Become A Pro: Insights from Burton Snowboards

Snowboarding for a living? Exclusive advice on how to stand out from the crowd by the man who knows.
Enni Rukajarvi performs a millerflip at Ounasvaara ski resort, Finland on April 20th 2013
Enni Rukajarvi performs a millerflip in Finland © Harri Tarvainen/Red Bull Content Pool
By Tom Kingsnorth

Does riding for a living sound like the best thing ever? Only a selected handful will make it as a professional snowboarder. What set’s them apart?

You are not alone in dreaming of snowboarding for a living – brands receive hundreds of “sponsor me” emails, tapes, messages and phone calls each year.

Burton Snowboards’ Team Manager Frankie Chapin is the man that has all the info about how to stand out from the crowd.

So what is the best way to get noticed? There are a few different ways to get noticed by sponsors according to Frankie…

1. Put together an insane season edit and get it up on TWS/Snowboarder/Yobeat /Pyramid.

2. Guilty by association – who are you hanging with? Is your crew known crew in the biz? Are you guys going to Superpark and making the best edit coming out of the event? Your crew can get you places even if you’re not that good. Look at GBP, etc.

3. If you want to be a contest kid you better go and win. Win a semi major – get invited to a major – and win. It will work wonders. 10th place doesn’t do anything for me, no matter what event it is.

4. Don’t be a douche – make friends with everyone, don’t start some lame vibey bull – the snowboarding community is small and for the most part we’re all homies – don’t mess with that, it won’t get you anywhere.

5. Sponsor me edits sent to Burton Snowboards – I DO watch them. However in order to get past the first 30 seconds, it’s got to be good. Zeaches, taps, bad style, giant kickers onto street rails, bad music, etc – all will work against you. This is serious business; treat every moment as a potential opportunity.

Roope and his huge cab 12
Roope Tonteri, cab 12 © Lukas Pilz

Many younger riders have their parents hassling the team managers, does this help out the rider?

No. It really doesn’t. It actually annoys me to the point where maybe the kid is really good, but the foreshadowing of a nightmare parent situation is a giant deterrent. It’s ok to reach out – if you get in touch, nice work – if you keep emailing and won’t take my answer as the answer that just digging a hole for your kid. Be fair to your hopeful future pro and let their snowboarding do the talking.

What qualities do you look for in a rider other than skills?

Personality is major. When it comes to image you have to step back from snowboarding for this part of things. If you’re a mega nerd, poor at speaking under pressure, come off as a jerk, act cocky, etc. – these things will prevent you from going anywhere. If you want to be pro – super pro or not – you need to have an image that other kids want to latch on to. Originality is key in my opinion. How do you stand out in a crowd of snowboarders? Ask yourself that. If you don’t, work on it. You could be incredibly talented, but just unmarketable – you’ll never get that big contract you’re dreaming about.

Mark McMorris performs at the Red Bull Snow Performance Camp in Wanaka, New Zealand on August 22nd, 2012
Mark McMorris - Action in Wanaka © Miles Holden

Do you think people that want to be sponsored realise the amount of work it takes to turn and stay pro?

No. There is so much that goes with it – even just beyond the snowboarding. I mean within the snowboarding alone you have to keep up with the progression or if you’re the actual boss (McMorris, Sandbech, etc.) you’re setting the progression which isn’t an easy feat. You need to train to stay in shape, keep up on your social media and always be hungry to film and shoot. Understand that you’ll be pulled in all sorts of directions and it’s incredibly important to have someone to help you make decisions that could have major affects on your career. There’s way more to it than just snowboarding. But it’s the dream so do what you can to live it, right?

What is your advise to someone who wants to make it as a pro snowboarder?

Work hard. Don’t give up. Patience brings virtue, but not without a ton of hard work.

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