Even I remember the Dingo. And I’m a Midwestern kid who called shitty hills “mountains” because that’s what I had to work with. My local spot was 748 feet in elevation. Winters weren’t spent on West Coast mountains, but rather driving back from bumfuck Wisconsin garbage dumps to watch Fuel TV until Spring came. And that’s where I first saw the Dingo.
Yelling into a camera, somewhere during the 00’s.
If your life was even half-worth living for in the 00’s, you knew about the Dingo. You knew he was from down under. You knew his unruly look and that was he loud as shit. Nobody could ignore that that he had way more fun not being a pro snowboarder than pro snowboarders ever had. You knew he had a show with Danny Kass, and that out of nowhere, he was gone.
But before the Dingo tagged his name on the front gates of the snowboard industry, he was a just 16-year-old homeless kid living on Kass’ couch. Fresh off a plane from Australia and within a few years of being pro, Pat Bridges (then, Snowboard Magazine’s editor) laid it out straight for him. Bridges sayid “not everyone can make it as a pro snowboarder.” Seconds later, a megaphone was shoved in the Dingo’s face. But after flying around the world to be reminded that your dreams are better off buried 6 feet under, you can either repeatedly ram a board into your skull and end it all or you can take the megaphone and yell into it for a living. And just like that in 2003, the Dingo was born. Right off the bat, he took no prisoners. You know the drill.
Shouting at people, making fun of anything and everything. He was a refreshing fuck-you to clean cut, vanilla announcers everywhere.
Always keep it professional, kids. Or don’t. Whatever.
Fast forward to the last mention of the Dingo you recall, somewhere around 2012. Coming back from a year-off not shooting or announcing anything, depression was hitting hard. Later that year, he’d found himself at Sheckler’s golf tournament. Enter Mike Smith. A goofy looking dude at the tournament taking pics with everyone, including the Dingo. Turns out “he’s a motivational speaker, he works with kids”, Dingo recalls a friend telling him later in the day. A couple months go by and Dingo showed up to see Smith speak at a school in Orange County. No expectations, just intrigued to see what Smith was all about. Let’s assume these kids all think they’re hot shit because they’re high schoolers.
Mike Smith making kids feel cool about themselves.
But in that short amount of time, Dingo saw “Mike transform the cool kids to be uncool and the uncool kids to be cool. I thought yep, I’m in.” Next thing you know, Dingo’s on a plane to Lincoln, Nebraska, a place that he’s barley even heard of. Unannounced, he’d dropped by a youth shelter/skatepark where Mike was speaking. Ready to put down the megaphone and get on board with whatever the hell Smith is doing, Dingo tells Smith “I’ve got no idea where I am, what I’m doing or what comes next, but I’m going to help build whatever this is, because you’re changing the world.”
From there, shit took off fast. Living out of backpacks. Going school to school to school talking to kids. And remember that depression? Turns out everyone gets bummed. So Dingo opened up, got real and started talking to kids about his daily battle with depression. First, to a room of about 10 kids, all who have by this point tried to end it all or have had serious thoughts about the big sleep. No questions, he knew this was “his new calling” as he referred to it. But it’s a two-way street. This was as much therapy for him as it was for the kids. They needed to hear it all. They needed to know about the grueling mountain of daily expectations that the Dingo was crushed by—maintaining his image, the do-this-and-that’s of being “the dingo.” They needed to know about him tossing back a handful of pills and waking up in the hospital, still alive. They needed to know everything because nobody relates to some asshole that hasn’t been through it all but gives advice like they have. The way Dingo saw it, “if you tell your story and save one kid’s life and then 10 kids’ lives, that’s what you’ve got to do.” Without much notice, that room of 10 turned into speaking in front of 10,000 kids that needed to hear that they’re not alone in this shit storm.
What happens when you decide to do good things with good people? You get introduced to more good people, like Rob Dyrdek. An east-coast skate rat “super-human” as Dingo refers to him, Dyrdek shoehorned his way into TV, philanthropy and whatever you’d classify kickflipping a car as, all aside a very successful skate career. They met and never looked back. Chatting quickly turned to concepting. Dyrdek, Dingo and their crew got to shopping around one particular show focusing on high schoolers. He tells me the show would take “4 kids from 4 different cliques and force them to work, eat, sleep and live together.” A number of shows were pitched, shot and killed aside from that one. Even a travel show with Lil Jon was in the mix. Whoever turned that down is a goddamn moron.
Above: Snapshots from behind the TV Screen.
Below: Dingo. Lil Jon. Kass.
So TV was dead for now. But “you can’t give into it,” Dingo said. “I’ll always be creating, producing, directing shows.” You bet that initial stench of network denial hurt a lot, but the initial idea was molded into Dingo’s next life: his involvement with Find Your Grind. He tells me, he’s “not going to let some executive determine my future.” And that’s the FYG attitude in a nutshell.
Short and sweet, FYG blended Smith’s experience of motivational speaking and Dingo’s contagiously positive energy to make sure kids’ lives don’t suck. The team is fixated on supporting kids along every step, online and off, to discover unconventional career paths and alternative lifestyles. They’re addressing the fact that not every kid is built for the school structure that society looks to. Not every kid is “book smart” or has an attention span suited for college classrooms. But that doesn’t mean they’re a failure. It means our schools are failures for not giving alternatives when someone gets stuck. It’s about finding and harnessing your passion early so you end up doing what you love instead of being a 45-year old working at a fucking movie theatre. FYG teaches the next generation that there’s more out there. More choices. Less restraint. Less bullshit that comes with boxing yourself into a cookie-cutter career.
Dingo in the house, mic in hand at a Find Your grind event.
By this time, the Dingo has watched Find Your Grind explode in every direction. He’s also kept his ear to the ground and looks back on his time in the snowboard world with a unique perspective. As someone who rode the big waves built by perfectly-timed 2000’s rich-dick corporate money, “it doesn’t look as fun now”, but it’s also different. Some kids today are bred to be Olympians, but some are still into doing wild shit and keeping the scene alive. As far as the Dingo is concerned, he makes sure to keep a finger on the pulse of the core dudes who dig snowboarding day in and day out to “make sure that part of snowboarding never goes away.”