Classic guy. Classic portrait. Photos: Alex Mertz
Snowboarding isn’t something that most people make a life out of. It’s not because the industry is too exclusive or any of that nonsense, it’s that even the most hardcore snowboarder will probably wake up some day with a job and kids and actual responsibilities, and not care quite as much. But luckily for everyone from the casual enthusiast to the hardcore kid sleeping in his car to make ends meet in a ski town, there are people like Sean Genovese. Sean is a lifer. Truly passionate about snowboarding, he’s set out to help keep the fun, excitement and interest in it for himself, and he’s willing to let you come along for the ride. As the founder of Dinosaurs Will Die, a long-time pro and former shop rat, Sean is the core of snowboarding.
Brooke: You run a core snowboard brand. What does that mean?
Geno: (Laughs) Ummm. Fuck, I don’t know. Core is a weird thing. I try to think of another core brand that I would consider core and then another that I would consider not core, but then when I do that I think that I am just judging and who am I to give a shit about that. Ok, a core brand or a core person is someone who literally does not have a care outside of what they are doing. They only try to appeal to them and their friends, which is the core. But it’s just the core to them, or their little bubble. So who’s to say that whatever brand over there that claims we do whatever, they are doing their thing, so it’s core in a different way. And that’s when you try to generalize snowboarders into one big lump sum and say “we are the middle, we are the center of it all.” You can’t really do that. As it grows, there is different segmenting so the core is growing but their are different types. There are people who ride over 100 days a year, you could be a bum and do that, or you could be really rich and do that. But do they pay attention to anything else? Are they doing it for themselves? True soul boarding? Is that the core? Maybe. Are they paying attention to contests, is that core? Is a video part core? It’s no different than filming figure skating, or filming parkour and putting it on the Internet, you know? Everyone takes it seriously and because we decided to take it seriously, now it’s cool. It’s like we all decided at some point that this was going to be cool.
For the long term viability of snowboarding as we know it, what does it mean for snowboarding to grow? Can it continue? Does it need to?
Well, It can. And it should. I guess. Not every one can snowboard. That’s a limitation through environment. It can grow to a certain extent, but more people can and should snowboard. It’s awesome. We kind of fuck ourselves though. The example being when you listen to a band that’s really awesome. You don’t want anyone else to know about that band. It becomes your little thing. Then other people catch on and then they are on the radio and then they are sell outs and then you hate them. Then, this is the new band. It’s all about the next thing and that is a part of growing. But we should want people to be successful and we should want snowboarding to be successful. Now it’s just whether snowboarding wants to grow… Like if a band does it’s thing and the people pay attention to it, the band gets to a point where they have to decide whether they want to keep doing what they want to do or whether they want to expand and explore new things. If you just keep trying to do the exact thing that got you there you are going to limit yourself. Snowboarding needs to keep doing what it does. The Internet is changing snowboarding. The formulas that used to work, in the DVD age, don’t work anymore. Snowboarding doesn’t have to change entirely. It’s a weird question because there is no answer.
Killing Dinosaurs in Japan. Photo Alex Mertz
Core shops are a huge part of local snowboarding and a lot of them are dying off, or at least people are saying that they are dying off. But core shops refuse to change. If you have to sell coffee out the front window of your shop so that a kid can buy a snowboard, why not do it? You create traffic. What are the other kids that you are selling to into, you know? Snowboarding is a lifestyle.
It’s OK for a ski shop to sell snowboards, but in our heads, I would say “I’m not going in there, fuck it.” If the shop that you think is the shit picked up skis to sell because they need to make a few more bucks, you would say that shop had sold out. That’s fucking backwards. I’m not saying the answer for snowboard shops is to sell skis. I’m just saying it’s OK for the rich guy at the ski shop to sell snowboards and make more money, but the snowboard shop has to stay cool, which means sticking to all these rules that basically prevent you from making money.
Why shouldn’t they sell skis?
Ski’s suck. (laughter) I don’t know. I just love snowboarding. I think freestyle sking is great for outerwear companies. It’s like Robin Hood: steal from the rich give to the poor, you know? Hey, let everybody fucking buy it. Let whoever buy the snowboard shit. Buy all of it. We market to snowboarders but make people who don’t snowboard want it — Skiers. Mountaineers.
But if you are selling snowboard boots, snowboard bindings, or snowboards, then of course you are going to say fuck everyone outside of snowboarding because they are not buying your shit. If I sold wax I would call it snowboard wax, but freestyle skiers? Fuck ya, I’ll sell that shit to you all day long, no problem. But we don’t. We make snowboards. Should we make skis? I don’t know. When Mervin started doing it I was kind of meh, but I just don’t ski and I don’t have an interest in it so I don’t want to make them. If I started cross country skiing one day because I thought it was good for my health and I couldn’t snowboard every day, then Dinosaurs will Die will make cross country skis.
That would be awesome.
I am one of those people that would be bummed if a core shop started carrying skis. But then again I was talking to our reps and I was like “fuck skiing” don’t sell to ski shops. but now it’s more of a question of what shop in that region supports snowboarding. Who has a team? Who’s got a shop that is supporting kids? That’s the shop. If that shop sold Barbecues and Patio Furniture and Snowboards and skis. Whatever. I get that you have to do what you have to do to survive.
I bought a leash in the 90s at a place that was a store for pools and spas. They also sold snowboard gear.
I was in New York for a Think Thank premiere so our rep back East told me he was going to go around and check out some different shops that we were in. We go to one shop, and we are like “is this it?” Full on umbrellas, patio furniture, and then we go upstairs and there is a snowboard shop upstairs. Very weird. It was so different than a west coast snowboard shop or a mountain town snowboard shop. It’s a shorter season, they don’t have huge mountains. It was almost like mom and pop had the patio furniture business and the kid got into snowboarding so the family expanded their business because they are wise business people. In some weird way, shit like that sounds like the right way. I get stoked on things having a purpose. Purpose over perfection. Nothing is ever perfect but if you have a story and a purpose for it than it is perfect. All the products that we sell have a story behind them so it’s easy to get passionate about them and that’s infectious. People get hyped about that. Snowboarding needs passion. It needs more people that are truly passionate about everything they are involved in. If you just keep doing what you are doing and are passionate about it people will be attracted to that. That’s when I got into it. If some kid rolled through Government Camp in the middle of the summer and didn’t know anything about snowboarding and started doing it, I think he would love it. If they tried they would be into it.
I think the general public’s perception of snowboarding is Lindsey Jacobellis on Extreme Weight Loss, or the Olympics, or Shaun White, and they don’t know about that side of it. What’s happening in Government Camp, or the people who are really passionate about it. Is there a way to share that to a wider audience and do we want to?
I think we should. Definitely we should. I’ve never met Shaun White, I’ve never met Lindsey Jacobellis but the people at the top are usually the most humble. The people at the bottom are the grimiest. The people who are trying to make it to the top spot are the people who are holding it all back because they are scared someone is going to take their spotlight or whatever. Shaun White is crazy though. He is the face of snowboarding straight up. Is that good, is that bad? I don’t really know.
One thing I think is that snowboarding has always tried to be skateboarding. It seems like maybe we’ve mellowed on that a little. Do you think the tides are changing of perceptions of skaters towards snowboarders?
I think it is. There are small brands that are putting some faith back in and riders that are doing it their way again. Kids are gonna be kids and then they go through a weird dorky phase and then they either come out cool or not cool. I think snowboarding is coming out cool again. It’s cool to see Jeremy Jones Further/Deeper thing. Going off and exploring is really cool. Kids jibbing in towns with snowboarding is really cool. Not bringing snow to a rail is a cool thing. Finding spots that have snow and using it. The bungee thing is fine.
They went out of business, bankrupt at least.
Oh shit. Well, they weren’t in the core of snowboarding. So if they wanted to do something, no one was giving them a huge hand and they had to pay for it. And with a product like that, you can’t sell enough of them. Not to mention they only made bungees and never expanded. We are a niche brand in a niche part of a sport that is a niche too. So I was blown away that as many kids had bungees as they did. Not every kid needs one. We’ve only used one of those for the last three years you know? Once you have it it’s almost a novelty but you really don’t need it all the time. It sucks to pull and you need all your friends to help you do it.
Speaking of buying your way into snowboarding, what do you think of a brand like Nike, and what they are doing in snowboarding. Good? Bad?
Probably yet to be determined.Who’s to say. If was pissed and I didn’t like what Nike was doing then I should start a boot brand. If anyone is that pissed off and doesn’t like it…Then do something about it. People will talk “oh they are coming in and taking our market” and it’s just like “well what are you doing to allow them to come and take your market?” They have money and are they just buying their way into it? Can you really do that? They tried it before and they couldn’t do it. They tried a second time to get into snowboarding and they couldn’t do it. Now they are giving it another go. I look at the people that they hired though and they are snowboarders, they understand snowboarding and they have been snowboarders that have filmed video projects in the past, or have been involved and in the know with other teams. They are supporting the right people so why shouldn’t they? It’s kind of like “well If I don’t take the job, someone else will.” There is no united front where everyone is gonna say, “fuck you, Nike,” but they could help snowboarding. Is there room for Nike in snowboarding? Sure. Is it killing it? I don’t think so. There is an open spot in snowboarding for that because other brands have let it happen.
But other brands haven’t done it right. Think about Under Armour, their first marketing campaign was kind of sick and then it went to shit. I can think how I would have marketed that brand, but I don’t even know who is in there, you know? Who is the face of under Armour? With Nike, and this is their successful approach, it would make more sense because they have people in their that snowboard. There is a face that makes sense to people. Kyle Clancy was Under Armour’s rider which was cool but you know he’s not the dude making marketing decisions, and if he was you would probably be more down with it. You never hear anyone talking about Under Armour and that’s an example of someone trying to buy their way in in the wrong way. It’s good for the rider that needs to make a buck in the short term, but it has no longevity to it. Marc Johnson talked about this too, brands that take their aging riders and put their knowledge to work within the company are the ones that are supportive to snowboarding.
Everyone is being used in some way. You are either being used to market the product or you are being used to buy the product. It sounds like scummy business but it’s just the way it is, and there is a right way to go about it. We are going to market to you so you give us your money, we are going to use you to market so we can get more money. The main question becomes what you do with the people after you use them. Do you ditch them and move on? No, as you evolve, let’s grow together. One of our kids, let’s say he films, and he is a snowboarder. Down the road but in the future if we could just afford to have him come in and be the media department, that would be rad because he knows the history of the brand. If we make the video project, he can create it because he has grown inside the company. You can find other uses for your riders. But then it grows and gets weird when a younger kid comes up and is better.
What do you think about snowboarders as athletes and or celebrities. Will snowboarders ever be the new Kobe?
Shaun White, maybe Danny Kass. But Danny did it his way, which was a healthy look for it. That term is thrown around a lot “jock” you know what I found was interesting was that – back to the Shaun White thing- It seems like Danny could go to Mount Hood and go snowboarding. Travis Rice could go to Mount Hood and go snowboarding. I don’t know Shaun White but the thing that I find very strange is that he doesn’t seem to associate with snowboarders snowboarding for that matter. I don’t know who his friends are. Maybe he doesn’t care. but I am kind of bummed out for him. He kills it. He has tons of money and he does cool shit. I have seen charity stuff which is awesome, but it’s kind of a bummer that he couldn’t roll into Hood and have people getting stoked.
Brooke: He was there, people took selfies with him like he is a celebrity.
Oh really? Well. Travis Rice made a crazy movie, and then for the second movie I just felt like he tried to spend as much money as possible, but it was a fluff piece. It was kind of a bummer. The Supernatural thing is cool though. He seems approachable. With Shaun White though, what is he doing for snowboarding? He wins contests but outside of that…Is he helping the next generation of snowboarders? Maybe he is because people are seeing it and he is keeping it in the mainstream and then if they see beyond him they can see the different layers of snowboarding and find one they like. This is the kind of thing I don’t really have an opinion. The Target branding stuff for example. I can’t decide whether it’s good or it’s bad. It just is.
He also skates, and is in a band. The fact is, is that Shaun White reaches a bigger audience than say, a Forest Bailey or a Brendon Hupp.
Geno: Oh, absolutely, and the other thing is too, would those other guys be able to handle the spotlight like Shaun does? Probably not. When you ask people like that to do too much they get so bummed. They don’t like being told what to do. They want the money so they can keep doing it but they don’t want to do some of the parts that go along with it. You have to pimp yourself out. Whore yourself around.
Where snowboarding is at right now, all the ridiculous shit you have to do, versus the amount of money you can get out of it. Leaving out the 1%, the burnout is insane. I think the people who are on top now aren’t going to be around in two years and that sucks. You need people to stick around.
If brands can support what a rider is doing and not manipulate what a rider is doing, everyone wins.Â I am in my 30’s and I have my friends my age but I also hang out with 17 year old kids. On paper what I do sounds sketchy. I film 17-year-old boys in the woods and sometimes in dark alleys. There is no age barrier on snowboarding. There are generations. You could claim kids don’t get it, or you could take what the kids are doing as new and embrace it.
DWD has been around since 2005. 8 years. What advice do you have to people trying to start their own snowboard company?
Ya, I’ll give the same advice I got. Don’t do it. But that was from people saying there was no market for it then. But there is still no market it for it now. There wasn’t one then and there isn’t one now. There was a market for snowboarding. It was 1992. You just did whatever. That was the golden age they say. There is a new golden era for the next generation and I don’t think snowboarding is any worse off than it was in the 90’s. There is more history now. You have people like Chris Roach, Terje. That didn’t happen as much back then. When it started snowboarders were kids, now snowboarders are having kids. It isn’t as rebellious anymore, as soon as your parents are suggesting you go on a snowboard vacation. It’s not punk rock anymore. We are much more desensitized to things now and the industry has become safer. We are all playing with plastic scissors that can’t cut paper. You can’t say anything because you might hurt someone’s feelings. Really you just need to do whatever the fuck you want. If you are going to start a brand have the passion for it and don’t be stupid. For us it’s been like this. I worked in a snowboard shop. I worked with the guys who owned it, learned from them I was a rider for a shop, a rider for a company. We filmed video projects and now with the brand we sponsor video projects. We’ve played a lot of roles, but what you learn when you start a brand is that you have to think about what a consumer wants, what a shop wants and how you want to be treated by a brand. It’s the golden rule. treat other people the way you want to be treated, have passion, drive, and you will succeed.
You are not worried about people taking your market share?
No way! Companies have been awesome to us. Mervin and Capita have been so helpful. Just awesome. They both have given me good advice and been very supportive. We are not always going to be the gutter brand. We are going to grow. Hopefully we can stay in tune with the kids, but if you are trying to be that core gutter brand, you become that old dude with green hair and a mohawk. Some dudes pull it off but usually it looks weird. A company is like a person, It evolves. You can do your best, you can try and be friends with everyone and still hold values. Nothing is set in stone. It’s always easy to give advice to other people when you are on the outside looking in.