Grilled: Danny Davis talks snowboarding, style and what’s up next

Comments by Susie Floros/

Since he came onto the snowboard scene, Michigan born Danny Davis has been turning heads with his style-heavy riding. Danny’s no stranger to the US Open, winning the rookie award at the 23rd annual US Open in 2005. Fast-forward nine years later and Danny is a top contender, an X Games gold medalist, an Olympian, and continues to attract attention as a rider who embodies snowboarding’s core.

Davis’ progressive ideas for revamping the contest scene, combined with his focus on keeping riding fun, have other riders looking to him to save snowboarding… if in fact it needs to be saved. Seems like it’s alive and well with Davis and his Burton x Martin Guitar collab board at the helm. I had the honor of sitting down with @travelindan the day before the US Open semi-finals. Here’s what Danny had to say…

Signature style | P: Gabe L'Heureux

Signature style | P: Gabe L’Heureux

So we’ll go ahead and get the Olympics out of the way…how was the whole Sochi experience for you?
It was cool, it was fun. It was like a music festival with no music… just tons of people, lots of security, all mixed-in with a tiny little bit of snowboarding. It was really fun, like an athletic festival. We went to hockey games, and it was really cool. And to meet a bunch of other top-end athletes I think was pretty neat. So the experience was great— the snowboarding in the halfpipe was very average, but the mountain was sick and we got to ride a good amount of pow there, and it was a blast.

The first three days were like the best three days of the year, and then I was psyched to ride pipe, and it just wasn’t that fun to ride, so it was a bummer. But it was a good experience. I’ve never been to Russia so that was neat.

And you were one of the most outspoken riders on the pipe conditions…
I think everyone was pretty bummed on it. Yeah, I was a little more vocal, but I don’t think anybody was afraid to say what they thought. I mean it was very apparent even to just anybody watching… watching boards doing crazy things on the flat bottom… you couldn’t not tell. But I think at the same time, as bad as it was, sometimes things just have to happen like that. And now I feel like it’s more known to the public that these guys who have formed this Olympic contest and all that… it’s out there now that something needs to change. The pipe in Vancouver sucked, that [Sochi] pipe sucked; if it’s going to be the Olympics, it should to be the best thing, and they actually have to make sure that happens. I feel like it’s just out there more now, maybe on everybody’s minds a little bit more.

Davis, riding his Martin Guitar Burton board straight on to the 2014 X Games podium | P: Tim Peare

Davis, riding his Martin Guitar Burton board straight to the top of the 2014 X Games podium | P: Tim Peare

Hopefully in Korea it’s proper…
Yeah, someone from Korea was out there taking notes, and was like, “What’s the deal with the pipe? What’s the deal with this, that?” So, they’ll do it right.

What’s your favorite pipe you’ve ridden in the past year? Including the one that you helped create…
Peace Pipes are pretty fun… but the best standard halfpipe was Dew Tour this year. Peace Park is always fun, but that’s kind of like a skate park more than a halfpipe. It’s just got all kinds of sick little lines to find, and I think exploring more of those is going to be the future for some of us.

Are you going to the Red Bull Double Pipe?
We’re trying to get a nice pow trip in before it gets too warm everywhere, trying to get Lago and a bit of a crew… maybe try to get Terje to come… so if it’s good somewhere, then our plan is to possibly bail and go there. But the Red Bull thing sounds fun, and I’m in support of changing the traditional halfpipe, so I feel like I should support it and go, because I really think it’s good.

Dave Seoane is here as your filmer. How did you guys link up? What’s the story there?
We worked together a few years ago on a Mountain Dew thing that obviously they never used, because that’s just how they do it sometimes… but we had a great time at Mikey Basich’s cabin. The snow was pretty average when we went… but then Susan [Izzo] was like, hey we should make a movie, just on your experience. And like I said, we are still figuring out exactly what it’s about, but in my eyes it’s somewhat about my experience, my season, and then talking a bit about where snowboarding is right now, and where I’d like it to go, and where I think it’s going…

Where do you see snowboarding going? Where is it at, the way you see it?
It’s tough, because I watch a lot of people here, and everybody seems like they could finally take a breath once they got to this contest. The Olympics is always stressful, but never so much as it was this year… people feeling so uptight at the top of the pipe, and the vibe was just different.
I think for me, if I’m going to keep progressing in the halfpipe and riding jumps and all that, it needs to become more fun again and not just like, “okay, fuck, I have to learn a fucking triple.” We have to create stuff that’s fun to ride, that’s not downright scary; we just have to bring a bit more feeling and soul back to contests, because they’re almost turning into a World Cup circuit, where everyone is just trying to do as good as they can to get to the next contest, ya know?

Enjoying 'the best pipe of the season' in Breckenridge | P: Gabe L'Heureux

Enjoying ‘the best pipe of the season’ in Breckenridge | P: Gabe L’Heureux

When did you know you could introduce the switch method? Because you weren’t really doing the switch method until this year, in your run… so where did that come from?
Yeah… I started riding switch a lot, riding switch for like 4 or 5 days in Park City. I was riding with Torah [Bright] and Benny, and then the pipe was good, but not for like, doubles and stuff…. not quite that good, to where I was comfortable, so I was like, “I’m just gonna ride a bunch of switch until this thing is better.” So then it started to be really fun, and I just rode switch a bunch and tried to mirror everything I did regular, switch. Then I got to Mammoth, and in Mammoth’s pipe they just worked really well… that one wall just gets so much sun, so I could set my edge really well. And this one [the Burton US Open pipe] will be very similar, so that’ll be fun to ride. But yeah, just having fun, just really riding and kind of like, “Oh, shit! That’s fun, and that works, nobody else is doing that…”

Also see:
Grilled: Kelly Clark on 30-second cries, digging deeper than ever before & why her Olympic medal really matters
Grilled: Olympic gold medalist Jamie Anderson— slope queen & all-around good human
Grilled: Slope Style— Norwegian powerhouse Ståle Sandbech

Well, that’s what really stood out, from seeing you ride from when you were 15 in New Zealand until now— just the way you grab your board and tweak it. Do you think you’ve had an influence? Because I’ve personally seen judging sway towards style, finally; there have been some upsets this year…
Yeah, more and more I feel like. Style, the way you tweak your board, all that stuff… the way that Ingmar and Terje and Guch… Jamie… everybody does it differently, but they do tweak it, and they do it their way, and that’s what’s so legendary and cool about those guys’ style. We just lose a lot of that with all this flipping and spinning, because you’re just getting the trick done, you’re not really tying to poke it out or make it look super sick. You’re just like, “alright, I gotta do a double-cork 10, I just gotta get this thing around to the next trick.”

It’s kind of fun just to make shit look cool. It’s good the judges are starting to notice it… sometimes I feel guilty if I do well, and I feel like all these kids just flipped and spun all the way down the pipe, and I don’t think I could do that run that they’re doing. I’m like, “God, that was gnarly,” and then I just do a switch air or back 3 or whatever, and I get more points for it, and sometimes it’s crazy.

Davis, taking first at the 2014 X Games with a proper switch method | P: Tim Peare

Davis, taking first at the 2014 X Games with a proper switch method | P: Tim Peare

What’s your plan going into the Open, then? Just have fun?
I’m at like 75% right now, my body’s beaten up, but I wish I was a 100 for it, because the halfpipe is going to be fun… but I’m just going to ride as good as I can, and try to do something new, something different.

You picked up a new sponsor, a guitar sponsor — what’s the story with that?
That one kind of came up through Burton. That was one of the best things that has happened this year. I started working on that board with Burton, so really I owe that all to Burton and Jack [Mitrani] does too. I just went to the factory and met everyone and we all just had a really good time and everyone was super like-minded, and they were like, “We’d love you to be an ambassador,” and I was like, “right on,” and then Jack really wanted to go visit the factory so he did the same thing, he just hit it off… so now we get guitars that are way out of our price range…

Putting down a solid run in Mammoth and earning himself a spot on the US Olympic team | 2014 Mammoth Grand Prix | P: Tim Peare

Danny earning a spot on the US Olympic team | 2014 Mammoth Grand Prix | P: Tim Peare

Martin Guitars, right? Which are the best…
The best! Like 1833, they started that company. It’s old, super old, and it’s always been in the family… that place reminds me a lot of Burton, because everything is built with Craig’s facility and everything, and it’s the same there, out in this warehouse, that’s where all the guitars are built. And then there’s the custom shop, which reminds me of where JG and Doyle are at, and the family still owns it.

Frendly Gathering plans?
So we just announced the line-up yesterday. It’s a pretty good line-up for right now, and we’ll announce the rest of that sometime soon. Yeah, it’s gonna be a blast— yoga, music, skating, camping— and we’re going to try to do some other stuff this year too, maybe an obstacle course or something like that.

Stayed tuned, as Danny brings his signature switch to the 32nd Burton US Open halfpipe this weekend in Vail