Over the years, professional snowboarding has seen its fair share of unusual careers (see sidebar). One minute someone’s clutching an oversized cheque at a world-class pipe event, the next they’ve turned on a ten-pence piece and disappeared into the wilderness. Even today, as the money increases and contracts become more binding, it’s just as likely to happen. Nowadays a rider can train, get sponsored, reach their peak and burn out even before getting their first wispy ‘tache. Take Canada’s Jed Anderson who, at the tender age of 15, had already gone from podium-topper to disillusioned dropout. He didn’t go far, though, and now he’s back – in a big way. This time around he’s being touted as urban snowboarding’s new Messiah, with a style that’s seemingly the most divisive issue since Dylan went electric. Love him or hate him, you’d be hard-pressed to name a more interesting rider around today.
It’s autumn in New York when we get Jed on the phone for a chat. It’s always a good time to catch pro riders for interviews, as they enjoy some brief downtime between southern hemisphere or glacier trips and the new season. Not Jed though, who (a week at Mount Hood aside) chose to hang up the board and enjoy “a normal summer, hang out with friends and pretty much have a break.” And it’s not over yet, as he sees out the rest of the year skateboarding and studying. “I’m doing a Sculpture course at the New York School of Visual Arts. I’ve never done sculpture before. I’m super interested in it though, I’ve always kind of wanted to learn about it.” Don‘t expect him to permanently swap his edge file for a chisel, though. “I’m just doing the first semester. It’s just continuing education, I‘m not doing it for credit or anything. I’m just doing it to learn. As soon as winter’s here I’ll get back to travelling again, and shooting for the Nike video.”
It’s reassuring to hear that he’s not jacking in the riding at such an interesting time in his career. After all, he has form. As a child snowboard prodigy in his native Canada, Jed was sponsored before he’d even hit double figures. Years on the competition circuit followed, and before long he’d enjoyed a career more substantial than those of riders twice his age. ‘Enjoyed’ maybe isn’t the right word, however, as the scene soon took its toll: “Basically I got over that whole side of it, and went back to just snowboarding with my friends. I didn’t have any sponsors.” Walking away from big deals with the likes of Forum might have been difficult, but what good is all the free swag in the world if it’s no fun using it? Luckily for Jed, the industry was changing too, and online video parts gave those like him another chance to have a crack at the pro game. Soon his homemade edits were getting noticed online, and the sponsors came knocking once again. This time, it would be on his terms. “Now it’s kind of come full circle”, he explains. “I’m back into it, riding professionally, but I’m a lot happier this time around. The people I work with, and all the shit that I’m doing now is a lot more enjoyable, so I’m happy it worked out the way that it did.” Not bad, considering he’d made no conscious effort to woo potential backers. “It just basically happened. When I stopped competing I just filmed with my friends. I filmed parts and people saw them, and suddenly I was sponsored again. I didn’t really care about being sponsored or getting free stuff, it just happened naturally.”
For a guy seemingly resistant to the obligations that come with sponsorship, Nike seems a surprising choice. We wonder if they’re not expecting a lot from him and his team-mates, given how much they’re currently investing in the sport. Could he soon be getting déjà –vu? Not likely, it seems: “I think they [Nike] are bringing good things to snowboarding. I have a good relationship with everyone working there. I think they’re great, I have no complaints. They’re doing cool shit, different and unique stuff.” A case in point would be their soon-to-be-released trio of videos, of which Jed is a part. They’ll be cropping up online between October and December. So what are we to expect? “Basically they got three filmers; one to do backcountry [Absinthe’s Justin Hostynek], one to do park stuff [Brad Kremer] and one to do street [Joe Carlino]. I’m in that one.” While he’s not too up on the details (apart from Justin Benee, who he rode with, he’s unsure who will even be appearing in the short alongside him) he does know that this is how he likes to do business. “Nike gave the filmers free reign to do whatever they wanted. Basically that’s what I did last year, rode around filming with Joe. It’s pretty awesome, we got to travel around and do whatever we wanted to get the footage.”
His other big sponsor, Salomon, has been good to him too – even jetting him over the Atlantic to get a taste of UK plastic. “We went to two indoor slopes and one actual dryslope. I don’t know which one! [Norfolk – see the video on WL.com]. It was fun, and pretty crazy, I’ve never done that before. You gotta do what you gotta do I guess!”
Carpet burns aside, it looks like Jed’s got a lot to thank his backers for, and admits that he “couldn’t be happier” with how his second stab at pro snowboarding has panned out. He’s certainly been holding up his end of the deal, logging quality parts in Transworld’s //Get Real// and Videograss’ //Shoot The Moon//, among others. Then there’s his recent 2012 edit, //In Full//. By now you’ve probably seen it, or at least heard the fuss (more on which later). No DVD release, no team, just one rider and three minutes of video plus credits. Surely there are plenty of film crews who’d be glad of his services, so why go it alone? Says Jed; “I didn’t really have anywhere to put my footage this year. I had a bunch and I didn’t want to sit on it for another year, because I’d be bored of it by then.” Interestingly, what many see as the high watermark of his career to date was really all about getting back to basics: “The first part I ever had was an online part, actually, so I was just like ‘we should do that again’. Nike and Salomon were pretty down for that, so we just decided to do it that way. It worked out perfect, I’m pretty happy with it.”
If he was happy, his sponsors must have been downright delirious. Prior to its release, they gave //In Full// a hyping rarely seen outside of a new iPhone release. A thirty-second teaser for a three-minute part; a dedicated splash page on the Transworld website; clearly, in Jed they trusted. Any idea this was coming? “I didn’t know that they were going to hype it up like they did. I’m psyched at the way they did it though, it seemed to work. It got a lot of views, I’m pretty happy with everything.” All’s well that ends well, then, but it must have been a tough couple of weeks, waiting for the part to drop. After all, the hyperbolic spiel would be hard for any edit to live up to, no? “It definitely did bring a lot of pressure, but none of the words were mine. I would never say anything like that. So it doesn’t really matter!”
That said, the hype did seem to taint the finished product somewhat. No-one can argue that it’s not a stormer of a part, but the weight of expectation didn’t do it any favours. It definitely benefits from repeated viewings, especially now that the dust has settled. Had it just dropped quietly and then done the social media rounds (à la Seb Toots’ season edit from 2010/11), it may have had even more of an impact. Either way, Jed’s not fussed – unlikely to even be aware of that which doesn’t find its own way to him. “Yeah, I don’t follow that stuff too closely”, he says, “but I’ll usually see stuff in an e-mail, or Facebook or whatever. Or my mum will tell me.”
Maybe it’s just as well. If he were to look at the comments on his YouTube videos, for example, he’d see that alongside every “oh dude he has so much style and its good style i love jed” there’s a “stance is gross.” In the modern age of identikit park robots and internet trolls, any rider with a ‘Marmite’ style will take flak at some point, and Jed is no exception. The question is: does he care? In truth he’s more bewildered than anything, and genuinely doesn’t see what the big deal is. “I don’t even have a set stance or anything”, he says. ”I just put it on however it feels comfortable. It’s funny, I don’t know if it’s just the way my body is, but my stance isn’t really that narrow. A lot of people ride narrower stances, I think it just looks narrower on me for some reason! I don’t know. I just go with what feels natural. I don’t know, your feet are closer when you’re skateboarding, and I do that so much. Maybe it wouldn’t make sense to go back and forth.” In fairness, his stance is comparable to those that were commonplace before the ‘90s ‘gangsta’ movement, and sticks out mainly because so many pros – especially high profile all-rounders like Torstein Horgmo and the Helgasons – still opt for wide-and-baggy. Each to their own, says Jed. “For some people wide stance is comfortable for them, I can see how it would make more sense for jumping. But me, I can’t even, like, turn when it’s like that! Whatever your preference is, you know?”
While he may have his detractors, you only need to visit your nearest slope to see how much influence Jed’s had on the UK scene. Scores of groms (not to mention a few older riders) have aped his choices of stance and attire. In the domes, where rails rule, he’s a demigod. If it continues, you’ll soon not be able to throw a snowball without hitting a feral fridge-jibbing acolyte of Jed’s (extra points if you get one through the legs; a tricky shot, given some of the stances going about). If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, he’ll get a pretty big head the next time he rides these shores.
As it turns out, though, the guy would want to pass on a lot more than suggestions for mounting bindings. Even at the height of his pipe career he’d never sought recognition, but these days he’s all too aware of the current trend for kids to spend as much time chasing hook-ups as they do learning tricks. Then there’s the business of getting the blog, website, Twitter followers and Facebook fan page. While normally coming across as a man of few words and fewer worries, talking about this seems to get Jed fired up. Any kid with dreams of making it as a pro, being sponsored and winning contests would do well to heed his advice. Take it from a guy who knows. “You can get carried away with that stuff. I think the best thing to do is just ride for yourself, and progress in a way that you want to progress. Do the things you want to do. If you’re staying true to yourself, it’s pretty easy for that to be recognised.” He issues a warning for kids aggressively seeking sponsors, learning how to shmooze even as they learn their times tables: “You can’t be too hungry or that’s just unattractive, I think. Obviously it’s nice to be sponsored, but when the time is right it’ll happen. There’s no point in trying to make it happen super quick. A lot of kids are snowboarding for stupid reasons, and not doing it for themselves. They’re not just going out with their friends and doing what makes them feel good, they’re worried about getting some sort of recognition or getting sponsored by someone. It shouldn’t be about that, it should just be about doing it for yourself, you know?”
If you want proof that you can think like this and still get results when you want, just look back to the 2009 Burton Canadian Open. Although only 17 at the time, Jed was decidedly in the ‘second phase’ of his career. He’d spent the last few winters around his home in Calgary, riding resorts in the evenings and bagging rails with his friends at the weekends. He certainly had no intention of returning to the halfpipe and, even if he had wanted to, he’d be up against the likes of Canadian national team riders Justin Lamoureux and Jeff Batchelor. What would make him even think about entering? “My brother wanted me to do it, but I kept saying ‘no, no, no’. I just wanted to just hit some rails. I was so over it, but he kept saying ‘go for it’. Fraternal goading aside, Jed found motivation thanks to some unpleasant observations made at the top of the pipe. He’d never be a part of that scene again but maybe, just this once, he had a good reason to get stuck in; if you can’t join ‘em, beat ‘em. “There were so many people there in the contest that I didn’t really like much, I guess”, he remembers. “The whole scene was just kind of crazy, coaches were yelling at their kids…. There was a bunch of things going on that I didn’t really agree with. I thought it would be cool to win it to show them you don’t have to do it that way. So I tried super hard just for that day, and it worked out somehow.” Sure enough, the rail kid with the ‘skinny’ stance had come out on top, besting Olympians both past and future with a clean run that had everything from a cab 900 to a super-smooth frontside 360 crail (find that one online – it’s excellent). Elite training is all well and good, and not every coach channels their inner army drill instructor, but he’d made his point.
Despite how well it went, it was only ever to be a one-off. Even tasting victory at national (and TTR 5-Star) level wasn’t going to lure Jed back towards contests. As he explains, “I don’t have that side of me anymore where I want to compete against other people, and be judged by someone else.” He did step up to the challenge of the X-Games Real Snow video contest this year, but filming for that is “pretty much just doing the same thing I’d be doing anyway, but with the chance to win some money. It’s pretty cool to be part of the X-Games too – I didn’t think I ever would be. It was fun.” And he hasn’t completely closed the door on traditional jams. “I’ll probably do some rail contests. Something mellow, but I’m not too into it anymore.”
It’s unlikely that this will cause problems for his career, something pretty unthinkable for a rail rider not too long ago. However, the industry has changed a lot, and in many ways for the better; especially for riders like Jed. Thanks to hard work, passion and a bit of luck, Jed’s fully in control of his own destiny – which is no doubt all the sweeter when you consider how it could have been. As for future plans, there are a lot of options but not too much set in stone. “Nike is making a video so I’ll be doing that. That’s pretty much my only plan so far. All the video stuff just kind of pops up. I’d love to film with Videograss again, but who knows? There’s so much stuff going on.” We can’t imagine he’ll spend too much time worrying about it, or anything for that matter. For as long as he’s still riding, anyway: “For me [snowboarding] was always all about getting away to have fun and not think about school or all the other shit in your life, just going out and shredding with your friends.”
In that respect, Jed has more in common with your average holiday-maker headed to the Alps than with many of his fellow pros today. We’ll enjoy watching what happens with the rest of his career, knowing that he’s doing his way and having a blast. Meanwhile, if you overhear a kid stressing out at a contest, or see a parent/coach going all //Full Metal Jacket// on their young charge, make sure they know about Jed. Show them his stuff, tell his story, and make it clear that there’s another way. With any luck they’ll remember that riding is meant to be fun. Maybe the kid will never make it to the Olympics, but it could prevent them from losing the love and packing it in altogether. They might stop trying to ride how people expect them to, and find their own style. And who knows? Maybe they’ll still smoke the rest of the field at the Brits, even as they build a career away from the spotlight. It can happen. Ask Jed if it’s worked out for him, and he’ll give you his honest answer: