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Interviews

Billy Morgan on snowboarding, the UK scene and scooters

Olympic Medalist Billy Morgan chats about snowboarding

Above: Billy Morgan enjoying life upside down. Photo: Danny Burrows.

Spending three days shredding with Billy Morgan in Morzine might make you question if you actually ever really learned to snowboard. Yet, the guy himself, being the very definition of a snowboarder, reminds us all why we ever started snowboarding in the first place. It’s fun, and so is throwing snow at people on the lifts.

Last week we had the pleasure of being invited out on a press trip by Oakley to try out their new Oakley Prizm React goggles with none other than Billy Morgan joining us. Billy, who got the whole UK stoked on snowboarding after taking home bronze from the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang in 2018 and the first person to ever stomp a quad cork 1800, needs little introduction.

So, what did we want to know? As a wise man once put it, what is it with Brits and bronzes, we thought Mr Morgan might have had his fair share of questions on that, so we decided to take a different approach on things. However, living up to the French standards, consumption of wine became inevitable, and the chat we had with Billy may have covered everything from saving the Icelandic people from uncontrolled inbreeding to when he first met Roope Tonteri at the first (and presumably last) world cup held in London, a story we leave out this time in order to not encourage any (further) reckless snowboarding.

Billy Morgan doing a backflip out in Morzine. Photo: Danny Burrows

So Billy, how many interviews do you reckon you’ve done so far?
In total? A hundred? Probably between a 100-200. I guess it depends on what you class as an interview, like a proper sit down like this, around a 100, but camera shoved in the face at a bottom of an event is different.

What’s the most common question people ask you?
What does it feel like to stand at the top of the big air before you go? How does it make you feel like inside? It’s just a simple answer isn’t it, it’s wonderful!

What do you wish people would ask you?
Sometimes people ask some genuine questions and it’s fine, as long as people are asking me things that they actually want to know, because you can tell when you do interviews, sometimes someone’s just like wheeling of some questions that they don’t really want to be asking. But when an interview is quite genuine, the questions are suited, it’s not a chore, I don’t mind answering that because I can tell that there’s like authenticity behind it. As the interviewee it’s crap when someone does an interview and you know deep down they don’t really want to be doing it. You don’t care do you haha?

We do, we absolutely do… So, there’s been a lot of chat on authenticity and snowboarding becoming an Olympic sport. As someone with your background, how do you feel about that?
When the topic first came up, I just thought it was bullshit, but now I look back and I think it has made a difference. The thing I said when I was asked about that was there’s so many things in snowboarding that you can do, that if there’s people off doing Olympic snowboarding that doesn’t affect the other people that go into snowboarding, they can still go snowboarding and have a good time. The rail riders will still go and film sick video parts, and the people who are going to the Olympics will do that. It is a diverse enough sport, there’s enough you can do, you know it’s different, you don’t have to be narrowed into something, it’s not like everybody thinks that if you go snowboarding you’re aiming to go to the Olympics. People go snowboarding just to have a good time and shred, that’s what it’s about really but.. I didn’t notice the repercussions of what it would do to the sport it being an Olympic sport.

How did you end up at the Olympics?
I started snowboarding when I was like 14, rode dry slope for two years, came here (Morzine) for three seasons, and I was just shredding you know. I worked all summer so that I could ride most of the winter and do little jobs, a bit of transfer driving, but essentially I was just riding all the time, having a good time, doing whatever, and then after doing three seasons, it was apparent that I couldn’t just keep doing that, just be a snowboard bum, couldn’t afford to carry on doing that, I needed to like do whatever. I went to Tahoe, did three months there with a snowboard team, with Westbeach, I was on it at the time, and got good enough to get recognised and then join the team. When I joined the British team they were like, Slopestyle might be announced as an Olympic sport, which then gave me the opportunity to carry on snowboarding. So, for me the whole way through my career if I wasn’t going to the Olympics, I couldn’t have carried on snowboarding. I would had to have to done something else, I’ve would have had to have got a job or whatever.

Billy Morgan shredding The Stash in Morzine. Photo: Danny Burrows.

How do you feel about the “they’re selling out they’re going to the Olympics…”
Well they have to sell out, what else are they going to do? There’s a lot of riders that don’t have enough money to snowboard all year, you know if they join the federation they can carry on snowboarding, and their travels get subsidised, they can keep riding, like what do you want them to do? Just shred until they can’t do it anymore and then go and get a job? No, they still love it as much as anyone else, but they just don’t have the means to carry on… That’s an easy thing to overlook if you’re rich. They (rich snowboarders) don’t have to sell out. They can turn down a potential sponsor because it’s not a cool brand because they don’t really need the money. But some people, like a lot of the Brits, a lot of us, we have to take some money, we have to sell out to do it. If someone wants to help support you to doing what you’re doing, you’re accepting that support.

It’s a way for you to keep on doing what you love.
BM: Exactly. Have you thought about that before?
WL: We’ve found that there are a lot of people who think like you do, if someone’s offers you the opportunity to keep on doing what you love you don’t turn it down – But we’ve also met people who have the complete opposite opinion: if you do some shots for a brand that you don’t like just to get money you’re selling out.
BM: It’s not like they are wrong, but they might just not know what it is like to not have any money…

Do you think people categorise you as an Olympic snowboarder?
I assume they do. I think the people who have watched enough of my interviews and know me at all, realise that I’m a dude that likes doing what I like doing. It wasn’t about the Olympics. I think if you’re an outsider looking in you would see me like that, but if you know me at all, I think, I hope that is transparent enough that you would see that.

Billy Morgan hiking up to the best spots in Morzine. Photo: Danny Burrows

How do you think taking home an Olympic Medal affected UK snowboarding?
I just think loads of people went to try snowboarding and it brought winter sports on the map a little bit more. Not really sure. I think people were pretty pumped, people were pretty stoked, people liked to have my interviews and stuff, because I think a lot have the image of the Olympics is all like loads of square people. Square? Uhm, but they were like oh look here’s like a human, which some people liked, keeping it real.

How do you think the future of the UK snowboard scene will look?
It’s hard to tell. It’s going to be hard to keep up because of the facilities are going to come down to play a lot, kids being on snowboards from a young age. I was lucky, I was like an acrobat, I could do all flips before I even started snowboarding, that was a huge benefit. Unless you start like hunting down ex gymnast and acrobats, but then you’re just farming snowboarders, I don’t know. It’s hard to say. I mean we’ll still have shredders, there’s still people who go and do legit, like street stuff and ride the domes and do cool stuff, like Sparrow (Knox). You know, that will never end, as far as the Olympics goes, it’s going to be hard for us.

You’re an ambassador for the Graystone Academy now, do you think that’s going to be the next big thing?
We need more action sport academies, I mean it’s not just us that want to go and jump in the foam pit and go skating and do backflips and stuff, like, it needs to be encouraged, especially if skate is going to be in the Olympics and all that, and more people will be getting into skating so we need more skate parks. We don’t even have a skate park in Southampton. It sucks. It’s a disgrace.

What are you going to do with all your energy when you’re not competing now?
BM: I don’t know. A few things I’ve been thinking about. I’ve done a bit of coaching, a bit of this and that, I got to grow up, buy a house, sort my shit out… Freestyle it.
WL: More backcountry?
BM: Fuck yeh! I’ve had so much fun the last couple of months. Just occasionally going away and shredding.

How does it feel to not have a schedule?
BM: It’s weird but I’m getting used to it, and it’s good because I’ve got more time to do fun stuff, and what I’ve missed out on.
WL: Is it weird to not having to be practicing something specific all the time?
BM: Yeh. It was for a bit because I’d go up the hill and be like right what am I practicing today and then I was like oh no I don’t need to do anything I can just be like YEEEEY, it’s sick. Because I’ve learned all the skill over a long period of time and now, I can just enjoy it. I can just do whatever I want.

Above: Billy Morgan showing off his scooter skills in Pyeongchang.

We asked people on Instagram if they’d have some questions for you and people were really keen to know what was more fun, the scooter edit from Pyeongchang or the medal?
BM: Well the medal was terrifying, like the whole procedure of going to get a medal and standing up in front of everyone… Yeh, it’s not fun at all so the scooter riding was substantially more fun than that. Fuck yeh, it was brilliant, we had nothing to do. They were all over the village, at the bottom part, the other part of the village, whatever the bottom bit was, not the mountain sports one, the Brits had like all these 15 scooters for people to cut around the village, and there was loads of shit to grind and stuff.
WL: Career change?
BM: Fuck no.

Matty McCormick would like to know what your thoughts on climate change are?
He knows what my thoughts on climate change are, and he needs to fucking tighten his belt up a little bit, I think he is coming around to the idea so, we’ll leave it at that. He knows full well what my ideas on climate change are.

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