Photo: Pat Vermeulen
Born in Switzerland, Jean-Marc ‘Jim’ Zbinden first got into snowboarding when his dad bought him his first snowboard back in 1988. He loved it right away, but never imagined that one day he would make a career out of it and become the boss of one of the most influential snowboard crews in Europe, the Pulp Family. But we’re not going to recount Pulp’s whole history. We’ve done that a bunch of times already. Instead we decided to run with a short question and answer interview.
Tell us a little about how it all started.
“At the time there were hardly any snowboarding organisations or associations, we just used to hang out together as friends and tried to motivate each other. Shortly after the creation of the Family, I broke my ankle in five places (skateboarding), and that was pretty much it for me: no more skateboarding, no more snowboarding, or at least that’s what the doctors told me. I had to wait 5 months before I could start walking again and then I just thought what the hell, I never returned to the hospital to have all the metal pins taken out of my ankle. Today, I pay the price every time I go ride. But the positive side to have come out of it was being able to spend more time with my friends, helping to promote them to brands and finding sponsorship deals here and there through Pulp.”
What exactly do you do today?
“Every time someone asks me what I do, I never know what to say. I’m pretty hyperactive. I was really lucky to be able to do so many things despite having to “retire” early because of my injury. As a result I accepted all sorts of opportunities, even if a lot of them meant working for free. Here’s a list of some of them: boardsports shop manager, president of Pulp68 and SAD associations, photographer, filmer, journalist, editor-in-chief of Abia magazine, graphic designer, team manager, artist, DJ, MC, event organiser, video games reviewer, collector of trainers, skateboard and snowboard archiver, and finally a social worker (though not qualified). And even with all of that, I still don’t always manage to make ends meet at the end of the month!”
How do you stay motivated in your work when you come across negative aspects of the snowboard scene and industry?
“When you’ve had so much fun and spent a third of your life living out your passion, you always find motivation to keep going. Sometimes it can be hard, but you just have to keep thinking of the good times. And to tell the truth, what else could I do? I’ve never worked in anything else: I got kicked out of school when I was 15. As long as the industry still needs me then I’ll be happy to keep helping out.”
In the industry, you’re well known for not being afraid of saying what you really think.
“I’ve definitely got a big mouth but I’ll always stand by everything I say. I know that some people think I should probably shut it sometimes, but for others I’m their spokesman. I was brought up by my parents who were big fans of comedians like Coluche, Reiser, Desproges, Choron, and I guess they made an impression on me! Unfortunately, in our society today there are very few people who are willing to tell things the way they are. I’ve watched snowboarding develop as a sport, for better and for worse. It was a long time ago now that people supported Terje for boycotting the Olympic games.”
Tell us a little about SAD, and the kind of feedback you’ve had regarding the association.
“SAD (Skateboard/Snowboard/Ski/Sports Against Drugs) was born out of trying to change our sports’ attitudes to drugs. Not all snowboarders are drug users, and people who publicly endorse the use of drugs are criminals. Live your own life the way you want to, smoke if you want to, but keep it to yourself, don’t go around promoting it to others. When you look at how easy it is for brands to use Rasta colours to sell a product, some brands like SP have even gone as far as handing out free Rizzlas to the public, I think it’s pathetic. The feedback we’ve had so far has been really positive, as our goal isn’t to ban drugs; we just want pro riders to be aware of the image they’re portraying to others. All drugs can have devastating effects on people, including cannabis, and it’s the role of older generations to warn younger generations of the dangers.”
Which pro riders influenced you the most?
“Those that most people won’t remember today. Nicole Angelrath first of all, she’s the one who really got me into snowboarding, with Arlette Javet – they really looked after us! And then guys like Noah Salasnek, Damian Sanders and the riders from the unforgettable movie Project 6. Jamie Lynn, and the whole story behind Lib Technologies before Quiksilver bought it out, the guys that worked at the factory and rode as team riders at the same time. More than just riders, it was a whole era in snowboarding’s history that influenced me, that of brands like Lamar, Joyride, H-Street, Peach with Jimmy Péresson, the Mountain High summer snowboard camps, Cardiel (who was both a pro skater and snowboarder way before Shaun White) and his vert ramp run under the snow at the Board Aid event.”
What might you have been in another life?
“I don’t know, I’m not an ecologist but I do like plants. When I was a kid, I didn’t want to be a fireman or a vet, I wanted to be a dustbin man. I was fascinated by those men that would hang on to the back of the rubbish lorries.”
What are your plans for the future?
“I try to live day by day, always trying to give the best I have until one day people will turn their back on me and my name will be remembered with all of the other ‘old guys’. I hope that all the blood and sweat I’ve put into the sport will have served as something. I think there have been very few stories like ours!”
Pulp68 Shop & Media Lab
14 Quai du Rhône