I was just telling this story the other day so I figured I’d share it. We were talking about snowboarding, you know now that winter seems to be fully in motion and I was complaining about how snowboarding is such a joke now. The boards are these flimsy pieces of fibreglass and everything is just too smooth and built for easy riding. When we were kids we had to struggle for our shit. I still remember building the first halfpipe at Snow Valley with shovels, a chainsaw and a hole bunch of crazy teenagers. We called it the U-Ditch because it pretty much had no flatbottom and the walls were like 8 feet high. Either way it was awesome. But this story comes from even before that…
It was the winter of 1990/1991 and we were going hardcore in the ravine by my house. We had huge jumps all over the place in there, most of them that would kick you 10 feet into the air or more and land to flat. We had our “fallen tree” log rails everywhere ad then we had these sick quarterpipes that you raged straight across the gully at. Straight B-Line down this steep grade across the quick flat bottom and up the other side to catch fat airs off these things. They were pretty cool and every now and then it would attract someone I didn’t know down there. I was only 12 at the time and didn’t even know that there were ski resorts. All I knew was that we snowboarded all winter every winter in this ravine. It was my 3rd year snowboarding and I loved it. I would always look up to the older guys and then try what they tried. I could do 540’s and Handplants and Ho-Ho’s and even McTwists. Shit always went down in the ravine and most of the guys I learned from ended up being the best in the area for a long time. I’d always be hittin’ it up with Chris MacCallum, Mike Sutton, Mike Van Noortwyk, Brian Roberts, the Lamberts, the Jelineks, Matt & Justin Brett, Jason Rayner, Jamie Taylor, Brian Michals and lots more. So this one day my entire life changed. The older guys showed up with this dude I had never seen before and he was just killin’ it. Throwing down on the quarter pipes and hittin’ all the good jumps. His name was Ken Leamen and this was the day he became one of my Idols. Ken was a lot older than all of us and he was sick at snowboarding. I think the other guys recognized him the way I looked at them as the older more experienced guy to learn from. So anyway, after Ken was destroying all the obstacles everyone was just hanging out by the top entrance of the ravine. The way it was is the ravine goes down about 10-12 feet and then flattens out for 10 feet and then goes down again. On the one side there was a clump of birch trees with this big rock in the middle of them right on the flat portion of the downhill. I saw Ken looking at it and was wondering what he was doing. Then he walked to the top and strapped in. He dropped in straight at the rock and ollied over it as if he was skateboarding. It was amazing. The way he made the board ollie just like a skateboard blew my young 12 year old mind. I don’t think he made it over the first time but stuck it 2nd try. I don’t know why, but that moment was life changing. I knew right then that you could do anything you wanted on a snowboard. I remember being so stoked on Ken Leamen and taking note of the board he was riding, you know, maybe it was just such an awesome board that it made him better. That’s what I was thinking anyway. Ken was riding the 1990 Santa Cruz Twin Tip Double Cut . It was the era when snowboard shapes had just changed from being Square-Tail Pointy-Nose, to actually be symmetrical. So the nose and tail looked the exact same and that’s when switch stance came out. I still had a Pointy-Nose Board. But what I remember most about that Santa Cruz board was the double cut. Each end of the board had a chiseled cut out of the same side just to be different from the rest. It was a sick board anyway, but after that day it was a board I’d never forget. It was unique, and so was the guy that was riding it.
At some point during that winter one of my friend’s Dad invited me to go with them to the ski resort – Snow Valley. Like I said before, I didn’t even know there was such a thing. So off we went and we had a blast. I was a natural because of the 3 years of bushwacking in the ravine. Ski Resort hills were easy, and it was fun. So I started going there every now and then. One time I was there and I saw Ken Leamen and he looked over at me and said, “Hey, you’re that Skully kid.” I was just like, “Yeah…” I though it was so cool that he knew my name and remembered me from that one day I met him. He was such an amazing snowboarder. So when the halfpipe came out we all hung out in there and I started to get to know him better. And as the years went on I was getting really good at snowboarding and was usually trying to hang out with Ken, who I might not have mentioned was about 8 years older than me. We ended up becoming really close friends and always rode together for years. I’d say from the time I was 15 till I was 18 we were pretty inseparable on the slopes, and we partied a lot. We were both crazy, fearless, and smart. We had great times together ruling Snow Valley and I’ll always remember him as one of the people who molded me into the man i became. We invented, we created, we were even on the opening montage of Fashion Television together. We were legends.
So the funny thing is in 1998 I moved away from Ontario and I didn’t snowboard as much. I would always talk shit about how amazing a snowboarder I was and people would give me a hard time because I never proved it. So one day I bet this dude Fareed that I could go to the mountain, strap in at the top of the halfpipe and drop in straight for a MCTwist. $20 said I would land it, and I hadn’t snowboarded once in 2 years.
So I went up to the mountain, strapped in and looked across the halfpipe, no warm up, and raged at my backside wall hard. I flipped a perfect McTwist and stomped it leaning a tiny bit forward. Well my snowboard at the time had been through a lot, and anyone who remembers that old SMA I rode would tell you that it probably wasn’t safe to have on the hill. There were spots were portions of my base were missing from too much rock riding, I had 23 pop rivets holding my edge in, and the nose was cracked right across the board in front of the binding. So when I landed this beautiful McTwist, I broke the nose and it was standing straight up in the air. I rode away about 10 feet and fell over. Fareed said it didn’t count and I called bullshit. I said that’s a rebate because of faulty equipment. And I strapped back in, nose bent 90 degrees up and rode hard into the pipe. I stuck the McTwist and finished off a full run down the pipe. We argued all night and probably for months afterwards about who won that bet, and neither of us would pay the other. But one thing that was for sure was that I needed a new Snowboard. I went down the street to Cash Converters figuring they would have some cheap piece of shit I could ride and boom there it was… The board of my dreams. It was like a movie when the shining lights are flashing around an object and everything else in the picture is obsolete. I almost cried in joy. It was the 1990 Santa Cruz Twin Tip Double Cut, the exact same one that my snowboard Idol Ken Leamen had the day I met him, and it was only $12.
I bought it right away, went home drilled T-Bolts through it, and put my bindings on permanently at the same nasty duck stance I had rocked for years.
It was legendary, and it brought back a gigantic piece of my childhood and made me respect my teenaged years again. And guess what, it’s still to this day, the only snowboard I ride.