It’s Saturday in mid-May, and like too many people, I am still checking my emails first thing in the morning. The name Krush is in my inbox. Unless Finding Nemo is on some new-wave promotion train, the only Krush I know is snowboarding’s very own Krush Kulesza of Snowboy Productions, the event production team behind gatherings like Holy Bowly and IT’S TITS!.
“Sima! You’re invited to Soy Sauce Nation’als!”
Receiving an invite to a Snowboy event means you’re “in.” I have been snowboarding for about a decade, I have worked in a couple of shops, and I have plenty of friends in the snowboard industry. I currently work for Skate Like a Girl, a non-profit where our mission is to create an inclusive community by promoting self-confidence, leadership, and social justice through skateboarding. All of this has put me in an interesting, one-foot-in, one-foot-out area when it comes to the snowboarding industry, and we can’t deny the fact, that realm can act quite exclusively. In that case, I’ll introduce myself properly, since to most, I am a complete stranger.
Hi, my name is Simaputri Safavi-Bayat (I usually don’t say it out loud or let my full name be in print. The relevancy of this will surface later in this piece.) and I use she/her pronouns. I am 25 years old, grew up in the Northwest, and am an Indonesian and Persian mutt. I can guarantee many of you reading this will be able to relate to most of the aspects of the previous sentence, unfortunately, the one thing you may not relate to, my cultural background, is the very thing that has always made me feel like an outsider, even when I am “in.”
My identity as a snowboarder can not be divorced from my identity as an Indonesian/Iranian American, and both of those things are fundamental to who I am. We can’t just pretend that when we put on our snowboarding kits that we are all of a sudden “the same.” I could go into greater detail about how feeling like a fetish skewed my self-image. How buying my Ibu Ira (how one calls their mom in Indonesian) pepper spray and fearing for her life made us feel betrayed by a society we spent decades conforming to. About feeling exclusion lingering on hill, at premieres, and when looking at magazines. But why do so? I would rather take this space to commemorate the positives.
One of the recent celebrations was a specific moment of acknowledgement. Prior to the invite to SSN’als, my dear friend and colleague at Skate Like a Girl, Kim Woozy (Chinese by way of Taiwan), and I were on a panel together called Women of Color in Action Sports. Within 24 hours, we received an email from Mat Savage at Coal Headwear. He had listened to the discussion and wanted to have an open dialogue with us. We had a Zoom call, which then transformed into direct support of our own ideas, bringing them to fruition. The snowball effect of someone in the industry even just paying attention turned into a chance for Kim and I to not have to prove how much of a “snowboarder” we each are or how “Asian” we are (as if they were ever mutually exclusive to begin with). Wow, we were finally being heard and able to do the work by ourselves and for “our people.”
So, flashback to that email from Krush. That is what the inaugural Soy Sauce Nation’als represented to me: An opportunity for snowboarders to organically represent themselves. Representation means individuality isn’t stripped away when my Filipina friend Nali Prevedel gets mistaken for me on Mt. Hood just because she and I are both Bro-…well, you know what I am alluding to. Representation is powerful, freeing, and inspiring. Representation influences the very influx of feelings that keep us on board, literally and figuratively. Lack of representation has also pushed people to walk away. The notion of representation matters to and is deserved by everyone. This is all in parallel with remembering that there exists a multitude of colors in what an Asian/Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) person looks, sounds, boards, and lives like. Soy Sauce Nation’s very existence is a huge part in the integral step forward in explicitly portraying what snowboarding is and has always been.
Frontside, backside, switch, regular. It didn’t matter how our families rooted themselves in The States because we all immigrated to the same hill, United. In late June, about 50 snowboarders gathered at Mt. Hood to ride together. There weren’t people telling us that we’re “so exotic,” because we were simply all going too fast for them to see the shape of our eyes, the color of our skin, or even to get a waft of our ancestral cooking forever ingrained on our favorite sweatshirt. No one got frustrated when saying each other’s names or asked if they could say it differently because it was “easier.” Miles Fallon (Laos) and Kimo Cole (Okinawa) were boosting almost similar sized airs even though they differ in age–but wait, the reality is no one could truly guess anyone’s age (thank you, genetics). It was a strong inter-generational event, almost like an unintentional ode to a familial structure many of us participants are all too familiar with. The force of being seen and represented was present. Our group, man, our group was magical. Echoing the words of Andrew “AK” Kelly, Soy Sauce Nation co-founder along with Nirvana Ortanez, “Love you all.”
Thank you Soy Sauce Nation (Nirvana and AK), Snowboy Productions (Krush and fam), Timberline Resort (what’s good, park crew/diggers), ALL the participants who are now family (you know who you are), Mike Yoshida, and Snowboard Mag for giving me this opportunity to ramble.
I am a snowboarder named Simaputri (see-mah-poo-tree) Safavi-Bayat (sah-fah-vee-bah-yat). A product of immigration, a seamless blend of Middle East (Iran) and Southeast (Indonesia) Asian flavors, and in lieu of soy sauce, I grew up with a sweeter, more viscous derivative called kecap manis (keh-chup mah-nees).
Thank you to Nirvana and AK at Soy Sauce Nation, Snowboy Productions, Roxy, Timberline Freestyle, Diecutstickers.com, Crab Crab, and Dang Shades for making Soy Sauce Nation’als possible. For more SSN, follow @soysaucenation on Instagram.