Hump Day with Mikey Leblanc

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Mikey LeBlanc has been snowboarding longer than the average shredder has been alive. But the length of his career hasn’t hindered his ability to get after it. Instead each year, and video part, is a reminder to everyone just how good he really is. Mikey is honestly one of the coolest and most insightful people I’ve ever come across, and his journey is one that I’m interested in. So the question remains, how did Mikey do it? I picked his brain so we could all find out. 

Part 1: The Beginning.

When I told Mikey we would be cutting his interview into three parts, starting with his past, he quickly cut me off to inform me he knows plenty about himself. Being ignorant to how interesting of a person Mikey really is, I shrugged this off as a joke. As it turned out, he meant it. “I have a past life as a cat, and I had a dude, psychics have told me I was a seeker, and that I traveled on the Mayflower to America. That bit is really weird, because I don’t get seasick.” 

Now with a better understanding of just who Mike used to be, I figured I should ask him about his snowboarding career. I knew of his lengthy career, after all he’s been a big timer since I started boarding. I can still recall his head exploding, the triple backflip, and his KingPin cribs interview. But in Mikey years, that was yesterday. According to Mike this trip started in ’82, however; he counts his true immersion into the snowboard world as the day his first mail ordered deck showed up, a Burton Backhill, in ’84. Back then the only snowboarding photos around were in the legendary Thrasher skate mag, which suited Mikey and his friends perfectly. They were after all, just a skate crew from Maine. Yep, that’s how it all started, Mikey and his skate buddies in the frigid Maine winter shredding some bunny hill. No lifts, no plan, just doing what they could in the winter to avoid boredom. Snowboarding picked up though. Mikey got a Burton Elite, a 140cm swallow tail, and then it all changed, the local ski hill opened one lift for snowboarders. “Some kids were immediately killing it,” Mike said.  

Mike’s skate crew must have disbanded, because in ’91 he was off to Colorado for some higher education. After two years in Colorado things got a little mixed up and the snowboard community will forever be in debt to Mikey’s college roommate. “Got busted for selling weed, even though I wasn’t the one selling, my roommate was,” Mikey said. “But I took the heat and quit school after that. That’s when I moved up to Breckenridge. When I found my first place to live up there it was crazy, I had six dollars left and some homies on the lift at Copper Mountain. They were so cool and let me live with them, they fed me for two months, and they got me drunk every night. After that I just kept it up, rode every day I could and worked nights cleaning the toilets of the ski lodges.”

That full blown commitment to snowboarding and poop cleaning is where everything fell into place. Mike had friends, a place to stay, and nothing better to do than snowboard. So he did what anyone else would do at that point, he started filming. Some guy named Mack Dawg liked what he saw, and boom! Mikey’s strange journey seemed to have a purpose. Mikey was ripping around the hill on a Ride board so Mack Dawg assumed he was with them.“Mack Dawg saw my shots in a video and called Ride snowboards and asked about me, they didn’t know me.” he said. “I had bought a ride board off a rep and gotten good shots.” Once this was all cleared up Mikey had the opening shot in the newest MDP video and was on a trip to Alaska to film with the legendary Whitey for Brown Trout. “I shot a part in 10 days, ah the good old days when all the pros sucked. It was gold from there though, been pro for almost 14 years now.”

In those early days of snowboarding filming a part took maybe 30 days, if you were good. By the way, in Mike’s mind good means Peter Line and Ingemar Backman. That 30 days is a steep contrast to the effort the pro’s are putting in now. The whole scene was different back then though, instead of helicopters and million dollar travel budgets Mikey remembers, “We did do it different, we’d get drunk every night, wake up and film still drunk, that’s the major difference, we would session rails with 40’s.” Mikey stayed in Colorado for five more years, doing this and jumping over that. After Colorado lost its zest he headed to a new scene. “I did the Utah thing for the next six years, I moved there with Whitey and started riding with JP, Jones, Mitch, and some oldies like Cody Dresser. I always switched up my crew though. I’d film two parts, one with Whitey and one with MDP each year so I’d have little half parts. I liked riding with the new kids and the old dudes, mixing it up. I think it kept me fresh to ride with the young guys, but I also got experience from old dudes like Dave Downing and Ali Goulet on how to stay alive out there.”

 

For a while that system continued, dual parts in Mack Dawg and KingPin films, back in the go big or go home days. “It was all about going bigger. Like kink rails, and really big jumps. It was really only J2 before us and he was seriously 3 years ahead of his time.” I said to Mike that that mentality reminds me of Travis Rice and all he had to say was, “Travis is new-school, he goes huge and is rad. I don’t care what anyone has to say, he stays true to his roots and fucking rips!” But Mikey has been slaying it these last few years as well. Handling massive drops to flat concrete, even the hot new kids can’t seem to keep up. Just last year Mikey took on his biggest drop yet, pushing even his own limits 14 years after his first part. Over the course of his career Mikey has definitely had the best ollies in snowboarding, the best fence gaps, bomb drops, and potential ACL blowout landings, but he has always walked away, even if he had to scream a bit. “I was built for it, that’s all I can say, and I think I hold the record for sure if there is one. If I can claim anything I brought that to snowboarding, did it first at Brighton into the parking lot (after a Guinness) then started the ollie thing last season. I did my biggest in the Absinthe video, lost some teeth on that one, and some of my tongue. But it tasted like steak so it was O.K.” The last few years have been pretty remarkable in the world of Mikey, bordering on past and present. He is now the main brain behind Holden outerwear, multiple video projects, and a creative new approach to snowboarding. You may have noticed his odd approach to both filming and snowboarding in general in the last few years, but to Mike it all makes sense. “When I get a chance for a road trip I really just take advantage of being out there you know? I make a shitty day work and ride what’s there, it’s really back to the beginning for me again. No more waiting for the perfect rail or jump, just make do with what is there.” And what is there is the present, but that isn’t until part two…