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He may not be the most famous snowboarder ever to hail from the home of baguettes and Bordeau, but Mathieu Crepel is definitely one of the better known French names on the scene. From World Champion status in the pipe, to big mountain lines in AK, to closing out the last Standard movie, he has even made a mark in ‘merica over his lengthy career. During his stay in Oregon we caught up to hopefully broaden our horizons and find out once and for all while French people get such a bad rap.
Why do you hate America?
(laughs) Why? Because everything’s too big, too hard to travel to places and… I actually don’t hate America. I learned to love it. The first trips I did here I used to kind of find it weird, all the rules that you have to stick to. But if you learn to actually get around it a little bit and stick to the rules then it’s fine. What I actually like about it more than Europe, or France, I guess, is you can do pretty much anything you want, any time you want. If you need anything you can find it any time of day or night. I kind of miss it when I’m in Europe, you have to wait til the next day for things to open and Sunday you can’t find anything. Everything’s closed. There’s some good stuff about everything everywhere.
Would you say you’re the most famous snowboarder from France?
No. I don’t think so.
I think Xavier de le Rue is. It’s funny cause we come from the same place in the Pyrenees. I think Nico (Droz) was doing pretty good in his time too.
So there are three professional snowboarders from France? Why do we in the US hate French snowboarders so much?
So you do hate French snowboarders? Oh shit. Good to know. Now I know what it’s hard for us (laughs). I’ve seen a lot of French guys who don’t really like to travel. We actually have really good mountains so it’s hard to leave France, but if you wanna get a bit of recognition you have to move and it’s not easy. It’s so fucking expensive if you want to film with big companies and stuff in the US. Travel, rent cars, buy sleds. In Europe it’s kinda easy to go film. You buy a lift ticket and you hike around and so that’s a reason for sure.
What’s riding in the Pyrenees like?
It’s the best. Nothing compares.
Is there anywhere that you like as much?
I really like Baker. I did my first trip to Baker when I was 15 or 16 I think. I loved it cause there’s so much snow. It’s small but it’s super steep and that’s how I like it. That’s how it is in the Pyrenees as well. It’s not like super long runs, but it’s steep and intense and you can’t find so much. Not as much snow as Baker, but when it’s good it’s good.
You used to compete a lot. Did being a World Champion get you more chicks?
No. It could have, but I’ve been with my girlfriend for a long time. Actually… I don’t think so. I liked competing back in the day. I don’t like it as much anymore, but it used to be fun.
What have you been doing for the last ten years or so?
Snowboarding in the winter. Surfing in the summer.
What about filming?
I actually started filming in 2008, I think that was the first part I had with Standard. I filmed the year before but I wasn’t in the right crew. I got a few tricks, but it was hard. It’s the price you pay I guess, first year being a rookie. The second year was a lot better. I was on the good trips with the good guys and learned a lot about filming, about the mountains and the way it works with the companies. Then I went back in the contest scene a little bit so I could go back to the Olympics. I tried to film at the same time, but I got hurt for two years. And then last year, for TB20, I filmed again and got last part in the movie, which was pretty surprising for me. That was cool, really had a good season last year and this year had a good season as well.
How many people do you think saw the Standard movie TB20, counting premieres?
Oh, counting premieres? There was a bunch of people at the premiere in Denver, so that’s already like almost 5000-7000 they were saying, so maybe… 6000? (laughs) That’s one thing I’ve been talking to Mike quite a lot about it. I think they learned about it last year and they need to promote the movie a lot more. I really like Standard because it is snowboard history. If you look at it, we all started snowboarding with the Standard movies and if you look at all the riders that have been in their hands or in front of their lenses, it’s amazing to be part of it. But yeah, they need to promote and be better online and do a lot more stuff. It’s tough to evolve I guess. When you’ve been there for 20 years, it’s changing so much. Filming all year, releasing the movie in September or October, I think it’s not working anymore. There’s so much out there. If you go online there’s 10 videos a day that come out. It’s so hard to stick out and do something good and make people interested. But what I feel like with Standard is, maybe not as many people see the movies, but the people that do are really loyal to Standard. They’re really fans and they really follow it.
Why didn’t you decide to be a pro surfer?
That’s a question I ask myself every day. (laughs) I love snowboarding, we have a sick life. But surfers have a pretty sick life. I like surfing just as a hobby, it’s fun.
Did you ever pursue it at all?
Not really. When I was a kid it was easy for me because I was surfing in the summer and snowboarding in the winter. When it was winter the other kids didn’t do anything because wetsuits weren’t good enough. As soon as they started surfing in the winter as well, I got lost. The kids were getting too good for me, so I just decided to stick to snowboarding, which I like just as much. I just want to surf for myself, progress and get better, but I don’t think about anything else. Maybe one day.
(laughs) No, it’s tough.
What is your retirement plan?
I don’t know, we’ll see. There are a few options I guess, but for now I’m just focusing on riding.
Why would you come to Mt. Hood when you could be riding big mountain stuff in AK or something?
Because for me snowboarding is about everything. I like doing everything. Now a days you see people getting more and more specialized. There’s a few riders that still kill it everywhere, but if you do pipe you can’t really do slopestyle anymore because it’s so tech and then slopestyle is like that as well. Big mountain is pretty heavy too, you really need to learn a lot about it. But I like to do everything. I grew up just waking up and if there was good snow I would go ride pow and if not a would go… well I didn’t have a snow park at my home resort so I was just carrying a shovel all the time and trying to find spots. And I like Hood. I came to Hood the first time when I was 14 and it’s just good memories coming back every time.
Are you gonna try and go to the Olympics for slopestyle? Since there are only three pro snowboarders in France you’re already on the team, right?
(laughs) Maybe. You never know. I’m not gonna try in the pipe, that’s for sure, cause you have to concentrate on just that, but slopestyle, you can still go film. What I really want to do is keep filming. I feel there’s a lot more to do and it’s a lot more creative. I want to work a lot more on that creative part of snowboarding and try to get the most versatile part ever — try to have everything in my part.
About the Olympics. Why not? It would be fun to go try something new, but I’m not going to try super hard. If you train for slopestyle it gives you good tricks for filming and in the pow we can try new tricks for slopestyle, so it works together. I guess I’m gonna go if people don’t throw triple corks, because that’s not something I want to do. But we’ll see. What you see happening the pipe is you have two years where the level kind of stays the same and then the Olympics come and the level goes crazy because everybody trains so hard. I think we’re gonna see triples in the pipe for sure. Shaun is probably already working on it. I guess for slopestyle it’s gonna be kinda the same. The level is already insane.
Have you ever ridden with Xavier de le Rue? Is it scary?
Yeah, it’s actually not. I was in AK last year with him and it was probably the best trip of my life because we had it perfect for five days. Got there, perfect snow, perfect crew. It’s not that scary because he’s really experienced and as crazy as it can sound, he’s really controlled. He knows exactly what he wants to do and when we’re looking at a face or a line, he knew where to go, what to do. We took time to set up and look at everything. It’s pretty motivating, you look at him and can see, oh, you can go that fast in there? I didn’t go as fast as him though. It’s really fun to ride with him, I like it.
Do you hit handrails?
I used to. I haven’t done a street rail for awhile. Park rails a little, but I haven’t done a street rail in awhile.
I don’t know, I didn’t get a chance to. I wasn’t with the guys that do handrails. And I’m scared maybe.
There ya go.
I’m definitely more scared to hit a crazy street rail than drop into an AK line. The thing about AK — it’s so scary to drop in but once you make a few turns it’s the best thing ever.
Does anyone still call you “Little Monkey”?
I’m still not that tall, so some people could.
What’s the story behind that nickname?
I’ve had a few in the US. There’s that one and then the “Little Croissant” as well. That came from Chris Owen. Little Monkey I think came from Australia actually. It came from Scott Needham, used to be an Aussie photographer. The other one, Chris Owen was calling Nic Droz “Croissant” and then we went on a trip together so Nic was the croissant and I was the petite croissant. My nickname in France is Le Crepe.
What’s your favorite crepe?
I like it simple. Just a little sugar and lemon. I love pancakes too.
What’s your favorite American food?
How do you feel about French fries? Do you wish they’d change the name to Freedom Fries?
Yeah, I do. Cause you know french fries have nothing to do with France. They’re actually Belgian. French toast as well, we don’t have that either.
What’s one French phrase that all Americans should know?
Putain. It’s a bad word, it’s like fuck, but we use it a lot. You can use it when you’re happy, angry, when you yell at someone, when you’re alone.
Quiksilver, Gnu, Sosh, it’s a phone network — no phone bills it’s pretty sick. Tourmalet, my home resort, Blue Tomato and Burn.