A Guide To Mellow Livin’ | Mathieu Crepel Lives The Van Life In Japan

The Frenchman road trips around Central Hokkaido with a campervan and the new Nidecker Mellow snowboard

Life feels pretty stressful these days. While we’re all tentatively looking to the season ahead, Nidecker are bringing an antidote to all the worries. Their new short film, A Guide To Mellow Livin’, follows Mathieu Crepel on a road trip around Japan’s Central Hokkaido last winter, back when life was just a little more, well, mellow.

With only Sam Mcmahon behind the lens and no fixed plan in place, their goal was simple: to travel light and free, to follow the weather and/or their stomachs, and to enjoy the good vibes and simple pleasures of seeking out the best the snow/swell from the comfort of a campervan.

We caught up with Crepel shortly after the film premiered at the iF3 Festival, where it was nominated for best film. Check out the interview below, where he tells us about the experience of filming without a set schedule or itinerary, his top tips for winter van life, and the works he’s been doing over the past ten years through his NGO, Water Family.

Hey Mathieu, great job on A Guide To Mellow Livin’ and congrats on the IF3 nomination! How did the idea for the film come about?
Yeah thanks, we’re stoked that our little trip came out great and we could make a cool mini-film.

The idea actually came from Sam McMahon, Nidecker’s TM (he doesn’t like that title!) and filmer. We had planned this trip to Japan because we needed to be at the Tenjin Banked Slalom the first week of March – it didn’t make sense to go all the way to Japan just for the event so we thought about making a little road trip. Sam found the van, and off we went!

Photo Credit: Sam McMahon

Is that your van? What’s the setup inside like? (Are you full-time van life?)
Hahaha I kind of wish it was mine but no, we rented it near Sapporo from a guy who was also a passionate rider with a super cool vibe. The van is a Isuzu Rodeo from 1990 and it worked very well. It was cosy and warm and took us to some cool spots around Hokkaido.

It looks like you still managed to score some amazing conditions in Japan, even with a low snow year. How was the experience of shooting the project? Mellow?! Or does it ever get stressful during a shoot?
Conditions were amazing! A low year in Japan still counts as an exceptional one in Europe I guess. The first day we got was probably the deepest and lightest pow I’ve ever ridden.

Some shoots can be a bit stressful, but this one we literally lived it mellow. We just cruised with the snow conditions and weather. A good tip is to look out for good onsens (communal Japanese baths), then even if the spot sucks you’re still stoked!

The fact that it was just Sam and myself made it pretty easy too, we were on the same page on what we wanted to do and show from the trip. I really appreciate shooting with Sam, he’s always motivated, has cool ideas, puts no pressure out but gets things done!

Photo Credit: Sam McMahon

Top 3 Japanese meals?
Udon, ramen, sushi and definitely not natto!

Top 3 locations to ride in Japan?
Tenjindaira, Korudake and just off the roads

Top 3 tips for living in a van?
Have a space dedicated for drying your gear,
A good mate,
An onsen nearby!

You’re a keen surfer, how does the Mellow compare to getting barreled riding actual waves? Does the Nicecker Mellow (and Nidecker Odyssey) take some of its design and inspiration from surfboards?
Yes, the Mellow is definitely a board with a surfy feeling – it lives exactly to its name. Getting barreled or getting a big pow turn is a unique feeling for sure and the Mellow will help at least with the face shot.

For the barrel it’s another story! But yeah, it’s an effortless board that goes in all conditions.

Photo Credit: Sam McMahon

Its strengths clearly lay in deep conditions. Does it still hold up on firmer days?
The short side cut and true camber between the feet makes it pretty strong on the slopes as well. I even rode it for the qualies run of the Mt Baker Banked Slalom last year. It went great!

What boots and bindings complete your set up?
The Kaon-X, the new Nidecker binding with some super comfy straps and the Nidecker Falcon boots.

Photo Credit: Sam McMahon

Since competing on the world circuit (not the most mellow of undertakings!), how has your outlook on snowboarding changed since then?

I still follow what’s happening in the high performance freestyle scene and it’s crazy how goods the riders are. I like the state where snowboarding is these days: even the most competitive guys keep their creative mind at work, and there’s also a scene of mellower riders that like to carve and just use the mountain in its purest state, get inspired by the terrain and adapt to it.

I feel more connected to this type of riding now, but I also like to hit the park once in a while. I actually miss it because spring is usually the time to have fun in the slushy parks, but we got cut off this year!

Photo Credit: Sam McMahon

You’re a co-founder and ambassador of Water Family. Can you tell us a little about the organisation, and what prompted you to set it up?
Water Family is an NGO that I started with my dad and a couple of friends about ten years ago to raise awareness on how the water cycle connects us with the rest of the elements. We build educational programs to be presented and used in school to teach kids how to adapt their way of living to the new challenges we’re facing.

As I’ve been living a life between mountains and ocean, it was natural to me to try to share that passion I have for water in all its forms. It’s an amazing but delicate playground. Protecting it is our mission and to do that we have to learn about it and love it.

Photo Credit: Sam McMahon

What can (and should) the snowboard community be doing to help preserve the environments we play in?
The idea is not to go live in a cave and only eat seeds! It is to keep doing what we love for the longest possible. And we as the snowboard community have a strong voice and role.

I’m no-one to teach lessons but guess we all have to change our habits, by travelling differently, using our connection to the environment to inspire people that don’t have the chance to live daily in the outdoors and push towards a more sustainable economy.

Photo Credit: Sam McMahon

The Nidecker Mellow Snowboard, Kaon-X bindings and Falcon boots have all been selected for this year’s Whitelines 100. Click on the links below for our in depth product reviews.

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