If you're a kid growing up in Jackson Hole in the shadow of Travis Rice, you learn early that the road he traveled to pro snowboarding superstardom was one he paved himself. And as Rice is forever laying tracks forward into the future, the entrance has long since overgrown and disappeared. The only way to follow in his footsteps is to do it exactly how he did it: find a single-minded determination and find your own path into the world.
But what if you happened to catch Rice in a mood? Some day, perhaps, when he realized that it might be time to give back to the next generation, the way the generation before gave back to him -- and when that thought happened to occur at the same time that he found himself with an empty seat in his ride/film crew?
Well then, your name would be Cam Fitzpatrick, and you would go from struggling to make your way in the pro snowboard world to having a real-life try-out for a spot in a Brain Farm production, and what could possibly be the biggest snowboard movie ever made.
Since the best stories come from true-life fairytales, we figured we should sit Mr. Fitzpatrick down and talk about his breakout moment. Oh, and that "Cloud 9" Disney movie he did before he got the call.
We have to talk about "Cloud 9" first. How did you get involved with that?
It was random. I got a call around Christmas , from this LA number with an opportunity to do this Disney flick. I had no idea what to expect.
I've looked up to [Travis] my whole life. And Travis has looked up to [Bryan Iguchi] his whole life. We're literally three generations of snowboarding. We're all 10 years apart.
I went to Salt Lake and met up with all my friends, who were all on the U.S. pipe team and had been riding pipe their whole lives, competitively. And I found out that day that it was just a pipe movie. I was like... how the hell did I get invited to do this thing?
What did you do in the movie?
I did stunt work for three characters. I played the Asian character, and I played a girl for one night. I had pigtails strapped to my helmet. Nils Mindnich played the main girl. He was pretty much the star for stunts.
What is the Cloud 9?
It's a triple cork.
Yeah, it's ridiculous. They thought it was doable. When they told us, we all said, "No one has ever done a triple cork in the halfpipe before." Shaun White was the producer of the film, so they were like, "What are you talking about? Shaun does it all the time."
They had to figure out how to film it so it would look somewhat okay. So we were doing doubles in the pipe, and then they cut to a guy-in-the-sky shot of Hans Mindnich doing a double back 10 off a jump, and then cut back to a pipe shot -- to make it look like a triple.
Yeah, I know, it was super corny. None of the cast members had snowboarded in their lives. When we were shooting we had to be like, "That is not okay. You can't do that." They listened to us, though. They had us come in and name tricks. They were trying to learn.
It ended up being an awesome experience for me. I have a SAG card now. I get calls to go talk to kids at schools. A lot of kids watch that movie because it plays on the Disney channel every other day.
Let's talk about a real snowboard movie now. Is it true Travis invited you to ride with him via text message.
Yeah, I'll read it to you:
"Wanted to chat with you about coming on board with our program for the rest of the season. See if you have any interest?"
And of course you declined.
(Laughs) Yeah, it's like, "No, I'm good." I sat on that message for a bit. The whole day I was in the craziest fog.
It was one of those moments. It honestly made me cry with joy, like I can't believe this is happening. Just watching Travis and Brain Farm my whole life ... for him to text me just meant so much.
How'd it work out?
I didn't think it'd work out that well. But it was pretty wild, just getting to hang out with [Bryan] Iguchi and Travis -- just following them around. I'm so quiet. I take in all of the information that they're saying.
I'm so lucky. So many people would love to have this opportunity, to be taken under the wings and mentored by two masters. I am just so thankful. I appreciate everything that's been given to me. I mean, just where I live. Jackson Hole is so cool, and then just going anywhere with Iguchi and Travis. I can't even believe it.
Tell us about your first day filming.
So heavy. I was on top of my first line and the helis were flying over me. I was so nervous. I felt every single emotion. I'll never forget it, going from being so happy to being so f-----g scared. I've never done anything like that in my life. Even coming from Jackson, I've never stood on something that steep...
Sounds like an average day filming with Brain Farm.
The next day was crazy too. We hiked straight up these super steep chutes to our lines, and I'm pretty scared of heights, and really have never been that scared in my life. I just kept telling myself to not look down.
Right off the top was a 600-foot cliff, and I'm walking on the ridge to my line...
I ended up dropping in and got sloughed out and couldn't see anything. I hooked left, like I was planning, and went to this little crack that I thought was going to be way bigger than it actually was. I barely fit my body through it. I thought I'd maneuver through it, but my slough was coming down after me and I got pinned. Both of the tips of my board were on each side of the crack. My board bent like a U while all the snow pushed me through it.
I ended up landing on my feet, but it was so scary. And I was so bummed, I thought I did everything wrong. But Travis and Guch were like, "Don't be bummed, that was gnarly."
They're right, you know? That sounds crazy.
I just learn from what they're doing and what they tell me. And I definitely learned a lot that day, for sure. But it's cool because Travis and Guch are the two people I've looked up to my whole life. Especially Travis. And Travis has looked up to Guch his whole life. We're literally three generations of snowboarding. We're all 10 years apart.
It's wild just to be out there with them. Just to watch how they ride their lines, and just to watch how gnarly Travis gets. I saw him do one of the gnarliest lines ever, and I saw it in person. I mean, it's hard not to fan out.
Aren't your dad and Travis' dad friends?
Both of our dads were ski patrol here at Jackson Hole. They were really good friends. My first pair of skis were Travis'. Paul Rice handed them down to my dad for me to use. Travis didn't even know that. He was kind of blown away when I told him. I just think it's a cool relationship because there are a lot of similarities in the way we grew up.
Did your dad teach you about the backcountry, too?
We used to do beacon drills at my house when I was like six or seven. Or the patrollers would bury me in a hole so the dogs could come dig me out. My dad made me train a lot in the backcountry, because he's seen a lot of his friends go.
So you remember seeing Travis riding the resort as a kid?
The reason why I started snowboarding was because of Travis. I mean, I was a ski racer. But when I was eight, Travis was starting to snowboard and all these kids were ripping. Just watching him at the resort was amazing.
And then Travis won the X Games when he was like 19 and that was it. I wanted to be that. I wanted to go to the X Games. I wanted to be Travis. He was my hero.
He and I were talking about all these stories of him from back then -- of him poaching the U.S. Open jump, just being a s---head, trying to make his name in the world. My mom is a teacher, and she says she'd always see Travis in detention. He was always in trouble.
Good thing he found a focus then.
It's just so cool to see how it all works, after growing up watching all the movies with Brain Farm. They're so fun to be with. They're professional, but they're so cool. And everyone's working so hard, but that's what it takes to make those films and you can really see it. They do everything so perfect.
And Travis is a perfectionist, too. If it's not right, he'll go do it again, or learn from it. I learned so much from watching that.
The whole time I was out with them, I just kept thinking, "I'm going to wake up to this alarm," because this is the biggest childhood dream I've ever had.