Heaven or Hell: A Nate Bozung Interview

Foreword: Chad Otterstrom

In the late ‘90s and early 2000s, snowboard movies ruled the world. Forum was on top. This is when I first met Nate. We were both filming for the same movie, and we had a pretty awesome year. He was always the kid with the best style, super entertaining and did all the best tricks. At the end of that year — I believe it was 1999 — Raul, the owner of Forum, spent thousands of dollars bringing the whole team to Puerta Vallarta, Mexico. It was an eight-day trip dedicated exclusively to partying — kind of a reward for the team. Then we spent the summer doing what we wanted. Some of us went to Mt. Hood, and some of us would skate or do whatever. Come early September, the movies would all premiere; everyone would get back together for a month-and-a-half premiere tour where we would travel city to city, party to party, to show the movie we filmed the year before. You were VIP at every party, people giving you whatever you wanted, saying you were awesome. You felt like the world was yours and nothing could stop you.

Then the tour was over and you would go straight back into filming and snowboarding again. It always felt like there was never enough time to think, and you honestly would get worse at snowboarding. Not a good off-season program for a snowboarder — maybe a rock star looking for a drinking habit — but not a snowboarder. Some managed, and some fell off.

I hadn’t seen Nate for 13 years before I did this interview. I was told he was sober and he was going to be in Denver. All I had seen from him via the internet over the last 13 years was party, party, party. Well, it turns out according to Dr. Drew’s standards, Nate isn’t sober, but he is off the booze and was totally sober when I did the interview. Nate was the same Nate I knew 13 years ago. He seems to be trying to set his life straight, and I hope that he continues to get back on track, not only for himself, but for all of his friends who knew him as Nate Bozung, the entertaining, funny, charismatic kid from Salt Lake, who everyone loved to hang out with and watch snowboard.

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Photo: Taylor Boyd

Chad Otterstrom: Where are you living?
I’m living in my Jeep under the Gnarly office in Laguna Beach.

CO: So you’re not in Salt Lake anymore?
I mean, I have my house there. I’m just dealing with all this lawyer bullshit and once I get that sorted out, I’m gonna have my mom move in there and then make my garage into a little room, so when I’m in town I’ll just crash there. Maybe just Airbnb it when I’m gone.

Taylor Boyd: What do you mean by ‘lawyer bullshit’?
This lawyer dude, he was a friend of mine. This dude straight up sold my house behind my back, took all my snowboards, RED camera, projector, everything without permission.

TB: How did he get in the position to be able to sell your house?
He was never supposed to sell my house. I gave him power of attorney to deal with my tax shit ‘cause I owed the IRS $600,000. So I was fucked. I got him to do my taxes; I trusted him. I went to rehab, they took shit from under me, and pretty much just fucked me. And now they even have my snowboards and they’re selling my snowboards online, so it’s like, really? Motherfuckers, dude. No souls. And now I’m trying to get all my shit back, and homies are like, “This dude’s selling your boards on Facebook.” And I’m like, “What the fuck?!” I’m trying to get these boards back — all my old snowboards, the Forum boards, Technine boards, like all my sick boards.

CO: That sounds like OJ Simpson in Vegas trying to get his memorabilia back. Hopefully it’s not that bad.
Nah, it’s not like that. I’m in some big lawsuit with all that shit. It’s just fuckin’ crazy.

TB: So how did you end up owing the IRS $600,000?
‘Cause Neff paid me out. I was too drunk and I didn’t pay taxes on it. I didn’t want out — that was my baby, ya know? It’s water under the bridge. I was just too drunk. Whatever.

TB: And you changed the Neff tattoo on your forehead.
Oh yeah, I changed it. I was trying to be funny —I was gonna change it into ‘NATE’, so it’s ‘NA’ and then I don’t even know if it’s an ‘E’ or what. I guess it’s ‘NEFE’ (pointing at the left side of his forehead).

CO: Other side.
Oh, is it this side? Dude, I don’t even know. It’s here somewhere. So it’s like ‘NEFE’ or ‘NateFe’.

TB: It looks like ‘NIFE’ to me.
Yeah, someone said I should put a ‘K’ in front of it and it would look like ‘KNIFE’. I’m gonna do something with it. I’m not done with tats. I got another Neff one over here I need to cross out.

TB: What was your first tattoo?
This stupid little star over here (pointing at his inner, upper arm). And then I was like, “I gotta be even.” So I got another star over here. (pointing at the opposite arm). Fuckin’ first tattoo, you don’t know what you’re doing, so it’s horrible, whatever.

The funny thing is, I hated tattoos when I was younger.

CO: What was the first face tat?
This little like asterisk sign over here. When I got it I was in Laguna Beach. My chick at that time broke up with me and I was like, all fuckin’ butt hurt, heartbroken, moved to Greece, and I had all these tattoos, but then I just got blasted. I was like, “Yo, you wanna see a face tattoo? Here ya go.” I woke up with this one under my eye (pointing to the one that looks like a football player’s face paint). I looked in the mirror and I was like, “Alright, life’s gonna be interesting now.” I didn’t even go outside for like a week. I felt like an alien — everyone lookin’ at me all weird.

Trevor Gerard: Jobstopper.
Oh yeah, but that’s half of why I did it. I was like, “Fuck getting a job.”

CO: I don’t think tattoos are jobstoppers these days. I think you’re awkward if you don’t have tattoos like me.
The funny thing is, I hated tattoos when I was younger.

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Photo: Chad Otterstrom

TG: It’s like a thing to do when you get drunk.
Yeah! I’ve gotten a couple tattoos sober, ‘cause I only got ‘em drunk, and I’ve gotten two sober, and they actually kind of hurt less.

TG: I think I’m on the path to Nate Bozung.
Drop in — get a face tat.

TG: Nah, that’s not happening. My mom would kill me.
That’s the number one answer that anyone always has. They’ll be covered from their neck down, and I’m like, “Why don’t you get a face tat?” And they’re like, “My mom would kill me.” It’s always mom.

CO: So what does your mom think of yours?
My mom saw me after I hadn’t seen her for like five years. She looks up at me and she’s like, “I think you look kinda cool, like a pirate. I like it.” That’s all she said, never anything else.

TB: Is your mom Mormon?
Yeah, she’s Mormon. Not like strict. She used to fuck around with it, but my parents are pretty nonchalant. My dad was a surfer from Malibu; my mom was a farm girl from Idaho, so I had the best of both worlds. I was never like super gnarly Mormon. I mean, we did it, but whatever. I could go skate on Sundays and shit. Mormons gone wild!

CO: What do they call them? Jack Mormons?
Yeah, Jack Mormons, dude. When you’re so religious and suppressed, you just go fuckin’ nuts. You just explode, dude.

They’re probably watching us right now on channel 4,000,056 like, “Yo, what are these clowns doin’?”

TB: So what’s your take on religion as a whole?
It works for some people, but whatever; I don’t fuck with it. Too many people have died in wars over that shit. Just be a good person, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, and you’re good to go, ya know? Don’t fucking stab anyone in the back — just be a good person — it’s not that hard. So that’s pretty much how I roll. That’s why I stopped going to AA and shit, cause it’s like, “God this, God that,” and I’m like, “Fuck that shit.” Everyone’s like well, “It’s not about that; you just gotta find what works for you.” I know there’s obviously a higher power; there’s aliens and shit. They’re probably watching us right now on channel 4,000,056 like, “Yo, what are these clowns doin’?”

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Helsinki, Finland, 2002 | Photo: Rob Mathis

TG: How did you get into snowboarding?
I used to ski in Big Bear or Snow Valley cause my grandpa was rich. He started Duncan YoYos. We were the poor family, but we got passes up there to go skiing. I wanted to snowboard so bad ‘cause I just surfed and skated and my dad’s like, “You gotta beat me in a mogul contest first.” So finally, like two years later, I beat him. I made him take me straight to the rental office, rented a snowboard, went once, and then my family moved to Utah like a month later.

There was feet of snow out in the front yard. There were like three skaters in the school. I instantly went to the skaters, and they were like, “Yo, you can’t skate in the winter, so come snowboarding with us.” So we just walked across the street to the cemetery, and it was just on from there, ya know? That was Jordan Mendenhall, Rick Billings, Hemmy — the crew from when I first moved to Utah. But that’s how I first got into snowboarding. I just fell in love.

I always liked skiing and being in the mountains. That was part of my life since I was young, and then surfing. Snowboarding was just the shit. It was like surfing on snow. Just fuckin’ duh. No brainer. I just made it work. I had to give up a lot of shit to do it, but it’s worth it. I just fuckin’ didn’t give up, that’s all it is. As Lizard King would say — passion.

TG: Do you guys have a favorite trip you went on back in the Forum days?
Did we go to Japan together?

CO: No, you just came to my house in Breckenridge right by those green rails.
Yep, those were the Whitey days

CO: Yeah, and you stayed at my house for like three days.
We rode together the first time I went out filming with Mack Dawg.

CO: At Mt. Hood.
Yeah, it was at Mt. Hood and I was like shitting my pants, and I was with you, and it was around that tree. I’m like, “This is the biggest fucking jump of my life!” And you’re just like this fuckin’ Breck dude, used to jumps like this, and I’m like, “Oh my God, I’m gonna fuckin’ die.”

CO: You did cab 5 cork tailgrab.
Yeah! And didn’t you do a nine? I know you did a switch back three.

CO: Yeah, I just did all my park tricks on it.
You killed it! I remember that.

CO: That was what worked for me. Mack Dawg built all these park jumps into backcountry landings, so I was like, “No problem. I ride Breck’s park every day.” But yeah, I remember that day. You rode a Forum with a green base.
That jump was called the Elevator Shaft — it was in Upping the Ante — Peter Line hit it. Remember that? He did some sort of a late trick on it. Shifty late 180, I think. But there was no park jump into it then; it was just sort of a drop. He had the Brushie board with a cut off nose and tail.

Oh! That’s what it was, yeah. I was scared shitless of those things. Mack Dawg — you guys were crazy.

“Man, I want an Audi. I wanna be like you.” And you’re like, “Just keep snowboarding. You’ll get it.” And I was like, “Yes!” And I did, eventually.

CO: That was the same for me. I showed up and it was like Devun Walsh and Browner [Chris Brown] and Jeremy [Jones] and those guys. I was trippin’ too, like 22, didn’t know what the hell was going on.
I remember me and you sitting at Mt. Hood, and you had that Audi and I was like, “Man, I want an Audi. I wanna be like you.” And you’re like, “Just keep snowboarding. You’ll get it.” And I was like, “Yes!” And I did, eventually.

CO: I spent all my money on that Audi.
Same with me! One of those Japan contests where they paid us like 6 Gs just to show up — I came back and put down a down payment.

CO: I had 19 grand in my bank account and put 17 into that Audi.
Dirtballin’, as Peter Line would call it.

CO: As soon as you start makin’ over a couple grand a month, something turns off in your brain and you just think it’s never gonna end. When you’re in your early twenties, you’re like, “This is fuckin’ awesome!”
Exactly. “I’m just gonna spend it all. It’s just gonna keep coming.”

Me and him got banned from traveling together because we’d just end up partying.

TG: What was it like working with Peter Line?
The best. Peter was the best. Me and him got banned from traveling together because we’d just end up partying. So by the end they were like, “Nate and Peter aren’t allowed to travel together.” ‘Cause I was like his little drinking buddy. But it was fun. We caused a lot of ruckus around the world, that’s for sure.

CO: It was funny when Peter and I would travel together ‘cause I’m quiet and he’s quiet, so it’d just be like, “Whatdya doin’?” “Nothin’. What are you doin’?”
(laughs) Just super awkward. Does that shit still go on dude — the partying and stuff? Does the snowboard world still do that?

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Photo: Taylor Boyd

CO: For sure. Right now in New Zealand, I’m sure it’s going on.
I know, I see everyone’s photos of them shredding in New Zealand and I’m like, “Fuck!”

CO: There’s no contest happening; it’s been raining for four days. I’m sure they’re having an awesome time.

That’s where I first started taking drugs — Australia.

That’s where I first started taking drugs — Australia. I had one of those hot Australian girls goin’ like this (holds out his arm) and I’m like, “Mmm, thank you!”

CO: I ran into you one time in Australia. You were walking down the road in the middle of nowhere and all of a sudden we’re like, “There’s Nate!” Straight up.
I remember that! Where was it? Perisher?

CO: Yeah, Perisher.
What the fuck was I doing?

CO: You were stalking Torah [Bright].
No, dude! Was I? Nah, I was just there.

CO: Nah, you weren’t stalking her; you were just hanging out. ‘Cause didn’t [Todd] Richards give you some cash to go down there?
Oh, that’s what it was! I was in New Zealand with you guys, and he loaned me $700 to fly to Australia, and I was just goin’ to hang out with Mikey and the Electric boys.

CO: I was just walkin’ down there with Dionne [Delesalle]. And we were like is that Nate? Kangaroos bouncing around and shit.
Yeah, I’ve been around, dude. Fuckin’ world slut.

TG: How did you meet Keegan [Valaika]?
I met Keegan before I even knew he snowboarded. He was just a little grom in Laguna Beach. I met him when he was like 13 or 14, and I started hanging out with them. In Bozwreck’s Piles for Miles he got his first part. But my girlfriend at the time would give me so much shit. I remember hanging out at my apartment in Laguna and she walks in and they’re literally like fifteen years old. It’s him, Dylan and like two chicks, and I had bought ‘em beers and they were smoking weed, and I was like, “This kid’s gonna be the best snowboarder one day, just wait.”

TG: Dude, did you just ash in your hand and put it in your pocket?
I didn’t want to ash on the floor.

CO: Alright, so what’s goin’ on with Bozwreck?
Ok, so Bozwreck, yeah. All this shit happened. I got robbed in Russia of like 20 Gs, got back to New York, took out all the money from Bozwreck, put it into my account and I was planning on paying it back but that was the shipping order. I was off in space traveling and wasn’t handling shit. But I thought other people were handling shit, and they didn’t handle it. Then I came back from space, got out of rehab, and I just had to cut people out that weren’t doin’ shit. The plan is for me, Keegan and Dylan to take over. I’m not letting it die. I’ve put in too many years with this shit. Even though Matty’s gone, it’s still Bozwreck.

CO: What’s the deal with Matty Ryan?
Whatever dude, he doesn’t wanna be down, he doesn’t wanna do the shred shit, well I do, so I don’t know. It’s just a bunch of bullshit, ya know?

Matty’s like I’m ‘Wreck’ of Bozwreck. But it’s still Bozwreck. I mean I know a lot of people from beyond the snowboarding world. I’ve been runnin’ around in the fashion world, music world, movie world, everyone already knows me as like, “Oh, that’s Bozwreck. He’s a mess. He’s a wreck.” So everyone outside snowboarding thinks it’s just my nickname, and they don’t even know about the Matty part. It sucks about Matty though.

He’s like “give my percentage and do whatever you want.” And I’m like, “Dude, you really think you can just sit there and do nothing and collect a paycheck?” I put in over $300,000. I was gonna change the name, but I was like fuck that. I’m takin’ the name over. I love Matty for life, we’ve been through a lot together. He’s like a brother to me. We’re just going our separate ways for now.

CO: So how are you making money?
Dude, literally, I haven’t been making money. I spent two million dollars in 18 months. Jesus Christ. But I got this sick Rolex that’s like half broken.

CO: I got one of those in New York City too.
No, this is a real one though. I just skated with it and it’s all fucked up. I probably should sell it. So how I’ve been making money is literally just selling snowboards to kids out of the trunk of my Jeep. So it’s like $100 here, $200 there.

I went through 27 phones last year, just a fuckin’ drunk idiot, throwing phones, losing ‘em.

CO: Are you sober?
Not sober, I just don’t drink anymore. I smoke weed every day. It’s been 213 days today, no drinks. I went through 27 phones last year, just a fuckin’ drunk idiot, throwing phones, losing ‘em. Yeah, so the last couple phones I bought, they’d have to have the manager come down ‘cause they thought I was selling them. And I was like, “Nah, I was a fucking alcoholic, just destroying everything.” My drinking career was great. By the end of it, it was a gnarly. I’m fuckin’ retired.

I was waking up on street corners, running out of hospitals with IVs still in my arm, going straight to the club.

CO: So what made you quit drinking?
‘Cause I should not be alive right now, dude. I’ve got stories for days. I was waking up on street corners, running out of hospitals with IVs still in my arm, going straight to the club. Dude, just a mess. It was fun at the time, but you don’t realize what you’re doing to people around you. My friends were like, “Nate is gonna die.”

CO: It’s true. You don’t realize what you’re doing to the people around you.
You don’t. There’s so many extents to it, ya know? I just passed that point of no return; I crossed that line. Just, oh my God. I’m alive and kickin’. I’m stoked you guys are even doing this interview right now. The only reason I think I’m getting —not even a second chance, but something — is because I’m not fuckin’ drinking.

CO: I don’t think we’d see you here if you were still drinking.
No, definitely not. I wouldn’t have even made it on the flight. I’m already banned from JetBlue and a couple other airlines just from drinking so much. The last one — I flew in to go to rehab — they escorted me onto and off the plane. It was so gnarly, dude. I was so wasted one time, I drove my car to the airport, thought I parked it in the parking lot, but I parked it sideways in the Hertz parking lot and left it there for a week, and then they finally towed it. I’m lucky to be alive.

CO: You’re way more active and transparent on social media than most. How come?
I just want everyone to know, this is why I’m goin’ crazy on social media. When you hear a story like, “I fuckin’ lost everything being so drunk,” that’s me times a hundred. So this is literally all I have left to bother the world — this thing (holds up his phone). It’s at your fingertips, and I’m just like, “Fuck you, fuck you.” I don’t know, I’m just bothering the world, dude, that’s it, just bein’ a little punk, bothering the world.

TB: Does it cause problems?
Oh yeah, all the time. All the fuckin’ time. But I mean, I just throw it in their face — that’s what it’s there for — it’s free marketing. It’s just that’s what people like. I’ll take selfies all day; I don’t give a fuck. Whatever, it’s just the fucking internet.

TB: But do you also think social media helps keep you from drinking because everyone sees everything you do?
Yeah, it actually does. I keep the number of days I’ve been sober on my Instagram, and it’s mostly for my personal use, but a lot of other people are watching it now, and half the people are just waiting for me to fail. Like, that’s the whole thing, ya know? And it’s cool because my drinking is the whole reason behind my camera and house getting taken. Everyone just assumed I was gonna be this drunk fucking idiot again, but I pulled out of it, and so far it’s working.

CO: It’s like those running apps. You run every day and you tell everyone you ran. People pay attention, so you’re gonna make sure you’re running everyday.
Exactly.

TB: And if you post a photo of a beer, or a drink or whatever, people are going to jump on that.
Oh yeah, instantly. I start getting phone calls and shit. Like on my Snapchat, just the other day, I posted this emoji of wine and a beer and I had three calls like, “Nate, are you alright? Are you fuckin’ drinkin’?” And I’m just like, “Nah I just put a little emoji on my Snapchat, it’s fine.” But yeah, everyone’s watching. Whatever, I’m a fuckin’ zoo animal, a zebra, whatever; they can keep watching.

My one thing — seriously — my one thing in life that I know that I’m doing is just not drinking. Anything beyond that is whatever.

TG: Maybe they care.
Yeah, I have a lot of people that care and that’s what I’m learning. Like, you get so twisted, but the snowboard industry is a good industry. Everyone’s got their own issues, but I’d rather be in an industry where everyone still has the same passion, and that’s flying down a mountain, and that’s all it comes down to.

TB: What’s the deal with your ex? How did you meet her, and what was the deal with all those posts on Instagram about her recently?
It’s such a touchy subject. I went a little bit crazy and that’s not G-code. I just lost it. No one’s perfect. I love the girl, but we’ll see what happens.

I met her in New York City. Her best friend was dating one of my friends and I heard about her and I didn’t think anything of it. It was just another hot girl in New York, ya know? And then I met her a month later. I turned around and it was just love at first sight. I was like, “Come outside and have a cigarette with me.” And we went outside, and the first thing I said to her — it was around the Victoria’s Secret fashion show — and I was like, “So you here for the Victoria’s Secret show?” And she did a little sigh. Now I know that sigh. But that’s how me we met. We were straight inseparable from then on.

Neither of us planned on it lasting so long. So it just turned into something, and now, I don’t know what it is. I wish I wouldn’t have gotten crazy on the internet, but I don’t know. I lost everything and that was the last thing that I lost that I actually cared about. I’m so fuckin’ bummed. Fuck, dude, we’re human. I’m not perfect. So I mean it was just… I love the girl, hopefully it’ll work out and if not, I understand. That’s definitely the one true love of my life. I don’t know if I’ll ever love again. I’m just so shook from it.

My one thing — seriously — my one thing in life that I know that I’m doing is just not drinking. Anything beyond that is whatever.

You can make it heaven or you can make it hell, and this is what I’ve learned at 34, after doing everything I’ve done. The poorest people on this planet are the happiest, and the richest people are the most miserable backstabbing pricks. Money is evil. It’s literally evil.

TB: So what’s your take on life in general at this point?
It’s a hustle, but it’s not about the money. But then it’s always about the money because you gotta pay bills. Why do you think I’ve been living on couches my whole life? It’s ‘cause I was trying to be a snowboarder. I had to fuckin’ bite that bullet. I had to give up all types of shit ‘cause I was like, “I wanna go snowboard. I wanna travel and see the world, and if this is what it’s gonna take, it’s what it’s gonna take.”

I’ve been a gypsy pretty much since I started snowboarding. I didn’t fucking fly in a plane until snowboarding started for me. That’s why I always ended up stuck in a different country. The team would go, and I’d be like, “Leave me here. I just wanna see the country and see the culture and see how they live. When I was getting stuck here and stuck there, it wasn’t necessarily to party. I mean I always partied, but it was more like hanging out with people and seeing how people live, dude. It’s all life. You can make it heaven or you can make it hell, and this is what I’ve learned at 34, after doing everything I’ve done. The poorest people on this planet are the happiest, and the richest people are the most miserable backstabbing pricks. Money is evil. It’s literally evil.

I was sitting there after rehab, lost everything. I was in the Hollywood Hills with Simon Rex and I had this little epiphany. I’m like, “Fuck, dude, I have nothing. But I have a fuckin’ body and I’m living!” All you need is water, food and anything else beyond that is fuckin’ great. Believe me, there are fuckin’ kooks, dude. There are barnyards, but whatever; everyone’s cool in their own way. But what I’ve realized about the snowboard world — everyone’s got the same passion. And so what we do all revolves around what we like to do. It’s ‘cause we all grew up doing the same shit. You try to talk to some business dude and you’re like, “Just pop around that tree, ollie over the left branch, land left of that cat track and just point it out.” Just that lingo or whatever. They’re like, “What the fuck are you talking about?” But to us, it’s normal.

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