No More Mr Nice Guy?

The Scott Stevens Interview

Words by James Renhard

On a surprisingly warm winter afternoon, Mpora sits in the reception of a typically featureless Travel Lodge waiting for Scott Stevens to emerge at the end of a weeklong tour of the UK with Capita Snowboards.

Two of Stevens’ team mates, Brandon Cocard and Phil Jacques – men with exquisite beards – mill around looking weary, as if they’ve just rolled out of bed. It’s three o’clock in the afternoon.

Suddenly, a contrastingly chipper Scott Stevens buzzes through the door. “Has anybody got Will [Gilmour’s] Instagram?” asks Stevens. “I don’t want to miss anybody out.”  The British grom has impressed while riding with the Capita team during the week. The fact that Stevens is at pains to include a 10-year-old in his circle of social media friends marries up with his reputation as the nicest man in snowboarding.

Hell, he’s even got a good word for the Travel Lodge. “They’re good! They’re not bad. Some of the guys don’t like the hard bed, but I have a soft bed at home and I hate it.” he says.

After a short time, Scott, the Capita team, and Mpora walk a few minutes down the road to the waiting Monster Energy bus that’s been carrying the riders around during their stay in the country. It’s an impressive set-up, with comfy leather sofas, and a seemingly endless supply of beer and snacks.

“It’s great, yeah. This has been the most luxurious I’ve ever travelled. This is awesome. So, Monster riders, thank you.” laughs Scott as we sit down to talk.

Scott Stevens and his team mates are in the country to promote the new Capita film, Defenders Of Awesome 2: Stay Badass. While they’ve been here, they’ve ridden at a number of indoor and dry slopes, including Braehead, Tamworth, Manchester, and Hemel Hempstead. It’s got to be quite a departure from what Scott’s used to riding.

“Would I rather ride a mountain, with endless trail possibilities? Maybe. But this is a good change. And British riders are super fanatics about snowboarding. Snowboarding needs that.

“The UK scene heavily onto the style of riding I like; playful and fun. Sometimes the ice gets a little tricky, but I think if the kids persevere quite well and, you know… it’s good.”

Perhaps he relates because it’s not dissimilar to home. Scott Stevens grew up in a town called Westfield, Massachusetts on the East coast of the US. Although it’s not too far from the nearest resort, Westfield itself is an area not blessed with the kind of snowboarding conditions North America is famed for.

“Yeah, we’re not an indoor facility, but we’re not doing super good, you know? But, we can take an hour drive up to Vermont and the mountains get a little larger.”

But there are no complaints being made here. This isn’t an ‘I could have been a contender’, dummy spitting protest. Far from it. Stevens credits the mellower slopes and slower conditions for contributing to his unique style. “Yeah, I think that if anything, whether you’re skateboarding or snowboarding, where your main facility is when you’re young shapes how you do stuff.”.

And it’s this unique style that’s led to Scott Stevens really standing out from the professional pack. At a time when fifty snowboard edits drop each week, with the same tricks that are being put down in similar spots, Stevens’ edits are littered with tricks that are as original as they are progressive. Not to mention crazy looking.

Think frontflipping onto a mattress. Or unstrapping the front foot to nose-manual on a box. Or both feet to do a kickflip before leaping from one board to another.

The word “innovative” is never far away when people look for ways categorise the uncategorisable. Could a compliment like this ever be annoying?

“Honestly?” suggests Scott after a few seconds of contemplation “I want something else from my riding. So I guess I do kinda get a little sick of it, just because I’ve learnt things from other people, and I’m trying to relay the story of how I got there.

“I was telling somebody recently; I’d like to invent a staple trick, instead of inventing something that’s just for my video part, you know? But so far it’s just pretty much been tricks that are like, novelties for my part.”

It’s a statement that’s delivered confidently, and without a flinch, but that’s sits uneasily against Stevens’ reputation as both an innovator and the nicest guy in snowboarding. Yet, somehow, the confession is strangely comforting. It’s good to know that there’s a normal guy, who gets a bit pissed off with things, behind the media friendly image.

The other end of the professional snowboarding spectrum is the high-octane, triple corking, competition winning world of Marc McMorris and co. Is this the realm of snowboarding that Scott Stevens aspires to? Still reeling somewhat, Mpora probes further. Surely he doesn’t feel close to the ‘Spin To Win’ guys?

“[No] I’m pretty far [from that]. The novelty thing doesn’t bother me. If anything I feel grateful to still be getting paid to snowboard, with not even being close to that.

“And also happy that people can see all aspects of snowboarding for what they’re worth, you know, even if it’s not the most death defying or acrobatic. But, fuck, if I could do it all, I would. You’ve got to be a great athlete to do that stuff.”

The atmosphere on the bus remains relaxed, but it’s not the madcap party mood you might expect. Maybe it’s the week of non-stop touring, or just the smell created by twenty or so battered skate shoes that sit at the front of the bus (everybody that gets on board has to remove their shoes as they enter. It adds a strange homely feel to proceedings, and presumably keeps dog shit from being walked in to the carpeted floor).

Things seem almost sombre. Mpora tried to lift things a little. Whenever a Stevens edit drops, the snowboarding world stops and pays attention. His crazy tricks are internet gold, and while he might get tired of them, no-one else is.

“Yeah, that’s changing slightly. Like they get a little tired of some things. I feel like I want to take a little bit of a nap, and let people want me back. I hate the feeling of being, like my snowboarding being like… there’s too much content being put out there.”

Just as Mpora thinks we’re about to be handed written confirmation that one of our favourite snowboarders is about to work his notice period and quit, Scott adds “But, for the majority, it feels like people are pretty stoked.”

The mood suddenly lifts, and the relief from everybody – not least the Capita head honcho sitting just to our left – is palpable. A broad smile spreads across Stevens face. Was he messing with us? Or were we a Radiohead ring tone away from one of the most heartbreaking exclusives in Mpora history?

While giving the word “innovative” a wide birth, we turn the conversation back to Stevens trick bag, and style of riding that puts him in a league of his own. Does he practice his tricks? Hell, is it even possible to practice them?

“Not at all. I just go out there and honestly, I try the trick on the spot. And that’s why it can be so time consuming, because I’m literally learning a new trick every time I go out filming. And then I do it, and I don’t really come back to it, unless I’m going to revisit it to make it better in another year.”

Anybody who’s watched a Scott Stevens part will be able to understand and appreciate this impulsive approach to snowboarding. Again, it seems a world away from the constant practise and military-style drills of the triple corking, air bag hitting, private superpipe building brigade.

“That’s so true. It’s so different. You’re learning it, just to do it, then you move on. Which is cool! I don’t want to try hours and hours of tricks. When I go to the hill, I want to do stuff I can land, and have fun with, and have fun in different ways. When I’m filming video parts, I turn into a different person sometimes, good or bad.” admits Scott with a chuckle.

While he may be a little Jekyll And Hyde when he’s making his edits, Stevens is very much a video based snowboarder. It’s becoming an increasingly polarised world, with riders seemingly concentrating on either riding comps, or putting out videos, and rarely do the two worlds meet. What is it about committing his stuff to videos that appeals to Stevens above chancing his luck in comps?

“I think that, deep down, it has a lot to do with the song. Putting the feeling across. I love magazines. I love a good photo, but video parts? I’m like an encyclopaedia with them. I just love it.

“That’s my favourite aspect of snowboarding. It’s just… man, I can’t even think of how many magazines I actually haven’t kept. But videos? When somebody borrows a video from me…?”  Scott smiles, but shakes his head ruefully. “They’re my prized possession!”

“They’re from over the years, so they’re frozen in time. I’m actually pretty thankful for people putting my parts online because, unless YouTube goes down the shitter, they’ll be on there for a long time, and I can feel proud that they’re there.” he laughs.

Is it just the love of the video process that keeps Stevens away from riding in comps, or the fact that there isn’t really an event out there that would let him shine. After all, a super tech one-footed backside 180 isn’t going to score too high at Air & Style, even though it’s arguably a lot more entertaining to watch that a string of 1440’s.

“Yeah,” agrees Scott. “Explaining it to people is really hard. The funny thing is, when people get too on my level I like it, it depends how I know them as a person, but I really like watching snowboarders that are different than I am, too.

“You know, like Dan Brisse, Gigi Rüf and all those guys. They almost influence me more to do what I do than a dude doing the same shit as me. It’s not like I feel competition or something, but there’s a bit of a competitive nature, for sure.”

The snowboarding style that’s won Scott Stevens so many fans is massively influenced by skateboarding. A lot of skateboarders like to crowbar a bit of skate footage into their winter edits, often in an attempt to legitimise themselves as ‘being core’.

Stevens, however, is on a different level. Back in the Autumn of 2014 he released his very own skateboard edit that had the internet frothing at its virtual mouth.

Even the normally cynical Gary Rogers, host of Thrasher’s Skate Line show gave Stevens a virtual high five for the part.

I coulda sworn [snowboarders] were only talented when the board was, like, y’know what I’m sayin strapped up on them, all the way, helmet on, jacket laced, zipped up, vagina pad on the Tampax on the pussy…” he said in his inimitable style. “But god-damn it Gary, look at you giving props to a snowboarder. He rippin!

For a man who’s stock in trade is blanket abuse of everyone and everything, this was high praise indeed

“Yeah, that was pretty cool. That’s, like, a career high, ‘cause, he rips skaters to shreds, and [presenter Garry Rogers] had to go through the motions of fucking with me. He could have really said some stuff about me that would have made everybody think that part sucked. But he was quite complimentary. Man, I’m taking that, and I’m going to run!” he laughs.

Yeah, it’s funny because there are a lot of snowboarders out there that are better skaters than I. I don’t know if they get as involved with it as I do.”

This is something the otherwise laid-back Stevens is clearly passionate about, as he immediately becomes more animated.

“In my part I have tricks that I know I saw Mike Feeley do, you know. In this day-and-age people just copy each other’s tricks and just fucking not care about it. Try to come up with your own shit, and do stuff, and try to have good etiquette about it.”

It’s interesting to see Stevens seemingly care so much about skateboarding. And not just wanting to skate, but really having a knowledge of the minutiae of skateboarding.

With the talk earlier of taking a break from snowboarding, and a clear love of its four wheeled brother, how much importance does Scott put on the two? What would make up a perfect day? Skating or snowboarding. A few seconds of thought pass before Scott concocts a delicately diplomatic answer.

“In a span of the last 24 hours, I was riding MK, then skating this morning. That was pretty perfect. Just riding, skating. Stuff like that.”

Coming from any other super-pro, the idea that the UK could provide the perfect day might sound like flesh-pressing, baby-kissing, media friendly bullshit, but from Scott it’s totally believable.

He’s clearly a man who just loves shredding, making the most of wherever he is, and whatever he’s riding. And when he says stuff like that, he means it.

Scott Stevens really is the nicest man in snowboarding.

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