Intro: Mikey Leblanc, Captions: Mike Ranquet
A month ago I lent my credit card to Mike Ranquet. It was a last minute decision as we were parting ways in a train station in Gigi Ruf’s hometown. I was headed back to the USA, and he onwards to points unknown, literally. We had just ended a week long riding trip in Austria, and had quickly created a bond that only two true road warriors/gypsy’s could form. We roll loose, and Mike wasn’t thinking about how to pay the next bill, or train or ticket, or meal. Luckily he had me there, because the trip would have taken a less direct direction. However I’m quite sure if I hadn’t lent Mike my credit card, the days to come may have led him in a very interesting direction. And I’m sure his vibe would have carried him on just fine.
The week I had in Austra with Mike was my kinda scene. Roll with the journey, love to everyone you meet, slip seamlessly into the shred houses along the way (Thanks Rome Snowboards and Gigi to name a few) that took the Mike and Mike show in.
BITD, Ranquet possibly invented flat ground tricks as we know them. When Dave Seoane filmed Mike doing some of the first flat ground tricks in, “Roadkill” they probably had no idea they were about to inspire the entire new school generation to come a few years later. Alters, Cole, Rodgers, Abramason, Iguchi, Schnacky, Salasnek, Tarquin Robbins, etc all coming onto the scene and quickly displacing the old guard within a matter of years.
These days, one thing’s for sure, Mike has style: his fs airs are timeless and signature. I can tell it from a mile away. He’s also got A LOT of HIS-story to share, listen up peeps.
I think we agree the word legend is very over used in snowboarding. Do you consider yourself a legend?
I think I did a lot for the sport – made switch cool, made a lot of tricks cool. Is that legendary status? I don’t know. When you think about it, fairy tales are also synonymous with legend status, so maybe it’s not the best word for snowboarding. So do I consider myself a legend? No.
Who do you consider a snowboard legend? Are there any?
Everyone considers themselves a legend in snowboarding, so the whole meaning of it has been taken away. I can say Kidwell’s a legend, butso can every yahoo on the FB ‘history of snowboarding page’ about themselves. It’s funny how people’s skewed versions of history are taken as fact on that page. On the FB ‘history of skateboarding’ page, that word is used only when appropriate.
This shot was taken Lech, Austria in 1989, my first trip to Europe. Most of Americans of the time, and certainly The Europeans had never seen the likes of my riding style, I rode switch probably 60% of the time at that point, I inherently knew it was the future. I was doing Cab stalefish, Cab Indy, Cab stalefish revert (fakie to fakie 540 or Cab 540). Never cared for contest results, I figured that I’d never beat Craig so I better find something else. Photo Fran Richards
Tell me about D Day snowboards. Why on earth are you trying to start a snowboard brand right now?
I got talked into it by Roach about five months ago, and let me put it this way. A year ago, I never thought I would have anything to do with snowboarding, or go on the trip I went on the last month. It’s all pretty mind-blowing. When it came up, I just recognized the timing. The timing for the industry as a whole – the riders, the pros – have skipped a generation now. I would say three years ago this never would have worked, it would have been dead in the water already. Even two years ago I don’t think it would have worked. Ten years ago we would have been laughed out of the trade show. It’s interesting when you look at it like that. That’s the first thing I say to everyone – this never would have worked a couple years ago.
So why do you think it’ll work now? Because the industry’s in a transition?
I don’t know if it’ll work now. I hate using the term industry, but I always knew it was gonna be the year after the Olympics, whether it was 2014 or 2010. I had a feeling that the industry would actually come around and look back. Like, look where we came from. Instead of treating it like a joke or a novelty. The industry has an appetite for the next Baby Jesus. It’s always looking for the next big thing. And that’s been the trend for so long, but Baby Jesus, you know, he grew up. Every team is always after this new kid, and that kid’s fucking old after awhile. You look at some goggle companies that have a surf team and you look at that surf team three years ago and you look at it today and there’s maybe one out of the six people that are off that team. You look at a snowboard list now and one from three years ago, and it’s a whole new team. As a brand it’s kinda defeating to try and build some kid up and he just isn’t cool in a couple years. He might be riding better than ever, but you know. It’s hard to market that. I think the reason that it might work now is you gotta grow up as an industry and bring a lot of these kids into the fold. It’s not just a search for Baby Jesus. We can still look for him, but you just want to have some diversity when it comes to brands or the media. Close to 50% of snowboarders are over 25. I mean, that’s a big fucking number. Everyone’s always like, it’s such a young man’s sport. The only people who pay attention to what goes online are people in the industry and other than that, maybe 2-3% of the general snowboarding population goes online to watch those videos. It’s a really small segment that everyone markets to, and most of those people get hooked up anyway. I think the industry is growing up a little bit, ya know.
This shot was at Mount bachelor in 1987. Only two months prior was a photo of Chris Miller doing a front side air nose bone at Upland skateboard park. As soon as I can get On Snow that year, I knew I was gonna learn that fucking trick What really juiced me was the fact that it was opposite of what Craig Kelly did. In those days, Craig always kicked his tail out, so I was like fuck that I’m kicking my nose out. Nigga what.
What are you guys gonna do differently? Do you have a team?
Yeah, we have Ben Bilocq, Erik Messier, Andrew Burns and Deadlung right now, so that’s a pretty cool fun crew. I rode with Deadlung for like a month this year and that was pretty much the funnest time riding I had in so long. I feel pretty tight with these guys too. I feel my role is to make new in roads, be the face of it for the first year or so and try to elevate our team with us. It’s just a basic formula. Have a couple older dudes that have been around and have a team under them. What’s different about that is me and Roach will always be there. We’ll keep the balance, it’s not like some new marketing director is gonna come in and change things every couple years because he likes this 14 year old. We’ll have continuity.
Trying to market to older people, in snowboarding, seems like a whole new philosophy and it’s obviously not just the team, it all goes together.
In every other board sport, this is not new. Even in surfing, you have guys from 15 to 50 years old and they’re all in great shape. They market to all different people, and it’s the same with snowboarding. It’s time we realized that. It’s weird. For me, living in Hawaii the last six years, you see surf culture is based on respect, respecting your elders and those who were before you. You’d never question anything. I mean Gerry Lopez, 14 year old kids know who he is. They’ve known who he was since they were 10. I don’t expect that in snowboarding, or 14 year old kids to get out of my way, that’s just the culture I’ve been surrounded by these last few years. It’s interesting watching snowboarding slowly come around.
Craig Kelly was a chemical engineer and he loved Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and UFO; Craig is not buried at Baldface under a cross in the snow. Craig was never a fucking hippie, in life or in death. Photo: Gordon Eshom
You moved to Hawaii and stopped snowboarding, why?
Well, I didn’t quit. I moved to California for awhile for a job, then came back up to Washington and rode that winter. At the same time, my hip was so fucked up for years. I could barely walk, but for some reason I could snowboard still. It was a weird little thing. So I was in complete denial with what was really going on with my body. I moved to Hawaii and that’s when it caught up with me, and I was like, what the fuck is wrong with me. Cut to a couple months later and doctor is walking out with an X-ray, like, what the fuck? He asked me, “What pharmaceutical drugs are you on for the pain,” and I was like none. Nothing works. He got me in within 12 days, he was like, your hip is so fucked up you could either break it and/or dislocate it in your sleep. So I got that fixed in Chicago, and went back to Hawaii and started to heal. I got back in the water, started skating a little bit, and surfing. Just got my head straight, it was a good place to be. You can’t run from anything there, you’re on a fucking island. You have to live a pretty clean life, you just have to slow your life down. So that’s why. And kids, we had kids. I think was out for three seasons total, but I didn’t really ride like do tricks or hit jumps for like 12 years.
That’s the danger of trying to find that older market – How do you make snowboarding look impressive and exciting…
Go ride with me.
Right, but you can go snowboarding and have the best time every time, but how to you translate that into something people want to watch or consume in media form?
When I was in Italy I went to this skateboard ramp, the biggest ramp I’d ever seen in my life. I skated for a few days with these guys and then went to a BBQ. One of the guys spoke English, and I asked, what got you guys to build this ramp? He said, all of them had quit skating for over 10 years, and then in 2008 he happened to pick up a random magazine and there was one photo of Kevin Staab in it. Kevin rips but popularity wise he’s no Hosoi, Hawk or Caballero. So from this one picture, the guy realized that Kevin Staab was his age and was still actively skateboarding! So he showed the magazine to all his buddies and the next day all those guys went out and bought skateboards and started skating parks, and slowly got really into, then built like the biggest ramp in Rome and anywhere south of Rome. It’s a huge thing based off one photo. In snowboarding I think it’s just a matter of posting things that other people can do. People are so scared of unattainable shit. Rails, wall rides, that stuff is really creative, but the media is just flooded with wall rides or rails or jumping over trees or roof gaps. Most people that snowboard will never do any of that shit. They don’t want to. Most people that snowboard just ride down the fucking hill. Most of these guys are super secluded in these rail scenes, but when you really go around the world and look, people are older now and older people like to be smart. And then don’t get hyped on shit they can’t do. I can make basic shit look good and people like that. It’s not that hard to market, you just throw it in the mix. It’s not like you make a big announcement that we’re marketing to 44 year olds! If I was riding for some clothing company I would get one of their ads, that’s how you do it. And the other side of that is big mountain, which is so over the top. They’re like swimming in Antartica, and this shit is not what people do. Most people go to ski areas and that’s it. It’s an easy one to cater to in marketing. Everything’s gotta be new and crazy, and you can only do that for so long.
Right, but how do you make that stand out from the pack? If you look at media as essentially the spectator side of snowboarding, and given my experience, people wanna see crazy shit.
You guys do. The media. It’s a weird one.
Eggplant at the Lahaina skate park last year. A reminder to all snowboarders; an eggplant is a handplant in which you plant your front hand (as opposed to your back hand) on the coping and grab like you’re doing an Indy air.
I think the media does what the consumer wants in some regards.
You can say this is what people want. Well, the only consumers you have are 17 year olds. The way things are, you can’t consider someone my age, or over like 28, a consumer in snowboarding because there’s nothing in it for them. So the media says, well the people reading the mags are only 17, and it’s because you fucking write the mags for 17 year olds, cause that’s what you think. That those are the only people who do that. I can pick up a skate mag and it’s interesting to me, a cool photo or story, but either way, I can relate to it. It’s not all just so over the top. That’s why most people at a certain age they don’t care to look at snowboarding anymore.
I think that’s a problem in snowboarding for sure, you get older and you don’t feel like you belong anymore.
That’s what’s happened. It’s easy to understand is that it only speaks to a certain age group. I don’t even surf that much, but you see this whole array of surfers, and that’s where snowboarding has to get to sustain. There’s this talk that we’re declining, and in snowboarding, all the videos and magazines output shit, and they’re so over the top. Having a four million dollar heli – no one’s ever going to do that. Most people when they watch skate videos, they can relate. At least they can go to the spots and try to ollie down the stairs. In surfing you get super gnarly waves, but most people can paddle out and do this shit and that’s what they portray. Snowboarding portrays this very finite and acute angle and that’s it. But many people snowboard.
Well yeah, that’s why I’ve always posted park edits and stuff like that.
Yeah, I like the Shredbots stuff, where they just go in an tear those parks apart. That shit is rad. They go to a park that everyone is riding. There’s lots of elements, but mostly they just show these two extremes. Everyone else is in the middle.
When Roach and I got kicked out of Japan, on the flight home I hatched the idea of telling our current sponsor Santa Cruz snowboards that we should have the same travel budget, same paycheck and just go out and film all year. It was out of necessity of course, because we got kicked off the World Cup tour, and pretty much uninvited to any and every contest. At the time skate videos were huge so I thought why not do the same in snowboarding. Santa Cruz wasn’t too cool with it, but Bert Lamar was. That’s when I started riding for Lamar, he let me do whatever I wanted as long as on every trip I produced.
Surfing and skateboarding are more accessible than snowboarding – you don’t have to pay every time or live by a mountain…
But the reason snowboarding got so big so fast, because it’s the first, and really only board sport that you can teach anyone to do in 2 days. You can take your uncle to a 3 foot mini ramp, all padded up, and that mother fucker is not dropping in. You think about surfing. It’s impossible. They can’t do it. Snowboarding is easy, it’s the easiest of the board sports by such a fucking long shot and that’s why I think the media and the core of the industry, they just don’t get it. Surfing and skateboarding, those guys are fucking hardcore surfers, to be a hardcore surfer you gotta be hell bent on big fucking waves. To be a hardcore skateboarder you have to take beatings down handrails. So to me that’s a more hardcore person running this industries. I think in snowboarding, it’s the fact that anyone can do it, that anyone can work in the industry.
There’s people who don’t even snowboard that make decisions about snowboarding.
It’s not that they don’t snowboard, maybe they do it, it’s just that most people that skate are in it for life. They’ve done it since they were 10 years old and they’re down. Snowboarders, it’s normal people that do it. Most normal people don’t skate and most normal people don’t surf. Snowboarding is a thing that anyone can do so you get a different swatch that goes into the industry.
BS air in Rome last August. It was after skating one night in Maui, that I realized that I could do most things I did snowboard again.
Does it make sense to look to surfing and skateboarding when you’re dealing with a totally different audience?
Right now in snowboarding, the industry is run by fans. People in surfing and skateboarding care about the fucking sport and that’s where snowboarding should be, and that’s why it’s fucked up. But it’s gotta come around, it can’t keep running around and around as it is.
I think one of the problems with the media is that they’re trying to mass market snowboarding, rather than marketing snowboarding to people who actually snowboard.
Yeah, and that’s why things have to change. Niche marketing is one thing, but just the brands you have now – you don’t have to make a boot, a binding, a board, a powder board, a skateboard. It’s all so bloated now. Let the hat company make hats, let the glove company make gloves. Once brands get to a certain point they just start making everything and it’s shit. So much shitty product. I think consumers want a more niche brand to specialize vs people that basically put their name on everything. Some people do that really well.
Fall 1987 Mt Bachelor. I lived with Craig at the time, I was 17. I first started doing FS nosebones because of a photo of Chris Miller at Upland Skate Park. He was the first to do them on a skateboard, I’d learned them at the time of my skateboard, but I knew I could do them sick on my snowboard. The other reason I started doing nosebones, was because Craig and everybody else in the world kicked their tail out on every trick, so I naturally did the opposite.
But it’s all based on capitolism – you’re never gonna get everyone to cooperate.
I think consumers will as we roll into this new era of snowboarding. There’s only so much corporatization that people like. If your big brother is sponsored by Red Bull and GoPro then you’re gonna wanna be sponsored by small brands and be less cool. Newer people coming into the sport are going to find the smaller niche brands that much more attractive because they speak to them more.
Last question. Do you worry that snowboarding is going to turn into skiing?
No, not anymore. I used to, but I just don’t anymore.
At the premiere of Critical Condition. After the premiere Craig and Kelly Jo (his future wife) saw me getting beat up by some bouncers, Kelly Jo said to Craig ‘hey we have to do something’ and Craig said ‘no, you don’t know what Mike did to get himself in that position’. Coming from the same guy that strapped me too his rack and drove me from Mount Hood parking lot to Welches (or some. small town on HWY 26). Only stopping when he got pulled over by the police after going through the DQ drive-through,the woman from DQ called the police after I reached down to get my milkshake from her.