Originally Published: June 23, 2011

The legendary Devun Walsh

Ruling the snowboard scene longer than some pro riders have been alive

Vanatta By Matt Vanatta
ESPN Action Sports
Archive
Devun Walsh
Polar Opposites, the final episode: a backcountry edit with Devun Walsh, Iikka Backstrom and friends.

His DC bio lists his age as "older than most." And while that may or may not be true, most snowboarders have known about Devun Walsh for as long as we have known about snowboarding. It is hard to sum up the career of a rider as influential as Walsh in a few short intro paragraphs, but it goes something like this:

We first started hearing his name in the early nineties, when he showed up at Bear Mountain in Southern California (the then-epicenter of the professional snowboard world) and slayed his way into snowboarding's collective conscious. Then came the hard-hitting Whiskey years, where Walsh's fellow Canadian snowboard idols were about three things: riding, partying, and chaos. A true prodigy, he followed in their footsteps.

After his performance in Shortys' 1997 team video "A Young Brown Walsh" (featuring a standard setting stylish backside 180 Japan, among other highlights), he moved on to join the most elite and influential snowboard team of all time: the Forum 8. Walsh then went on to bang out video parts (over 40 and counting -- almost all openers or enders) for the next decade plus, becoming one of most progressive backcountry freestyle snowboarders around. And he did most of this without leaving his backyard of British Columbia.

A few years ago the Forum 8 disassembled and Walsh found himself as the new lead man on the DC Snowboard team. Now a legend, with a family and new priorities some things have changed, but the base remains the same: riding powder, filming, and showing the next generation how things are done. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Mr. Devun Walsh.

[+] Enlargedevun walsh
Colin AdairAlmost two generations of pros have come and gone since Walsh stepped onto the scene. He's still going strong.

Are you from Vancouver originally?
I am from British Columbia. I wasn't born in Vancouver, but I moved there when I was 12 or 13. I went to high school and everything here.

When did you start snowboarding?
When I was 13. So 22 years ago, in 1989.

A lot of snowboarders move around to whatever spot that's getting media attention, but you have never left British Columbia, right?
Yeah, growing up here and getting the chance to travel all around the world you start to realize that it's one of the best places for snowboarding. There's so much to do here. You can explore the city, there's good stuff to skate, and you're close to Mt. Seymour. Really, as far as terrain is concerned nothing beats Whistler Blackcomb. It's just a good place to live.

When did you realize that you wanted to focus on backcountry snowboarding?
That really started in the late 1990s. We always had dreams of going snowmobiling but it just wasn't realistic, so we started hiking off the backside of Seymour. Then snowmobiles kept getting better and we started venturing out on sleds in the mid-nineties.

It really just evolved naturally with building more backcountry features and then having access to helicopters. But helicopters are so expensive we just started using sleds full time, because all you have to really pay for with sleds is gas.

We went out and filmed with a bunch of kids and they could do all the newest tricks, but they couldn't land them in powder. It was kind of an eye opener for me, like maybe I can still do this for a while.

At that point did you know your snowboard career was going to head in the backcountry direction?
I was still traveling around and doing X Games and park shoots at the end of the year. Then I blew my knee at practice during the X Games in Vermont. I blew it, but could still ride on it a bit and went to the Toyota Big Air in Japan and fully hurt it there.

I just remember standing on top of the drop in looking at the jump and you could see the wood ramp landing under the ice, you could see the 2x4s in the landing while you where in the air, and it was just the scariest thing. Right then I made the choice to stay of the ice and keep it in the backcountry.

When you were part of the Forum 8 did you know you were part of something special?
I think you realize that more in hindsight. I don't think any of us knew what it was going to be as big as it was.

[+] Enlargedevun walsh
Colin AdairWhen your backyard is a playground like this, there's no reason to ever leave it.

Did you ever think that in 2011 you would still be one of the top pros in the game?
No, not at all. Even after we filmed "That" [Forum team video, 2007] I was thinking, "Okay, this might be my last year filming." Then we went out and filmed with a bunch of kids and they could do all the newest tricks, but they couldn't land them in powder. It was kind of an eye opener for me, like maybe I can still do this for a while.

There were some rumors that when a few of the original crew parted ways with Forum it might have been because they thought you guys weren't as relevant anymore. Did that end on good terms for you?
Yeah, we parted ways on sort of bad terms. I had to get out of my contract because they weren't really doing what they told me they would do after "That" came out. I worked something out with DC and I've been happy since. We did have a bit of a falling out, but I have talked to those guys since and it's all good now.

You grew up under the wing of the Whiskey crew in Vancouver. Who did you look up to at that point?
[Laughs] Yeah, I looked up to Kevin Young, Sean Johnson, obviously, Mark Morriset, and a bunch of locals who were like local pros. Craig Kelly was my number one influence, though. I could never afford the Burton stuff, but I would sew the logos on to beanies and stuff. Jamie Lynn became a huge influence, too, as I got a little bit older.

You had a rep as a big party guy. Are you surprised your body has held up this long?
Yeah, I think my wife was really my savior. I partied so hard when I was younger. I got to a point were it was sort of make or break because it was becoming an issue. I met her and my priorities changed. I started golfing and setting early tee times so I wouldn't go out drinking. I started going to the gym and working with a trainer. I was always snowboarding kind of drunk, so I needed things I couldn't do drunk. I needed to clean up my lifestyle, and I did.

Do you remember when we partied together in Minneapolis and you let me wear your diamond DC ring?
[Laughs] Maybe. Was I with Bjorn?

No you were with Dufficy. Do you still have your DC ring?
[Laughs] Yeah!

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