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Hump Day Jumps Buildings with Austin Smith

For someone who’s managed to blow out his knee, not once, but twice, Austin Smith has actually had a very blessed snowboard career. After two years out with injury, he’s got still got the sponsor support and to get back out there, and this year, that’s exactly what he plans to do. With accolades such as rookie of the year and video part of the year already under his belt, it seems unlikely that he’ll have any trouble. Just don’t expect him to throw any triple corks.

So you just got yourself a house in Portland, where young people go to retire… but you’re not hurt anymore, so how is that gonna work out?

I’m not coming here to retire. I still live in Bend, but I do a lot of stuff at Nike in the summer, so I just wanted to be able to come here in the summer for Nike. I still live in the Bend snowboarding for the winter. I’m not quite ready to work at a coffee shop yet.

What is it like living with the infamous Donny?

Donny lived at my house in Bend too before he went to Denmark, and now he’s living at my house in Portland and he’s Euro Donny. I’ve known him for a long time, everyone gives him a lot of shit, but he’s alright.

Why does he get so much shit? Who is he?

He came from Bend. He’s been getting shit forever. It used to be a lot worse when we were younger. Curtis and a lot of other people from Bend would pick on him pretty bad. There’s always the one kid in every group that gets the brunt of most jokes, but now he’s gonna do some great things with his life, he’s Euro donny. Euro Donny’s pretty cool.

Did you really make him pay for a new fridge?

There is no fridge, there’s a mini fridge. I’m waiting for it.

Rail boardin’ Photo: mark Welsh/Nitro Snowboards

So you really are a slumlord.

I guess so, yeah. I’m a total slumlord.

Why, why not be a respectable landlord?

I’m a respectable landlord. Curtis hasn’t paid me rent in like four months, I haven’t kicked him out yet. That’s pretty respectable I think.

Would you rather adopt an animal or a human child?

I don’t know, I really don’t like animals at this point. A lot of my friends are getting animals and it seems like too much responsibility. I think I’d rather adopt a human, but like a 19 year old, so they can sort of take care of themselves. A dog you always have to take care no matter how old they are, but a human at like 14, I can kick em out.

Is actually being able to snowboard this season cutting into any of the activities you adopted while out for the past two seasons?

No, now I actually have something to do with myself, I’ve had too much free time. I’ve been bored. So now it gives me something to do with my days and it’s been awesome. I just got back from Canada for two weeks.

What were you doing with yourself when you couldn’t ride?

I don’t even really know, it seems like it flew past. I went to Mexico for a month, I went to Panama for a month. That was weird. I’d never really been anywhere tropical so it was cool, except I realized I don’t really like warm temperatures and hot places, so that didn’t pan out too well. Then this last year I was just at Nike doing rehab every day. I’ve been snowboarding in the summer too, going to Argentina, I just haven’t been able to winter board in two years.

You’ve had sort of a whirlwind career: break out, win rookie of the year and video of the year, to two seasons on the bench. How are you going to make those two years of collecting paychecks for nothing up to your sponsors? Got anything big planned?

Come on, for nothing? (laughs) Yeah, I gotta start snowboarding again, I gotta get back into it. That’s what I’m doing right now. I feel fortunate to have the sponsors I have that have been willing to stand by my side while I’ve been hurt. If I rode for Burton I can pretty much guarantee you I wouldn’t be sitting in the same shoes — I would have been fired a long time ago. It’s lucky I have a good relationship with my sponsors and that they believe I can come back and do something mediocre at least.

Summer boardin’. Photo Mark Welsh/ Nitro Snowboards

Are you gonna learn triple corks?

Nah, Don’t think I’m gonna do any triple corks.

Straight to quad corks?

Straight quad corks! Nah, I think I’m gonna keep it at single corks I think. I dont know, The whole progression of snowboarding has gotten really weird. There’s so many advocates of “this guy is really good for the progression of snowboarding” and this is really good for the “progression of snowboarding” but I mean, where do those people really want snowboarding to go? We’re already doing, well not all of us, but some of the crazy people are already doing triples flips. What do they want it to progress to, five flips? The same with the city stuff, and the progression of city riding, people now, mostly Dan Brisse, are jumping over buildings and over streets.

All these progression advocates want people to do bigger and better things. Travis Rice is definitely one who is progressing the sport, and he’s been a real spokesperson of the double cork. Then you get people trying to snowboard with them, like Scotty Lago was filming for his new movie. I heard he just broke his jaw and knocked out some teeth and ripped a bunch muscles in his face and had to get his mouth wired shut. Is that worth the 4th flip and the progression of snowboarding? I don’t know? If it has to go anywhere I think it should go more where Jake Blauvelt and Lucas Debari are trying to take it. Just progress it naturally doing tricks off natural features and focusing on style still instead of just the number of rotations or number of flips or jumping over roads. Again, Dan Brisse. He could die. I would be scared if I was his filmers. Every time they hit record they’re like, “Yeah man, you got it” but they’re probably thinking either gonna get a hammer or a death hammer. Either way gonna get a lot of Youtube hits but not the kind you want maybe.

I just don’t understand. Where do they want this progression they talk about to go to? Just jumping from city to city or something? Seems a little crazy, maybe we should focus on the de-gression of snowboarding.

Are you just saying that for the sake of your own career so you don’t have to learn triple corks?

No, I don’t have to learn triple corks, no one’s expecting me to. No one probably thinks I could learn triple corks. (laughs) I feel no pressure to do any triple corks or anything.

How did you get hurt? Were you trying to progress?

I don’t have any glorious injury stories. I was snowboarding the mini pipe at High Cascade and I think I blew my knee out there, and then a year later I was playing capture the flag and did it again.

So far, so good this year?

Kind of. I haven’t snowboarded in three years, so still getting back into the swing of things. I’ve been on a couple rail trips with Bryan Fox and he hasn’t hit any rails either. We definitely feel a little out of our element out there, we get loose. I’ve taken a a couple spills, really working on my crash section this year.

Why go on rail trips, not just shred backcountry?

That’s just what I want to do. We were up in Whistler for a bunch too, but I’ve always admired people that have rails and backcountry — well rounded parts and that’s what I’ve always wanted to be.

Gap to 50-50. Photo: Mark Welsh/Nitro Snowboards

Well, you already went the fastest at the Dirksen Derby this year. How did that feel? Was that your first contest win?

No, I won America’s Next Top Pro Model a couple months before, so I’m on a contest roll right now!

What’s next?

Well, then I went to the No board contest and didn’t do so hot, so the roll is over. My fire is already out. But that was pretty cool to win that event, mostly just to beat Curtis cause I always picture him as a pretty fast person, and Bryan too.

Was it better than winning a car at a strip club? Did that really happen?

It definitely was better. Yeah, it happened. I still have the car. It was rodeo weekend in Bend and Bend, Oregon is a little bit redneck, lots of cowboys and haybails, so the rodeo goes off. At the strip club that night they had a redneck ball at the strip club with a redneck buffet — macaroni and cheese and Cheetos and I  forget what else was on the menu. There was a raffle for a free car. When I walked in I was like, “I’m gonna get that car.” I thought maybe it was for sale of something, but it turned out that they just gave away the raffle tickets, one to each person at the strip club. I had a pretty savage mullet at the time so I kinda fit in and I ended up winning. They were pretty excited, “the kid with the mullet won!” Then when I woke up in the morning I was like, woah, what happened last night, and then I put my hand in my pocket and was like “fuck, I won a car! I gotta go get that thing.” They actually wanted me to drive it home, they gave me the keys right there. Don’t drink and drive kids! So I went and got the car and it ran out of gas right when I rolled into the gas station. I was like I’m gonna have to tow this thing to the dump, it’s a junker. But she runs good. 1984 Pontiac Sunbird. I’m gonna try to have it in video part this year, jumping it over a building or from city to city, progress snowboarding through cars, I guess. Triple corking my car.

Game face. Photo: Geery

So you like to drink. How many times would you say you’ve woken up in your own vomit?

That’s a dangerous game. I don’t think I did that night. I think only twice maybe. Once on my 21st birthday in Japan, and then we re-celebrated my 21st birthday in Bend and I did that time too.

Sounds like Japan was a good time?

Yeah, that was while I was hurt and the dudes at Nike wanted to take me Japan with them to see all the retailers and it happened to be during my 21st birthday. Things got pretty weird there.

What’s it like being a pro snowboarder in Japan?

I think it’s toned down a lot from what it used to be. I hear all these stories about what it used to be, and I’m sure it’s still that way for Shaun White, but I think in general the Japanese are toning down on snowboarding. Even just up at High Cascade, I remember a few years ago there used to be a lot more Japanese and they used to be a lot more excited. I went there 5 years ago and it’s definitely changed a little bit.

Have you ever chugged wine in Switzerland and then danced in a fountain at a bar?

Man, my three most drunkest memories you wanna talk about. Yeah, first on my Nike trip. Nike trips are pretty weird cause it’s a pretty wide range of people. You have like Danny Kass, Eric Jackson, Laura Hadar and Justin Bennee. It’s a lot of people that don’t hang out regularly, as opposed to Nitro, we all hang out in the off season. Most of the Nike team we only see each other on Nike trips which makes for a pretty awesome time, usually. On that trip we got into a wine chugging contest and I chugged a whole bottle of red wine and then danced in a fountain all night. Yeah we really just the whole awkward Nike times. Kinda set the bar high there.

Are you actually Oregon born and raised?

No, I’m from Bellingham, Washington, near Mt Baker. I grew up there playing hockey most of my life with my hockey buddy Lucas Debari who is now a super star snowboarder. He got me into snowboarding and right after I started snowboarding I moved to Bend. Bend is really outdoorsy, lot a polypropaline and a lot of Tevas. A lot like Bellingham, but a lot sunnier.

What did your parents do for work?

My parents started the Bellingham food co-op; they worked there for 25 years. Then they moved to Bend and my dad bought a bookstore, so now he runs an independent bookstore.

So they’re just a couple of hippies, that’s boring, I heard a rumor they were carnies.

No, no, that’s my brother! He started a circus school for awhile. On an Indian reservation for the poor kids so they’d go becomes carnies instead of doing heroin, I guess. He lived in South America for awhile juggling his way through as a street performer. He’s a jack of all trades, he can do it all.

Can you juggle?

Yeah.

Does that help with your snowboarding?

Yeah, hand eye coordination. Except I can’t do handplants, so I guess not.

Liar! Photo: Mark Welsh/Nitro Snowboarding

You helped the design the Nike outerwear line? How was that?

I have a couple piece in the line I designed. It was crazy! You get to pick where the pockets are gonna go, what color the zippers are gonna be. It’s pretty exciting shit.

Do you think Nike will ever give you a reserved parking spot?

No. I usually take the Max out there, so I don’t even need it.

Got anything you’re exited about this season?

I’m really excited to film with Knutt Ellisason, filming with Videograss, big things expected out of him. And I’m going to Japan that should be fun. I’m mostly just excited to snowboard in general. Everyone is trying to go above and beyond in the world, I feel like you can still do cool stories and try to tell a little more about the story and the snowboarding and what you did instead of you went to the end of the world.

Sponsors?

Nike Snowboarding, Nitro, Dakine, Smith, Airblaster, Active, Poler, CTI, Cobra Dogs, High Cascade.

YoBeat's moral compass. Yep, that's scary.
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Comments (21)

  1. good interview, i need to visit Bend, perhaps find a book at his dads store. Good to see Smith coming back, his people part was a sure nice one! And grreat style too

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  2. austism is my favorite.

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  3. Brisse and Horgmo take having left in interviews in the last months!?

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  4. Um your sense making is at an all time low

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  5. I disagree with the comments about Brisse. Saying what he does is bad for snowboarding is like saying Jamie Thomas was bad for skating back in his hay day.

    Obviously a kid coming off a string of injuries like Austin isn’t going to have a bunch of urban death gaps in his sights. No need to hate on what others are doing.

    Pretty awesome of Nitro and Nike to keep him on board.

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  6. It funny that because people share a different view on things others view that as hate. He never said what brisse does is ‘bad’ for snowboarding. Oh and just so you know jamie thomas never used a bungee, wench or anything besides his board and legs to make skating bigger. just sayin.

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  7. Dirksen Derby. Boom.

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  8. portlandia!!

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  9. great interview. austin keeps it real, so sick

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  10. Durell–I’m with you–it didn’t seem like Austin was hating on Brisse, but rather, really concerned for him.

    Brisse could die, easily actually, and the question Austin was too polite to pose is: At what point is “snowboard progression” basically a race to the bottom in terms of intelligence? Brisse’s handrail tricks are legit, impressive, and deserve respect, but the death gap footage is not about snowboarding. He happens to be strapped in, but the primary activity is to “avoid dying.” What will the next, less intelligent, kid do?

    We, the consumers, are rapt with entertainment. It gets at the worst form of human interest–from NASCAR selling the 200mph crashes, to the carnage we cannot turn away from in “When Animals Attack,” to the spectacle of everyone slowing down at the scene of an auto crash. You audibly say, “I hope everyone is Ok…” But you’re slowing down because at a base level, you, like any other human, want to see some fucked up shit!

    I’ll be the snowboard fan that continues to appreciate good style, legit tricks, creativity, and true mastery of the riding of a snowboard. Austin Smith kills it for all those reasons, and Nike and Nitro know it! Kid is on the up!

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  11. that de-gressing bit is the realness.

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  12. Well said Steve. And a well said interview Austin. I’m with him on Blauvelt/Debari for sure! And in agreement on being scared for Brisse, that stuff makes me sick in my stomach a little to watch. But different strokes for different folks I guess- if everybody did the same thing it would get quite boring fast.

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  13. I agree about the Evel Knievel stuff. It is really not even impressive to me. That is not to say I am going to do it, I give those guys respect that they have the balls to try it but in the end it is not really something I am impressed by. I am impressed by people that can snowboard in a way that makes me feel all excited and good inside. And I do not mean that in any strange way. I want to get pumped and be impressed by skills that are above and beyond the ability of most. The Evel Knievel crap is just guys getting lucky that they can walk away with their lives. That guy Dan is a great snowboarder but come on people, he is not and will never be even in the same game as people like Haakonsen, Kelly, Lynn, Line, Backman and yes, even good old Smith.

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  14. donny the professor

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  15. Ya, and I heard that Austin isn’t hitting handrails with lips either. So no bungie, no lips, no twice arounds and no city to city jumping. Sounds like the kind of snowboarding I want to watch. He makes us look less like wake boarders.

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  16. mike, gotta disagree with the last part. brisse may do gaps, but the dude has amazing tech rail moves. come on give the dude some cred

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  17. That was a good interview. Sucks that he was out for 2 years, but good to hear that he’s back. Hopefully shit pops off. I agree with his view on style vs. going big, and “progression.” I want to see clean tricks and good style. I brought this up in another comment section, but Brisse’s ‘b-footy’ has him doing a hard way 270-on onto a kink rail, and a 270 out. I saw Now/Here and almost fell asleep; where were the shots like that? It’s obvious Brisse has the skill to do more than huge, dangerous ollies; you wonder how/who chooses the shots. What’s driving the progression, text messages from non-snowboarders to determine who “went bigger?”

    Being in Bend, I wonder if Austin Smith drinks a lot of Crater Lake…

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  18. Brisse is on some sick shit and I mean that in the best way possible. Give credit where credit is due, he is THE urban master.

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  19. great interview by the way, soul shredder for sure!

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  20. Fucking love this kid…Donny is still dipshit though..hahahha

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  21. austin has such good style, at everything. a really well rounded rider if you ask me. im stoked to see him back out there, not trying to kill himself but just snowboarding and having fun doing it. huge inspiration.

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