Jake is one of the best riders out there with style in spades. Plain and simple. He can put down textbook maneuvers on any rail and still make it into the backcountry for a few flawless spins. Not to mention, he’s one of the nicest and most humble people that you will ever meet, and his new part in Retrospect will knock your freaking socks off. I managed to get Mr. Kuzyk to sit down from skating long enough to ask him a few questions and this is what he had to say.
So I had this big list of questions in my notebook but I can’t find it. I think I’m gonna wing it, is that alright?
You’re just winging it? You lost your notebook!? (Big laughs). Yeah I think it’s better that way because sometimes people are just like “yeah, so answer like this and just do this because it’s gonna sound better that way.” That’s happened! Ya know? Interviews can be messed up.
Well, I hope I don’t mess up. So let’s start this off. Where are you from?
I’m from Winnipeg, Manitoba, which is like the Midwest of Canada. Except it’s nothing like the Midwest because there’s no real snowboard scene. It was just like a few friends and me and that was it. But it was like we were talking about earlier, living in a place like that makes you appreciate snowboarding a lot. Because it’s already good and it can only get better. So I grew up riding there. Really flat. Then I moved to Whistler to live in the mountains for a few years and now I live in Vancouver.
Sounds nice. What did you get up to this past winter?
This year was the Videograss video. New one of the two, which is Joe, Hayden and Gary’s. So I filmed with them all winter for Retrospect, did some backcountry stuff with them. Which I haven’t done before, it was a lot of fun going out there. And then I’ve been riding a lot at High Cascade this summer, which I wasn’t planning on, so that’s good! Pretty psyched I have been up here, it’s so much fun. So I might as well ride as much as I can before I get all burnt out like some people.
Performance under pressure. Switch Back lip. Photo: Witte
Funny you should mention that you rode backcountry this year. I was just about to ask you what it’s like being pegged as a rail kid. Do you think that’s how some people see you and do you want to change it? How did that come about anyways?
Yeah, no, of course they see me like that. I respect people who are super well rounded but I don’t see myself as the greatest snowboarder in the world. I have to work hard for that shit to work out for me. But yeah, I mean, I’d like to become better rounded and that’s why I started hitting jumps. And like it a lot. Filming in pow is a much bigger challenge, but more consistent and better payoff. It’s not like filming rails where you want nothing to do with going some crappy city and riding rails when it’s warm when you actually just wanna get on your snowboard and ride. Obviously rails are something I’m more comfortable with at this point but my favorites usually do both. As for how it happened, well, it was just from where I grew up. Rails everywhere. One crappy jump in our park that no one wanted to hit, also. Like twp mounds of snow pushed together, not even groomed. My home place actually only just got park staff for the first time ever this year. And it’s my homie. All he does is smoke weed and not do anything (laughs). So all we did was build everything ourselves. We did that when I was getting super into it with videos like Burning Bridges and stuff. I was getting in really into stuff like that. Just like everyone at that point. I could relate to it because I was from the “Midwest” that always had something to do with it. But I still liked jumps. Moving to the mountains was crazy getting used to. Like the flow of riding jumps opposed to bombing the whole hill to hit the jump back home.
So what was it like living in Whistler? I hear you were pretty young when you moved out there?
Well I lived in Whistler for like 3 years. And yeah, I moved from Winnipeg when I was 17, so I was still pretty young. I finished a semester early so I could just peace out. I stayed there for 3 years and came back to Winnipeg every summer for work and family and stuff. Then I got to a point where I was like I don’t wanna live there anymore. It’s just kind of a weird place. Fun to go there and party and see people but I didn’t wanna be there anymore. So I moved to Vancouver cause it’s closer to an airport and everything. Saved a bunch on rent, too. It’s awesome there. And I can just hop on my skateboard if its not raining and have an awesome city at my disposal.
Photo courtesy K2 Snowboarding
Tell me about Darrah Reid-McLean. You lived together for a while, didn’t you?
Oh my gosh are you joking?! There are so many good things to ask about that. She’s a sensation! I mean she’s probably the most famous person I know. [Alex Andrews (AA): She was on some show right? TOSH.0!? That’s crazy! Like crazy people are on tosh.0!. ] Well I dunno. She also falls asleep in really weird spots. Like the most insane spots. I’ll like walk in and find her sleeping sideways in a tiny ball with her laptop on in her face. She’s hilarious. I lived with her for like two years. We were both kinda goind for the let’s be snowboarders thing. Darrah was having a bit more fun with it but now she’s killing it super hard. Her part in Peep Show was awesome. Like a few of the most amazing slams ever, and then some hammers, it’s sick. Sucks that she broke her arm this summer like a day into work. She wanted to stay up here so bad, haha.
[AA walks by and asks, ‘Do you have a girlfriend?’ ] Yeah! Lance Hakker told me to ask you about snowboard chicks thinking that you’re cute. Well?
No! Because I don’t know chicks. I will never date a snowboard chick. I don’t wanna talk to girls about snowboarding. That’s stupid. And they can snowboard, it’s cool. And I’ll talk to them about snowboarding. But I don’t wanna talk to my girlfriend about snowboarding. I don’t want my girlfriend coming up to be and being like “OMG, you did SUCH a nice backside 7 today.” and I’m like, “Thanks, babe! I mean, you really backed me up with that 180 super good, so.. Oh, you have a giant stomach bruise because you taco’d a rail!..” and that’s bullshit, I think that Desiree came up to me when she was super drunk and told me I was really cute. Girls don’t like me.
Lance also told me that you aren’t good with messing people?
I’ve talked to Lance about this before, too. I’ll take it you know if people are fucking with me. But then I’ll accidentally get a little bit too gnarly and it’s not good. Someone will say some small thing about me and just be like, “yeah, well, at least I didn’t do this or that” my sense of humor is kinda weird so I get too gnarly I guess, ha.
Not so good at joking around. Very good at snowboarding. Photo courtesy K2 Snowboarding
And one more from Lance, he said that it’s funny driving around a city with you because you’re the biggest skate nerd.
Yeah dude, I do that everywhere. Anywhere I go. I can root out skate spots I’ll go to a city and be like “Oh my god! That was that thing Heath Kirchart lipslid! I did it in Portland the other day. With that like elbow ledge. [AA: Oh yeah! Wasn’t that the one Anthony van England did?] JK: Noo no that’s the one in Echo Park near Lance’s place in LA. This one is mellower and it’s in Portland. But it sucks that it’s hard to ride some of that stuff. And street skating isn’t for everyone. To actually get people to go street skating is pretty hard.
Forgive me if this sounds weird — it’s not a race thing — but how did you “make it across the border?” It seems like crossing over from Canada to America can be tough for some riders.
I was the kind of person I knew that I enjoyed snowboarding a lot. There was a point where I thought it was so fun and I wanted to do it. My friend Andrew Geeves was doing just that and killing it and I thought, “man, I want to do that!” So I worked really hard and I got on Ashbury. I sent em some videos and they were really down. So they got me down here to Oregon a bunch and then let me stay with them in LA, too, but it was sick. I think it’s just shredding different places and meeting people, which gets you the opportunities that you do. There are a million go snowboarders out there but if you have a good attitude and know there right people then things can go well.
Uhg, it’s so hard not to just caption every night photo “night moves.” Photo courtesy K2 Snowboarding.
How do you feel about contests and stuff? Sort of the “wrong side of snowboarding” if you will.
Contests? I dunno. I’m not really around that stuff in snowboarding. I don’t surround myself with people that think like that. I’m lucky enough to have this group of friends that all kind of feel the same way. Like when you film with Joe and those dudes they feel the same way too. You just kind of know that you’re gonna be friends with those people. It doesn’t really matter to me. I don’t get involved with it if I don’t have to. Going up to camps like COC, Windells and even here at High Cascade it seems like some people are doing a lot of things. You can kind of eye out the contest/jump kid or point out the rail/video or just the free rider that’s having a good time. There are so many different types of attitudes that get put out there and I think that as long as it works for you it’s ok, you know, if you’re nice. But I guess sometimes it gets to a point where you want to just see people do a good trick and do it well, not spin the biggest or craziest to win the contest.
If I had to take a guess, I’d say skating heavily influences your style. True?
I mean, I started skating before snowboarding. Only like a year. My cousin got me into it and I was super down. Like anything else, tons of tricks come from there. I really wanted to film a bunch of lines this year cause I thought that was cool. But honestly more and more I think, as a kid, the skating influenced me more as a rider and maybe it still does but right now I just like seeing people doing stuff on snowboards that I wanna do. Like seeing Scott [Stevens] do anything and wanting to do it like that. That stuff is really cool to me and has nothing to do with skating. It comes and goes.
Between the Videograss dudes and basically just anyone, who are some of your favorites to watch on a snowboard?
I mean Scott. He’s definitely my favorite snowboarder right now. That’s hard. Because everyone is so good. I think Alex Cantin is really sick. He’s fun to ride with and he’s so good across the board. Also, day one I saw Louif, I thought he was one of the raddest boarders that I’ve ever seen. He’s so gnarly and puts down so many hammers. He doesn’t film video parts. He films hammers. Those dudes are all tight though. Marben’s gonna have one of the best parts in the movie forsure. All those Minnesota dudes. And then I’ve always liked Nicolas Muller and stuff. And Lucas Debari is so sick. It seems like they’re more about doing gnarly shit and making it look cool and not stupid. Doing something no one has done before and making it look really nice and that’s awesome.
Weekend warrior to summer stud. Photo: Toby Witte
So were you a weekend warrior when it came to snowboarding? I know that’s how it was for me in the Midwest, maybe it was the same for my neighbor from the North.
No! No, I lived like 2 minutes from where I would snowboard. I could walk there but it was highway the whole way. My friends would just pick me up and we’d go all the time. It’s way too cold to skate in Winnipeg so I would just go and ride everyday. My friends from there are still killing it too, sponsored or whatever, and like Andrew is still just the man. It’s so fun to go back there and ride with them.
Did you ever go to school or University?
No. I didn’t do any of that which is kind of something I’m a little bummed about. But at the same time I’m not very old. I’m 21. There’s still a bunch of time. It’s something that I’d like to do but if snowboarding continues to work out then I’ll just keep doing that and if I get to a nice comfortable level then I’ll go to school in the fall. But no, I started trying “filming parts’ before I even got out of high school. For a while had two jobs that I worked all summer and I spent every dollar on filming. But it paid off and I’m glad.
Some people do art, some people ride motorcycles and some people have camels on their farms. Do you have any side passions in case snowboarding doesn’t work out?
That’s the most embarrassing thing, I don’t. I’m not even trying to sound cool or whatever, I think it’s not cool. I wish I was into other stuff. When I was a kid I was really into art. And it’s what people are into it now. I used to draw and really enjoyed it. but I don’t know, now that I’m getting older I’d like to do something else. I’d love to play an instrument. Like the other day we went camping and Gus (Engle) came, which was so awesome. Cause we had somebody that knows how to play the guitar and sing super well is here. And now it’s gonna kick ass. I was so excited. Like the whole time! I dunno it’d be nice to do that so it interest me. I wanna get into it.
We wouldn’t let this character across the border, would you? Photo courtesy K2 Snowboarding
How do the trips wear on you? Do you like going to places that you’ve never been to go snowboarding?
Oh yeah! Obviously it’s so amazing every time I get to come to Oregon and go snowboarding with all of these super cool people. Which I would never be able to afford. And I’m going to New Zealand with 32 in a couple days which is going to be so amazing, its gonna be ridiculous I would never get to go there. But when I’m in Vancouver and I’m home fore a few days or weeks between trips or whatever, I full on have nothing to do. I just skate. It’s crazy to not have to worry about a job or whatever. It’s crazy. Because I used to have a job, like my whole life. It’s nuts, blows my mind, that I just live when I’m not snowboarding, haha.
Any good stories from the road?
I mean if you hit me up after New Zealand I could tell ya a million. But I went to Europe with Nick Dirks, Jordan Mendenhall and Danny Larson. We went for some K2 event then cruised around to Pleasure Mag week. We started in Germany then went to Austria and then Switzerland. (Jake gets quiet, wide eyed and grins like a madman to accentuate his next point) Then this volcano blew up in Iceland!!! And we got stuck for a week and a half longer. And I didn’t have a travel budget from any sponsors and I didn’t have any money and yeah, I was screwed (laughs). I was with like Jordan and Nick, not knowing where we were. Running around and getting wasted. I chilled out a bit and enjoyed it but I remember eating out and thinking that we couldn’t get anything for less than like 30 Euros and it sucked. Went to McDonald’s and got there and a Big Mac meal was like 14 Euro! Back home I could eat forever at a nice place with that. Oh! Also hanging out with Grenier is awesome. Any trip with him is ridiculous. His house is nuts and he’s just a weirdo.
Tell me about your relationship with Poler. It’s a new company with an awesome mission. How’d you get involved?
Yeah! I heard about it this winter and thought it would be so awesome to be sponsored by them. But didn’t even try because everyone was trying to get on and it would just be a lost cause. But then we were chilling in Portland, Jed (Anderson) and me, we met up with (Bryan) Fox and went skating around the city, filming with my VX and cruising around. And then we got to this one spot and Bryan was like, “dude, we’re right in front of Poler, I’m gonna run inside and say ‘Hi,’” so we kept skating and he runs inside and comes back out with Benji and Kharma and they have all this stuff and don’t even say much, they’re just like “hey! Stoked to have you on! Here, have some stuff!” So we were skating away a few minutes later with this stuff and we turned to Bryan just like “soo… are we on Poler?!” it was so sick, I’m stoked on em. I just have clothes now but I’m gonna be testing my tent out soon and I cant wait for a sleeping bag. I think Poler is gonna be a cool thing for snowboarding.
Sponsors and Thanks?
Sponsors are K2 Snowboarding, 32 Boots and Outerwear, Ashbury, RVCA, Elm company, Poler Camping Stuff and The Source shop in Calgary. As for thanks? I dunno, the classic anybody who’s ever hooked me up. I thought of everybody that I would want to say thanks to for this interview a little while ago and sat there for like an hour and freaked out later when I realized I forgot a few and sent the other ones in to the people later. It was awesome.
Little guy on a big rail. Photo courtesy K2 Snowboarding.