Mike Basich – Keepin’ It Fresh
BRANDON RUSSELL: So you’re quite a veteran to snowboarding… you’ve been riding since… ’86?
MIKE BASICH: Yeah… ’85-’86ish. Next year will be my twentieth year.
B: How do you think you’ve lasted so long with out completely killing yourself?
M: Riding the soft stuff, haha. I quit riding the hard pack quite a while ago. I kinda started off with the world cup halfpipe, that’s what started my career, the competition thing. And it turned into big air after that. My body started feeling it, my back, my posture’s horrible. Five years ago… or, four years ago I stopped competing and started photography and wanted to do something that set my own schedule, so now I ride and chase the snow around in my van, wherever it’s soft. I rode Northstar yesterday and I am aching today, from one day of riding, cause I don’t ride resorts that often anymore.
B: Now you mentioned photography… is that what you love to do now? Your Point of Views and Self Portraits are amazing.
M: Being in the sport for twenty years I gotta keep things interesting for me. Going from competition, to starting my own business, to running the business and negotiating contracts, going to filming, and stuff like that is to always bring something new in that I haven’t done yet. Photography is something that I got interested in after shooting with so many photographers and wanting to shoot what I see, so I’d tell a photographer to go over here and over there and they don’t like that too often so I had an interest to try and capture what I had in my mind and it turned into what I see as a rider, so it turned into Point of View stuff. I got a couple remotes so I can shoot myself from the ground. That’s been interesting, my new little spark to keep things interesting for me…
B: Like your now infamous 120-foot acid drop out of the helicopter, how’d you come up with that crazy idea?
M: That happened two years ago and it was about a three year project that I wanted to do, it was on the back burner for awhile until I told my girlfriend at the time about it, I’d just started getting more into photography that year. I wanted to shoot a photo like that but run it without the heli, so you see this guy falling out of the sky and there’s no cliff or anything next to him from where he took off. That was the original vision that I wanted to try to capture but it turned out that no one ran it that way. That’s kinda how that thing started.
B: Did you ride out of it?
M: No, I sunk in, but then got up.
B: Did your body hurt after that one?
M: Not really. I did ok after that. It was one of those things where it felt like I had ridden all day, my whole body was sore.
B: What’s the worst wreck you’ve had?
M: It wasn’t the worst injury but, but it was the worst timing, I blew my shoulder out at Snowbird. I landed on a rock and rolled into some more rocks and separated my shoulder, which it was December so it kinda ruined almost my whole season. It was about a two-month recovery.
B: What was the most painful you’ve had?
M: Probably my jaw. Not when I broke it, but when they wired it. It happened in Europe and they didn’t give me any medication. The two guys that worked on me didn’t speak any English so they’re just saying all this shit laughing and they’re putting metal in between each tooth and tightening the wire with pliers. Ahh… that was bad. It was close to where you want to punch the person but you’re hanging on to the chair as tight as you can.
B: How long do you think you’ll keep going? Forever?
M: I think so. I’ll definitely be snowboarding forever. Snowboarding won’t make me quit; the industry will probably make me quit if anything does. Snowboarding is a sport that’s not structured so that’s why I’m involved with it because it has room to be creative and grow and if I can’t find that anymore then yeah, I’ll probably move on to something else. I know there is a ton of stuff that hasn’t been done or is there to be created, I’ll figure out what it is. It’s something I love, I’ve been doing it this long, I don’t really see a reason why I would quit on my own.
B: Speaking of the industry, you’ve been sponsored for a long time, how do you stay alive in it?
M: Arbor is sponsoring me as an athlete. I definitely don’t make the money that I used to, but I’ve finally found a company that I feel I fit in with. They have kind of the same interests and share the same views in what the sport is, so they give me some room to be creative and trust me on what I’m doing. Most companies that I’ve tried to get sponsored by the last few years are really set on the idea of the fifteen and sixteen year old kids to sponsor. I understand they don’t want to mess with someone they think is done in a couple years, but it’s great motivation for me because I know I can do this for as long as I want. There’s lots of ways to be in the public eye, I have more connections through the industry to get something done than a fifteen year old could, no matter how good he is. A lot of the way of getting coverage is on the creative side, there’s a lot of kids that are fifteen and can do the same trick, but to make it look different and submit it different to the magazines where it’s fresh and it’s new comes from experience
B: It definitely seems like a lot of the new generation coming up only sees and knows how to ride park.
M: Yeah… It’s that way for a reason, because it’s real easy to take the lift up and go off a kicker. For resorts it’s pretty cheap to build a jump versus a halfpipe, a halfpipe’s pretty expensive. So you get a lot of kids riding rails, and they’re awesome at riding rails, but they wouldn’t know what to do if it snowed two feet, ya know, cause it doesn’t snow that much like that. So these kids growing up don’t get that much practice in deep snow but they’ll have all the time in the world to hit a rail. I’ve gone out the last few years shooting and riding pow, cause that’s where I want to be, and someone will send me some kid cause they want them to get in that part of snowboarding. It’s hard, a lot of people don’t know how to ride powder, every side of snowboarding is an art form but powder is a rare part.
B: The company you were talking about that you started up… is that 241 clothing?
M: Yeah… that’s something I started right after high school in ’91. That’s when I started learning about the business side of things because I had just started getting sponsored and the year before was the first year I got paid. So I just kinda thought I would spend my energy building something of my own. I learned how to silkscreen and that took off, and now it’s all made over in Japan, and it’s also mostly all sold there right now. We’re also going over to China and Korea and it’s sold in the shop here. Next year I might bring a little more over into the States, I’ve been contemplating whether that’s my new adventure. I’m a little bit worried if I want to sit behind a desk all day and sell clothes.
B: So right now the only place for U.S. kids to get it is through your guys’ shop?
M: Yep. And even that’s limited too. So it’s a rare breed right now. It’s pretty underground.
B: So do you go out to Japan a lot then?
M: Yeah, I go out there twice a year. I can only handle about ten days out there, two weeks at max. The people there are awesome, they treat you well and take care of you. It’s fun sitting down once in awhile through the year with guys in business suits and talk business, it’s cool.
B: Does it sell pretty well out there?
M: Yeah, it’s one of the, probably, top five clothing companies in Japan. It’s done really well and the people I work with really know technical, good quality stuff. They distribute North Face and all that stuff, so I get the lead on new materials, it’s really good stuff. I just help out on the designing side of things.
B: Do you find that designing stuff for the Japanese and Asian markets is different than designing stuff for the market in the States?
M: It is now, it wasn’t in the past. The last few years it has gone a really different direction out here. But it’s kind of in the direction now where the U.S. is following bits of what Japan is doing. It used to always be that Japan followed the States but now they have their own riders, they have their own heroes, so they’re starting their own trends and their own companies in Japan.
B: Is snowboarding getting really big out there?
M: In Japan, for the industry, it’s probably a third of the market. It’s a big chunk of everybod’s reasoning for staying in business. It dove when everything died three or four years ago, but this year it’s been awesome. It’s been dumping, there hasn’t been very good seasons the past few years. But this year it’s been dumping.
B: Have you ridden a lot out there? What’s the snow like… is it much different?
M: Yeah, it’s a tropical island so there’s a lot of moisture in the air. It does stay dry, but if the sun comes out it’s definitely a wet snow. But when it snows, it snows.
B: Where else has snowboarding taken you? What’s your favorite spot?
M: Alaska and Switzerland. New Zealand is pretty rad too. It’s kinda like Switzerland but then you can go down and it’s full summer time at the bottom.
B: How many times have you made it out to Alaska?
M: Well this year I’ve been three times already and I go again in a couple weeks. I’ve been going there every spring for the last thirteen years. It’s definitely something you should experience at least once.
B: Do you take the van up every time?
M: I’ve been doing that for the last four years. I used to go up there and just fly but it’s gotten so expensive. So I just take my snowmobile up there now and do my own program.
B: Trying to catch the turns?
M: Hahaha… yup.
B: So you currently live in this small town called Colfax and are involved in a shop called The Riders Union. How did that come about?
M: I’ve been here a lot this year, here in Tahoe. I bought some acreage up on Donner Summit so I’ve been exploring that area, I bought a snow cat and I’ve got a teepee pitched up there so I do a lot of camping. Usually I hit the road pretty heavily after Christmas but I’ve been in Tahoe a lot, it’s close to home. The shop’s been a new project that opened in September. It came about last summer as a surprise project to me. A friend of mine kinda got it put together and said lets do this cause Highway 80’s right here and I’ve been living here as a home base. So we got that off the ground. I haven’t spent much time in-house doing stuff cause that’s what my partner’s mostly into, paper work and ordering product. I just like the direction part and marketing, the whole philosophy of what the shop is about.
B: What is the philosophy of the shop?
M: I wanted to do something good for the sport and when my friend came to me with the idea to open a shop I said, “Ok, as long as we do it in a different kind of way.” Being on the riders’ side you really get to understand what makes the sport progress. A lot of companies have their own philosophies on where to spend money, so what I wanted to do was carry just product designed by riders, not exactly just pro models. I’m friends with a lot of pro riders out there so I called them and asked them what they put their energy into designing, whether their name’s on it or not. So by ordering just that kind of stuff, the companies spend more of their money on the riders, and by doing that, the rider’s gonna get out there and ride more and try new things, spend more time just snowboarding, trying something new and breaking equipment, which pushes equipment, making them able to perform something new. Like, when I started riding you couldn’t go more than three or four feet out of the halfpipe. The ability of the equipment wasn’t there. The halfpipes started getting a little better and better by hand so people where jumping higher, more prize money in the contests so more people would show up. Then there’s more money in it so you develop a dragon and all the sudden the riding ability gets bigger, better, more exciting. The equipment gets designed better because the rider’s pushing the ability of the sport. So that’s what the shop is about, carrying stuff that’s promoting them no matter who they ride for. Just more of keeping all the riders out on the mountain, I just want to support the rider with whatever they believe in, that’s what the shop is about.
B: You also sell historic photo prints right?
M: Yeah, we dedicated one of the walls in the shop to Boarding for Breast Cancer. I wanted to have a spot where a kid could walk in the shop and see a photo of Jeff Brushie, and know where their sport came from. I asked a bunch of photographers to pick their favorite photo that captures a time in the sport where it progressed, whether it was the biggest air in the quarter pipe or just a neon headband as a statement, so the photos on the wall are by the choice of the photographer who took it. That’s what that is about. You can buy a historical print if you come by the shop. They come framed for the same price as if you buy them online, and all the profits from the prints goes towards Boarding for Breast Cancer.
B: Where does the road go for you now with riding and your career?
M: Mostly photography and helping Arbor with their board designs. This year my main project is a film project. What I’ve been doing is still photography, in motion. That’s been my main focus this winter. I haven’t filmed for a film company in years; it just costs so much money to be in a flick. This year someone asked if I wanted to be in a movie so, it’s gonna be my main thing this year.