Words & Portrait by Pat Vermeulen
To earn a place in Onboard’s Dedicated page you need to have shown an outstanding commitment to ripping on a personal and professional level. This issue’s aspirant, Norman Kerr, has done just that, evolving from pro rider to team manager and rep and finally to park shaper extraordinaire. So without further ado allow our senior photographer Pat Vermeulen to introduce you to Norman.
I met Norman back in 87, when we were both riding for Wild Duck Snowboards. This was back in the days where there was no budget and we were just on the flow. As we and the industry grew and matured, we moved on and within five years Norman had moved to Peach and was getting paid to ride. The problem in Switzerland has always been that there were no magazines to promote the riders, so those with real talent never really got noticed beyond the country’s borders. Norman was one of these guys. However anyone that ever met Norman in the flesh would not forget him easily: firstly for his riding talent, and secondly for his sense of humour. I would say that he was the Swiss Mickey Leblanc – for real! They even look alike!
Norman had a big impact on the Swiss-French snowboard scene. Just ask any Swiss pro and they’ll tell you that Norman was the man, along with his fellow team rider and buddy, Dominic Corti. Back in the 90s he was one of the first to adopt the ‘new skool’ style, as seen in The Hard, The Hungry and The Homeless and he was doing it better than anyone else. He had that ‘make or break, do or die’ kind of attitude and still has it.
I filmed the Peach video with Norman and Dominic in 95, which was a real success in France and Switzerland. The two of them became highly respected although they still didn’t get any coverage but on the hill they were always noticed. At the time, Norman was ripping with the likes of Babs and Jimi Perrison who were ruling the French scene at the time.
Norman then moved to Nidecker and I went on to film a bunch of underground videos for them in which Norman was always the star. But the reality of being a pro then was that to stay in the scene Norman had to get a side job to stay in the industry, and he became team manager. His affiliation with Nidecker also took him to the US where he worked as a rep for the company and spent time with his parents – he holds both a US and Swiss nationality.
Norman has dedicated his life to snowboarding, whether as a pro rider, team manager or rep. Having moved back to Switzerland, his latest contribution is as head shaper of the snow park in Leysin. It’s not the best paid job in the world but he loves it and it keeps him on the hill. An ACL operation and recent broken shoulder from mountain biking may have slowed him but you can still find him riding the Leysin park every day. He’s always pushed his riding although there was no real need to as he wasn’t a pro. He was and still is just doing it for himself and ready to pay the price.
Over the years, things haven’t quite worked out the way he would’ve liked, as they don’t for many fanatical people that want to change things in the industry but don’t have the power to do so. He’s had some bitter moments but has never lost the love to ride.
Norman has been a big inspiration for Swiss pros, and things wouldn’t be the same if he hadn’t been here. If you find yourself in Leysin this season, pop by the park and give him a big high five!