Dave takes a hands on approach. He’s actually whittling a snowboard out of that snow bank.
Amidst a sea of giant ski brands and influx of corporate culture, there are still plenty of small snowboard brands, run by snowboarders. Monument may be out of Washington DC, not exactly a snowboard epicenter, and Dave Tran may be Oriental Asian, which is only relevant as I like to make fun of him about it, but MNMNT is about as true to snowboarding as you can get. Run out of Dave’s DC apartment, the brand is one of the few to stay true to the East Coast, and not deserting the ice for softer, steeper pastures, and for that, reason, not to mention some of the best graphics in the biz, we decided to track down Dave and find out more.
Do you go snowboarding on Christmas?
Nah, I don’t feel like playing Frogger on Christmas or any holiday weekend. It’s hell on earth.
Did you make the honor roll in school?
Only in my last quarter of my senior year I made honor roll. I got to wear the National Honor Society Sash. Then I proceeded to graduate from college with a 2.1.
What’s your highest Mortal Combat (or other more relevant video game) score of all time?
I sucked at Mortal Kombat. I think I only played Streetfighter. Who keeps high score anyways? You just beat the crap out of the next dude with the quarters on the machine.
Are you a bad driver?
I’m Asian and I live near DC. Of course, I’m an awesome driver.
What was it like kissing Scotty Lago’s medal?
He kept lowering it and lowering it and next thing you know my picture is pasted on all the tabloids. It’s embarrassing!
Can you eat Chinese food without getting the runs?
That’s a good question. If the place has pictures on the wall of the food and they scoop it in front of you, then yes you will get the runs. The best places are the ones white people are scared to walk in.
Don’t they know you are Vietnamese when you go in those? Or is there just a general camaraderie between all Asians?
I went to a Vietnamese restaurant in Richmond last weekend that was run by Koreans with a Chinese cook. I went to another Sushi place owned by Koreans and they tried to talk in Korean, but with a Japanese accent. They get scared when I roll up because they know I’ll start bitching about how crappy the food is. It’s cutthroat being Asian.
MNMNT Team rider Jared Jordan changed his name from Jared Johnson because he said it was a white man’s name. True Story.
Haha, enough of that. Why would anyone, Asian or not, that lives in DC think to start a snowboard company?
Back when I started Monument, a lot of the smaller companies were going out of business. It was back in 1998-2000, they were getting eaten up alive, but I wanted to start a company because I didn’t believe in anything the other companies were offering at the time. As far as staying in DC… it’s like starting a company overseas, it’s so foreign. I grew up riding around here and a lot of good riders have come from our region. I wanted something riders around here could be proud of, especially a brand they can call their own. I think that is pretty important
Where do you snowboard and how often do you get to go?
I usually only get in 35-40 days in a year around the South East. I ride Timberline, Massanutten, Wisp, Seven Springs. This year I didn’t get to go out as much… I’ve only been like 15 times so far and it’s already March. Shoot me.
Is there a good snowboard scene there? What’s it like?
DC is a pretty transient city. There are pockets, but the diehards all hang out by the core shops. Massanutten has an awesome scene. I’ve never seen a bunch of kids just chill, hang out and support each other anywhere else like they do there. It’s awesome. Lots of history at Massanutten as far as snowboarding around here goes.
Any desire to move somewhere potentially more awesome?
Like where, Portland? The Mecca of all snowboard companies?
It’s a possibility. I don’t want to get distracted by moving to a resort town, which is why I haven’t yet, to be honest. I don’t want to get caught up in the scene, or any scene, and not get work done. I’ve been thinking about it, but haven’t picked a spot yet. I want to make Monument a success from this area first before moving anywhere. We’re an east coast-based company. This is where we’re at, so I may stay here permanently, who knows.
How many boards do you make a year?
We finished last season with one rep left. Now we have five reps now and talking to some new distribution internationally, so our numbers should go up a bit. Ask me in a month, I’ll tell you an actual number.
Why do you think someone should “support the little guy” vs. buying a potentially cheaper board from one of the giants?
We’ve lowered our pricing, they are now between $320-$399, but the quality is still the same — the manufacturing quality is absurd. If they want something different, they’ll get a Monument. People like the underdogs, the little guys. Our boards are just as good, we just aren’t mass marketing our product. We have our niche. Plus when you buy from a corporate company you’re helping some 50-year-old buy his Maserati. When you buy from us you’re helping keep me from eating Ramen noodles.
What’s the worst part about running a snowboard company? The best?
For a company that doesn’t have venture capital, or funding, the toughest part is making a brand like ours stand out with basically a minuscule fraction of what the corporations use for marketing dollars. The best part is seeing people’s faces when they see our decks and especially after they ride them. At the demo the only complaint we had about our decks was that our reverse camber deck had too much pop.
Dave, hard at work.
Do you have a “day job”?
I push buttons like Homer Simpson every day for the government. I get to slug in to work and carpool with weird random people, and then at night I put on my cape and work on Monument. I had a mask, but I lost it.
What are you guys doing different than other brands?
Besides casting spells on our decks and making them super awesome? I guess we are known for our graphics. We don’t follow trends, and we don’t just toss up a design in illustrator and slap our logo on it and say hey this is a Monument. Our art direction stands out from the rest, and Chris Glancy (art director and business partner) picks artists to work with us based on his vision for the overall line each season. Our boards handle way better than other decks, but that’s just me.
Yeah, I feel like you might be a bit biased on that last statement
No way. I don’t know what you are talking about
Does it bother that you don’t always get credit for your sweet artist collabos, and then when other brands use the same artist two years later everyone is pumped?
Well, our decks aren’t collaborations. We curate the lines and for collaborations you’re doing a crossover between two companies. Our artist network is amazing, we’re so lucky to work with the artists that we do, to put stuff that you see in galleries or on your wall on the mountain. We strive to set trends instead of follow them. Other companies have worked with some of our artists, and it’s cool that we worked with them first.
Who is your favorite artist you’ve gotten to work with?
The best one I think is Rammellzee. I didn’t work with him directly, but Chris did. He is such an interesting guy; one of the forefathers of hip hop and graffiti… gothic futurist. I loved his graphic the best and I would love to have a conversation with him.
Dave Tran, an artists rendering. Drawing: Wiebke
Are you worried what moms might think of your boards that say “fuck?” You don’t feel bad about potentially corrupting little kids?
We just wanted to see how many kids get kicked off of mountains. Haha. Honestly it’s an art thing. Raif Adelberg, the fashion designer who came up with the concept for that 777 series, expresses himself by using the word “Fuck” a lot. We didn’t do it for shock value like, “Oh hey, let’s put the word FUCK on it and be super extreme, brah!” Not all of our decks are PG, but 80% of the other ones are. But it’s art. You can’t censor it. These artists are expressing themselves and creating their interpretation of their art onto a snowboard. That’s what makes our stuff stand out.
Who is riding for MNMNT now?
Ethan Deiss, Robby Balharry (he’s Canadian but it’s okay, he kills it,) The Geisen twins, Jared Jordan, Krister Ralles, Dillon James, Mike Fink, and Jeremy Cline.
Not to take away from the other guys, but you really scored with Ethan, where did you find him?
Ethan is an awesome kid. Smart beyond his years, but he loses his cell phone too much. Our team manager Connor Stohlgren found him. Went up to visit him I think. I forgot exactly how, but I just heard there was this awesome kid from the Midwest two years ago that was killing it.
And the rest was history!
Ok last question, there are a million snowboard companies out there, why should people ride MNMNT snowboards?
1) The boards have superb manufacturing quality.
2) The boards look like no others on the mountain.
3) The boards are engineered to really handle an edge and be fun and snappy without being stiff
4) The boards are light as fuck
5) You won’t burn a hole in your wallet – $319-$399
6) You want to support the little guy
7) They make you ride 10 times better
Check out MNMNT’s Full 2011 Line
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For more info http://www.monumentsnowboards.com/