Last winter, Robin Van Gyn had a heck of a season. Donning a competition bib for the first time—or in this case, a specially made vest with her last name on it—she entered the contest lexicon and emerged as the champion on the women’s side of the inaugural Natural Selection Tour. That was in March after the three-stop tour that took her from Jackson Hole to Baldface Valhalla to Tordrillo Mountain Lodge. Then, Robin left Alaska with top honors and a new Ford Bronco and headed home to get back to work on the final stages FABRIC, a two-year video project that she can concepted and catalyzed, which was no small undertaking on its own. From that time until the third week of November, Robin shifted gears from rider to director, and working alongside filmmakers Justin Taylor Smith, Emily Lea, producer Yulin Oliver, and writer Mary Fenton, brought FABRIC to life. Merely doing one or the other of these things would be a huge accomplishment on its own, but the fact that Robin was balancing her own snowboarding while creating this documentary drives at the core of what FABRIC is all about.
FABRIC is a five-part documentary series that dives deeper into the lives and work of athletes, artists, and activists as they use their respective boardsports as a foundation for creating change. Each episode is centered around a theme (Knowledge, Adaptation, Activism, Heritage, and Community), showcasing women whose passion leads to purpose and whose talents on a skateboard, on a surfboard, or on a snowboard, are truly just the starting point for the impact that they have. As Robin puts it, FABRIC is about “what is possible when sport is leveraged as a vehicle for change.”
On Saturday, November 20th, FABRIC premiered at the Changing Tides Foundation in Encinitas, California. Outside behind the non-profit’s headquarters, with a Hannah Eddy mural along one wall, the majority of the cast of the movie congregated for the first time together to watch the culmination of their work. Robin, Justin, Emily, and Yulin were on hand to celebrate alongside a packed house. As the video started to play, two years of dedication from the FABRIC team came to fruition.
With FABRIC, just logistically, Robin and crew deftly accomplished a massive undertaking: bringing together snowboarding, skating, and surfing in one cohesive, true-to-each sport project. This is an endeavor in its own right: working across three boardsports with similar, sometimes overlapping yet distinct cultures and being able to show each authentically. After collecting two years’ worth of footage featuring over a dozen individuals and groups, just the organization of everyone’s stories was surely enormous—and the FABRIC crew orchestrated the narrative beautifully. Each episode unfurls the resonant stories of that installment’s protagonists and finds parallels that weave everything together. In Episode 1: Knowledge, Robin and up-and-coming backcountry rider Estelle Pensiero are paired with big wave surfers Paige Alms and Izzi Gomez in an opening to the series that emphasizes the continued learning and personal evolution of snowboarding and surfing, the sharing of experience with others, the value of mentoring the next generation, and how one person’s success can help to pave the way for others to join.
Each episode is a well-orchestrated short film on its own, but watching the entire series at once, the various fibers that make up the texture of these standing sideways pursuits is only further impactful. The intersection of art, skateboarding, surfing, and snowboarding through the perspective of Jessa Gilbert and Hanna Scott in episode 2, as well as Hannah Eddy in episode 3. The importance of representation in each of these sports and in the outdoors, in a greater sense, through the experiences of Textured Waves and Skate Like a Girl in episode 5 and Nations Skate Youth in episode 4. How you can make an impact, like Marie-France Roy, Suay Sew Shop, and Leah Dawson and the Changing Tides Foundation in episode 3 and Leanne Pelosi in episode 5. The importance of heritage and spending time in nature through the experiences of Mainei Kinimaka, Spencer O’Brien, and Sandy Ward in episode 5. (These are only a fraction of the stories that shine in FABRIC.) And overall, the importance of supporting one another, helping one another, and bolstering passionate community that runs through the entire series. The underlined point that snowboarding, surfing, and skateboarding can be the foundation for so much more. This is not a new revelation, but something that Robin felt should be emphasized more in the videos we make, in the media we create—in what is made to show what snowboarding (and skating and surfing) is all about. Yes, the riding, itself, will always be at the forefront, but in addition to the action, there are so many layers to what our community thrives on and creates.
In this way, the timing of FABRIC is emblematic of a bigger shift in snowboarding—the openness to celebrate and raise up parts of the culture that stand next to the tricks and the athletic performance. There have always been people working on a community level; we’re just starting to do a better job of raising these individuals, groups, and causes up. The discussion and celebration is expanding, and while riding will always be at the root of it all, these other sides of snowboarding (and surfing and skating) are just as integral to our experience, are they not?
What the FABRIC crew aspired to accomplish was big. Tell the stories that transcend the turns we make. Connect and champion a group of women who have elevated their love of riding, surfing, and skating, and turned it into something even more. Show what is possible when sport becomes a vehicle for change. And they knocked it out of the park.
For the next three weeks, every Wednesday, an episode of FABRIC will have a virtual premiere on evo.com followed by a Q & A and discussion with the women in the episode.
Watch Episode 3: Activism of FABRIC on evo.com Wednesday, December 1st at 7pm PST and talk with Marie-France Roy, Hannah Eddy, Irie Smith, Suay Sew Shop, and Leah Loves of the Changing Tides Foundation.
Follow @our.fabric for information about the live premieres on December 7th and 14th and for the entire release of the series to follow.