Life first, money second
John Jackson has achieved success in nearly every discipline in snowboarding. A teen phenom in the park and pipe, his transition to filming and the backcountry revolutionised snowboard movies and he’s travelled many miles, literally, to get where he is today. Born in Crowley Lake, California, in 1983, John Jackson grew up in the shadow of Mammoth Mountain. At first, he took to the slopes on skis, but by 11 he got his first snowboard. “I transitioned my way into snowboarding by annoying my parents until I managed to get them to buy me a board, which was for my sister, Nicole, and I to share,” John recalls. “So we’d trade off, and it just became more and more of an addiction.” (One they shared with their little brother, Eric.) In high school, John was on the Mammoth snowboard team and competed in USASA and USSA park and pipe contests, as well as boardercross. He won US Nationals and scored his first trip to Europe amidst a new chapter of international competition. But eventually, the backcountry came calling. “I started filming pretty young, and it slowly transitioned me out of the contest scene,” John says. He appeared in his first movie, Torey Piro’s Hi Fi, when he was still in his mid teens. Filmmakers soon recognised that John had the goods to grab audience’s attention and many coveted opening and closing parts followed. He still competed in the Triple Crowns, the Grand Prix, and X Games, but the more he filmed, with Torey and then Standard Films, the stronger the lure of big mountains became. “I really enjoyed the backcountry, and filming is where I felt I could really progress,” he says. John’s film parts are unmistakeable. On the world’s biggest, steepest mountains, he seems to casually toss off freestyle moves that others have trouble nailing even in neatly groomed parks. But there’s nothing casual about it. John’s vibe is mellow (see his signature blond dreads and ever-present smile), but his runs are calculated. His collaborations with Brain Farm and Forum Films have brought him the props he deserves. In 2008, John had parts in That’s It, That’s All, from Brain Farm, the production company co-founded by fellow snowboarding pioneer Travis Rice, and in Forum’s Forum or Against ’Em. By December of that year, John was on the cover of Transworld Snowboarding Japan, and the covers of Snowboarder and TWS in the US soon followed. In 2009, his two-part ender in Forum’s Forever earned him Snowboarder’s 2010 Men’s Rider of the Year, Jumper of the Year, and Video Part of the Year, as well as TWS’s Video Part of the Year and Rider of the Year. The recognition kept coming with covers for Snowboarder and the TWS Photo Annual, as well as a special foldout spread in the milestone 200th issue of TWS. He followed that up with a starring role in Brain Farm’s 2011 hit, The Art of Flight, which transcended the snowboard world and became a mainstream sensation. “I was really surprised the impact that movie had,” John says. “I had no idea it would reach such a broad audience.” In 2012, John and his brother, Eric, set out on a 12,000-mile road trip and snowboard-and-surf adventure in a custom-built Ford F-350 from Alaska to the southern tip of Chile, which they documented in a popular web series called Brothers on the Run. “The idea of mixing different sports, cultures, and athletes in a vehicle travelling south for a long period of time seemed unreal to me. The opportunity to actually try it was amazing,” John says. “That journey was one of the biggest blessings in my career as a snowboarder.” But the trip took a turn south when John blew his knee on a heli trip in Chile, cutting their adventure short at the final stretch. He underwent surgery and spent a whole season in rehab. When he finally returned to snow, he travelled to Japan in early 2014 and injured the same knee again, benching him for another winter. “Being injured sucks and it was tough to handle, but during the recovery process, you’ve got to stay positive. You’ve got to believe,” he says. He was soon back and feeling stronger than ever, filming in Alaska and Europe for a part for the X Games Real Snow video contest, shooting for Pat Moore’s web series, Blueprint, and other film projects. “The first cliff I jumped off after my recovery, it felt so good to be back in the air,” he says. “I really noticed myself looking at snowboarding differently and recognising every little detail.” When he’s not launching cliffs in the backcountry, John runs his own jewellery business, called Jax Union, which he started in 2010 and which raises money for an orphanage project in Nicaragua. He’s also working on his skydiving certification and plays many musical instruments, including piano, guitar, and mandolin.