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Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Love over money: Kevin Jones & Bluebird

kevin jones, bluebird
Bluebird snowboards: the announcement.

Kevin Jones and Willie McMillon are starting a snowboard company. You may have heard of the Jackson Hole, Wyoming-based company Bluebird Wax before, or seen the logo adorning the boards of Travis Rice, Nicolas Müller, John Jackson, Scotty Lago, Bryan Iguchi, Jamie Lynn, or a number of other, seemingly countless shreds.

Well, now Bluebird is going to make snowboards, too. Jones and McMillon will be the first two riders representing the board team. The "love over money" tattoos you see in the picture there are their contracts.

For those who don't remember, Kevin Jones was to snowboarding in the early 2000s what Travis Rice is to the early 2010s: a contest/kicker/big-mountain triple threat, three-time Snowboarder Magazine Rider of the Year and two-time ESPN Rider of the Year, with nine X Games medals, his own movie, pro-model snowboard and boot, and action figure.

Citing severe burnout, Jones abruptly and completely disappeared from the snowboard world in 2005. Today he, literally, lives in a van down by the river. (Actually, it's a trailer, and it's parked on Rob Kingwill's lawn in Idaho. There's a river nearby.) But the legend has been back at it since 2009 -- quietly, and without fanfare, riding almost every day of the past few winters in Jackson Hole. This is his first real venture back out into the spotlight.

McMillon, meanwhile, started Bluebird in his house, making wax on his kitchen stove in 1996, and has since gone on to assemble a pretty impressive roster of loyal team members who, much like the Mafia or someone with a 72-count felony conviction, generally join the crew for life.

Interesting fun fact: both Jones and McMillon got their TransWorld Check Outs in the same issue in 1997.

We caught up with the dynamic duo to see what their new deal was all about.

ESPN: One question: Why?
Kevin Jones and Willie McMillon:
We both started snowboarding almost a quarter century ago, back when the industry belonged to the snowboarders. We quickly watched corporate outsiders come in and take control and go on to kill the soul of our sport.

Snowboarding doesn't need another board brand. What it needs are more real, true snowboarders running snowboard brands.

We live, breath, and bleed snowboarding. We live in the mountains. We ride every day because we love it. This isn't a career choice. This is a way of life for us.

These corporate outsiders who own and run snowboard companies, but don't really know anything about it outside of what they see on their spreadsheets, have been in control for too long. The creativity and the love comes from us, and they just sit back and profit on it, and then try and dictate what's cool and what isn't, who's in and who's out, and what snowboarding looks like to the outside world.

And now we have a ton of the biggest snowboarding legends and pioneers being pushed out and told their dream and way of life is over. Some of these athletes are barely 30 years old. It's time for us to take back our sport.

We're not trying to save the world. Snowboarding has given us everything we have. We owe it to snowboarding to try to save it. We want to give something back.

What made you feel like the world needed another snowboard brand?
Snowboarding doesn't need another board brand. What it needs are more real, true snowboarders running snowboard brands.

Why not just partner with a cool rider-based snowboard company that's already out there trying to fight the power? Strength in numbers and all that.
We just want to do it our own way.

I'm 17 years old. Kevin Jones quit snowboarding when I was 11 and not really paying attention. I probably think Jamie Lynn is a girl. I am also part of the largest demographic of full-retail snowboard purchasers. So tell me: why do I care?
This is exactly our point. Snowboarding has lost its sense of history because the corporate number crunchers and SoCal shaka-throwers in our industry don't support the people who helped shape the culture and world we have today.

kevin jones, bluebird, triple backflip
Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks? Kevin Jones: triple backflip.Watch it in his part in the new Standard movie, TB20.

Every 17-year-old surfer out there knows who Gerry Lopez is. Every 17-year-old skateboarder knows who Steve Caballero is. People in surfing and skateboarding care about their roots, because it's the people with experience who help the next generation of kids understand where they came from, and what's real and what's just a bunch of marketing hype.

Meanwhile people running snowboard companies are just out looking for the next nine-year-old Shaun White. Out with the old, in with the new. Kids grow up thinking it's all about sponsorship and dollars. They can ride their whole lives without ever once making a turn in powder. They don't really have a chance.

Camber, reverse camber, rocker, double rocker, splitboard or rollerblade -- what's your board tech, and why?
Those are all fly-by-night gimmicks. We are making boards for people who actually ride down mountains.

What's the story behind your ad?
Would you take your car to a mechanic who's never worked on a car? Would you buy a parachute from someone who has never jumped out of an airplane? Why would you buy a snowboard from someone who doesn't live and breathe snowboarding? What did those people do to deserve your support?

If you don't want to support our brand, that's fine. But if you're a true snowboarder, and you believe in this life, please just support real snowboard brands run by real snowboarders. That's all we ask.