Roots: Daniel Franck

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Daniel Franck

The Slippery Hotdog

Interview: Ed Blomfield
Photos: Espen Lystad

As is fitting for a man who has gone from the pinnacle of the sport to the top of the ‘where are they now?’ file in a few short years, Daniel Franck can be a hard man to get hold of. But during the 1990s, DF was one of our most influential riders. Along with Johan Olofsson, Sebu Kuhlberg and Joni Makinnen, he was one of the original wave of ‘Scanners’ who made a worldwide impact. Blessed with a natural style, huge bag of tricks and an ability to tame any terrain, Daniel was soon starring in the biggest films of the day. His exuberant intro skits – which included booting a football around a supermarket with Terje and dressing up in a nightie – were a reflection of his cheeky, bubbling personality. Here was a guy who was living the dream and loving every minute of it. Daniel followed these early films up with a starring role in the classic Subjekt: Haaksonsen, and took silver at the first Olympic pipe event in Nagano. He was also the original brains behind the Arctic Challenge.

Indeed, if it wasn’t for Terje, Daniel’s profile these days would probably be up there with someone like Jamie Lynn or Shaun Farmer. But as with fellow pipe ripper Todd Richards, Daniel’s career often seemed to be overshadowed by that of his more venerated countryman. The reality however, is that Daniel Franck is one of the best and most influential snowboarders of the 1990s. We were stoked to get the opportunity to catch up and see how life is for him today.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a little hick town called Gjerdum, 30 minutes north of Oslo. Full on rednecks.

How did you get into snowboarding?
When I was younger I was really influenced by skateboarding and surfing. I just liked watching all the movies, reading all the international magazines. The feeling of going sideways through skateboarding just blew me away. But the summers in Norway are so short I was like, “Fuck I need to do this in the wintertime too.” So I just traded my skis for a stick and I picked it up pretty quick.

What was the scene like in Norway back then?
It was pretty small. Y’know, here in Norway the ski roots are pretty strong, so it got all the attention. Snowboarding was basically associated with punks and outlaws. Potheads. It was not even looked at as a sport. It was just some wack kids.

What year are we talking?
My first season was er… ’92. So I kinda started a little late.

And when did you turn pro?
That was in, er… actually it was ’93.

So it didn’t take you too long to catch up!
No, the hunger that I had for the sport back then was huge. It was all I did as soon as I got my first board – ride all season. And when winter was over I went straight up to the glacier at Stryn and spent the whole summer there, where I picked up my first sponsors (K2 and Arnette).

Who were your influences back in the day?
I was a big fan of Chris Roach. I remember watching him and Noah Salasnek in the skateboarding videos – cos they all had these Sims parts where they were doing snowboarding and skateboarding at the same time. I was like, “Holy shit! Snowboarding looks fun.” In the beginning I just thought snowboarding looked stupid.

Really?
Yeah (laughs). It just looked so gay compared to skateboarding (laughs). Cos I was a skateboarder, that was all I did, and to me snowboarding was like, “What?” But when I tried it I was like, “wait a minute.”

What are you proudest of looking back at your career?
One of the things I’m most proud of is that I was able to prove my school friends back home wrong. (Laughs) That was really satisfying, that I could follow my dream.

So did they all think you were gonna be a failure?
Oh yeah, totally. They were like “Dude you’re making a fucking huge mistake. You’re quitting school just to go snowboarding? What the hell is snowboarding about? You’re not gonna make any money, you’re not gonna do anything,” and blah blah blah blah blah. So I just shut my ears and go, “Well, fuckin’… have a good one!” (laughs)

Fair enough!
I just followed my dream and three years down the road I realized I could make a living out of this. The sport exploded and I found myself right in the middle of the storm. Before I knew it I was able to buy my mom a flat in the city.

What was the best time in your career?
There’s a lot of good memories – the Olympic medal that I got, the movie parts… But the best would have to be when I was living in the US, from about ’94 till ‘97. It was just magic. I was renting a house with Ingemar Backman, and we were just living the dream in California. It was about 30 minutes north of San Diego, but it was so short to John Wayne airport we went on snowboarding trips, we were filming, winning snowboard contests… It was amazing.

I remember that clip of you riding a couch on top of a car swigging champagne. What was all that about?
(Laughs) The weather was really shitty in Tahoe, and me and Dave Seone were just sitting inside his house really bored. I was going through his girlfriend’s wardrobe and I found some dresses, and I was like, “Dude let’s do my little intro part.” So we went outside and borrowed a really old couch off a neighbour which we tied up on the roof of the car. And I just took out one of his girlfriend’s dresses and put some make-up on and we were driving through the neighbourhood with me sitting on top.

Those were the days! There’s another classic intro which was for Terje’s section, when you and him were sat in the back of a car singing some crazy Norwegian song. What was that?
It’s an old Norwegian folk song. It’s about an old lady who comes from the middle of nowhere… How can I explain this? It’s just a really wacked folk song from Norway, about a woman who lives up in the hills and she’s making cookies and bread from organic wacked ingredients. (Laughs)

It sounds very Scandinavian. Where did the nickname ‘The Slippery Hotdog’ come from?
That was Troy Eckert from Volcom, he gave me that nickname. The reason why was because I was like a slippery hotdog back then – like a piece of soap. If I was really bored I could just disappear; I could be in Colorado and all of a sudden within hours he could call my cell phone and say “Where the hell are you?” and I’d say, ”Oh, I’m back in California.” I didn’t like to chit chat and say goodbye to like a hundred people. So I just took off, I was like a little ghost, a little slippery hotdog! (Laughs)

Have you still got all the old snowboard tricks down?
Actually yeah I do! (Laughs)

Are you still trying to learn new stuff?
I’m still progressing, but more on the little things. When I’m looking at a kicker that I have to clear like 80ft, it’s just like “No. I’m not into that anymore.” That’s not my game.

What do you think of the current pipe scene, like Shaun White and those boys?
Shaun White, he just amazes me. It seems like he’s just getting better and better. It’s like looking at Terje back in the early 90s, he makes fun of everybody. Even on a shitty day when he’s not at his best Shaun White wins contests – and we’re talking about 2008 when snowboarding’s at a different level to how it was 10 years ago. But he can skip practice and throw down three huge 1080s, then go in the slopestyle and smoke everybody. And skateboarding! Winning the X-Games…

He is amazing. It’s funny though because a lot of snowboarders seem to resent his success. They say “I don’t like Shaun White, he’s just a marketing machine.” But let’s face it he’s got the skills to back it up eh?
He can back it up more than anybody. Y’know what, people that give him shit have no clue. They have no clue whatsoever, because they cannot even imagine being in a situation like Shaun White. I mean dude, OK he can do a stupid TV commercial but it’s forgotten in two months, and he made like 500 grand.

I’d do it!
Of course, everybody would do it. But at the same time he’d done commercials that are super sick and promote the sport in a really good way. So he is a marketing machine, but that’s because he’s the best.

Has the rock and roll spirit died these days though?
It’s still there, but I think to get the big sponsors outside the industry, the riders have to behave differently when the mainstream media’s there. A bit more professional. That’s just smarts. But the rock n’roll’s still there.

Speaking of which, the really old videos were all about the parties – have you been to any wild ones in your time?
Wow. Hell yes (laughs). There’s too many to mention actually.

Doesn’t one stand out in the memory?
(Groans) Oh god! (Squirming) That’s a tough question! I’ve been to some rowdy, rowdy parties, both in New York and Los Angeles – and in London for that matter.

What was the one in London?
The last time was probably about seven years ago. I don’t think it was legal either (laughs). It was just like this funny looking warehouse, and there were strippers, and people fucking snorting coke everywhere… It was wack, man (laughs)

It does sound wack. It sounds terrible!
Yeah! (laughs)

You were involved with The Arctic Challenge at the start. Why did you decide to take a back seat?
Y’know, when I started the Arctic Challenge, a lot of people think that Terje started it. But that’s not important, it’s not important. But when I started working on it and Terje came along it was really good for almost two years. We just had different opinions on how we wanted to shape the Arctic Challenge – the competition. We disagreed on a lot of big decisions so the only way out was that one of us had to leave the company. For me at that point, I didn’t want to be left with that responsibility – not only work-wise but also financial. Y’know, Haakon’s pretty well off (laughs) and during that time he wasn’t riding that much, so I just decided to leave.

Are there hard feelings there? Are you still mates?
We don’t talk that much. There’s no hard feelings from my side, I don’t know where he stands but that’s an axe that I buried years back. There’s definitely no hard feelings from my side.

Did you get any stick for joining Salomon at a time when they were still viewed as a ski brand by a lot of snowboarders?
Did I get shit? Actually, I did for a while, and to be honest if felt really awkward for me too – going from a hardcore brand like Atlantis to a full-on ski brand in Salomon. And back then they even had the same logos as they had on their skis, and to me it was almost a bit painful. But at the same time, Atlantis had lost their factory and they owed me a lot of money. I couldn’t live off pocketmoney, I had bills to pay, I had a house, I had a car… I had multiple choices when I left Atlantis, but I chose Salomon because it was safe. Plus they were willing to pay me more than double everyone else. It kinda led me to an easy choice, because when you’re done snowboarding and you retire, it’s gonna be two or three years maybe, and then you’re forgotten. I could ask a 12 year old kid, “Have you heard about Jamie Lynn?” And they’d be like, “Who?” Which still surprises me because he was such a big influence on me.

How was Jamie Lynn a big influence?
I haven’t seen or talked to him for years, but he was so charismatic. And his style – he was so alive when he was riding, he just blew me away. Like on the smallest little things. He could make anything look good. Charisma is something you can’t just go out and buy. I remember going on demo trips with him, to Europe and Japan, and they wouldn’t leave him alone. No matter where he went there were just hordes of people chasing him, like a full-on rockstar. It was a Jamie Lynn religion!

But he wasn’t really a competitive rider. I guess it came out more in his style?
Oh hell yeah! Like today, there’s nobody in my opinion that even comes close.

Have you got a family now?
Yeah I do. I’m married, and I’ve got a daughter who’s eight years old.

How’s that?
It’s interesting, living with two females. I’m a way more patient guy now, I’m way more calm, but at the same time I still have the wolf inside of me. So I have to let go from time to time. But it’s working out fine. I’m stoked, I’m still able to do what I want and we don’t step on other each other’s wings at all.

What are your plans for the future?
Y’know this year I’m finally fit again after my knee injury and I’m just really motivated to ride again. I have one more year left on my contract. Just like when I was a little kid I’m doing snowboarding tricks with my fingers! (laughs)

Do you think you’ll stay in the industry after you do quit riding professionally?
It’s hard to say, it all depends on what kind of position I got offered. I can’t see myself being a team manager for example. But to be involved in the industry somehow? I probably will.

This is the classic White Lines question. You’ve got one trick left before you hang up your boots for good – what do you pull?
(Thinks for a loooong time) What would I do? (Thinks again) A huge backside 180. A big, floating backside 180. Into powder.

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