Mathieu Crepel, a.k.a. "La Crêpe," is only 27 but has been pro since 2002. He's been on the scene even longer: he went on his first shred trip to Greenland with Quiksilver when he was only 10. From earning the TTR World Champ title in 2006 to winning a silver in his home country of France at the 2010 Winter X Europe and having a pending character with EA Sports' SSX game franchise, Crepel has never wanted for either skills or results.
This fall the Frenchman really turned a few heads with his backcountry/park double-ender part in Standard Films' "TB20." Standard director Travis Robb, who has worked with all the heads, is unflinching in his praise for Mat: "I can honestly say that Mathieu is one of the best riders in the world! I really don't know many riders who can step up to anything put in front of them -- from big mountain to backcountry freestyle to park and pipe -- all with an ear-to-ear smile. His bag of tricks seems to be pretty much bottomless."
Right now Crepel is the only rider to have simultaneously been invited to grab one the coveted eight spots in the inaugural Real Snow Backcountry contest, and also compete in the slopestyle event here at Winter X Tignes. (He was actually invited to compete in halfpipe, but decided to switch to slopestyle when a spot opened up.) We thought it was a high time to unwrap this crêpe a bit, to see what's inside.
ESPN: Does it still feel like you are better known in Europe than in the U.S.?
Mathieu Crepel: Yeah, for sure it still does. I know it's gonna take a bit of time to get a name in the U.S. There are so many amazing riders. But, in a way, I just want to show what I'm capable of, to share my vision and passion of snowboarding. Working with Standard is great 'cause we share the same values so they give my all the confidence I need to do my best.
What were a few of your highlights shooting with Standard?
The whole season has pretty much been a highlight! After spending two seasons between training in the pipe and recovering from injuries, any day spent in the backcountry riding pow was a great time. But, if I had to really pick one, I'd say the AK trip with Xavier. We both come from the Pyrenees and 15 years ago we would have never thought that we could find ourselves filming for one of the biggest film companies
and for Xavier's own project. We got really lucky with the weather too, so it all came up perfect!
Did your part live up to your personal expectations?
Yeah, it actually did. Before seeing your part you don't really know what to expect. Sometimes you picture the shot being sick and it ends up ... not that great; sometimes it's the opposite and it's a good surprise. My part in TB20 was a good surprise. Before the premiere I didn't know that I had the last part, so after seeing all the big names going through I was like, "Where's my part? Did they forget it?" I'm stoked on what it shows of my riding but now I just want to improve and try to do better.
What is the main difference between reading man-made terrain and natural for you?
When you ride natural terrain it feels a bit like surfing. You're in a mindset where you have to look around everywhere to try to find a good spot to turn or jump; you have to put all your imagination and creativity right when you're riding. And when it comes to man-made stuff it's pretty much the same but you can think about it more, think about new features or new way to ride them or new tricks. It's all about creativity in both aspects of riding. That's why I like both.
Tell us about the ecological youth project you did with Zizou! [Zinedine Zidane, French soccer/head-butt legend.]
Well I didn't do much 'cause I had a broken foot and was on crutches but he is definitely a cool guy. He got really interested about snowboarding even though he'd never tried it.
If you could pick five highlights of your career -- to date -- what would they be?
Well, first would be a trip I did for a Quiksilver movie in Greenland when I was 10. That trip gave me all the passion about snowboarding. Every single minute of that trip is still in my mind! Then as a junior I got second in the ISF Junior World Champs and that made me want to try to do a bit more serious contests. Then for a few years, I was getting good results but nothing major until I won the overall halfpipe World Cup in 2005, but as a highlight I would take the TTR world champ title in 2006. It came right after a big disappointment in the Torino Olympics so it helped me to get my confidence back.
Then, the next year, all the training I did for the Olympics paid off at the FIS world champs. I won both the big air and the pipe. The big air was pretty special cause that's where I landed my first switch backside 1260, and I think it was the first time someone ever did it in a comp as well. Then the last one I would pick my silver medal at Winter X Europe [in 2010]. After a tough year, a lot of injuries, and not a great result in the Olympics, I arrived in Tignes very tired with quite a lot of pressure. It was a good way to save my season in front of a big French crowd. I would have loved to win but it was tight between Iouri [I-Pod] and me. Anyway, I was stoked with that result.
What advice can you give riders who get hurt early season so they don't go insane?
It's really hard not to go insane when you get injured. Especially me: I love to be doing all kind of sports; I always need to be on the run. So I guess the best way is to try to put your mind and energy into something else, like music or photography, so you can forget about your injury.
What's your future looking like?
I'm focusing on filming. I'm Standard Films again this season, trying to get a more versatile part. I want to ride as much powder as possible -- get better and more experienced in big mountain. I'm also working on a web project that I hope you'll hear about!