Rewriting the Rule Book | The Alba Pardo Interview
Alba Pardo, founder of Spanish snowboard magazine SBES Mag, on creating her own opportunities in the snowboard industry
Above: Alba Pardo. Pic: Markus Fischer.
The Luminaries Series is about shining a light on some of the most inspirational people in our industry, documenting their rise in their given professions, and sharing some of their insights from along the way.
Founding your own snowboard magazine or digital publication is no small task. But to do so at the age of 23, amidst the backdrop of an industry in decline? It seemed like an impossible task – one that was perhaps shaped more by pipe dreams than halfpipes. In 2012 Alba Pardo created SBES Mag. Now, nearly a decade later, it continues to go from strength to strength, with Alba still at the helm, as its Editor-in-Chief.
“With her can-do attitude and positive outlook on life, Alba’s created her own opportunities through life, which have taken her to where she is now”
Opportunities like this rarely come knocking. Alba’s created her own opportunities throughout her life which have taken her to where she is now. From starting her own cocktail bar to pay for her seasons in the mountains, to working as an action sports media specialist, Alba’s determination is inspiring, to say the least.
We sat down with Alba to find out where she’s come from and what she’s struggled with while working her way up in the industry for the last 16 years.
Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us. First of all, do you want to tell us a bit about what it is that you do?
I work on many projects. I never really had just one job, I’ve always had many things going on. I’m the founder and owner of the Spanish Snowboard magazine called SBES Mag. We launched online in 2012 and we’re the only currently existing Spanish speaking snowboard mag that only covers snowboarding. In 2019 we launched our first paper issue. The magazine is like my first child, I guess.
“The magazine is like my first child, I guess”
I’m also running a lot of event projects related to bikes. I run the marketing and comps for La Poma Bikepark which is an internationally renowned bike park. We host a happy ride weekend which is a dirt jump event so that’s pretty cool and it kind of keeps me busy both seasons.
I also do a lot of writing. I’m the bike and snow channel manager for Red Bull Spain and I also write for Diario As, the biggest sports newspaper in Spain. They have an action sports section and I’m a contributor to that.
And then I work with ‘Women in Action Sports’ which we’re currently rebranding into ‘Women in Action Sports Networks’ and trying to create a membership community where women and members will be able to access interviews, speeches, talks and contact each other. We want to create this community that started in 2009 in Saas Fe and was founded by Carmela Fleury and Daniela Meyer. We’ve been organising many get-togethers through the years and now we’re trying to make it work in the current times so that’s why we want to rebrand it. I guess this is my passion project.
How did you get to where you are now?
Always say yes to everything? I believe there is a lot to be said about being in the right place at the right time and having the right attitude. Eating a lot of shit, doing a lot of stuff that you don’t necessarily envision doing. It is going to take you somewhere. I always thought that opportunities are there, you just need to find them and when you do, make them work.
“It’s all about choices and they are all valid and they are all good as long as you are comfortable with them”
It’s also about choices. Some people need stability and a regular income, and they don’t really care what the work is and that’s their choice. Other people need to move around more, work with something that matters in a way or another, and they’re willing to sacrifice the stability and the more regular things in life to do it. It’s all about choices and they are all valid and they are all good as long as you are comfortable with them. And maybe a little luck too. And a lot of hard work, a lot of hours. There won’t be an outcome without putting in the work behind it.
You started by studying journalism and sports marketing at university, how did it all go from there?
So… I started snowboarding when I was 12. I wanted to start before that but there weren’t really many snowboard schools around so I couldn’t even get a hold of a snowboard at first. But I’ve always been into snowboarding. The movements and the aesthetics of it really attracted me even before I tried it so when I eventually did try, I was hooked.
I studied online and did my university studies while living in other countries. In the first year of journalism, I was doing a season in Whistler. My parents aren’t rich, and I haven’t been born into money, but I opened a cocktail bar when I was 18 and worked a lot. It was probably a bit out of my league then I realise that now but somehow, I made it work and it allowed me to save the money so that I could do my first few seasons while studying. I was taking photos and doing freelance gigs too, but it wasn’t nearly enough to pay for doing a season in Canada or France or Austria or wherever I was. I worked my ass off in the summers to save money and no matter how big or small the photo gig was I said yes. I needed the experience so I kind of crafted my own internship that way.
How did you get involved in working in the industry?
I had a few mentors and met some people along the way that facilitated those opportunities for me. I wrote articles and carved myself into that ‘I can do this’ attitude by attending places, getting to know some of the riders, and building projects with them. You kind of find your space. There wasn’t for instance a Spanish snowboard magazine that could offer me a job, so I created my own when I was ready and felt like I had enough knowledge and contacts. I created an opportunity that wasn’t there. A lot of people along the way have helped me get here.
Was it always your plan to work in the industry?
I don’t think I was necessarily thinking I want to work in the snowboard industry, but I wanted to work with something I like.
What made you start a Spanish snowboard magazine?
There was a time when there were a few blogs and websites and around 4 or 5 paper snowboard magazines in Spanish, and then Onboard that would get translated. And all of a sudden, I think it was 2009, everything kind of went down, and people who were doing the websites just rolled out of it. I had been writing and photographing for projects around the world, so I thought maybe it’s time for me to go back home and give back to the community where I started. I felt like I was the new generation that could do that.
“I needed the experience so I kind of crafted my own internship that way”
Now there are three of us doing most of the content and keeping the magazine alive. Xavi Quirós is the one who does most of the content and I must admit that without him the magazine wouldn’t be alive anymore because I have too many things on my plate. I started it and he continued by really giving back to the community and riders.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced as founder and editor of a snowboard mag?
Snowboarding is not a huge sport compared to other sports like soccer. If you go to a country like Spain, yes we do have mountains, we have great mountains, but you don’t go there for a snowboard retreat. It’s definitely an alternative sport here which means brands in Spain don’t have as much money to invest in snowboarding, so I think funding has always been the biggest challenge. Also, I’m shit at selling. I get passionate and I’m very good at selling the idea of the project but I’m not business-minded so having that profile in the team, and having that drive of making money, has always been our biggest challenge and finding the funding to do everything that you have the potential to do with the magazine for the sake of the community.
It is a very male-dominated industry. Do you feel that you’ve ever come across any gender kind of issues in the industry?
There are two sides to the story. I would say, as a younger woman, I have been looked at, not only in Spain but around the world, like ‘look another groupie who’s here for…’.
“Let’s go and have a drink, let’s go to my room…”
I’ve told this story in a couple of conferences before but the editor of “XYZ” magazine offered me a potential job to go and shoot a contest somewhere. He wanted to discuss it over a drink, and sure, that’s how you do business. Let’s go and have a drink, let’s go to my room… I told him no I’m not interested in that so then he told me “I don’t have a job for you”.
I’ve had those kinds of situations and they’re pretty shitty, so there’s definitely that but I want to think that it’s gotten better. I don’t know if it’s because I got older and don’t tolerate that kind of bullshit, or if it is actually has got better – but I think so. There are more and more women involved, more and more women working in the industry. Of course, there’s still a lot to be done but…
I always say that if we women see ourselves as good as men see themselves it’s really no one’s place to doubt. When it comes to respect and education, it’s a much bigger topic but I want to believe that it can start with us. We shouldn’t doubt ourselves. We’re worth just as much as men, we can work as good and be as powerful and successful as them, and there’s no question there.
You’ve been involved in the industry through many different countries as well, do you feel like there is a difference here?
I couldn’t tell you that one country is better than the other but there is a different vibe in different places. Maybe it’s not just the country, maybe it’s the scene, like the park scene, the street scene, the freeride mountain scene. It’s just fewer women out there in the mountains and in the beginning, there weren’t many girls in the snow parks either and now the snow parks are filled with girls which is great. And backcountry is getting filled with more women too so yes, a lot of the times things like these come with opportunities. If there is an opportunity there is a chance to shine.
You have a young daughter, are you encouraging here to get involved in snowboarding?
Oh yes! Pia just turned 3 this month and she’s already been snowboarding in four or five countries. Mostly in my backpack. She’s just started to get on her own two feet and I’m putting her on both skis and snowboard and trying to do some turns with her and she loves it. She loves the sentiment, the speed, the nature and being outside and playing with the snow. It’s great because she’s my best cheerleader, she’s just in my back saying faster, faster, more fun, more fun… Jump!
Do you find that there are any skills that you’ve learned from being a mother that you can adjust to your professional life?
Yes, give less about what everyone else thinks. I think that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learnt from becoming a mother. There’s not only right and wrong. You can’t give a shit about what everyone else thinks. If you do, there will be a point when it’s going to put you down.
Being a mum, there’s so many dos and don’ts, so if you don’t shut down and listen to yourself and your instincts, you enter this spiral of madness. I started listening to my instincts and I learnt that, but I still struggle with it sometimes. I mean the other day I was on the slope and had my daughter in my backpack. I decided to take a lap with her, and this family said ‘Oh look at that girl with the baby in the backpack, isn’t that cute’ and the mum asked the kid, ‘Are you going to do that with your kids one day’, and the daughter said ‘No my kids are going to have legs, I’m not going to carry my kid’.
It’s so easy to judge when you don’t know, so if you listen to that it’s just going to destroy you. I’m sure that I’ve done a lot of shit wrong but if you just keep on doing the best you can and follow your instinct and try to be the best version of yourself and your professional self, that’s the biggest lesson you can learn. Just keep going, and don’t give a shit about what others say because they don’t know what they don’t know.
As a woman, have you ever found it difficult to be part of such a male-dominated industry?
Yes of course. It can be intimidating. I don’t know if it has to do with being a woman or having less experience, but when you have this two-meter-long big man next to you who’s carrying cameras in the mountains and their beards look so legit and you start to think that I don’t have enough mountain experience, I don’t have enough media experience…
“You feel like you’re less and you’re scared to say the wrong thing, sound silly, you know…”
Sometimes I feel like we women belittle ourselves in a business setting or in a professional setting. Media especially can be quite a loud environment to work in and people tend to have more opinions, so it is easy to kind of take a step back and feel like you’re less good or less talented or less experienced. And yes, at the beginning it’s hard to speak up but I feel like throughout the years you become more confident.
The first five years of my career I spent listening, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing because you learn things and build up your own opinions. It took me a while to start speaking and expressing my own opinions to the team or whoever I was working with. I wonder if a man would have taken that long, maybe, maybe not. But it can be intimidating to speak up, especially if you’re the only girl in a team. You feel like you’re less and you’re scared to say the wrong thing, sound silly, you know… But I also think if you care less about what others think and you’ve got a reason to say what you’re saying, and you believe in it and you’re doing your best and giving your best, then there shouldn’t be a real reason to feel that way.
But in general, my experience working with men has been great. They have been respectful and very supportive of me and women in general, but there will always be fucktards everywhere, even in snowboarding.
What changes would you like to see in the industry going forward?
More women. Whether it is in competitions, in media, in anything, it shouldn’t be a topic of conversation. I mean, of course, it has to be a topic of conversation for us to get there but I don’t want it to be the ‘ special case’. I would like it to be the norm and eventually, us being like why are we even talking about this, of course, there is the same amount of men and women working in the industry, like why wouldn’t there be.
“Of course, there are working fathers but the expectations from society are different”
You see competitions like the Natural Selection and women competing there becoming such a big topic – it should be given that women are part of it. That’s where I would like the industry to go, for things like these to be given. And I guess to get there we need to have a lot of these conversations. And no, we’re not here to bitch about men, we’re not here to compete with men, we are here in the same way they are here, and we do our part in the same way as they do. And hopefully, we can build a better, more inclusive scene, instead of being just women vs men. I don’t understand why it should be different.
I read an interview yesterday with the main marketing person for the Natural Selection tour and she said that when you become a mum you want to keep up as a professional, you want to keep up as a mum, you want to not be looked down on and fuck it’s a lot of pressure to keep up on all fronts. Men don’t even have to do that in the same intensity. Of course, there are working fathers but the expectations from society are different. And a lot of the times we women are the ones who expect more from the other women, more than the men do, and that is not how it should be. I mean, be kinder to each other, it doesn’t really take that much.
Do you have any advice for the next generation who like to get involved in the industry?
Keep it simple and real and love what you do and love who you work with. Don’t hate so much. I see a lot of hate happening, there’s a lot of in general in society. We split things up, and everything is so black or white, rather than us trying to find a balance. We should unify rather than divide and action sports have always been a great tool to do that. Snowboarding brings people together, that’s why snowboarding and the snowboarding community is so great. It brings people together no matter your background, your country, your languages your ethnicity… it doesn’t matter, and it’s always been a great tool to do that with so let’s keep that up and make it even better. And this can only be achieved with a positive attitude, you can’t do this from hate or a judgemental position, that’s not going to work. And remember to have fun with it because at the end of the day snowboarding is fun, otherwise, we wouldn’t be in it.
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