|ESPN.com: Snowboarding||[Print without images]|
|Dan Brisse, lurking in the Wyoming woods.|
When you listen to pro snowboarders grouse about "work this" and "work that" it can sound like a bad joke. They may have to wake up preposterously early and spend way too much time on planes, but try telling the guy digging graves in Cleveland that any aspect of snowboarding for a living is either "hard" or, indeed, "work." Try itwe dare you.
Hometown Then: Richmond, Minnesota
Hometown Now: Salt Lake City, Utah
Marital Status: Married
Religious Affiliations: None
Sponsors: Volcom, Capita, Von Zipper, Deeluxe Boots, Union Bindings, Celtek, DVS, Nixon, Skullcandy, Milo Sport and The Youth Shelter Supply
Brisse's filming career started at 17 when he began working with the Youth Shelter Supply back in Minnesota and he still shoots for their project every year. The Capita team movie in '07/08, "First Kiss," was Dan's first part in a widely distributed video and he added Pirate Productions "Overseas" to his resume soon after. Dan is now part of the Absinthe Films roster, arguably the premier outlet today.
But forget, for a minute, that snowboarding is a pretty sweet gig and meet Dan Brisse. A recent Q&A dubbed him "the hardest working man in snowboarding." And it's not just damning with faint praise, either: one of his longtime sponsors at Volcom, Billy Anderson, actually refers to him as "Blue Collar Brisse." Seldom will you hear Dan's name [pronounced breezy] without getting an earful about either his level of dedication or how refreshing it is to deal with a rider with this kind of no-bull, Midwest work ethic. Nate Bozung he is not.
"I take it seriously because I love it more than anything," Brisse told ESPN. "Snowboarding for a living is what I have wanted since I was 14 years old going to school in Minnesota. Plus, it seems to me like a lot of snowboarders get into the scene and do pretty well for a hot minute and then slowly relax and fade out. I don't want to be that guy."
Truth is, Brisse does more in a hot minute than some pro riders do in a week. "That guy" he is not. Stan Evans, a photographer who has worked with Brisse extensively, told us that he made a date with Dan to shoot a Salt Lake rail early season and, once they had their shots in short order, Dan went on to shoot two more urban features with two more photographers he had lined up for afternoon and evening sessions.
|Dan Brisse handling a jump at the Camp of Champions. He had to cut his visit short this summer after suffering an ankle sprain.|
A filmer he logs a lot of footage with, Shane Charlebois, concurs: "Lasers coming out of his eyes...unreal focus...a Terminator of sorts. He will not stop until he has accomplished what he sets out to do. At the same time he's gnarly, he's also one of the nicest people around."
This 25 year-old pro from Minnesota, who now calls Salt Lake City home, can spin onto the heaviest handrails with an unrivaled sense of ownership, mixing the meaty aggression of a much bigger guy with the kind of finesse not often seen in tandem. He's one of the few urban enthusiasts who can make riding street rails look fun rather than simply scary. And, even though Dan grew up in rail-happy Richmond, he has quickly become part of the emerging elite on the kind of man-sized Cottonwood kickers associated with names like Travis Rice and (fellow-Minnesotan-turned-Utahan) Bjorn Leines. He takes to big backcountry booters like he was born for them.
How did Dan do it? By taking his fun seriously as it turns out. By treating his favorite pastime like a job from an early age: apprentice; journeyman; and, someday soon if his star keeps rising, master.
Dented But Not Damaged
It's a windy Sunday night in July when ESPN meets up with Dan in Seattle's Pioneer Square. The downtown core is shut-up tight and even the multiple Starbucks are shuttered. The streets appear to be populated exclusively by b-grade thugs and empty coffee cups. Even the police sirens sound a little phoned in tonight.
|How's this for some pop? Brisse going for it in the Utah backcountry.|
Dan limps into the Italian restaurantthe only spot openlooking boyish and slightly broken, wife Melissa at his side. They're on their way south from a truncated summer at Whistler's Camp of Champions where Dan's been sessioning the massive COC terrain park with stand-out snow bros like Torstein Horgmo and Capita teammate TJ Schneider. Unfortunately, when Dan was hitting the second jump in the double line, he came up short and decked, spraining his ankle. But he's okay with it. He's earned this injury time.
Brisse says that "85 to 90-percent" of his pro career now revolves around laying down a solid film partwhich might come as a surprise to folks who reckon all pro riders yearn for Olympic gold. Chasing powder around the globe; having your most ambitious/inane moments filmed 24/7 for posterity; free snowboards; a pay check. Again: it hardly sounds like work, but for Dan Brisse it is:
"I think snowboarding can be a year-round job if that is something you want. During the winter it's all go, and then spring hits and it goes into this mellow period, which is cool... But, at the same time, I have a hard time relaxing and sitting around. I actually have to try to relax and I can honestly say it's hard for me. So I try to do stuff that can prepare me for the winter during the summer." Hence the hardcore glacier time and his handy habit of looking for good urban features to ride (rails, ledges, parking structures) and locking their locations into his GPS; this way, once the snow flies, he doesn't have to waste any time looking for something to shoot. Dude doesn't mess around.
Some riders manage to coast for years on talent and connections but Dan seems to know that it's the point at which talent and hard work converge that real results start showing. He's young enough, at 25, to have seen guys blow their chances and yet he's old enough, at 25, to have studied the riders really driving their careersWalker, Jones (x2), Rice et al. Like these guys, he doesn't just go out with a cameraman and hope for the best, chucking some tricks; his approach to building a video part he can be proud of is deliberate, methodical and leaves no room for excuses.
"It can take a ton of work to get one shot," he says, "but the feeling I get after I get a great shot is addictive. I've always admired the dudes that have rad video parts year in and year out [ed. see above] and it's something I will always work for." When you see the footage he laid down this year involving two full-size dump trucks being gapped back home in Minnesota, it becomes clear that when you want to do some heavy work, you gotta bring in some heavy equipment.
|Bomb drops, cliff drops, fence hops, Dan Brisse does it all. Sketchy street gap, Salt Lake City, Utah.|
Brisse's filming career started at 17 when he began working with the Youth Shelter Supply back in Minnesota and he still shoots for their project every year. The Capita team movie in '07/08, "First Kiss," was Dan's first part in a widely distributed video and he added Pirate Productions "Overseas" to his resume soon after. His dynamic riding couldn't stay under wraps for long and now Dan finds himself part of the Absinthe Films roster, arguably the premier outlet today.
"No matter the size of the video company, I will always work my hardest to create the best video part possible. The only person I feel pressure from is myself because I know where I want my snowboarding to go... Each year feels like a stepping-stone in a positive direction and I am just trying to make the most of each opportunity given to me. Finally making it into Absinthe's amazing line-up [Rice, Müller, Rüf], I wanted to continue progressing, stay focused and have fun snowboarding. And it was another awesome year!"
If the awww shucks positivity sounds a bit like a cornfield quarterback who's finally made the NFL, just remember we're talking about a pro snowboarder who cut his teeth in Minnesota. This ain't no fake PR stoke. The nice guy has teeth. When asked whether five years in Utah had changed him, he said, "Utah introduced me to backcountry jumps, but didn't change anything about my drive or work ethic. I'm 100-percent Minnesota."
Jibbing The Family Tree
A quick check-in with mom JoAnn back home suggests that Dan might have begun training before he even strapped in: "When he was just 13 months old, Daniel had climbed from the bed to the top of a dresser, about two-and-a-half feet tall. I have a picture of this moment and it looks as if he wanted to have a closer look at the horse and parrot hanging on the wall... So, there was Daniel, facing the wall, steadying himself with one hand, his knees bent, looking down at the bed from where he had just come from. He looked as if he was studying his options for a safe landing, the same way he contemplates his landing before one of his big snowboard jumps today. He wasn't afraid, wasn't crying, nor was he asking for help to get down. He simply stood there, contemplating how he was going to get back down..."
|Dan Brisse and Travis Rice: dropping hammers every time they step into the woods.|
Dad Vernon tells similar tales of early Midwest get-downs and step-ups and reckons the kid was straight born for it, too: "At home, there was a large steep hill that went down to a lake, and on it Dan set high, wood-structured jumps, low jumps, and two separate rails that he and his friends hit many years in a row. If there was no snow, the guys headed to the ice rink in town to get snow by the truckload, shaved off the rink by the Zamboni."
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Dan Brisse dynamic is what a big deal his hard-working nature and nice guy demeanor have become in the OC-cool of the snowboard industry, where style can sometimes outstrip substance. Dan obviously thinks it's funny that these traits make him odd or even an "outcast" in a world where being cool counts for more than, say, showing up on time or doing your job:
"Yeah, it's comedy!" he said. "For sure, growing up in Minnesota, I got those traits from my parents and friends and I would never change the person I am to fit into being a 'cool' guy. People in the Midwest seem to be very genuine, real people and I really admire that... As far as work ethic goes, it started when I was in high school and had this dream of becoming a professional snowboarder. My parents were, and are, extremely supportive of me doing what I enjoy, but they didn't fund this career. That was my job."