Plant Life – The Pat Moore Interview
Back when snowboard movies were all-action banger-fests, with the punk rock soundtrack credited in the bottom left corner at the start of each section, hearing riders talk on camera was a rare thing. There’d be the odd snippet here and there, plus the occasional ‘documentary-style’ release that tried to get inside the mind of a prominent pro (usually Terje Haakonsen). Then at one point (we’re saying 2004: the release of Afterlame, and just before ‘behind-the-scenes web series’ started to be a thing), that all changed. These days you’d think there isn’t a snowboarder alive that can resist the opportunity to wax lyrical about their experiences and observations, even when that amounts to little more than, “snowboarding is more than just a sport, yeah?” or “having fun, that’s what it’s all about.” You’d be wrong, though.
Speaking on camera is such a dreadful thing. Nobody wants to hear themselves talk for hours on end…
So says Pat Moore after spending a season looking down a lens for Blueprint, a series that follows the making of his upcoming video with Volcom, Mr. Plant. From Quebec to Jackson’s Hole and from car parks to couloirs, he’s been fulfilling the necessary talking-head duties between shoots – much to his chagrin. He can see the light at the end of the tunnel though, and with only a three-week trip to Chile left on the agenda, we tracked him down – without a camera – to talk about the project.
He’s in New Hampshire when we get him on the line, enjoying a little family time before flying off the following day. It’s there, on the eastern seaboard of the United States, that Pat first got on snow at the age of three. His mother worked as the marketing director for the nearby Waterville Valley resort. “I went up with her every day that I could,” he remembers. “She’s an awesome lady and everyone in the industry on the east coast knows her, so people were always looking out for me. It was a tight community, so everyone was kind of my babysitter.”
By the time he hit his teenage years (and had ditched his skis for a board) he was competing regularly in the halfpipe, eventually winning the US Open Junior Jam and USSA Nationals. It was then that he realised that there was a chance to make a career out of snowboarding, and soon plans were in place to move out west. He’d visited a few times already, including a trip to Mount Hood in Oregon, where as a fifteen-year-old he’d been picked up by Forum for its new ‘Youngblood’ team. The trip was, says he, the major turning point: “It was back when all the pros still went to Hood for a month or so every summer. You’d be walking around town and you’d see all your favourite snowboarders. That was really cool, getting to meet Jussi Oksanen and Bjorn [Leines] and all these guys I’d looked up to for a long time. Having them accept me in some small way, and getting on Forum, it was huge.”
With the seed well and truly planted, Pat finished up his senior year of high school online and jumped in a car with Jake Blauvelt. Soon they were in Tahoe living with Chas Guldemond – another son of New Hampshire – and Mitch Reed, riding California mountains every day. It was good timing for the move, as a major east coast ‘invasion’ was happening there at the time. Pat’s regular shred partners mainly hailed from back east: Jake, Kyle Clancy, Shane Pospisil and Travis Kennedy to name a few. Some were from Vermont, so had already crossed paths with Pat back in the contest days (“at that point we hated Vermont, so we always wanted to beat ‘em!”). They’d all come out to California, but were “still living east coast style.” Travis had also been picked up by Forum, and the two appeared together in 2003’s Video Gangs. Pat had done the odd video back east, but with this – alongside a couple of parts shot with his friends at Grenade – he was off and running. Strong sections in That, Forum Or Against ‘Em and Forum Forever followed, and he was on ender duty in both Vacation and #Forum. Surrounded by friends and getting top-drawer results, it looked like things couldn’t be going much better for him. Then one day (the 23rd October 2012 to be exact), everything changed.
Nearly a decade after buying up Forum, Foursquare and Special Blend, Burton had decided that this family of brands (referred to as ‘The Program’) wouldn’t be part of its long-term strategy. The winding up of one of snowboarding’s most iconic companies was a bombshell that nobody saw coming – not even one of its top riders. As Pat remembers, “It happened overnight, quite literally. I got a phone call the morning that the press release went out. It was pretty crazy. At that point we were all on the same team, our crew was pretty tight, so everybody was just like ‘fuck, what do we do now?’”
One of his first moves was to release a heartfelt statement online, declaring that he had “lived and breathed the Forum name” for a decade and that it had been, “to be blunt, fuckin’ awesome.” The next task was to find a new sponsor. Luckily for Pat, he wasn’t without options. Burton proposed that he move straight over onto its team, as John Jackson and Alek Oestreng would eventually do. While he acknowledges that it was “really cool of them” to give him the opportunity, he was fortunate enough to have received offers elsewhere too. One of the calls came from Billy Anderson, team manager at Volcom. While riding for that brand had been a long-held dream of Pat’s, it still wasn’t a decision to be taken lightly, and so he spent a few weeks off the grid as he mulled it over. His phone stayed off for the most part, but he did make a very notable exception: “One of the coolest conversations I had during that time when I was trying to figure it out was with Gigi [Rüf]. I just cold-called him; I didn’t know him that well at the time, but no one else that I knew had ridden for both the brands. I just called him up and was like, ‘Uh, hey! This is Pat…!’ He was really cool, he spoke to me for a half hour about his experiences.” Soon it was a done deal, and Pat was rocking Volcom outerwear and boards (don’t go looking for his pro model in the racks though – it’s not available to the public). If leaving Forum felt at all like leaving a ‘family’ of sorts, it looked like his new home would be as good a replacement as one could ask for. There was no shortage of father figures, with Terje Haakonsen, Bryan Iguchi and Jamie Lynn all riding for the stone. Naturally that roster played a huge part in making Volcom his top choice, but could it live up to expectations? As it happened, it could – and then some.
One episode of Blueprint sees him revisiting the famous Baldface resort in British Columbia – home of Travis’ Rice’s Supernatural and Ultra Natural events in 2012 and 2013 – with the three aforementioned legends. At 27 he’s a relative veteran compared to the gymnastic slopestyle kids of today, but riding with the holy trinity of Haakon, Guch and Lynn reminded him about just how much more there still is to learn. “I really feel like an adolescent around those guys – they grew up in a different time,” says Pat. “ They’ve lived their life so much more than the people I’m usually surrounded by. Not everything has been sunshine and rainbows, either. To hear some of their stories about the good times and the bad, it helps you appreciate what you have. I always have a notepad going in the back of my head when I’m listening to them.” Not a case of ‘don’t meet your heroes’, then. While Pat’s footage in the episode in question puts his right to ride alongside them beyond doubt, he still talks about the guys with the voice of a fan, rather than that of a colleague. With great passion he picks out his own personal highlights from the experience, be it Terje’s technique (“just watching him turn is one of the coolest things – he’s the best snowboarder to have ever lived”) or Jamie’s method (“it’s like seeing a fucking unicorn”).
You can build whatever you want, and your only limitation is your own creativity. It’s like building a skatepark, except it’s instantaneous.
The plan is eventually to join those guys in the powder more often, but for now he still sees himself as an all-rounder. As does the rest of the snowboarding world; in any conversation about who best handles park, pow and the streets, his name inevitably comes up. It wasn’t for nothing that he bagged those enders. While Jake Blauvelt ditched urban stuff entirely to focus on freeriding, Pat can’t pull himself away just yet. The appeal for him is that, “you can build whatever you want, and your only limitation is your own creativity. It’s like building a skatepark, except it’s instantaneous; you can make a quarterpipe, ride it and be done with it in just a couple of hours. I really like that aspect. You’re out creating your own park in some random city, where no-one else is thinking about snowboarding. They’re thinking about how their feet are cold as they’re walking to work.” That said, when the slopes start to fill in his attention is pulled like a magnet to the backcountry. “Once it starts snowing in the mountains, that’s when I want to ride powder. Everyone wants to ride powder!”
It’s no surprise then, that Volcom saw fit to base an entire movie around him; one that would cover all the various niches within freestyle snowboarding, much like Markus Keller’s Chamäleon did last year. He certainly got on board with that idea, and planned a movie that “wouldn’t pigeonhole or tell too much of a story, aside from ‘we love to snowboard and we will ride anything you put in front of us. We don’t care if it’s a five-foot-high quarterpipe or neck-deep powder; we’re just enjoying every part of it.’” Presumably one of the things he enjoyed the most was sharing billing (and filming days) with the three aforementioned Volcom stalwarts, as well as the wider team that includes Arthur Longo, Seth Huot, Curtis Ciszek, Elena Hight and Mike Rav. Even with that embarrassment of riches to work with, Pat wasn’t restricted to featuring only those that ride for the stone. Jake Welch, his old mucker from the Forum days, makes an appearance, as do Bode Merrill, Chris Grenier and Jeremy Jones. While this is unusual for a ‘brand’ movie, it fits right in with Pat’s vision – if you can call it that – for the project: “When we were filming it was just kind of like, ‘who’s around? Who wants to waste some time with us?’ That was one of the things we talked about before we made the film; we have a sick team so let’s get them in there, but if anyone else wants to ride with us then bring ‘em along too. We were in Salt Lake City for three weeks, and every day there was someone new. Harrison Gordon dropped by, we linked up with the Absinthe crew… and Grenier’s one of my good friends, so it was cool to film with him.”
While it all sounds like a jolly – and no doubt would have felt like one at times – he knew this couldn’t be just another generic snowboard film. If it were, it’d be the first one Volcom ever put out. That’s not how things are done there; the people involved simply don’t allow it. There have been contributions from Mike Aho and Jamie Heinrich – who helmed Volcom’s last two releases, True To This and Veeco, respectively – and the man leading the show is Jake Price. With Gig Rüf’s 9191 among his directing credits, he’s a man who knows a thing or two about making a quality flick based primarily around one rider. Despite the heavy-hitting creative types behind the scenes, Pat’s been happy to get hands-on himself: “I’ve had countless meetings – well, beers – with Jake, going over what we love in certain films and what we don’t like in others, and how we can do something that people enjoy watching that’s also different and creative in our own way. It’s definitely a balancing act.” We imagine it’s hard to pin down any kind of coherent vision for the film when nothing is off the table – there’s even talk of using animation – but Pat sees it as a blessing rather than a curse. Perhaps it’s a little of both, but as he puts it, “that’s what I love about the Volcom films: there’s no formula. It’s some big shoes to fill, but it’s also motivating to know that we can’t just put out some bullshit.”
One thing it will share with some releases from the past – such as Escramble and Luminous Llama) – is a curious title: what exactly is the story behind Mr. Plant? “It was kind of random,” he laughs. “I had a bunch of the guys up in my apartment last summer, and my friend had written down a note to ‘water Mr. Plant’ which was a houseplant that was given to me when I moved in. We’d been partying and everyone thought it was funny, so they all started calling me that. Naming the video was probably the hardest part of everything, but we all kind of liked Mr. Plant. It was all the Volcom guys who were at my place, and the movie is the story of our fun travels, so that made sense.” It also alludes to The Garden – which, after twenty years, remains the stone’s best-loved movie. The Super-8 masterpiece was responsible for burning out VHS players across the world through overuse and, as Pat acknowledges, holds a special significance to the team behind his project: “We all love it and look up to it so much. Our film is just one ‘plant’ that has sprung out from The Garden…”.
Only the Chile trip remains, and he’s feeling pretty good about it all. There were plenty of good times, no serious delays or injuries (other than a sprained knee in late March that knocked out a few days in Whistler), and even filming the dreaded narration for the Blueprint series has been worth it in hindsight. “Now that we’ve done it,” he says, “it was a really cool opportunity and I definitely feel that we shed light on some important parts of snowboarding.” As for what’s next? For now he’s not committed to anything long-term and prefers to focus on making the current project the best it can be. Still, a few things look likelier than others. The X Games Real Snow video part contest continues to be a good fit (“for me, going out and filming tricks on this ‘seek and destroy’ mission, that’s what I live for. I love that shit”) so he’ll be hoping for another invite. He also has a chance to rejoin Travis Rice for another Brain Farm flick; as someone who was in both That’s It, That’s All and The Art Of Flight, he’s well aware that he’s “got to take opportunities to follow Travis around as often as I can!”
I do fucking hate watching myself talk, because that is ridiculous… I sound like a goddamn idiot! Most of the time I have the worst word selection. That’s my new torture.
In the more immediate future, though, he’s got a movie to promote, and will be embarking on a month-long tour of Europe, North America and Asia to host premieres of Mr Plant. It’s something he might have balked at a few years back, when he hated watching himself snowboard more than just about anything. However, he concedes that “it doesn’t bother me as much anymore. When you’re younger and more insecure about what other people are thinking, that’s when it’s going to affect you. Now I film a trick and then it’s done, I don’t really think about it.“ While he may have come around in that respect, don’t hold your breath for him to do the same here: “I do fucking hate watching myself talk, because that is ridiculous… I sound like a goddamn idiot! Most of the time I have the worst word selection. That’s my new torture.”
That’s going to be a problem, for a few reasons: First off, he’s one of the finest riders of his generation, among the best all-rounders to have ever flung themselves off both balconies and cliffs. Then there’s the fact that he’s every bit as likely to have the same kind of lasting relevance as the legends he looks up to. Finally, his contributions to Blueprint are often genuinely entertaining and insightful, leaving us excited about seeing what he’s done with a feature-length film. Unfortunately for Pat Moore, we all want to be hearing from him for a good while yet.