I’m currently the least popular guy in the Braehead snowdome. That’s not because I’ve rocked up in snowblades, or destroyed any of the carefully sculpted park features through cack-handed attempts at freestyle (although the night is young). Rather it’s because, thanks to me, Scott Stevens isn’t riding yet. We can see the locals through the window that separates our seats in the bar from the slope’s tow track – and they’re making it abundantly clear as they ascend how much they want me to shut up, put the tape recorder away and leave Scott to head out to the slope. I do my best sign-language for “won’t be long, promise…” and hit the red button. Scott’s in town (along with Brandon Cocard, Dustin Craven and Phil Jacques) to promote CAPiTA’s latest movie, Defenders Of Awesome 2. The team is in the middle of a whistle-stop tour of UK shred spots, and this is the second session of the day. The morning had been spent at Bearsden dry slope, where attempts to keep up with locals Danny McCormick and Marc McClement had taken their toll on a recurring knee problem. He’ll be lapping the snowdome park soon enough, but for now this is an opportunity to rest up – regardless of what they’re saying on the other side of the glass.
I love being out there with my phone taking videos – I’d bring my own camera if I could!
A pro rider from the east coast of the United States isn’t unusual; lots of big names, from Jake Blauvelt to Pat Moore, hail from there. However, most of them came out of Vermont – and to a lesser extent, New Hampshire – before leaving their relatively small pond and heading west to California, Utah or Colorado. For Massachusetts-based Scott, though, the perspective was a little different: just getting to ride in Vermont “was like hitting the big time! The hill I grew up on is called Bradford. It’s only got 450 foot of vertical. When I started it was only open on the weekends, so we weren’t exactly logging a lot of hours, you know?” Initially reluctant to leave skiing behind, as it was the easiest way to indulge his passion for going fast, he eventually picked up a snowboard at the age of 10 after being spurred on by his dad. “I started in ’95, which wasn’t super early. Although now that I’m saying it, it seems like a pretty damn long time ago!” Before long he’d ditched the planks and poles for good, and dedicated all available time to snowboarding. Local and national contests followed, although by his own admission it was “nothing too serious.” He also wasn’t initially taken with urban riding, as “it wasn’t in the movies as much as now. I just rode the trails, and if there was something to hit then you hit it. Street riding didn’t come along ’til later for me.”
While he hadn’t yet found his niche, the seed was well and truly planted – being a pro snowboarder had shot to the top of his (admittedly very short) wish-list: “I didn’t get a paycheque til I was 23 or 24. I was always striving towards it, though; I knew that I was either going to get paid to snowboard, or I would end up doing something I hated. I didn’t have a back-up plan, with school or anything. It took a while, but it was always in my head.” His first step had been to do what so many other east coast kids had done, and head straight from school to Colorado. That was the 2002 season, and a memorable one for him for all the wrong reasons. Separating himself from the friends at home with whom he loved to film hadn’t been the best idea, and so back to Massachusetts he went. On paper, this wasn’t a strong career move, as the tried and tested path to pro-riderdom led to the other side of the country. However, it all worked out for the best; and staying away from the superpipes and monster booters of the West allowed him to forge a unique style that has been often imitated, but still never bettered.
I’m susceptible to getting pretty upset when I see negative feedback, For me it hardly works as motivation, but I try to funnel it that way
Once you’ve watched him in action, it’s easy to imagine that Scott Stevens sees the world in descending columns of green 1’s and 0’s. Rules of park, street and powder are regularly bent and often broken. With bindings optional – one foot regularly flies free, if not both – he’s created countless rewindable moments using everything from dustbins to cable spools and old mattresses. While more than capable back-lipping a gnarly stairset, it’s the lines he makes through football field bleachers or kids’ playgrounds that really set him apart – and there’s no-one in the world that’s more interesting to watch tear up the medium jib line in a run-of-the-mill resort park. His riding is infinitely more relatable than the feats seen in the X Games superpipe, and somehow still utterly mind-blowing.
Street riding it wasn’t in the movies as much as now. I just rode the trails, and if there was something to hit then you hit it.
It’s a skillset best suited to making video parts, and fortunately he was a perfect fit for Jesse Burtner’s emerging Think Thank outfit. He’d done some filming before, but by his own admission it wasn’t until his contribution to 2006’s Patchwork Patterns that he started to really deliver on that front. From its tongue-in-cheek declaration on the front of the DVD case (“Featuring 94,140 Degrees Of Rotation!”) to Gus Engle’s fancy-pants ender, Think Thank’s third video cemented their reputation as the world’s foremost purveyors of anti-gymnastic, creative nonsenseboarding – and with his use of picnic tables, tree stumps and flips out of nowhere, Scott couldn’t have been more at home. His career went into overdrive at that point, and once he’d bagged the opener in follow-up flick Thanks Brain! and the ender in Stack Footy the year after, Scott was on everybody’s radar. In the seven years since then, any video that had him on the roster would rank among the most highly anticipated of that season; a fact not lost on Transworld (Get Real) or Videograss (The Last Ones). Then there’s his latest movie, the one he’s in town to promote. When CAPiTA released teasers focusing on each of their riders to promote this season’s Defenders Of Awesome 2, his was the last to drop – and generated by far the most interest on social media.
And all the while, his trick bag keeps getting deeper. Whether it’s things cribbed from the world of skateboarding, or fresh takes on tricks done by others, he’s constantly looking for more ideas. It’s always been this way, he says; in fact, a look down the sides of the couch cushions at the Stevens household could yield a potential goldmine of NBDs: “I used to write trick ideas down on pieces of paper, then lose them. Seriously, I couldn’t think of them again! It’d have something one day, and then the next day if I don’t have it written down… shoot me in the face, I can’t remember! But now, on my iPhone, I have a huge note list of things that I want to try.”
Put stuff out, and try and keep yourself happy, mostly. And maybe not everyone works this way, but I’ve always also tried to keep the people who like my snowboarding happy too
Clearly his passion for this aspect of snowboarding burns just as bright as ever, but at the same time it’s become a double-edged sword. He knows that people identify him as “the one footer guy,” and for the most part he’s fine with that. It’s been a necessity, in a way: while the top tier of superstars continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible – and indeed, sane – to do on a snowboard, this lower-consequence realm of tricks has “helped to keep people’s interest – and to keep my own interest, you know? I’m not trying to downplay here, but over the years my skills haven’t really been on a par with the level of riding that’s been out there. Right now a lot of my stuff is one-footed, because there’s a larger area of undone tricks with that. Plus it’s lower impact, because you don’t go as big – although Bode Merrill’s changing that! People mostly know me for that now, and sometimes I get a little down on myself because I want to show people that I can snowboard in different ways. But honestly, I feel like this is the way I can be most creative.”
He’s got a point; looking back at his parts, he’s always aimed to showcase his all-round ability – which is why you’ll see plenty of powder booters and kinked streetrails in his edits. There’s also always a liberal peppering of creative skate tricks. While that’s nothing new for a pro rider – most are pretty handy on four wheels, and like to show it in their parts – it’s the tricks that once again make Scott stand out. With brain-boggling combos, footplants, hippy jumps and fingerflips, he’s proven time and again that he can be just as inventive on concrete as on snow. Last year, he took it one step further and released a full skate part on his Vimeo channel. Even for already paid-up Stevens fans, his contribution to DIY flick No Country For Bad Burke was unlike anything they’d seen before.
I was stoked – but at the same time I was like, ‘oh man, I hope people don’t expect this again, it’s a one-time thing!'
Then the skate community – so often dismissive of snowboarding – lapped it up too. Even Gary Rogers, the merciless host of Thrasher’s Skateline, had to reluctantly tip the hat: “Goddamn it Gary, look at you giving props to a snowboarder… he reppin’!” All that extra attention ensured that the edit smashed Scott’s personal target of 20,000 views (at of April 2015 it’s been watched over a quarter of a million times). What must that have been like? “It was pretty cool – I was a little bashful though, it felt like I was exposed. Don’t get me wrong, I was stoked – but at the same time I was like, ‘oh man, I hope people don’t expect this again, it’s a one-time thing!’ I used a lot of what was in my energy bag. You always want to have done more, but it’s kind of cool to say that you gave something most of what you had.”
A worthwhile undertaking all round, then, with only one slight problem; the aforementioned trailer for DOA2, which included two whole minutes of B-roll footage that didn’t make the cut for the movie, was released within the same 24-hour period as his skate edit. Great news for his fans, but for the man himself it was a different story: “I did not plan for the skate part and the DOA2 snowboard bonus footage dropping on the same day! That wasn’t the message I was going for – I wasn’t trying to stuff this down people’s throats! Lately I’ve liked to put out more quality than quantity. Sometimes I get sick of seeing myself, and I know that some other people do too!” Yes, bizarre as it may seem to his legions of supporters, there are some folk out there who don’t go in for Scott’s unique approach to snowboarding. Their existence isn’t lost on him, and as with anyone, the Internet comments take their toll. “I’m susceptible to getting pretty upset when I see negative feedback,” he admits. “For me it hardly works as motivation, but I try to funnel it that way.” The good news, for him and the rest of us, is that the nature of the ’net and its undesirables is all accepted as part of the process – and just another way that snowboarding closer resembles a ‘job’ than it used to (“But that’s how it goes. If it weren’t like that, everybody would do it!”). There’s an argument to be made that the popularity of highly-shareable content has only helped him, but it doesn’t matter really. His personal process hasn’t changed, even as the methods of delivery do: “Put stuff out, and try and keep yourself happy, mostly. And maybe not everyone works this way, but I’ve always also tried to keep the people who like my snowboarding happy too.”
I used to write trick ideas down on pieces of paper, then lose them… then the next day if I don’t have it written down… shoot me in the face, I can’t remember! But now, on my iPhone, I have a huge note list of things that I want to try
To do that, surely he just needs to continue along the path he’s already on. That’s certainly the short-term game plan: “For the time being I’m just going to try and film a decent part for this Thirty Two video [his boot and outerwear sponsor is making a team movie, which will allegedly contain JP Walker’s last ever video part]. Nothing too long, but something decent that shows I’m trying to land new tricks. Hopefully those that follow my riding will be happy with it.” Anything further ahead than that is still very much up in the air. He acknowledges that a transitional period may be fast approaching, but if that’s the case then it’s a problem for another day. “I won’t lie, I’ve been thinking about what to do next,” he says. “But I’m not done trying to do tricks. When I feel like I’ve given every ounce of what I had to give, then the parts might start to dry up. I’ll still snowboard though, obviously. One thing on the backburner is that I’d like to get into snowmobiling, so I can access different styles of riding. I don’t want to go completely that way, because this is my roots, you know?” He gestures to the park features. “This is what I have to give. I can’t be Jake Blauvelt or Nicolas [Müller] or Gigi [Rüf], but I can try and bring my style to it. That’s as good as I can do.”
While that’s an exciting prospect, it’s by no means the only avenue available to him. As a regular coach at Mount Hood’s High Cascade Snowboard Camp, Scott has passed on his shred knowledge to countless up-and-coming riders – including, at one point, a young Mike Rav (now his CAPiTA team-mate). He’s long spoken of how much of a buzz it gives him to see the potential of the next generation – and this morning, he explains, was no different: “You’re a professional snowboarder, so a lot of the time you want to be the best guy out there. And today, we were all outshined by Marc and Danny! It’s pretty cool when that happens – there’s one side where you’re thinking ‘oh man, I’ve got to step it up’ but the other side is ‘we’ve had our time in the spotlight – these guys are the young blood that’s coming up, and they deserve a shot.’”
The Bearsden session also offered another potential clue as to what his next step might be. Once his gammy knee started playing up he produced his trusty, trick-filled iPhone and turned his attention to filming the others. “I really like that side of [snowboarding] too, to show people what’s going on out there. I love being out there with my phone taking videos – I’d bring my own camera if I could!” As someone who has built a career on video parts, he knows more about the process than most, and clearly has both an eye and a passion for getting good shots. His interest in editing is just as strong: “Some riders don’t have an opinion on how their part is edited, but I’m a control freak – I wanna be in there. Dangler, if you read this, I’m sorry!” he laughs, referring to Mark Dangler, editor of the Defenders Of Awesome movies. “He’s so talented, he could have made a great video without my input, but I know where I want each of my tricks, I know how long I want the clips, I know where I want the emphasis of the song. I don’t take too much pride in being a nerd, but I can easily say that I am one…” How, though, does that work with Think Thank, whose movies have a unique style that runs through them like letters in a stick of rock? Could he bring as many of his own ideas to the table? “That’s little different – Jesse has more control. Over the years I’ve got more anal about it, but with Stack Footy, for example, I okayed the song, and it’s one of my favourites from any of my parts, but Jesse pretty much edited the whole thing. Maybe I had a little input about what tricks went in, but that’s all… those were good times, man.”
A lot of my stuff is one-footed, because there’s a larger area of undone tricks with that. People mostly know me for that now, and sometimes I get a little down on myself because I want to show people that I can snowboard in different ways
So while the long-term future might still be a little blurry (or “distracting,” as he puts it), perhaps he’ll entertain a hypothetical. It’s a question often asked of Whitelines interviewees in the past, and never an easy one to answer: if he could only do one more trick before hanging up the boots for good, what would it be? For someone who’s invented more tricks than some pros will ever land in their lifetime, Scott will surely have a tougher time answering this than most. He’s quick to rule something out straight away: “Contrary to what people might believe, it wouldn’t be a one-footer!” A pregnant pause later, and he’s got his answer – sort of: “OK, I’m gonna give you two and then narrow it down. First, a backside Andrecht – the standard handplant you see everybody doing. It just feels great. And the other would be a frontside 180 melon. Something about that one is beautiful; you can spot the landing the whole time, you can get an awesome poke, it’s a great trick… Actually I’m gonna throw one more in there! The method – it’s timeless.” Final answer? “If you had a gun to my head, I’d go for the method.”
So in the end, the most unconventional of riders opts for the most classic of tricks. We shouldn’t be all that surprised, really; for all that he’s brought to snowboarding, he doesn’t see himself as all that different from anyone else in the industry. He goes out – dodgy knee or no dodgy knee – and makes the most of his ability, and his passion. That’s exactly what he does once our conversation is over, and the reaction he gets from the locals when he finally steps onto the snow is telling of what he’s meant to the snowboarding community.
Later, when most of the riders are winding down, Scott’s still attacking the setup with both feet unstrapped. It’s a joy to watch; just as it is every year, when we think we’ve seen it all and once again he proves us wrong. May that iPhone note list never run dry.