Erik Leon is doing good. Not only is he doing good, but he is also doing good, you know? And we think that is pretty good, so we thought we would hit him up about the past season of hosting events, working with brands for a more sustainable future, and all that other good stuff. Here is our text convo a few days after we saw him in Cleveland, Ohio, while he was in town for a friend’s wedding. Enjoy. – Mark Clavin
Why was your trip to Cleveland for your partner’s friend’s wedding the highlight of your year so far?
Hahaha, honestly the $11.50 pour over coffee from Duck Rabbit may have been.
See, everyone calls the Midwest cheap, but that’s trendy, mountain town price coffee.
Yes, it was and I’m down. When on vacation.
What are you doing to make snowboarding cheaper?
Oh, shit we doing an interview now?
Ha, yeah for sure. I legit just thought we were having friendly conversation.
That’s how these go. It is a friendly convo. The media is not always the enemy.
Now I realize I’m being recorded. I was seriously like Mark is being extremely friendly today. Odd. But yeah, I’m down. I’m just packing for a short trip.
I’m all Novocaine’d up. Just got back from dentist. Where are you going now?
Oh nice, dental day. Just packing up, I’m headed to Denver for a quick couple nights.
How’s The North Face search for the athlete program going?
A half hour later…
Oh, shoot I forget we are doing this. Turns out I’m just terrible at texting.
Yeah, the younger riders are really good at this. Maybe I should call.
The North Face Athlete Development Program is going well, I have chosen my athletes for the snow side of things. We are actually meeting tomorrow, on my favorite day of the year, summer solstice, to go over our selections and then tighten them up.
That’s dope. Want to give me like a two-sentence explanation of the program?
I’m going to use abbreviations like TNF and ADP, just a heads up—’cause you decided to call me an old head earlier. And I’m not. I am a fine wine that is natty and bubbly. So yeah, the ADP is a program that TNF introduced to help bring people from marginalized communities to the professional athlete world. The idea is to create opportunities and voices for those aspiring to become better in the sport by support from TNF.
And you are helping head that up?
Yeah, for sure. I’m on the advisor council that oversees everything ADP.
Heads of councils are normally old…oh sorry, “advisors.”
Oh shit, guess I am old. I may be the youngest person advising, though.
The youngest in a senior home is still a senior. How do you feel about almost reaching your upper twenties? Any mid-midlife crisis? You’re in the twilight of your twenties, per say.
I hate you. I guess I have been feeling pretty okay. Nothing much has changed; I’m still doing the same thing as I was when I was 20.
That’s a good coping mechanism. Here are some abbreviations of my own. Is TNF involved in NFTs?
Haha. I am doubtful, but would not be surprised
And the TNF initiative is separate from CORE, yes?
Correct. CORE is its own entity.
You’re doing a lot of good for one person. How much good is too much good?
I don’t know, man. I don’t think it’s much good at all. We could be doing more. It only seems like a lot if you don’t do any yourself.
Haha, thanks for the clarification when calling me an asshole.
Haha, I’m not calling you an asshole. You are calling you an asshole.
What does Smith do for CORE? Do they make lenses out of leaves?
I wish! They are supporting CORE in the growth of our events. Arbor is making boards from wood, and then taking a percentage of their profits to maintaining an ecosystem of Koa trees on Hawaii, the birthplace of boardsports.
Oh yeah, that is pretty dope. So why was setting up events this year important to you?
Well, it’s about the engagement and awareness and building community on our ski resorts/hills. Utilize having fun and shine the light on to introducing snowboarding/skiing/outdoor recreation to the underrepresented communities near the hills. We all love snowboarding/skiing; let’s have fun together and help introduce these places to people.
How many stops this year?
In ’21-22 we had five stops across the country.
Why not one in Cleveland?
I don’t know Mark, consider doing some good and helping organize that and we can! Brandywine, here we come.
All these question backfire and make me look bad.
That comes with old age and wit.
So you admit you are getting old. How was the turnout at the events?
Great, we averaged about thirty-five skiers and snowboarders at every stop. And we raised a good amount of money for non-profits!
That is a great! Working on any other projects this winter?
We did some cool TNF stuff with the street team! That was great, and I also worked on a project with Black Koles where we went to Alaska and heliskied and surfed. We are making a mini movie from that.
That’s a pretty well-rounded winter. You think it’s easier to be a specialist right now in the pro snowboarding arena or a well-rounded rider?
I mean, it’s what you want to get out of it. When I was a kid, my family didn’t have a lot of money, so I didn’t travel or go on vacations. I figured if I was able to ride powder and do street stuff I could be asked to go on trips all over the world. And that’s all I ever wanted to do, see cool places all over the globe. If you are into winning, do the circuit stuff. If you like cities, ride street. If you like hiking and outdoors, go ride powder. It’s all what you want out of it.
Yeah, I guess “easier” is a weird way to phrase that.
Nothing is easy. Hard work just becomes normal work.
Are you reading a motivational t-shirt you found while packing?
I actually just decided to hop on the Peloton and get some miles in while I shittalk with you.
Peloton verses mountain biking?
I’d rather surf then either.
What kind of map are you “riding” right now?
Well, I did a 45-minute through Mendocino County, ‘cause I love that area, but mostly just texted you and was listening to a podcast. Kind of multitasking.
Is it all downhill, like Peloton stocks?
Dude, we got ours used and super cheap, because everybody is over it. And now my knees and hips are happy to stop running. Ride a bike for fifeen miles while emailing off your phone? Chill.
That’s honestly a great idea. I might have to search Craigslist for that. How many times have you been to AK?
I have been to Anchorage two times for street and a third time to ride powder. So, three.
How do the experiences line up? Do you prefer going back for powder or would you rather do another street trip?
Definitely go back to ride heli stuff and maybe split and prob sled. It’s so good. I want to experience more.
Who was in your AK crew this year?
Marie-France Roy, Frank April, Chris Brewster, and the crew at Chugach heli guides. Asher Koles was the filmer and Sean Black was the photographer from Black Koles. And then the surf boat crew on the Milo. It was my first time in a helicopter, so that was pretty cool. I have always wanted to ride stuff in Alaska. I’m hoping to go back and ride scarier stuff. It was a good trip to get my feet wet. Good company as well. Marie is the best.
Learn anything from her while you were up there?
Yeah, for sure. Mostly that the best people to travel with are the most easy going and malleable to situations. She is definitely one of my favorites. Always smiling always down to ride gnarly stuff. Big life inspo for me.
Tips on riding lines specifically?
From me or Marie?
From Marie to you.
Besides her staying cool calm and collected at all moments—I Integrated that into my moments up there—I don’t know. Be chill bro, relax. It’s super pretty. Cool opportunity, don’t die.
Haha. Do you have a rider that has been your biggest mentor in your eyes? Or are you pulling stuff from everyone?
I pull stuff from everybody. I hope that in the end I’m just all of my favorite people in a human. Bode Merrill is huge to me because he was always a friend first. Even when we didn’t know each other on our first trip. And he still is a best friend to me. Frank April for work ethic in the streets. Chris Bradshaw for style. Nick Dirks for “doing you” the best. Ben Lynch for making snowboarding fun everywhere. Desiree Melancon for change. There are so many mentors and inspiring people I have been fortunate to meet over the years. I think about everybody constantly in hopes I eventually can be like them in some way or another.
What about CORE, how do you see that growing?
I’m hoping to host more events and to create larger financial support for non-profits across the country. Partner with more brands and athletes to create community on our hills. I want to bring more awareness for non-profits and outdoor recreation that contribute to marginalized communities. I really would be so hyped to get more athletes involved so that they can host their own events across the country at their local hills.