Mads Jonsson

Mads is a snowboarder who needs little introduction. As equally at home firing himself off monstrous park structures as he is taking the freestyle skills to the kickers and natural terrain of the backcountry, his video parts over the last few years have been nothing short of awesome. Forget the world records: for Mads, it’s all about pushing himself while maintaining good style, which anyone who calls themselves a snowboarder can relate to. In this respect, he’s just like the rest of us… he just goes a bit bigger, that’s all. Onboard took a long overdue look at Mads’ world.

Words by Daniel Burrows
Photos by Pat Vermeulen

I’m sure that you want to get this subject out of the way as fast as we do as every interview this side of the galaxy seems to circle around it. So here goes: you cleared 187 feet – give or take an inch – off that behemoth kicker in Hemsedal in 05, then set a new record for hip jumping the following year. Why?
True what you’re saying. There have been some questions about this over the past years. I guess the answer is pretty simple. Got to keep people asking, right? [Laughs]. Personally, though, riding in Hemsedal has been a really good way for me to end my season. Spending a lot of time in the backcountry all season long gives me a lot of confidence in riding and I feel pretty solid on my board. When I showed up there in 05, Lars [Eriksen] had put together a pretty big landing. We were talking about where to set the jump and went with it. After it all got shaped up and ready, it ended up being a pretty big gap. I guess something inside me told me to step up to what was there, and I did. It was never about setting any records for any books, just me testing myself. Looking back at it, it sure was pretty cool that everyone was pumped about what happened. And like everybody else that makes money snowboarding, it’s a good feeling to go home with a solid shot in the bag.
Hips have always been one of my favourite obstacles in a park. It’s a rad feeling to be at the climax of the air when you’re not going up or down, just focusing on holding the grab steady. Again, it’s not about the records, but somewhat of a test for myself and what I can accomplish.

Did you feel any pressure from within or from those on the hill to do the 7 on which you broke your wrist? Or was this fun?
No pressure from anybody than myself. Pushing my own limits is most diffidently fun.

What does holding these records mean to you? Do you view them as personal achievements or milestones in snowboard history?

I have never looked at them as milestones, really. For me personally, they have been achievements, for sure, and they have given me some pretty dope photos to show my kids one day.

Did you enjoy the jumps? Or would you rather have been kicking back on some more mellow obstacles with friends?
Hitting the jumps was enjoyable in its own way, for sure. It’s a good feeling to be revved up about something and then stick it. Still, it’s nothing I would go out and do on a normal day with my friends. I still have the best of times just cruising around the resort doing slashes and carves. Too bad those photos usually never end up anywhere.

Some people – incorrectly in the opinion of Onboard – have referred to you as a stuntman after these jumps. What would you say in your defence apart from inviting them out for a good kicking?

I don’t really feel the need to defend myself. We all have different way to obtain status from what we’re doing and this is my way. It was never planned as a marketing stunt or whatever you call it. If people want to hate, let them hate. I’m still a pretty happy about the path I’m on.

The obstacles were built by the master of snow shaping, Lars Eriksen. You must have the utmost trust in his work as, let’s face it, bad kickers break bones while good kickers break records.
Me and Mr Eriksen go way back. We’ve worked on a lot of jumps together and I totally trust the things he shapes. He is a really good rider himself and has a good eye for what works or not.

And the last question on this subject, I promise: is it shapers who limit the progress of snowboarders or snowboarders who limit the shapers?

I would say it’s up to the rider to make out the ideas. Having a shaper like Lars that can get in the mindset and make it right is key. If the shaper has no clue of what’s what, it will just end up being dangerous for the people involved.

Do you think snowboarding has peaked in the distances and heights able to be jumped and the rotations spun?
Snowboarding has for sure gone a long way the last 10 years. I think what we’re seeing these days is somewhat the peak of what’s physically possible, but there is still a lot of room for perfection. Personally I would like to see more of the freestyle aspect transferred into the backcountry.

Which brings me onto another subject: what is your opinion of the spin-to-win of contest riding, especially in pipe?
I think style is important, whether it’s in a contest or just riding. Looking at it from a judge’s point of view, though, it’s hard to separate what’s what, and rotation is easy to separate. Having said that, when it looks forced it’s kind of going away from the smoothness of the sport. Like spinning with arms above the head is, in my opinion, kind of pointless. Then just take it down a 180 and bone the grab.

Are contests driving riders to develop bad style by scoring ballerina spins over style?
I wouldn’t blame it on anybody. We’re all out there to make it stick and do as well as we can. It’s for sure natural to try a spin extra to score points when you know it’s going to do so. Looking at contests, though, winners usually are the riders who can combine the spin, grab and style.

Which riders have had the greatest influence on your style and riding?
Terje and Nico are the riders I like to watch the most, for sure. Influencing my style are not only these guys, though. I get inspired when I ride with riders like Mark Landvik, Romain, John J, JP Solberg… the list is long. I get inspired from the riders I ride with. We all look at terrain differently and can learn from one another.

You started your side-sliding on a skate, if I am not mistaken, and now you surf. Do you think that the three disciplines help each other or have contributed to your progress as a snowboarder?
I think the three sports feed off each other, for sure. It’s all built of the same principle, and there is a lot to learn from one discipline to another. Being able to master different ways of riding a board could give a lot of influence on style and board control. Having said that, I don’t think it’s the end of the world if a rider is not to do the one or the other. He is just missing out on a lot of fun.

How do you rate yourself as a skater and surfer?
I wouldn’t even dare to rate myself. I can kind of skate transitions and my surfing is sort of starting to get somewhere. What’s really rad about it at this point is that I have the same feeling as when I was learning how to jump and ride my snowboard – the feeling of progressing every time I go out.

Skaters are always slating snowboarders and maybe with good reason after watching the likes of Brown and Burnquist at the X Games. What do you think, are skaters harder than snowboarders? Or are we similar beings on different rides?

I didn’t even know they were slating us. If so, I’m so bummed at it. They don’t have bindings and ride pretty much as hard as any snowboarder. We have pow turns and whiterooms, though.

You are also a keen fisherman and hunter. Is there a similar rush to snowboarding when you are stalking your kill or teasing the surface of a deep fast moving elbow of a river?
It’s sort of hard to draw connections between snowboarding and fishing/hunting. If anything, it’s the feeling of reward when the time invested leads to the golden moment – whether it’s hooking a steelhead, riding out of a line with control or getting close to a wild animal after days of hunting. The big difference is that you can’t eat the line you rode.

I read somewhere that you bagged your first kill when you were 13. Did you ever have any regrets about a kill?

I’m not a hunter for the pleasure of killing. I’m a strong believer in hunting for food and therefore I have no regrets after killing an animal.

What is your opinion about trophy hunts arranged for rich tourists in Africa or on ranches in the US where animals are blown apart to decorate offices on Wall Street?

That is as wack as 4-wheel rollerblading. Get a life!

On the subject of the environment, do you think snowboarding as an industry is doing enough to preserve the environment on which we are dependent?
I mean, building boards and protective clothing is a pretty dirty business, and China, the great polluter of the East, is where most of the gear is built.
The way I look at it we’re not too bad. I mean, in a perfect world everything would have been made from clean business and with degradable material. Put in context though, we’re a pretty small fish in a big pond. And the way the industry is moving shows that we’re conscious about our impact, with an open mind to change – more so than a lot of other industries. Unfortunately, we depend on the money to make ends meet, and change will come slowly.

You yourself have to travel a load for ‘work’. How big do you think your carbon footprint is? And would you consider offsetting it? You know, plant a couple of trees? Invest in property that is eco-friendly?
Like a lot of other people, I travel a lot by plane, car, sleds etc to get my job done. I’m definitely aware of it and trying to do what I can to make my impact is as small as possible.
DCP turned me onto some stuff in Costa Rica and Nicaragua where eco-concerned people can offset their CO2 emissions by planting trees in the rainforest for a pretty affordable price. I want to see if I can get in on something like that for sure. I’m also building a house in Mexico with JP that we are trying to make as sustainable as possible. Like everybody, I’m not perfect, but I’m trying to alter my way of thinking and planning to be eco friendly.

This year, like many before, you are heading for the US for the season. What is the attraction besides the obvious filming advantages?

There are many reasons why I go to the States and ride. Getting hooked up with the Hatchetts and Standard Films has for sure given me more than one reason to keep coming back. Besides all the sick terrain they have taken me to, I’ve gotten a lot of friends over the years that I like going back to hook up with.

Would you ever consider settling in the US? Or is Norway always in your heart when you are on the road?
I could see myself living in the US for a couple of years. Kind of depends how my deck of cards falls. I’ll never leave Norway for good, though. All of my family and a lot of my best friends are there, and it’s too good to leave behind.

You have filmed for a while with Standard. What is it that attracted you to them and them to you? I guess having couch-surfed at Mike Hatchett’s means that it goes beyond ‘work’ and into the realms of friendship?
I guess it all started out when Burton put me in contact with them back in the day. I’ve always been into their movies the most, and it was really cool to get a chance to film with them. Over the years, both Dave and Mike have been really dope and let me stay in their houses for free. I try to pay them back by shovelling decks, dishes, gear etc. But in reality there is no way I can get fully back at them. I owe the [Hatchett] twins most of my knowledge and stoke on the snowboarding I believe in.

What out of all your movie parts is your favourite so far?

Draw the Line, no doubt.

Was it you who picked Placebo for Draw The Line?
Like always, Mike had some songs picked out. That’s the one I liked the most, and it ended up being pretty good.

I hear that you have started to play the guitar. Is music big part of your life?

After all, you need a good playlist to get you through all those hours of travel.
Music means a lot to me, for sure. I listen to it as much as I can. Last year we sat forever looking at the snow fall in Terrace. John Jackson brought a guitar, and I got really inspired. I’m still trying to pick it up. It’s hard, but after a year in Hatchett’s heavy metal camp, I hope to be better.

Do you listen to tunes when riding? What tune would you turn on to get the motivation to hit the Hemsedal booter?

When I cruise on the hill I do. When filming, it tends to be a little too much. The communication is key, and there is a lot to think about. Can’t remember what music I was listening to that day.

Another passion of yours is poker and by all accounts you are pretty good. What is the attraction, passing time with buddies or another thrill?
I don’t know where this poker rumour is coming from. Have I taken somebody’s money there at the mag? [Laughs.] I like to play for sure. It’s a great way to pass an evening when hanging with the boys.

Is the whole obsession with poker among snowboarders a bit of a fad do you think?
Poker just kind of blew up and everybody is into it. I read somewhere it was the fastest growing sport in Sweden. If you can even call it a sport.

Professional snowboarding has to be one of the best jobs on the planet. What would you say snowboarding has given you beyond the obvious bonus of time on the hill?
Snowboarding has given me so much it makes it hard to make it out. It’s almost impossible for me to imagine what my life would be if it wasn’t for the opportunities Burton, VZ and the other sponsors have given me. One thing is for sure, though, it’s given me the chance to see the world and meet people. Sort of [helped me] make up my mind on how I want to keep living.

I think it is fair to say that friendships are perhaps what make snowboarding a way of life beyond it being just another sport. Would you agree?
Friendship is key for sure. Riding with friends is key to have fun on the hill and stay positive. Still, I don’t think we are special and different from other sports. I’m sure there are somewhat the same elements that bring forward great athletes everywhere.

You and JP were almost inseparable in the early years. Do you still ride much together and hang out?
Me and JP still hang out a lot. Because of different assignments from sponsors, there has been more surfing than riding together over the past years. We still have a lot of fun when we do, though. There is always a good energy hanging with that guy. It would be rad to spend a whole season filming with him at some point.

As a professional, you have steered more towards the film and photo aspect of the ‘career’ and shunned contests, although you did do the Air & Style and a few other contests. What is your opinion of contests as a whole?
I think contests are good. Even though I have chosen a different path to develop as a rider, it doesn’t mean that I hate them. Just never fitted for me having fun riding. In a contest setting I just get frustrated about calls being made from people that have very little to no experience about the riding part. Then I get pissed off and ride shitty. Not to bag on every contest, because there are for sure organisers that have their shit together.

Were you down with the original boycotting of the Olympics? And what is your opinion of it now?
For sure, I thought it was a cool idea. And I still do… [laughs]. But the Olympics have done great things for the sport, like bringing mainstream focus to the table, and brought the level of pipe through the roof. In my opinion, though, that whole thing is just too big on the economic side… seems like it’s more about ads and the guys investing in it than the sports themselves. I mean, Norway is already applying for 2018 and are concerned about using money that could save 2/3 of the Third World.

You have the reputation of being a well grounded and, dare I say it, responsible chap. Are you making plans or investments for life after snowboarding?
Yeah, I guess I am a little concerned about how I spend my money. I just don’t want to sit back when I’m 35 thinking about what I was consuming in my 20s, you know what I mean? Both for the sake of my wallet and the environment. The way I live, more than half my year is paid travelling, and I don’t feel like I need more luxury than I get. Every time I go back to my friends at home, I get reminded how privileged I really am doing the things I do. I have some plans for the future, for sure, but want to keep my main focus on the riding for now. Things like investing doesn’t take too much time, and is a good way for me to pass time off. Since I’m involved in a lot of heli action, I’ve decided to take the licence. It’s a really dope read, and gives me a good understanding of a lot of relevant things for the situation. It’s not really the most eco-friendly activity, so I’ll see how far I’ll take it in the future.

And finally where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time? Where do you see snowboarding in 10 years’ time? And do you think that you have contributed in your lifetime as a rider to the place it will be then?

That is a really hard question. I think snowboarding is going to be one of the leading industries with eco-friendly profiles, and the riders are going to be hiking around the mountains doing 10s off natural hits. As for me, I can only hope that I’m still able to travel and surf. Maybe I’ll be living part time between Bali and Norway… That would be rad!

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