words: Joe Kanzangu

The scene when you get off the Q train from Brooklyn onto Canal Street is always a frenzy. This part of lower Manhattan, a constant rush that’s always buzzing at a ten, can be a doozy if you’re not sure where you’re going. Yet once you get past the entrepreneurial street vendors on Canal, beyond the chic galleries off Mercer, make sure to take a right on Greene Street and go two blocks north, you’ll find yourself at the Burton NYC Flagship store—where things turned up even more last month. This is where Soy Sauce Nation’s Stir-Fry East officially launched with a party and a full-on New York/Tri-State takeover. Where everyone from everywhere came together in appreciation. In the store basement, new friends were made, old friends reconnected, and the East Coast showed out. Between Filipino empanadas being passed around the pool table, riders skating through the SoHo streets, and tables being mashed together for dinner, the Friday night was a perfect intro to an overdue cross-cultural gathering out East: A celebration of Asian heritage and snowboarding through a multicultural movement. 

As a non-Asian Black person, I realize the importance of being mindful when it comes to appreciating other cultures. It’s not enough to consume a culture in a digital facet if I’m not willing to build connections with the people from those cultures in real life. It adds to my own. 

At Stir-Fry East, whether I was connecting with people about our favorite anime, the best place for Korean fried chicken (Kuku Korean Cuisine has entered the chat), exhibits at the MOCA, trying to save the Chino-Latino staple La Dinastia, or raving about our favorite East Coast resort, I quickly realized we were building cross-cultural bonds. In our shared connection to snowboarding, we saw the beauty in everyone’s distinct background.

Like the many traditions and styles of the diaspora, many came in beaming with joy to be able to share and be at ease within their own cultural roots. “It was amazing to see different groups of people coming together, who have met at other Soy Sauce Nation events, continue to build their friendships,” SSN co-creator Andrew “AK” Kelly told me after the event. New Yorker, cinematographer, and party guide Carlo “Barlo” Marasigan reflected that his video interviews at Stir-Fry exemplified the importance of representation and identity in snowboarding. And that none of us should aim to be just a snowboarder. We all carry so much more than that. “Personally, you are more than just a snowboarder. You’re a vessel for not only snowboarding, but your own culture,” he shared. 

The two-day festivities at Stir-Fry East showcased how far Soy Sauce Nation had come. A collective that started as just an online community, now has people showing up from Colorado, Utah, and all up and down the West Coast to come experience New York, East Rutherford, New Jersey (the home of Big SNOW), and connect with East Coast community members. More importantly, Soy Sauce Nation has built a space for people to continue to pull up for each other in life. A space where people can be their full self while riding. We need more of that in snowboarding. “There’s not many places to go board in the summer months, so having this at the end of summer at Big SNOW allows people to get that fix,” Soy Sauce Nation co-creator Nirvana Ortanez tells me.

Snowboarding, a sport that has been historically homogeneous in its digital depiction, has so much to gain when it truly fosters diversity moving forward. Detailing the different styles, backgrounds, and ethnicities that have made a home in snowboarding make the larger snowboarding culture that much more sumptuous. 

There are many components to making stir fry. Whether you’re at a small shop in Flushing or making Sunday dinner, stirring the wok yourself, it always tastes better when enjoyed with others. At Stir-Fry East, Soy Sauce Nation showed us just how fun it is to bring different ingredients together. The myriad of cultures pop out. “The fun thing about these events is that you’re able to identify with people on multiple levels,” AK reflected. With Big SNOW as our wok, some riders took on “Boxzilla,” others loaded up on spicy garlic and pad thai noodle kits from Kikkoman, Miles Fallon and LJ Henriquez hyped everyone up, and many laughs were shared while cooking in the fridge. 

When you build a connection to a community, you also have a responsibility to give back to it. Throughout the weekend, Soy Sauce Nation raised funds to help out with the efforts in Hawaii in response to the deadly fires. There are still many affected from this disaster and relief and recovery resources are still needed. If you have the means, consider  are ways to help those affected by the Maui wildfires through the Maui Strong Fund.