In the internet age (that sounds incredibly dated to say, but it’s accurate), the idea of a meme is ubiquitous. From LOLcats to Drake posting, these cultural signifiers are shared and shifted, often until jokes collapse on themselves in one of the more meta forms of cultural commentary (actual “Meta” aside because pfft). The foundation of memes is the ability to cache and share information collectively, whether niche or widespread, though it is only the most astute observers who trade in this creative currency, which involves a meticulous cataloging of where culture crashes together and opportunities to make sense of things in a clever way. Conceptually, it’s not unlike being fluent in snowboarding. (Follow me, here.) Understanding snowboarding’s history, benchmarks, trends, icons, and the implications of all of this takes a nuanced understanding of the context of the culture. They’re both instances of niche-yet-shared language and while the barrier to basic entry is on the low side, to have a mastery of either takes significant dedication.
Enter Chas Truslow. Expert on snowboarding and bona fied meme lord. (He would never say this about himself because he is very humble, but we can say it because it is true.) Chas’s love and knowledge of Boardworld is as deep as they come and his ability to deftly commentate on the tricks, tropes, and trends is honestly, unmatched. In the late aughts, he launched Catfish Chronicles to share videos and quickly gained steam as a trusted source for good snowboarding. His professional path has taken him from New England to Oregon to NYC—both in and out of the snow industry and with significant viral fame that he talks about below—and has imbued in him a perspective that is rooted in a devotion to the core and enriched with a passion for bringing others in. It’s a meaningful perspective for someone who is trusted to supply not only really, really good memes but is contributing deeply to shaping snowboarding. Chas resides in Rhode Island and works as the global digital content manager at Burton, where his love of boarding history and boarding’s future collide (and his wife, Molly, is also one of the most digitally savvy out there, making them basically unstoppable when it comes to the internet/life).
This winter, Chas heads to Hokkaido to host a session at Alkaline Lodge. The week includes snowboard trivia nights, which is a testament to how much folks admire Chas’ knowledge, efforts, and dank memes. There are still some spots left if you want to join! Mark Clavin caught up with the notorious Catfish, enjoy. – Mary T. Walsh
Interview by Mark Clavin
When were you born?
I was born in Boston in 1990.
And when/where was your first meme born?
lol. Hmmmmm. First meme. Shit.
Hard hitting questions, I know.
Honestly, I think it might have been when I was like five. My mom used to work in advertising, and I’d spend a lot of my time at her office growing up. I remember one time they were working on an ad for Nissan to try and convey that they made their cars in America. They had all these photos spread out across this table and were talking. I more or less saw a photo of a cargo ship and a forest and suggested they put the two together. They ended up going with it and made some print ads and those pens that where when you tilt them it moves from one side to the other… But at the end of the day, I would consider that a meme. Like it was taking an idea and boiling it down to something super straightforward.
Who are you, Don Draper?
Haha, little kids just have a creative eye that can’t be beat.
What was your first idea that went viral?
I had the Killa Bart design back in the Tumblr days that was pretty big. It actually fucked with my head. For years I never made another design because I knew I’d never make something as impactful.
I looked that one up and definitely remember that.
I was living with my parents and just made it a mission to make something for Tumblr every day, just to keep motivated and learn new things in design. I think that was the third thing I made. I posted it and the next day it had like 40k reblogs on it. Then a few days later, Cam’ron posted it and it just went crazy from there. Then this dude who was a trend forecaster at Urban Outfitters hit me up. He offered me some money to print the design and I think I lived off that money for nine months or something. We did like five runs of the shirt, got it in this cool streetwear book, and some other stuff, then he got a cease and desist from 20th Century Fox. Other people started bootlegging it, which was sick to see–like Chief Keef’s artist at the time ripped it off, some NFL player got it on their cleats, Tommy Hilfiger’s son got a tattoo of it, some other rapper got a chain of it.
And then you had the Bernie one everywhere?
This was a big one for me too. I originally posted that meme on my account during the Inauguration, but was pushed by people to throw it up on Burton too, and I’m so glad I did. It ended up being included in a bunch of major publications’ round-ups, including Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Complex, but most importantly, it was on Good Morning America, which means my grandmother saw a meme I made, lol.
I also had a FB video about a Taco Pizza that got like 100M+ views on it, lol. The restaurant that made it ended up on all the talk shows the week after we made it, and I think I was told it was in the top ten most viral FB videos of the year when it came out.
Difference between going viral ten years ago and now? Monetarily, length, reach, all that?
I don’t know, really. I think now the algorithms and stories make it easier to reach people. Back then it was hard to track, but if you went viral it seemed like you could make a career off one post if you really wanted to.
How does it feel to have Forum and Jeremy Jones show you some love? Your meme is now an icon’s profile picture as they relaunch an iconic brand.
I think it’s pretty sick to see Jeremy give that meme so much love. I DM’d him the other day, saying that I made it while I was driving through the tunnel in Boston. Someone just texted me, “Forum?” I opened IG and right away had the meme pop in my head. Having him shout it out on Air Time was sick. One of those moments where you feel like a thirteen-year-old again.
What was more meaningful, having Jeremy show you love or Cam’ron with Killa Bart?
Cam’ron showing love to Killa Bart, for sure! TRJJ is cool and all, but c’mon, Cam’ron is Cam’ron.
Do you consider yourself a historian of snowboarding?
I did at one point, then I realized I don’t know shit. My dream is to go back to school and get a history degree and become an actual snowboard historian. I want to be like TK; his knowledge of snowboarding is just insane.
Trying to preserve snowboarding’s history, especially when it comes to the videos, is critical in my opinion. If we lose our past, we lose a part of our culture’s identity. It has been my favorite part about working at Burton now. I have the space to write about the history of the brand and push for content that talks about it.
Where do your ideas come from?
I have no real control over it. I don’t just like sit down and say, “I’m making a meme.” It more just pops in my head and I make it. Every once and a while, I’ll farm some images from Reddit to save for a later date, but nine out of ten times, I just get a dumb idea and make it. I mean that’s how the Bernie meme happened. I was in a meeting, watching the Inauguration and boom. Or I’ll see a trend and put it through the lens of how I view snowboarding, like the Will Smith meme I made about Deadlung.
What trends are you hyped on right now in snowboarding?
I’d like to think it’s not a trend, but it seems to me that snowboarders are opening up the community more and creating space for people who are maybe not as good skill-wise but are passionate about snowboarding. I remember a time when everyone wanted to be dicks. Being a dick was the trend. I’d like to think the opposite is now the case.
Best board for a tailblock?
Ohhh, that’s my kind of question. I would say the ’06 Ride Society LTD. It was essentially a DH but had a better core. I could stand on the tail for an eternity with that board. I also think the Burton Family Tree Stun Gun goes, but it’s super directional and I kind of count that as cheating since the tail is so small and nose so big. I did ride the Good Company in the dome last week and I think we’re gonna get some new blocks this winter on that one.
Alright, enough of that. When did you start snowboarding?
I didn’t start snowboarding until I was in eighth grade. I’d always wanted to learn, but my parents wanted me to ski. I eventually just saved a bunch of money up, bought a Jeenyus Tara Dakides board and taught myself. I’d go to Blue Hills in Massachusetts every night for an entire winter.
Ever ride for a shop or anything like that growing up?
Nah, not really. The only shop I rep is Splinters. Shout out to Travis and the crew there.
When was Catfish actually born?
I started the blog in the summer of 2009. A lot of videos weren’t getting up on the major sites back then and I kind of felt like this was a good way to share it all. During my first semester at UVM, I learned about blogspot and how easy it was to run. The actual name came from the idea that it would be a running list of all the cool videos I came across on the internet (Chronicles) and the nickname I had for my blackout alter-ego (Catfish).
Is the site still live?
Nah, it’s dead. I still own the URL and stuff but I’m not hosting it anymore. Once I started a full-time job in NYC I couldn’t keep it going.
Okay, quick chronicle of the Chas Truslow timeline.
Went to UVM for a year, then transferred to Champlain and graduated from there for graphic design. While I was there I met my now wife, Molly, who got me into social media and pushed me to do more with The Catfish Chronicles. That eventually led to me getting hit up by Rian Rhoe, who ran PR for Salomon/Bonfire. She hired me as an intern, meaning I ran the social for both brands. I did that for about a year then spent the summer in Oregon working in their office. I started to split my time between Vermont in the winter and Portland in the summer. In the winter I’d work at Sugarbush Parks, doing park crew and running the digital marketing. BIG, BIG shout out to Tony Chiuchiolo for hiring me, and for everything he did for the Sugarbush community. We miss you, T. Then in the summer, I worked for Windells one year, and the next I got hired by Yobeat to be the online editor.
How was Yobeat?
Working at Yobeat was a wild ride. It was probably some of the most fun and most low points of my life, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Really thankful that Brooke hired me and got me going. But when Yobeat sort of fell apart, I moved back to Vermont for a winter and really wanted to change it up.
And you moved to NYC?
Yeah, my wife helped me line up a job at this clothing site JackThreads.com where I worked as a social media manager. At the same time, I also worked for Vimeo on the Curation Team, writing reviews of all the action sports videos they hosted on their On Demand page. I watched so many goddamn sky diving videos, it was rough, haha, BUT…
The owner of JackThreads also was the owner of Thrillist. Right at the end of my first year, they had a massive layoffs at JackThreads and split the companies apart. When they laid me off, they also offered me a job at Thrillist. I took that and ended up working there for four years. I started on their social team, then transitioned to becoming an associate video producer and eventually worked my way up to senior video producer. I ended up specializing in food/restaurant videos and got to work on a bunch of great video projects there.
Hands down, favorite food spot in NYC?
Ooof, that’s a very hard question. Changes with my mood, haha.
But there has to be just one that never misses.
What kind of food?
It’s an American Cantonese restaurant in Williamsburg that my friend Calvin is the chef-owner of. They make an MSG Martini and this wild mezcal drink where the ice cube is made of Riptide Rush Gatorade. Their McRib is insane.
Sounds like you have not changed since you were a child. You have had a pretty nonlinear path to where you are now, did you think you’d be back in snowboarding when you were editing food videos in NYC? That is definitely a dream job for a lot of people.
I think I’d be lying to myself if I said I didn’t think I’d end up working backing in snowboarding. I think I tried to steer away from it, but it was always in the back of my head. I was still riding a bunch when I was in the city and I’d always cross paths with people from Boardworld there. It was still a major part of my life. When the pandemic hit, I was laid off and spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted. At the end of the day, the more I thought about it, the more I felt the pull back to the snowboard community. I also think leaving, then coming back, has given me a bit of a different perspective. If I’d never gone to NYC, I think my viewpoint on it all would be much more narrow than how I see it now.
Originally my mindset was very much “stay core, stay poor.” Haha. I was pretty close-minded to thinking outside my views on Boardworld. Five years in NYC opened my eyes to so many incredible experiences, perspectives, etc.
And now you are working for Burton. Another dream job for a lot of young boarders out there. You’ve blended the two worlds as the global digital content manager. Any words of wisdom for people trying to make a career in snowboarding?
I’m probably the last person to ask; people hit me up on Linkedin every once in a while and I never know what to say, haha. To me, if snowboarding is something that is part of your life/identity and you’re passionate about it, it will just happen naturally. I’d say, be proactive and forge your own path. The way the world works now isn’t how it did one/five/ten years ago. Be true to yourself and what you want will happen when it’s supposed to. Seems kind of corny, haha, but yeah.
Nope, that’s about the only key anymore. Nothing makes sense. It’s luck, persistence and a week where a brand has a little budget to spend, haha.
Yeah 100%. I think if you’re involved with the community, whether it’s local or larger, and if it’s meant to be, something will happen. It’s all relationships and reputation.
What’s your day-to-day now at Burton?
It changes from season to season, but it’s normally wake up, answer DMs, then have some meetings for upcoming campaigns. Maybe work on giving notes for a Team Update video or editing a new Burton Blog. I’ll also post on social, respond to comments, and look for things to post. More meetings. Maybe layout some assets for Instagram Stories or edit a Reel. Call it a day.
Top Three Online Videos:
1. Danimals at Hyland
3. Blunt Drama
Bonus: Salomon Salomonder
You have any favorite internet culture accounts you follow to keep you entertained and on your toes?
Shit, too many to name off the top of my head. @grapejuiceboys I feel like is an old classic. They might have fallen off a bit though. @snowboardingisdead was great. I wish that one would get resurrected. Idk, there’s so much shit that I look at it’s hard to really think of any. A bunch of older photographers have been posting stuff recently which has been rad. I love seeing all that history being brought back to the surface
What is your honest take on social media’s overall affect on snowboarding, positively and negatively?
I’m spinning my wheels on this one. I’ve written four different answers already, haha. I think about this question a lot, not just in regard to snowboarding, but in regard to the world in general.
Sure, a lot has changed about snowboarding with the advent of social media. Magazines have lost their throne. Full-length videos are becoming rarer and rarer. A magazine cover has lost its cultural impact. The list goes on and on. But I think now, snowboarding, snowboarders, and the overall community are more accessible than ever. As a kid, I was obsessed with snowboarding but it wasn’t until I had the internet that it clicked for me that it was more than just contests. I learned almost everything I know about snowboarding from the internet/social media. I grew up reading magazines, but it wasn’t until I found the forum, Snow Perception, that I felt like I was connected to a snowboard community I was into. That site fueled my passion and curiosity around snowboarding. I think if that were today, I’d find that community through social media.
It might have to do with the fact that I’m an introvert, but to me, social media makes it easier for snowboarders worldwide to connect. It’s made it so that people who are interested in the same things can easily link up and breaks down the boundaries that used to exist due to geography, time, etc.
How about any predictions on downfall of Insta? This seems to be a hot topic right now.
Hot topic indeed, and it’s pretty clear that Instagram is struggling to match what’s going on with TikTok. They know they’re in trouble and can’t just buy the app or copy it one-for-one like they may have done in the past. Video will continue to be what they push, but if they were smart, they’d go back to their roots and maybe try to figure out how to make a better photo experience. They’re really doing themselves a disservice with all the content and algorithm whiplash.
Oh yeah! We can’t forget to plug your Japan trip! How did you get a signature session?
Haha yeah, pretty wild to me that someone would want to give me a “signature session” especially for riding powder. So Ed, the owner of Alkaline Lodge, used to run a video podcast/website call Buoloco and I did a view videos with him like ten years ago now. He hit me up this year and was just like, “You want to do this?” Kind of a no-brainer not to do it. So yeah, if anyone reading this has always wanted to go to Japan, we can ragdoll in Hokkaido together.