These days I share more ‘likes’ than words with Morgan, yet in a weird way it feels like we keep in touch, like I’m a part of his adventure. If only I’d just been to Alaska too! He’s the eternal grom. From a young age, sporting tight pants, an emo fringe and a huge stance, he was always the frother! Not super vocal, but up for anything, keen to learn, and take the piss. It’s been awesome to see snowboarding take over his life, from where he travels, through to where he works. It’s refreshing to see his love for the game and how real it is. At a time when everyone’s all about the backcountry, he doesn’t give a shit; he’ll be out there, hitting urban features and getting it done! The thing I like about Morgs is that when you think you’ve got this jib kid figured out, he’ll completely surprise you and say he’s been splitboarding and hiking around with snowshoes and a bag of scroggin. Again, getting it done! He’s kicked holes in walls, swum nude in freezing lakes, and stayed true to his mates and his dreams. I can’t see him getting bored with snowboarding any time soon. In fact I reckon he’s only just scratched the surface. Watch this space. Double tap.
Where you at right now? Where you been for the last year?
I just got back to Q-town from my first trip to Alaska, now repairing the bank balance and waiting for the snow to fall. I’ve been hanging out down here since I got back from Japan this time last year. Had a killer New Zealand season and some good powder days, tuned boards with the crew in the workshop and dug holes all summer trying to keep the dream afloat.
So you’re no longer the grom, but still frothing like a grom. How do you keep things fresh?
The froth is REAL, keeping it fresh is important. I think I just have to see snowboarding as a way to experience life and the world, to immerse myself into different cultures, destroy as much different terrain as possible, have an open mind to whatever situation presents itself, and always be grateful for the opportunities I’m given!
Has the lifestyle changed? Or are you still on the Double Browns and Jimmy’s Pies budget?
The lifestyle hasn’t changed. I still wake up every morning frothing to shred. But the income gets better each year, so the fuel I add to the fire is healthier but more expensive, so still breaking even.
You’ve ticked a few places off the to-do list now. What’s on there and what’s missing?
So far I’ve been to California twice, Japan twice, and now Alaska. It seems I have a pattern of going back to places, probably because there’s always unfinished business after the first trip to a place, so maybe I’ll hit Alaska again. There are too many destinations to pick. There’s been talk of Russia and Europe though.
Best country you’ve been to and why?
Japan. You can’t beat bottomless powder days and endless face shots, you can buy beer from a vending machine and food comes on a train.
In a world where the old dogs are now all about the Freeride, where do you see the urban side of snowboarding heading? Is it still in a healthy way?
Urban snowboarding is healthier than ever! The paradigm has shifted from deathly spots, and the level of creativity is blowing up. These days I find myself rewinding videos and asking myself how did they even see that spot or think of that trick as opposed to how did his knees take that impact. Skating is a heavy influence on the style of riding and also the way urban video parts are shot. With equipment like winches and bungees, the realm of possibility is endless. I think it’ll continue down this road.
Is the body still in a healthy way?
The body is not entirely in a good way. Young and stupid, I did some pretty good damage to it without ever doing anything about it. I’ve put my left knee out, ruptured my AC joint in my shoulder and bruised some nerves in my lower back. The bruising came out pretty gnarly and dropped all the way into my sack. I had purple nuts for three weeks and still have little feeling in my lower back. It’s taken years to strengthen all these back up. I should have taken the 80% of nothing I was earning and got surgery all three times.
How does the Alaskan area cater to hitting the streets when most people only have eyes for the big mountain?
There are huge urban features all over Anchorage and the spots are abundant, but honestly we struck gold. There was no snow anywhere in the streets when I turned up, then to the boys’ surprise, a huge storm covered the city in snow! We put in work straight away building and shooting spots in −8 and before we knew it temperatures rocketed to 15° and it all disappeared in front of our eyes.
I know you’ve been getting in the backcountry more and more and earning your turns. Is getting fresh pow still the goal and how hard is it to achieve this?
Getting fresh pow has certainly become the new goal. Going to Alaska was very sobering to the reality of global warming; it seems I stepped in at a time where you have to go further into the mountains to find the goods. Every day we went out into the backcountry we strapped all our gear to the back of two mountain horses (snowmobiles) and rode 15km into the depths of some of the biggest terrain I’ve ever laid eyes on. Finding proper hits was probably the hardest learning curve, as features consistently played tricks on the mind, from every angle you looked at them our perception was different.
What’s the best thing you did for free stuff as a grom?
I went down to Turoa for the Volcom PBRJ with a couple of buddies. We heard there was a party at the lodge down the road with a bunch of older crew and some pros. Halfway through the night Willie Beggs started telling people he would give them 100 cash and a watch if they swam across this freezing cold pond butt naked. After some convincing I stuck my hand up and said ‘fuck it’! But only if I could do the shorter length. For that, he offered me a watch and a photo op in a mag. Being 15 and nothing to lose, I swam that shit naked in front of probably 40 people including Will J and got the watch. Still waiting on the photo op, Willie.
Heard you tried to take a day off school for a rail jam? Care to explain?
Man, I just wanted to help set up and compete so bad, I lied to my mum and told her the only way they would let me compete was if I helped set up during the day, not thinking she would ring one of the organisers and go off at them on the phone. I still got to ride that night though and definitely got rinsed out about the whole situation over the mic. I guess this story kind of shows how passionate I am, even back then.
While the clock’s rewound, how has going from riding in a fridge to a volcano prepared you for where you are today?
Riding in the fridge you get to lap the features so fast, over and over again, practice tricks and work on style until your legs fall off. Riding the volcano brought the size of the features up a level and let me experience real snowboarding, covering the basics.
What were your early influences?
I was completely obsessed with watching snowboard movies, I had a big collection of DVDs. There were a few parts I would watch over and over though. Eero Ettala’s ender from Mack Dawg’s Follow Me Around, and Lucas Magoon and Chris Bradshaw’s parts from FODT’s Cold World. Apart from that I always looked up to the older cats collecting snow from out the back of Snowplanet to hit local street rails. All you guys put in work! My stack of NZ Snowboarder mags my aunty would buy me also added fuel to the fire!
How’s your set-up look these days? I remember you were once on a tiny Technine with a huge stance and tight pants.
It’s safe to say I was completely obsessed with that thug life, hahaha! These days are a lot more comfortable with more leg room and a much smaller stance. My knees are thanking me. It’s only taken 10 years to find a style I like.
What’s the best thing you’ve learned from all this travel?
Be humble and kind to everyone you meet on the road, you never know what doors each person might hold open for you. And if you’re on a long haul flight, make conversation with the person next to you ASAP, it only gets more awkward the longer you wait.
Any heavy situations you’ve been caught up in?
I once had a layover in Seoul Airport for 24 hours. I was looking for a nice spot to lay my head and I found a dope lounge, but as I walked in I noticed four security guards surrounding this young lady. She looked at me and reached out to me to help her. The guards asked if I could speak French; unfortunately I couldn’t help. Two hours later as I drifted off to sleep she started screaming and screeching every 30 seconds or so. I popped my head around the corner to check out the drama and the security guards had her handcuffed. She was running up and down the lounge screaming at the top of her lungs like a crazy person. This continued all night long, and in the morning when I went to leave the area she was still there. Two guards swapped over shifts at the same time exchanging the mini revolver they carried on their hip.
What’s the craziest aspect of Alaska outside of snowboarding?
The military complex was intense for a young sheltered Kiwi like me. We saw a lot of crazy shit. Guys standing on outposts with M16s. There was a missile base 30km over the hill from Kolby’s house. One day when we were in the backcountry in Hatcher Pass a Black Hawk helicopter popped over the ridgeline next to us, stealth as, with a full artillery machine gun attached to the bottom and two missile launchers either side, then dipped out just as quick. Only in America.
Where to from here?
New Zealand season is coming in hot, I just got picked up by Boardertown and they’re hooking me up with some Bataleon boards and Switchback bindings, so I’m hyped to have some solid backing to produce more content from the Southern Lakes area. Try to find some peace in the backcountry while learning more about safety out there, influence some groms and make sure I hit all the labels on the beverages to be sunk in the Snowboard Workshop. Anything past this is a mystery to me.
If you could look back and change anything, would you?
And what would that be? Apart from looking after myself better when I moved out of home, I wouldn’t change anything. Every choice I’ve made has led me to this moment and I’m hyped to be out here doing my thing my own way. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?
What advice would you give to the next generation coming through?
Just go snowboarding, have fun with your friends, do it your own way, laugh in the face of those that try tell you the proper way to do it; there is none! Use it to express yourself, inspire other people through it and if you want to go down the rabbit hole and pursue the life, expect to wake up cold, broke and hungry.
Text by Tomas Battersby
Photography by Kolben Saetre
Published in Issue 62