Q&A: Snowboarder Kennedi Deck on Hard Work, Positivity & Inclusivity
The influential young rider on her Pride Week interview, filming for the Vans snowboard film "Evergreen," and why being a good person is so important
Oli Gagnon, Tanner Pendleton
This past summer, the snowboard world saw a much-needed shakeup when a handful of key snowboard industry figures came out as their most true selves during a coordinated series of Pride Week interviews with leading independent snowboard publication Torment. Lead by celebrated filmer and photographer Tanner Pendelton, standout pro Jake Kuzyk and fellow Vans Snow team rider Kennedi Deck, the series also included pro rider Jill Perkins and deaf snowboarder Chad Unger, and, in a rare moment of beautiful positivity in the dogshit year that is 2020, the global snowboard community opened its arms to the LGBTQ+ community.
This momentum has continued with Pendleton and Deck promoting Seen Snowboarding, a new platform promoting queer inclusivity, visibility, and community engagement in snowboarding. A keen eye will recognize Pendleton as a long time friend of Field Mag (read our 2018 interview with Tanner here). For those unfamiliar with Deck, consider this an overdue introduction. She’s a young, naturally talented, supremely stylish rail rider, and the newest member of the Vans snowboard team—arguably one of the coolest crews out there.
Just a few short years ago the Canadian prairie child originally from Saskatchewan skyrocketed to the top of the global snowboard scene from seemingly nowhere, winning TransWorld Snowboarding’s 2018 Rookie of the Year award for her part in Jess Kimura’s The Uninvited, establishing herself as a rail rider to watch at just 20 years old.
While Kennedi Deck’s identity was never something she hid, her willingness to put herself out there, share her story, and be authentically herself has helped bring a much-needed shift to the action sports world as a whole, encouraging a new way of thinking, being, and of course, participating in the sport.
With Vans snowboarding’s second full-length movie, Evergreen, available to stream for free online as of 17 Deceember, 2020—a followup to 2018’s widely celebrated Landline, also directed by Pendleton—we caught up with Kennedi Deck over video chat to learn more about her experience filming with Vans, her vision for the future of snowboarding (spoiler alert: inclusivity!) and why being a nice person counts for a hell of a lot more than being good at riding.
Evergreen is your biggest project to date—and you got first part! Were you intimidated at all?
When you’re thrown into the mix, your body just takes over and you’re like hanging out with friends, just chilling. It doesn’t feel so big or crazy. But now looking back at it, I was like, “oh my god, what do you mean? I’m going to go on a trip with some of my favorite snowboarders? That sounds insane.”
You won TransWorld’s Rookie of the Year award almost exactly two years ago to the day. What would you say to yourself if you could whiz back in time to talk to your younger self?
I’d probably say you’re doing great. Good things are going to come but it takes time. As fast as it feels, it’s always slow. I’ve wanted this since I was riding in contests, since I was a kid. I wanted to go on trips with my favorite snowboarders and do all this stuff. Now, things are coming together to make that happen, and I’ve been learning different ways to continue [my career], be a good person, be a good snowboarder, and learn more stuff.
I would tell myself to be patient and be excited about what's to come. It’s all really exciting and I’m super fortunate.
When you’re out filming, trying something that scares you, is there anything you say to yourself for a little boost? Jess Kimura told us about her power stance concept and feelings against negative talk. Are there any lessons or rituals you do to amp yourself up?
Yeah, I definitely have some rituals. [Laughter] I feel like a lot of professional snowboarders or skateboarders seem to have some common OCD things they do. I probably couldn’t point mine out, but I know they’re there, ya know?
As far as taking things from Jess, there’s a lot I learned [from her]. I think we both have the same work ethic. We’re both super down to do what needs to be done, like shovel, and do all that stuff. Being reaffirmed by her saying you gotta bust your ass… you gotta shovel hard for other people so they shovel hard for you. That kind of energy is definitely something I’ll always take from her. Her positive attitude and not letting yourself get too hard on yourself. Just letting yourself do what you need to do.
"You gotta bust your ass... you gotta shovel hard for other people so they shovel hard for you."
Both Landline and Evergreen really capture an intimate side of snowboarding, showcasing unique friendships and camaraderie rarely seen elsewhere. How did this dynamic feel from the inside, as a core part of it?
Tanner and all the filmers, Harry and Hayden, they have beautiful eyes for seeing the intricacies between our relationships. It’s truly unbelievable through film. But at the same time, we’re just being genuine. We want to see each other do well. We want to go out and hangout in the snow all day long.
What’s your proudest moment from filming Evergreen?
I’m pretty proud to have just had a great season. I took a couple slams, got a couple big bruises, but overall I made it out without any big injuries. I feel like that’s something to be pretty proud of, that I found my balance of pushing forward without going too far, which is nice. I can think of a couple of tricks and clips that I’m pretty stoked on. I remember standing in the drop in thinking to myself, I don’t think I can do this, and then it goes over really well.
"No matter how good of a snowboarder you are, people only want to hangout when you’re a good person and nice to be around."
Is there one trick you’re most proud of landing?
Yes, there’s a little creeper ledge up against the wall with a fence. I rode the ledge and ollied over the fence and I was so scared of that. Jake Kuzyk was like, “no, you got it!” I just stood there for so long being like, oh my god, then I did it and it was perfect and easy. Jake knew.
[He’s] is a few years older than me and I’m always looking to him for help and guidance. There’s too many things they’ve helped with. [Laughter]
What’s an unexpected lesson you’ve learned during your snowboard career so far?
You’re asking some tricky ones! I think it just goes back to the same things I’ve been told growing up. No matter how good of a snowboarder you are, people only want to hangout when you’re a good person and nice to be around. That definitely got solidified with the Vans crew. Everyone is so genuine, nice, and cares for one another. The lesson is always in my head, and it shows with the team that not only are they amazing snowboarding, but they’re nice people.
"Snowboarding needs to move away from $200 lift tickets and reel it back into the community-based scene of passing down old gear to include more people."
Where would you like to see snowboard culture pivot to? Away from the toxic Cool Guy vibe, for example.
I agree. Inclusion is really big. Whether its including more queer people, BIPOC people. Snowboarding needs to move away from $200 lift tickets and reel it back into the community-based scene of passing down old gear to include more people in snowboarding. Being with friends enjoying the mountain is what it's about. A shared experience. It doesn't have to be traditional snowboarding to be fun.
I like your point about passing stuff down, I don’t think people do it enough. The cost to buy new gear is a huge barrier of entry.
Now that I’m in the position that I’m in I can use my resources, privilege, to bring more awareness to queer issues and include more people overall. It’s really important that people who have the [spotlight] are bringing up issues and bringing attention. I’ve been trying to do that a lot, now especially. With me being in the position I'm in, I want to do more.
What is making you optimistic for the future of snowboarding?
The first thing that comes to mind is all the Torment things we were able to do. One day, when COVID chills out, we want to host events for everyone to come out and support, hang, and show inclusion within the sport and queer community. That’s something I’m really excited about.
Shout out to Seen Snowboarding for sure.