Munich's Prodigal Snowboard Son
Munich's David Benedek pretty much did it all over his long career as a professional snowboarder: He won Snowboarder Magazine's "Rider of the Year" award two years in a row ('02, '03). He won the mighty Air & Style in 2002, and landed snowboarding's very first double cork 1260 at the Air & Style in Munich in 2006. He co-founded and starred in the influential Robot Food films, and founded Blank Paper Studios GmbH, the creative powerhouse responsible for "91 Words for Snow" -- one of the coolest films the sport's ever seen.
From innovating double corks to innovating the jumps to do them on, Benedek, 33, has influenced almost every aspect of snowboarding. His humility and sly sense of humor hide a depth of talent and creativity not often associated with athletes pushing the highest levels of freestyle progression, as he did for years. When he puts his big brain to something, the result is always worthy.
To wit: His recent book project, "Current State," is one of the most ambitious undertakings in our video-dominated space in recent years and it's an incredible artifact of snowboarding history. Written, edited and designed entirely by Benedek, the book (which is actually two books that are fused at the spine) overflows with intelligent interviews and insights, killer imagery and next-level vector-madness.
It's no surprise that the book won a number of prestigious awards from the horn-rim set in Europe, including the "Grand Prix of Editorial Design" at the 2012 red dot communication design awards in Berlin. Heck, Benedek's even been named one of the "100 most influential young Germans" by Neon Magazin.
We hit up a very busy Mr. Munich to see what the X Games are in for when they invade his hometown.
Xgames.com: Is it safe to say that you're the best-known Munich snowboarder of all time? Best-known German?
David Benedek: [Laughs] Not sure. Peter Bauer could be up there! His carving parts from the '80s were pretty legendary. There's actually quite a big and vibrant scene here that is very pan-European, so there are quite a few riders following my footsteps in the past decade.
How big of a deal was the Air & Style to Munich? I was there in '06 and the hometown crowd had your back so hard!
Yeah, that was definitely a pretty awesome experience. I guess at any event of this size it's a pretty neat thing to be the "local hero." Plus, the announcer was a good friend of mine so he made sure people were hyped whenever I dropped!
[Laughs] Air & Style was in Munich for about three years I think -- actually in the exact same location that X Games will be happening now. So it'll be interesting to see how a summer event will use the location now.
What do you expect out of the culture clash when X invades your hometown?
I am not sure how much of a culture clash it'll be given the fact that most of my generation has been following a very Americanized and global culture, at least in the realm of action sports.
However, skateboarding, snowboarding and the likes are much less established and recognized here, so it'll be really interesting to see how the mainstream media will treat an event like the X Games that undeniably has a very strong following amongst younger people.
What made Munich a good spot to grow up as a young pro-to-be?
Well, Munich is pretty well located as far as getting to a variety of mountain ranges is concerned. Within an hour you can get to pretty decent resorts or backcountry terrain, given the snow conditions allow it.
Within a three-hour drive you're in Arlberg, which is really one of the world's premiere resorts with amazing backcountry access. [And], in about four hours you can reach many of Switzerland's great resorts. So it all isn't too far for a weekend trip.
As far as getting to know people in the snowboarding industry and meeting other pros, it was definitely pretty beneficial to have one of the world's biggest trade shows, ISPO, here in the winter. Even before knowing anyone we'd just run around in little packs and annoy people at the trade show booths with our crappy little self-shot photos, trying to score some product or stickers.
What are the key resorts in the region and what do they each offer?
There's a variety of resorts really close (about one hour) to the city. Mostly they are fairly small but offer decent terrain, and most of them have a familiar feeling about them as they are too small to attract large mass tourism -- which is nice.
Spitzing: Home to Christophe Schmidt, one of Germany's best riders. Small and decent park and fun backcountry runs.
Alpspitze: Tree runs for days and great little peaks to hike to. The area around Alpspitze (Garmisch) has a large backcountry and split-boarding/skinning-scene. So a lot of amazing routes to other mountains are in place, partly- to very-alpine terrain that crosses over to Austria.
Zugspitze: Just around the corner, it's Germany's tallest mountain that, until about 2003, used to be home base to a very vibrant local snowboard scene. It was host to the infamous GAP1328 summer camp that attracted pros from all over the world, as well as Italian nudists. It was pretty awesome.
Unfortunately the resort is run by very conservative people that have seemingly decided to not care about young people anymore and ditch all their efforts for supporting snowboarding or any other youth activities. So I guess we'll just have to wait until their efforts to attract the über-rich Middle Eastern or Russian customers don't pan out, then hopefully they will come to their senses.
How has the snowboarding scene in Munich changed since you were coming up?
The snowboard scene is alive and kicking, even though it might seem that it's a bit more underground now than it used to be in the late '90s or early '00s. Or maybe that's just my perception because, at 33, I am definitely an old fart. But Munich is definitely still a very central base for the pan-European snowboard scene.
Two of the biggest magazines, Pleasure and Onboard, are both based in Munich, and until recently, also the Air & Style contest. So there's definitely a fairly large awareness for snowboarding amongst young people.
Explain the notion of the Weißwurstäquator to the uninitiated...
The Weisswurstäquator (literally translated: the White Sausage Equator) is just basically another common description for Bavaria or the vicinity of Munich.
What I didn't know for a long time, despite growing up here: You don't order white sausage after noon, and you always drink a Weissbier along with it. Mandatory. Or at least it makes for a good excuse to start drinking early in the day.
We read that you're retired from pro snowboarding. Is that official? You're still up on Salomon's site. Hope they're still paying you…
Damn. Yeah, I should really talk to those guys about that. [Laughs]
Yeah, I think I retired. I guess I don't really like phrasing it like that because I don't feel it's something you should ever be able to retire from. So I'd rather say I went back to being a weekend warrior now -- something like that.
Keep up-to-date on Benedek's creative genius at his catch-all site, Almost Anything.