The first trip I went on with Airblaster a few years back to Mt. Hood was not quite what I expected. I was accustomed to trips where the general stress level is higher than I prefer, riders are hustling to get shots by any means and team managers have planned agendas including little to no sleep and massive quantities of energy drinks. Airblaster rides a different pony. We slept in, we drank coffee while Jesse Grandkoski made us pancakes, and we played music and games. It was almost like snowboarding had taken a back seat to enjoying each other’s company. It was a welcome change and one of the best trips ever, even though it poured rain almost everyday. Enjoying people for who they are, experience for what they are and turning down the suck of filming a video part- that’s what up.
This is the best part about running a rad company. Your answerer and Airblaster co-founder Jesse Grandkoski. In Russia. Photo courtesy Airblaster
Hi Jesse. What’s up with the new Airblaster video?
The name of the movie is Thank You, Baby and the main feature in the video is a fifteen-minute film about our trip to Russia. It was Brandon Cocard, Nick Dirks, Austin Will, Kipp Hinkley and myself. We just took a trip to Russia and made a film about it. It was a two-week trip with travel so we spent about ten or eleven days on the ground in Russia.
Where did the idea come from to do a short video based on one trip from the winter?
[There are] videos like The Art of Flight coming out this winter and a whole bunch of other videos that are produced by professionals with tons of sponsorship dollars, over 20 guys filming full-on for the entire year, a full-time filming and editing staff making it into an awesome movie with tons of great riding. We understand that as small company by itself with the budget we have, we really can’t compete with that. It’s also not really the type of snowboarding that we’re promoting, which is going out and have fun with you friends. So a lot of it [for us] is just about documenting the experience of a snowboard trip. What you get when you see one of the top five movies is a very polished final product and a lot of the travel and personality of the riders gets cut out. All that is left are the awesome riding shots. What we’re trying to do is create a project where we document the entire experience of a snowboard trip with your friends. Anybody who has been on a snowboard trip with their friends knows that the snowboard aspect can be really good or really bad, but if you’re with the right people it will always be an awesome trip. So that’s our idea.
There seems to be a relatively new demand in viewership for not just the banger shots but the story behind them as well.
My first response to that is that a lot of people claim they are going to do that, and even if the style of editing is a little different, they usually fall back into that same pattern. There is a reason why that pattern works- [of] showing one guy with three minutes of his best stuff. [It’s] because the core kids that are dissecting his stuff are trying to learn new tricks everyday and that’s what they want to see. It is awesome to watch but I do think that especially with certain riders, people want to know not only what they can do on their snowboard, but who are they? Especially if someone is your hero because of what they can do on their snowboard, you also want to know what their personality is like.
Is it a different type of viewer, or is it changing?
You have to look at both ends of the spectrum. You look at my Mom who doesn’t know anything about snowboarding tricks but obviously even to [her], she can watch somebody going off a 50-foot cliff and rip a powder turn and you know that is going to stoke [her] out. The other side of the spectrum is the kids, and we’ve all been there; where snowboarding is your life all you want to do is learn more tricks. They are so focused on watching movies, reading the magazines and they want to know all about snowboarding and the tricks. Later you want to know about personalities. In a lot of ways I think they are the same person. One thing we’ve always tried to do with our movies is make them so mom and dad can watch them, or little brother who skis, or anyone who is outside of the core of snowboarding. We are trying to tell a story about a trip not just the core tricks of snowboarding, so in a way we’ve kind of broadened the audience it will appeal to by presenting an experience. For my Mom, if you were to show her The Art of Flight, she would probably be wowed for the first ten minutes, but then she would get really bored. To a person who doesn’t snowboard all that stuff begins to look the same.
“The crew”. Photo courtesy Airblaster
How did the crew come together?
We just invited all of our team to do it and some people had prior engagements and some didn’t. Ben Lynch was going to come but he got injured just before the trip and couldn’t snowboard. We invited our team and we kind of had our crew.
We’ve always wanted to go there, it’s a crazy place and we have cool distributors there.
Was it chosen as more of a destination rather than for snow conditions?
For this trip, everybody was focused on- we get to go on a trip to Russia and we get to snowboard. So in that order, we are going to Russia and we get to snowboard. The snow conditions are always going to be a variable, so general yeah with our movies we are obviously shooting for going out and getting awesome snowboarding at awesome places, but there are a lot of variables when you travel internationally. You’re relying on a lot of people to point you in the right direction for the right snow and so it’s a bit more of a gamble.
Russia was crazy because there is a pretty heavy vibe there. You’ll see it when you watch the movie. You’ve got Airblaster, that keeps things lighthearted, fun and not to serious. We’re going into Russia, which the easiest way to explain it is, they’ve had 200 years or so of authoritarian rule in one form or another. For a long time there has been a lot of heavy-handed rule and authoritarian government and that really takes a toll on the culture and the people. So even though Russia is now pretty much wide open and there is a lot of freedom, there is still a heavy vibe that pervades. There is a lot of history, it’s a free country now but you still have that history. It has a heavy vibe. When you walk down the street you don’t see a lot of people laughing out loud and slapping each other on the back.
Everybody we ran into was awesome gracious hosts. But I don’t think they were quite on the same page that we were. [For example] we went to this little park and there were some riders there that we were supposed to meet up with. By our standards they were pretty darn serious. There was a teeny park with a little line of four jumps and three rails and we thought, cool let’s rip this place and look around. They were all super gangster style, hitting the line very seriously and trying to throw down their best tricks. When you watch the movie there is definitely some oil and water colliding when Airblaster went to Russia. We were just there to have fun with our friends and it’s kind of a serious culture.
Friends! photo courtesy Airblaster
Did you meet a lot of snowboarders there?
We did. We went to this region in the mountains because Moscow is pretty flat and you’re not allowed to snowboard there. It is a tourist zone but they had just had a terrorist attack at a ski resort in the same region. Someone blew up a chair on pretty much the biggest resort in Russia. They blew up a lift tower and killed a car full of people. Nobody really knew why and I don’t think anybody claimed responsibility.
This is the area between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, which are the Caucasus Mountains. It is near Chechnya where the Russians [have tried] to take it over and the mountainous people are always fighting back and there is a lot of internal conflict. We went out to this area that is normally a tourist area but when we were there is was pretty much a ghost town. The first day we were there the power and the lifts weren’t running so we hopped on ATV’s and rallied up the mountain. In terms of snowboarding conditions, yeah that trip was definitely not that great. But we had so many experiences that were crazy and awesome. Like I said, if you travel with good people any day that you’re traveling or on a trip, you will have fun.
Where can people see the movie or get their hands on a copy?
Just got to myairblaster.com and if you buy something on the online store you’ll get a free copy as soon as the movie is available on DVD.
Yeah it’s pretty much free content but I think there is a lot of stuff on there that people will enjoy. The movie consists of the Thank You, Baby edit, there is another edit of snowboarding powder at Baldface and an edit of summer skateboarding with Nick and Jed. Oh and a bunch of extra stuff on there too.
Is there a message in this video?
Yeah just go have fun on your snowboard with your friends.
Nick and Jesse, digging Russia. Photo courtesy Airblaster