[Photos: JK Media/Grilosodes]
For our latest instalment of Face/Time, we sat down with Slovenian bossman and mastermind of the Grilosodes, Marko Grilc, to talk about the importance of creativity in snowboarding.
Marko Grilc is one of the elder statesmen of snowboarding these days, but it doesn't mean he's content to rest on his laurels. His career has spanned the gap from 'The Good Old Days' to today's technical insanity and information overload, yet he's rolled with the punches and kept himself and his riding relevant. He's also not afraid of thinking outside the box, so we hit him up to chat creativity...
What do you think it is about snowboarding that seems to draw creative people to it?
Well basically I think that it's just the way it's set up. You don't really have that many boundaries, or there are but they're not that tight, which show you the path you should go. There are all these ways to do it and it's so wide – the range of snowboarding – so you have the freedom to choose and express yourself in any possible way. And choose the way you're gonna ride or go through your day or whatever. It's just such an open field and I just think that that kind of 'lifestyle' or that state of mind that gives you that throughout time, it opens up for so much creativity. I feel like if you're getting put in a box from the beginning your mind doesn't even think that it should get creative because it doesn't see the opportunities, but if you have all this freedom then you start to think more and more what could be done, or what your way of doing it is, and that opens the door for so much creativity, I would say.
It's not like tennis where you're bound by the rules or the court...
Exactly. Basically a lot of sports have so many restrictions from the beginning – 'this is the way you should play it, this is the way you have to do it' – but snowboarding doesn't have that many rules, when you step out of the competitive side. So that's pretty cool.
Which riders, in your opinion, really represent the creative side of snowboarding?
I think there's so many. Every individual... no one does a trick the same way so already style is kinda creativity on the lowest level. But then I guess some personalities, some snowboarders, want to be more technical and some people just go crazy creative. Like Scott Stevens does stuff that no one else comes with, but at the same time Terje for instance, he 'created' half of snowboarding with the whole big mountain freestyle scene. Every time someone launches a line he uses his creativity how he's going to ride. And then even the guys in the streets look at spots in a million ways. The way they ride those spots, they bring their own ways and so every single snowboarder is kinda a master of his own approach, you know?
Do you think you can learn creativity?
You can learn how to be maybe more creative. It's like, how do you even define what creativity is – it's such a wide thing. But, for instance, with time in the backcountry you can learn how to look at terrain to make your line different, you don't just go straight down. And in the streets, too, you can learn 'Ok maybe I'll do this spot that to many people isn't even a spot', or you can learn how to change your style or do a trick just a bit different than the other guys. So I guess you can learn to snowboard more creatively. But creativity itself is hard to define.
"If you have all this freedom then you start to think more and more what could be done, or what your way of doing it is, and that opens the door for so much creativity, I would say."
When you get to a spot, is looking at it in the most imaginative way possible at the front of your mind?
It depends. If we're filming for an episode [of the Grilosodes] we only have such a short amount of time, so sometimes time pressure definitely limits your creativity because you just need to perform and get it done. But I've noticed that often when you just set it all off and ride like the way you want to ride, and don't care about all the other stuff... that's when you get to do something special, something different. But it's not like we get to a spot and think 'damn, what's the most creative thing I could do here?' It's more 'what could I do here' and then you just go with whatever feels the best for you. What you would feel most comfortable doing.
What are the biggest barriers to creative expression in snowboarding?
First of all you need to get away from all the things that limit you and at the same time I feel that you should not be scared to do something different from everybody else. It's not easy because it can end up being wack, but if you just do it and have the balls to do it then it could come out as something really amazing that nobody else has done. Sometime you just need to not be afraid, kind of, to just step out of the box and do something different.
Is it difficult to encourage creativity in a contest? Can you think of any contests that have rewarded creativity?
The thing is I feel that the contests are exactly what limit creativity the most. First of all, they build you a course that in most cases you can only ride one way. And secondly, they judge you for it by the standard that the judges feel is the best. These two factors limit you. But I think contests like the Burton European Open, when they build all this weird shit, all of a sudden it opens up the possibility to do all these new tricks that have never been done in contests. So that's pretty cool, and I feel it's going more in that direction, that newer tricks are being done. But still when the judges don't back it it's gone too, you know? So it needs to be backed by the contest itself, that you can get creative and still maybe get the points for it.
"Sometime you just need to not be afraid, kind of, to just step out of the box and do something different."
You were out in Perisher at the Mile High. Did you ride there?
Yeah. That course, they just built it with so many different hits and you could ride it in so many different ways. I feel like that's the future of Slopestyle, and pipe I hope too – just to build it different so that people can show more of their snowboarding. A lot of the kids these days can go over the jump and do a double or a triple, most of them with the same style too, but when you have a quarterpipe you can see straight away that there's a difference between, like, McMorris and Ståle and some kid who can maybe do similar tricks as them on the jump but... So when there are all these new features it opens up a range of snowboarding and shows who can do more things, and that's pretty cool I think.
Was snowboarding more or less creative back in the day?
Definitely those guys were way more creative in the sense that they were creating the whole sport. Every single thing that they came up with was a new thing, maybe even in the whole of action sports. Skateboarding was evolving, surfing was evolving, and snowboarders were doing tricks that maybe nobody had done and maybe on spots that nobody had even seen. So those guys were definitely the pioneers of it all. Nowadays, because of the whole overload and the way the world works with communication you need to be more creative to stand out. Everything is done and shown straight away, so to be that guy doing it different needs maybe more creativity than 10 years ago.
Is it going in the right direction right now?
I feel that snowboarding's never going in the wrong direction because it's an insane sport, obviously, but I feel that the contests for a while maybe were a bit limited, so now they're figuring out that they need to change it up because a little boring. But the filming scene, the backcountry scene, the street... all this is getting more and more creative. Different grabs, crazy new tricks, and I think that's definitely going in the right direction. The internet, the whole instant filming, also opened up the chance for people to ride different and still get recognised and appreciated for it.
Like Marcus Kleveland...
Exactly! That's what I'm talking about. Maybe that stuff off the knuckle, a couple of years ago when you would do it, it would never end up in your video part – people would be like 'oh damn, that's just off the knuckle and we're trying to go as big as we can...' Now, you post it up and you actually see the response of the people straight away. That's pretty sick. It opens it up – even stuff like that can be appreciated, even more than the other things.
"So we always had the freedom to express ourselves, be ourselves, instead of being in this team where people would push us down and make us do shit the way they wanted us to."
Why is creativity in snowboarding so important?
Like I said, it gives you freedom. If we have that we have it all. Fuck, the only reason why I got into snowboarding was because I was doing basketball and the coach kept giving me shit. I was like 'what the fuck? this is not even fun for me anymore, and all of a sudden I got into skating where nobody ever gave a fuck what I was doing and I could do whatever. And then I got into snowboarding and it was even better, because I had snow right out of my window and I could just do whatever, and then we went to contests and could do whatever again. So we always had the freedom to express ourselves, be ourselves, instead of being in this team where people would push us down and make us do shit the way they wanted us to. That's the whole problem with having these millions of coaches in snowboarding now – they're just creating robots or a replica of what they think snowboarding is. And that's kinda wrong. Do it the way you want to do it.