Real Talk Interview: Eddie Wall

Eddie Wall is a rider that loves snowboarding. From naming rider part songs from way back, to remembering trick names and board graphics, Eddie is one of those riders that breathes snowboarding. His drive to be as good as possible saw him quickly become one of the most both recognisable and popular snowboarders around. At the height of his fame he had several pro models, video parts in some of snowboarding’s most popular videos, multiple mag covers and heaps of fans across the globe. We wanted to find out more about Eddie’s rise to the top, global trips with Forum, life after being pro and much more. Here is Eddie Wall’s Real talk Interview.

Eddie making the cover of Video Gangs

After a long and respected career, you hung up your professional snowboard boots. Did you have a plan of what to do after retirement? We have seen you MC at several events, is that your career goal or do you have some other plans in the pipeline?
Retiring from a pro career can be pretty hard. First off, I always say “A pro doesn’t retire from the industry, the industry retires the pro.” Because honestly, who would ever stop snowboarding for a living if given the choice. The companies decide if you have a career. No matter how much you think you are ready for it to come to an end, when it happens it’s difficult. It’s like one year you are in the movie at the premiere, walking the red carpet and the next year you can’t even get into the theater to see the movie. You feel very pushed out and left in the cold. Most of it is in your head, but that’s how it feels. I took about a year off, completely away from snowboarding only to come back and realize it’s my family. I have dedicated my whole life to the sport. Why would I ever leave? This is where I belong.

 I did save some money from being a pro but I never had a set plan for retiring in the sense of “When I stop getting paid I am going to apply to go to college or start my own company.” I honestly thought some of my old sponsors would offer me a job but that didn’t happen. I have always liked being on camera and on the mic so I thought hosting/ commentating would be a fun job. The only issue is that there are only a couple of large contests a year so it’s pretty hard to make that a full time gig. After a while I finally talked to Nick Hamilton at TransWorld and he brought me on to run their social media. I was able to work from home which was awesome and I learned a lot. I am grateful Nick took a chance on me. I currently do a lot of freelance in the industry, for example SPT hired me to help them out at the X Games. Up until recently I did a lot of hosting with TWSNOW (RIP) and hopefully SNOWBOARDER in the future. I am also a partner in an app called Ride List (check out the app or instagram @Ride_List) and am also an ambassador for New Belgium’s beer Fat Tire.

Eddie Wall at The
Air and Style

You are someone that genuinely loves snowboarding, how much do you ride in a typical season and how closely do you follow snowboarding now?
Every season is a little different. I used to have a house in Mammoth so I would go up there all the time, but I sold it a few years ago so am more limited on my trips. This year Fat Tire has a house so I have been in Mammoth riding a ton which is great. I have also had a lot of trips this year to the X Games, US Open, Dew Tour, and the East Coast so this season I have been able to ride a lot. I just like riding powder now and riding around the whole mountain. My days of hitting park jumps and rails are pretty much done. The park used to be so fun for me, but now I find exploring the whole mountain way more entertaining.
I still follow snowboarding very closely. The industry, riders, contests, companies… I like to keep up with all of that stuff. 

What do you think of the current state of snowboarding and has much changed since you were an active pro?
I think the current state is fine and it has definitely changed in many ways. The level of tricks are absolutely psycho. You aren’t getting on a slopestyle podium unless you have a couple doubles and at least one triple cork in your run. Some people hate on triple corks and I get it, but if that’s the way it’s progressing then there’s not a whole lot you can do to stop it. It’s way more serious now too. When I was in the X Games people took it a little serious but it seemed more fun. Partying was half the reason to go. There were no coaches, no trainers, no nutritionists. It’s different now in the sense that it is becoming more of a legit ‘sport.’ There are some downsides to that but there are also good sides. Like a pro in the late 90’s probably destroyed their bodies because they were just partying and eating unhealthy. Now kids are taking care of themselves and while it’s not very punk rock to have a green juice and stretch every day, you better believe their bodies are going to last longer which means they will have longer careers and be able to snowboard as they get older and that’s great.

The industry as a whole is very different now as well. There used to be way more money overall. There are no middle class snowboarders anymore. There are a few guys who stand on the podium and make over six figures and then it drops down to guys just scraping by on a grand or two a month. From 99-2009 the economy was booming and everyone was spending tons of money. After the recession in 2008 the industry lost so much money. The public stopped going on their expensive ski vacations and buying new gear every year, it hit the industry super hard. Companies made major cuts which included a lot of riders. The days of big contracts are, in large, over. It’s taken a long time to get back, but even if companies are making money again they are very reluctant to go spending it on big contracts, heli trips and world tours. I always consider myself so lucky to have been pro during that era.

Classic Forum Ad

Forum and Jeenyus were such huge companies and many see those times as the golden era for snowboarding. What made those brands so strong and do you think we will ever see a company with that popularity again?
Forum was kind of a perfect storm. I think what made it so strong was the timing. The timing of when the company started and where snowboarding as a whole was at. The timing of the economy being so good, putting together the unbelievable talent of the Forum 8 and the marketing genius behind the brands all came together to make something untouchable. I honestly don’t know if there will ever be a single company/ team that will have that large of an impact again. It could happen, but I think it would be hard. I am so grateful I was able to be a part of Jeenyus and Forum.

If they did actually give Forum back to Peter and he asked you to help him out, would you go for it?
Yeah, I would be down for sure. I’m sure it would be a fun project, but on the other hand Forum was at a certain time and place that would be impossible to recreate. If the brand was started again it wouldn’t have the same team of Peter, Devin, JP, Jeremy, Joni, etc… It would be new kids, a new look and it would be very different from what Forum was. In some ways it’s almost good that Forum is no longer a company. Now it is just frozen in time as one of the greatest companies and teams that ever existed and poof… it’s gone.

Young Gun at Mt Hood in 2000. Photo:Chris Wellhauson

You had several video parts in some of the biggest movies, what is your favorite part that you filmed?
My favorite part was in a movie called Promo Copy by Defective Films. This was one of the years Forum did not do a movie and Sean Johnson decided to make a film. Everything came together for me in that part, it had backcountry, jumps, rails, etc… If I had to choose one that would be it. The DC MTN LAB movies were also some of my favorites.

I can imagine that to end up riding for a team as popular as Jeenyus and Forum , being surrounded by your hero’s must be a surreal experience, were you nervous to ride with those guys on the first trips?
Of course. Everyone on the Forum team was my idol. I was just a kid from the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania and now I was riding with my heros. I was nervous but that just made me try to film better clips, try to keep up with them and show them I was worthy enough to be on the team.

You travelled the world riding, what is the most memorable trip that you went on and have you got any stories about weird team trips?
I always say one of the coolest parts of snowboarding for a living was the amount of countries we were able to travel to. I’m on my third passport which is pretty crazy. My first trip to Japan with the Jeenyus/ Forum team was unforgettable. We had a big tour bus and we all got air soft guns and would just have gun battles the entire trip. We ended up riding some of the best powder ever and just partied to the next level in Tokyo. On the majority of the trips we were filming so although we partied a little we were mainly focused on getting shots. The most fun trips were premiere tours. Like the Video Gangs World Tour was insane. We went all over the US, Europe, Japan, even South Korea. Just non stop partying and mayhem. The THAT tour across the US and Canada was really cool because we had one of those big tour buses and we all had our own bunkbed. So for a month straight we just cruised around the US skating and going to huge premieres and sleeping on the bus. The tours were memorable because we were all hanging together and traveling but didn’t have the pressure of waking up in the morning and filming a trick that you were scared to death to try.

Eddie Wall and this TWS (RIP) Cover. Photo: Ian Ruhter

Was it actually scary filming for Forum?
Of course. At least for me it was. I forget if it was one of the riders or a filmer who told me when I first started filming “If you aren’t scared at the drop in you may as well not hit it because it’s not going to make the movie.” At that time the progression of the size of jumps and rails was escalating quickly. We were literally learning new tricks on 30 stair hand rails. Whether we were in the streets or the backcountry, film trips were serious business. Work hard and do whatever it takes to get the gnarliest clips ever. Otherwise it’s a waste of everyone’s time. One time while we were filming THAT the entire team was flown from all over the globe to Vancouver for one day to have a big team meeting. The entire meeting was to tell us we had to hit bigger jumps and rails and do gnarlier tricks! At the time it felt normal but looking back it is pretty crazy. I actually preferred street rails over the backcountry because I knew in the city at least I was close to a hospital. My TransWord cover is a good example of that. One mistake and it would have been game over.

Any bad injuries?
I shattered my knee cap filming for Video Gangs. That took 3 surgeries to fix. I still have 2 screws in my knee and I lost a lot of cartilage so I have permanent arthritis in my left knee. It hurts 24/7 but I’ve gotten so used to it the pain is just normal now. I also shattered my clavicle. That took 4 surgeries to fix. 9 screws and a metal plate. Lots of smaller injuries like broken fingers and ribs. Multiple concussions as well. BUT…I survived my career and I can still skate and snowboard and that’s what’s important.

Would you change anything about your pro career if you could go back in time and if so what?
I wouldn’t have hit the rail that I shattered my knee on. Ha. I probably wouldn’t have invested in real estate. It could have been a great idea but nobody could have predicted the market crash in 2008. It’s all good though. I’m happy I was able to save some cash and get the opportunity to be a pro.

Eddie Wall and Peter Line

You are good friends with Peter Line, who was the best man at your wedding. What have you learnt from Peter?
The first time I met Peter was in Vegas during the TWSNOW awards. I think it was in 2000. I was so nervous. He was my all time hero. Soon after meeting him he said him and Kevin Jones had been working on a board company called Jeenyus. I was so stoked to have KJ and Peter asking me to be on a company. Life long dream. Peter and I became close friends after that. Things just clicked with us, like we were brothers or something. It’s funny because even after almost 20 years of friendship I still kind of trip out that we are close friends. It’s like if you played basketball as a kid and then became good friends with Michael Jordan. Life is a trip.

You once released a sponsor me tape of yourself at around 13 years old. With no disrespect intended, your riding came on a long way in a short amount of time. Was to make it as a pro your ultimate dream and consequently how you got so damn good?
The minute I saw a snowboard video I knew I wanted to be a ‘pro’ snowboarder. The only problem was it was 1993 and I didn’t even know what it meant to be ‘pro.’ This is before Tony Hawk’s 900 and Shaun White, hell it was before the internet. I was from a tiny town in Pennsylvania and my only source of industry knowledge was from magazines and videos which didn’t exactly explain what being a pro meant. I thought maybe they get free lift tickets and free boards. My mom asked how I would pay the bills and I said I would live in my car. I just knew I would do anything to be in those videos.
Long story short, I was not a very talented snowboarder. From 13 to 18 I lived in PA and tried to ride my tiny resort that had four short lifts and an almost non existent park. I entered contests and never really did very well, but I had a lot of drive and passion. I relentlessly studied videos, magazines and visualized myself doing tricks for years, I just never had the proper terrain. In 1999 I was 18 and moved out to the West Coast. I could do a front 3 and backside 540. That was about it. I was a nighttime janitor so I just road 8 hours a day. That summer I went to Mt Hood to be a dishwasher and it was like all those years of visualizing tricks had finally found a place with the perfect features to try them on. The summer of 2000 at Hood I probably learned over 100 tricks. Everything just clicked. Not to mention surrounding myself with people who were better than me. I was just trying to keep up. After that summer I was on the map and able to pick up my first sponsors. I was on K2 for a season and once I got with the Jeenyus/ Forum team the trick progression was just part of being with that crew.

Minnesota jibbing Photo: Cole Barash

So how and when did your actual riding career come to an end?
My whole career I was on Forum and DC. Both of those companies made boots and boards, everyone else on those teams was head to toe but I was somehow on DC Boots and Forum boards. It was a conflict of interest. When I turned 30 in 2010 the plan was to choose which brand I would go with head to toe. Both companies had made huge budget cuts at that time. DC assumed Forum was making a good offer and visa versa. So in the end neither company saved a budget for my contract. It was kind of crazy. I had put so much into both of these companies and in one day it all came to an end.
By that time I was so branded with Forum and DC that other companies thought it would be hard to rebrand me and so it was hard to find a new sponsor. I was also 30 which is a hard sell when 14 year olds are doing double corks. Two guys who worked at Forum left to start Weekend Snowboards and Bond Outerwear. I rode for them for a couple years until they went under and that was that. I was officially done.
I can see how some riders get bitter at the industry because companies tell you “You are part of our family. You will be with us for life.” But that all goes out the window as you get older. So people get pissed when they get cut. They feel betrayed. I was around 33 years old and younger kids were doing better tricks, they were the marketable ones at that point, so it’s okay, they should take my place. I am so grateful that I got to have a 13 year career, travel the world, meet some amazing people and snowboard for a living. I have nothing but admiration for our sport and industry.

Modern Eddie at Baldface

What advice do you have for someone up and coming that also has dreams of being a pro?
My theory was that if I moved to the best mountain in the world, and became as good as those riders I would probably get noticed. So I chose Mammoth in the winter and Mt Hood in the summer. I also said I wasn’t snowboarding to get sponsored, I was snowboarding to get good. I told myself  “I am going to snowboard every single day and push my riding. If I get sponsored great, if I don’t that’s fine because I would have just been doing the same thing regardless… Snowboarding.”

You can follow Eddie on his Instagram here.