Diversity in snowboarding: #01 Neil Campbell.

Neil Campbell. Photo: James Bryant

We reached out to our friends to understand more about the lack of diversity in Snowboarding and if they have encountered racism whilst riding. Up first is Neil Campbell from the UK who has spent 16 years travelling as a professional park shaper and sponsored rider. We asked him for his thoughts on the issue. Here are his views.

I wanted to share my thoughts about racism and snowboarding and what I’ve witnessed, what I’ve seen along the way.
I’ve been riding about 16 years in that time i’ve travelled a lot around France, Switzerland, Austria and Germany. I’ve ridden a lot of different resorts, helped out working with a few friends at trade shows and also been a shaper at parks across Europe.
I didn’t necessarily witness anything racist or any comments directly towards me and whilst I was out riding around on the slopes or in a Mountain resort. There were a few times I guess where you might see someone whisper and stare, people are saying, “check out a black man on the snowboard” or whatever but it was never really with any animosity or any hate behind it. It was at that time I guess and it was a bit of a surprise for some people to see a black man on a snowboard.

It’s just one of those things you get used to being a black man but I never heard any bad comments from friends or with other people riding. I guess in a bar you might get some comments from a racist or a bigot, whose had a few drinks but that’s something you get in any country, in the UK to, but yeah, I don’t think it was directly because I was snowboarding or I was in a resort.

The only racism I have experienced that was related to snowboarding was at Ispo one year when I was working for Vans on their stand. Janine from Vans, whom I working with gave me and everyone else working there, a whole load of shoes, clothing, caps etc. so we could look good as Vans representatives. As I was leaving that day the police stopped me at the gate with about 5 to 6 officers and they put me to one side and started to question me about what I had in my bags and why I was carrying Vans stuff and where I had stolen it from basically. I had to explain what I was doing and they were adamant I was a thief. My friends with me and other people leaving were carrying; boards, boots, outerwear etc and no one even blinked an eyelid at them, but being a black man with new products, I stood out and the cops headed straight for me. I mean I am used to being stopped by the police, as I have been a number of times in my hometown where I live so it was no big deal to me but it was quite a shock to my friends and other people in the hall to see the way they were accusing and how they spoke to me, just when you know everybody else had just as much stuff as I did maybe more. Long story short I had to call the Vans guys to come and rescue me and to prove that I hadn’t stolen anything.

When I first started snowboarding my black friends thought I was crazy going up mountains in winter haha but the tide has changed and nowadays lots of my friends and family have been on winter holidays, learning to snowboard or ski.

I’d love to go around the world and make a film with all the black riders (there are quite a few now) and take it around to schools and youth clubs, all it takes is to see people that look like me, are out there enjoying mountains and mountain sports.
I think this is the key to moving forward positive images rather than the bank robber/ drug dealer rhetoric. We now have lots of indoor halls kids and we could try and arrange for more riders to riding for PE lessons like the swimming ones we used to do growing up. That could be a good way to get more black people into snowboarding.

It would be cool to go around to different cities and film some guys riding snowboards, there are many around that you just don’t see them in their own environment, I met 3 black snowboarders when I lived in Switzerland so there are probably many more.

You can follow Neil on his Instagram here.

Don’t miss Neil’s Real Life Story on Pyramid here.