A Lesson in Good Times with Jesse BurtnerBy Nick Lipton • Aug 20th, 2008 • Category: Features, Hump Day Interviews
Think Thank Creator Jesse Burtner
Snowboarding these days has lost a step or two in my opinion. Sure lots of cool stuff is going on, but Costco brand snowboards, half-pipe Mom’s, the Olympics… I think you catch my drift. Before RedBull was pumping millions of dollars into helicopter driven High-Def follow cams, snowboarding was about going snowboarding and having fun, not one-footed quad backflip 1440’s. The raw spirit snowboarding once held got chewed up and pooped out by the big industry folk. No longer are we thought of as outlaw snowboard freaks, instead we are thought of as totally cool rippin’dudes! Personally, I hate that, so I met up with this guy Jesse Burtner of LibTech fame. Jesse has been around long enough to have seen the glory days, and to be able to tell us why last winter was awesome, why next winter will be better, and why we should all keep snowboarding.
Nick: Who are you? How do you spend your time?
Jesse Burtner, I’m 30 (youngest of the old) and when not snowboarding I hide in my house with the blinds pulled up, watching the Olympics, drinking Diet Coke with a fan on trying to stay cool. Well that’s what I’m doing right now at least.
Nick: Jesse Burtner, I read an article about you years ago. How long have you been snowboarding? What keeps you motivated?
It has been a while now, 11 years as a “pro,” but I feel like it’s been a few different eras of boarding for me. I spent the early years doing competitions and trying to keep up with the X-Games crowd. It was cool and exciting but it wasn’t really me and it wasn’t helping me progress as a rider, it was actually limiting, boring, and frustrating me. I was squashing my actual riding style by trying to be something I wasn’t. Then when I was 24 I lost all my major sponsors, I quit giving a shit about pro status and just rode for the pure love of tricks, and of course filming. That was a new beginning for me, it was also the beginning of Think Thank so it was a time of catharsis, the summer of ’69, I mean ’04. And that’s the wave I’ve been riding since, new perspective, new tricks, new videos, just doing whatever the hell I want to on my board.
Nick: You are one of the few people who don’t ride for Burton that wears a helmet. What’s up with that? Massive head smack or just a personal choice?
Massive head smack. Right there in between eras I cracked my head on some stairs. It was bad, they opened up my skull twice and it was a huge disaster. Huge medical bills and I almost died. That put snowboarding down a couple rungs on the “grand scheme of things” meter. I kind of spent a foggy year on my board wondering what I was doing. That’s also when I started trying more “weird” tricks just trying to push my snowboarding in other directions, not just bigger, faster, more gnar gnar. I also had to eat some humble pie and put on a brain bucket. That was part of starting fresh, I had just had to stop caring what people would think because if I wanted to ride I had to wear a helmet. It’s worked out nicely though, I love wearing a helmet now, and my wife and family love it too.
Nick: In the world of Think Thank you are God, how did that project get underway?
I had been making movies for seven years with the venerable Jason Borgstede, we were called JB Deuce. We killed it with the Deuce, making Alaska based snowboard/skateboard vids with the financial help of Scott Liska of Boarderline. After a while I started to develop a completely different idea of artistic direction for snowboard videos. Jason and I were headed in totally opposite directions in this regard, so after seven videos, I broke up the band. I wanted to start something that would be a progressive artistic statement told through the snowboarding and art of my good friends. So Think Thank was born. It’s a think tank who’s slogan is “Thanks Brain!” another way of saying “Think Thank. ” I quickly enlisted my main man, Sean Genovese and my main squeeze Pika to help on the day to day, and to share in the spoils, if there were to be any. Sean was the man on “Thunk” our first movie because I was working for Mikey on “Love/Hate”. So Sean handled the crews that winter and it was great. Now the three of us tackle the projects together, with others like animator Todd Lown, or title man Andy Simutis, computer animator Woody Engle and, of course our talented video guys.
Nick: Let’s chat about some of your Think Thanker’s. First up is Gus, is he snowboarding or Gusboarding?
He is on a new level, a level we didn’t know existed. Remember you wont know real progression when you see it, it’s usual unrecognizable as progress, it’s just weird looking. It’s easy to spot another 180 but what Gus does is hard to put a name to or to quantify. This might sound pretentious, but I look at Gus like a modern artist, like Pollack on a snowboard. He is expressing his personality completely through his snowboard and is following a path of progression that has very little to do with the present day values of popular snowboard culture.
Nick: Skateboarding sensation Scott Stevens.
Scott could almost be a pro skater. He is so fun to watch on a board, freakin’ twinkle toes. That guy is amazing and I’m so stoked to have the opportunity to ride with him, to help share his snowboarding with the world.
Nick: What about Jesse Burtner, that guy films some action packed parts. Banger backcountry action combined with an ever growing array of innovating tricks, where does he find the time to do it all?
I think I’ve just been at is for so long that I got to take some time the last few years to try new stuff. It’s that new stuff that keeps me going up there everyday. I was just chucking off backcountry jumps for years and years. I kind of hit a personal ceiling in that department a while back. So it’s been jibbing, getting weird, and just snowboarding everything in my path that got me stoked again. It’s been fun, and I’m not done, still lot’s of tricks to try.
Nick: You seem spend a lot of time in Alaska and Washington, why are you so partial to those places?
I grew up in AK and have been going back every year since high school. I moved to Washington and after a year met my soon to be wife, so we stayed there. It was a mellow Alaska-ish scene and the people were legit and just down for snowboarding. The Alaska, Oregon, Washington triangle has been great to me, they are the places I know and they are different then where most pros and film crews focus their time.
Nick: How has growing up in the Northwest shaped who you are as a snowboarder?
Man it has to be those early years for me at Mt. Baker. Riding fast and low, strapping in on the lift, putting 30 days in a row, snowing or raining. Now up at Snoqualmie I’m getting to see this ridiculous rebirth of Northwest progression. And it’s so sick up there people always having epic sessions with less than perfect conditions. Don’t get me wrong we get some perfect days too, we just aren’t slaves to them.
Nick: What happened to the wild days of snowboarding? Do you think kids these days care more about how their pants fit or slashing powder?
That’s funny, I just wrote a poem about pants. I think it’s still wild it’s just bigger… so it has a tendency to not get as crazy. You got the Olympic crowd, all those fetuses chucking in the park with their Mom filming HD from Red Bull’s helicopter. Then you got the usual suspects; Gangstas, Emos, weekend warriors, and then you got the general public boarding 5 days a season and greasing all the wheels that we rely on in the snowboard industry. Then there are sub categories and sub sub categories all which are important in their small differences. Being at Mt. Hood in the summer I get a good feel for the kids (that sounded bad) of tomorrow and I think we have a little bit of everything coming out of snowboarding right now. And that’s perfect in my opinion, diversity is so important for snowboarding.
Nick: You snowboard year round, got any advice for kids trying to get more time on the mountain?
You know what you need to do. Dive in. Go all in, this is a lifestyle and you have to sign yourself over to it completely, you can’t just dip your toes in and expect a pro contract. If you want to snowboard, just snowboard, don’t wait for your next life. Focus on the snowboarding, completely, make it all about that, don’t try and get rich.
Nick: Internet kids are seem to enjoy hating on everything, do you have any advice for them?
Those guys are cool with me. They can hate all they want as long as they still buy “Stack Footy.”
Nick: Who do you have your eye on as an up and comer? What is so special about that kid?
So many kids right now. Chris Larson is Think Thank’s resident fetus. He is going to be a serious video part slayer if he can stay out of jail. He’s 17 and from Alaska, rides for Dinos, shares first part of Stack Footy with Dre. He is a young dude but he’s been around us for years already so he’s down, he knows the program and always keeps his footage legit.
Nick: Who buys your groceries?
Lib Tech is my sponsor. They rule! Thanks Pete, Annette, Trevor, Zach, Pos, Cobb, Norm, Paul and the rest of the crew. Straight up most amazing company to ride for. I also represent The Summit At Snoqualmie, thanks Krush!! That place is a Mecca for creative snowboarding, it’s like Think Thank’s blank canvas. Spacecraft been sponsoring me and my videos for years, thanks Stefan, Sarah, and Ryan!! Smith cop shades and goggles, thanks Corey. I wear the wild colors of Airblaster in a medium. Best stuff, best cuts, amazing people. One Ball Jay, Matt Cummins, enough said. Bent Metal Binders, I think that’s it.
Photo by Mike Yoshida
Be sure to grab a copy of Think Thanks 08’ release “Stack Footy,” which is on shelves now. After you do that go to the video section of YoBeat and check out Jesse’s moment stack to get a glimpse of his boarding skills.
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