The Pirates Bottom Line Is… Gigi Rüf (part 4)

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Gigi Rüf fs 7 | Photo: Ludschi

Words: Christian Bach

Flo originates from the Bodensee area in Germany. People from there often shred the Vorarlberg region in West Austria. This is where Flo took his handmade Backyard snowshoes in the late 90’s for intensified testing. The Backyard Camp was founded in a mountain hut to allow prolonged stays in the backcountry, and it featured the nephew of Backyard Camp’s landlord: Gigi Rüf. News about the Backyard Camp made it all the way up to Scandinavia resulting in Flo and Gigi’s friend Basti Balser coming down to shred the mostly hand-shaped kickers and bomb some lines with the local crew. The Backyard Camp came to famewithin the Euro shred community because it represented a spirit similar to the one found in Volcom’s American-based snowboard movie “the Garden”. This also attracted the young artist and photographer Ludschi and a Reggae and Dancehall Deejay well known in the Vorarlberg region – DJ Bugs. Shred sessions were shared and plans were made to go on shred trips together during the Backyard stays; so when Basti said he would rent a mobile home and take everybody from Munich all the way up to Riksgränsen, spots were filled quickly with Basti, Ludschi, Flo, Gigi and Bugs. Additionally, Ludschi introduced the then unknown Marco Feichtner or the trip’s rookie.

After traveling 2000-kilometers to the north, they had stopped at every spring session and bar bash hosted at the ski resorts along the road to Riksgränsen, and they had acquired a fearsome look and smell, which left them no other option but to call themselves, “The Pirates.” This is the flavor the first Pirate clip portrayed on 8mm and this still serves as the spice of the movies today. Gigi still feels that the Pirates are his European shred home. This qualifies him to say a few words with regards to the main characters in the Pirate crew and to speak about their place in the European snowboard landscape.

GIGI: Us the Pirates huh…? Well I would meet Basti at every snowboarding event I went to. He’s always down to stir things up, as I remember. Once during the old SPC summer camp, the bouncer kicked both of us out of the disco. Basti then drove his old Volvo back home, and I found a BB gun in his car and had the idea of a drive-by shooting. We stopped in front of the disco entrance and yelled over to the bouncer who kicked us out. He saw the gun and immediately leapt into the bushes. We laughed our asses off to have scared him like that.

And Flo? You guys had also met a long time before there was a name for the Pirates.

Since meeting Flo in the mid 90’s on my home mountain we have not parted ways. He has been the foundation of the Pirates Movie Production ever since he organized the Backyard camp to promote his hand built snowshoes. Besides snowboarding and snowshoeing his other fetish was the mechanics of super 8 film cameras, so it was quite obvious to focus our lives towards the goal of combining the three things we all like the most.

And then there is Ludschi the instant-creative…

… yeah, and Ludschi has an instantly likeable persona. When we met he was already into a lot of his own DIY projects like a clothing label, and he made sticker sheets, which I always craved for decorating my boards. He is the creative mind behind the Pirates, and his doodle-style characters made it onto a couple of my own Dragon goggles in the past. In 2002 we organized our own European premiere of Kingpin Production’s video Brainstorm. There is still footage circulating of a wet t-shirt contest we held to give away a board to the best looking girl. The next day my team manager Hasi from Burton called me up in an upset tone. He was contacted by one of the mothers of the girls that participated – requesting a board for her daughter. (Laughs)

What trips did you take with the Pirates to film for Bottom Line?

With no more snowfall after December we went to Asahikawa on Hokkaido Island, Japan in January, where I broke my nose and hurt my ankle. I then had to take a break until getting back on board. I caught up with Marco Feichtner and Arthur Longo riding at home in Austria, jumping kickers and staying at Volcom’s Arlberg Teamhouse.

Which part of snowboarding in the U.S. has a somewhat comparable feel to the Pirates style rooted between Vorarlberg and Innsbruck?

Tahoe because of the many resorts and lift infrastructure on the mountains, also the terrain, the passroads and even the climate is comparable. I would say that the Pirates strive for a DIY ethic encompassing an original take on snowboard videos, including intro skits of the riders, which are directed into a full-blown story towards the ending. The DVD package is a 100- page book that has become a creative entity itself. Also, they have thought through DVD-menus, strong presence with their website, their own fonts created and used in the whole package and premier parties. These parties feature exclusive gigs along with a gallery art show of drawings, paintings and photographs, which were created along with the movie.

Pirates Movie Production and you grew into professional snowboarding side by side. Which rookies have followed your lead since the early days?

Hmm… a standout would probably be Dan Brisse who landed the last part features in a couple of their movies. Another one is Marko Grilc who made it into the Global Team of Burton and always was a part of Pirates before. Aleksi Vanninen and Hampus Mosesson were the first on board with the Pirates and set the tone for years to come. Drew Fuller was seeking out Scandinavian rails with Hans Ahlund long before other film companies. I think of the Pirates having always had a well-established platform for riders to keep evolving, exchanging themselves on an intercultural level and bringing out the best by learning what their sponsors request. The Pirates, being at the head of the European scene, must bear the brunt of the dilemma of not finding the international recognition the product deserves. The sponsors’ commitment should be where lifestyle and progression can happen rather than bidding on distribution number claims.

Speaking of which, you just spent time at the Isolation Camp – an Art project organized by Ludschi. Can you please tell us a little about that?

This initiative created by Ludschi is pushing the Pirates as a creative outlet not only for snowboarding but also for art and music. Bringing back the complete essence of the lifestyle. The Isolation Camp gathers creative talent, mostly from the snowboarding scene, to spend two weeks in a secluded mountain hut realizing projects. Participants find new ways of documenting the whole camp with drawing, groups collaborating on paintings and mixing this with experimental sound recordings. Last year’s side project included a melting pot of musicians and singers. This year’s special was about cooking with interesting characters. Altogether I was fascinated by what snowboard photographer Jerome Tanon brought to the table. He enlightened us with his developing skills using acids and chlorines in conjunction with inks. One can only learn as much as he is involved.

Check out the rest of the Pirates Bottom Line Is… series below