Matt Cummins has the longest running pro model in snowboarding’s history, 25 years and counting. He has used this opportunity to continually push snowboard designs from the earliest skate influenced twin tip MC Kink to today’s powder hungry Nootka. His designs, priorities and style forever changed the sport and paved the way for generations of pros.
“His board was a ground breaking concept. It spear headed twin tip freestyle snowboarding, it created a genre. To have that kind of a brick in the foundation of snowboarding is truly a special thing. Matt deserves and is owed every ounce of that brick and it’s a big one. Matt and what he stood for and the way he rode and why he rode Lib Tech made me want to ride and be a part of what he stood for as well. Throughout the years having him build such a legacy with his board, he packaged all that awesomeness up, put a nice little bow on it and handed it right off to me and for that I can’t thank him enough. I owe him everything. What I’ve been able to achieve in my career came from Matt Cummins. I don’t think he get’s enough credit, so this is the opportunity, Matt, thank you so much brother.” -Jamie Lynn
Japow! Photo: Endo
So, is it going to snow in Washington this year?
Well, I hope so. It needs to snow. We had a Northwest Snowboard/One Ball party and burned some snowboards, so we’re hopeful.
It can’t be worse than last year, right? Have you lived in Washington you’re whole life? Have you ever seen a season like last year?
Yeah, if I’m not mistaken it was the worst snowfall on record, and as far I can remember it was warmest and nicest summer ever, so I don’t know.
Same in Oregon – it’s been really nice, but doesn’t instill you with faith for a lot of snow fall. But we can definitely hope!
Yeah, we’re hopeful. It’s starting, looks like Stevens and Baker are getting some snow already.
The precipitation levels seem to be getting back to normal, hopefully it was just the Fukushima blob and that’s going away. That was what was warming up the air, I think it is dissipating and it’s gonna be good.
Is that what they’re saying?
No, that’s what I’m saying. The blob is real, but I don’t know if it was actually the Fuskashima fall out still.
You would think that, with Fukushima that was what, like, four, five years ago? We were actually over there two days before it happened.
Crazy. What were you doing there?
I put on a banked slalom there every year. It’s called the Tenjin Banked Slalom. It’s all this mountain that’s really good it’s called Mt.Tanigawa, it’s all hand made and I think it’s the largest snowboard event in Japan. We had to cut the entrance off at 400 people and it’s a 2 day event so it’s pretty massive.
The LBS. Photo: Zimmerman
How long have you been running that?
I helped start it the same year the big tsunami was. I wanna say this year will be the fifth year. This year it’s March 5th and 6th.
What’s the secret to doing well in banked slaloms?
I think riding a lot. The guys that are on the hill all the time have the best twitch reaction, and are just dialed in. That’s the most important part.
I think it’s drinking a beer before you go.
I don’t know, a lot of people try but maybe one to calm the nerves but after that you get into dangerous territory.
You have the longest running pro model in snowboarding. Is that crazy or are you just so used to it now?
Yeah, it’s disturbing that time has gone by that fast. It’s been fun, I’ve done a lot of things. Especially going through finding photos and and pictures, it’s like damn, that doesn’t seem that long ago. But it gets to the point where you’ve done so much stuff that you start to forget some of the trips and some of the stories. I don’t know how many times I’ve been to Japan. Under 15, but you can’t distinguish one trip from another almost. I’ve been at it for a long time, but it’s rad to see people getting hyped on all the old boards. It’s amazing how much trading is going on and how collectors are really into it, it’s really cool.
Modeling his models. Photo: Tim Zimmerman
Definitely seems like there’s a resurgence. I think its because the second generation of snowboarding is getting to that age where you start to get nostalgic.
Everything’s been done, magazines go through the pros so fast, unlike any sport that I know. There’s guys that are so good that don’t get a chance to be pro. The media, or social media or whatever just cranks through pros. And then it’s like, well, how do you be really weird and zany, how do you get attention? There’s tons on insane riders that don’t wear whatever sort of clothes or act a certain way that nobody’s ever gonna hear about. It’s just a weird time, so I think people are looking back and going, oh what is this guy doing, where’s this guy been? My whole thing was I did’t care about pictures very much. I didn’t film, I rode the halfpipe because I grew up skateboarding halfpipe and nobody really cared. And then it went to the Olympics and was already over it. I just rode powder in the Northwest, so my body is in relatively good shape compared to some of the guys that do some of the gnarly street stuff. I don’t know why my program stuck. I think that I really enjoy deigning products and I own One Ball as well, I started that back in 1988, so I get to just sit around and come up with ideas and design products and learn how to do graphics. To design boards and find the art you want on the board and have people ride that equipment and go, this is sick. Back in the day people hadn’t seen twin tip or double ended snowboards, so it was like whoa, why? But that was kinda my thing and it still is my thing, just continue to be really creative and have it somehow support you financially is kind of a dream job, really.
Probably helped that you ride for Lib Tech and not some other company…
Yeah, I’ve been with those guys the whole time. I bought my first board from them in 1986. They’re my friends and they’ve helped me out and it’s been awesome.
Your board this year is a DIY blank board. What was the inspiration for that?
I go to Japan every year and I have some friends and there’s a small company from Japan called TJ Brand. One of the owners is Yosuke. He’s like my age, iconic Japanese snowboarder and in the summer he’s a surfer. And he’s an OG kind of dude. He would show up to the Banked Slalom and help dig, I didn’t really know him at first or what he was about. He would make these boards that were 140ish, really short, and I don’t know if they were horizontal laminate or a single piece of maple, but he would get em wet and then prop the nose up with some weights and put a nose kick in it. It was just a piece of wood, no edges, no ptex, you would just have bindings on it, but they were low backs. He was in my class, pro masters or old guy class, and he would almost beat everyone on this board with no edges. This super short thing. He couldn’t stand up and rail and turn, he would have to get really low and just be like flowing around the corners. I don’t know how to describe it but it was basically like he was surfing on a snowboard and I was like like, woah. What is that? The next year he showed me a blank and was like, we want you to make a board out of this blank, and we’re gonna give it away as a prize. So I made one and I just started thinking, why aren’t we doing that in the States? Everyone wants the powder board, everyone wants a bunch of boards, but very few people can afford it, and why not offer one? This has been in the works for five years. They’re just coming out now. People want to get creative and they want to make their own stuff that works for their resorts, and everyone likes to ride powder and instead of paying $600 or $700 for a really elaborate futuristic- or old school – depending on how you look at it powder board, you can just make your own for a couple hundred dollars. The big question in everyone’s mind is well, don’t you need edges? But you really don’t. It’s already so sharp that unless you’re riding on ice – which, I don’t ride on ice – you’re gonna be fine. It totally works. So that’s where it comes from.
I saw that at SIA and was psyched. I wanna play with one, although I probably shouldn’t be allowed to use power tools.
Yeah, it’s not for the faint at heart. Because you’re trying to keep it within really tight tolerances. But it you have a guy that does wood working, he’d be able to make no problem because he has all these really sharp powerful tools.
Wheelie boarding. Photo: Endo
Let’s talk about One Ball. When did you drop the Jay from the name?
We’re still figuring that out. People just refer to it as One Ball, so we said, ok, we’ll just do One Ball. And we got the icon that’s just o-n-e inside of a ball.
Were you the first wax company?
We coined the term snowboard wax, and starting making snowboard wax and surf wax in 1986 to put on some snowboards we made I think in 1983-84. We were like, we can make our own snowboards and skateboards, so why don’t we make our own wax?
And that’s your main gig these days?
Yeah, that’s my main income. Kinda my desk job. It’s cool, the flexibility to go there whenever, stay home if you’re sick.
You also ran a snowboard shop for awhile, right?
Yeah, unfortunately we just closed it about a month ago. We had some of the oldest handful of shops in the world. We started those in 1988, it was our family store and we had up to three. But with the online buying habits and the lack of support from brands. Everyone’s just going completely vertical with their sales model, distribution is just wide open. It would be interesting how many mom and pop, core stores have gone out of business. I don’t know, but I wanna say it’s 300-600. It’s massive. It’ll be interesting to see how it all unfolds. Quiksilver and Billabong, all these huge companies that have blown out their distribution. It hasn’t worked. But who knows, I’m no expert, but at this time, the risk is too much. You buy the stuff, try to make a little bit of margin, you have insane competition from every chain store and online thing that you can imagine, and then you made your little bit of money and you pay back the brands, and there’s no money. Unless you have a retail store by a resort or by a big city, it’s really hard to do.
It seems like something, industry-wise is gonna have to chance if shops are going to survive.
We didn’t know, so we just checked out. We got outta here with no debt and just walked away and said, alright.
What will you miss about having a shop?
It was just a family thing for so long, so it’s kinda what we were, who we are and what we came from. People just being stoked on snowboarding, as simple as that. Everybody just gets older and you gotta weigh the consequences vs the reward of why are you doing it. It’s a rough question. But it was a cool family thing for so long. We had a snowboard team forever and that part of our lives was huge for almost three decades.
On the hunt. Photo: Endo
So your brother Temple is kind of a big deal. Is it just the two of you?
I have another brother, Mike, he’s our middle brother. I’m the oldest.
Did you ever beat Temple up?
Probably. And then Temple got stronger and bigger than me and I laid off him. All brothers beat each other up. You’re boys.
Tell me about your documentary that’s coming out in January.
It was cool. I think they’re touting it as 25 or 26 years with Mevin. Stanny – Tim Sanford – he did a good job of scrounging up photos and footage and putting together a history of where I came from and how I came up, and then my development of working with Mervin and the tech of the modern twin tip. I talk about that and a little bit around the graphics because the graphics are really big. A lot of big time Lib Tech riders have some parts, and it turned out killer.
How involved were you in the making of it?
I kinda stayed out of it. I’ve worked with those guys long enough that they know what I’m into and what I’m not into. So I just tried my best to round up the footage, but Stanny did all the work. As far as my involvement I watched it, said, yeah this is killer, let’s change a few things. He came over to my house and worked on it one day and that was it.
Luggage life. Photo: Endo
Having ridden in Washington for 30 years now, how have you seen it change?
It’s more crowded, for sure. I don’t know about the next movement of young people coming up. You have guys like Blair [Habenicht.]
I think he’s old and washed up now.
No, but I wouldn’t describe him as next generation anymore – he’s the it generation.
So I don’t know, that’s a good question. Where I’m at, I try to go up on powder days and work when it’s bad and get my powder days when it’s good. If there’s a big social thing I’m not really part of it. I don’t know how it’s changed, I’ve always just done by own thing. I come in, get it, and leave and go do something else. I don’t really hang. In terms of the scene, at Mt. Baker, when I was growing up, it was 3 or 4 hours away, so I would drive up there, crash on someone’s floor, ride as long as I could with the local Baker guys. There weren’t many people. Some pros would travel up sometimes but it was primarily the Baker guys. And then I would have to leave. I would ride locally around here if I could. But the young crew of rippers coming up, there’s some guys, I’m just not super tuned into it.
I think that’s one of the things thats cool about Washington is it is easy to be super into snowboarding and not involved in it at all at the same time.
Right it’s kind of like being in Hawaii. If you’re in Hawaii you’re going to be involved in surfing one way or another because it is surfing. In Washington, it’s some of the best riders and some of the best snow and the best mountains really close. It’s all right here.
Definitely. It’s the best. Well, let’s finish this up with some shout outs and thanks.
Thanks to my family, Mervin Mfg, the crew at Oneball and Northwest Snowboards. And thanks to these guys for keeping me looking good – Union, Pow, AFDicegear, Dragon and Ninja Suits.