season for me. I am finally riding some next level gear that keeps me warm and dry. And to me that is huge because a lot of people don't realize that what I was doing before involved always wearing cheap samples from China. That really affected how I felt riding for that company because if I am in the backcountry and something goes wrong and I am forced to be out there longer than expected and I am all wet and cold than that is wack. I'm going to be bummin'. And that happened so many times, where I wasn't comfortable out there. This year I wasn't wet or cold once. It just takes a couple notches off that stress factor and makes my time snowboarding that much more enjoyable. And you know, they just came on board and asked me if I could see myself wearing their stuff and I was like, "Of course!" They're from Norway! It was an easy decision for me to make. So they told me, "Do your thing. We just want to be a part of that." What more could you ask for in a sponsor?
It all comes down to freedom now. I get to do what I want. It may sound weird to other people, but I am serious. This is huge because in the end it affects my riding. I am just stoked now, endlessly. How do I even say it? I'm reppin' my own cause.