The family man. Photo Luna Martinez

Interview: Paul Bourdon, Intro: Brooke Geery

From region to region, the make up of people who ride snowboards differs greatly. The culture, the attitudes, the weather, and the conditions all affect not only the style of riding, but the way we interact with each other. In the Mid Atlantic region, where it’s gray, cold and crowded, the snowboard scene reflects this. It can be a strange concept for someone who lives in California, Utah, or the Northwest to understand. When you’re riding pristine trails surrounded by majestic peaks and valleys, and your biggest complaint is how heavy or shallow the powder is, you feel like kind of an asshole even whining about it.  Back east, however, there’s not as much space between “real life” and “snowboard life,” and this can be quite apparent.

Brazilian-born and Jersey-bred, Mike Sears is 28, a father of one, and has been riding snowboards for 17 of his years on earth. Though he did a tour of shred duty out west, he remains East Coast though and through. These days, he can be found most often in the park at Big Boulder. He works hard to make it happen, and has been rewarded with over 6000 instagram followers and a list of sponsors for his efforts. In the corpo snowboard world, that might not sound like much, but for a guy with only man-made snow to enjoy and a family to care for, it’s definitely something. Of course, with perceived success, comes a lot of flack, and Mike has been called things such as “the most-hated snowboarder” by internet trolls from as far away as Colorado. But at Yobeat, we’re over the hate, and into those who rise above it. We decided to send Mike some questions and find out about him for ourselves.

Above: You could fuck with this guy, but are you sure you want to? Photo: Brett Revet

Paul Bourdon: How did you get into snowboarding?

Mike Sears: It was a mixture between seeing it on TV and video games. I remember watching X Games and being totally blown away.  I wanted to try it so bad.  At the time my mom had recently gotten divorced so there wasn’t a ton of money. Eventually things got better and I went up to Shawnee Mountain in Pennsylvania, took a lesson, and then rode the mountain the rest of the day. I didn’t have an older brother to learn a lot of that stuff from growing up, so everything was pretty self taught.  My sisters took me a couple times after, which led to going on school trips and eventually driving on my own.

How did your relationship with Sims develop? Who were you riding for prior to Sims?

The Sims story starts near the end of the 2015/2016 season, I was riding for a brand called Wi Me Snowboards at the time, which was run by two super cool dudes, Jeff and Dan. They had a funny outlook on snowboarding and created some solid product.  After riding for them for a bit, things started to come to a standstill and I felt like they were not going as planned.  I had gotten into talking briefly with the Sims Media Manager who had asked me about riding for Sims. I was stoked. I had my filmer at the time make a quick edit and I sent it to the Brand Manager, Marc.  A couple days later I get a text that I’m riding for Sims. It felt like I had gotten drafted into the NFL. haha

You have a kid right? How do you balance riding with the responsibilities of fatherhood?  Are you going to get your kid into riding?

Yes I do.  He’s 4 about to be 5 in February.  He’s awesome! His name is Cain and he’s a little badass.  He has actually been riding since he was 2, once we were able to find stuff small enough for him to fit into we got him all hooked up. He’s a pretty big 4 year old, so it helped with finding stuff early on for him. He doesn’t go as much now though since he started playing Lacrosse. He is super into that and plays for a couple different teams. When we moved back to the East Coast it was really hard at first.  It’s mentally exhausting because you’re always worrying. I remember leaving weeks at a time and always worrying about stuff back home, even though nothing was wrong.  No matter how much you try to focus on shredding and getting stuff done, your family is always in the back of your mind.

Below: Airborne. p Kevin Todd 

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What are you doing for work when you’re not riding?

So as I mentioned, my son plays Lacrosse and since he started playing, I found myself back into the sport myself, running my own business called 908 Customs (@908_customs). It’s a Lacrosse stringing and dyeing business where kids can get their Lacrosse heads custom dyed and custom strung; whether it be different colors, logos, numbers, etc.  I used to play growing up, before getting into Snowboarding, until I broke my leg the first time, which changed everything.  As a player, I was always fixing kids sticks, whether it be replacing the mesh or fixing busted strings.  I started 908 as something to keep my mind off Snowboarding in the summer so that when the time rolls around I can jump back into it fresh and full of energy and stoke.

What’s the hardest part about riding on the East Coast? What’s the best part?

The toughest part about riding on the East Coast is where I live now, I’m the same distance from all the resorts. Roughly about an hour and a half each way.  Waking up super early is a bummer, especially for sunrise shoots…..or is it?  It gets pretty cold and as we all know it turns into the Ice Coast, which isn’t too fun. But hey, you’re strapped in, your board is moving, so make the best of it.  The best part for me is just being able to be back shredding with my friends that I grew up with, at the resorts I grew up riding. It’s cool to see the changes over the years from what I remember when I first started.

What do you think about snowboarding in the Olympics?

I guess I have mixed feelings about it. I’m not good at explaining myself sometimes, so level with me on this one. One side of me thinks it’s cool because it showcases snowboarding to more types of viewers.  A lot of people watch the Olympics, whether it be for Ice Skating, Bobsled, Curling, Snowboarding, whatever. Lots of people have no connection to any of the sports, but still watch it. So as far as “marketing” snowboarding in that sense, it’s good exposure. It gets more people involved and on snow because they think its cool and interesting, which is what the brands need in order to survive and keep producing awesome product for us all to enjoy. People spending money.  However some people want to keep it core and to its roots, which is something that I also agree with.  So in the end, I’m kind of split.

Below: Olympic log splitting? We’d watch that! p. Kevin Todd

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Where do you see park design headed?

Park design has changed so much over the years.  You used to roll up to a park and it basically was a trail with features just kind of put wherever.  Now you have Parks with legit jump lines, skate feel bowls, creative rail lines, which just makes things flow and makes your riding feel and look better.  It can only go up from here!  It’s cool to see some resorts finding ways to make it fun for everyone rather than always having the biggest stuff, but it’s cool to also see where the bigger stuff is going too.  You see a lot more things like angled wedges now in contests, as well as hip/spine transfer jumps, like you saw in the US Open and Olympic trials. It’s awesome, different and creative.

How do you view competition in snowboarding? Does it makes you better to compete, or would you rather just film and relax?

I view competition as a good thing. It’s a way for riders to get noticed by brands if that’s the path they want to go.  Otherwise it’s good because if you want to learn new things, I feel it helps your focus to get better.  I used to do contests and traveled a bit doing the Grand Prix and Rev Tours and other contests, and it was loads of fun.  It took me to tons of places I have never been before and I met so many riders including ones that I had looked up to.  It got too be too much though. Tiring, as well as a little stressful, so now I do some local ones or ones that I am invited to.  Filming is what I have always loved about snowboarding.  Going out with your friends filming each other and logging shots was always fun to me, and always brought out my best riding, where contests made and still make me super nervous.  I never really got over that.  Filming is more of a relaxing style. Even though you’re only filming, you’re still pushing yourself to learn or do new things because you want it on film.

Below: In the modern world, they make you compete with skiers, so you better ride fast. p. Reece Bolin

What’s the worst injury you’ve had?

Worst injury I’ve had was when I was living in Steamboat, CO. I was doing the annual Downtown Rail Jam put on by this awesome shop Urbane.  I front flipped off an A frame rail and landed flat with my front leg extended, and fractured my tibial plateau. My femur crushed the top of my tibia and pushed it in making it look like a crater field.  I had immediate surgery hours later and was bed ridden for like a week in Steamboat. Laundry and stuff wasn’t getting done so eventually I had to fly back home to NJ and spent another 6 weeks bed ridden and couldn’t put any weight on my leg because of the location of the break.  At my last doctor appointment before i started PT, the doctor made it clear that if I break this leg again I could very well not Snowboard again due to leg problems. That had kind of changed Snowboarding a little bit for me as I knew at that time 1 I want to keep Snowboarding and 2 I want to be able to keep snowboarding once I have my kids.  I knew it was time to settle down on the contest scene and try and find a new outlet which led to Media and Social Media.

How did you grow your Instagram following to the level it is currently? Do you think social media is important for modern snowboarders?

Well, I always loved producing content.  That’s what I loved about snowboarding, even though TV and video games got it in front of my eye.  The videos. Team Movies were a hit. Edits online were a big deal. Sunday in the Park was always a pleasure to watch, and other webisodes, too.  When I moved back to NJ, a friend of mine from high school approached me saying he worked in TV and loved Snowboarding and wanted to experiment with cameras and shooting action sports. He said if I needed someone when I returned, that he would be willing to help.  That’s like any snowboarders God send, a camera guy who says he’s dedicated and willing to learn and help? Fuck yea!

So basically once I got back we produced as much media as we could.  Did I think it would benefit me in a social media standpoint? Not really. It wasn’t my goal, i just liked producing content.  But I would have so much, that I would post stuff everyday.  Soon i learned about how hashtags worked and which ones to use. I slowly saw my following getting bigger and bigger and was able to figure when my followers were most active and when I should post things. I would post stuff two times a day, first post at 9:30 am and the second at 8:30pm.  Why people really started to follow me I don’t know, I guess I’m more relatable to the average person outside of the industry than the top pros are in the industry.  It is important and people should know how to use it to their advantage.  Brands like an active social media user and using it the correct way. It’s marketing for them and for you. Kids are lazy with it and don’t understand that it can help them go a long way.  It worked for me, but hey who am I to say? i get invited to events and contests, but take a lot of heat for it, too.

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Goin’ hard for the gram. Photo: Karelia Forlenza

When we spoke the other day, you expressed a lot of frustration about how the industry functions sometimes. Care to expand on that?

Well this will sure get the comment section stirring. Keyboard Warrior Trolls forming like Voltron…You run into a lot of things going down the road to be a “snowboarder.” Lots of ups and downs.  Snowboarding, whether in the industry or not, can be frustrating.  Different things happen and it’s definitely a bummer, but stuff happens and you gotta roll with the punches.  The biggest thing with me is loyalty and doing what I can to meet expectations for my sponsors and keeping them happy and satisfied, so that in return, they help me out. It’s not a one way deal.

My other thing was trying to help out the people who don’t have that foot in the door, who want to be in the industry, and can bring some new ideas to media or brands.  But that’s also where it backfired for me as well and still currently is.  Some people aren’t cool with the coaching, or sponsors that make you do certain things, or contests.  My biggest issue is disrespect through the industry and people outside the industry. Backstabbing is a bummer, especially when you bust your ass a whole season, staying dedicated only to be cold shouldered, talked about behind your back, or have your post deleted online by people who are supposed to be supporting you. Not being invited to shoots, or even showing up to a contest and no one says a word to you.

There is so much HATE that is going through snowboarding and there shouldn’t be.  We are all supposed to be out here wanting the same thing and that’s just to snowboard for as long as we can because it’s fun. But for me that can’t happen anymore. I feel my name attached to anything is bad news and people/brands avoid it, or are embarrassed by it.  So many people dislike me, say I suck, say I’m a kook, all because of the “way I ride a snowboard.”  Like, think about that real quick. People take the time and effort to run their mouth about how I ride a piece of wood down on mountain on snow?  That just sounds so stupid.  Hell, I hope people don’t start hating on Yobeat for even taking the time to have my name even involved. Sorry if you guys receive any hate comments!

What can snowboarding do to fix some of the things you just discussed?

I’m not really sure if snowboarding can fix any of it.  The people involved should really take a step back and take a look around and see what’s going on.  Yeah there are plenty of kids out there that rip, but there are only a few that will actually go the extra distance to accomplish not just the riding, but loads of other ways to benefit the brand.  That needs to be recognized. Nonetheless, people should see that I’ve been around for a while, I’m not new to this.  If you want what I have, learn something.  I have a lot of experience in this industry.

wythe woods photo

Above: Learning from experience. Photo: Wythe Woods 

If you could only ride one thing forever, knowing that powder doesn’t happen everyday, would it be powder or rails?

Hmmm. Powder is a great thing. I have had many many pow days among my travels.  Rails are probably my least favorite thing in Snowboarding.  I’d rather go session a jump all day than a rail. So my answer is probably the powder, unless a jump line or some sort of airtime is involved.

Where do you see progression headed?

Progression is headed in a crazy direction.  QUADS!? Never did I ever think it would be possible to do any of this stuff that people are doing nowadays.  It’s awesome and I give them so much credit.  A lot of people really weigh on the style factor, which is cool too. I understand that side of things but I believe Its a balance that riders find now. I think you could see some of that in the last couple qualifier events for this years Olympics.  It’s always going to be there so it’s up to you to stay with it to stay relevant.  But with that, you have to ask, does it also turn people away from Snowboarding?  People that haven’t been on one before see us flying through the air and think, wait I have to do that? The next generation seems to be fearless and each one after becomes less fearless. The average age of a snowboarder gets younger and younger.  It all comes down to you and what you want and how much you want it.

Below:  You wanna jump off a cliff? Jump off a fricken’ cliff. Photo: Brett Revet

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What does snowboarding need more of? Less of?

I think that it needs more mainstream broadcasting.  It’s cool to see events like X Games and Dew Tour on TV….the Grand Prix every now and then. But aside from just contests I feel more things should be streamed or visible to audiences.  There are a lot of super awesome contests that would be awesome to see Live Streamed or on TV.  I think that it needs less brands. There are so many brands out there nowadays its ruining things for everyone. The bigger brands that are established should stay there and the smaller ones should try something else, instead of taking away from the ones established, cause it’s killing our sport.  Money is a big issue.  So many people want to try and be owners of a Snowboard brand, it’s crazy.  I have seen some crazy things the past eight SIAs that I have been too.  People putting in all these different technologies and trying to produce something crazy and interesting, but then make you have to spend a hefty dime to get it.  Snowboarding needs to be accessible to get as many people on the hill as possible.  That also goes into prices on lift tickets and things like that but that’s a whole other rant I can go on about.

Any final words?

Big thanks to Yobeat for the Hump Day! Also want to say a big thank you to my sponsors for the support and most importantly my family for always being my number one sponsor and supporter!

Mike rides for Sims Snowboards, Zeal Optics, Shred Soles, Baf Wax, Hunterdon Ski and Snowboard Shop, and Big Boulder Park. You can and should follow him on insta @Mikesears__

Now please enjoy this edit to the soothing sounds of Shaun White’s band.