I first met Nick Dirks in a restaurant at the resort of La Parva, an hour-and-a-half into the Andes from Chile's capital city, Santiago. We were there with K2 to do a catalog shoot and he showed up a day late with no snowboard gear due to an airline mishap. Suffice to say he was feeling the effects of a night out in LA and another full day of travel -- basically, he looked, and smelled, like crap.
Within minutes we were posted up on a couch sipping a local brew and planning out two weeks in Chile, when Dirks took his socks off to show off his latest artistic endeavor: The words "pizza pizza" were crudely scribed across his toes -- his first foray into the world of tattooing. He gave it to himself on a whim, he explained, constructing a tattoo gun out of an electric toothbrush. Why "pizza pizza?" we asked.
"I like pizza, man, why else?" Dirks explained, as if it were obvious. "Plus, it fit good."
In the two weeks that followed, we spent a fair bit of time packed into buses and trains, drinking pisco (high potency Chilean grape liquor) to wait out the weather and jibbing around the mountain when it stopped raining long enough to get some turns. In that time, the character that emerged was one who is simply going with the flow. Dirks doesn't seem to pay much attention to the trends of the snowboard industry (half the time he'd come out of nowhere with no warning and stomp something sketchy without telling the cameras what was about to go down), but that's what makes his character shine through the cookie-cutter boredom that can overtake young shreds on the come up. And companies like K2, Nike, Airblaster and Krew denim have taken notice.
Fueled by a lifelong interest in art, from drawing to sculpture, photography and film, the 23-year-old Dirks has since acquired his own tattoo gun and, in the new found downtime he's acquired since he hit a rock and broke a leg in early January, is scratching out a few tattoos on friends willing to submit themselves to the learning curve. But Dirks doesn't put any pressure on himself -- or seem to notice any pressure the snowboard world and his sponsors might put on him.
For Nick Dirks, it's all just sliding slippery.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a little town in Oregon, in between Welches and Sandy, which is considered part of Sandy. I just lived in the woods on a gravel driveway, it's not really a town. I started snowboarding when I was twelve, just cruising with friends all the time.
When did you decide to take it further?
I never really decided. Me and my friend Jarad (Hadi) were both out of high school and saw all the kids doing the same stuff in the same town and said, "Let's get out of here." We borrowed a generator from a friend and got some lights, all the stuff, packed a couple boards in my truck and just drove east. That year we were gone for three months, just driving around and filming. That was the start of it -- just sliding slippery.
Did you get through high school?
Yeah, I got through it. I hated high school. I got all my classes out of the way my junior year. I could have graduated early senior year, but my parents wanted me to have the "senior experience." All my friends were snowboarders from different towns. We were so close to the mountain, but nobody at my school went riding; I didn't get it.
What did people do there?
They were just a bunch of hicks who would drink and party. Senior year I only had to do one class which was 45 minutes and I chose first period. I'd be done at 8:15 and rally up to the mountain and just snowboard, everyday. I guess I did have a good senior year experience -- I was barely there.
You're living in the city now?
Yeah, I live in northeast Portland.
You don't do the Mount Hood thing?
No, it gets too rough, man. I grew up there, I know how good it is in the winter, but summer just isn't for me. Why do we always gotta hang out with snowboarders? There are so many other people in the world, I want to do other stuff, you know?
You do some art, too?
This summer I put huge letters that say "9-to-5" on the side of the building where office workers have to look at it all the time. I wonder if they even realize it, stuck behind some glass window in their cubicle. I also like to film a bit, just make little random edits. I want to make a movie, but that's later in life. I have some ideas ...
You like to get loose sometimes. Any stories?
Before I went to Chile I got pretty loose at the Dick Dale concert. I was with my buddies Max, Graham and Alex, just jamming in the front row and waiting for him to come on.
Right before he comes on, a huge dude gives us the elbow and scoots us out of the way. We were like, "Dude, mellow out. We've been here for two hours." Then it started getting heated and Max, who has super-long hair, started head-banging just to piss him off. Eventually the dude got fed up and pulled a box knife out of the side of his belt and stabbed Max in the arm. I said, "Dude, you stabbed my friend!" and he was like, "No, I didn't," and dipped. So we bandaged up Max and finished the Dick Dale set, he was good.
As we're leaving and skating across Burnside Bridge we see the guy who stabbed him with two other dudes. Max was pretty pissed, so he walks up to the dude, spits on him, and says, 'You stabbed me!' The guy says, 'What are you gonna do, beat us up with your toys?' referring to our skateboards. We were like 'Yeah, whatever it takes, you stabbed him.' And his friend with a mustache says, 'Are you gonna mess with a guy that has a permit to carry a concealed weapon?'
It pissed me off so bad that I socked him right in the eye. Then it broke out in this crazy fight. It ended up them being on the ground, and then the bouncers saw it from across the street, ran over, put their knees into the dudes' chests and throats and said, 'Get out of here, the police are on their way.' We grabbed our boards and went over the bridge and kept going home. The dudes got in trouble and we got away.
That was the end of the summer?
Yeah, the summer in a nutshell. Every night in Portland there's some reason to party.
You went to Lebanon last year, right?
Yeah, it was my favorite place I've ever been. The people there are super nice. The snowboarding is alright, but just being there was cool. We went to the oldest city, which is called Byblos, and there was a moat going around the city ... this in my first year going overseas. In the last six months I've been to Germany, Lebanon, Korea, Japan and Chile. It's sweet to get out of my normal, everyday life; I love just walking around and looking at how people do it in other cultures.
What are you up to this year?
I just got back from Big Bear on a shoot for Krew and I'm going to be filming with Videograss again and Airblaster for the movie they're doing. Right now I'm building a mini ramp in my garage -- we got some pool coping from the hardware store -- and doing tattoos every night. It's a little early to say where I'm going, but I got a box for my tattoo gun so I can take it with me wherever I go.
Where do you want to ride?
I want to spend some time just hanging in the wilderness. I don't have a sled, and I don't plan on getting one ... or even a four-wheel drive car. I just want to go couch-surf with some people who have good powder access and hike it. I've got snowshoes, I can do that.
You're gonna have to ride something bigger than a 145 maybe...
Oh yeah. I'll just switch to a '54. That'll work.
When did you get your first tattoo?
Three years ago.
And now you have a bunch?
Yeah. Enough, but not enough. One day I'll be a grandpa covered in tattoos. 'It's the scary gramp!'
Anything else you'd like to say to the world?
I always get stumped on stuff like that. Kevin (K2 team Manager Kevin Winkel) asked, 'If you could describe snowboarding in three words ...' and I was like, 'Uhhhh ... I can't.'
What do I want to say to the world? Quit breeding, that's what I want to say to the world. There are too many people already.