Photo: Crispin Cannon
W O R D S / E R I C G R E E N E
At 17 years old, a nerdy small-town skate kid moved out of a small town
on the Quebec side of Ottawa and migrated west to Whistler with nothing
but a snowboard and a skateboard. He got a job at Mongolie Grill
and rode the mountain every day. It’s a classic story. A million other
kids did and continue to do the same thing. But Brian ain’t your classic
dude. He’s a true free spirit, wild at heart, possessor of the kind of generosity
to fix the world, and a minimalist who possesses little more than
his positive vibrations. Brian currently works full time and lives in a van
on the west side of Vancouver. In the last five years, he’s stepped on
a snowboard just a handful of times. His life is a contrast of his former
life. Brian has a past, and it’s the most talent-filled and potential-destined
past you never heard about.
The McClatchy story could be scripted as an incredible film—the
kind of film about ability, heroics, kindness, with a touch of tragedy. A
film about the underdog. Such a film would tell the story of coming of
age, finding oneself, overcoming conformity, and fading out during the
ascendance of one’s path. Damn, it could be a great film. I’d absolutely
pay $13 to watch it in the theatre.
I had the pleasure of coming up snowboarding in the same wave as
Brian and if you were in the scene back then, he was the best, but only
to those who knew him. Straight up, he had the quickest feet and took
rail riding to a place that nobody could grasp at the time. If you were to
ask me, and I doubt you would, but fuck it, I’ll tell you anyway: I don’t
think people could relate to his snowboarding, so they didn’t really
accept it. He rode like nobody else during a time when everybody rode
the same. Saying he was ahead of his time is a drastic understatement.
The snowboarding came and went as a chapter in Brian’s life. He did
it for the love and his raw skill took him to a low level of fame, where he
tapped out because he didn’t treat it as a job or a goal or an achievement
or anything like that. And when he was ready for the next chapter,
he walked away. Everyone stood there scratching their heads as he
walked away from the mountain without even a courtesy glance over
his shoulder. What he left behind was an underground legend status
that has since been inspiring the odd-men-out to snowboard creatively,
for the love, and be good people who treat everyone with kindness.
Brian’s got the legacy of a dead icon in the eyes of some, but that’s just
not how it is. He’s around and he’s still the same dude. And for everyone
who knows him, he’s a really, really good dude.
50-50 Hastings Kink, Vancouver Circa 2005. Photo: Crispin Cannon
When did you first move out west?
Right out of high school. I moved to Whistler and got a place in staff
housing. I didn’t know much about snowboarding at the time.
But you figured it out quickly and got onto the Stepchild team when
they first started the brand?
Yeah, pretty much. I was living with Graydon [Kavanagh] and Kirk Bereska,
and Graydon introduced me to Sean Johnson when he started riding
the first Stepchild boards. I got on as a flow kid and there weren’t really
any expectations for me to be listed as a team rider.
How long did you grind out the Whistler life?
Nine years, man. I moved there thinking I would do at least a decade,
but I only made it nine years.
Why did you leave it all behind?
I was ready for a change and my girlfriend at the time wanted to go to
school, so it seemed like a good move to get out of Whistler. I’ve been in
Vancouver for five years now.
Are you planning to do a decade in Vancouver?
No, definitely not [laughs]. I like it here, but I think I’m gonna be moving
out of here soon.
Photo: Crispin Cannon
Where to next?
I’m not sure. I live the van life. I like living in my van. I guess my dream
would be to do six months in New Zealand and six months in Canada
What do you consider the high points of your short career as a snowboarder?
Maybe when I was doing rail trips. The trip I did to Poland was definitely
one of the best ones. Funny enough, trips back home to Ottawa
to do street rails were always great. Also, the two years I had a Summit snowmobile
were great, before I got a Rev. I had the Summit on a trailer
on the back of my car and would go sledding all the time, but when I got
the Rev, I barely ever went because I had too many bills I guess.
Were there any low points?
No, not really. There were never any super high points, but I never had any
serious injuries or anything.
Do you feel like you could’ve had more success if you did what people
told you to do rather than doing what you wanted?
I would say the opposite about that. I was kinda stuck in the middle of doing
what I wanted to do and having sponsors tell me to get a certain image
and do other things. I think that if I had just done what I wanted
right from the start and seen the bigger picture, then I might have been
Are you jaded on snowboarding these days?
Yeah, for sure. I hope to get into it again. I haven’t been going much in
the last three or four years, but I’d like to get back into it one day.
Why do you think you’re such an underground icon to so many upand-
comers in Whistler, some of whom you don’t even know personally?
I don’t really know. I guess because I’ve always been like the underdog.
Riding for Stepchild at the start was probably a part of that. You don’t
want to be hyped on the super cool Tony Hawk kinda dude. You wanna
be stoked on the underdog.
Switch Frontside Boardslide, Vancouver BC, 2014. Photo: Severin Samulski
What is your life like now?
It’s good. It’s great. Being in the city gets to me a bit because people
don’t really see eye-to-eye with my lifestyle. I do what I want, let my
dogs run around loose, and swim in the ocean naked when I want. I’ve
been skating, too. Not too too much, but a little bit. I hike up the mountains
with my dogs and do shit like that. Things are good.
What’s important to you?
My family. Even though they’re on the other side of the country, there’s
nothing better than hanging out with my brothers. Having dinner parties
with friends and hanging out with good people is important to me.
What are your thoughts on the snowboarding scene, looking at it from
the outside a few years down the road now?
I think it’s got potential to go the right way, but there’s always so much
politics with big companies and how the money is always talking. I think
as long as people keep snowboarding for the love and not selling out to
the big companies, there’s some hope. Like the Drink Water guys and the
DOPE crew who are doing things themselves outside of doing things for
their sponsors have got the right idea.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I want to build myself a cabin and live off the grid. That’s my goal. I’d
prefer to do it in B.C., even if it’s on some land that’s not mine.
Any final words from the underdog?
No. Am I still painful to interview? I was never good at being interviewed.