Grilo Forever

The Grilc family and Burton pay tribute to a legend

When Marko Grilc passed away last November, the snowboard world was left in total shock. ‘Grilo’ was an icon of the sport who continually reinvented his career – from contest kid to rad dad – but whose talent and infectious enthusiasm had been a constant. Latterly, as his journey took him to parenthood, he’d earned a whole new army of social media fans thanks to regular posts which captured the joy of shredding with the fam. To hear that he’d gone was just heartbreaking.

“He just wanted to show the kids what he loved. He wanted them to experience the joy that he had snowboarding”

Of course, no one felt Grilo’s loss more keenly than his wife Nina and their beautiful kids Maxx and Emma. Nina gave birth to their third child, a baby girl called Alaska, shortly after his death. To say it’s been a rollercoaster of a year for her does not begin to describe it.

As we approach the anniversary of Grilo’s accident, his longtime sponsors at Burton have announced the release of a limited edition snowboard produced in collaboration with his family – the Gril Master – to celebrate his memory.

We caught up with Nina at home in Slovenia to find out more.

There’s been such a strong reaction from the snowboard world to Grilo’s passing. It must have made you proud to see that outpouring of love.
Yeah. It’s crazy because I knew how much he loved snowboarding, obviously. Like when he broke his back five years before this accident, he didn’t say, ‘I’m not gonna do this anymore’ or ‘I’m scared’ or whatever. He said that he’s so grateful that he can keep doing this that he’s gonna keep snowboarding on this day for the rest of his life, even if it’s on crutches or whatever. It was fascinating for me that he was so in love with the sport – admiring other riders, just having this really special bond with all of them – and then when [he died] it was so clear to me why. Because all these people have one thing in common and it’s not just snowboarding; it’s this insane energy. Everyone is so pure and so genuine and it’s just a really, really nice environment to be in. I felt immediately like my family just added on 500 members! [laughs].

“I know that if Grilo was here he would want this day to be positive in some way; he would want something cool to happen”

Does anything in particular stand out?
So many things. Just the outpouring of positive messages that I still get to this day is insane. So many people write such incredible things about him and about us. But also the brands he worked with – like, Burton has been so involved, and not just as a brand, but all the people there. There’s something every day; I could go on about all the nice gestures until tomorrow.

The Burton relationship goes back a long time, and it’s great to see that they’re honouring him with this new board. It’s coming out this week, right?
Yeah. It’s coming out on the anniversary of Grilo’s accident. I know that if he was here he would want this day to be positive in some way; he would want something cool to happen. Most of all he would just want us to shred; he would want us to be on snow. And that’s exactly what we’re gonna do.

But at the same time there’s this one little piece of him that’s gonna stick around forever. Whoever’s gonna get this board, wherever these boards [end up], they’re gonna stay there and remind us of him forever. It’s such a nice gesture.

I mean, it was a project that Burton [already] started with Grilo. It was supposed to be a dad board, and he was supposed to make it alongside them. I felt so humbled and honoured when Burton said, ‘We wanna go through with this, we wanna make this board.’ And then I cried my eyes out when the kids designed the [graphics]! The story that they made with their drawings was so touching.

How did that process happen?
I wanted it to be really spontaneous, to be really natural, so I didn’t even mention anything to them before. I just took the paper template over to them and was like, ‘You know what, this is a board and Burton asked if you could draw something on it – maybe something that reminds you of Dad. What would you draw that would remind you of Dad?’ Then they just went for it, and it was a few hours with pauses… they really thought every detail through. And I was like, ‘Let’s just give me a minute [tearing up], oh my god this is so nice.’ So yeah, it’s definitely a really cool tribute from Burton, and also from Maxx and Emma to their dad.

What’s on the base?
It says Grilo Forever, which is what Emma wrote, and she drew a little rainbow as well. But the story behind [the topsheet] is what got to me. When you look at the board, they both drew Grilo in slopestyle and big air – he’s jumping, snowboarding, doing his thing – and then he goes up to the stars, which is that black area with the yellow stars, and out of the stars comes Alaska – so they asked me if I could put paint on her feet and make footprints of her; and then, towards the end of the board there’s a mountain, and if you go all the way to the highest peak of the mountain and look through the stars, the brightest star is Daddy. So they made something really beautiful.

“I cried my eyes out when the kids designed the graphics! The story that they made was so touching”

Wow. You know, Grilo was a model for snowboarding dads everywhere. I’m a father myself, and I have other friends who ride with kids, and we all loved the videos he put out and appreciated the journey that he was on. He kind of defined a path for our generation.
Yeah. I was talking to Hasi [the Burton team manager] at one point and he was like, ‘With Grilo we were always wondering what his next move would be, cos he would always reinvent himself.’ But it wasn’t something where he would go home and be like, ‘Oh shit, this chapter of my life is finishing, I need to come up with something new.’ It came really naturally for him. Even the whole transition to riding with the kids was very natural. He just wanted to show the kids what he loved. He wanted them to experience the joy that he had snowboarding. So when he passed away I thought, ‘You know, maybe this is gonna become his next natural step. It’s not gonna come through him, but it’s gonna be through his family, it’s gonna be through us.’ I really want to keep a piece of him alive and continue what I know he loved so much, and hopefully his kids will [do that] in a way as well. Maybe that’s the journey.

So the kids are still riding and enjoying it?
Yeah. It’s been a little difficult for Emma because, you know, it was a tough cookie to chew on. He was undefeatable in their eyes on a snowboard; anything could have happened anywhere else, but not on his snowboard. That’s why it was really important for me to take the kids up the mountain as much as I could straight after, just so that I could show them this didn’t have anything to do with his ability to snowboard. I didn’t want it to become something negative. Because I know the truth about their lives – that even if our intention was never for them to be pros, we just wanted them to have the mountains as a really fond memory. Whenever something’s tough in life, whenever things don’t go the way they planned them to, they go up the mountain and strap on their snowboard and feel better. I really wanted to preserve that for them, and I think hopefully I managed to do that. So going snowboarding will be something that will remind them of their dad.

Full respect to you. I think what he’s done for the idea of riding with family is perhaps his biggest legacy. You’d better brace yourself for more messages when this board comes out!
I gotta say I’m excited. It’s such a special project. We’re really grateful to Burton for pulling it through.

“It’s designed for diverse riding – when the kids are on their lunch break, Dad can shred out by himself”

Do you know much about the technical side of the board?
It’s designed for diverse riding – so it’s cool to shred with the kids, of course, but when the kids are on their lunch break or something, Dad can shred it out by himself. The idea was to make a board that’s versatile, that fits every profile of rider. And I’m pretty sure it’s gonna serve its purpose!

I’m sure it will, whoever gets their hands on one.
Well I know what I’m riding from now on, so… [laughs]

And it’s a limited edition?
Yeah. I think it’s very limited so people are gonna have to get their hands on it quick. And the sizes go down to 130 – so there’s a kids size as well. I know that Maxx will be able to ride one, Emma will have to wait a little bit. But for sure it’s cool that the kids get to ride it. Like you said before, there’s so many people that followed him from back in the day, but it’s also crazy to think that he’s reached a generation of kids. They know who Grilo was. So many [of them] are asking, ‘Is it true? Is a Grilo board coming out? Can I ride one?’ They’re like, 9 or 10-year-olds. It’s super cool that such a broad spectrum of people know and respect him.

I guess these kids all vibed off his energy and passion. And yours definitely seem to have picked up the riding bug.
Yeah. And obviously they have [riding] potential. But we’ve had so many questions like, ‘When did you start training your kids?’ or ‘When do you think kids are able to become pros?’ He always laughed at those messages. There were phases when Emma didn’t [even] wanna snowboard. She was like, ‘No I don’t wanna go.’ So she stayed behind, we went without her, and it wasn’t a big deal, you know? It was like, ‘Whatever, if she doesn’t wanna do it I’m not gonna force her, it’s supposed to be fun.’ And then she wanted to try skiing, and [Grilo] was like, ‘Yeah, go try skiing!’ [laughs] And obviously she sucked at it. But it was really natural. It was about having fun, and I’m trying to preserve that for the kids and maybe continue showing [his spirit] to other kids. [And] if I can do it – take three kids to the mountain, by myself – then I’m pretty sure anyone can do it.

That’s a lesson for all of us. I know I sometimes get frustrated if my own daughter doesn’t want to do what we’ve planned!
Yeah it’s tough. You have your own ideas. You plan your day around something, you take time out of other things and then you sometimes feel they’re screwing with you. Like, ‘Are you freakin’ kidding me, dude?’ But those are the tough moments where I always think, ‘What would he do?’ Cos my natural reaction would be, ‘You know what, you’re going! I took the time, you’re going!’ [laughs] But Grilo was so much more mellow, like, ‘Whatever, just let them be, this needs to be fun. There’s no point if it’s not fun.’ He was like that with everything. So I still draw my energy from him to this day.

“I still draw my energy from him to this day”

And obviously, [as] a kid, whenever you’re told you’re not allowed to do something – or that you have to do something – it’s not as nice as if you decided by yourself. I started snowboarding in 2018, so for Maxx, riding with me is boring. He’s at a level where riding with Grilo was super fun, and now when Clemens [Millauer] takes him, or some other pro rider, it’s a completely different energy for him. But I always let him. Like, ‘OK, if you don’t wanna ride with me it’s not a big deal, it’s fine.’ And now, for the past few months, he’s crazy about it. He’s asking me all the time, ‘When does Flachau open? When does the season start? When can we go shred? Are some pros gonna be there? Is Clemens gonna be there? Is Fischi gonna be there?’ He has these super cool people around him, he’s in nature, he’s doing this sport that his dad passed on to him, and he’s enjoying it. And I’m like, ‘If it stays this way I’ve done my part. I’m good.’ [laughs]

And I guess it won’t be long before Alaska joins in?
It’s still gonna be a little tricky for another year I guess, and then hopefully she can come along and snowboard normally with us. I have expectations, maybe. I think she’s gonna love snowboarding just because she’s the spitting image of her dad in every freakin’ way that you can imagine [laughs]. Except for the blue eyes, she’s Grilo.

Thank you so much for talking to us, Nina.
Thank you, and have an awesome rest of the day.

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