In my teen years when I spent my summers saving up for a new snowboard, I was always pining after whatever Marie-France Roy was riding. I’d order the Rome catalog and oggle at it until I had enough coin to throw down on my big purchase. Coincidentally, I now ride an Arbor Veda, Marie’s current pro model. As everything and everyone evolves in snowboarding, it wasn’t until the 2014 release of The Little Things that Marie’s commitment to environmentalism became more public and deeply seated at the forefront of her approach to the mountains. In the last decade, MFR has made a strong effort to immerse herself deeply into restoration projects, environmental sustainability, and community connections. Marie spends her summers in Ucluelet, British Columbia, known as Ukee to the locals. As PNW as it can possibly get, and the migratory hotspot for many West Coast Canadian snowboarders (example: the entire Full Moon Film crew), Ukee is a rugged harbor town that is growing quickly. With ocean access and a mindful community, the little slice of island paradise is the perfect home base for someone like MFR to dive into kelp forests and community action. We caught up with her on how summer is going on Vancouver Island, before Canadian winter picks back up again. – Ally Watson
Hey Marie, where are you right now?
I’m in Ukee!
Are you living in your cobb house right now?
I did that for five years, it’s awesome, but I’m actually renting it out right now because I’m trying to make a bit of savings to rebuild the main house which is a torn down trailer. So, I’m living in the trailer with one of my best friends, Claudia, and my boyfriend. We are renting the house at the moment, but we will live in it eventually when we rebuild the main house. I’m hoping to build something like a straw bale house or something like that. That’s the dream. I just don’t know if I can get away with breaking the rules on two buildings on the property. You can’t really get the building permit. They make it so hard for you to build with a lower impact and with natural and sustainable material. I do have lots of friends staying in it and it’s so nice to share the space and have other people experience it because they’re freaking out. It’s so cool. Some people had their honeymoon in there. I’m like, What! It’s made of dirt! They love it. I haven’t known that common people are so stoked and it brings young people that are into that type of building and down-to-earth folks. It’s awesome!
Yeah! I remember when I first saw The Little Things, I was so interested in how you built it.
Oh yeah, it was such a rewarding process and I miss living in it. It’s just so precious to have it there and be able to live in it and really feel like it’s a fairy hobbit house. It’s just so cozy, you know? People ask me if it’s still standing or if it washed off in the rain, and I’m like, if anything it will last 100 years!
Those things are definitely solid. Okay so how is summer in Ukee going? You’ve been doing so much!
It’s been awesome, I first wrapped up the winter with the West Coast Triple Plank, which was a huge success. We raised 30k for Redd Fish Restoration Society, which was so great, so many people come out every year and it gets better and better. I’m just blown away. After that, I’ve been at home and working part time with Redd Fish on the kelp monitoring project. That’s super fun because this is kind of the field I studied and what I was supposed to be doing before snowboarding happened. I feel very lucky to get back into that side of things and have the passion. Just to keep an idea of what’s going on out there because it’s a huge source of habitat that has never really been documented in the Barclay Sound and Clayoquot Sound. We’re really keeping an eye on it and we have a restoration pilot going on. It’s really cool. I feel like a scientist on those days; I’m learning so much. We have such an awesome team and everyone I work with there is amazing. I have also been helping my boyfriend, Tim [Taussig], with Camp Stoked.
You read my mind. I want to hear more about how Camp Stoke is going!
They’ve been really crushing it They started a few years ago. They do some summer camps for kids in general, but they also do some First Nation-specific camps and take kids out skateboarding. We spend a few days with the kids, and it’s so rad. They are just so much fun and they’re senders! They show up with no shoes, or flip flops and no technique, no questions asked, and just send it in the bowl. They’re just so awesome.
What kind of support is there for those First Nation camps?
They definitely have support. Relic Surf Shop has been helping provide wetsuits and skateboards. I got some skateboards from Arbor, I know that Vans has helped them out. They’re definitely getting some support and they just built a surf shack, like a club. It’s basically right on Long Beach. There’s a reserve at the north end.
A lot of the kids live right there. They grew up there and it’s so beautiful, but they never had access to the gear. They’re right there but they could never get into surfing. Now it’s in collaboration with Rising Tide Surf and they started the Mulaa Surf Club and they are all equipped for surfing and loving it and then we take them skateboarding. In August, we had another skate camp with the Ahousaht Nation. They have an awesome skatepark. Somehow, I think some rich guy donated and built them a skatepark right on the beach. Nobody’s really skating it unless you help them get into it, hold their hands and show the basics to get a crew going and motivate each other. That’s why we try to go every year and even just with three days, they open up and it’s truly a nice friendship. Then they build trust and confidence, and it makes a huge difference, and they want to skate more. It’s really sweet to me and what Tim has done with the camp. It’s more his thing, but anytime there’s the First Nation camps, I definitely try my hardest to be there.
You’ve got a pulse on so many aspects of the community over there. You also collaborated with a local First Nations artist for this year’s Arbor Veda. How did that come together?
Yeah! My friend Carlos. He has been doing art for a while and hasn’t had a ton of commissions. His amazing wife passed away from cancer and she was such a gem and heart of the community. She was in school to be an Indigenous lawyer. I didn’t know her personally. The Nation he is from is this tiny village, maybe like forty houses. It’s on the Barclay Sound, just east by Salmon Beach, and you know, they’re struggling. There’s a lot of addiction, and she was really a leader and was only 35 or something.
Oh, that’s so sad.
Super tragic, and Carlos, we have a lot of common friends, and I was looking for an artist and I wanted to support someone local and Indigenous. I saw he posted something on Facebook–he had a drawing he made on a surfboard. He was like, “Hey if anyone needs art, let me know.” I was like, “I do!” I met him in his house and I barely knew him, but I just really wanted to support him and I want to do more. I already hit him up to do the Triple Plank awards next year.
That’s amazing. I love what he did on the Veda. It looks so good and really pays homage to the area.
Yeah, I wanted to support him and he doesn’t really have a phone or a website, and I didn’t want to support someone who is really established. I picked him because he is someone who needs some extra help, and I am really stoked, it looks amazing.
Yeah, and it’s gone from a women’s-specific board to a genderless deck this season, too.
Yeah, and you want artwork that speaks to all genders, and we have had great feedback so far. When Arbor said they wanted to offer it as a unisex board, I was like, no way! I don’t know if that has ever happened. I’m super honored. It’s so cool.
Yeah, and being able to have a genderless board with Indigenous art really highlights how synonymous your relationship with Arbor is.
Yeah, I’m so grateful to be with Arbor because I was so stoked on a long, long, really good run with Rome Snowboards for ten years. I was kind of changing and evolving in my own career and reconnecting to what I cared about in nature and environmental causes, and then I did The Little Things. It wasn’t really on brand with Rome, but I saw Arbor at the tradeshow and I always liked their values, and their graphics always inspired me. We never had much of it in Canada back then. I went to their booth and I met with one of the guys and I was like, “I would love to ride for Arbor.” And he was like, “Are you serious?! If you are serious about it, we would love that.” About a week later I got an email from Sean Black and he was like, “If you’re interested, we would love to chat.”
I was so grateful because it’s hard to find brands you can align with your values. Even with Red Bull, I had mixed feelings about it. But, when you’re starting, you don’t really have the choice–I mean you do, but if you say no, you don’t get the support. I was just so grateful that I was at the point where I could choose a bit more who I would align myself with, and it’s been almost ten years with Arbor now.
Woah, that ten years flew by.
Yeah, it feels like it’s gone so fast and, I mean, there have been so many cool projects with them. I really like their Returning Roots program, which they’ve been doing since the start, and I went to Hawaii twice with them and planted trees and learned all about it. It’s legit stuff. They have restored so much forest that was completely just left destroyed from agriculture that was not biodiverse at all, and they are restoring it to full-on beautiful forests that are capturing and sequestering so much carbon. I’m just really impressed that they go out of their way to make an impact and give back. And they’re supporting more events now. Even from the start, they were always about sustainability, as much as they can be.
Yeah, that’s amazing you’re so aligned.
And of course, no one is perfect. We all have an impact. But, you know, they’ve been made fun of for years, decades before people started to be like, “Oh it’s awesome.” They really stuck with it and just stayed true to the whole program and the sustainability efforts that they’ve always had–and before anyone really cared about, it to be honest. It’s cool they are able to maintain and survive. I’m just really happy and I love their team, and I’m looking forward to doing more with them.
Yeah, cool. That’s awesome. Do you have any big plans for this winter?
I’m just throwing ideas together and nothing is set. I’m in the process of pitching and developing ideas of potential projects, so we’ll see. I’m actually going to Argentina with Patagonia really soon, I haven’t been there in so long. We’re going to Bariloche. I’ve never been there. It sounds like they are having an epic season so far, so we are pretty hyped on that.