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Community | Drink Water

Scott E. Wittlake and his Scott-water botte. Photo: Drink Water

Like surfing, snowboarding has its fair share of top pros who dedicate at least some of their time to ‘giving back’ in one way or another. Popular causes include highlighting environmental issues and making the sport more accessible to young people. In the case of Austin Smith and Bryan Fox, the recent wave of energy drinks sponsorship prompted them to start Drink Water in 2011. Three years on it has a full-time paid member of staff, a considerable online following and support from some of the industry’s most respected figures.

As well as promoting good old tap water over sugary caffeine, they sponsor grassroots snowboarding events and give a percentage of the profits from their merchandise to water projects in the developing world. We caught up with Austin about the story so far:

Austin Smith with Drink Water co-founder Bryan Fox

As energy drinks’ presence in snowboarding continued to grow, so too did our discomfort with them. They were becoming so dominant and overwhelming – it seemed like every pro snowboarder, video and contest was sponsored by a beverage company. Bryan and I were both public and outspoken with our opinions on energy drinks, but you can only be a naysayer for so long before you start to come off as a grumpy, bitter old man, so we decided to ‘sponsor’ ourselves with water.

You can only be a naysayer for so long before you start to come off as a grumpy, bitter old man, so we decided to ‘sponsor’ ourselves with water

Before we started Drink Water, I was offered sponsorship from energy drinks companies. It was boatloads of cash and all I had to do in return was put a sticker on my snowboard. I thought about taking the money and trying to do something positive with it, but at the end of the day I would always have felt guilty.  It was more than a sticker; it was endorsing a product I didn’t believe in and encouraging kids to go consume it.


The biggest challenge is saying ‘no’ to people. It’s a constant battle and balance; we want to spread the Drink Water message far and wide, but it needs to come from a voice we endorse.The amount of support and encouragement has been overwhelming. There are people like Curtis [Ciszek] and [Lucas] DeBari that are some of my closest friends. I knew they agreed with the message of Drink Water, and I wanted them to be a part of it because I like their snowboarding and who they are as humans. Then you also have someone like Louif [Paradis], who could make one phone call and get paid a shit-ton of cash to ride for any drink company he wanted, but he doesn’t. It’s good to have people supporting it because they believe in it, not because they are getting paid.

Todd Richards once told me “Only endorse and promote products you actually use.” Six months later he signed with Rockstar. I called him out on it and he said he was sorry, but it was just too much money to turn down.  I guess everyone has a price.

Todd Richards once told me “Only endorse and promote products you actually use.” Six months later he signed with Rockstar. I called him out on it and he said he was sorry, but it was just too much money to turn down.  I guess everyone has a price.

What we are doing can appeal to people who don’t skate or snowboard. It’s just a matter of them discovering it, and deciding if they want to embrace it.

For now, we’re just going to maintain and keep doing what we’re doing. We’ll keep making merchandise and supporting events like the Rat Race and the Arctic Challenge, and will make the most of the opportunities that come our way. Also, check out the video Bryan and I made this year, Pathology.

Read about more snowboarding organisations dedicated too giving something back below:

Community

  1. Drink Water
  2. Protect Our Winters
  3. Snow-Camp
  4. The Mountain Light Project
  5. LoveYourBrain

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