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Hironaka's Hood

A short drive down Route 26 from Windell's Snowboard Camp in Welches, Oregon you'll find The Ark, the infamous employee housing for camp employees. But next to The Ark—an aging, repurposed, snowboarder-filled motel—is a tent beyond what LL Bean could imagine, complete with all the comforts of home, even electricity and internet. This tent is the settlement of camp coach/rider Austin Hironaka.

Hidden in a grove of firs, the marshmallow roast-ready fire pit you enter upon is as welcoming and relaxed as the rider who has called this tent-staked camp site home for the summer. Remarkably down to earth, Hironaka has found his path in snowboarding, exemplifying the notion that being paid to shred, and doing exactly the kind of riding you want to do, aren't mutually exclusive.

ESPN stepped inside Austin's tent, unzipped the flap, and listened as Austin ruminated on his summer digs at Windell's, his winter filming with Think Thank and where his snowboarding is going now.

So, instead of living in The Ark, you set up a mansion-like tent next to the parking lot. Tell me about the set up.

It's like a little condo, my little bedroom getaway. You gotta make it as cozy as you possibly can. So, I came with extension cords and a boot drier—urban camping. My mom visited and totally hooked it up with some rope, bungee cords and a couple tarps. I plugged my extension cord in, ran some power out here, broke a branch off the tree and swept the patio. We were camping at that point.


Your tent is filled with the luxuries of a home. How'd this all come together?

This just happened. This shelf here was a late night mission out to the back of The Ark in the woodpile when I scrounged around with a little flashlight in my underwear and came across this broken piece of wood from an old roofbox. I also installed some wood floor. You can get internet. No cable TV yet, maybe next summer. And I have a lamp—a very good touch. This is pretty much my bedroom, moved here.

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It's snowboarding. It's not even a sport, it's an activity. It's something to do with your homies.

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You have a nice courtyard outside, too.

We got the little Weber grill and had some fires. That was a real good addition. The other day our bench broke, so we created a swing—it is so sketchy [Laughing]. You should see [Joe] Bosler's leg. He has a raspberry on the back of his leg from trying to jump up on the swing three or four times. It's tough, but once you're up there, it's the most amazing, relaxing spot. You can lay down and have somebody give you a little tug and just look up through the trees.

Think Thank's "Cool Story" premiered recently here in Hood—are you happy with how it came out?

So stoked. Burtner's got a crazy mind. He works magic and I think that every year his videos keep getting better and better. For me, I feel like I did pretty well and I was happy with what came out. I'm not one to really look at any of my footage. It happens and I let them deal with it from then on. So, seeing the movie for the first time at the premiere was cool.

So you're content with passing on the creative influence and letting the final outcome be a surprise?

Yeah. Some people just take it too seriously. It's snowboarding. It's not even a sport, it's an activity. It's something to do with your homies. My deal is, if somebody wants to watch me snowboard and they like what I'm doing, I'm psyched on that... thanks, that's awesome. I'm just going to keep snowboarding for me and do what I like to do.

What goes into a part in order for you to be stoked on it?

I was talking with Burtner and made it a goal to get as much variety of snowboarding as I could possibly get into [my part]. Like tranny, backcountry, rails, mini-shred—whatever you could do on a snowboard besides one foot stuff. I kept my feet strapped in all year. I think I may have been the only person in the Think Thank crew to not ever unstrap [Laughs].

It seems like Think Thank tries to emphasize each rider's freedom to express their individual style. What's your take on this?

I like doing things that make me stoked and seeing a clean trick makes me really psyched. Watching somebody tap and dance on a rail, I'm not into that. Double corks, I'm not into that. We'll keep it simple and stylish. This bag jump that we have at camp, I think it taught me a little bit about my snowboarding and what it's going to become. Anything that I have to try into a bag jump is way too extreme for my bag of tricks. I found out where I'm going to cap her off and just focus on making things look good [by] grabbing in unique spots and doing different tweaks. That's where my style is going.