Interview – Bryan Iguchi

INTERVIEW

Bryan
Iguchi



Words: Mira Kube / SplitUnite

It may all sound as a fairy tale about unknown splitboarders from Europe who traveled to America for trip of their life times and met a legend of our beloved sport. Luckily, it is all real. By the time it was me and my buddy out splitboarding above Jackson Hole valley when we received a phone call. On the other side of the line was nobody else but Bryan. We took a last lap of the day and drove down to the pub near the road which goes up to Teton Pass. We met Bryan Iguchi and from then on everything felt so smooth as if we were in our natural habitat after epic day of riding. This is what we chatted over a few brews:


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1. Where did you grow up and how did you get to snowboarding?

I grew up skateboarding and surfing in California. Then came snowboarding, you know the evolution of board sports. I saw snowboarding for the first time when I was on high school, probably 15 years old. Snowboarding is mixing the technical tricks skateboarding has with chasing the storms and weather conditions mother nature has to offer in surfing. I was sure snowboarding was my thing, so I went for it. I found snowboarding and it became my life, my passion. I am 41 years old now and I started surfing and skateboarding when I was 11. I became a sponsored skateboarder when I was 13. When I found snowboarding I thought it was the best of all. Then I dedicated my life to riding.

2. How did surfing influence your riding style on a snowboard?

What I love about surfing is that you have to wait for the conditions to be right. You know it’s about mother nature which makes the things come together. I enjoy seeing this. And the mountain is the same thing. You wait for a snowfall with no wind, then for a sunny day and when the conditions get right, it’s just perfect. You appreciate those days. I also enjoy the process of waiting, you know it’s an obsession.

When I went to high school I wanted to study something that interested me, so I took meteorology. I wanted to learn about the weather. I wanted to know when the snow was going to be good. I am interested in this. You know it really set me up for the path that I am taking. Checking conditions, watching, waiting and it‘s all an exciting process for me. Knowledge is really important. I believe that the more you learn the more you know. That‘s when you can progress forever. Before it was more about the tricks and the technique. Now I‘m more progressing in the sense of understanding what is going on. Being able to ride the right place in the right time and making decisions based on that. You know that kind of freedom? It’s a pursuit of that feeling.

3. How about avalanches? Have you ever been caught or had to dig out somebody?

I’ve been unfortunate in avoiding being caught in avalanche. I got swallowed but never got buried and I’́ve never been in the party where somebody got buried. Unfortunately over the years I have lost some of my friends.

M: I am sorry about that.

B: It’s all right, it’s part of life.

“You never know enough, you constantly build on that, showing the strength. Be able to be humble enough to be like, this is beyond my scope of the knowledge, I do not feel comfortable with that.”

– Bryan Iguchi

Bryan Iguchi being interviewed by Mira Kube in Jackson Hole, 2014 Photo by: Dan Janik

4. How about awareness and managing the risks in the mountains?

Yeah, put your beacon on and try to do everything you can to be safe. Now we are living in a great time because there’s so much information available. You can really pay attention before you leave the house. Ask what the dangers are. You can consult with professionals. I am not a forecast professional; I go to avalanche centers. I do not have the resources to get the information these guys have on a daily basis. So I go to them. I look at them and I listen to what they are saying and then investigate what it looks like out there, basing decisions on what I see or what I feel comfortable with. It ́s a humbling venue trying to push the limits of the sport with film crews and being in that kind of environment, but at the same time, the only thing that enriches me is coming home at the end of the day. We have a good time, we get good shots and that is great but it ́s never worth exposing yourself into unnecessary danger. It’s a respect thing, it’s something I guess we’re humbled from. It’s a constant learning. You never know enough, you constantly build on that, showing the strength. Be able to be humble enough to be like, this is beyond my scope of the knowledge, I do not feel comfortable with that. Be able to pull back and have partners that are ok with that. You know, let the egos down. And everybody should be stoked, good decision. Be like, I did not felt like it either. And It’s so hard, you know. It’s the hardest thing to do.

5. Do you use avy backpack?

I do have one but I rarely use it. Still I do think it’s a great tool to have. I do use it occasionally during specific conditions. I bring it for something like Alaska, big open slopes, alpine terrain, specific locations. I like to have things under control. I am really concerned about things. I always try to avoid any kind of danger and not expose myself to it.

6. What made you to come here to Jackson Hole?

I came here on a high school ski/snowboard trip. It was a 30 hours bus drive from southern California. We drove across the whole west, we crossed Utah and up to the mountains of Wyoming.Then I got to the ski resort, I looked up the mountain and I could not believe it. I was like, how can you get down that mountain? It had a strong impression on me. It was a great experience; I had an amazing time riding the tram (Red Heli), exploring the terrain. There was so much to ride, it was an incredible experience. A couple of years later I moved to Big Bear, started to build parks and I decided to pursuit the career of professional snowboarding. I traveled around, did a bunch of contests. I filmed some video parts. I was kind of up in the air at that time. When I was on a trip in Chile we received tons of snow and had amazing freeriding. I was concerned about what I was going to do the next winter. I was thinking about all of the places I had been to and I asked myself what was the most amazing place. I could not get Jackson Hole out of my mind. I kept thinking about it and I was like I must spend the season up there. Then I went to my buddy I grew up with and asked him: Would you go with me to Jackson Hole and check it out? And guess what. Yeah, we packed the car, drove up here, found a place to stay and spent a season. We had great snow up here. I got to know the hill, made some friends and after the season we went back down to California. After the summer I was again thinking about what I was going to do in the winter and I pulled back to Jackson. That season was the biggest snowfall ever recorded. We had incredible riding! I got a snowmobile so I started to access the backcountry on snowmobile and I discovered unlimited possibilities. Then I decided that I wanted to stick around instead of moving back and forth.

“I am really happy to be able to raise my family here. Good air, good environment and all the wildlife makes you really connected with nature.”

– Bryan Iguchi

Bryan Iguchi riding his local resort Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Photo by: Patrick Nelson

7. How is living in Jackson Hole?

There is so much to ride. We are just a small community and we share all the riding. I fell in love with JH. I just enjoy my experience here.

 

8. How did the experience of living in Jackson Hole change since you came for the first time?

When I moved here I was 21 years old and I am 41 now. So I’ve been riding here for 20 seasons now. There hasn’t been much of change since the 60s and 70s when they built the resort, so it feels like the Wild West and I kind of like that sense of freedom. It feels like mother nature rules it all. I guess the Wild West what best describes it. And now, after spending year after year here, I feel like I’m part of the community, I guess. I met my wife here and we have two young boys now. It is a family place. It is a great place to raise a family. After years of meeting people like Travis Rice, I prove my theory. I met him when he was in high school and I watched him come up. He grew up on the mountain and he was just a nice kid. He grew up in this good little community and all the kids I’ve met are just good people. We met a lot of good people here. I am really happy to be able to raise my family here. Good air, good environment and all the wildlife makes you really connected with nature. You see the interaction with animals, nature, the ecosystem and a healthy environment.

9. How could we help to be more sustainable using snowboarding as a tool?

I found snowboarding and through it I discovered nature, being in the mountains. Experiencing the energy and pristine environment you have in the mountains is very special. As far as sustainability goes, splitboards are amazing. You don’t need mechanized access, it’s just good green energy. The more you do it, the more you get out of it. It’s something that inspires me. I guess being connected to nature makes you conscious about decisions you make day in day out.

10. When did you see a splitboard for the first time?

I rode for Burton snowboards all through the 90s and Craig Kelly brought splitboarding to Burton. I got to test out one of the first prototypes. I got the new interface and everything. Voile already had the puck system. Burton was giving it a go and Craig was really into it. I always had one to use it a little bit and do stuff but I really did not like the feel. And then the Spark binding came and I was like ok, I can do it now, it feels real good, this is my gym from now.

“You get to really experience the mountain on splitboard. You can see and feel the snowpack as you go up. You get the avalanche danger on mind. You learn about the terrain and how to navigate through it.”

– Bryan Iguchi

Bryan Iguchi on his summer trip to Andes with Mark Carter. Photo by: Wade Dunstan – Arbor Snowboards

11. What is your attitude to splitboarding?

That’s the way I see myself progressing. You get to really experience the mountain on splitboard. You can see and feel the snowpack as you go up. You get the avalanche danger on mind. You learn about the terrain and how to navigate through it. When I ride the lifts all the day it beats me up. You know I feel so sore and my body hurts, but with splitboarding I feel way better. It gets you in shape and it feels good. In the end of the day you feel great about earning your turns. I still use the snowmobile and I still use the tram (Red Heli – ski lift in JH ski resort) but I do a lot more splitboarding. It’s like my recreation and meditation. My training is really walking up the mountain. I see it as something I want to be doing for the rest of my life because I want to be healthy, to stay strong and to live a long life.

12. What appears on your mind when you are skinning up the mountain

I think it all starts right out of the parking lot as you start to get the rhythm going, you start working out the problems. First you have to get your body moving, your blood flowing and your mind working. As you get going, that energy builds. Your body gets warm, your blood is circulating and you start to feel good. It all starts with problems, solving things and in the end it comes to inspiration. How to create ideas and positive mind set. Then ideas and solutions come to me. I really use that as a walking meditation not only to achieve the goal of riding the good snow, but also to get the peace of mind. You have time to think. Every time I get on touring it’s that feeling of what I want to feel every day. It’s also about thinking of what you feel after. You feel good. It just keeps you coming back.

There is also the mental challenge of looking at the mountain. Something like: I want to climb that mountain. It can be doubting but as you do it one step in a time, it teaches you other things in the life where we have challenges too. Take this problem and work at it slowly, day by day, step by step. You will get to your goal eventually. Enjoy the process of doing it.

13. Tell me about the rabbit story:

I went splitboarding the other day. I was going up following these rabbit tracks. I was skinning behind it on the ridge top and I came up upon this bird print of maybe an owl that was printed in the snow. And you would not see that normally. For me it’s such an interesting kind of evidence process of nature, you know, survival. It was pretty amazing. Just being out in the mountains and seeing stuff like that makes it so
unique.

“I do not want to stop snowboarding. I want to enjoy it. Even though I stopped to learn new tricks I am still progressing as a snowboarder.”

– Bryan Iguchi

Bryan ready to drop-in. Photo by: Wade Dunstan – Arbor Snowboards

14. How do you see the future of splitboarding?

To me splitboarding is the progression of snowboarding. Snowboarding started from skateboarding and surfing, that has a deep history and culture. We know that surfing was a Hawaiian tradition, it was a kings’ sport and it evolved over a long period of time. Then skateboarding came and it really exploded the progression of surfing. When snowboarding started, it arrived with everything from skateboarding and surfing. That combination of interests of surfing and the technical advancement that skateboarding brought to the table. It literally blew up. I mean, what you could do on a board back in 1950 and today, is amazing. You would not even dream that it is possible. So skateboarding took a lot of that technology, progression and brought it into surfing. Snowboarding took that same kind of progression into the mountains.

The mountains had been skied forever. That culture is ancient as well. It was started by hunters and trackers. People just needed to get from point A to point B in the mountains. Doing it on skis was the most efficient way to cross the snow. That evolved from necessity like hunting and met the sport that was for fun. So the practical sense of skiing evolution has met with the boardsports evolution and progression. Now it’s kind of connected. Splitboarding is going back to ancient roots and applying fun to it. I see that in snowboarding there are so many more opportunities now. It has gone back to the roots and come back. You know, there is history behind it. Everything that has been done skiing you can take from that and build the sport, it opens up so many opportunities in the mountains, opportunities to explore, to travel, to get around, to be efficient. So much more is now accessible for snowboarders, more than ever. Splitboarding is growing as a sport but at the same time, it is going back to the roots in a sense. Snowboarding is reconnecting with skiing.

15. What do you think about progression in snowboarding?

The kids are taking the sport to next level. They are continuously learning new tricks. When I was young I was learning new tricks all the time. I stopped learning new tricks quite a while ago. I got to the point where I felt like I could not make it to those park jumps anymore. I saw the progression in the mountains. I found my progression in just exploring the terrain, being out there, seeing new lines and figuring out how to get there. So I moved here to Jackson to progress as a rider in a sense that I wanted to be knowledgeable enough to get out in the mountains and ride the lines I want to ride when they were good and do it safely. And that is where I’ve gone. That is my progression.

Our sport is getting multi­generational because a lot of riders are having families. Their kids are starting to ride. I do not want to stop snowboarding. I want to enjoy it. Even though I stopped to learn new tricks I am still progressing as a snowboarder. I am not learning snowboard tricks but I am learning mountain tricks like survival, understanding the mountain and creating more access. you know, how to get up the mountain without having to do some difficult maneuver or something. There is always so much to learn about mountains. What to carry, things you need and things you do not need, how to lighten up your pack. There is always something to discover and with the new technologies it’s only getting better. For an older rider there is a full lifetime of riding experiences which only get better. You ride better quality snow, more interesting lines, you do it with confidence and you do it safely. This way you can explore more and snowboarding continues to be a fulfilling pursuit.

16. What do you fear the most?

I guess myself and my decision making. I fear making a bad decision in the mountains or in life.

 

17. What is your motto?

Knowledge is freedom in the mountains. Spend the time in the mountains, learn and you will discover endless opportunities to have good riding.

 

18. What is your message for splitboarders who read Splitboard Magazine

Messages are always hard. I would just say: You are on the right path.