Photos by Pat Vermeulen
Words by Youri Barneoud
Late November 2007 and the snow has arrived early on this side of the Alps, around Mayrhofen, where an army of French riders have decided to go for an early-season leg warming. I too was drawn to the valley, not only for the snow but also to interview a star of the last Absinthe movie Optimistic? and the world’s biggest piss-taker, the Grenoble local Sylvain Bourbousson. What I didn’t expect, though, was that this interview would get done at a crowded table, in the company of Anne-Flore Marxer, Caroline Béliard, Mathieu Crépel, Morgan Lefaucheur and Rémi Lamazouère. As you can imagine, they didn’t miss the opportunity to get involved…
First up, I’d just like to point out you’re one of three lucky French snowboarders to have a second interview in Onboard. How does that make you feel?
Sylvain: Wow! Really?
Yeah! Guess who the other two are. Let me give you a hint: it’s not Mathieu Crépel, ha ha!
Morgan: Nico Droz.
Yeah, nice one!
Mathieu: And Babs.
Yeah! Well done, that was easy.
Mathieu: Well, I kind of saw it written down on your piece of paper, ha ha!
Uh, shit, let me get rid of this so you can’t see my questions! OK, coming back to your first interview, at the time you were still in school. Where are you at in life now?
SB: I’m all done with that!
Morgan: Yeah, now he’s into body building full time! Ha, ha!
SB: No, now I’m putting everything into snowboarding!
So how important is an interview compared to, let’s say, a video part?
SB: What’s cool about interviews is that I can show them to my grandmother! Whereas she won’t ever really watch a DVD.
In that case we better watch our language.
Morgan: Yeah no worries, his gran’s no longer completely with it – ha ha!
So tell us how to go about becoming a pro snowboarder.
SB: Well, first off, you just have to go ride as often as possible with your mates. Then you go to MJC, then when you’ve had your fun, you join a club where you start to compete, which will allow you to apply for a sports school that puts extra time aside for you to go boarding. Or at least this is what all of us did, except for Rémi. And then after that, it’s who you know, really, that will hook you up with sponsors and that.
I see, seems pretty straightforward when you explain it like that! Is it a French thing to generally go through the contest scene?
SB: No, I think it’s kind of the same in all countries. Apart from the States, maybe. But saying that, not everyone necessarily passes through the contest scene.
Mathieu: In any case, us Frenchies think we’re too cool for school, I read it in Method magazine.
Morgan: Yeah, I couldn’t believe what they said about the French snowboard scene! Not that cool.
Yeah, what is that whole negative image that French riders have? Do you think that’s like an old cliché from the past now?
SB: Yeah, things have changed, but what continues to hold us back is that we don’t speak English well. As a result, we tend to stay amongst our own. But the younger guys, like Arthur Longo or Gérome Mathieu, are getting better at it now with all the travelling they do, etc.
Anne-Flore: There’s one other thing too – there are loads more events and stuff in Austria or Germany, so those guys don’t have to leave home. You see as few Austrians and Germans in France as French over there! It’s true that they generally speak better English, but they don’t have to travel as much to make a name for themselves, plus a lot of the media are based over there.
Do you not think that impressive contest results from French riders have helped change our image?
SB: Yeah of course, that’s helped for sure. And it’s also great to have a strong younger generation pushing the sport too.
So at 24, you already feel like one of the old guys?
SB: No, but I try to look ahead. The problem is that when I do look ahead I can’t see much, ha ha! We’ll see about that later.
On a more personal level, people have been telling me that you’re a professional piss taker. Tell us a bit more.
Morgan: He started from nothing. I’m the one that got him into it, and the student surpassed his master a while back now, ha ha!
Mathieu: Yeah, those two are pretty talented.
Today, how do you divide your time between contests, videos and photoshoots?
SB: It’s simple. I don’t do any contests! Well, that’s not quite true actually, last winter I did take part in the France-Spain contest which I went to with Rémi. And then I did Bruno Rivoire, Gaby Bessy and Brynild Vuilin’s Intercrew. But that’s all and that’s the way I like it. This year, there’s one contest I can’t wait to hit up, the one Mathieu is putting together in the Pyrenees in February. But to tell the truth, I don’t think I have the right mindset for contest snowboarding. It’s hard for me to feel motivated and give everything I’ve got, so I’d rather just not take part.
Backside 180 – Les Diablerets, Switzerland
That brings us on to video parts, which is what you spend most of your winter working on! How did it go with Absinthe last year?
SB: It was epic! Salomon and Billabong, who have been sponsoring the Absinthe videos for a long time now, put my name forward as a new rider. Brusti and Justin Hostynek didn’t know me well but on the advice of Romain De Marchi, David Vladika, Jules Reymond and Nico Droz, they accepted me onto the team. On the Psykopit front, Julien Joud wasn’t too sure whether he was going to do another video: it seemed like everyone had moved on to other things. That’s how Morgan hooked up with Yeahh Productions, Mathieu with Standard Films, etc.
So how did your first few days of filming go?
SB: I went straight to Canada, to Nelson, seeing as there wasn’t any snow here. We filmed with Vladika, and our crew of riders included Romain, Nico, Jules, Wolle Nyvelt and Marco Feichtner. We also met Justin out there, who I’d never met before. We scored so much powder, it was super fun!
Technically, did filming with those guys change anything?
SB: At the start I was really nervous. Seeing as they film everything in 16mm, you put a lot of pressure on yourself to land tricks first time because otherwise it winds up being really expensive, you’re going to upset the guys and ruin the atmosphere. And instead nobody really puts any pressure on you. If you find yourself screwing things up you just get angry with yourself but no-one has a go at you if you fill the landing spot with holes.
That must be why Nico was telling me how it felt like you’d always been part of their crew. But it also says how confident you are, no?
SB: It’s nice to hear that, I already knew Nico, Jules a little too. So that was a big help. Those guys are so experienced and gave me loads of useful advice. It worked out really good and I’m stoked!
Is that all? Don’t you feel like you’ve achieved something really special? You landed a pretty sick video section for your rookie year.
SB: I didn’t really know what to expect, so you always find yourself wanting more, but I’m still very satisfied. Now I just need to work on getting a better part this year, and hope we get it really good with the sleds!
Caro: But didn’t you find it really nerve-racking filming with people you didn’t know very well, especially as beforehand you always shot with your close friends? Do you feel like your passion has in a way turned into a job now?
SB: No, not really. OK, you do realise that if you don’t get the right footage then you might not get a second chance. When you film with your friends, though, it’s more just hitting kickers rather than riding powder. And you still gain just as much pleasure from stomping a trick, laughing and being stoked about it. They don’t actually tell you that much about the framing of shots and all that, so you don’t really know what it’s going to look like, so that’s kind of different. It’s always a bit of a surprise!
Anne-Flore: Did you get to ride with Annie Boulanger?
SB: No, not really. I saw her a little in Saas Fee, but her section is sweet to watch. She hits some pretty insane powder lines down the same slopes as Wolle, whose part incidentally is also sick!
SB: Yeah, he made me trip, that guy just never falls, and he’s always smiling. He’s super talented but really down to earth at the same time – he’s really encouraging. Basically the vibe was really chilled with everyone!
In any case, as Nico and Jules were telling me, you always seem to be in a good mood!
SB: Well there’s no reason for me to be moody really! I’m always shredding powder with cool people. Compare that to people who have to work in offices, or when you think about the fact that all this can’t last forever, you appreciate and try to make the most of every moment!
SB: We got there quite late in the season and the helicopters had stopped flying. So we just took the snowmobiles up the mountain. We were close to the border with Canada, and everyone had already been to the spots, although we did discover some new ones – that’s how much snow there was. We saw bears, eagles, whales and the northern lights. It was mental! And as we didn’t take any heli rides, we didn’t overspend our budget either.
With all your filming how did you find time to shoot photos in Europe?
SB: I stuck with Vladika’s crew for the whole season, and between trips, I’d go back home and shoot some pics in Les 7 Laux, Chamrousse, in Switzerland with Pat Vermeulen too, and Avoriaz with Morgan.
Which do you prefer, travelling the world all winter or cruising with your friends at home?
SB: It’s always really exciting to go on a trip. Especially last season when hardly any snow fell around Grenoble. But I still had some pretty fun sessions in Chamrousse and Les 7 Laux with my friends.
All these trips must mean you’ve got a pretty big carbon footprint now.
SB: Yeah, it’s a weird one that for us. We need the winter and snow, but travelling the whole time as we do isn’t a very good example to set, we’re just polluting the whole time. And right now, I don’t have a solution to that problem.
In your first interview, you mentioned wanting to go to Chile. Were you able to go?
SB: I went last September with Rémi, Caro, Gary Zebrowski, Marc Swoboda and Eric Bergeri. We had a little lay-over in Brazil, where we surfed and partied a bit. We saw everything you’d expect to see there: girls in bikinis, fake tits! After that we went to Termas de Chilan, the snow was bulletproof. We scouted out spots all over the place and it started snowing two days later. So we got to ride powder on the volcanoes, right in the middle of the Fumeroles. Nothing really big, but the atmosphere was wicked and we went surfing in the Pacific too. That was cool.
What’s your best trip ever?
SB: That’s a hard one. Alaska was incredible, you’re in the middle of nowhere, it’s just you and nature. I didn’t ride any super steep slopes but I hope I can go back there again this year to try some out, even if it does scare the shit out of me.
So are you set to do another video part this year?
SB: No plans for the time being, but everything will come into place soon. I hope I can hook up with the same crew, either in Alaska or somewhere else! I’d love to film with those guys again, but I’m still waiting for confirmation. I’d like to score a better part than last year, have a few more bigger tricks, find new spots that bring something different, and of course stay away from injury.
Do you think you could convince them to come film your spots at home so that you could express yourself the best?
SB: Yeah, sure, they’re open to everything, that’s kind of what we did in Switzerland. As long as there’s snow then they’ll go.
Les Crosets, Switzerland
Outside of snowboarding do you find time to do other stuff?
SB: A big season of filming takes up a lot of time and energy, that’s for sure. But in the summer, I find time to go surfing, chill at the beach and forget about the mountains for a while. I started surfing with Mathieu about five or six years ago.
Mathieu: Yeah, he’s pretty talented actually. You can tell that he’s got something for boardsports. Afterwards, the problem with surfing and the sea is that it takes a long time to learn to read the waves correctly, that’s what he has to work on most, but it gets easier and easier with time!
OK guys, so tell me, is there going to be another Psykopit video?
Mathieu: We’re not really in a position to answer that. We’d like to do another one, but it’s going to depend on loads of things.
OK, let’s finish with a quick-fire interview. It’s called “Let’s Make Friends interview”…
Out of your friends, who has the worst sense of humour?
SB: Everyone that’s here interviewing me! Take that, you punk bitches!
Who crashes and burns the most during a night out?
Caro: Me! Ha, ha! Only joking, I don’t even try!
SB: Yeah actually, I’d say Caro Béliard. I’ve got a girlfriend so I don’t have to try, it’s cool.
Who listens to the worst music?
SB: But I love listening to shit music! Well, what you hear on the radio anyway! There are some people that actually like that stuff, you know!
Who takes the most wipeouts?
SB: I’m not sure, although I do know that Caro takes the heaviest ones.
Who deals the smelliest farts?
SB: Ah, that’s an easy one. Morgan, by a long way!
Mathieu: Cool! We hadn’t planned for them to be together for these questions. This is going to be interesting!
CB: So to start with (loudly), where does your exhibitionist and peverted side come from?
SB: What are you talking about? I’m no pervert. It’s just that when I’m at home I like to walk around naked! But it’s got nothing to do with being peverted!
CB: Why did you decide to have plastic surgery to make your pecs look bigger?
SB: OK guys, this isn’t very credible! What’s for sure is that my pecs will always be smaller than Caro’s!
CB: If we gave you the choice between being a rockstar, a carpenter, a pro surfer or continuing to ride, which would you choose?
SB: Oh, OK, it’s true that I have a theory on this. I reckon the three best jobs in the world have got to be the life of: a pro surfer, ’cos you get to hang out at all the most beautiful beaches in the world, it’s always 30 degrees and the water’s at 25 degrees; a rockstar, ’cos you do whatever you want whenever you want, and you get to sing in front of thousands of people that love you. Being an actor must be pretty good too, doing a film every five years or so, you earn loads of bone. And then there’s the life of a pro snowboarder too, which isn’t bad.
CB: So what about being a carpenter?
SB: It’s just something I said to Caro once. She always brings it up! I enjoy doing manual jobs, and who knows what I’ll be doing once snowboarding’s finished? Why not, it’s a good job!
CB: When are you going to drive faster than 100km/h on the motorway?
SB: When greenhouse emissions are no longer a problem! No, but seriously, why should I have to drive faster? I’m in no rush!
First off, I dedicate this to Tristan and my two granddads. You’re always with me.
I want to thank my parents, Alice and Thierry, Pascal, Sarah and Laurene and the rest of the big family. My friends from St Egreve, Villars, 7 Laux, from the school in Cesni. Thanks to riders and filmers at Absinthe: Nico, Jules, Vlad, Alex, Brusti, Justin and Romain. Kisses to Caro, Math, Ganmor, Remsy, Ben, Moscat, Frite, Gaga, Bruno, Brynild, les Bourguignons, Gaby, Cluzel, Arthur, Valé, Coicoin, Djul, l’Arrog, Pac, Thomas, Caro Graeff, Fab le courageux, les Delerue, les Delayens, Zion, Armelle, Charly, Yann, Poelon, Perly, Mamar, Alfy, Mimi, Psykopit, HO5, Advita, Bouchkail and Amikal, Vaness, Scalp, Pat, Vianney, Eric, MathG, Sami, Youri, Tchag, Gégé, Pitschi, Manu, Matt, Flora, Reid, Karl, David, Riton, Mathieu, Manu, Java, Jerome, Nina, Gaetan, Buffalo, Seb, Olivier, Yannick, Steph, Franck, Nikos, Nicholas, …
And big thanks to Salomon, Billabong, Von Zipper, Eastpak, DVS, Kiuu, La glisse and Psykopit.
And give your blood, it’s important!
Board: Salomon Prospect LTD 156 and Drift 152
Boots: Salomon F22
Bindings: Salomon SPX Pro and Relay Pro
Goggles: Von Zipper Sizzle