“If you do what you love," Marc Anthony once said “you’ll never have to work a day in your life". In action sports, you may think doing what you love means turning pro. But for most of us, that will never be any more than a dream.
But wait! All is not lost. Just because you’re too big, too small, too old, or just too shit, an action sports career is still possible.
Here are the top 10 action sports jobs for those of us that just don’t cut it.
The mantra “without proof it didn’t exist" lives true in all action sports. No matter how good a pro is, the world would never know without snappers capturing their skills.
Photographers are the link between the stars and their audience, keeping us mere mortals inspired.
Until Google invent glasses that let people see other locations around the world in real-time, photographers are indispensable. They hang out with the stars, living the life of a pro but with much reduced risk of broken bones.
One word; equipment. Equipment is expensive, heavy, easily broken, and airports love to lose it. But without it a photographer’s nothing.
And after they’ve bought it, broke it, and bought it again, some prick gets a better angle on his iPhone.
"usually covered in oil, wax, dirt, and other unpleasant substances"
9) Ramp Builder / Course Designer
Whether it’s building mini-ramps, shovelling mountains of dirt for a run, or shaping kickers, without ramp builders and course designers we’d have nothing to ride.
In many ways, these folk are the very heart of action sports. Their craft is a combination of art and science, and is one that cannot be learnt from a book. They also get the first crack on what they’ve built.
Building is long, backbreaking, thankless work. It’s what feminist thinkers call Shit Work; the kind that’s only noticed when it’s done badly. Also, do you think that guy driving past in a Ferrari is a ramp builder? Nope.
Think Nyjah Huston still fits his own griptape? Or Julien Absalon still replaces his own inner tube? Nah, turning pro means that somebody else to do that for you, keeping those fingernails oil free.
Be it adjusting gears, waxing skis, changing oil… you name it, there’s a tech guy or girl to do it.
Technicians are the cog that keeps the professional machine ticking. They travel with the pros to all the contests and shoots and, if they’re really lucky, they get to wear one of those snazzy team shirts.
Technicians may be forced to wear one of those snazzy team shirts. But aside from looking like a walking billboard, and usually being covered in oil, wax, dirt, and other unpleasant substances, they’re obvious scapegoat for failure.
Off the pace? Blame the tech guy. Burst a tyre? Blame the tech guy. Binding broke? You guess it. They fix their crap, they take their crap, they are crap.
Agents represent the commercial interests of pros. They negotiate lucrative contracts, workout competition schedules, and keep track of exactly where energy drink stickers are placed. An agent is the link between the suits and the stars.
Remember the guy in the Ferrari that probably wasn’t a ramp builder? That’s because he was a sports agent. Bag a Shaun White early in their career, and an agent will be laughing all the way to the bank.
Pretty much everybody thinks agents are dicks (although that bed of money helps them sleep at night). Aside from that, to spot emerging talent they may have to scout the nations skate parks, junior comps, dry slopes, all in the hope of spotting a child star.
Try explaining “I’m this kids agent" to the arresting officer on a rainy night in Rotheram.
Marshals are the people who ensure that events go off without a hitch. Usually lining the sides of runs, ensuring spectators don’t get mown down by riders, and escorting them to the medical centre when they do.
More often than not, marshals have proverbial ring-side seats at an event. They’re so close to the action that they can smell it!
Marshals are often seen as the high-vis wearing manifestation of bureaucratic authority. Clip board in hand, barking “stand back" to anybody within a meter of a safety fence, they are the embodiment of The Man that we are so readily encouraged to stick “it" to.
"everybody thinks agents are dicks"
Snow doesn’t just fall in to that elegant corduroy pattern, you know. It has to be pushed, shifted and combed by a dedicated team of groomers. These are the alpine equivalent of groundsmen, ensuring that the piste is maintained for you skiing and snowboarding pleasure.
Groomers get to play around in a big old tractor-like thing for a living. If they’re really lucky, they might even get to cut a few pipes with a Dragon!
And when they’re done, groomers are the first people on the mountain, sneaking a cheeky shred in, without a 14 year olds called Claude flailing wildly towards them at mach 10.
Beating the eager first lift fans up the mountain means groomers starting every day at stupid o'clock. And early starts mean equally early nights.
Either that or driving a snowy combine harvester around an icy mountain while still half cut. Not even a Helgason, hyped on RV Juice is gnarly enough for that.
4) Event Announcer
Like the lovechild of John Motson and Flavor Flav (how's that for an enduring mental image!) an announcer both commentates on the action at an event, and keeps the crowd excited during the dull bits.
An encyclopedic knowledge of tricks, and a Rain Man like ability to process information quickly is required to be a top announcer.
While begging’s may be humble, the career of an announcer can take them to some rather rad places.
Take Tim Warwood for example. In 1999, began announcing at a snowboard jam in Manchester. By 2014, along with his co-presenter/partner in crime Ed Leigh, Tim was arguably the biggest non-competing star to emerge from the Winter Olympics.
Announcers will get abuse. Not possibly. Not maybe. They will. Whether it’s stumbling over their words, not keeping up with the action or – the ultimate sin – calling a trick wrong, the stick will come.
And the bigger they make it, the bigger this shit storm! Our pals Ed and Tim were the subject of a media backlash following Sochi, just for being excited when Jenny Jones stomped her medal winning run.
"Days are spent with friends, drinking coffee, and occasionally writing"
3) Board Shop worker
Those poor souls with fixed smiles, whose ‘Happy To Help’ badge seems like a challenge customers.
The average day for a worker at an action sports shop goes as follows: Customer asks for advice. Customer ignores advice. Customer buys something flashy designed for pros. Flashy thing is unsuitable. Customer brings it back complaining of bad service.
Outside of the pros, the retail workers get their hands on the newest equipment before just about anybody else. Those lucky enough to work in a store attached to a park, course or dome may even get in a few private laps before it opens.
Lowest on the action sports food chain . A retail workers life is full of false smiles, apologies, and stock-room melt-downs induced by the mistaken belief that the customer is always right even when the customer is an aching ball-bag. Here's a tip for next time you’re in a shop: BE NICE!
"It’s a life of bleaching toilets, cooking meals, and mopping up vomit"
2) Chalet Host
Many an action sport relies on mountains. And where there are mountains, there are inevitably chalets. These quaint, rustic dwellings are often staffed by tired, hung-over, oversexed young reprobates called chalet hosts.
Not only do they get free accommodation on the mountain, chalet hosts live with the best friends they didn’t know they had, while actually getting paid to be there. That’s like being ¼ of a pro, right?
Wrong! For starters, only their parents call them chalet hosts. The rest of the world will know them as chalet bitches. It’s a life of bleaching toilets, making beds, mopping up little Toby’s four cheese vomit and running Lady Muck to the nearest town for a new fur coat.
Action Sports journalists are the people who work tirelessly, covering the hottest stories, making the world think with in-depth opinion pieces, and bringing action sports to life with a rich tapestry of words.
Either that or searching Youtube for Micro Scooter slams and researching stories via Wikipedia.
Days are spent hanging out with friends, drinking coffee, and occasionally writing while in a snazzy office where large TV screens show action sports films all day.
Or maybe it’s a work-from-home kinda day, where they skype friends, drink coffee, and occasionally write while in a makeshift office where small screens show action sports films all day.
Aside from your parents asking when you’re going to get a proper job, the life of an action sports journalist is one of missed connecting trains, rapidly approaching deadlines, and angry online reaction.
If you listen carefully, you can hear the world’s smallest violin, playing just for the journalists.