Jake Blauvelt is truly a unique rider. His snowboard career has followed a diverse and organic path, led not by sponsors or other external forces but by a desire to ride what he wants to ride. In the lead up to the online premiere of his two year epic 'Naturally' next Tuesday, we take a look at some of his classic parts from over the years.
Jake Blauvelt grew up in Vermont, on the east cost of the United States. With a solid appreciation of the outdoors, Jake quickly got into soccer, skateboarding and eventually snowboarding. His remarkable natural talent in the latter was recognised at a young age and Jake was enrolled at Mount Mansfield Winter Academy - a snowboard school of sorts.
At just 17, after moving West to Mammoth to pursue his love of snowboarding, Jake won the US Open - with Travis Rice next to him on the podium in second place.
The following year, after moving to Tahoe, Jake filmed his first video part for Derelictica (we tried to hunt it down online to no avail). The part represented Jake's first real foray into the world of backcountry freestyle. It was a steep learning curve but Jake quickly adapted everything he'd learnt in the Mammoth park to cheesewedges in the backcountry. But with his second movie part, which we have tracked down online, in Forum's seminal 'That', we begin to see a change in Bluavelt's approach to snowboarding.
Check it on the following page:[splitpost intro="true"]
[part title="Forum: That (2006)"]
Jake's part in 'That' was really the beginning of his new foray into the world of hitting natural features in the backcountry.
Of course, you still have the backcountry cheese wedge shots - which Jake stomps some big, technical tricks on, but you can begin to see that the seeds for hitting natural windlips, cliffs and cornices had been sown.
[part title="Forum: Forum or Against 'em (2008)"]
Jake's part in Forum or Against 'Em, in our heads at least, was the point where he decidedly turned his back on hitting man made features at large, and focused strictly on riding natural terrain. His opening quote for the part perhaps says it best:
I'd rather be waiting it out in the clouds than going to some man made jump in the park. I've almost got a rule: if it takes more than 5 minutes to setup, then screw it. I'm gonna do what I want to do out there. If I want to go pop off from that and go do a slash, i'm gonna go do it.
What follows on from that quote is 5 minutes, spread over two full songs, of next level snowboarding - the kind of snowboarding that had people comparing him to the likes of Nicolas Müller and Terje Haakonsen. It's calculated, gnarly, technical, and all executed with the kind of style that just sticks in your head. Damn, this part really makes us want to go ride.
Yep, it's safe to say that with that two-song ender in Forum or Against 'Em, Jake had made his mark on the snowboard world. People that had maybe just seen him as another contest kid trying to make a break into the world of backcountry riding, sat up, took note and remembered the name.
[part title="Absinthe Films: Nowhere and Volcom 9191 (2010)"]
In 2010 Jake was invited by Absinthe Films to film a part for 'Nowhere'. Not only did he get to ride with guys like Gigi Rüf and Nicolas Müller - people he had looked up to growing up across the pond, but he got to ride in Alaska for the first time. To the uninitiated, Alaska is a beast to be tamed and it was a steep learning curve for Jake.
That's not to say of course that he didn't deliver the goods. Check out a bunch of the Alaska footage in Volcom's 9191:
[part title="Naturally Web Series (2011)"]
By 2011, online content had well and truly become king. While a few big movie production crews were still going strong, many had also fell by the wayside. More and more riders were shifting their movie output from single parts at the end of a filming season to series' of shorter webisodes drip-fed over the course of the season.
This is the format that Jake opted for in 2011 with the launch of his 'Naturally' web series. The five episodes saw him travel to far-flung locations such as Whistler and Japan.
Check the full part (above) that resulted from all of that footage and compare it to what we saw back in 2006 in 'That'. Big man made booters were replaced with hits off naturally formed windlips, and big technical spins were mixed up with powder butters, cat-like slashes and landings in big, fluffy pillows.
Blauvelt had come a huge way from the contest kid that he used to be, and by fine tuning his ability to read terrain and select his tricks, had adopted the kind of subtleties that are the mark of a truly great rider.
[part title="Naturally The Movie (2013)"]
And we arrive at the present day. Following the success of his Naturally web series and with the support of his sponsors, Jake and his management team Friday somewhat paradoxically decided to embark on making a brand new full length movie of their own.
The idea was to produce a movie with the highest possible production values that they could, and distribute it in a way that meant kids could have access to it. The two year project will be premiering online here on Onboard on the 15th October for 5 days, after which it will be available on iTunes for download.
We were lucky enough to see the movie on the big screen at the Munich leg of the Naturally premiere tour and cannot recommend checking it out enough on Tuesday. The cinematography is incredible and Jake's snowboarding is as refined and impactful as ever.
But whatever you make of the movie when you eventually watch it, one thing is for certain: if there's one American snowboarder who can be compared to the likes of Nicolas Müller and Terje Haakonsen in terms of his ability to paint a mountain face with his snowboard, Jake Blauvelt is that guy.