Trust this face, even if it does look kinda weird here. Photo: Stan Evans
Zach Leach made his mark in snowboarding long ago with contest results, magazine spreads, and video parts that made you want to go ride. These days, he continues to influence the next generation of snowboarders with marketing efforts at Mervin and of course, with a little trick-turned-phenomenon known as the Zeach. Zach has held, and continues to hold numerous titles, but the only one you really need to know is, The Man.
What do your responsibilities include at Mervin as marketing manager for all brands?
Everything under the sun, I have my hand in all facets of Mervin. I still manage team at the moment. My plate is full [with] everything from ad buys, athlete schedules, contracts, setting up photo shoots, etc. With the direction of Jami Davis we handle everything to do with marketing for our skate brand, surf brand, GNU Outerwear, Lib Outerwear, Gnu and Lib Tech snowboards, Lib skateboards.
What’s up with Lib Tech surfboards?
We’ll start to push them in the next few months. It’s a very new innovative build process, and super rugged high performance environmentally construction, that will be built in the US near Canada. Mike’s been working on these for about 25 years. I surfed one about a month ago; they’re really fun. Mike and Pete, they’re surfers at the soul.
We started a new events program this year and we have Krush from Snowboy Productions helping run that. We have the Downtown Throwdown, Green Horn Games, and the Mt. Baker Banked Slalom, which is my favorite. Those are our biggest events right now.
Mervin has remained core and continues to build boards in the US. How do you guys pull it off?
I think it’s awesome we have the ability to make our handcrafted boards in the US, near Canada in the most environmentally friendly factories. I think we take a different approach; we want to make snowboards that actually work and people can have fun with. The past few seasons I have had the opportunity to design products that just work in powder, so having the ability to create and manipulate snowboards on a whim is pretty amazing.
What’s the marketing strategy like for a brand that isn’t image based?
We make fun of ourselves!! We like to utilize our athletes because we have so many gnarly riders. For our marketing direction going forward, we will just be staying on the path of what we’ve always done- being consistent. We’re growing so fast, but at the same time our internal team is small and still very family based.
What riders are on the come-up with the brands right now?
On the snow side I’d say Eric Jackson, he had one of his best seasons and an amazing part in the People movie. For young kids, there’s Cody Warble out of Colorado and Max Warbington out of Oregon. Max has been pushing our Bent Metal program at High Cascade all summer, and Cody has been helping us push our mini DK boards.
What type of rider/ person gets on the Mervin program?
I like riders with good attitudes. Kids need to have good attitudes and snowboarding needs to be fun; it doesn’t need to be serious all the time. I feel like people are way too serious about the sport. Why did you start snowboarding, is a question I ask the guys on the team. If you’re burnt out on it, or it gets to be too much like a job, you have to stop and remember why we started snowboarding. So I would say to ride for Lib Tech or GNU you need to be positive, outgoing as well as have some amazing snowboarding skills.
Who’s on for girls?
On Gnu girls there’s Kaitlyn Farrington, Bryn Valaika, Maribeth Swetkoff and Barrett [Christy]. I still look at Barrett as an awesome rider. She’s free riding a lot more and running our women’s team, but in my opinion she still has a lot of influence and is still one of the best women snowboarders out there.
I just saw an ad of Janna Meyen for Lib Tech. How come Lib Tech hasn’t had girls on the team in the past?
There is really no reason. Janna just rips and likes our brand.
Who knew strong knees were a requirement for team management? Photo: Stan Evans
Are you still considered a rider?
All I do these days is help design powder specific boards because that’s what I like to ride. I look at snowboarding a little bit different than I used to because I don’t have the responsibility of being out there doing tricks, trying to push myselfÂ and the sport. I’m never going to stop pushing myself [because] once you do it for so long it’s engrained in your body forever. I take a lot more of a surf influence now and still skateboard. I’ve always had a skate influenced style on rails and the way I do things. I still have a pro-model, the Rider’s Choice and I do the graphics with Pinski each year; it’s fun to be involved. I work with R&D helping develop innovative technology. We have some cool stuff coming out this year, like the “A.S.S. Pickle.” Â [Laughs]. So I do not consider myself a team rider. I am just a snowboarder
[Laughs]. Is the graphic poop colored?
Nope, I’m not sure what the graphic is going to be; it’s going to be a late release. I just saw the first model board today.
Do you miss being a rider?
Sometimes I miss it, but I accomplished the goals I had set forth. I never wanted to stay a professional snowboarder; I always wanted to work on the business side of the industry. Being able to have Pete Saari guide and mentor me through the last six years, from helping out with the team to seeing how Mervin runs — that’s just been much more interesting to me. I like to be behind the scenes and not in the forefront these days. I like helping out the kids to tell you the truth. I’m really selective on who I pick as team riders, I don’t care if you’re the best but I want them to be extremely motivated and bring their own style and flavor to the brand.
That makes a lot of sense. Tell me about the good ole’ Vermont days.
I like the East Coast. Growing up there you have to deal with all sorts of shit as far as ice, overcast weather conditions and the cold! Coming out to the West Coast, it’s like heaven on Earth — pow all the time. You can always find it easily; jump on a sled in the backcountry or on a split board. I’m glad I grew up in Vermont, I had a great posse and when Grenade first started that was awesome and we were out west. Danny [Kass], [Kevin] Casillo, [Kyle] Clancy, [Jared] Slater… it’s cool seeing how everyone has progressed through the years from the East Coast. I feel like the East Coast is very embedded into snowboarding obviously, we just have a ton of great riders from the East.
In ’99 Kyle and I moved. It was wild, in Mammoth they thought Grenade was a gang and all the snowboarders that lived there hated us. After a while they started to like us when they found out we just shredded all the time.
Who were the snowboarders living there at the time?
Kevin Jones… there was probably about fifteen dudes that moved into town that year, it was an influx of East Coast contingent. Then Grenade started in the back of a van with Kyle and Danny and a few of the boys. It was a great time snowboarding for me, even seeing the skiers at Mammoth at that time- – Tanner, Pep and Jon Olson. Tanner and Pep would come and shred with us and try to butter on the boxes with their skis. It was a huge melting pot at the time, and it still is now, Mammoth has amazing parks, but in those days it was wild. It was party hard and shred hard every day, all day long.
Is there a highlight in your mind from those days?
For me it was just the whole crazy experience of moving to the West Coast. I moved and then dollars started rolling in from sponsors. Oakley has supported me since I was 16, my first pair of glasses I got were for mountain biking, then I started wearing their goggles snowboarding and Kyle got me hooked up with the rep. Oakley, Redbull and Mervin were the three big pushes in my life as far as giving me the access and availability to be creative on my own terms. There are a lot of snowboard brands out there, but I like that Pete and Mike Olsen still have total control and weird creative ideas that they keep pushing out, and it’s really family based. Having the ability to meet all the guys that build the boards in the factory and then build your own boards- it’s such an awesome process.
How much powder do you get these days from behind the desk?
I probably get about 30-40 days of pow a year and I probably get in 50 days of surfing. This past season was the least amount of riding I’ve ever done, I was behind the desk trying to make shit happen for the team and trying to deal with all the infrastructure of the company and all of the brands. I was behind the desk way too much. This year I have plans to get away from the desk and shred a lot more.
I think it’s awesome. I remember touring through Europe on a Redbull tour with [Travis] Rice, Pat Moore, and Hana Beaman. We were riding indoor snow domes and I was doing zeaches there. Kids were coming up to me and going “The Leach slide, yeah!” Then when I saw harsh zeach to scorpion and found out it was Bode Merrill, I was even more stoked because I respect him as a rider. I love his creativity on a snowboard and he put out an amazing part in Absinthe this year.
How did it start?
I wanted to do skateboard tricks on a snowboard, but there are no trucks on a snowboard so you have to manipulate your board to mimic what you would want to do on a skateboard. To me, it was really fun. Everyone was doing the same goddamn tricks during that time and if I saw another backlip or front board I was going to vomit. I like creativity and I love the harsh zeach to scorpion.
For the record, Zach can do other tricks. Photo Stan Evans