Interview by Michael Goodwin
Photos by Sean Kerrick Sullivan
Over the course of his more than two decade career, John Jackson has, to put it briefly (and humbly), just about done it all. Having notched podiums, Rider and Part of the Year accolades, and standout segments in some of the most cherished films in the snowboard canon, John’s place among the greats is ironclad. Yet, like all lifers, John knows it’s not really about what’s been done, but what lies ahead. With that, the 38-year-old new dad continues to define and redefine what it means to charge in the backcountry, just as he’s done for much of his career.
The pandemic made the last few years challenging for all snowboarders looking to travel, but John took it in stride in his casual style, coming out the other side with a pair of hair-raising parts, one for the new Pirates film, Driven, and one for the SIMS team film, Quasimodo. We are thrilled to be releasing the POV footage from these parts over the next two weeks, the first of which, the SIMS POV part, we have for you here, along with a little Q and A with the legend himself.
OK, let’s start by talking footage. The shots in these SIMS and Pirates POV parts were filmed over three years, correct? Where did you travel in the making of these parts? Did you go anywhere you’d never been over your career?
The Pirates film Driven, started in 2019 and was supposed to be a two-year project. 2019 was probably the funnest year of my life. We had an insane winter spending a month in Japan, almost two months in the Alps, and a month in Russia. I had never worked with the Pirates or been to Russia before, and man we had such a good crew. Didn’t even matter if the snow was crappy, we always had a rad experience. Especially riding into a volcano in Russia and seeing how wild and rich with life it is out there.
2020 was kind of a bust with Covid. I think I only filmed about two weeks up in Canada. Then borders shut, and no one could travel, so they pushed that film another year making it a three banger, which is crazy to work on a project for so long.
Quasimodo started in 2020 and evolved into a two-year project as well, which was nice because I didn’t get much in 2020. It was also kinda nice to keep things pretty local, staying in the lower 48.
Do you attack a project differently these days than you did years ago? More of a plan, less of a plan…? I know you’ve mentioned in other interviews an emphasis on accessing and interpreting terrain more efficiently, how does this play out?
I still want to snowboard as much as I can. I crash a lot, so the more time I can film the better the outcome for me, haha. I’d like to say I ride a little smarter but I still want to push it and it’s hard for me to walk away from something I think I can do. But sometimes my eyes are too big for my quads.
Are you still scaring yourself out there? Any close calls or spots that really had you shook for a minute?
Oh ya. Now that I have a daughter I’m trying to reel that in a bit. There’s a shot in this Sims POV part where I fly through a bunch of trees and land right on this dagger almost getting harpooned. I knew the dagger was there and I wanted to land just to the left of it, but there was a big tree in the flight path further to the left, so the degree window of the trajectory was really slim—not a lot of margin for error. I also thought the dagger was a little floppy, like a dead branch from a sapling that would break if I did hit it. But nope, it was a stiff prick, and it got me in the knee ripping my pants a bit. Luckily, I had knee braces with kneecaps, but it still hurt and tweaked me a bit. I went back up to do it again and decided to walk away. See, riding smarter.
How about any other zones that were extra memorable for any reason?
The second to last shot in the SIMS part is the same zone as the first shot in the Pirates part. That zone is really cool; it picks up the last of the light and has so many benchy features while being relatively low angle, so it’s like a skatepark.
I broke the Pirates part into trips pretty much, you can tell what's Russia and what's Japan. We had hero snow in Japan, and I rode a lot of tree features, which was pretty new to me. Probably because I was with the creative genius, Gigi Ruff.
The snow wasn’t the best in Russia, but it was really fun to ride because the volcanic landscape creates micro wind lips everywhere. When the snow is a little firmer, you can accelerate really fast and every takeoff is packed perfectly so you have these nice little kickers everywhere and can slow down or pick up speed quickly. I did have a scary moment hauling ass through that couloir in the Pirates part. I was planning on pointing it through the last skinny part, but when I came around the corner there were icy runnels making it wavy and I had to stomp on the emergency brakes to avoid a high speed tuck and roll between those rock walls.
Obviously working with a crew like Pirates, and a lineup of Ruf, Diaz, and Daviet, you expect to see and experience some next-level shit… Any notable takeaways, lessons, or memories from those trips? Things that you still found new after all these years?
Those guys are bosses. Gigi has been one of my favorite riders forever. It’s inspiring to see how youthful he still is and how much love he has for snowboarding, while running a business and having a family with two kids who are ripping now. He’s been juggling roles for a while, and makes it look easy. Victor and Manu also have other businesses going, and give back a lot for the sport or their communities. But snowboarding is the love, and all of these guys are so purely committed to it. Manu showed up in Russia straight from the Mentawais in board shorts and sandals, and didn't even have any gear. Gigi had boards for him, but he had to borrow everything else from the lodge. That’s Manu’s style, though. He’s a solutions guy and always has a good attitude.
What board, or boards, were you riding? I see the NUB in there—what do you like about it? Any other favorites?
The SIMS lineup is the shit! I usually break a bunch of boards, and I’ve been really impressed with how durable these things are. I’ve been enjoying trying different models, but the Nub is like a drug you can’t get off. It’s so much fun. I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting so old, but I love riding set back with a long drawn out nose. You can manipulate that thing to do whatever you want it feels like, and it still rides switch like a dream. I also like the STF, Undertaker, Vanish, Distortion, Solo, and the ATV. Lots of good ones for the quiver. The ATVX is insane also. Love that split setup.
SIMS has assembled one of the most talked about teams in snowboarding. How would you describe the team?
The SIMS team reminds me of snowboarding 20 years ago. It’s so sick. It’s the pure spirit of snowboarding. Everyone has different styles and marches to the beat of their own drum. No one tries to force any cheesy idea or trendy marketing plan on anyone. Everyone just does their thing. It’s such a fun crew to be a part of and it’s one of the most OG companies out there. Thanks, Tom.
What’s getting you psyched these days—bands, ideas, movies, riders, anything…? What are you hyped on in 2022?
Being a dad gets me hyped and makes me excited to develop some ideas I have over the next couple years. SIMS gets me hyped. It’s fun to watch the youngsters like Cody and Baden rip. Baden is a powerhouse. Aymunu Hirano’s Olympic gold run gets me hyped. That guy is a gangster to put that run down twice after getting completely robbed. The Over Yonder episodes by Brandon Davis are rad—that dudes crushing it! Still love watching Arthur and Halldor ride anytime.
Thanks for the support. Thanks to anyone who takes the time to watch these. Sorry they’re kinda long, sort of got carried away with the crazy tunes. Thanks for snowboarding.