For someone who’s managed to blow out his knee, not once, but twice, Austin Smith has actually had a very blessed snowboard career. After two years out with injury, he’s got still got the sponsor support and to get back out there, and this year, that’s exactly what he plans to do. With accolades such as rookie of the year and video part of the year already under his belt, it seems unlikely that he’ll have any trouble. Just don’t expect him to throw any triple corks.
So you just got yourself a house in Portland, where young people go to retire… but you’re not hurt anymore, so how is that gonna work out?
I’m not coming here to retire. I still live in Bend, but I do a lot of stuff at Nike in the summer, so I just wanted to be able to come here in the summer for Nike. I still live in the Bend snowboarding for the winter. I’m not quite ready to work at a coffee shop yet.
What is it like living with the infamous Donny?
Donny lived at my house in Bend too before he went to Denmark, and now he’s living at my house in Portland and he’s Euro Donny. I’ve known him for a long time, everyone gives him a lot of shit, but he’s alright.
Why does he get so much shit? Who is he?
He came from Bend. He’s been getting shit forever. It used to be a lot worse when we were younger. Curtis and a lot of other people from Bend would pick on him pretty bad. There’s always the one kid in every group that gets the brunt of most jokes, but now he’s gonna do some great things with his life, he’s Euro donny. Euro Donny’s pretty cool.
Did you really make him pay for a new fridge?
There is no fridge, there’s a mini fridge. I’m waiting for it.
Rail boardin’ Photo: mark Welsh/Nitro Snowboards
So you really are a slumlord.
I guess so, yeah. I’m a total slumlord.
Why, why not be a respectable landlord?
I’m a respectable landlord. Curtis hasn’t paid me rent in like four months, I haven’t kicked him out yet. That’s pretty respectable I think.
Would you rather adopt an animal or a human child?
I don’t know, I really don’t like animals at this point. A lot of my friends are getting animals and it seems like too much responsibility. I think I’d rather adopt a human, but like a 19 year old, so they can sort of take care of themselves. A dog you always have to take care no matter how old they are, but a human at like 14, I can kick em out.
Is actually being able to snowboard this season cutting into any of the activities you adopted while out for the past two seasons?
No, now I actually have something to do with myself, I’ve had too much free time. I’ve been bored. So now it gives me something to do with my days and it’s been awesome. I just got back from Canada for two weeks.
What were you doing with yourself when you couldn’t ride?
I don’t even really know, it seems like it flew past. I went to Mexico for a month, I went to Panama for a month. That was weird. I’d never really been anywhere tropical so it was cool, except I realized I don’t really like warm temperatures and hot places, so that didn’t pan out too well. Then this last year I was just at Nike doing rehab every day. I’ve been snowboarding in the summer too, going to Argentina, I just haven’t been able to winter board in two years.
You’ve had sort of a whirlwind career: break out, win rookie of the year and video of the year, to two seasons on the bench. How are you going to make those two years of collecting paychecks for nothing up to your sponsors? Got anything big planned?
Come on, for nothing? (laughs) Yeah, I gotta start snowboarding again, I gotta get back into it. That’s what I’m doing right now. I feel fortunate to have the sponsors I have that have been willing to stand by my side while I’ve been hurt. If I rode for Burton I can pretty much guarantee you I wouldn’t be sitting in the same shoes — I would have been fired a long time ago. It’s lucky I have a good relationship with my sponsors and that they believe I can come back and do something mediocre at least.
Summer boardin’. Photo Mark Welsh/ Nitro Snowboards
Are you gonna learn triple corks?
Nah, Don’t think I’m gonna do any triple corks.
Straight to quad corks?
Straight quad corks! Nah, I think I’m gonna keep it at single corks I think. I dont know, The whole progression of snowboarding has gotten really weird. There’s so many advocates of “this guy is really good for the progression of snowboarding” and this is really good for the “progression of snowboarding” but I mean, where do those people really want snowboarding to go? We’re already doing, well not all of us, but some of the crazy people are already doing triples flips. What do they want it to progress to, five flips? The same with the city stuff, and the progression of city riding, people now, mostly Dan Brisse, are jumping over buildings and over streets.
All these progression advocates want people to do bigger and better things. Travis Rice is definitely one who is progressing the sport, and he’s been a real spokesperson of the double cork. Then you get people trying to snowboard with them, like Scotty Lago was filming for his new movie. I heard he just broke his jaw and knocked out some teeth and ripped a bunch muscles in his face and had to get his mouth wired shut. Is that worth the 4th flip and the progression of snowboarding? I don’t know? If it has to go anywhere I think it should go more where Jake Blauvelt and Lucas Debari are trying to take it. Just progress it naturally doing tricks off natural features and focusing on style still instead of just the number of rotations or number of flips or jumping over roads. Again, Dan Brisse. He could die. I would be scared if I was his filmers. Every time they hit record they’re like, “Yeah man, you got it” but they’re probably thinking either gonna get a hammer or a death hammer. Either way gonna get a lot of Youtube hits but not the kind you want maybe.
I just don’t understand. Where do they want this progression they talk about to go to? Just jumping from city to city or something? Seems a little crazy, maybe we should focus on the de-gression of snowboarding.
Are you just saying that for the sake of your own career so you don’t have to learn triple corks?
No, I don’t have to learn triple corks, no one’s expecting me to. No one probably thinks I could learn triple corks. (laughs) I feel no pressure to do any triple corks or anything.
How did you get hurt? Were you trying to progress?
I don’t have any glorious injury stories. I was snowboarding the mini pipe at High Cascade and I think I blew my knee out there, and then a year later I was playing capture the flag and did it again.
So far, so good this year?
Kind of. I haven’t snowboarded in three years, so still getting back into the swing of things. I’ve been on a couple rail trips with Bryan Fox and he hasn’t hit any rails either. We definitely feel a little out of our element out there, we get loose. I’ve taken a a couple spills, really working on my crash section this year.
Why go on rail trips, not just shred backcountry?
That’s just what I want to do. We were up in Whistler for a bunch too, but I’ve always admired people that have rails and backcountry — well rounded parts and that’s what I’ve always wanted to be.
Gap to 50-50. Photo: Mark Welsh/Nitro Snowboards
Well, you already went the fastest at the Dirksen Derby this year. How did that feel? Was that your first contest win?
No, I won America’s Next Top Pro Model a couple months before, so I’m on a contest roll right now!
Well, then I went to the No board contest and didn’t do so hot, so the roll is over. My fire is already out. But that was pretty cool to win that event, mostly just to beat Curtis cause I always picture him as a pretty fast person, and Bryan too.
Was it better than winning a car at a strip club? Did that really happen?
It definitely was better. Yeah, it happened. I still have the car. It was rodeo weekend in Bend and Bend, Oregon is a little bit redneck, lots of cowboys and haybails, so the rodeo goes off. At the strip club that night they had a redneck ball at the strip club with a redneck buffet — macaroni and cheese and Cheetos and IÂ forget what else was on the menu. There was a raffle for a free car. When I walked in I was like, “I’m gonna get that car.” I thought maybe it was for sale of something, but it turned out that they just gave away the raffle tickets, one to each person at the strip club. I had a pretty savage mullet at the time so I kinda fit in and I ended up winning. They were pretty excited, “the kid with the mullet won!” Then when I woke up in the morning I was like, woah, what happened last night, and then I put my hand in my pocket and was like “fuck, I won a car! I gotta go get that thing.” They actually wanted me to drive it home, they gave me the keys right there. Don’t drink and drive kids! So I went and got the car and it ran out of gas right when I rolled into the gas station. I was like I’m gonna have to tow this thing to the dump, it’s a junker. But she runs good. 1984 Pontiac Sunbird. I’m gonna try to have it in video part this year, jumping it over a building or from city to city, progress snowboarding through cars, I guess. Triple corking my car.
Game face. Photo: Geery
So you like to drink. How many times would you say you’ve woken up in your own vomit?
That’s a dangerous game. I don’t think I did that night. I think only twice maybe. Once on my 21st birthday in Japan, and then we re-celebrated my 21st birthday in Bend and I did that time too.
Sounds like Japan was a good time?
Yeah, that was while I was hurt and the dudes at Nike wanted to take me Japan with them to see all the retailers and it happened to be during my 21st birthday. Things got pretty weird there.
What’s it like being a pro snowboarder in Japan?
I think it’s toned down a lot from what it used to be. I hear all these stories about what it used to be, and I’m sure it’s still that way for Shaun White, but I think in general the Japanese are toning down on snowboarding. Even just up at High Cascade, I remember a few years ago there used to be a lot more Japanese and they used to be a lot more excited. I went there 5 years ago and it’s definitely changed a little bit.
Have you ever chugged wine in Switzerland and then danced in a fountain at a bar?
Man, my three most drunkest memories you wanna talk about. Yeah, first on my Nike trip. Nike trips are pretty weird cause it’s a pretty wide range of people. You have like Danny Kass, Eric Jackson, Laura Hadar and Justin Bennee. It’s a lot of people that don’t hang out regularly, as opposed to Nitro, we all hang out in the off season. Most of the Nike team we only see each other on Nike trips which makes for a pretty awesome time, usually. On that trip we got into a wine chugging contest and I chugged a whole bottle of red wine and then danced in a fountain all night. Yeah we really just the whole awkward Nike times. Kinda set the bar high there.
Are you actually Oregon born and raised?
No, I’m from Bellingham, Washington, near Mt Baker. I grew up there playing hockey most of my life with my hockey buddy Lucas Debari who is now a super star snowboarder. He got me into snowboarding and right after I started snowboarding I moved to Bend. Bend is really outdoorsy, lot a polypropaline and a lot of Tevas. A lot like Bellingham, but a lot sunnier.
What did your parents do for work?
My parents started the Bellingham food co-op; they worked there for 25 years. Then they moved to Bend and my dad bought a bookstore, so now he runs an independent bookstore.
So they’re just a couple of hippies, that’s boring, I heard a rumor they were carnies.
No, no, that’s my brother! He started a circus school for awhile. On an Indian reservation for the poor kids so they’d go becomes carnies instead of doing heroin, I guess. He lived in South America for awhile juggling his way through as a street performer. He’s a jack of all trades, he can do it all.
Can you juggle?
Does that help with your snowboarding?
Yeah, hand eye coordination. Except I can’t do handplants, so I guess not.
Liar! Photo: Mark Welsh/Nitro Snowboarding
You helped the design the Nike outerwear line? How was that?
I have a couple piece in the line I designed. It was crazy! You get to pick where the pockets are gonna go, what color the zippers are gonna be. It’s pretty exciting shit.
Do you think Nike will ever give you a reserved parking spot?
No. I usually take the Max out there, so I don’t even need it.
Got anything you’re exited about this season?
I’m really excited to film with Knutt Ellisason, filming with Videograss, big things expected out of him. And I’m going to Japan that should be fun. I’m mostly just excited to snowboard in general. Everyone is trying to go above and beyond in the world, I feel like you can still do cool stories and try to tell a little more about the story and the snowboarding and what you did instead of you went to the end of the world.