We start off our new regular feature focussing on some of European snowboarding’s great and good by catching up with Austrian legend Thomas ‘Beckna’ Eberharter. From his early days as one of the founding members of the infamous Ästhetiker crew, to podiuming at the Air+Style, to his current enthusiasm for epic Zillertal landscape photography, Beckna certainly deserves your respect. And even today, he’s still got one of the best Methods in the game…
Interview: Joe Cavanagh
Hey Beckna, how’s it going. You ready to do this?
Yeah all good, mate. I’m just a little… not out of the scene obviously but my focus wasn’t really on the industry or anything in the last year-and-a-half or something. Obviously I was in there for 20 years when there were ‘brighter days’ industry-wise. I don’t have to tell you, print-wise with your magazines gone now it’s sad to see, but somehow I understand that things need to move on. Maybe for the better, I don’t know. If someone told me five years ago that people will make a career out of their Facebook or Instagram accounts I’d have been like “Whoa!” I didn’t see that coming, to be honest.
A lot’s changed, for sure. When did you start snowboarding?
I started in the winter of 88-89. In Zillertal.
Was there a good scene of riders there back then?
There were a few guys before me – not a whole lot – maybe not even a handful – but then us, our little crew, we had the ‘Broken Bones Company’ that we were called ourselves at the time. Just friends from school. We were the skate rats of the town, and it was all right there and snowboarding just came along and we were on it right away [laughs]. It wasn’t like these days; we still had to battle to have access to the lift and [snowboarding] wasn’t allowed everywhere at first. Obviously there was no park, no jumps, so we needed to make everything ourselves – we dug a pipe and it would take 10 people over a week to get sort of a ditch together [laughs]. But great times, I’d never want to miss them. Good times, for sure.
I have it here that you were first sponsored by ‘Steep and Deep’. Is that right?
Yeah. What favoured us here is certainly that the Hintertux glacier is around the corner. I used to go up there a lot and it used to be better up there, to be honest. This year, the glaciers are suffering. It’s so hot, I just watched it on webcam this morning and I was like ‘Jesus Christ, is that for real?’ If I remember back to how much snow there was in my childhood up there… pff… It’s hard to believe. But Steep and Deep was these guys who were very enthusiastic, experimenting with shapes and stuff. I think kinda forerunners, somehow. Anyway, I bumped into them and they kind of asked me if I wanted to try their boards. I remember I mounted it wrong from the get-go [laughs], but anyways I just got a few boards from them, I stuck with them and got a few things every year. We didn’t need a lot then, we just wanted to go riding [laughs]. It didn’t matter, there wasn’t such a big hype over your clothing or whatever, you just tried to be not completely frozen up. Or that your bindings didn’t fall apart, and you’d screw around, tune stuff in the time before the highbacks got cut down. But I hung around with these [Steep and Deep] guys a bunch, they were good riders so it was great to see these cats riding and you would always feed from them, because there was no Facebook video… we had to wait for Buyers’ Guides. This time of the year, I’d have been itching to get a Transworld or a Snowboarder… that was all time. You would literally sit over this mag for the whole month of September-October, basically [laughs].
If someone told me five years ago that people will make a career out of their Facebook or Instagram accounts I’d have been like “Whoa!” I didn’t see that coming, to be honest.
When your pro career wound down, you worked as the Vans Team Manager for quite a few years, right?
Yeah, I was riding for Vans before and I got signed when Vans was still independent, in 98 I think it was. The company grew quite quick and Peter Derricks, who was marketing manager at the time, we sort of had the same vision of how things should be run in the industry and so one day he asked if I would be interested in helping him out because he was so busy with all the other stuff that was exploding at that time. I was like, sure, it’s learning by doing and we’d never had a management as such, so for me it was a good chance to see the other side of the industry. See how everything works in terms of product development, budgets, sales, reps… the whole shebang.