From the Mag: Simple but Significant–The Blake Paul Interview

  |   Stan Leveille
Photo: Oli Gagnon

The following article was originally printed in the November 2023 Issue of Slush. To access the full article click here.

Every generation experiences notable crews, and from my perspective, Lick the Cat was the standout crew of a generation. You guys all have gone in your own direction. Did that just happen naturally?

It did happen naturally. We looked up to Grenier, Stevens, Ted, and their crew. We wanted to be like them, Change That Tape, just anybody that was going to the Bone Zone or riding Park City. We wanted to create our own movement and group that mimicked that in our own way. I'm also not trying to ever do anything solo, really. Why would you be solo at a contest with a coach? I used to take USASA and all that shit seriously when I was young, too serious. And if it wasn't for Griffin and Sam and all of them to check me and to show me what was actually cool, I would've ended up out of touch. All those Salt Lake guys grew up with people that had a good outlook on balancing professionalism with fun and authenticity. And if I wouldn't have had that rub off on me, I could have ended up a nerd that no one really knew about. Snowboarding just evolved for everyone. We're not all going to ride around in Michael Wick's van forever and go to college parties. People are going to go off and do their thing.

You're so good at skating and you don't film street snowboarding. What were your thoughts on that? Because obviously you dabbled. Was there a conscious decision to stop filming rails, and why?

I mean, it was a conscious decision to focus my priorities on what I'm best at. I grew up riding Jackson on pow days, and I genuinely love riding powder. I'd been fortunate enough to be one of the only younger kids who were riding backcountry and natural terrain, being mentored by Bryan Iguchi, Mark Carter, Yoder, and everybody in Jackson. I just saw how that was appealing to the media and others I talked to. The only street trips I went on for Forward and SFD were because there was no film crew that I could have filmed with in the backcountry at the time, and the conditions sucked. It was like, "Well, I either sit here and do nothing for a week and ride hard-packed Jackson, or I go to Boston and try to do something."

When I was much younger, I was definitely setting up rails early in the season, hiking by myself, GL2 on the tripod, back lip the same way, front board pretzel, trying cab 270. I have an edit on Vimeo on a bike rack. I brought it up to the first snow on Teton Pass and tried to learn the Louif back 270 to fakie. I guess I'm trying to say, I enjoyed rails and respected the craft. But as I got older, I felt being the only young 20-year-old that's focusing all on the backcountry, rather than having filler street clips, was a way to stand out.


But I love street snowboarding. I might watch street snowboarding more than backcountry snowboarding. The mountain is just more my passion and what feeds my soul the most—going to Brighton on a powder day rather than going to rail gardens. But yeah, I'm not consciously avoiding physically riding in the streets, but at the same time, I'm in a backcountry contest. I probably shouldn't be going on street trips and getting a bruised hip, you know what I mean? For something that I'm not very talented at.


What is it about street snowboarding and the way it's presented in our culture that you find appealing?

I think street snowboarding is more raw and accessible. It shows more personality and style. It comes across better on film. If you're into skating and you are trying to connect with a snowboarder, you watch a street part, and there's a lot of opportunity for ramp slow-mo and lifestyles that are out of the norm, and you see people in old VG videos jumping out hotel windows and having a good time drinking. They're chilling, they're going out to meals, getting coffee in between spots. They're searching for the perfect obstacle in the car." And backcountry is always portrayed as this, the lifestyle of the dude eating a sandwich on a sled.

Photo: Oli Gagnon

Sandwich on a sled! So true.

The parts are cool, and I love to watch backcountry riding, but where's the rawness? Where's the personality? It’s better now, but it was less often that you would see a rider's style besides the run into a padded-down jump and then a trick that you're probably used to seeing?

At the time when I came up, street snowboarding evolved to where everybody was doing tricks really properly, and if you didn't do stuff like Louif and Jed did, then you weren't keeping up with the benchmark.

With backcountry snowboarding, in all honesty, T Rice just conquered that shit in Pop, and then he conquered it again in That's It, That's All. And then he did it again in Art of Flight, and now he's throwing his whole new spin on it with natural terrain in Alaska. Not to mention countless other riders before and after him.

But progression in this day and age looks different to me. Do we really want to see more flips and spins? We want to see progression, yeah, but I really want to see unique tricks, style, stuff filmed a certain way that's aesthetically pleasing, something that gives you that feeling of wanting to snowboard.

New footage is always going to trump footage from three years ago in a sense of excitement to the viewer. But in terms of actually progressing backcountry snowboarding, J Rob went crazy in Alaska over five years ago. You watch the old TB movies, and those get me the most hyped because some dudes just, maybe the style isn't perfect, but they're backflipping off a 90-foot cliff and riding gnarly lines with a dope narrow stance.

Not to say that there's not a lot of room to progress the way that backcountry's shown, and that's my goal is to bring a personality to it. There's become a jump in relatability to riding resorts and a connection to the style of simply riding a mountain. You see it with Cannon Cummins. There's this new side where you don't need to go to Birthday Bowl and do a front seven off the cornice to have a viral clip. You can get a follow cam and do a couple tricks in a row at a resort, land in tracked powder and it might actually engage a viewer and excite them more than something that's super unattainable. How Arthur rides, it’s just mesmerizing.

But also there's a fine line because you don't want to be an influencer snowboarder. You don't want to be the person that's only filming small resort clips. If you're not giving people new stuff or filming in new places and putting out video parts in videos that are meaningful, then you're nothing to me. You can be an Instagram snowboarder, and there's value to that, but if you can do both, then that's the key. 


I hear you about Travis Rice.  But I do feel like you're part of a squad that is taking it into your hands to film backcountry in an appealing way. Where does the inspiration to film that correctly come from? 

I mean, it's like Butters from Brown told me a long time ago, "It's not what you do, it's how you do it," and there are certain people that you just want to watch. Whether it's Noah Peterson, Cannon Cummins, Nik Baden, or Parker Szumowski. All respect to the gnarliest riders out there. I'd rather watch Noah cab five off a medium-sized cornice because that's progressive to him. And you're going to see his style change; you're going to see the power and the way he rides evolve over time. And it's like, I don't need to be impressed by a 1620 or a triple cork into powder. I want to watch something that has that special sauce on it.

And so that's where the motivation comes. I like to film stock shit sometimes. I think a stock 720 done properly with style, filmed well from the bottom angle is fine. I think sometimes I overstep, and I tell the filmer how to film the trick how I picture it, because I'm going to the spot and asking myself, "What does the spot call for?" A lot of times for me, it calls for a crippler or a McTwist, whatever. And it's like maybe too often calls for a back three or seven. It's all a balance, and we're digging deep to try to make shit unique in the backcountry. I don't want it to look try-hard; I want it to look natural like what the terrain intended for. It's like the old Johan Oloffson clips in Alaska, where he pops up and 50-50s a cornice, or back lip taps a little windlip, and then makes a few buttery pow turns. It went off on Instagram recently. It's simple snowboarding but so appealing to watch to me, just pure flow and style...