By Tyler Daku
Over the last few years action sports have become the way I make my living. Being in this position has shown me that all over the world there are tribes of passionate, committed people with a common goal, to live the dream. When it comes to our little corner of the globe, all you need to do for proof is look up and down both coasts. In this hockey-crazed country all it takes is one trip to Vancouver or Montreal to cement this theory.
On the other hand, when you move towards the more landlocked provinces it becomes increasingly difficult to “live the dream”. The reasons for this are obvious, but in my experience it just makes the people pursuing this dream that much more committed. I looked at this blog as an opportunity, a chance to tell the world what I mean.
There is a lot to be said about the devotion of a snowboarder 1000 miles from the mountains. How about the dedication of a surfer living days away from the nearest line-up? Contrary to common sense and popular belief, these people do exist. This industry has shown me countless people willing to sacrifice for what they love. Snowboarders working construction all summer in order to spend the season riding pow. Wakeboarders who work in the oil patch, saving for boat gas in Florida. I wanted to use my first post to see things through their eyes.
With all that’s going on given the recent economic instability, and the mainstream’s inability to really accept action sports; I wanted to find out where people on the inside think the industry is going. The best way I figured I could do this was to hit it from every angle. Dudes who live it everyday, other people very much like myself. Dudes who are constantly working to help build the industry. I went to two of the most committed people I know, Doug Elder co-owner of Offaxis Boardshop and Offaxis Boardriders Club. I also talked to one of the most hardcore dudes I know Adam Burwell, Adam owns and operates Grassroots Wakeboard School and films wake a snow on a regular basis, he does both of these things very, very well. I wanted to see this world through their eyes, so here we go!
In order to get a feel for what I’m really going for, let’s start off with the major question. What do you think of the current state of action sports on the prairies?
Adam: I think the action sports on the prairies are still in their infancy. We do have a great community of people involved, holding contests and clinics that have an all around love for action sports. The hard work is starting to pay off with the success of snowboarders like Mark McMorris on the TTR, or Craig McMorris traveling Canada for contests and filming his new part for NuuLife Cinema’s project “The Lighter Side”
On the wakeboard side, Saskatchewan is home to some of the best riders in the World. Rusty Malinoski is one of the highest paid riders in the sport. Also Dylan Miller, Anthony Hollick and Ashley Leugner who spend their winters ridng in Tavares, Fl. They ride in contests and mostly freeride, they are on the verge of doing some things no one has ever seen before.
Doug: I think times are changing and you have to work harder now to impress people…with the advent of technology we have access to so many more things, so many more products, so many more shows. It really puts pressure on the action sports industry to perform. I think it gives the people who are the best a chance to really rise, and out perform the rest of the group.
What types of things are you forced to do differently, because of where we are?
Adam: We don’t have the right weather here for any action sport. Winters are cold and last forever, and summers are windy and 3 months long. Our situation here makes all of our athletes driven to achieve. They take nothing for granted and want to succeed even more than the next guy.
Doug: Not being surrounded by mountains and things like that, forces you to get more creative. In our case we organize a major snowboard event Sasktel Jibfest and we have to do so using a smaller hill that wouldn’t normally have features that big. You have to get people on board with a passion and a vision. As long as you have that, you will be able to do whatever you want. I think this has been achieved in our territory. I take pride in what we have been able to pull off, because it’s things that would normally only exist in a larger market.
Is there anything that you think people here benefit from, that you can’t get living in other places?
Adam: DRIVE AND MOTIVATION!
Doug: I think people in bigger centers, who have access to more events and venues may take those thing for granted. Whereas when you are from the prairies you don’t have all that stuff and it pushes you. Whether you are a rider or an event planner or whatever, it makes you want to excel and be as good or better than events or riders in bigger markets that have access to those things.
What do you think it’s going to take for action sports here to get the credibility it deserves, on a larger scale?
Adam: Having all these pro athletes come from the prairies is a huge step! Also with things like Grassroots Wakeboard School which I have been a part of for the past 4 years. Giving kids a chance to learn to wakeboard or learn to win National Championships is a huge help.
Getting more people involved is the biggest step. We need a big support system to make all of this happen. Saskatchewan is a great place to be when it comes to action sports, and I am proud to be a part of its growth and success.
Doug: I think in markets like ours what it really comes down to is relationships and partnerships. When people bring their expertise to the table and work together at it. That might mean combining the legitimacy of brands in the industry whether it’s energy drinks, or shoe and snowboard companies, together with corporate sponsors who can put added dollars into it. If everyone respects what everyone else is bringing to the table it can work. If people don’t respect what the other guy is doing, then it’s going to fall apart.
When athletes and brands work together and see it as beneficial then it can work. You need all groups fully involved to really elevate the scene. I’m optimistic, we have witnessed people with hesitation as far as getting out what they are putting in and for anyone who feels they may not be there is always someone willing to step in and take their place.
In my mind the future is good. It is still evolving and it will always evolve. The action sports industry is always leading the way when it comes to change and we just have to be able to put a good product out there. It all comes down to developing the relationships between the athletes and everyone else involved. If everyone has a common vision to see action sports go to the next level I think it can happen and it will happen.
Working with Adam for years has made me realize that the industry in good hands, and action sports here have a very bright future. In addition to this, working for Doug in the past has made me a firm believer that the proper guidance is in place for the youth movement to take things to the next level. All of the pieces that have been coming together on the prairies over the last few years have things moving in a very positive direction. I would sincerely like to thank Adam and Doug for giving me the time out of their busy schedules to make this happen, without people like them action sports on the Canadian flatlands would not exist. So I will leave with this, keep an eye on the scene here in Canada, and never count out the hard working, quiet people here on the prairies. With a commitment to success and passion in their hearts, the Prairie Provinces are poised to do great things.
Thanks also to Alli Sports for giving me a voice, and keep it locked as there is much more to come!
When he is not in the shop, on the road as a sales rep or scouring the Internet for content on his blog streetjesus.net. Tyler Daku is most likely getting wet behind a buddy’s boat, racking out on a jib somewhere or cruising the streets on a bamboo fishtail.