The following interview is one in a series of discussions had with snowboarders who have transcended the traditional boundaries of sport and come to represent something ... more. In trying to define the somewhat indefinable spirit of snowboarding, to put words to the feeling that propels us at the deepest level, we sat 10 riders down and asked them this question: Why do you snowboard? This is one response.
Andrew Hardingham is perhaps most well known for his unorthodox approach to snowboarding. If he's not riding down one the sketchiest lines ever attempted (and survived) by a human, he's unleashing his quick-witted, erratic behavior upon the industry and world at large. In uniqueness, he has no equal.
Hailing from the Banff area of the Canadian Rockies, Hardingham has been at it for well over a decade now. Categorically, he cannot be classified. As a freestyler, his inclination to step to huge airs with stylish tweaks became the stuff of legend when Snowboarder magazine's Superpark used to set up in Lake Louise. On multiple occasions, Hardingham stepped to the colossal booters before the so-called "super pros" would, giving the rest of the contingency an ego check and confidence boost at the same time.
On the other hand, as a freerider Andrew has been moved by nothing less than his pure passion, steering his board down everything from B.C.'s heaviest pillow lines to monolithic sections of near-vertical sedimentary rock -- which he straight-lined, thereby opening up a niche-specific area of dementia for other big-mountain riders like Jonaven Moore and Xavier de le Rue to follow him into.
Beyond the board, Hardingham's undeniably twisted thought process has shown itself through some of the most absurd writing and video production you're likely to see in all of snowboarding. Legendary Canadian backcountry rider Devun Walsh might have put it best when he said, "If you could hang out with Andrew for one day, he would change your life forever."
In Hardingham's Words:
I'm an easy person to love or to hate because I talk a lot of smack about this amazing sport, with passion. Sometimes I can get a touch bitter when I see dimwits like FIS ski-boot buttheads telling snowboarders they can't do this or that, but it's just the way the sport has gone, so it's better to educate young riders on what they could be rather than what they are told to be. I don't know if that makes sense to anyone else, but it does in my head...so hurray for me!
I don't think it's hard to be an original these days. All you have to do is be yourself. Not to sound bitter, but snowboarding has become very sheepish. Everyone seems to care a great deal about what he or she looks like and what's cool. Most of them base their entire, generic styles around what the next person up the chain is doing. I have never been able to follow that and at the same time do what I wanted to.
I also don't think I am capable of setting trends, so I have no choice but to be a freak in the corner. Over time, with some awesome organically filmed sections in Sandbox movies and my own personal brand of short films online, I think the industry has just accepted my style as "It is what it is, and he's not going away!"
Sometimes I have ideas that make me laugh, so I go for them. Most don't work out, but I still get a kick out of everything I do. The opportunities that have arisen are probably the industry's recognition of my personality and how that shines through in my riding and films.
I'm not very marketable in the mainstream fields and that's why most people will never hear of me, but there are a great deal of core/real companies that understand the underground side of the sport and how it's what gives us all legitimacy.
I know this sounds backwards, but if you think Shaun White gives the sport legitimacy , then you are someone who doesn't get it and never will. He might have legitimacy with some kid in Florida who wears a Mountain Dew hat and pays $40 for a Monster sticker to put on his car window. But without the true underground, legitimate scene, this sport would crumble.
The true personalities are the backbone of the sport , and I think some companies know that and help them out, so I try to be legitimate as much as I can. I like riders who choose their own path -- the guys who use the tools they are given and apply them with thought. Jake Blauvelt and Travis Rice do it their own way. Sean Genovese: He rides really well, does it on a shoestring and puts everything into the sport rather than leeching off of it. Some personalities that have really paved the way are Peter Line, Travis Parker, Kevin Jones and even little Olympic losers like Dustin Craven.
Dustin Craven is not that good at "real" snowboarding, but he's probably one of the best personalities in the sport and he can hold his own on a board, so that makes him awesome. His mouth can only be compared to a gun loaded with 60 percent blanks and 100 percent live ammunition. And I'm not trying to bite "Anchorman" there; I really mean it. Even the blanks are amazingly effective.
Right now I'll try anything twice, but I'm starting to find that the lines I ride are a bit ridiculous sometimes. I always thought it didn't matter if it was sketchy, because I was invincible. Now I'm fine tuning my lines more and being a bit more picky. I think when I'm 50 I'll still be hungry for big cliffs, because age is just a frame of mind: If you talk like you're an old man, you are an old man.
My secret is being alone. Snowboarding is extremely meditational. It forces me to analyze everything that I love about the sport. I also have to change the way I ride at times because, when there is no one to dig you out or carry your broken body out of the backcountry, the risk levels can drive you insane. It makes me think more and analyze every little detail.
I think that's what has helped me overcome some of the more dangerous lines I've ridden over the years: attention to detail.
I spend most of my seasons exploring new places and terrain. The way the mountains have created all these wonderful and creative nooks and crannies that I can ride down and make explode to my exact specifications really does it for me.
Believe it or not, I find most of my lines in the summer, exploring in my van. Snowboarding puts you in places you would normally not be: back roads, alleys and canyons. These are the things that make me want to go a little bit farther, just to see what's over the next peak or around the next bend. I love that! Also returning to a line in the summer and seeing what the line looks like raw always blows my mind.
I rarely get to share that with anyone, but that's okay because it helps my world become better. I'm going to try to convey these ideas more in my future photos and films. But for now I can just enjoy it on my own, I guess.