Winter 2009. Assembled around Nicolas Droz, the Homies crew has already been going for a couple of seasons. These movies have played a significant part in the jibbing evolution across Europe, with its action focused more acutely on the new street approach, and the crew is also on the constant hunt for new talent. This precise year, two newcomers make an impression, scoring respectively the intro and ender of the production: Wojtek Pawlusiak from Poland and Frédéric Couderc from Switzerland.
Everything about this Swiss guy demands attention. Be it his natural talent on rails (although we now know he is as good in the park and the backcountry) or his calm, nonchalant attitude, or even his mixed origins, which reminds us how cultural diversity is often sorely lacking in our side sliding community. With a football-loving father from Madagascar, and a Swiss mother who was a ski addict, Fred was involved with all lot of different sports as a kid, especially football, hockey, skiing and rollerblading (nobody’s perfect). He was even sponsored in the latter, before he found his true passion – snowboarding: “I think my cousin Alex Coudray gave me the virus. He was one of the best freeriders of the time,” he remembers. It sure must have inspired some ideas – as he puts himself: as a hyperactive kid, snowboarding was tailored to suit him. “I’ve always loved sports. I really wanted to land in there. Everything made sense when I met Nico Droz.”
Over the course of two seasons, Fred built his reputation as hardcore jibber in the videos Homies 3 and Homies 4 but when he explains his story, it almost feels like he was tagged as a metal specialist by chance: “I mostly started in parks. Then I might have been influenced by American films; I saw what was possible on the streets. We used the opportunity the snow gave us in my valley, but still we went riding pow anytime we could.” And why not? Some nice urban spots, perfectly shaped parks – especially in Les Crosets where Fred likes to spend time – and of course the infamous backcountry ‘Zone’ that appears in many Absinthe videos of the De Marchi era…When you get everything, why choose?
He’s the kind of guy who makes you want to smile. His kindness is obvious at first glance. There is no way to be a jerk with him. He loves snowboarding and will do his best to ride as much as possible. Coudy is always motivated. He gets upset all alone when things don’t work… That is priceless! – Sylvain Bourbousson
If, as Fred describes, the region of Valais is a paradise for many kinds of snowboarding then how come De Marchi and the earlier Swiss pros didn’t push jibbing further? “I believe it arrived a little later in Europe. Or maybe even just at this time,” he muses. It’s true. Back then the guys were mainly concerned with exploring new boundaries in the backcountry… No one can be on all fronts. But as we said in an earlier issue, versatility is getting its reputation back after a phase of a more ‘specialised’ approach…
Although he’s been tagged a jibber all along, Fred still refuses to choose: “Honestly, I have as much fun in both fields: BC and jib. But I have never done any big lines like my cousin did. In one season, we try to be as productive as possible so we focus on what needs to be done. Someday I will have to try though! Anyway in Valais, we can ride everything. There’s no surprise we grow up versatile.”
We had no doubt of his versatility, but nonetheless his level of riding in the backcountry was still surprising. People who’d discovered Fred in the Homies films will have noticed the change when he started shooting with Almo and Ero One Flims. “By getting on Salomon and Bonfire, I got to shoot with Almo. All the Salomon riders were on this project, that’s how it started.
Big up to the Salomon team manager Alban and to Morgan Lefaucheur, who built up this great crew – the biggest actual French one… although the French, especially Morgan, are great at shit-talking!” At the same time, being a very productive guy, Fred also got some good shots for Ero One: “I often went from one crew to the other, from a production to another one… it was never a problem. It just happened. I learned a lot. And since everything went just fine, I could increase my coverage as well as my friends!” One thing is sure. You’d be looking a long time to find someone ready to talk bad about Fred. That’s how easy-going he is…
Almo was impressed by Couderc’s versatility. Fred explains it easily: “I really don’t know why. I’ve always been perceived as a jibber, when I just want and try to be as complete as possible. I totally love backcountry riding.” He continues with a smile: “Maybe it’s because I always get to take part in great jib trips and everything goes fine!” True.
Last winter, every time Fred flew more than two hours, it was to jib in Canada and Finland.“I had never been in Quebec. It’s always nice to discover new places thanks to snowboarding. Finland was very productive and we had a good team.” At the beginning, he wanted to do more backcountry. But then again, fate had rails planned for him. “The jib trip to Quebec was one of my main trips last season and it was impressive to be there, riding the spots that Technine and co. shot on back in the day. The locals were stunned – they kept saying us that they would never shoot when it’s minus 30 degrees! But we had only 15 days to spend on spots. So cold or not, we had to ride!”
Even though he had some great trips and sessions in Switzerland and France, Fred believes his season and his part could have gone better: “I didn’t land any doubles. Nowadays, it’s cool to nail one at least. With the Victors in Arêches I tried one on a big kicker dubbed The Catapult. I almost put a Cab double underflip 10 down…” Winter ended with a bitter knee injury and surgery. “Since I started, I might have only had one season without injury. That’s the way it is. It was still a productive one. And it will help me do better this year! The crew is great, plus Victor De Le Rue and Mathieu Crépel got in, which is very inspiring!”
In addition to his part in Almo’s Drôle de Vie, Fred had the chance to get some coverage in the excellent Incoming by WhatWeWant Films… although the injury curtailed his season at the beginning of March! “I’ve had my share [of injuries]… twice the ACL, once the meniscus and the cartilage, plus some traumas here and there…”
Now, though, Fred is now done with physio and back on his board, more eager than ever. The guy can give it some. He’s tough and determined: “When I’m at a spot I like, I have to nail my trick. If I don’t get it, that can really upset me!” This winter, he hopes to destroy everything on his path with Almo… if all goes well considering how budgets are being cut left right and centre. Fred is also renegotiating his contract with Salomon, which hopefully makes a priority in keeping such quality riders in the team.
Injuries, financial crises, summers spent as a landscaper… Nothing phases Fred Couderc. Nothing dents his passion or his dreams. “Alaska, big skidoos trips in Canada… Those are things I don’t know yet and I wish I can experience someday.” But a pro’s career is also made of smaller motivations: “I wish I can spend an entire season with no injuries or money problems.” Fingers crossed for that… Oh, and for Marseille to reach the Champions League final!
Born: 12.12.86 in Sion, Valais, Switzerland.
Spot: Portes du Soleil
Sponsors: Salomon, Bonfire, Nixon, Advita, Doodah, SeventyOne Percent, Superpark.ch, Black2000.
Thanks: My parents, my brother and my whole family, my girlfriend, my cat, 10k, all my friends and sponsors, the filmers and photographers, big up to Almo Film, WhatWeWant, Homies, to fitness Black2000, all the 187, sisi the family, the team at Juilland company, the snowpark crew, and everyone else I have forgot!