If I had to pick a favourite of all these moments then I suspect it would be this one. It was during a two day interview with Johan in Whistler for Whitelines. The weather was terrible and everyone had a touch of cabin fever, so one afternoon the whole crew of riders and friends that Johan was living with hit the hill.
To set the scene, Johan had “done a Tom Penny”. He’d laid down a couple of mind blowing video parts in ’96 and ’97 and then all but disappeared. During the interview it became clear that injuries and creative differences were getting in the way of what should have been a glittering career. It was sad and I was struggling to find a good angle with the interview. Then we went snowboarding.
It had been raining and the snow was sloppy but somehow Johan was creating speed where there was none. Obviously he knew the hill well and he belted off down the piste and pretty soon he was a speck in the distance. Arriving late at the bottom of the chair I made a vow to keep up on the next run.
As we set off I tucked up and tried to slipstream Johan, only rising to pump and drain speed from every feature, all the while watching him. His board control was insane. As a Scanner who had once been junior halfpipe world champ, I knew his edge control was going to be good, but watching the precision with which he wielded his board was like watching a surgeon with a scalpel. I was mesmerized. And then it happened. Coming to a wide lip in the trail that appeared to roll away steeply Johan launched up and out into a huge frontside 180.
I threw on the anchors, unwilling to blindly follow a man who had proved numerous times in Alaska his total lack of a self-preservation gene.
Without thinking I threw on the anchors, unwilling to blindly follow a man who had proved numerous times in Alaska his total lack of a self-preservation gene. As I bounced on my heel edge up to the lip I watched Johan sailing into the middle of a vast and steep mogul field. It was the stuff nightmares are made of. But Johan wasn’t freaking, instead he was floating switch into his landing, which he found perfectly, almost magnetically, on the back of a mogul. It was an insanely small target – like throwing a dart at a stamp. But not only did Johan find the landing, somehow he controlled the almost instantaneous transition between the two moguls, using them to pump and wind up simultaneously so that as he took off a split second later he unwound into a cab five.
By the time Johan had landed the cab five he was clear of the mogul field, my interview had written itself and I had realized that great snowboarders are born and not made.