A true pioneer of snowboarding, co-owner of one of the sport's most beloved brands, and a fierce advocate for keeping snowboarding core and whole, Jan Petter Solberg needs little to no introduction. JP first made a name for himself during the early 2000s where video parts, print media, and absurdly large backcountry booters were all the rage. The Norwegian native has featured in some of snowboarding's most idolized films including some cult classics like Transcendence, Neverland, and Robot Food's Afterbang. During the global financial crisis of 2009, Burton unexpectedly axed some of their longest-standing riders which caused a pretty big shock throughout the snowboard community. At the time, the sponsorless trio of JP Solberg, Romain De Marchi, and David Carrier-Porcheron (DCP) set it upon themselves and started one of the industry's most respected brands — YES. Snowboards.
For the final Tasman Team episode, JP joins us for a chat where we discuss everything from COVID woes to some of his most memorable moments on a snowboard.
Hey JP, what’s up?
JP: Not much right now, just trying to figure out if we are going to do a new lockdown or push forward with our lives.
How’s everything over in Norway right now? What’s keeping you busy?
JP: Norway is pretty open to be honest, but travel is still taboo so that kinda hits different on my end. I spent the first half of COVID thinking it was gonna blow over real quick but it just kept sticking. Tonnes of Netflix, HBO, etc but as time passed I realized I wasn’t doing anything to improve myself so I went back to school. That was fun but also terrifying lol.
Back to school eh? What did you decide on studying?
JP: I ended up signing up for as many courses as I could in relation to offshore work. I realized as I was looking back at the first half of COVID which I spent on the couch watching stupid Netflix shows most of the time. I mean I don't regret learning a new language and working out more. But, right now I’m in the process of finishing off an engineering degree.
Good to hear. So where was the first place you ever snowboarded?
JP: My backyard on my Blacksnow Spaceship, it was like trying to snowboard on your front door but I loved it!
What's the best place you ever snowboarded?
JP: Am I allowed to say my backyard? Not very exciting I know but that’s the thing about snowboarding. It doesn’t matter where you do it, when your crew is tight and you’re all doing what you love and when there’s progression on all ends its the fucking best!
What got you into snowboarding in your early days? And which riders were your main influences when you were coming up?
JP: The first time I saw snowboarding on TV was that Big Jump event at Covent Garden in London. Ingemar, Johan, Daniel, David Vincent were there and they all looked so fucking rad doing it. I knew right away that this was for me!
It definitely seems that a healthy portion of the snowboard community can relate to what you and the rest of the guys are about. What separates the YES culture from some of the bigger brands out there?
JP: Small tear running down my face haha! I mean when people say those things it hits close to home because that’s how we intended it. When we started, we saw bits and pieces that we thought were missing in snowboarding in terms of honoring the rad people who paved the way for us all and got spit on at the resorts. Focusing on innovation with creating the perfect ride for a specific situation and also just being real representatives of the culture and having skin in the game! Whenever these big shit companies do something dumb we can counter them and raise the ante. We look at it as a responsibility because if nobody did that we could potentially lose important elements of the sport.
How has it been running a snowboard company with the guys you came up riding with?
JP: It's like those stories you hear about how bands jam together, party together, laugh together, and wanna kill each other. We are so different but we have this baby that we want to see live and we always put the kid first ha!
We’ve heard you enjoy the finer things in life such as good food and wine. How did you get into the wine-making business and when did it start?
JP: I like food yes, that’s no secret, and wine goes good with food so that’s a match made in heaven. But, my mom was always in the kitchen whipping up anything you can imagine. Hundreds of cookbooks and I’ve always been attracted to things people do to make other people happy… When you cook for someone and everybody sits down to talk shit and eat good food, that’s just magic!
Should we expect to see some YES alcohol sponsorships anytime soon?
JP: Haha I have a whiskey barrel that’s been aging for 5 years now and ready to be tested so maybe we will see some at sell-ins, trade shows, or sales meetings. It's supposed to be really good stuff!
You’ve been in some pioneering snowboard films like Transcendence, Neverland, and Afterbang to name a few. What was your favorite part you ever filmed and why?
JP: They were all an adventure and a learning curve for me but doing the Robot Food gig was my favorite! Shit got so silly at times and I think my video parts were so short because I was on the floor laughing at all the shit that went down while putting the video together.
What is your favorite snowboard part from any rider?
JP: Subject Håkonsen
What was your biggest “oh shit” moment on a snowboard?
JP: Haha there are many and they still happen. Like when you're in the mountains and you hear a big settle I almost shit myself everytime. I think the first "oh shit" moment was when I was hitting those super-sized jumps in Hemsedal in early 2000. It was windy but that didn’t seem to bother our team manager who seemed to think that it wasn’t going to affect the riding. It was howling so nobody wanted any part of the session, my team manager at the time leaned in and whispered in my ear "this is your chance, to show these idiots that a little wind doesn’t matter, this is a big chance". I was 18 or 19 at the time and even tho I knew this was a terrible idea I still went up and dropped in. The whole way down towards the jump I knew it was fucked but after I reached the point of no return you just have to go. About midway through the air the wind grabbed my baggy clothes and the board flipped me completely upside down. I landed on my head just shy of the icy knuckle. I managed to not get too fucked up but I’ve looked at team managers differently since that day….
Snowboarding has certainly evolved a lot since the early 2000s. What do you think is the best and worst thing about snowboarding right now?
JP: The best part is the level of women’s and kids snowboarding has gotten to! I would much rather watch them blaze through the park because it's not as hectic as the mens. I appreciate seeing what can be done, but the spins and flips substituted for stylish maneuvers don’t really give me anything. Natural selection is definitely also where the sport should be heading. More of that!
Any advice for our younger readers trying to make it?
JP: Determination, persistence, shred on shitty days and never try to copy someone elses style.
In this year's Greats UNINC lineup, DCP, Roman, and yourself displayed some thought-provoking graphics which is honestly refreshing to see. Your board in particular showed the last white rhino before it went extinct from poaching. When and how did your love for animals start?
JP: I've always loved animals and to be honest I think I get along with animals better than humans. They are victims of humanity and how we exploit anything we can for profit. When you go down the rabbit hole on animal cruelty it's hard to look at what we as a global community are doing and how disconnected we have become.
Can we expect to see more thought-provoking graphics in future lineups?
Is there anything you can leak about your board for next year's UNINC line?
The original idea was to pay homage to all the brands that have subtly and not so subtly looked at what we have been doing and copied it. Imitation can be seen as a compliment and I wanted to repay the favor but then the ride and feel took over and it just turned into an awesome board that is full of forgiveness and performance!
What’s in store for you once COVID settles down?
JP: I need to get my butt out of this county and eat a real pizza, sushi, curry, and noodles straight from the source! I have now not surfed in almost 3 years so that’s doing my head in, and the last time I rode pow was with my Aussie family in Japan 1 week before it all went Covid.
Thanks JP - we look forward to seeing you ASAP for a shred.
JP: Miss you guys! We need to hang ASAP!
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