Hump Day Time Travels with Bryan IguchiBy Brad Oates • Jun 13th, 2012 • Category: Features, Hump Day Interviews, Latest
Two decades deep into a professional snowboard career, Bryan Yoneo Iguchi, exhibits the cat like reflexes of someone half his age on the board, but his style, wisdom and passion for the shred shows innate knowledge and understanding that only comes from dedicating your life to the mountains. A 2nd place finish at the ‘92 World Halfpipe Championships, X Games medals, mountain ranges you’ve only heard whispered over beers at the Ratskellar, a video series produced about his legendary career, surfing all the world’s oceans, moving to bum fuck Egypt a.k.a. Jackson Hole, Wyoming, circa ‘95 to dedicate his life to riding powder. Before the road was plowed for future generations of shred heads to pursue backcountry freeriding and give the contest circuit the finger, “The Guch” put the free in freeriding when all his sponsors told him to fuck off. You’re gonna free ride in Wyoming? Well, guess you will be doing that for free. He persevered. He never gave up. Bryan Iguchi is living proof that where there is a will, there’s a way. Bow down. The master is about to speak.
Take us back to your first experience sliding sideways on snow.
I was fifteen years old when a friend of mine I skated with showed me the snowboarding video, Western Front. It looked super fun so the next day we ditched school to ride Mt. High. After a few runs somebody slammed into me and broke my arm. It sucked but it didn’t stop me from riding, I went back up the next day.
Where did you grow up?
How did Southern California influence your take on the mountains?
I didn’t spend much time in the mountains growing up so when I started riding it was a new a thing.
You got a photo in Transworld Skate even before you were in Transworld Snowboarding, shot by Spike Jonze in 1989, right? You were a sponsored surfer/skater first?
Yeah, I started surfing and skateboarding when I was 11 and I got sponsored for skating when I was 13. At first I wanted to be a pro surfer, then skater and I did a lot of contests all over California, my goal was to turn pro once I finished high school. I started snowboarding when I was 15 and I was hooked, for me it was the best of skating and surfing.
Being a hardcore skater/surfer from So Cal, did you just think snowboarders were a bunch of spoiled kooks?
Not really, back then there wasn’t that very many people riding so when I went to the mountains I was stoked to see and meet other riders. Most of the guys I met were pretty hardcore – it was the skiers who used to vibe us that I thought were the spoiled kooks.
Terje described meeting you as a “dude in big baggy jeans, riding around with a small bong in his pocket and super long hair.” Take us back to then.
That’s pretty funny, it was my style back then for sure. I never wore outerwear because I didn’t need to, it was always nice and warm so I wore my street clothes. I’d just get baked and ride laps in the park with my friends.
When you guys showed up at Sonora Pass to camp out and shoot Volcom’s seminal classic, The Garden, did you have any idea what kind of effect it would have on the future of snowboarding and snowboard films? How did making that movie effect you?
Volcom was just getting going and it was our first snowboarding video for the company. We had no idea of what the end result would be. We just rode and tried to film as much as possible with the small budget we had. Making “The Garden” was the one of the best times of my life. We were a super tight group of friends traveling snowboarding, hiking and camping. It was such a raw experience, I didn’t feel like there was any pressure to film but having Jamie, Terje and the rest of the crew together created a lot of energy. We discovered amazing terrain and ended up having progressive sessions day after day. After that trip I decided to dedicate my life to backcountry riding, I had a realization that the mountains had unlimited good terrain and exploring, finding and riding it was what I wanted to do.
Were you one of Volcom’s first sponsored snowboarders? Ryan Immegart was the first, right? What were those early years like with them?
Yeah, Ryan was the first sponsored rider, we were good friends and rode together a lot in Big Bear. I had just gotten out of high school and the Volcom crew was like a big family that adopted me. It was a lot of fun, we were always doing trips and going to events together. They always had a mini ramp or something to skate at the warehouse, it was like a non stop party.
I am a 16 year old snowboarding rat who was born in 1996 (i.e. average yobeat reader). Take me back to ‘90 – ‘95 with your hot tub time machine.
Snowboarding blew up, the first twin tip boards were made and the first snowboard park was built in Big Bear in the winter of ‘92. The progression of the sport exploded with skate influenced style. It seemed like every session new tricks were going down in the parks and pipe. Red Bull started doing big air contests and X Games began. It changed from day glow and tindy’s to more of what you see today.
At 21, you moved to Jackson Hole. Jackson seems even more removed from the snowboarding spotlight back then. What influenced your move there and what was your plan at the time? Was this when you sort of got over and moved beyond focusing on park and pipe riding or were there other influences?
Our crew built the first park in Big Bear and I made my career riding slopestyle and pipe contests. It was a lot of fun but I had a chance to ride some good pow in the back country and it took over my focus. I had done a lot in the park and pipe and I wanted to progress in a different way. Riding the backcountry gave me the same feeling as street skating in that you’re always looking for new spots to session, you never knew what you might find and you could put together your own line rather than hitting the same jumps. I wanted to ride pow and learn more about the mountains and Jackson seemed like the perfect place to do it. So, I moved to Jackson in search of good riding and to lay low for a year, that was 17 years ago.
You dropped all your sponsors and walked away from “professional” snowboarding at one point with “no plan”, even though you were still snowboarding all the time. Can you tell us what lead you down this path, how you felt along the way, and why you would eventually come full circle with Volcom?
I moved to Jackson and saw a vast potential to grow as a rider. It was so good I didn’t want to leave but I think my sponsors saw it as me being lazy or “over it”. Truth is I was riding everyday, I had the tram down the street and was one of the first snowboarders using a sled to access terrain. It was a killer time. I was finding all these good spots and was laying low not wanting to leave my new found “shredtopia” to do contests. I just wanted to ride and film in Jackson. I left Volcom to start a clothing company which was probably the biggest mistake of my career. Just after that Oakley dropped me, then Burton – all of sudden I had nothing. Billy Anderson put together the Volcom “Legends Team” with Jamie, Terje and I and things have been super good with them ever since. I feel really lucky to have been a part of Volcom in the early days and to still have support from them and the industry.
You’ve been a sushi chef for a number of years now. How did you get into it and how does being a chef compliment you’re snowboarding, or does it at all?
I’ve been a sushi chef for around 6 years now. It had been my favorite food for a long time so I figured I’d to learn how to make it. A friend of mine Jaison Leroy (owner of “sushi rei” Mammoth) was a pro shredder back in the day who was also a chef. He taught me the basics, making rice & how to cut fish and how to make rolls. I practiced at home and read a few books then got a summer job as an apprentice. I’ve been working at Sudachi Sushi here in Jackson part time as my riding has been keeping me busy these days. All the chefs I work with are good snowboarders and we go out together and shred a lot. I earned a living and continued to ride when I lost support from my sponsors, so it’s directly helped my riding from that perspective.
What does your family enjoy more – your sushi or your snowboarding?
Sushi for sure.
How has having a family affected your outlook on snowboarding?
It has brought me a lot of inspiration and the ability to focus on things that I believe are important. For the first time in my life riding has come second in my priorities.
Seeing as you were a sponsored skater before you were a sponsored snowboarder your take on this subject is invaluable. There are many professional skaters pushing mid 30s and beyond. In snowboarding not so much. The skateboard industry seems more supportive of older age than the snowboard industry. You have been able to snowboard professionally for almost 2 decades. What must snowboarders do more of to stay relevant and sponsored into their mid to late 30s and beyond? Is the industry to blame, or is it the riders?
Not only do you have to be totally dedicated and ride hard to progress as a rider to stay relevant, you have to work well with the companies you ride for and maintain a good relationship and continue to contribute to the sport one way or another. In skateboarding, the guys never stopped skating and stayed involved in the sport by starting companies and mentoring the younger skaters earning a lifetime of respect. Snowboarding is a younger sport and its true identity is still evolving. I think it’s a bit of both to blame for riders falling off. A lot of riders stopped riding when they lost support from their sponsors so there was no chance of making a come back and finding new sponsors. I hope to see it go the direction of skating and see guys keep riding and getting support for more than just a few years. It could grow the same way as skating and maybe even gain more respect due to the value of passing on mountain knowledge that is only gained by experience. I spend a good part of my season mentoring the next generation of riders, guiding them around Jackson to film and shoot photos. I still ride lines and hit some of the jumps but I’m really doing it to help them make the most of their careers by getting them into the best terrain possible.
There are a lot of older rippers in Jackson Hole. You, Kevin Jones, Rob Kingwill, Lance Pittman, Willie McMillon and on and on. Have you guys discovered the fountain of youth in Jackson Hole? Two decades of professional snowboarding! What’s your secret?
I don’t know about the fountain of youth, I feel old as fuck when I wake up sometimes but here in Jackson we have easy access to a lot of good riding and good riding is a healthy thing. Good snow is easy on the body and it gets you out of bed early – the lifestyle can make you feel young if you stay on it.
You were riding powder on Memorial Day in Jackson. Was that the end of this season? How did this season go for you?
Yeah we had a late storm that dumped a couple feet in the mountains. My friend Dusty (the head chef at the sushi bar) and I had two days of riding pow. I can’t just chill when it’s snowing and there is a chance it could be good out there. I always go up for a look and more times than not it turns out to be better than I expected. As far as the season goes, It was good, I spent some time in the Northwest, BC, Alaska, and had plenty of good days here in Jackson.
Pat Bridges said your snowboarding, “Never stops evolving. Never stops progressing.” What’s your approach to learning new skills after more than 2 decades on your board?
The way I’ve always have done it, by riding and spending as much time as possible in the mountains. Riding with the kids on the Volcom team and watching videos inspires me for sure, the youth is full of energy and will always lead the way in progression technically, but only time will give you a solid mountain sense. The time I’ve put into backcountry riding and the experience I’ve gained allows me to progress in a different way. I’m constantly trying to challenge myself to find new terrain and I feel I’m progressing by being able to read the mountains better and access more.
You judged The Red Bull Supernatural contest this year. Thoughts on this style of contest, how you go about judging and the future of snowboard contest like this?
That event was truly amazing, Baldface stepped it up big time hosting the event and creating the dream course. It’s cool to see the best free-riders have a chance to throw down line for line. It was pretty much like going out filming with a really, really big crew. The riders had to scope out their lines and a couple chances to stick it. The riders who have been putting out the best video parts are the ones who did well in this event for a reason. They know how to ride a line and put things together in a way that’s fun to watch. I like the direction of this event and hope to see more in the future. It’s good for the backcountry freestyle scene giving riders a chance to get together in an amazing place and shred together. It was a really hard event to judge because of the high level of riding, different styles and line selection. It’s not straightforward – some riders were taking super risky lines and would fall or sit, and others would cruise on the mellower features. Ride them clean and do some good tricks – every run was different.
I really just want to stay injury free and keep riding, to be honest. I want to be able to keep having fun and living the riding lifestyle.
You did an almost 10 shop backcountry awareness tour with Volcom this winter. What did you set out to accomplish, what did you accomplish and what goes through your mind when you’re lost in the wilderness, with no food and you are watching the sunset right before your eyes?
There are a lot more people going into the backcountry these days and a lot of them are going out unprepared. I believe knowledge is freedom in the mountains, the more time you take to learn and practice safe backcountry protocol, the more you can explore and enjoy good riding without getting killed or fucked up. I wanted to give younger riders some inspiration to get started on the right path. My friend, Nathaniel Murphy, and I did the tour. He teaches a backcountry splitboarding / avalanche class for N.O.L.S. On the tour we did a basic backcountry awareness class and slide show. We gave away backpacks, shovels and probes from Volcom / Backcountry Access. The riders who came were stoked and hopefully we can do it again. I’ve only been lost in the mountains overnight once, it was in Wolf Creek, Colorado on a Burton photoshoot. We went out of bounds with a local when a storm came in obstructing our view and took a wrong turn. We walked for hours and when it started getting dark we knew we had to hunker down and stay the night. Instincts kicked in when shit got serious, you have to use your head work together to make the right decisions in these types of situations. We collected water, made a fire, built a shelter, and dried out our gear. We took turns all night getting firewood and looking and listening for a rescue party until help came. I was comfortably sleeping when the ski patrol showed up around 2am and we decided to hike out a couple hours later. We got back to the road the next morning just after sunrise. It ended up being a good learning experience and made me want to be more prepared when I went out in the mountains from then on.
What does snowboarding need more of?
I don’t really know, tough question.
Top 5 favorite Snowboarders?
Jamie Lynn, Terje, Johan Oloffson, Kevin Jones, Travis Rice.
Last question – do you really have a mystical black book of all the mountains in the world you have ridden and what’s secrets from it can you share with us? Where should we go shred?
No black book, but lots of maps and gps waypoints. There is good riding everywhere – side country, backcountry, hiking, splitboarding – you just have to go get it. Learn safe backcountry travel practices, protocols, do your homework and explore. A lifetime of good riding is out there.
Volcom, Electric, Union Bindings, Bluebird wax, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Poler, Mt. Approach