The following interview is one in a series of discussions had with snowboarders who have transcended the traditional boundaries of sport and come to represent something ... more. In trying to define the somewhat indefinable spirit of snowboarding, to put words to the feeling that propels us at the deepest level, we sat 10 riders down and asked them this question: Why do you snowboard? This is one response.
There are but a few riders out there that really make snowboarding look fun. With his childish grin and spontaneous style, Gigi Rüf is surely one of them. Watching the 31 year old Austrian take apart a full-blown berserker line in Alaska often has the same feel good appeal as witnessing him crush some mellow pillows in his Arlberg backyard.
Jake Blauvelt probably describes him best: "Gigi is like happy little wizard with a glowing aura."
Perhaps it is that glowing aura that elevates Gigi's riding into a magical class of it's own, affording it special privilege contradictory to the unbendable laws of physics. Even Travis Rice will agree to the special case of his talents: "Deep down," says Rice, "I always wanted to ride like Gigi."
In Gigi's Words:
In my generation we are all just followers of the guys who paved the way for pro snowboarding in the '90s. I've drawn a lot of inspiration from there because that's what snowboarding was for me. What it made it so fascinating was that all these guys were individuals.
Coming from a ski nation, everyone is trained to do the same thing here and there is not that much difference between this guy or the next. When I did not seeing my skiing going too well and snowboarding came along there was this coolness of it, there seemed like a way I could be different.
In the beginning, my drive came from this coolness of it all, the idea that you could be an individual and express yourself that way.
I have changed a lot from the cool kid days to being all grown up now. The motivation is always personal now depending on how I want to snowboard. Whether it's just hanging out in the powder or learning to fall in love with the trees, there are many different motivations and I have gone through and many different factors that can drive a snowboarder depending on where they are with it.
I didn't grow up riding snowboard parks so that is never the place that I find myself exploring. I am drawn to the adventure side of thing more. I like the epic journey. I like to make every adventure count. I truly know that it is a job, but that doesn't ever seem to get in the way of my snowboarding.
For me watching guys like Jussi Oksanen is important because he has always been ahead of me. At this point he is like a special-ops guy. He goes in, kills it and goes back to his life with the family. Whereas a guy like Nicolas Müller who isn't tied down has total freedom to do as he likes with his snowboarding.
Expressing personal style is one side of snowboarding. Then there is the dark side of things, like hiring a trainer and putting the pressure on to go to the Olympics and stuff like that. I personally think we need to express ourselves as individuals with whatever talent is given to us.
Terje Håkonson? He's our mentor in snowboarding. What interests me is that yeah, he hit my artistic side with his take on snowboarding, but it's his talent that drove me to always try harder. It wasn't the freaky cool thing that we saw everywhere else with other riders -- he brought pure talent.
I also like Jake Blauvelt. He's a prodigy. You can clearly see that he draws inspiration from other snowboarders but also from somewhere deep within himself. He has a lot of appreciation for snowboarding. He is the essence of just moving on your snowboard. He is actually a grace to watch. I would say he's more about it than most people and also, he's not taking it too serious.
Every single person I know has something to do with snowboarding, and if they don't... after a conversation with me, they surely will! Maybe I'm a little narrow-minded, but maybe I'm just excited about it.
I've been lucky enough to have grown up in the mountains and to know the excitement of winter. Nowadays it all goes back to the people who have helped me along the way. Snowboarding has taught me how to create my own world -- to see opportunities and make something happen from them. I know that some people say it's work, but getting to meet interesting people driven by the same experience of getting rad? That's not such hard work.