On the set of Videograss with Gus. Photo: Oil Croteau
Gus Engle is an American Child. He exists as a contradiction, and a singularity, as does America itself. In the case of this great land, it is the vastness of its geography, the immediate nature of its history, and the depth of its diversity that create such a paradox of potential. Gus Engle was born from its earth, and bred by its innovative counter cultures. His spiritual roots span the breadth of the nation. From New York’s Beat Generation, down to the backwoods Blues pioneers of the bayous, and on out to the West Coast hippy scene, a little bit of all that is, wild, creative, and pure at heart has helped to create the possibility of who Gus Engle is. But forget about the stars and stripes, it is the howling of the Arctic winds blowing across his Alaskan home that are Gus’s true theme song. It is Gus’s youthful spirit that provides him with his dynamic character that causes him to spend his winters producing creative video parts that challenge and inspire the imaginations of snowboarders everywhere. And it is his old soul that rejects the glory of the limelight and forces him to escape back to his northern home to write music, play the guitar, and howl at the moon. – Blaise Rosenthal
Photo: Oil Croteau
Brad: I’ve got some questions. Are you ready for them?
Yeah, I have to just close my window. I live next to a Plaid Pantry. They are gas stations/convenience stores here in Oregon. Crazy shit happens all the time. I have these garbage bins up next to my apartment and bums come and dig thru them. I was playing music out my window yesterday and a bum tried to get change from me while I was sitting in my living room (laughing). He was like, “Hey man! Can I get some change?” And I was like,”C’mon man! You are in my fucking house!” It’s pretty hood, here.
It’s Gus Engle’s first day ever on a snowboard. Take us back to that glorious moment.
I was in Anchorage. I was 8. I just went over to my friend’s house and snowboarded down his hill in a pair of Sorels. I just kind of rode down. It was pow. It was fucking awesome – I was super addicted ever since then and I couldn’t stop. It was super cool. I had just moved from Hawaii. Well, I had never really spent a winter in Alaska up to that point, ‘cuz we would always go back in forth between Hawaii and Alaska. When I was 8, we moved to Anchorage and we stopped going to Hawaii. I skateboarded with my friend Robby, then it snowed, and he was all super into snowboarding, so he just let me borrow it for the day and I rode it down the hill. Next day, I went and got my own snowboard and started snowboarding all the time.
What was better – first day of snowboarding, or getting your pickle wet for the first time?
Probably the later (laughing). The first day you go snowboarding you fall a bunch, it’s not even that sweet, ya know? You’re 100th day of snowboarding would be a different story, though.
You were born in Homer, Alaska, aka “Cosmic Hamlet By The Sea” aka “The End of The Road”. What was Homer, like? Is the place cosmic? Did Homer make you cosmic?
Did Homer make me cosmic? Yeah, man. It’s a beautiful place. It does have a sense of finality to it. It is at the end of the road. You feel like there is no place to go, really, it’s the end of the line. Everybody just hangs out and fishes and stuff. No one is in a hurry. Between there and Hawaii, I think it kind of made me a really mellow dude. It might have made me a little cosmic.
Castles just make snowboarding look cooler. Photo Oli Croteau
You have spent the last 6 years traveling a lot, but Alaska is home. What do you miss about the state the most?
Man, I don’t know If I miss anything, really. It’s just an imaginary line, you know what I mean? I don’t feel much different. I just think it’s another universe, ya know. I miss being able to speak English constantly. I have been learning French. It’s kind of a challenge. I kind of like that part. It doesn’t feel that different. It’s just kind of an idea of missing Alaska.
You are somewhat of a nomadic gypsy, which suits a snowboard career well. In Gus Engle’s 6 years of nomadic discovery, what spot has treated you the best or left you the most impressionable?
I love the Northwest. I really love the general vibe of how people are here – the music, the good amalgamation of nature and cool city life together, which is hard to find. I think the Northwest has had the biggest effect on me and you could include Alaska in that, too. Just traveling around the Northwest is probably my favorite. Everywhere you go you learn something, but I think if I had to pick one it would be Portland, Seattle and Anchorage. They are a good trio.
Any good jail stories?
No, I have never been to jail. I try to stay away from that. I am I am so scared of cops. I am not immune, but I just try to be as nice as I can. I know I have rights, but I don’t know my rights really (laughing). I am just too scared of them, dude. I don’t think they should have power over anybody, but I guess that’s just the way it is.
Never trust a man with a mustache, but you’ve got one of the best ‘staches in snowboarding.
(Laughing) You think so?
Really, how could you not trust this guy? Photo: Oli Croteau
We will get to those questions. Gus Mah – how did you get that nickname?
I think it’s just part of my regular way of speaking. Everyone calls me “Gus Man” and it just kinda went that way towards “Gus Mah”. I think I put an upward exclamation on the end of a lot of my sentences, so it turned Gus Man into Gus Mah.
You have a very interesting way of talking Gus.
I don’t know where it comes from, really. My dad is from California and my Mom is from Michigan. My Grandpa was full blooded Eskimo/Russian, so she has kind of a weird way of speaking a little bit, but I don’t know where it comes from. I don’t know what my deal is, dude. My little brother has autism and he speaks really strange. I think I am definitely affected by the way he speaks.
Longest you have gone without showering?
Micah Hollinger and I worked at High Cascade and we had a “shower off” going for awhile. We were skateboarding for about 10 hours a day. All of our roommates were so bummed on us.
Pig tails, corn rows or braids? What hair style brings you the best luck when snowboarding?
I kind of miss my pig tails.
You once described snowboarding as “One of the most beautiful things you can do on this planet.” How so?
I can’t really put it into words. It’s just one of those things, man. It’s just like spiritual, ya know? It’s not describable, it’s ineffable. Fuck man, it’s like a combination of floating and flying and all of the fun things you want to do when you are a little kid, you know? All the things you dream of.
When you feel in love with a beautiful woman from Quebec City, did you ultimately realize how much time you would spend there and how that would affect your take on snowboarding?
I had no clue. I just followed my heart through everything. I didn’t think about it, but it’s certainly worked out. I can’t complain. It’s very cool. I love Quebec; I really do.
Classic Gus. Cool Story circa 2009
Has hanging out with Quebecois all day changed your snowboarding?
I think it does. Those guys are just so fucking good. It’s crazy. Those kids and the Minnesotans are just so crazily good. They are hard working and so creative too — Louif Paradis, LNP and Ben Bilocq. They’ve got good vision out there.
Can you speak French now?
I can kind of speak French a little bit. My girlfriend teaches me all the time and I try to talk to her all the time, but say you want to talk to someone close in a grocery or something, you can just speak a little French and it’s pretty cool. It’s like having your own little language. Pretty soon I will be able to speak it and I am super excited about it. It’s one of the things that’s making me most excited about life right now, so It’s good to progress in something like that.
You moved to Portland for the summer. Louif Paradis told me to ask you if, “traffic and stuff is killing you?” Is the city ruining you? You said bums were reaching in your window for spare change.
I don’t even have a car, and it’s super mellow because I live in the southeast (of Portland) so it’s so fucking mellow. Yeah man, it’s definitely different. There are things I miss about Alaska on a daily basis, but there’s also things I couldn’t even come close to doing in Alaska, so it’s kind of a trade off. I am just trying to be happy wherever I am. Everyone is so fucking nice here. And so much less pretentious than everyone gives them credit for. It’s a really fucking cool community. I do miss solitude. I do miss walking out of my door and just taking a pee. Going up into the mountains and not seeing anyone.
Besides yourself, who has the best mustache in snowboarding?
Sean Genovese is going off right now. He’s got a good one.
Keys to growing a good mustache?
The keys? I used to dye mine when I was really young. I used Just For Men. I would dye it black. It would take it from a 5 to a 10 in one application. It’s really good. That was the secret when I was younger.
Does having a mustache make eating pussy more enjoyable?
Yeah, man. Why not? Mustaches make everything more enjoyable.
Word on the streets is you’re a guitar master. Take us to your jam sesh to end all jam sessions. Dead or alive, which musicians would be there?
My list is going to be so boring and mainstream. John Fahey for sure. You’ve got to put Jimi Hendrix in there and probably Mick Jagger, ya know – Leonard Cohen, John Lennon and fucking Arcade fire, for god sakes. They’ve got to be the best band ever right now and I can’t stop listening to them.
You ever try bath salts?
Dude, I’ve been smoking some of that shit, it’s crazy (laughing).
Bungee time. Sequence” Oli Croteau
You said “bungees are the bane of my existence.” So, is it all about the drop in ramp or being human powered in? Motorcycles?
I think bungee’s are just a curse. They are the bane of my existence, but they are also very prime in some spots. You get sick of them. Go to a flat city and you are like, “fuck man!” I can’t complain, really. It’s not a big deal. They are the bane of my existence, though. I am not going to change my mind about that. It’s all about natural speed, for sure. It’s about tick tacking into rails now.
How would you describe your snowboarding?
I don’t know how to describe it. I can just give you a rundown of what I normally do when I go to a spot. I just see the scary thing that Jed (Anderson) or Louif (Paradis) or whoever is going to hit, and I go for a walk and find something that’s a little less scary. That’s pretty much my M.O. Kids are so fucking good these days. How are you supposed to compete with these little fuckers? They are trying to kill themselves. Use your mind, so you just don’t get killed out there (laughing).
What’s your spirit animal?
I like ravens. They are clever, man. They are God in Eskimo mythology, you know? Raven’s are Eskimo’s Jesus. It’s forever. I just dig ravens. They are beautiful creatures.
Best advice your parents ever gave you?
They are just so fucking mellow. They never tried to get me to do anything, they just let me do my thing. They gave advice by action, they never tried to hinder me or control my life. They weren’t big on advice. I can’t think of anything.
What’s next for Gus Mah? Where do you go from Portland? BS big spins on a snowboard. Varial flips? Hippie jumps? What do you want to accomplish next season on the snow?
I just try to interact with my environment, so I am not really cooking up anything just out of the blue. Mostly, I’ve just been thinking about other things these days. I am just letting it come to me a little bit more. I just want to ride fast and do tricks fluidly and try to come up with the most different stuff I can come up with. I don’t know what it’s going to be quite yet, but hopefully traveling will help me see.
Incoming. Gap to 50-50. Photo: Oli Croteau
I just got a new one — Dave’s Killer Bread. It’s a bread company and they send me loaves of bread.
You might be the first snowboarder with a bread sponsor.
I know. I am pretty proud of it. It’s the best bread ever.
Okay, who are you really sponsored by?
Artec, Holden, Ashbury, Howl, Laxavala, The House Boardshop, Dave’s Killer Bread, House of 1817.
In closing any words of wisdom for the children of Yobeat?
My words of wisdom would be try to draw influences from things outside of whatever art form you are a patron of. Don’t get to wrapped up in the world you are a part of. Get away from the thing you love because you’ll find out more about it. You’ll take things other places and it will really make you a better snowboarder, better musician, or artist, or whatever you want to do. Just try and live a well balanced life. I think that’s it. Just don’t just snowboard. Do everything. You only get to live once. You don’t have one life to snowboard, and one life to do other things. You have one life to do everything. Try to experience a lot of things, and don’t take life to serious (laughing)? I don’t know.