Our friends over at Yobeat caught up with Bjorn recently to talk with him about his season, Celtek, how Internet killed the video star and more. Take a second and check it all out below….
Interview by Brooke Geery
While two broken arms have him laid up in the Minnesota backwoods right now, Bjorn Leines is using his downtime wisely. He was among the group of snowboarders in the Wasatch Equality, who joined forces to file a lawsuit against Alta last week, demanding for equal rights for all. And while we didn’t learn about it til after this interview was done, it doesn’t surprise us in the least. Bjorn is driven to promote snowboarding however he can. That’s what he’s been doing since he discovered it was easier than skateboarding way back when, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down. Injuries be damned.
Photo: Phillip Kammerer
How did you break your wrists?
I have one broken wrist and my other arm is broken. I ate shit on New Years Eve and got in this predicament. We were filming in Minnesota, we’re making a project this year called Nothing to Prove. We had a crew in town, Aaron Bittner, Johnny Lazz and a couple other homies and we were set up to hit this water tower feature – it was a quarter pipe up a water tower. I hit it one time and went up about 10 feet, so I was like, alright, I guess I’d better just send it. I took a lot of speed and went up to where I wanted it, aired up 25 feet to where the water tower went vertical. I slipped out and came down headfirst on the backside of the water tower, slammed off the van door and pile-drove into the ground. Took it on my wrists basically. Interesting way to ring in the new year.
Was that your plan for this year? Working on Nothing to Prove?
Yeah, we’re still going forward with it. We got a good start on it in December and the guys are out filming for it. It’s a team project, just Celtek riders who are down, and I’m only gonna be out for a month and a half.
Only a month and a half?
Well, you know, they said like 8 weeks or 10 weeks but I’m saying 6 weeks (laughs)
Are you getting sick of hurting yourself snowboarding yet?
Not really. I mean it’s only been these last couple of years I’ve had these bad injuries. I’ve been pretty lucky and I just love it too much.
Photo: Phillip Kammerer
According to the internet 2009/10 was a big year for you. You even had a Hump Day. What have you been doing since then?
I signed on with Dye optics, I kinda helped them build their team over the last three years. Basically hand picked the guys and helped the develop their products. Just been working with Rome, I have some signature products with them as well. Last season Rome made the 12 Months Project I went and did a lot of that. Just traveling around filming. I’ve been riding a lot with Dan Brisse the last couple years.
Is it scary riding with Dan Brisse? I feel like you could see him die at any moment.
Brisse, you know there’s a risk factor, but he’s pretty calculated about how he goes about minimizing the risk. Sure, if you catch your edge before the take off and fall a couple stories you can land on your head and die. Nature of the beast. But if you don’t scare yourself a little bit… it’s the point when your adrenaline’s pumping and you feel like you can overcome it and do it, that’s what I really enjoy.
How do you motivate yourself to jump off a building? I’ve never had that urge. At all.
For me, I just think of skateboarding and my snowboarding I try to visualize first what I want to do in my head. I grew up skateboarding and just got into snowboarding because it was easier, and I loved it, but that gives me a lot of motivation. Thinking about snowboarding like skateboarding and trying to emulate that. When I’m on top of a building and I’m confident I can do it, you just kinda do it. You just go for it.
Photo: Mike Paddock
I have a theory skateboarding is what divides the kooks from the non kooks. How do you feel about snowboarders who don’t skateboard?
Good theory. It’s kinda odd to me because they’re just so similar. Like, Brisse for example, he doesn’t skateboard but he snowboards at a really high level. You can kinda tell the guys that do skateboard. They just seem to be more meticulous about how they go about things and just have better style. But there’s a lot of rippers out there that don’t skateboard. It’s kinda surprising.
Is Celtek still pushing a skate program?
Yeah, we’ve got some homies that are affiliated with the brand, but we’re not really in the skate market, per se. We just love skateboarding. So, we wanted to make products that they were stoked on, a couple homies like Lizard King and Christian Hosoi are down for what we believe in, so they back the company, but we’re not in the skate market. A lot of snowboard shops are also skateboard shops so it’s just good for us. We really enjoy skateboarding and look to skateboarding for trends, different things. It’s kinda of like a baseline for snowboarding, so we wanna be a part of it, but not like infiltrate on the skate brands’ space.
That’s such a good question because we kick ourselves about it all the time. It’s the one thing that’s like a seasonal thing. You’re only making money three months of the year. But originally we went with gloves because Erik and I were sponsored with every other product. I rode for a glove brand and the gloves we were riding just sucked so we wanted to make something that worked. We thought, how hard can it be? It’s kind of a joke, ten years later, if we only knew then what we knew now. (laughs). We’re branching out though. We wanna be in the accessories market and continue to evolve into a lifestyle brand.
How involved are you on the day to day at Celtek?
It’s a daily thing, you know. I’m definitely not on the level that my brother’s at. He runs the brand 100% and I’m just focused on being a pro snowboarder. That’s my main priority, but you know, phone calls and conferences, Skype meetings, trade shows, it’s all worth it though. It’s rad to be able to create something you believe in and build an umbrella that can take care of all your friends and family.
How’s the brand doing in these trying times?
The brand is doing really well actually. Our sales increased in 2013/14, we’re really excited about that. We’ve had some good mentor-ship through some of the guys in the industry. The guys who founded Stance and some of the guys at Skullcandy have really helped us in the last few years to reach another level. The brand’s really healthy, we’re doing a big marketing push this year with Nothing to Prove and it’s giving us a new platform for out content distribution. Making something that’s relevant to our industry, so we can leave a lasting impression, not just be another snowboard video.
How do you feel about the Internet? It’s obviously changed the way we get snowboard media, do you think that’s a good or bad thing?
I think it’s good in a lot of ways. It has changed the game with how production companies make their money, but it’s also created so many more avenues for people to just put eyes on snowboard videos. I think its cool that it’s accessible for basically any kid now, with an iPhone or a legit camera can make an edit and put it out there for the world to see. That’s really cool but at the same time it kinda clogs the feed up in a way. The outlets that out the media out could do a better job of putting out solid content. That’s always tough. One thing that sucks, is having an actual hard copy of a video is something that means a lot to me, because you’re gonna go back to that video and watch rider x’s part because you were psyched on it, and it seems like you don’t really dive back in online and look for somebody’s part from like five years ago.
I wonder if younger kids who grew up with the Internet and the way things are now will feel differently? I mean there’s some ease to finding old stuff on the internet — you can just search for it or whatever.
True, but I don’t know. I think as people mature and get older they want to see that content still. I have a lot of friends that are teenagers or early 20s, and they don’t just have a file of the parts they liked from the last five years saved. Like people watch snowboard videos generally to get excited to go snowboarding. You watch them before you go ride or after you get home with your friends or whatever. Part of that hard copy thing definitely got lost. Maybe it’ll come back around to having like a USB drive or something like that. Just an actual hard copy that can be passed around.
But before it was like, content only came out once a year. Everyone looked forward to it. It was like, oh my gosh have you seen the new Mack Dawg movie, or have you seen the new whatever video? You would watch it over and over. Now with new content coming out every day, year round it kinda makes things so they’re not as memorable. Unless you really focus and make something that’s legit and memorable.
Every interview with you has questions about being in the Forum eight. Does it ever get old?
A lot of the time people want to talk about that and it doesn’t get old to me because it was this awesome era in snowboarding and it was cool to be part of something unique.
What’s your best memory from those days?
My favorite blur of memories would just be going up to Canada and riding with Devun and Chris Dufficy and being able to count on those guys to like have your back. It was all about pushing each other and having fun. There were some crazy times from video tours and being down in San Clemente where Forum was based. We were all pretty young, you know 19-25, just a lot of fun times, doing dumb stuff.
What was your reaction when they pulled the plug on Forum?
I thought it was pretty lame, and weird. When Forum really had a lot of steam, Burton was so bummed that they couldn’t create what Forum had going on. They tried to mimic it with a few different things like Seven and what not, and then they eventually bought it. Right then and there I was over it and started looking for another sponsor. Saw that Rome was doing rad things and I was excited about what they were doing. To me, Forum had lost its really core values. Burton ran it pretty good for a couple years, they were building a young team and they had really good guys and were still putting out a good team-focused message. It was just weird to see them have to kill the brand. It was a multitude of things that led it it, the way Burton runs its business and it wasn’t necessarily the actual Forum sales. I think it was the way they were distributing it with their rep force and the different buys that shops have to do with Burton. I think there was a few things that led to them just being like hey, we’re gonna can it. I think it was really lame that this company gave up on something that was part of our community.
Although, I feel like no one cared about Forum for like three years before they canned it…
Yeah, it had lost some of its luster in a way. When you have guys like Jake Blauvelt, who was on the come up and he just pulled away from that whole thing, there wasn’t some of the leaders there that should have been there. It just got a little weird. It would have been cool to see Peter Line do something with it, but I don’t know. Maybe Pete wasn’t into it.
In an interview with Whitelines you said “[Snowboarding] is so young, I almost feel like you have a responsibility to lead the next generation in the right direction.” So, what is the right direction?
The right direction in my opinion is that there really isn’t a direction. It’s like an art form, ya know, it’s freedom of expression. I think what I meant is the community is young as a whole, and the way we go about things and conduct our business, and how we take care of older people in the sport. Personally I just want to emulate the message that snowboarding’s all about community and passion and fun. You don’t necessarily have to be a pro or an am coming up to really epitomize the spirit of snowboarding. I don’t think that will ever die. It’s cool to see other sports how they evolved and remained true to their core. Same with skateboarding. The crappy thing about snowboarding is you have all these older skier types that have their hands pulling a lot of the strings when it comes to organization, sponsorships, running contests, or the Oylmpics. Those are the things I worry about. But there’s a great amount of people within snowboarding that have started their own brands and are doing things that are true to the sport and are just trying to keep it legit.
You’re one of the longest-standing pros in the biz. What’s the secret to longevity in a snowboard career?
I would say it’s working hard, believing what you’re doing. Also a lot of it is like relationships and the message that you put out there. That ultimately becomes the perception that people have of you. I’ve just always tried to be focused on enjoying snowboarding and pushing the way I snowboard and how I can snowboard and trying to align myself with like-minded sponsor opportunities. For me it’s really important to connect with people that I represent and I think that’s helped me to have a voice within the brands. That’s given them a little more vision of where I’m going. I sign these contracts and I try to lay it out there like, hey, this is what I want to do for the next couple years. Here’s where I want to take my snowboarding. Just so you know, I know one day maybe you’re not going to be able to pay me or endorse me, but just know that I’m going to be out there snowboarding for fun, because I love it. I think they’re hyped on that. I’m not in this to just one day stop snowboarding. Maybe it won’t be a 10 over Chad’s gap or some stunt, but I’ll definitely be slashing pow with my kids.
How old are your kids now?
They’re getting big, they are 8 and 11. Two boys.
Do they snowboard?
Oh yeah, they’re pretty nuts about snowboarding.
I’d always be afraid that my kids would wanna ski.
They started skiing. We started ‘em as soon as they could walk on skis and when they were both like 5 or 6 years old they were snowboarding. They were just like I don’t want to ski anymore and now they don’t ski. It was good for em to figure out how the mountain works and speed and stuff. They’re maniacs, they skateboard, ride dirt bikes, football, bmx, baseball, full on.
Do they still spend the whole season with you?
They don’t spend the whole season. We move every six months from Minnesota to Utah, so they switch schools and get settled in out there. They get to ride Brighton and Snowbird a lot. They come to some events and some things and we take the RV out sometimes. We definitely took them on the road more when they were littler when school wasn’t an issue. It’s pretty cool to be able to pick up and take em with to Canada or Alaska.
Photo: Mike Paddock
What advice would you give to a kid who’s trying to come up now in snowboarding?
I would just say snowboard to have fun and push yourself. Don’t worry about what other people are saying and trying to influence you on tricks or style or anything. Make your own path and if you’re really trying to be sponsored then people will attract to you when you reach that level. It’s a small enough industry where everyone kinda knows when someone is on the come up. Like Red Gerard, he’s 13 years old and people have been talking about him for two or three years. Just go and do it and remember like the industry is small. Don’t act cocky, and be humble and work hard for everything and it’ll come easier.
I wanted to go back to when you asked about what I’ve been up to. On a sponsor level I’ve recently signed with Under Armour…
No more Volcom?
No more Volcom. About a year ago, Volcom said no more.
How did you take that. They were one of your first sponsors right?
It was the biggest slap to my face I’ve ever had. It was extremely hard on me and feel like I was kicked out of the family without a reason. The season leading up to it I filmed a video part for them and everything was fine. It was coming into the season — usually with contract negation you do it in the summer time but with them you do it in January. So I was blindsided by it, just the timing and the thought process behind it, it took me a long time to like, accept what happened. It was just more of a let down. They’re like industry leaders, supposed to be true to the sport. When I joined the team they didn’t even make outerwear.
So it was like a year in the making, this last season was kinda like me figuring out what direction I was gonna go in. What’s exciting. I came to Under Armour and I was looking at them and they really have a great avenue for developing some cool products. They’re just known for having like top level performance. It just kinda donned on me that if our industry has accepted the Nike and Adidas, these not necessarily core brands, with open arms. I thought it would be a good opportunity to help brand Under Armour in an authentic core way and help develop product.
That’s crazy about Volcom.
Volcom’s made some weird moves lately and I still have a lot of respect for them and am grateful to have been a part of their program and just because one guy in marketing has his view of what’s relevant in snowboarding doesn’t necessarily tarnish the image of what Volcom is and what they’ve stood for all these years. I had to come to terms with that. Life throws you a curveball you just gotta hit the damn things out of the park!
Sponsors and thanks?
I’m thankful to Rome snowboards for being who they are and embodying what snowboarding is, and Celtek, my brother and the Youth Shelter Supply shop in Minnesota. Under Armour for giving me opportunities, Blue Bird wax and CFR racks, snowmobile racks for snowboards.