[Cowboy style in Avoriaz. Photo: Matt Georges]
Darius Heristchian could very well be one of the nicest dudes in snowboarding. Always quick to laugh and quicker to listen, his good nature off the board was complimented by some serious skills when strapped in. He was also one of the most stylish riders of his generation, pioneering the art of holding grabs and tweaking technical tricks before it became the norm. As one of the riders at the forefront of the Geneva snowboard scene that made waves in the early 2000s, the eloquent ex-pro is well placed to talk about the evolution of snowboarding as well as how, despite frantic multi-corking progression, he still sees hope for the future. In short, Darius is the man. Read on…
When was the first time you saw a snowboard?
Wow… In 1985-6 I believe. It was in one of the first snowboard journals that came out, called Fun Sensation. I saw this and I was already skateboarding and I said “Wow, I have to try this out!” The first year I rented a board for the winter was in 88, and I had started the year before with a skate deck without trucks in my backyard.
When you got into snowboarding, did you just start going riding whenever you could?
The first year I was doing ‘backyard skateboard snowboarding’ [laughs] and the year after when we went on Christmas holidays I rented my first board. From this time, pretty young, I had access to the bus station in Geneva where you could go buy a ticket – all inclusive – for any resort next to Geneva. That’s how I managed to go as much as I could during weekends, as my parents weren’t skiing we didn’t have a mountain chalet or anything. That’s how I met many of the guys I rode with, like Joël Strecker, Romain de Marchi, all these guys. Those busses were the only opportunity you had if your parents were not full time skiers to go shred.
At some point you got sponsored. How did that happen?
It went almost the classical way from shop to national, to international. It starts from a shop deal – your local shop – it is usually not a full sponsorship, more some kind of discount on goods. If you shred with passion the guys from the scene will get to hear about you.
In Geneva we had Robert Etienne, a guy who’s pretty involved in the industry, and he used to have a shop called Wind Service in Geneva; he’s the guy who introduced skateboarding in town. He brought skateboarding and all these American influences you couldn’t find at the time – there was no internet, rarely any books in the book stores or newspapers – so his was the place that all kids who wanted this inspiration, this stuff we didn’t have. I was 11 years old and that’s where I’d meet all my friends. You don’t get to see that much anymore. So, yeah, Robert sponsored me first for Wind Service.
“I was 18 or 19 and went in my first ever real pro contest where I was riding against Marius Sommer, David Benedek and all these guys. I was just the nobody and all these guys were starting to be famous, basically.”
How did things move on after that? Got flowed some kit and then did some contests?
Yeah, some contests. When you’re young… if kids want to know how to get sponsored it’s basically get into the scene, and at that time it was meeting at contests. I did a few amateur ones and was lucky – I won two in a row – so got a bit of attention. Arlette Jarvet came in and she was many times Swiss halfpipe champion and was working for Rossignol then. Well, she’s just an awesome girl, and she helped me with some boards for two years, and then I got a deal with Hammer and that’s how it started, basically. Started for real, you know?
Parallel to the board and clothing sponsors, there was the PULP 68 story. It was a small shop with the biggest heart and this was like the place where we’d all meet hang out, talk tricks and book sessions for weekend and holidays. Jim from Pulp had brought us the place and the mood to ‘federate and believe in ourselves’ way before freestyle clubs saw the light. In a city where no on would give a darn about snowboarding. (I remember asking my college for possibility to have flexible agenda to attend competitions. No, we only recognize Sports status for golf and soccer….)
I think the first time I remember seeing your name was one of the old Quik Cups. I don’t know if you were actually in this photo I remember seeing, but it was three Swiss kids I’d not heard of three-waying this hip. Maybe you, Jonas Emery and Romain. Was that right?
Yeah, Jonas, Romain, Jerome Strecker, the older brother of Joël, we would shred together and do some fireworks. Sometimes we would ride… I’m Goofy so I would ride the backside wall and they would hit the left hip.
Was that around the time you started getting a bit more support?
It was a bit before that that. The first move for me was when I completed highschool and I had Hammer as a sponsor – I just got boards – and I decided to go for a year of adventures, starting to work at summer camps. That’s where I started meeting many guys from the industry, getting coached by pros, and that was the second booster for me. I got to meet Carlos, at the time team manager for Hammer, and he took me with the team and said “Come to some pro contests,” and they took me to Kaunertal Opening. I was 18 or 19 and went in my first ever real pro contest where I was riding against Marius Sommer, David Benedek and all these guys. I was just the nobody and all these guys were starting to be famous, basically.
Then Carlos switched to Nidecker and took me with him; that is when I signed for my Pro model. They had a team of Swiss legends (underground skate/surf/snowboarders) Norman Kerr, Dom Corti and Kooky Pham – they were good in every aspect of snowboarding, pipe, jibs and good freeriders. Pat Vermeulen was one of them and he was already into film and photography.