Let’s make the water turn black: The Dave Downing story as told by Kevin Jones

Name: Dave Downing
Alias: Triple D, Downer
Sorry ladies: Married to Shannon Dunn-Downing with two kids, Logan and Dillon

dave-downing-kevin-jones-portrait-for-web
Utah treating Dave well. Via his Instagram

When I was a puppy, the Crest Theatre in Sacramento, California was where I got to see what happened in the world of snowboarding the previous year. Premiere season was a huge deal back then. There was no Internet to get your fix, all you had was last year’s VCR tapes and they would be worn out from playing them too much. We would see sequence shots in Snowboarder or Transworld and couldn’t wait to see the films; who landed for real and who didn’t… to size yourself up and see if the dream you were pursuing was in fact of the pipe variety. This cult crew of misfits would show up from hundreds of miles away, a pilgrimage of shredders boozed up (at least I was) and stoked out of our minds! Time for the show… The lights dim and the projector sends a laser at the huge white sheet in front of me and I can’t help but question how it can penetrate the weed cloud that has formed in the three seconds since they hit the lights.

“My name is Dave Downing and I like to ride everything, the whole mountain.” This classic quote comes from the opening segment of TB3, Standard Films’ third effort Coming Down the Mountain. My jaw dropped. I yelled at my girlfriend Nicole, “I know this guy!” like it was the Dali Lama or something! One of the standout tricks in this part is a boardslide fs270 out on a C rail in Mammoth. That was the first time I saw Dave ride in person the previous spring. It’s a trick that will forever be etched in my dome piece and I still think about it every time I ride the Mammoth park. This groundbreaker part was just what the quote says: threading the needle through chutes, cliff airs, halfpipe, quarterpipe, kickers, hips, rails and a switch method to top it off. Who does this? Who gets an opening segment in a Standard film and can be this well-rounded of a snowboarder after just three years on a board and more importantly, to do it with so much style?

Dave Downing
The famed S-rail. Nixon Jib Fest, 2001. Photo: Shem Roose

Dave had worked in a surf shop and was an aspiring pro surfer. He got a job as a sales rep for Burton after the shop began carrying snowboards, he started snowboarding.

“I think it comes from the environment I grew up in here in California,” says Downing. “I started surfing when I was about 11 and skateboarded as well, but when I started snowboarding up at Big Bear in 1990 I had huge influences like Bryan Iguchi, Brian Thein, Mike Parillo, Todd Profit, Todd Messick, and Shannon Haymes, so I started snowboarding with a big freestyle influence. Then I met Craig Kelly and he really influenced me to get out in the backcountry and find my own line. I was a rep for Burton in ‘93 and that is when I went to Europe because Eric Kotch, who was the team manager for Burton, asked me to go on a trip for a TWS article. I met Jeff Curtes and Shannon Dunn on that trip and my life changed. I think I became a ‘pro’ after that trip in ‘93.”

“Dave Downing filmed eleven parts with Standard Films and a bunch with Mack Dawg. That is something that is not easy to do in snowboarding. Dave is a really solid all around rider. From cheese wedges, urban, and big mountain, Downing could always get a shot on film. He is also one of the nicest and most hard working riders I have ever worked with. He is a true class act that sets a good example. He surfs amazing too….” — Mike Hatchett

“Life changer” is an understatement. Dave is the silent assassin of the ‘90s and ‘2000s. He designed the all-time best selling snowboard series in history with Joe Curtes, the Burton Custom. Met his wife Shannon Dunn-Downing (who has a few X Games medals, was the first American female Olympic medalist for halfpipe, and has a number of video parts under her belt), would go on to film eleven video parts in a row with Standard Films while filming a smaller part with Mack Dawg Productions almost all those years, countless published editorial pages worldwide, co-founder of the Nixon Jib Fest along with JP Walker and Jeremy Jones, had a fourteen-year “pro career” with Burton and sustained no major injuries… Yeah, that was an important trip!

“Dave is snowboarding’s favorite uncle. When I first met him I wasn’t even sponsored yet and he was at the Brighton halfpipe ripping. The drop in was small and it was hard to get speed. He was slinging me and other kids into the first hit so we could have speed to blast. He’s always been one of the most stoked and genuine shreds in the game.” — JP Walker

Dave Downing
Dave, Jeremy and JP at the Nixon Jib Fest, 2000. Photo: Shem Roose

One of those video parts was done entirely on a splitboard: TB9 from Standard Films. Splitboarding was a new animal around 2000. People were playing with the idea but not too many people were convinced yet. They were skis, and you even had to use poles? Snowmobiles were the backcountry snowboarder’s tool of choice and those who could afford one got to ride a lot of pow. Those who didn’t had to posthole for days in snowshoes or do battle in the lift lines. Downing saw the early potential for these awkward hippy sticks with their ease of use, speed of travel and relative cheapness. Dave wanted to prove to the world that you could actually ride on these things. The biggest controversy was performance. People wanted to be convinced that these boards could be ridden like a normal board before dropping a grand into a setup or cutting a favorite shredstick in half with a jigsaw.

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