words: Niels Schack
Well, how do I start? Mostly, I think it was a surprise. We were the whole street team of Burton, meeting in Long Island. It was the first time for a lot of us to be gathered like this for a product- and team-building experience, so we were just like in summer camp again. Bunch of new faces on the team. We were all just getting to know each other. After five days, we felt something simmer. We loved hanging out together, but none of us had actually filmed together much. That’s where my head started turning. On the way home back to France, I made a little Whatsapp group (very Euro of me) and started brainstorming. We had all these motivated and generous people; it was time we all got in a van together and got on an adventure.
After couple of weeks, all of the team was on board for the project. Now we needed to find the geniuses that could make the vision happen. Colt Morgan and I had hung out a few times, and I just knew, after all the amazing work he has done over the years, it would be such a graceful moment to be able to make this movie with him. When he said yes, it was like okay, now the flowers have the right soil to start growing. On top of that I have a friend, Arthur Couvat, who is a director and DOP from the music and skate scene in Paris, who always was like, “PLEASSEEE! I want to film mountains and snowboarding so bad with my 16mm!!” But you never know if people are actually down for the negative 39 degree temps in Umeå, waiting for the 300th try for a frontboard kind of READY. But honestly, we couldn’t have hoped for more of an incredible trooper and in the end, he was the heart behind a lot of this adventure.
So, now we had it all! Our pirate crew was ready to embark. All I knew was that I didn’t want to make a traditional snowboard movie—we were way too many riders. I wanted it to feel more like an adventure than filming video parts. So, we channeled our energy into two countries: Finland, which became Sweden for lack of snow, and Japan. Depending on people’s schedules, different riders would come and go, like a hockey team tapping in and out.
The first to get together were Zeb Powell, Grace Warner, and Luke Winkelmann—and they, I mean, just lit Helsinki on fire. Every day, clips would come in from Colt and there were so many smiles. It was right after Christmas. It started the video with some fireworks. Then I came in with Maria Thomsen and Jesse Augustinus, and we took on the next slot. We flew to Sweden to the magical land of Umeå. After the rain of Finland, this fluffy snow haven was just so refreshing! Maria unfortunately got hurt, which was the saddest part of the season, but as per usual of her queen way of life, she kept a smile on and gave us all the energy to make sure we would make her proud. Hope we did do it right, Queen Riri!
The media crew, Colt and Arthur, were really in rhythm by then. We started to see the 16mm and P2 come together so well! Arthur was like a Gonzo journalist thrown in our world, full of wonder, but also humor! A lot of what we do is ridiculous, and he gave perspective to all this: waking up way too early for just four hours of sun, building spots that don’t work, climbing illegal roofs, always saying “Nope, this spot is just not what I’m looking for,” and all of this in the coldest weather. Arthur understood the delusional side of street snowboarding and it was so refreshing to laugh about ourselves the whole time. He actually thought we were crazy and loved it, which was so wonderful to see!
Now everything was set for the big adventure. These little crews of three people were easy, but now we were heading to Japan with a team of ten. With Blotto and Jérôme Tanon as photographers, Colt and Arthur for the film crew, and then Ylfa Rúnarsdóttir, Luke, Grace, Rob Roethler, Jesse, and me in one van, it was a real family road trip.
We all arrived at different times and made our way to Hokkaido. This was the feeling that I was looking for. All these people brought together by a glimpse of idea that turns into a real experience. Half of the crew had never been to Japan, so it was just discovery on discovery! Eyes we were wide, ready to see a new world! And we did absolutely find it! From the winds that look like dragons along the coast, to the beautiful birch trees that were whispering stories to us, to all this snow that magically appeared every night and woke us up with pillows of dreams, we were somewhere else. Somewhere where snow would flow all the way up to our eyebrows, where food was more crunchy and delightful than ever, and where warm baths would soothe us at dusk. It was the retreat we needed.
Did we get all the clips we need…probably not. But that was the idea, to not focus on snowboarding! The best part, I would say, was Grace riding powder for the first time! A full day with snowshoes, lost on the side of the road, close to Otaru. She was led by the experienced Ylfa, Jérôme, and Blotto, who gave all of us pointers to make sure were being careful. Grace was scared, of course, but then she did one or two front flips into marshmallow land and then her first real turns! By the end of the day, you could see she lived something different; she had little stars in her eyes. That what we were looking for. Something new. Something that reminded us how lucky we were to be doing this. To be taking the time, to still be kids, and to enjoy how amazing and unique these sorts of experiences are.
Arthur also discovered the joy of pow surfing, and of course, every park or small hill or mellow turns by the road was a mandatory stop to take a couple of failed runs and heartfelt laughs. And seeing all the riders push each other was magical! Rob, Luke, and Ylfa dropped some of the biggest pillows I’ve ever seen and everyone threw themselves down on rails where we had maybe five tries before we got kicked out. We were proactive and generous with our time, waking up real early and enjoying full days. Two weeks felt like two months!
So, to talk a little about everyone who was part of this. Zeb, my goodness he can make any sort of feature feel like new. He plays literal jazz in the streets. Grace is just ready, always down to push herself into literal harm’s way. She just slays with ease and elegance. Luke is the most energetic, with the biggest smile and on literal sniper mode at all times. Jesse rides the snow like it’s air, gliding through everything on a little cloud. Then Rob is just hitting new levels. He can do it all, always with the craft and subtle art of a graceful giant. And Ylfa. Well, she is MVP. She is just so impressive! Heart on her sleeve, she just gets everything in couple of tries. And my days! She hits only death-defying spots, whether there’s a cable passing by her head, a landing in a river, or no landing at all, or it’s down through a tunnel of doom—she takes off her beanie and brings the lioness out! Finally, Maria we don’t forget about you. She paves the way for projects like this. She is just the boss! Honestly these people are just amazing!!! I’m happy to have them as friends and partners in crime.
All in all, everyone got tricks and made memories, and we all got to be this little family under the same roof across the world. It was nothing like I had lived before and I’m just so happy we got to do this all together. By the end, we had so much footage, and so many memories, and it was up to Colt, Arthur, and I to share this with everyone. We are very excited to present you Blooom, the story of a traveling home pushed by the winds across sea, land, and snow. Let’s see where this adventure will bring us next!
This feature originally appears in Snowboard Magazine Issue 20.1. To see it in print, order a copy here.