The plight of millennials has been well documented everywhere from the smack-stained pages of Vice magazine to the crisp pink folds of the Financial Times. A generation faced with the prospect of having to save the planet, fix the global economic system, solve the housing crisis, hold down eight jobs just to pay the rent and also work out whether skinny jeans will finally go out of fashion in favour of something more practical (evidence from Shoreditch suggests this is already happening), have – in many cases – chosen to flick the Vs to their parents’ generation and opt out in favour of something more achievable, like having fun and making a nice cup of coffee.
"A generation faced with the prospect of having to save the planet has decided to live a more itinerant, sensation-seeking existence"
Instead of gently caressing an officious middle-manager’s testicles and grinding away on a slippery corporate ladder for 15 years, just to buy a cramped flat with poor sound insulation that’s within easy reach of a crack den, many have abandoned the societal structures around which baby boomers built their lives, and decided to live a more itinerant, sensation-seeking existence.
The old world just looks too damn horrible to engage with, there must be a better way.
In parallel, snowboarding has ceased to be the money-printing machine that it once was. Young kids are opting to live in virtual worlds, eat sweets, drink litres of sugary, caffeinated, flavoured acid-water, and even worse, ski (for fuck’s sake) in greater numbers than ever before.
This has left snowboarding – even with all the quarter quell excitement and TV eyeballs of the Olympics – somewhat impoverished and unable to provide a gilded existence for all but the most incredibly bouncy and twisty human beings.
So it comes as little surprise to see the rise of the snowboarding hobo, and their weapon of choice: the pimped out passion wagon.
A few years ago, before Eric found himself following Travis Rice’s slough around the Pacific on increasingly hair-brained expeditions, 'Brothers on the Run' was a neat little webisode series that detailed the Jackson brothers’ van-based “longest navigable road" expedition from Alaska to Chile. It contained some great riding, a bare-bottomed glance into two of snowboarding’s best and most lovable riders’ lives, a bit of ukulele playing, fishing, Sam Masekele overdub and some slightly dodgy-looking jewellery-making (it probably seemed like a good idea at the time, John).
One of the stars of the show was the thugged out death-black van that John and E-Jack put together for the trip. It looked badass, and made what was already an incredibly romantic and seductive idea (intercontinental travel peppered with snowboarding, surfing and beard-growth) all the more appealing.
Whilst I don’t think the Jackson brothers can claim ownership of the travel-van idea (Mike Basich has been on solitary Alaskan pow-missions in his wagon for years, and living in West Wales I spend a lot of my time in the summer trapped behind massive white Winnebagos winding through narrow country roads as their septuagenarian drivers argue over who has the right to the last Werther’s original), the Jackson Brothers endorsement of the snowboarding hobo lifestyle probably marked the start of the “acceleration of the adoption curve", as someone who isn’t a millennial might say.
Since then, in no small part thanks to Eddie Wall’s entertaining TWSnow live feeds which frequently crawl around the inside of snowboarders’ campervans – uncovering hidden truths about their lovemaking, personal hygiene and defecation habits – I have seen all manner of envy-inducing rigs that made me wish that back in 1996, when I lived in the back of a Vauxhall Astra van for several months in a car park in Hossegor (surfing, eating banana and Nutella pancakes, downing shots under duress from swarthy Aussies, occasionally nipping to the “two-frank-wank-tank" for light relief and trying to cop off with topless French beauties) I’d had a better grasp of engineering and carpentry – and thus could have created a vehicular space where I could have done all the sleeping, wanking, love-making and pooing I wanted, without any need to ever leave the van.
Spending all your money to create a sick passion wagon, rather than paying rent for a year, seems like a no brainer. As does having the freedom to travel to any resort where the snow is good. As does just living free from all the encumbrances of modern life – so I fully expect that we will see an ever increasing rise in the snowboarding hobo lifestyle. This feels like a well thought-out "fuck you" to the man, whoever he is, and should be celebrated.
"Spending all your money to create a sick passion wagon, rather than paying rent for a year, seems like a no brainer"
Some friends of mine are even hobo-ing with young kids for a year, which is super gnarly (try making love to your wife/husband/partner/pet dog whilst your kids are 3 feet away and – FINALLY YOU LITTLE FUCKERS! – asleep, and see how you get on with your technique) and they’re not even Millennials.
All of this has got me fantasising about joining the hobo movement – and thinking, what would be the ultimate set up?
Let’s assume for budgetary purposes that we have to start with a Ford Transit Van, as opposed to a tour bus. Here’s my dream van:
• Solar Panels (detachable in case it snows / so you can optimise their aspect to capture maximum rays)
Critical for being off-grid, and charging your ipad, ipod, iphone, macbook, Bluetooth speakers, wireless headphones, boot dryer, electric toothbrush and nasal hair trimmer.
• Sick Paint Job
Matte black or camo preferably. Or perhaps a Jamie Lynn custom job with a cat with boobs draped over a guitar by a mountain - for looking cool, obviously.
• Shower Unit
You don’t want to stink up the place, other than with your stinky tindy and tailfish grabs.
• Bog (composting not chemical)
Uncontrolled poo in a confined space is bad, as is crapping in sub-zero temperatures next to a tree, as are chemicals. Keep it natural and feed the planet with your poo, without getting frostbite on your ass, or attacked by a bear whilst you are reading an old edition of Whitelines and curling out a fat one.
• Foldaway Bed
You need sleep or eventually you will start hallucinating and die; more importantly you need somewhere to dream about new snowboard tricks. P.S. If it’s rockin’, don’t come knockin’...
Less Sensible (but still fundamental)
• Snowboard Tuning Workshop
You want your board to be as slippy as possible at all times, and you might get lucky by offering someone who is easily confused a hot wax.
Every van needs a bar. Somewhere to sit with your buddies and share a sunny beer at the end of the day. Somewhere to keep alcohol that can sterilise seeping bed sores or infection from bed bugs. Somewhere to numb the pain of a boardslide to scorpion in front of your mates.
• Parkour Training Mattresses and Foamy Crash Pad Things
This can double as your sofa, and with a small adjustment will also allow you to practice your double backflips and teddy bear rolls, helping you improve your physical literacy and spatial awareness for those slappy mute grabs off green jumps.
• Detachable Rails
Rig up the van with a roof rack which doubles as a flat-down-flat rail. These can be embedded into the snow, or set up in the car park for an impromptu proto-Scott Stevens skate session.
• Hermetically-Sealed Storage Chamber (for snowboard boots and socks)
Even with a boot dryer rigged up to the solar panel doing its work every day, eventually your footwear is going to pong. As such, having an airtight, medically approved and biologically neutral environment in which your boots can be placed is critical.
Les Pieces de Resistance
• Mobile Disco
Needs no explanation, other than to say it could be a source of income (e.g. providing a mini Snowbombing festival in a car park) as well as a source of personal entertainment. You could also use this to drown out the soundtrack and waffle whilst watching The Fourth Phase.
• Roof-Based Vegetable Patch and Chicken Coop
Eat your greens and eggs for next to nothing. Avoid scurvy. Avoid clogging up your small intestine with excessive baguette consumption.
Always good to have lasers on stuff. Don’t really have any purpose.