Take 5: Capita pro Brendan Gerard talks Quebec City filming, ‘After Forever’ and the art of inspiration
November 30, 2016
The Gerard family is inching closer to world snowboard domination. The only question: Is that really the point?
Earlier this season, Brendan Gerard — the older brother of 15-year-old Silverthorne phenom Red Gerard — made his Absinthe Films debut with "After Forever," the latest video from the veteran production house behind classics like "Dopamine," "Optimistic?" and "Transcendence." He did it all in the name of sponsors like Capita, Von Zipper and Union Bindings, and that's exactly how he likes things: no TV spotlight, no screaming fans, just riding.
It's a much different side of the snowboarding world. While his younger brother was busy making the finals at Dew Tour and the U.S. Open, Brendan Gerard was traveling nonstop on a shoestring budget, filming segments in Quebec City and across North America. The sum of his season: less than five minutes of footage in the film. He was essentially homeless for most of it, he said, with only support from sponsors to keep him afloat.
And that's exactly how he likes things. On the snowboarding spectrum, Brendan fills a niche untouched by the competition circuit: backcountry and urban filming. Videos like "After Dark" are made for a very small and dedicated audience, the same people who eat up his photos in magazines like Transworld Snowboarding, Snowboarder and Snowboard Colorado. Smaller still is the core group who caught his early edits in Comune's "Black Holes" and Capita's "Defenders of Awesome 2." Progression is the name of the game — not popularity.
Now 27 years old, Brendan is one of five Gerard children (aka Gerrys), and each of them started snowboarding near the family's flatland hometown of Cleveland. He attended Crested Butte Academy in his teens, graduated high school through online courses and has lived in snowboarding towns ever since then: Lake Tahoe, Salt Lake City, Silverthorne and, as of this summer, Portland, Oregon.
Pro snowboarders at every level are nomads by nature — Red will spend most of his winter flitting across the globe for competition after competition — but Brendan's career is even more unpredictable. Most of his sponsors are in it for the long haul, but a single injury or bad season could jeopardize it all, and there's no such thing as a 401(K) or disability pay.
And that's exactly how he likes things. Between filming the Quebec City segment and waiting for the "After Forever" premiere, the Summit Daily News caught up with Brendan to find out why an enormous paycheck doesn't matter when you can make enough to simply live.
Summit Daily News: Your career is built around filming. Why did you choose to focus on that side of snowboarding, as opposed to formal competitions like Dew Tour or X Games?
Brendan Gerard: I stopped doing contests pretty early on in my career. I never really took to it much. The people I grew up riding with and the people I looked up to weren't really about the contest scene. I guess also I wasn't ever much good at contests, and it's really not very much fun losing.
SDN: Social media and the Internet have made it easier for people to find snowboarding edits, but that side of things still isn't as big as primetime, made-for-TV comps. Where do videos like "After Forever" fit into the mix?
BG: For me, snowboarding was always about inspiring the people around you to snowboard. I always got a lot more gratification out of having a really heated session with my friends. That, to me, is the route of progression. It's essentially the same thing as a contest — it just leaves out all the people that never had anything to do with what was actually going on in the first place: judges, announcers, spectators (and) coaches. Commentators didn't invent tricks — they just put in their two cents and micro-analyze everything the actual talent is doing.
I guess what I mean is that my peers and I communicate through our riding and not our words. There's no need to talk about how "sick" a trick is or isn't — you just try and take what someone else did and tweak it to make it your own. That's what I mean by "inspire," whether you're inspiring your peers or someone who will never touch a board. I just want to do things that people can look at and feel a sense of courage to do something bigger.
SDN: Talk about the challenges of becoming and remaining a pro. Do you know how much support — health insurance, travels funds, gear, anything — you'll have from season to season?
BG: For me, being a snowboarder isn't very lucrative. It's definitely a passion project and I don't make a lot of money. I don't have health insurance, and doing this is definitely for me and no one else. I see other people my age getting married and having kids, buying houses — all that. I don't think that I would be doing any of those things if I wasn't snowboarding, though. I have a girlfriend and we really just love to travel. Whenever I am not snowboarding, I am going to be traveling with her. I make about enough to cover my expenses and that's it. I definitely don't have a savings account or some huge plan for the future.
SDN: Still, a lot of people assume that being a pro snowboarder is glamorous. You get to ride every day and get paid. What would you say to those people? Is it as glamorous as it seems?
BG: I'm not trying to break records — I just want to travel and create new experiences, take advantage of opportunities. I am incredibly grateful for all that snowboarding has given me.
SDN: Where do you hope snowboarding takes you? Will you be a team rider for the rest of your life? Or are you already thinking about alternatives?
BG: I've established relationships I never would have otherwise and been places I never would have gotten the opportunity to (visit). It's not so much about what your career does for you — it's about what you make of every opportunity that's presented. I think that as long as I keep that mindset every day, I am not too worried about the future. There's always going to be new opportunities. It doesn't have to be snowboarding. One day it will change and my passion will be something else, but for now it's snowboarding.
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