Knut Eliassen’s positive outlook and uncanny ability to stoke out everyone around him is legendary. You can never be in the same room as him and not crack a smile. Once you get past the difficulty of properly saying his name (pronounced ka-newt) and staring at his Guinness World Record breaking forehead, he will be your best friend for life. Knut’s love for snowboarding and ability to make everyone happy recently earned him the position of Nitro Snowboard’s Team Manager. I sat down with the half-breed Euro to figure out what kind of a name “Knut” is, why no one knows he has an X-Games gold medalist for a sister, and how cool it is getting paid to baby-sit his friends.
First of all, let’s start with your name, Knut sounds European but you claim Minnesota. What is your official background?
I was born in Minneapolis, MN, and lived there until I was 12. My family then moved up to a small town on the boarder of Canada called Grand Marais, MN. That is where I started snowboarding. I lived in Grand Marais for four years and then moved over to Lillehammer, Norway (where my dad is originally from) and spent the next 10 years of my life in Norway. So I am pretty much 50% Norwegian and 50% American. I will decide if I am more Norwegian or American after the outcome of this upcoming election.
How did you end up in Salt Lake City?
Well… I have been riding for Nitro Snowboards since 2002 and I think I took my first trip over to Salt Lake City in 2005 to hang out with the Nitro guys. I actually went out filming with Justin Eels, Rube Goldberg, Ettiene Gilbert and Andrew Crawford for about 3 weeks. I went out into the backcountry everyday with them and hit some rail spots in Reno. During that time they were filming for Burning Bridges and I was tagging along. I did not land one trick in the backcountry the whole time. Classic rookie! I pretty much blew my chances of getting into one of my favorite movies. I suck! Anyways, I ended up coming back to Salt Lake City every winter until last year when I finally moved out here. Now I live here and have a lot of great friends and snowboard buddies. Its one of the best snowboard towns around!
How did you end up as Team Manager for Nitro?
Well I guess when you are getting older and a mediocre snowboarder hanging on to his dreams, a Team Manager position is a sweet opportunity! I have also been riding for Nitro for over 10 years and I think the company is amazing. Rider owned by two guys, Tommy and Sepp, who started the company over 22 years ago. They go snowboarding everyday during the winter on their lunch break. I mean how awesome and inspiring is that? So I have been working for Nitro over 1 year now and I love it!
I have to ask this question. What happened with Will Tuddenham? Everyone seems to think he got cut for no reason.
Here is the honest truth. The snowboard industry is tough and we are affected by the snow conditions and the economy just like everyone else. We could not offer Will the increased amount of support he wanted and therefore he was given the opportunity to search for other sponsors while he was still being supported by us. Obviously we wish we could have kept Will on, he is an amazing guy and talented snowboarder, but in the end it did not work out that way. He is killing it these days with his band Wildcat Strike, so I am stoked for him!!! They are so good live! Check out Wildcat Strike here http://wildcatstrike.bandcamp.com/
So it wasn’t this huge negative angry blowout?
No not at all. Obviously it is never fun for any snowboarder to part ways with their sponsor of a few years, but life goes on. I think Will has done a great job channeling his snowboarding passion into his music. I am stoked on what Will has done and is doing now.
So now that you are team manager are you done filming parts with Videograss?
I wish I could film with VG, but those guys are so good. I had an excellent time filming with Fox, Austin, Ethan and Kuzyk for Retrospect, and I wish I could do it again. This year I spent a lot of time filming and filming for our new Nitro team movie Hyped! It was such a sick experience. We decided to make a movie that documents what makes our team riders hyped while snowboarding. No one set out to showcase all of the best tricks they can do within a year. We all set out to just ride together and snowboard as much as we could. It’s not always about showing your best tricks and what you can do. I think the best part about snowboarding is the actual snowboarding, not the quest of being the best.
So to answer your question – I will not be filming for VG this year – hopefully I get another shot later. I broke my ankle while filming for Retrospect, so I felt like I got robbed a little.
Whose parts in Hyped! are you most hyped on?
Hyped! is a trip based movie so no one has individual parts. We wanted to showcase how everyone rides together and capture that vibe. But I must say Benny Urban, Markus Keller, and Bryan Fox all have amazing shots!
Is the transition from being a rider to team manager hard?
The transition is okay, but it is crazy to see the industry from the other side. As a rider I did not understand how much energy it takes to make stuff happen or how important it is to respond to e-mails in a timely fashion. But other than that, it is not too bad. I still snowboard as much as I did as a rider. I actually want to learn a bunch of new tricks next year. I think it is very important that people who are in the snowboard industry don’t lose the passion for snowboarding, because then the whole point of working for a snowboard company is gone. I do it because I love snowboarding not for the paycheck.
What team managers do you think have been doing it right and why?
Java (Salomon) is kind of an idol to me. He does this for the love of snowboarding. Brian Craighill (ex-TM) did it right as well, took such sweet photos of his guys as well as built up an amazing team. There are a lot of sweet TMs in the snowboarding industry now, so the future is looking bright for snowboarding. I am excited about the next few years to come (not because of the Olympics)!
As a TM, what are some of the most important initiatives that you are trying to implement?
Right now, I think it is very important to support the local riders. Some may call it focusing on the grassroots movement, but I am not a fancy talker so I think it is just important to support and give attention to the local riders throughout the US. I am working on putting together a regional rider team. I am looking for riders in the Midwest (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, etc.), Northeast, East, Northwest and the California area. I know there are so many good riders out in these areas that could use a little support and I think it is important for brands to support these local rippers! They are the industry! So that is one of my big pushes for this upcoming season to get Nitro more involved on the local level! So if there are any kids out there or people who know of good riders, speak up! So far I have added Bar Dadon and Cole Navin to this team of up and coming Bad Asses! Those kids kill it out in the East Coast. Stumped! Also Cole Linzmeyer and Vinny (Dan Vinzant) from Minnesota.
I’m sure you hear some wild stories from the younger riders. Have you heard any crazy stories lately?
Yeah the young dudes and Europeans are always up to crazy shenanigans! I am not really a gossip guy, but the young kids (Taxwood, Blaze, Griffin) were just at a big house party at the Monster house in Park City and they had the time of their lives. It sounded like a cheesy high school movie. Young inexperienced freshmen kids going to a senior party, and they all come out “experienced” if you know what I am saying. It was a 10 for 10 kind of night for the ams! They were so stoked they invited me to lunch the next day to tell me all about it. I have never seen so many smiles! Watch out for the Lick The Cat edit, I hope they leak that footage!
So besides babysitting a bunch of sex-crazed teenagers, what else do you get to do?
This year I made Hyped! with some of the most talented snowboarders around and one of the most talented film makers I have ever worked with; Per-Hampus StÃ¥lhandske. I get to go snowboarding and test out new boards. Film team riders try tricks they have never tried before. I have the opportunity to work in an industry with some of the coolest people on planet earth. I am on the computer/phone a lot though, that is the only downside. Everything else with the job is a dream! Sometimes I feel like one of the luckiest guys on earth to be doing what I do.
You had just as many shots as the team guys did during Super Park this year. People have said that you as a team manager ride better than other company’s team riders. Is that true?
Yeah, I was so stoked that they used those shots and that Bridges let me ride all the Super Park features. Snowboarding with all my peers at a place like Mt. Bachelor is the best! Snowboarding has been my life for the past 15 years so I would hope that I can keep up with some of the best snowboarders out there. I am flattered that people say stuff like that about me though. Boss! Â But dude, there are so many good unsponsored people out there. I have gone to resorts and literally seen some of the best moves from just random diehards! Those guys are the best. People who just send it to send it! Oh yeah I did whoop everyone’s ass at the Dirksen Derby this year so I might not have all the moves, but I am faster than Terje Haakonsen, Scotty Wittlake, B-Fox, Austin Smith, Jake Blauvelt, Blair, and all those other hotshots! Boom! USASA National Boardercross champion 1999! Still got it!
Rumor has it there was a lot of unused party footage from Superpark. What happened to that?
Oh yeah there was a lot of unused party footage. We would go up and ride the park all day and then come down to the Nitro Kids house and just start playing beer games! We were up until like 3 every night playing beer pong. Old guys versus the ams! The ams would do well the first couple rounds but then our drinking experience would win the tournament at the end while the young dudes would be puking out their sorrows… Ah it’s good being old sometimes! One night Sam and Nils were up all night partying and then they were invited to a sunrise shoot so I just drove them up straight from the beer pong contest up to a 5 am big jump sunrise shoot. Those two are bad asses!
Yeah I am the loser black sheep of the family. Grete is her name and she is a total bad ass. She is a freestyle skier and I think she has like 4 or 5 x-games gold medals and a bunch of other medals. She is pretty much going to the Olympics for the US as a freeskier. She is killing it in her area. I am stoked for her, but I used to make fun of her all the time when we were younger for being a skier. Skiing is so boring compared to snowboarding. Then I think about what she has accomplished and realize I am a failure… I should have applied myself more.
Don’t you have another younger sister you try to hook your team riders up with?
Yeah I do have a younger sister who is in college and has like a 4.5 GPA. She is 21 and is almost done with two bachelor degrees. Again… Another bad ass and then there is me… But yeah I always like to put people in awkward situations (that is one of the best things about life, the awkward moments), so whenever I am hanging out with my little sister and the team dudes are around, I will throw out some inappropriate suggestions like “yo, why you looking at my sister like that” or “hey Sam eyes up here buddy!” It’s the best to see how people react to awkward situations! Sam Taxwood and Griffin Siebert are the best ones to get. They start blushing right away and turn as red as Shaun White’s hair. It’s amazing. But, NO I don’t pimp out my sister…. dude?
Sam Taxwood is an awesome kid. Didn’t he finally just finish high school?
Taxwood finally graduated high school! That was one of my goals this summer. Get Sam Taxwood his diploma! He finally did it! So stoked for that kid. He has accomplished a lot this year. Sick part in KTC, the PC edits, sick shots in our Hyped! movie, swiped his Visa, graduated high school and got on the L1 team! Sam Taxwood is an up and coming dirt bag. Watch out ladies he is officially out of high school but will be returning shortly to pick up some freshmen.
It seems like you must be doing your job well. The young guys are moving up and the older guys are snagging covers left and right.
Thanks man. But, it’s easy to do my job when you have such a sick team like we do. The pros kill it and the ams are super hungry and love snowboarding. Plus everyone on the team right now is someone I consider a friend and love hanging out with. I think that is super important when building a team and a perk of the job!
I want to learn some new tricks and just snowboard as much as I can. I want to film a lot of street stuff this year. Pray for snow! As for team stuff we are going to keep working with VG. Bryan and Austin always have some projects going on and we are thinking of making a L1 Premium Outerwear tour video with all the team guys. I am really excited for the L1 project. We have so many good and unique snowboarders on the team that it will be awesome to make a movie showing them all together. Jon Kooley, Jordan Mendenhall, Danny Larsen, Sam Taxwood, The Gun, Blake Geis, Dominik Wagner, Blaze Kotsenburg, and maybe some new guys…. Wait and see.
Awesome. Well any one you want to thank, Sponsors, all that stereotypical interview ending bullshit?
I would just like to thank everyone who snowboards. Keep it up and never stop! Thanks to all you YoBeat readers for keeping it real and hating on me in the comments. Let’s do this! Also check out our new Nitro team video Hyped! It will be out October 22nd.