The Quin Ellul Interview | 15.1

Three-part 5050, Montreal, QC

Quin Ellul is a smooth operator. A kink-rail connoisseur with a unique eye for spots that pairs perfectly with his ask-for-forgiveness-not-permission approach to snowboarding. Whether it’s unearthing a new spot, or adding a brazen NDB on a classic, Quin doesn’t shy away from making his mark on the steel. Beyond his progressive snowboarding ability, he’s unapologetic in his opinions. He knows what he likes, and what he wants. So sit back, and watch him bring these things into reality.

Photos: Liam Glass

Words: Finn Westbury

“The only way this spot was possible was with a ladder. I spent the next day searching for a rogue ladder from the window of the minivan. I remember waking up the next day determined to find one. I walked into the alley behind our Airbnb, and sure enough, I saw exactly what I needed in between buildings, right beside someone’s back door. I called the homies, and we prepared the getaway vehicle. I ran up, grabbed the 10-footer, and loaded it into the Van and took off. I was scared to drop it back off in case they were watching from inside the house.” —Quin

Lipslide 270, Montreal, QC

Hey Quin. Did you get into any Calgary Stampede festivities? 

Definitely not. We try to steer clear of cowboy hats.

[Laughs] Other than that, Calgary’s good?

Yeah, other than the yearly cowboy costumes. Great snowboard scene. Probably the most popping street snowboarding scene in Canada.

Do you find it easier to film footage in a city where there’s such a strong film scene?

Definitely. Every year you grow as a snowboarder and as a person. The ability to be here year-round allows you to find a lot of spots. You start to see things differently. Possibilities change and grow. There were some awesome spots I saw the first year in Calgary. They were a little scarier, a little big—things I wasn’t confident in at the time. Those feel nice to get a couple of years later. 

What has worked for you in getting the confidence to go after scarier spots, like on this issue’s cover?

It comes down to the fact that I’ve gone through enough kinks in my life. It’s not even really running through my head. Just jump on the rail and get off the end. The more things you do, the more confidence you build, and the more confident you are, the better. If you’re overthinking what could go wrong, you’re not focusing on the stuff that can go right—the stuff that you want to be happening. If you’re on a drop-in and the worst-case scenario is going through your brain, you should probably just unstrap and chill for a bit. 

Eventually, you made the big move out West from the Toronto area. At first, you didn’t quite make it to the West Coast. Where did you land, and what happened next?

I actually lived on the ski hill at Big White. My friend Hayden’s family knew the head of the lift department there. They told Hayden that when he was 18, he could get a job and a place to live. Long story short, he asked me if I wanted to go, too. So I said yes. I graduated, and when October came, I sold my drum kit to get some extra money, and I went. Coming from Ajax, Ontario, you’re riding down a hill for 20 to 30 seconds, and that’s all you get. Moving to a place that was more of a mountain was huge. That’s honestly where I think I got a lot better at snowboarding. Once the season ended at Big White, I bought a Whistler spring pass, and I ended up staying for the summer—I rode every single day of the glacier season. Once that came to an end, I wanted to be able to film street the next year. I was eager and I didn’t want to be stuck on a mountain anymore. I moved back to Ontario and filmed my first part with my friend Dawson [McLachlan] for Aint Finna II. As soon as the season ended, I went back out to Whistler again, for the spring and summer. That’s when I decided to see it through and spend a winter out there.

Why didn’t Whistler stick for you? Respect for managing to escape the bubble.

It’s hard to give it your all if you’re not living in a place where you wake up with snow on the ground, where you can just go outside and be able to get [street] clips. In Whistler, you still have to pay your rent, get time off work, and then escape to somewhere that has decent spots. It’s a lot harder. I think that’s why Calgary works for me. If you wake up and there’s snow on the ground, it’s go time.

It’s interesting to hear about how you bounced back and forth between Ontario and out West. You just moved into a new house, what’s good with that?

It’s me, Jesse Jarrett, and our friend Jake Slack. It works great. I got to keep my drum kit. We have a basement, so we turned that into a practice space. I love it.

Living with Jesse is pretty damn perfect, granted that you two filmed a video last winter. Are you and Jesse editing it together? What’s the vibe, full parts?

We’re gonna work on some things individually, but yeah, we’re going to collaborate on the whole thing. I think nowadays it’s really important to figure out how you want to lay out your video. You could go with the typical parts section, but I think the combination formats that are coming out lately are really beautiful to watch. It’s nice to just have a general mix-up. I don’t need all my clips to be in my part. I have clips I’d love to give to other sections of the video, and I want other people to have footage inside of my section. Sometimes you’re watching something, and you realize halfway through, ‘Oh, this is their section.’

How crucial is it to be in control of how you’re presenting yourself, your snowboarding, and your crew?

If the video isn’t hitting, you’re going to sit there for two minutes, and then you’re gonna click out. For our videos, Stir, and Here’s Where the Story Ends, no one really knew who we were. People within the snowboarding scene in Canada, sure. But as soon as you look at the broader spectrum of people watching snowboarding videos… I think it’s important to broaden your horizon of who you’re trying to make a video for. You’re not just making a video for your friends to enjoy. You want people you don’t know to care about it, too. You have to work your ass off to hold people there to watch the whole video. It needs to be filmed nicely, and the songs can’t be super busted. It comes down to having people be able to finish the videos—that’s what I care about.

Nosepress, Calgary, AB

You alluded to this earlier in our conversation, but you’re a drummer. Regardless if it’s a casual hobby or not, that grants you a unique appreciation for music. How important is the soundtrack when you’re putting together a video?

Trying to find songs that people don’t know is great. It’s about curating your soundtrack. It doesn’t even come down to how good the snowboarding or skateboarding is. It comes down to how well it’s made. Mid-level skateboarding can be one of my favourite videos if it’s filmed amazingly and the soundtrack’s awesome. It’s re-watchable. If you’re gonna put out an 18-minute video, well, not a lot of people are gonna sit through it unless something is keeping them there. A well-made video is one you’re gonna wanna click on again and again. It’s all about the feeling.

You’ve mentioned to me before that Alex Bielawski was a big inspiration growing up, which is cool because he helped film your video this year. How was that?

Having him there was such a good feeling. That helps with some of those spots we talked about earlier, which you’ve known about for years. He’s gonna make them look exactly how you want it. He made us really happy. Looking back on everything now, this is the nicest video, filming-wise, that we have ever had. That’s something that we wanted throughout the years [laughs]. You dream of being filmed on a professional level. I think we finally achieved that.

It’s nice to be able to recognize when the filmer nails it. On that note, how do you feel about your footage this year?

I don’t think I’ll ever be happy, but I’m content with it. I love the fact that I’m never fully fulfilled. There’s always that internal part where I didn’t achieve what I wanted to. That’s just me and how I operate. It’s easy to self-analyze yourself to the point that you’ll never honestly like how you look snowboarding. You’ll never be confident with how you snowboard. You’ll be confident snowboarding, but you’ll always have this insecurity about watching yourself. But like you said, when there’s someone there who made your clips look better than they ever have before, that’s something to be proud of.

You had a pretty brutal lingering injury last year. This year, you made it through in one piece. Do you have any words to share on the process of coming back from a tricky injury?

When I got hurt last year, it came down to the fact that we were working on something that I was hyped to be part of. I was back home for Christmas, and then Toronto got hit with 60 centimetres and it was like a kid in a candy store vibe. It was two weeks into that storm that I hurt myself, and I didn’t think it was super bad. That’s when I learned my lesson to trust your body. Listen to your body. You always want to get more footage, but two weeks more of rest versus two months more of being hurt… I really pushed it. I didn’t even fall when I reinjured myself. I was trying to hit a high-impact spot, and when I landed, my rib just exploded again. We had to drive three hours back from Niagara Falls, and I was holding the “holy shit” bar the whole time. Every time the car turned, it felt like my rib was gonna pop out of my chest. It wasn’t very fun.

That was intense to witness. You were noticeably in pain and still strapping up because you wanted to get a clip. You said it best—learning experience.

This is one of the biggest things in your life that you care about, so when you can’t do it… I was struggling mentally, but yeah, that’s what happens with an injury and I hadn’t experienced that before. That was my first glance into hurting yourself and not being able to achieve what you want to achieve. I lost my ability to feel how I normally do on a snowboard and that got to me. I came into this year so excited and so ready to make it happen. I was grateful to make it out in one piece because that became a thought in my head that never used to be there.

I feel like you’re usually pretty good at landing on your feet. Are you getting financial support from anybody?

Yes, thankfully Vans. If I didn’t have them, I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did this winter. As somebody who doesn’t wanna work from December until the end of March, it’s hard to be financially stable. You need to be available and ready to go during the winter months. I’m scared of applying to jobs that are year-round that I could get, and that I could be happy doing. I don’t wanna be in the position where you get your foot in the door of something you actually like doing, but you can’t stick around. The challenge as of the last couple of years is finding something that sustains you in the time you’re not snowboarding, and that’ll allow you to do what you want when it’s time to snowboard. I mean, you could work any job, you can work landscaping, but I wanna work in things that actually interest me.

A blessing and a curse. You’re essentially doing the same thing that pro snowboarders around the world are doing, but you’re only getting a little bit of direct financial support from one company. Do you think there is a path for trying to get a proper paycheque for boarding?

I don’t think I’m in it for a proper paycheque, so to speak. I mean, the financial support to be able to take on the winter is huge. That is the epitome of what you want—take a whole winter off and just solely focus on filming every day and helping out.

Roof to boardslide, Montreal, QC

What are you doing for work in the meantime?

I’m back into bartending. It’s chill. I like walking out of the door with cash in hand. Then some video stuff on the side. That’s a side hustle for me, it’s something I enjoy doing. Even if it’s not in terms of skating or snowboarding. That was the career that I wanted when I was younger. I did most of my high school courses in video and editing.

You’re opinionated. You know what you like, which I can appreciate. I was wondering if there’s anything you would like to see change within snowboarding.

I’m very opinionated, I’ll say that. I use opinions to curate what I actually like and enjoy. If there’s something you genuinely don’t like, it’s just not for you. You know what I mean? I’m not necessarily saying, “Stop doing this” or “that shit’s whack.” Being you is great. You can’t knock someone for being themselves. When it comes down to snowboarding, we’re opinionated because we also film and edit it. We look at things so much deeper than other people do. That can help, but that can also be your worst enemy. I think snowboarding has taken on change in a great way over the last couple of years. There is a new look compared to when we were younger. When you buy a snowboard movie like Encore, it’s an absolute video masterpiece—that’s not something that I see happening lately. But also, the way we watch information is very different now. Everything has changed. The fact that Thrasher will put an ender as the first post for a video when it comes out is fucked up.

Insightful thoughts. Does the ender on the gram piss you off?

If I see the ender before I see the video… I’ll still watch the video because some of the best stuff can be in the middle. But little things like that bug me. You kind of have to realize that, when a video comes out and it’s good, you got 24 to 48 hours of people somewhat caring about it. I don’t necessarily think that’s always true, because when I watch a video that I love, that’s the video I fall back on. In the current day and age, where there’s so much being produced constantly, it’s not like your latest video is gonna be the thing for the next four years.

How does the influence of a video affect you?

To have something special, when you first see it, it has to be something that you really enjoy. When that happens, you’re gonna have that feeling every time you watch it. I think that’s what the community of snowboarding really is—being inspired by people is what keeps you chugging along. Without inspiration, things turn sour and become boring. Every year there’s new inspiration. People are innovating in ways where it’s like, “Wow, that spot was fucking awesome.” I think people care about the aesthetic more.

Time for a heavy-hitting question. What do you want to do next, in snowboarding, and in life?

When I moved to Calgary, I felt like I figured out what I really enjoy in life a lot more than I had before. When you live in a ski town, your life’s kind of just circles. You’re not surrounded by the opportunity to break out and do things that you always wanted to do. In Calgary, I figured out, I love skating, I love snowboarding, I love filming, I love editing. Slowly afterward, I got back into drumming, so I had my corner: skating, snowboarding, making videos, and music. No matter what, if I’m doing those four things, I am ultimately so happy. Career-wise, I definitely wanna work towards something that I can fall back on more securely or just have going for myself every year financially. Kind of just building as a person too, because that’s an important thing, you can’t just put everything on hold in your life for one thing. You gotta keep pursuing everything at the same time.

It’s about that balance, as you mentioned. What’s your plan for the near future?

Edit this video with Jesse, and make the greatest snowboarding movie we’ve made yet. Just keep working on that. As long as I surround myself with the things that bring me happiness, I’m inspired by all aspects of them. I can do any single one of them and there’s always something pushing me to continue and to be better, or to learn more. That’s the beautiful part, as long as you have something that’s keeping your brain moving and going, it’s awesome. I think that’s how I stay mentally healthy and be content with my life. I think that’s the hardest thing that a lot of people go through when they find themselves just working a job and living their life. They don’t have an outlet. I have four, and I love all of them [laughs].

Printed in Issue 15.1
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