Mike LeBlanc: The Way I See it
Words: Mike Leblanc
Photos: Bob Plumb
Originally featured in Snowboard Mag Vol. 10, Issue 3 | The Cerebral Issue
Snowboarding is a vehicle for freedom. There is nothing serious about sliding down the hill on high-tech toys made of wood, plastic and metal. We can have just as much fun on any old piece of wood, and often have more fun when we venture to try new or old technologies that offer us new experiences. It’s a lift ticket to the fresh and unknown. We forget the norm, our daily lives and can be in the world with fresh eyes.
During my professional snowboard career, I often had a plan to do this trick this way on that thing or do that turn by that tree to set up for a trick in a line. I spent almost 15 years riding this way, and while that kind of riding was immensely fun, in hindsight it was also limiting. Whenever I had a plan and something “went wrong,” which is impossible actually, I was then reeling for recovery in the midst of my actions. I wanted things to be static and was often upset that things didn’t go as planned.
One day near the end of my career while filming in Utah with Absinthe Films and the living legend, Gigi Rüf, we were standing on top of a line that Gigi and I were about to drop in on. Gigi in his light way and Austrian accent asked me what I was going to do, and I of course had a plan. “I’m going to turn there, and hit that, and pop off that, and then slash for the camera.” Then I asked Gigi, “What are you gonna do?” My teacher responded, “I don’t know, I just go and see what the mountain tells me is coming, and then I do what comes up.” I’ll never forget that moment and I have let it sink in over the years. It’s helped me enjoy my riding and also helped me in my life. Gigi is an advanced practitioner of the way of freedom, expression and living in the moment, and I appreciate that wisdom.
Now the world falls away when I drop in on a line, or I throw myself into oblivion off a stair set. When I drop in these days, the vision I had of the line to be or the ollie to come is no longer what I thought it was while I was conceiving what I planned to do. It’s about an everyday practice of turning my ideas and dreams into action, and letting go to make the best of it in the moment. Chasing dreams and painting the mountain our own unique way shows the world how we create, who we are, what we want to share, and then we act on it. It’s an avenue to let us scream, squeal, push our fears a bit and laugh and feel the pain and passion of life, right now. Get wild, be free; drop in with knowledge, skills and visions, but let go of the goals. When I ride this way it’s like a perfectly planned ballet, with no script. It’s the act of letting go in action and all is perfect.