YES. It’s more than a movie
“How can we tell our story?” starts JP Solberg, “How can we put YES. on the map and give ourselves an identity?” Contemplating the consequence of his thought, he continues, “This isn’t about who can go the biggest or do the most insane trick anymore. This is about the adventure!” Without hesitation, he exclaims, “Good snowboarding comes naturally after you let the journey unfold.”
On the outside looking in, anyone from the shit talkin’ liftie to the most dedicated rider struggling for that season pass might feel slighted by the idea of a professional snowboarder telling the community to, “Enjoy the ride, bro.” It would be easy to assume the “must be nice” attitude towards this projection. As in, must be nice to travel the world, have pockets that deep, have no worries. Must be nice guy… but that’s beyond our realm of snowboarding.
Almost angrily JP counters that notion, “People think that we make tons of money… Are you kidding me?” The fact is along with business partners David Carrier-Porcheron or “DCP” and Romain de Marchi, they haven’t taken a dollar out of the company they call YES.nowboards. Everything they earn is put back into new designs, more efficient business, more initiative to spread what they are about. What most people don’t realize is the bloodshed required to reach these heights or “perceived” heights.
“People think we ride in a helicopter just for shits and giggles,” he fires back. “We earn our lines the same way you do. We hike, sled, we sweat man!”
Tadashi Fuse | Japan | Photo: Jeff Curley
He looks, down, sighs and opens up with, “All we want is to get people hyped on snowboarding for the right reasons.” It’s obvious that the growth of the thing he loves most, the thing that has shaped his outlook on life, the idea that snowboarding taken in the right direction can provide pure happiness, is far more important an idea to the 29 year old Norwegian than a successful brand.
People always ask me, “Dude where is the best place to ride?” Given his natural predisposition for lightheartedness, JP starts with a laugh, “All I can say to that is that it can be your backyard if it snowed enough! Get yourself a little bit of angle, and your homies and you can have the time of your life anywhere there is snow.” Concluding with as much seriousness as he can muster he insists, “You don’t need to travel far!”
That is to say, the adventure lies within… or maybe not as far away as you would think.
We don’t need to go over the story of what happened and why it played out the way it did, let’s just say that almost four years ago three very influential pro riders found themselves queued up in the unemployment line.
Without scouring the depths of the industry for support, playing the free agent card as is the norm, or compromising their ideals, the founding fathers of YES. looked to each other instead.
“Knowing one another so well, we almost knew what we we’re going to do without even talking about it,” recalls DCP. Looking back with a laugh, the wild-eyed and wilder-haired French Canadian sarcastically grins and says, “Now we have our own brand, our own company… EASY!”
The support from the industry, from other riders and from friends came naturally. The contributions these three have given to snowboarding over the past decade is so profound that it would take a brave man to contend that they didn’t have a significant hand in shaping what we call freestyle snowboarding. If the mainstream has Shaun White to thank for their view of snowboarding, the true riding community is indebted to JP, Romain and DCP for furthering our notion of what snowboarding really is. Ever humble, and almost oblivious to this notion DCP insists, “We just want to support our way of life and also inspire others to explore the soul of shredding,” something he tries to expand on before JP butts in with his trademark surfer dude accent, “We’re organic bro!” There is nothing artificial about YES., nothing counterfeit – everything that has happened, they let happen naturally.
Having partnered with everyone’s favorite snow samurai Tadashi Fuse, and more recently former teammate Trevor “TROUBLE” Andrew, YES. Has grown from its initial “idea.” With a team that includes, French Canadian terror Benji Ritchie and fellow Squamanian (Squamish, BC resident), Mikey Pederson, along with Jake Koia, Vince Pages, Madison Elsworth, Helen Schettini, Frank April, Wyatt Caldwell and JP’s brother Stian Solberg, YES. is growing in concept as well as market share.
Instead of cc’ing each other an email tagged: Snowboard Marketing for Dummies, a tactic long passed around in the bro-eat-bro world of this incestuous industry, the upstart YES. men went with a somewhat opposite approach. Afforded a level of respect among the highest in the industry, they have earned the right to do whatever they want, yet, it’s interesting to find the path they have chosen is such a selfless one. JP states, “We want to give back to the snowboard community, that was our first goal with YES. and it still is. We want people to know the roots of snowboarding, why we do this in the first place.”
Frank April | Montreal, Quebec | Photo: Bob Plumb
To understand JP’s concern, he elaborates on the idiosyncrasies of the professional snowboarder – a mindfuck he experienced first hand and something he believes has much to do with snowboarding’s transformation from an “experience” to commodity:
“When a company picks you up, of course they want to toss you around the best way they think is right for them. But it’s funny, what they don’t realize is the reason you turned into an awesome snowboarder in the first place is because of the things you were doing before you even got hooked up. So when a company expects you to shine, yet places you in a forced environment, as a snowboarder you’re not on that same path anymore. When you are picked and pulled in all directions it becomes hard to maintain who you were and why you rode the way you did in the first place. Now I feel like it has come full circle, and I’m back on track. I’m doing it again for all the reasons I started when my snowboarding was pure.”
Similarly, YES’. soul brother number one, DCP can hardly contain his enthusiasm when he looks back on what he values as an “important learning experience”. Without those years of push and pull, pressure and commitment he wonders if they would have recognized what has become their mission. Given snowboarding can be taken in many directions, he concedes, “Now we are doing what WE feel is right!”
Benjie Ritchie | Whistler, BC | Photo: Dom Gauthier
With the exploitation of snowboarding through big money and contests, it’s plain to see that it may have been pushed in a contrived direction that didn’t necessarily benefit the actual riders – the professionals the kids looked up to and wanted to be like. It’s simple to see how this might breed a circuitous pattern that dilutes as much as pollutes.
“Now that we have a say,” begins Romian, undoubtedly the most outspoken of the bunch, “We want to open the eyes of snowboarding a bit.” His Swiss accent does less to amuse than it does to drive his convictions home as he continues, “Snowboarding has many categories, which is great for the sport, don’t get me wrong, but I want those people that only know snowboarding as one thing to see it as another.” He contends that, “In snowboarding we tend to separate ourselves and lots of people shit on each other… ‘Oh you’re a jibber, oh you’re a big mountain rider… that’s all you know.’ I think that’s so stupid.” Starting to get a tinge frustrated he snaps, “Let’s just remember why you put your snowboard on your feet to begin with. It’s to be free!”
But freedom as a marketing platform? Let’s not forget, this is a business not the emancipation of an enslaved territory. But Romain maintains, “I don’t care. Something may be good for business but not good for snowboarding. We can’t let big business define what snowboarding is.” He stops and reflects with a sense of urgency, “We can’t just give it away anymore!”
YES. boat trip | Norway | Photo: Matt Georges
The hope is that through their shared experience and deeper insights snowboarding might be something that you are proud of— that it can be something that defines you as a person. As it stands though, the distribution of a lifestyle is much harder to push than cool snowboards endorsed by living legends. So without delving into any more emo-political babble how do they hope to spread their beliefs?
Though it may not be as evident as in skateboarding or surfing, snowboarding is beginning to take strides towards supporting the more homegrown and independent movements; hence, the proliferation of small production companies and the return of team movies. Here lies the perfect stage to showcase the YES. philosophy.
Employing long-time friends Pascal Gallant (formerly of Mack Dawg fame) and Paul Watt (best known for his work with Absinthe), the concept of YES. it’s a Movie was born with little more than a couple of filmers who knew one thing – if they kept the cameras rolling there would be no shortage of entertaining footage. Even JP claims, “This movie really has no direction. It’s just a documentaion of what gets us hyped on snowboarding – a voyage into the unknown.”
Adventure not withstanding, do they still got it, you ask? With the exception of JP, they’re all over thirty. Can one still ride at the top of their game at such an unholy age? Will this movie prove to be all slashing and no blasting?
Tadashi Fuse | Photo: Dom Gauthier
Hardly, argues the newest YES. brother, Benji Ritchie “I feel more and more confident every year and so do these guys.” He claims that everyone has only gotten stronger with age, “We all want to take our snowboarding as far as possible, and it shows in the way these guys handle their lines and their progression in the backcountry.”
And YES. it’s a Movie does take snowboarding as far as possible, literally. From Tadashi’s secret stash in Japan and unridden territory in Whistler, all the way to the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia and the fjords of Norway, they damn near circumnavigated the globe. If their personal credit cards bottomed out, these larger than life characters pressed on with unusually strong determination. DCP reveals, “We didn’t always have the best conditions snow wise, but our snowboards took us to some amazing locations and we sent it nonetheless.”
“People still think we are spoiled brats who get everything we want without working for it,” Romain fires back. “They think everything is built for us, that we don’t have to do anything.”
As popular as this notion may be, the fact is that these guys work twice as hard as most snowboarders, pro or otherwise. For all of the first decents in the Whistler part alone, DCP reveals, “It was years in the making… that zone.”
The reality is that it’s a tremendous amount of work to do what they do, something that might be overlooked when all that is seen is a polished, finished product. It is their hope that this movie will show that it is their passion that drives them, nothing else.
So what is good for snowboarding? In no uncertain terms, Romain reacts, “All I know is that, if we give it away it will be shit.” Scratching one of the many battle scars that decorates his forehead he concludes, “We need to know that as snowboarders we will prevail.”
“I want to look back on this conversation in ten years,” JP declares hopefully. “I know this is bigger than just a board company. If the idea of YES. I have in my head reaches its potential it could change everything.” Perhaps as long as we remain conscious of the fact that we are in control, that it’s our ideas, not the misleading influence of the mainstream, that hold the fate of snowboarding. If we can steer the boat back on course with our pure love of the thing, then snowboarding will remain sacred – a concept DCP sees as “so simple but so important.”
Romain De Marchi | Bettmeralp, Switzerland | Jerome Tanon
In the end, YES. might just be a challenge. A world-class dare to get a piece of this and make it your own – to find out for yourself what snowboarding is and to embrace that feeling. That is something that can’t be bought or sold, taught or told. This is the spirit of snowboarding. This is undisputable. In other words, if we take care of snowboarding, it will take care of us.
*Vertical photo: Mikee Pederson | Whistler, B.C. | Photo: Dom Gauthier
This article was featured in Volume 8 Issue 2. Don't get the magazine? Subscribe now!
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