Photo: Alice Davis
He doesn’t sleep. He doesn’t own a television. He bangs models, looks like a rockstar, exhibits his paintings over the world, rides more powder than you on boards he makes himself, and still finds time in the afternoon to pound a 6 pack of Pabst, hang at the lake and paint a fucking Van Gogh that night. Corey Smith is a god damn renaissance man. He’s living the dream with trusty aide and mentor, Marcel Duchamp the greyhound, by his side deep in Tahoe paradise and is redefining the defined in a sport where you’re considered washed by your late 20s. The man, the myth, the legend – rejuvenated by a winter in the magical waters of Lake Tahoe, we caught up with Corey Smith to find out what our favorite maniacal mid-30-something shred head has been up to. Breathe deep. Take a shit in the woods. Laugh a lot and ride waist deep blower pow with your friends. Corey shares his secrets, so listen up.
You grew up in Portland. How did you pop your snowboarding cherry?
I grew up skating and it was just what you did in the winter. There weren’t indoor skate parks like now. It was just an extension of skating. My first board was the Noah Salasnek “Nub” 152cm with the skateboard graphic.
In the depths of the dank, musty Pacific Northwest, who influenced your style and riding the most in your formative years?
It’s hard to say, there were all the big pros like Jamie Lynn and Peter Line who I obviously looked up to. But there were also so many local Mt. Hood guys like Mike Estes, Kurby Phelps, Matt Donahue, Ahmon Stamps, Chris Coyle, Gabe Lynn, Josh King, Marty Shepard, Jason Hutchins, Tomi Tominen, Kharma Vella, guys like that. Seeing them ride stoked me the most. Mike Estes was the first guy I ever saw back lip a rail and it was wood too. Such a badass.
You moved away from Los Angeles last fall after a half-decade stretch. What attracted you back to the woods and what has your rebirth of Sierra Surfing taught you?
I was just so over snowboarding, all the bros and the whole rat race of trying to film video parts. It just really killed the love for me and I wanted to check out living in the city. I had just graduated college and I wanted to pursue my art career. Long story short I had too much fun in LA and lost my mind. I got caught up in the whole LA thing, making money, partying, and all that superficial shit that does not matter in the grand scheme of things. LA is probably one of the most fucked up and exciting places you can live. It’s the belly of the beast. I had to just drop out and get back to what had shaped my life for so long – snowboarding. Now I enjoy snowboarding more than anything especially with the whole Spring Break project. It’s really opened my eyes as to what snowboarding is all about. When I was younger snowboarding was all about tricks, filming, and getting gnarly. I was missing about 90% of what snowboarding really is.
For such a low tide season in Tahoe, you seemed to be getting after it like you haven’t in years. Was this season a redefining moment of tropical turns?
Well this was the first season in 5 years that I actually had a season pass. So yeah I rode my ass off as much as possible. I was also able to refine so many of my SB shapes and test them out in Tahoe, which was amazing. I actually feel like I have my snowboarding legs under me again.
Why Tahoe after all these years?
Tahoe is the most amazing place to live and snowboard. So many of my snowboarding heroes come out of here. I used to always come to Tahoe in the winter to film with the Neoproto crew so I kinda know my way around. I have a bunch of homies up here and Eric Messier is the snow surfing guru, so he’s always inspiring. His Warp Wave project is one of the most creative things in snowboarding right now. I’m hoping to find a home here and stay permanently. I can easily travel to LA for art shows and the NW to visit family and friends. Tahoe needs a unified snowboarding scene. It’s kinda all over the place, with hardcore freeride dudes, juggalos, and park rats. I think the scene is so all over the place because so few people are actually from here. Tahoe snowboard scene needs to unite! Haha!
What lead to you make handmade wooden snowboards in a garage that looks more like surfboards? What was your breakthrough, your epiphany? This shit is pretty damn normal in surfing, but “new” to the snowboard world of mainly mass production from European and Chinese factories.
It just started as an experiment and an art project. I just wanted to try some unique shapes. Every brand seemed to be pumping out the same shapes for so long. It was just boring. I also really wanted to ride powder. Now almost three years later, I’ll never ride a normal board in powder again! I think it’s important to think of snowboards as less of a disposable object. A real snowboard made by a real snowboard brand will have a story behind it. Pro models seem to be lost and boards just seem to be vapid pieces of wood plastic with no soul. That needs to change… Snowboarders need to buy snowboards from real snowboard brands in order for the soul of snowboarding to survive. If you’re not riding a board made by a rider owned and operated brand you’re riding a piece of shit. I don’t care if you got it for free. End of story.
They are slightly available, yet sold out on your website and you can’t ride them unless people know you. Is there a Spring Break business model or plan for the future? Are you guys planning to take out Burton and Lib? Where the fuck can a regular shred joe get his hands on these fine specimens of a snowboard?
Well, I keep making boards and then we just end up riding them because they’re so damn fun haha! I sell a few here and there but selling snowboards isn’t really the point. The point is to progress and experiment with snowboard shapes as an art form not a commodity. It’s more of a cultural movement in snowboarding than a brand. The Salt Lake City Snowboard Museum recently acquired my original quiver of Spring Break boards, which was really great. We sell soft goods off out site www.springbreaksnowboarding.com We’re working on some pretty cool collaborations with some companies for 2014. Top Secret stuff. I’ll be building boards all summer so we’ll have a good offering of limited signed and numbered boards available Fall 2013.
The Spring Break vision mantra states that you want to, “ Find grace in simply turning and re-explore the mountain from an entirely different perspective.” Could you elaborate on this?
Well like I said earlier, snowboarding isn’t just about tricks and getting gnarly it’s about deconstructing snowboarding to it’s simplest purest form. Not just focusing on freestyle. If that’s all you’re focusing on in snowboarding you’re seriously missing out on what snowboarding really is about. Snowboarding is about living a life dedicated to a passion that you get to share with other like-minded humans and enjoying every moment of it. It’s about driving to the mountain and listening to good tunes, cutting-off your buddy and slashing him with powder, spending time with your best friends, hiking in waist deep powder, and shitting in the woods. Snowboarding is about sleeping in your car and waking up at the asscrack of dawn to ride and working some shitty job so you can scrape your last pennies together to get that season pass. It’s about the entire snowboarding experience, the big picture. There’s nothing better than having the privilege to live that lifestyle.
Graphically, you’ve been one of the most influential snowboard graphic makers over the last decade. Artistically, where do you pull from and what do you think you bring to snowboarding?
Thanks for the kind words. Almost all of my graphics come from my personal artwork and photography. Humor plays a big part in everything I do so I hope that transcends into my graphics. I always strive to make a compelling graphic that will be make people smile and be stoked! CAPiTA is always super cool to try new things and push the envelope with their graphics. Ephram and Blue know what’s up.
What’s the key to getting hot women to pose sans clothes for beautiful photography? Do we need Sean Lennon, a grotto in the desert and lots of powders to accomplish this?
I think living in LA you inevitably end up becoming friends with tons of beautiful women. Everyone seems to be a model or actress so it’s not really too difficult to find cool attractive people to work with. Partying usually helps loosen up the mood but usually everyone’s pretty professional.
Your “career” in snowboarding has transcended your days as a pro – you’ve done art and photograph for CAPiTA for years, painted, sculpted, art shows, made films, snowboard designer and now board company owner. Are you happy with where you are now and what’s it like to be a snowboard renaissance man? I know you probably hate that statement, but it’s factually true.
I couldn’t be happier to be where I’m at. I hope the best times are yet to come. Everyday I’m on a snowboard is the best day of my life!
Is there simplicity and beauty in hand shaping boards, hiking and riding powder that you can’t just get in a resort park or on a sketchy, big urban drop?
I think it’s just different. When you’re not filming or getting gnarly you can leave your ego behind and it becomes so much more of a beautiful experience. I think when you are riding a hand shaped board as opposed to riding a high performance board mass produced board the simple act of just riding it is challenging. Getting used to a unique shape and making it work and turn how you want it to. You have to adjust your physical and mental outlook to accommodate the snowboard. I still love to ride park too don’t get me wrong. I love it all haha!
Your dog Marcel features prominently in your work lately. What kind of dog is Marcel and share an interesting story with us about Marcel that he might be angry or embarrassed about. He’s a good looking dude.
Marcel Duchamp is a Greyhound. He’s the most bizarre dog I’ve ever had. He’s like a man in a fur suit. He goes with me everywhere and chills. He’s a great pal.
What is Corey Smiths’ spirit animal?
Marcel is probably my spirit animal because he’s so chill.
Best memory from this season?
Probably our trip to Mt. Baker featured in the new WARP WAVE edit. We had a blast. Blue Montgomery took us out on his sailboat around the Puget Sound. Also every time I rode Squaw with my good bud Ryan Fagan was all time.
Look into your crystal ball. Where is snowboarding headed, or you hope it’s headed?
I hope snowboarding is headed towards a more soulful sustainable future focused on the lifestyle of snowboarding and rider owned and operated brands. I hope snowboarding and snowboard media start to focus more on the history and the founders that shaped snowboarding into what it is today. It’s sad when Vice covers the history of snowboarding better than most snowboarding media. I hope the aerial acrobatic corporate energy drink, Navy sponsored contest realm isn’t the future of snowboarding. That would just be sad.
Look into your crystal ball again. Where are you headed?
I just want to live a life of creative freedom and the ability to snowboard as much as possible as long as I can. That’s the dream.
Who still gives you rad shit?
CAPiTA, Union, Coal, 32, Rhythm, SABRE, DA KINE, Owner Operator, and of course I give myself rad shit from Spring Break Snowboards!