Grilled: Mark McMorris talks Terje, surfing, and his roller coaster season

Comments by Susie Floros/

Hailing from the prairie lands of Saskatchewan, Canada, Mark McMorris stormed onto the snowboarding scene in 2011, stomping the first ever backside triple cork 1440, taking silver at X Games, winning the Air & Style and kicking off what has since become a strikingly impressive career.

Since his introduction, McMorris has become a definitive leader in the progression of slopestyle snowboarding, racking up an excessive collection of podium finishes— winning the Dew Tour, taking 2nd at X Games, scoring a bronze medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and earning his 2nd consecutive US Open title this season alone— and a slew of banger video parts, from Travis Rice’s “Art of Flight” to this year’s “Burton Presents [Snowboarding].”

The protege of the legend himself, Terje Haakonsen, McMorris’ already prolific career hasn’t lost an ounce of momentum, even after a roller coaster season of huge ups, downs, broken ribs and intense pressure. For now, the 20-year-old phenom is just happy to take a breath, check-out of the contest scene and go hone his surfing skills on the North Shore.

Mark McMorris | P: Tim Peare

Mark McMorris | P: Tim Peare

First of all, congrats on winning the US Open!
Thank you!

So this was your last contest of the season, right?
Yep, very excited about that.

Your career has taken off at lightning speed. You even have a TV show now. What’s it been like for you, adjusting?
It’s been okay, because everybody is just so stoked, and positive and happy. So it’s not like a weird boost, it’s just – I think my whole career has just been moving super fast, like I was a no-name, and then I won a few contests and then I was on Burton, and then I was in the movies and in the contest scene… so it’s always been super fast. And it’s just been continuing to go faster and faster, and to grow bigger and bigger; but at the same time it’s also been on this super level incline. It’s been going really fast, but it started slow, went fast here; went fast here; went fast here… so I just hope it continues the way it is. And I have an insane group of fans and supporters, so it’s been really fun.

I’m just so stoked because I knew this was my last event of the year and all I wanted to do was end it the way that I did. I was just so happy yesterday. Everything has been so great this year, but with so many ups and owns it’s just been ridiculous; judging, injuries, stress, pressure… it’s just been … but I’ve managed. My first event was Dew Tour and the night before the contest I got food poisoning, so I could barely even ride qualis. I fell on my first run, landed my second, made it in there and then ended up winning the contest. The I didn’t compete until X Games, landed a great run but they put Maxence [Parrot] in first after second run, which in my mind was sketchy but I was stoked for him— he rode great— but that’s X Games. They wanted to see me do something crazy. Obviously I was thinking a jump ahead, and caught my edge and broke my rib. That really sucked and was really painful, so that was a huge down.

And then I was able to bring it right back up, and fall on my first run in [Olympic Slopestyle] qualis, land my second run, get screwed by the judges; fall on my first run in semi-finals, land my second run, sneak into finals; land my last run of the Olympic Finals and stay on the podium. It was, if you’ve been on a roller coaster, it would remind you of a roller coaster. It was so gnarly.

McMorris, topping the podium at the 2013 Burton US Open | P: Tim Peare

McMorris, topping the podium at the 2013 Burton US Open | P: Tim Peare

Something that has fascinated me about you is how Terje just took you under his wing. I’ve never seen him do that with anyone. How did you guys become friends? What’s the story there?
I think just because…I kind of just showed up on the scene, and I knew who Terje was, but he was at his prime sort of before I got interested in snowboarding so he wasn’t this guy that I was like, fanning out on. I was just like, “hey!” and treated him like a normal person. We became super good friends, and he has always told me about how Craig Kelly took him under his wing, and that’s exactly what he’s done for me. So it’s very, very cool.

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Even at Ultra Natural I noticed, when you were riding powder; Terje has a distinctive style, with his arm, and you have that. Is that conscious? Or is that natural?
No, I mean I guess you grow up and you watch people ride, and I rode the way I liked to see other people ride, with my own twist. So I think my arm just ended up similar to Terje’s. I don’t know, it’s not conscious; it’s just the way it fits when I ride.

It’s noticeable. I see it and I’m like, “oh, Mark reminds me of Terje.”
That’s cool.

We need to talk about your girlfriend, Coco Ho. How did you two meet?
We met like three X Games ago… she goes there with Target, and, yeah. Met her, and we just started hanging out, so.

redbull-ultra-natural-mark-mcmorris

McMorris at the 2013 Red Bull Ultra Natural | P: Tim Zimmerman / Red Bull

So now you get to go to Hawaii in your spare time.
Yeah, it’s so crazy. It’s such a good balance to have somebody in the industry who gets it, but isn’t in my industry exactly. She’s really mellow, and Hawaiian, and relaxed. And her family is super cool and to go to those places in my off time is a dream come true.

So you’ve fallen in love with surfing then too?
Yeah, very much so. I’m really excited to go surfing, it’s been a long time. I’m terrible though.

Gabe L’Heureux mentioned too, he said, “you have to ask him about the experience of surfing with Mike [Ho], her dad.” Was he just letting you have waves?
Yeah, surfing with Mike is so crazy. You paddle out, and everybody just kind of goes like… it’s like parting the seas. And he will just paddle into a wave and be like, “go Mark!” and I’m like, “alright!” And then everybody backs off and he’s paddling and then I get to go on this bomb and everybody is like, “who is that guy?” It’s pretty crazy, the royalty their family has on the North Shore. It’s next-level.

What’s it like surfing there? Is it pretty shallow reef?
Yeah, it’s gnarly. It’s so scary. She [Coco] has dragged me out on some big days and I’m just like watching people stand up in barrels, and I’m just so scared. I’ve definitely gotten slammed into the reef, and it’s no joke. Surfing is all fun and games, but it’s also gnarly. Her dad surfs big, big waves, and her brother [Mason Ho] is like— I compare her brother to the Danny Davis of snowboarding. Everybody just loves him; he’s super unique and has the best style.

Was it intimidating meeting them for the first time?
Oh yeah, for sure. I went to Hawaii, and I was leaving for Australia after that and got a bunch of boards shipped there, and her brother was like —I hadn’t met him yet, and he was Instagramming—my boards got there— and he Instagrammed running over them with his truck. Nothing happened, obviously, he was just joking, but they’re so nice, and so funny and cool. They’re just jokesters. They live a great life: they eat, sleep and surf. That’s all they do, that’s their job. They wake up and live the dream.

Has that inspired you?
Yeah, yeah for sure. They’re so stoked on snowboarding. Mike comes to X Games every year, he was there this year and the year before and he gets so stoked on it.

Doubling down on US Open wins | P: Susie Floros

The Burton US Open 2014: McMorris takes his second consecutive title | P: Susie Floros

Have you taken any surf style into your riding?
Definitely. When I was riding powder in Baldface the other day, yeah— I think snowboarding relates to surfing in the powder a lot, with the way you turn and ride your board. So, for sure, but it’s so different. Surfing is all about weight on your back foot, and it’s edge-to-edge in snowboarding. But in the powder it relates a bit more. I don’t know, I’m just terrible at surfing, but I’m getting better.

Let’s talk about your brother [Craig McMorris] for a second. It seems like you guys are really close and support each other, and his career is going an interesting way.
Yeah, Craig is extremely famous in Canada. People love him, and I love him—

Marie-France loves him…
Yeah [laughs] Marie-France loves him. He’s good, I don’t get to hang with him as much as I’d like but he’s still one of my best pals. I just think he has helped me a lot. He’s definitely my biggest inspiration, because whatever the situation is, he will never take it too seriously. He will always keep it lighthearted. I’m at the Olympics and the dude is making me laugh. He’s just such a good guy to have around. He’s an amazing shredder and he’s making his way in so many different ways. He’s the man.

Pre-broken rib, a smiling McMorris takes second in X Games qualis | P: Susie Floros

Pre-broken rib, a smiling McMorris takes second in X Games qualis | P: Susie Floros

So then for you, what’s your ultimate direction in snowboarding? Where do you see yourself?
I try not to plan anything too much, but just as long as I’m having fun competing, I’ll keep doing it. Because I am having a good time — when you’re doing well, you’re having a good time. There’s no doubt about that. So, just as long as I can do well and I’m having fun competing, I’ll keep competing. And the fact that I know there’s a totally different side of snowboarding that I love so much, and that I’ve been able to dabble my toes into a couple times, right next door… and that I’ll be able to go there when I’m done competing… I’m all good. I don’t have a strict plan, but I have an idea of what I will do in the future.

Do you think you’ll be similar to Terje? He’s just kept his finger on the pulse of snowboarding so deeply…
I sure as heck hope I can be someone like Terje!