Despite having been on the UK scene for the best part of a decade, Tyler Chorlton remains something of an enigma. This may have something to do with the fact that he grew up outside the UK and learnt to ride in Andorra, rather than on a dryslope. Equally, it might have something to do with his habit of growing impressive beard-and-‘tache combos that cover half his face. But while his origins and his appearance may remain mysterious, his riding is anything but low key. An instinctive showman, Tyler has wowed many a crowd with his famous frontflips.
Yet there’s much more to this man’s riding than these punter-pleasing antics – in recent years he’s stepped it up a level, moving beyond the UK scene and onto the European stage. Since joining the Bataleon International team in 2005 he’s become a global fixture too and his stylish, tweaked out spins, executed with his trademark flair, have been stoking out fellow riders and spectators alike. Somehow, he’s managed all of this without losing the cheeky sense of fun that characterizes everything he does. We decided it was high time we caught up with him to chat about how he got to where he is, and uncover the man behind the moustache…
Can you explain a little about your background – you grew up in Andorra right?
No. I actually grew up two hours out in France. I started coming here when I was 12 and I moved here when I was 15. But I was born in Brighton. My parents split up when I was 5 and my mum moved out to France.
What was it like growing up abroad? Was there a language barrier? Were you accepted by everyone at school?
I can’t really remember learning French when I was growing up in southwestern France. It kinda just came on its own, you just pick it up. And there’s quite a lot of English kids anyway, so I had friends right away. I just remember being bored the whole time – growing up in the countryside with nothing to do except ride your motorbike and get stoned.
How was the Andorran shred scene when you started out?
I remember the first winter or two it would literally be a crew of about 30 people – the guys living here or doing seasons – all going down the same run like, “Yeah this is sick!” We’d all get to the bottom and everyone would be whooping. I’m still in touch with most of them.
Who were your snowboarding idols back then?
Mr Merlin… Merlin Balfour. He was the man back when I was a kid. Like he’d be doing massive front threes and fives when we were all struggling with ones. And I remember this one hit when he did a perfectly tweaked method, then he hit the same jump and did a frontside indy – where shiftied his board from back to front – and that blew me away.
So how did you come to get involved in the UK scene?
Well it all kinda started with Jamie Philipp [a fellow British Andorran who was big in the late 90s/early 2000s]. His mum told me about the Brits, and she got me an application form. So I went with Jamie that year – around 2001/2002 – and I started to meet everyone in the scene from there. I’d go back every year.
Do you feel British? Would you say you’re an outsider in the UK scene?
I dunno, I just feel like me! (laughs). I’m not really patriotic towards any country to be honest.
How did you first sponsorship come about?
That was Scott Todd [Scottish stalwart of the UK scene, famous talent spotter, now heading up Rome UK]. He saw me at the Brit games and he said “Yeah, you’re pretty good. I’ll sort you out with some kit” So I was on the Silence team, 686, GMC gloves, Technine bindings… pretty much all the brands he was importing back then. I loved my time on Silence – to this day it’s still one of the best brands that came out of snowboarding. They had a really good vibe, and they made nice boards that were advanced for their time.
When did you realize you’d turned pro?
I got hooked up with Oakley, and that was the first time I’d got any money outside of prize money for contests. It wasn’t much, but it started me off.
How did the move to the Bataleon international team come about?
At the ISPO tradeshow four years ago I just went up to their stand and said, “I think your boards are amazing.” We got chatting and they offered to give me a little money to ride for them and it went from there. Within two or three years I was on the international team.
The Bataleon guys seem like a cool bunch. What makes the company special?
They’re just doing it the right way, you know? They’re not stressing, they’re having a good time, and they’re a good bunch of people – both the rider team and the ‘team behind the team’. It’s just a good vibe, a good balance.
Are you a Triple Base believer?
Oh yeah! I can’t ride flat boards any more, I catch my edge! And I use it all the time, like on a takeoff you don’t have to worry about catching your edge, you can just go full wang into a rotation.
Have you tried any of the new reverse camber boards?
Yeah I don’t think they work. I tried the rocker system and everything. Maybe it’s just cos I’m used to the Triple Base but for me it doesn’t do anything close to it.
What’s your proudest achievement in snowboarding?
Filming with Pirates. I’m super stoked to be working with those boys.
How did you find it that? Was it a big step up?
Kind of. I’d filmed for ‘Purple Yeahh’ [another Euro movie], and that worked out pretty sick. Then the next year I filmed a little with the Pirates but I started really late, like end of February. A lot of those guys had their parts finished already, so there was pressure there. This winter I started in January and it went really well , apart from we had a lot of bad weather. You’d get the footage back two weeks later and it wasn’t quite as good as you thought it was – cos of the bad light, or you’re not going as fast as you thought or whatever. So you have to do all that stuff again.
It’s funny watching yourself back on film. It doesn’t quite look how it was in your head!
Yeah for sure. You’ve just gotta jump into it and learn as you go along. Watch it back, figure out where you went wrong and do it again.
So you’d say that style IS something you have to work on? Cos you’ve got a really lazy looking style that looks natural, like you were born with it.
Thanks. Yeah there was a while when I was riding with the team quite a lot where I’d look at the others and think “You gotta get your legs like this” and you’d work on it a little bit, but in the end I thought “what am I doing this for? I just wanna ride how I wanna ride” and it then just comes together.
Were you ever intimidated by the standard of riding or size of the kickers when you were filming with the Pirates?
Not too bad. I was more worried before I started filming with them. But then I went on a sick trip with Emeric [Front] and it was quite funny because we were both going through break-ups with our chicks. We were both in an angry mood, like, “Let’s just charge it and get everything done” and it worked out pretty good. I think the break-up with my ex last year helped my season cos I was just angry and I wanted to stomp shit!
Have you got a girl at the mo?
Nah I’m still single. I’m seeing a few but you know how it goes – I’m too young to settle down (laughs). And I think it’s unfair to get a girlfriend and have her stay at home while I’m travelling so much. I’ve gotta concentrate on my career now, I can’t afford to miss out on any opportunities.
Do you have ambitions to make a name for yourself beyond the Euro scene even? Maybe to fly the flag for the UK scene in America?
See I don’t get the whole US thing. I know it’s where the so-called leaders of the industry are based and everything, but I don’t find any attraction to go shred and become famous in the States. I like my position in Europe. (laughs) I mean it’s necessary to go over there a bit, so that the guys know who I am and I can get some photos in Transworld. There’s work to do there, but I’m quite happy at the moment shredding Europe. And actually I’m pretty big in China these days! (laughs)
Yeah I went there for the Nanshan Open this year, it’s a 5-star TTR event. Remember the double frontflip I did in Purple Yeahh? They had a sequence of that run in the Transworld China equivalent. Apparently everyone went wild about it. So I was already a big hit when I went over to this contest, and I thought I’d better bust out a double frontflip for the crowd. They just went nuts. It wasn’t a massive crowd, but it made the news!
What’s the scene like over there?
They’re really keen. It’s still growing, like the shredders aren’t really hitting the big jumps but they’ve got super sick ninja style. Give it a few years and they’ll be up there with the international guys for sure. They’ve only got one park which is nanshan, it’s in a frozen desert with hardly any real snow – they get about 10cm a year. So they have this one hill they just blast with snow cannons. It’s an interesting place.
How was the food?
I loved it. Half the time we were just,”What’s this?” And they were like [dodgy Chinese impression] “Yoi ha nah!” And we’d go “OK, stick it in the hot pot!” I could’ve eaten dog tail for all I know but it tasted good. It’s really different to a takeaway, it’s really fresh. We’d mainly get a hotpot on a flame in the middle of a table, then you’d get all these dishes and just throw them in so the juices all ended up mixing together and made a kind of soup.
For the benefit of the readers, can you explain a little about who the Pirate crew are?
It’s an international movie production now, which started off in Austria, when a few guys went to Gigi Rüf’s backyard camp – the first one ever – and started filming stuff with Gigi on super 8 film. Gigi was the first original ‘Pirate’. At the end of that season they had enough footage to make a little 8mm movie called Decent Frames, and since then they’ve been bringing out a movie – sometimes two movies – every year.
Did you get to ride with Gigi this year?
Not this year, but I got a good two weeks with him last winter which was sick – I learnt a lot. He’s so productive! You go up with him for a day, and if you get one or two shots, he’ll get five to seven shots. You’ll be looking at something thinking “How the hell’s that gonna work?” but he just sees things a little bit differently and he’ll stomp it first go most of the time. He’s a really fast hiker, and if he sees something he doesn’t hesitate at the bottom; he just goes straight up there, checks it out for two minutes and if it’s not good he comes back down and goes to another spot. He doesn’t mess around.
A filmer’s dream.
Exactly. When you see him work like that it’s no wonder he can get two or three parts done in a season. The man’s a machine.
Do you think with so many videos being made these days it means less to be in a film, and brands are putting more pressure on their riders to enter contests again?
Maybe. And there’s maybe more pressure because there’s just so many more riders these days.
Do you still enter any contests these days?
I’m really picky about my contests. I don’t do them if it’s a crap format. I really enjoy doing Wangl Tangl cos it’s a team contest, and the Jib Vid. I like contests where it’s a whole package; you don’t just go there and do your two runs and it’s all over. Like Style Wars, you didn’t even have to ride if you didn’t want to.
Are you still entering the British Champs?
Is that since the infamous Big Air event a few years back?
OK. So for the benefit of those who didn’t read about it at the time, you did a switch backside 9 shifty-shifty which somehow landed you in sixth place.
Yeah I was just a bit bummed that it was FIS [International Ski Federation] judges. I’d already quit FIS events before that, and I wanted to try something new. But FIS completely diss anything that’s new, they just want robotic, ballerina maneuvers with no scraping and a perfect landing. As soon as you try and put a little extra flair or style in there you get marked down, and that’s how I ended up in sixth place. They wanted it to be ‘Olympic standard’. I don’t think I deserved to win, because Nate [Kern]’s cab 10 was amazing that year, he fully stomped it. And Scott [McMorris] did a sick front 7… but how I ended up back in sixth place was a bit gay.
What do you think of the standard of your fellow British riders? Is it all it could be given the lack of mountains? Is there more to come?
Yeah it’s climbing for sure. The Brits are getting better and better every year. I was blown away by Ben [Kilner] in Deux Alpes a couple of weeks ago. He was sooo sick.
Do you think we could produce a genuine snowboarding superstar or is it always gonna be tough given our geography?
It’s not necessarily impossible. It’s all about the right mindframe. You’ve gotta have the right mindframe to do what you gotta do to get where you wanna be.
You definitely seem to have put yourself out there and challenged yourself?
That’s the thing. I didn’t just want to do seasons and stay within the UK scene; I wanted to get out and meet people in Europe. I didn’t just want be a big fish in a small pond.
You started out as a park rat. Are you getting more into powder these days?
Yeah. I only rode two park jumps this year and that was cos there was no powder left. I’m much more comfortable in the backcountry these days. I just like being out there, away from the crowds, hiking and shovelling all day for 10 minutes of shredding . If you get one trick it’s all worth it.
OK so what would be your perfect day – where do you shred and who with?
A perfect day? I’d take Erik Halgor we’d go to Sonnenkopf with Danny Larsen and Elias [Erhardt]. No cameras, no photographers, free lift pass and breakfast at Bakerutz in Innsbruck – they do a big plate of Austrian ham and eggs. Then after shredding Sonnenkopf all day we’d head up to Montefonga, hang out with Marko and blaze all evening.
We’ve gotta talk about the guitar. How long you been playing?
I’ve had a guitar since I was eight years old, but I’m left handed. My dad always told me that if I learnt to play right handed it wouldn’t be a problem; that way you can pick up a guitar anywhere you go . So I tried to learn, but until the age of 15 I completely sucked. Then I tried swapping the strings over and within two weeks I was already better playing left handed than I ever was after a good seven years playing the other way.
Your other big thing is the Loaded Snowboard shop. How did you get started?
When I first came to Andorra aged 12 or 13 there was a skate shop downtown called Loaded, which I loved going to. Then that shop closed and Pete – who’s now my business partner– went up to Arinsal and opened a shop up there. That was when I was starting snowboarding, back in the days when I was on Ride. When I was 18 I fucked my ankle just before the season and came home for a while and hooked up with Pete again. We were toying with the idea of how cool it would be to open a shop here in Soldeu – there’s just a really good vibe here and there’s lots of money in this town. A couple of days later the guy in the British supermarket my ex worked in told her he was looking to get rid of the place. I phoned Pete and it all fell into place from there. I went out at the Brits, and just after I won the slopestyle I got a call from Pete to say we’d got the shop. We laid out a big business plan, presented it to the bank, got a loan and that was it. We spent that summer pretty much living in the shop, fixing it up at night while our girlfriends were working doing bar work. It opened in November and now we’re into our fourth year.
So you’re an entrepreneur. Does the shop make any money?
We’re just starting to. But last year we had a big slump when the pound lost a lot of value – cos a lot of our customers are British. It didn’t make sense to buy abroad any more – like a Guiness cost seven quid, and it was the same with boards. We’ve been fully credit crunched.
A lot of people probably dream of starting their own snowboard shop – especially in the mountains. Would you recommend it? Is it a viable career?
Yeah. It’s cool. You gotta pick your timing though. You make money if you do it right – and if you don’t get crunched.
Do you think once you quit riding you’ll focus on the shop or do you have other ambitions?
I’m sort of planning to be finished with the shop by the time I finish snowboarding. We’ve got a nine year lease on this place, and I think if we get an ‘out’ we’ll take it. I wanna concentrate on other things. I’ve got a few ideas but nothing concrete yet. I’m just gonna freestyle through.
I’ve also gotta ask about the frontflips. Are you sick of being known as the ‘frontflip guy’?
Not really. Frontlfips are fun. I did get asked the other day, “If you could do only frontlfips for the rest of your life, or never do another frontflip again, which would you choose?” I said I’d never do another one again – there’s so many other tricks I wanna do. But I guess it did help my name. I don’t actually have a single one in my part this year. I tried a double handed nose grab frontflip in the park but it didn’t quite work, and I’ve got some other variations I still wanna try out.
What was the last trick you learnt?
Switch back 9 double stiffy.
What’s the double stiffies all about? I saw one in the teaser for the Pirates movie. Is that a signature trick?
I dunno. It started a couple of seasons ago in the Mayrhofen park. Me and Louis Purucker were messing around doing back 5 double nose grabs and back 5 double stiffies. One day I just span it a bit hard and went round 7, which felt really fun. It took a while to get the movement locked down, but this season I learned to do it switch backside too.
What’s next on the to-do list?
I’ve got a lot of ideas I’m playing with – I have a lot of double corks in my mind I wanna try. I do wanna share the love with the Whitelines readers but I can’t tell you what they are yet, they’re still a bit fresh.
And what are you gonna do with your facial hair next? You’re kind of known for it, and you’ve rocked quite a few different styles in you time…
Indeed I have. I’ve gone through the long beard, the scruffy beard, the hippy beard, the goatee, the short tash… and now I’ve got the old Dali moustache going on.
Is it waxed?
Don’t even need it mate. It just curls on its own, all natural.
Haha nice! Well I think this interview’s got silly enough… let’s wrap it up there. Any thank you’s?
Friends and family all over the world, the Loaded Militia, Whitelines, Merlin and Jamie, the Pirates crew, and all my homies I like to ride with – it wouldn’t be the same without them. Plus obviously my sponsors (Bataleon, Oakley, Vans, Union, Dalikfodda, Relentless). And cheers to anyone who enjoys my frontflips!