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Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Pat Bridges Interview

Defender of the Faith, Pat Bridges.
As the editor of Snowboarder Magazine, a post he's held since '03, Pat Bridges wields a certain influence. But it is as an advocate of snowboarding that "the eYe" exerts perhaps the most influence. Nobody knows and loves snowboarding quite like Pat.

The 35 year-old Vermont native is known for many things apart from his bone-deep love of shred: naming and co-owning East Infection magazine; his private, chicken wire-enclosed viewing area (aka "the cage") erected on the deck of the pipe at the '96 US Open; creating what he calls "the shifty of the new millennium" in the (god-forsaken) tailblock; and his ongoing role in Superpark, one of snowboarding's marquee get-togethers.

Bridges might get a bit of heat for his fascination with handplants—and insistence on busting them out anytime a nice piece of tranny and a crowd presents itself— but the man's no armchair quarterback: he has successfully handplanted 43 different wallrides.

Read on and see what it feels like to get, um, "a little Pat on your back."

Continue reading the "Pat Bridges Interview:"

ESPN: You're known for more than your inverts, Pat—including being an outspoken, if gruff, voice defending snowboarding's core interests. Are you naturally outspoken or has your position at Snowboarder kind of forced you to speak up when it comes to what's best for snowboarding?

PB: I appreciate you saying that. I just try to be frank. I actually feel pressure to be more outspoken. The feedback that gets relayed to me is that people want me to take more of a stance on stuff and be critical. I have become much more diplomatic as of late and I try to see all sides of an issue before sounding off. I have also learned to pick my battles. Unfortunately as snowboarding grows so do the number of battles to pick from...

What is your role in Superpark these days? You've been heavily involved in that program for a long time now...

I do everything from the inviting, to the contracts and insurance, to the coverage, to throwing salt all day on the runways. It gets hectic but is enormously satisfying... My ultimate goal is for the Superpark to be a snowboarding summit of sorts. It is the one opportunity a year riders from around the world get to congregate without having to wear a bib or adhere to someone else's schedule. You get the chance to ride what you want, when you want, with whomever you want.

I don't even care if people produce or not at Superpark. I get stoked on riders, filmers, photographers, and team managers getting a chance to hang out and mix it up regardless of logos, language barriers, and film crew affiliations. There really isn't anything else like it. The other aspect of Superpark that really stokes me out is the creative output of the collaborative builders. Some incredible stuff has come out of Superpark, like C Boxes for example.

What do you think Superpark brings to snowboarding now that it's been around and established for a while? Do you think "the next Travis Rice" might be discovered at a future Superpark?

Superpark brings credit to the park builders across the world for the often thankless and lonely endeavor of pushing snow for others to enjoy. Dished out decks, safety hips, c-boxes, step-overs etc... are all part of the legacy of Superpark terrain. A misperception of Superpark as of late has been that it is too gnarly and that A List talent doesn't show. There certainly is an established group of pros who won't make the trek to Superpark because they don't want to hit groomed 80 footers. This is understandable, but I suspect that part of it is that they don't want to get shown up by a relatively unknown hot shoe on top of their park game. This happened with Torstein Horgmo three years ago at Keystone when he was chucking 1080's every lap. Now the snowboarding world knows who Torstein is and I'd definitely say he is A List. Superpark is in a great place right now because the kids who looked up to Travis Rice and his legendary Superpark performances are now established. People like Dustin Craven, Pat Moore, Scotty Lago, and Chas Guldemond got the nod to ride Superpark when they were all 16 or younger. All they knew of Superpark at that age was Travis Rice and his insane riding. This is in their Superpark fabric and they know that you get out of the event what you put into it.

Pat Bridges has successfully handplanted 43 different wallrides in his lifetime. And one giant eyeball.

That said, if you could assemble the "ultimate snowboarder" in a lab, using physical, mental and even emotional parts from any snowboarders, alive or dead, which parts would you poach from who and why?

I would have to say Travis Rice for the physical, mental and emotional. No matter the situation, Travis Rice is the most impressive snowboarder on the hill—period. He is hitting trees in That's It, That's All on jumps that are bigger than some riders have in their whole parts! He also has brought the huck back to top level snowboarding, which few riders of that caliber are willing to do. Awesome. Mentally I'd say Lonnie Kauk. He is a consistent dude. I have seen him jump 200 times in a row over three days on 70 footers without falling once.

Emotionally I would say Pat Moore. He has an uncommon determination and a clear plan for what he wants to accomplish in snowboarding. His emotional side comes from having roots. Pat and I were in China following Terje down the hill. Terje stopped and asked us to follow him onto a boardercoss course for a few turns. Pat looked at me, smiled, and then bent his leading arm in tribute to Terje's old boardercoss clips in the first Transworld Video Magazines. Danny Davis was with us and his arm wasn't bent...

Top 3 inverts of all time and why.

Frontside inverts are all time. They are common but I can't do 'em. [Joel] Muzzey always tells me not to sweat it because Tony Hawk can't do 'em either. Other than that I am going to list the three best handplanters of all time. First is Shane Flood. Guy had every handplant, both regular and switch. Next is Travis Rice. His handplant on the elevated box in New Zealand during Community Project is so gnarly. He also has the best Elguerial in the book. Last is a tie between Pat Moore, Dustin Craven and Scott Shaw. Actually Scott Shaw is probably the third best. He did invent the Frontside invert to fakie the hard way aka the T-Bag. And, no—I don't mean a Miller flip.

My Shaun White interview from three or four years ago is the one I am most proud of. Shaun gave me a frank portrayal of his extraordinary life. It was unfiltered and I got the real story of what it was like to be this freakish kid in a sport where he had no peers.

What should the snowboarding community be afraid of these days?

The biggest competition our sport has is video games. You can buy a PS3 or X-Box 360 for less money than a board not including the boots, bindings, clothes etc... Then you can buy two games for the cost of one lift ticket. The high costs of snowboarding are currently the biggest hurdle our sport faces not only for growth but more importantly retention.

I've gotta say I am tired of people wanting to grow snowboarding via exposure. Seriously, who hasn't already seen snowboarding? We are creeping up on our fourth Olympics and have had over a dozen X-Games. Recently a new tour has been hyped and touted as "helping to grow snowboarding." It is doing no more than anything else on Network TV has done to grow snowboarding. It is growing the amount of money that Viacom is making off of snowboarding for sure. I must admit that watching the event live on the tube was convenient except that it was on a Sunday which kept me and however many other weekend warriors off the hill.

At this stage of the media game... in order for a new event to "grow snowboarding" participation they need to show something new—and I don't mean a 1440! Why not showcase an event that does it different and right and it is under-publicized like the Vail Session or Air and Style. Both of these events have unfortunately been cancelled and both of these events displayed snowboarding far better than anything I have seen on network television. Hell, cover the [Mt. Baker] Banked Slalom if you want to grow snowboarding. Just cover a different side than the one we have already seen a thousand times before. Oh but it is live. Great, I should have started a fantasy snowboarding pool and drafted Shaun White. Oh wait, I already did when I bought his video game...

If Pat Bridges isn't at the Snowboarder Mag office, you can probably find him lapping Mammoth's Unbound terrain park. Here he puts one down at the West Coast Invitational.

You've interviewed pretty much every rider who has ever made it on the shred radar and even a few who haven't. Name some of your top interviews of all time:

My Shaun White interview from three or four years ago is the one I am most proud of. Shaun gave me a frank portrayal of his extraordinary life. It was unfiltered and I got the real story of what it was like to be this freakish kid in a sport where he had no peers. I was really endeared to him after that. I wanted to camp in a van at the base of Mt. Hood as a twelve year old with Cathy and the "Rog." Unfortunately he was a bit too frank and some of the best parts didn't hit the newsstand. He spoke of pros trying to get him to do bong hits when he was way young and how he was very close to leaving Burton to ride for Jeenyus. Of course he has really blown up since then so I doubt I could get that same story today. People who are on the verge of success are the best to interview because they are fearless and I must admit na´ve to the potential backlash that can ensue when you are too forthcoming. I got one of my best interviews with Mike Michalchuck when he was about to blow up.

Marc Frank Montoya is always a good interview because his voice is so distinctive. I know a lot of people hate on how he butchers the English language but with Marco it works. The best thing about interviewing Marco though is that he isn't afraid to tell it like he sees it. He really speaks his mind, which is refreshing. Natasza Zurek was another memorable interview. I don't think many people invested any time in reading that one because I didn't hear much about it. She really is one of the most passionate snowboarders out there. I could relate to so much of her story. She has a journal with notes about every day she has ever ridden a snowboard going back more than fifteen years. Amazing.

How the hell has a crusty, East Coast chain smoker like you survived in golf-shirted, plastic, uppity Orange County for all these years?

California is a means to an end. Living in California for six months enables me to travel and write about snowboarding the other six. In turn, my being so ill equipped for SoCal means that it is easier for me to focus on work. When I am in SoCal I am all business. I just settle into the office and do what I can to keep this program intact...

Do you think that oversaturation is a problem in snowboarding?

Oversaturation of our sport on all fronts has eroded snowboarding's culture greatly. In the 1994 Snowboarder Magazine Buyers Guide there were 362 different models of boards featured from less than 50 companies. In Burton's 2009 consumer catalog they have specs for 239 different models not including their Series 13 custom board program. This endeavor by Burton to create every possible product to improve the riding experience for every possible rider out there is so admirable but is it overkill? I must point out that Burton isn't alone in this. Every company is extending their product offerings beyond what is necessary. Having lines like this could be helpful to the consumers but it greatly harms the specialty retailer. The only stores able to match this initiative with their orders are online. Putting specialty retailers in jeopardy is another instance where our sport's culture is being eroded. Such extensive lines also reduce a board's ability to become iconic. Recently, Peter Line told me that his Division 23 Rainbow board may have sold 40,000 units or something like that. While he admitted that this number could have been exaggerated it is plausible considering his stature at the time and the fact that there were only seven real players in the board market and they each offered anywhere between eight and 50 models apiece. Now successful pro models are those that can maintain sales in the four figures.

Instead of there being three international events in a weekend that each offer 20 grand for first there should only be one with 60 grand for first. Instead of there being ten videos that sell 20,000 copies each there should be four videos selling 50,000 copies like it was ten years ago!

Ten years ago, every video part was incredible because there were only four videos. The filler parts from back then are still amazing and would be first or last parts today. The democratization of media through the Internet and accessible cameras and computers has made people who are equipped to pursue something as a pastime try to make a run at turning it into an occupation. All of this media forces people to have a passive approach to snowboard culture. It gets too diluted. Nothing resonates. Too many videos leads to too many film pros. Too many film pros dilutes the accomplishments and opportunity and esteem afforded to the top talent. Too many contests leads to too many contest pros, which leads to the best talent not getting the recognition and compensation they deserve. Instead of there being three international events in a weekend that each offer 20 grand for first there should only be one with 60 grand for first. Instead of there being ten videos that sell 20,000 copies each there should be four videos selling 50,000 copies like it was ten years ago!

What role do you feel you personally play in the grand scheme of snowboarding?

Who knows? I feel privileged to work every day with people I came up riding with and have known for 15 years. That I am grateful for. I like to think that my still being involved is a reminder that when it comes to snowboarding the inmates can run the asylum. Every job interview in our industry should begin with the question, "Are you regular or goofy?" This insures that snowboarding is led by snowboarders as opposed to carpetbaggers and accountants. That is so long as those cagey regular footers don't lie when answering that question...

What role would you prefer to play if you changed things up?

I would love to have the opportunity to work closely on the US Open and help it regain its place as the must see/must do/must enter event of the year. I first competed there in 1987 and have seen it in each stage of its existence. I have judged the rookie awards there, announced, provided coverage, partied, you name it and I have done it at the Open. I have definite ideas...

Since you're normally the interlocutor interviewing others, we're going to give you the rare opportunity to ask yourself a question and answer it here.

How about this: "Would you like ESPN to edit down all this tangent-laden babble into something that anyone with a dial-up modem can easily load and read in five minutes?" Yes... —Colin Whyte / Redcard Writing Group