Thinking big with Dave Short
More of an interview than a debate, call it the bro-cratic method.
Like most Canadian pros, Dave Short is based out of Whistler in winter. Rather than working on his golf swing or his beer elbow in the off-season, however, Shorty hits the books out in Montreal, picking away at a four-year Philosophy degree. The 27-year-old speaks French, English and Spanish and was raised on the side of Mt. Seymour in North Vancouver making some kind of snow life all but inevitable. He is currently between board sponsors but we imagine this will only be a temporary glitch in his plans for worldwide domination.
Fans of Dave's riding might point to his parts in Standard Films' "Black Winter" or Alterna Films' "In Transit" as evidence or to the 150-plus pages of print exposure (incl. a couple of covers) he has amassed in his quiet, laid back way. But it is in going big off cliffs and finessing freestyle-infused technical lines that Short sets himself apart from the pack and it is in thinking big that he keeps himself engaged by the world around him. Whether he's on an off-season surf mission, taking that surf style to the biggest alpine lines he can find, or wondering why his school bag weighs more than his backcountry pack, Shorty stands tall.
We caught up with Dave Short from the other side of the sea where he was dodging the Olympic mayhem that had invaded his home break in B.C.
ESPN.com: So, how's that philosophy degree coming?
Dave Short: I finished high school in 2000 and proceeded straight to post-secondary, attending every subsequent fall semester through to present. I finished my Associate's degree at Capilano University [North Vancouver] in '05, then transferred to Concordia in Montreal for my Bachelor's degree studies. I am two courses shy of completing my Bachelor's degree and I plan to continue post-secondary education after obtaining it.
What is it about philosophy that rings your cherries? Why not an MBA or a Law degree?
I began with intentions of graduating with an Economics degree. My formal mathematics skills aren't up to snuff, and I had always been picking up Philo courses along the way as electives, thus it seemed it chose itself. It's not the destination, but the journey, and it's not as though the end of the road education-wise for me is this Philosophy degree. I enjoy my major because it encourages abstract thought. Innovation combined with guts is what is leading our society, and I wish to be on the forefront.
Top three philosophers from any period?
Oh geez, puttin' me on the spot here! Ok, Avicenna: He put forth notions of modern medicine and the idea that poison is not the ingredient but rather the dose, thus most everything has the capability of being either poison or healing based on dose.
Leibniz and Spinoza are old dudes that had beef, and made it their goal to usurp the other's notions. Both provided far-out ideas that certainly bucked the prevailing ideas of the times and going against modern consensus -- especially in their era -- took guts and for that I respect them, even if some of their notions were bizarre.
I've often noticed that quote/unquote big mountain guys seem to be more contemplative or thoughtful than many of their freestyle counterparts -- at least when I interview them. Do you think there's anything to this stereotype of mine and, if so, why?
Well, I hate generalizing. I think many big mountain dudes start as freestyle riders, and it is a semi-natural transition, based on passion and environment. For example, in Whistler you have the choice of a perfect park setup or going off-piste, because both are offered in the same venue, whereas other environments force you into a certain type of riding. I sure started as a freestyle snowboarder. Freeriding is amazing and, the older I get, the more I respect every discipline encompassed in snowboarding. As for big mountain dudes being more thoughtful and contemplative, I think it's a very subjective thing to define. Hitting a kicker, you have a million things going through your head: all the varying factors of where to land amongst the bomb holes, mentally figuring out the rotation, speed, etc. [It] seems quite similar to wrapping your head around piecing a mountain line together top to bottom. Both have a plethora of factors, and both require much contemplation. Both require guts to actually drop in.
Plethora, huh? You still in Austria and are you just over there shredding for fun like a real snowboarder?!
[Laughs] I left Austria about a week ago. I was there with Phil Tifo [photographer] and we stayed with Steve Gruber in his hood. It was amazing! I've been friends with a lot of the Aesthetiker crew for quite some time. I have always been fascinated with the European snowboarding scene. Fourteen resorts in one little valley?! It's ridiculous: Vast expanses of mountains all interconnected and accessible with the same ski pass... Ahh, I love it! I have considered moving over to Europe for the winter on more than a few occasions. Maybe soon...
We are in Turkey now, doing a feature for Snowboard Canada Magazine and filming for Alterna. We were already headed halfway around the world for the Turkey mission, so Phil and I simply decided to stop off for a bunch of Austrian shredding before Turkey, simple as that.
Are you competing this season?
I planned on competing more than I have this winter. I was going to do several of the The North Face Masters competitions, like the Snowbird stop, where last year I placed 4th, but I have a bit of trouble gaining access to the US of A as of late. The US government has a very stringent workforce protectionism policy in place now, which hinders some from getting in. I did compete in the Deep Winter Photo Challenge in Whistler with photographer Jordan Manley, and we won for the second straight year! I want to amass more Freeride Qualifying Series points in order to get onto the Freeride World Tour in the next few years, that would be amazing and remains a passionate goal of mine.
It seems like The North Face is behind you in a big way. What do you like about their approach to supporting snowboarding?
I couldn't dream of a better sponsor than The North Face. The management team is fully supportive and everyone involved understands and is a part of the snowboard world. TNF has been involved with snowboarding for more time than many people realize.
I have always taken my snowboarding career seriously. Yes I'm laid back and I'm an introvert, but I am very seriously passionate about the things that are important in my life.
It seems like you've always approached your snowboarding career in a mellow, fun-first sort of way. Is this just an outgrowth of your laid back surf guy personality or being Canadian or is it a conscious effort not to blow things out?
I have always taken my snowboarding career seriously. Yes I'm laid back, and I'm an introvert, but I am very seriously passionate about the things that are important in my life. I haven't had many opportunities to voice opinions etc., and I place the highest value on letting my riding do my speaking.
What other riders make your list of admirable fellows for their own career approach?
The ones that pursue opportunities and passions to the fullest. What people fill their off-seasons with speaks volumes for me. People that go surfing or to school or get strong in preparation for the season [definitely display] attributes that I respect in other riders. The shred life is the good life, and people that love shredding and work tremendously hard to do what it takes to continue...are respected [by] me.
What are some progressive gatherings/contests in snowboarding that have impressed you and/or you'd like to see more of?
I dunno. Judged contests are a little bizarre, but they can be cool if the results are deservedly awarded. Tailgate Alaska seems like it is an amazing gathering. Heaps of shred-heads riding epic terrain and camping in a random mountain pass parking lot.
In this Olympic year, and with the Games in your literal backyard, a lot of people in snowboarding feel like the sport's gone to a weird place. Where do you think snowboarding's at and what could we all do to keep it creative, progressive and interesting for years to come?
Keeping the control of the industry in the hands of the passionate shred people is most important. The Olympics pimp snowboarding pretty hard. It's sadly funny. Did you see the closing ceremonies where they sent out hundreds of people holding these fake plastic snowboards with holes where bindings are supposed to be? Ridiculous s--t. But the level of pipe riding is completely shocking. It gives some athletes dedicated to their disciplines something heavy and respectable to aspire to.
What should we do less of or avoid altogether in your opinion?
Just get back into the mountains and ride hard and everything ought to sort itself out.
When you retire from pushing it on a snowboard what do you see yourself doing -- you know philosophers don't get free boards, right?
I hope to remain involved in the industry and I will continue pursuing educational avenues. I have some innovations and inventions in mind. I also enjoy writing and may decide to try my hand at penning a bestseller somewhere down the line?!
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