FROM THE MAG: The Brief with Jake Kuzyk — Issue 2.2

Photo: Oli Gagnon

The following article was originally printed in the November 2022 Issue of Slush. To access the full article click here.

Interview by Jonathan Vanelslander

Jonny: When you were a kid, who were your heroes?

Jake: When I was a kid, there was no gay male representation in snowboarding or skateboarding at all, so I didn’t really have any influences, unfortunately, in that category, until way later. Really early on, weirdly enough, I didn’t watch many international videos. I mostly watched local Canadian videos, particularly things local to Winnipeg, because there was a really strong skateboard/snowboard community. So, I looked up to my own friends: Chris Saniuk, Andrew Geeves. They were just a bit older than I was, they already seemed full-grown, and they were super talented. Andrew already had sponsors and exciting stuff was happening for him. In skateboarding, my close friend Nick Serduletz—who is still so inspiring to me—I don’t know if many people know about him. He’s an incredible skateboarder, and still lives in Winnipeg. People should YouTube him, he’s got like ten insane skateboard parts.

And when you were a bit older?

I feel like I’ve said this so many times, and everyone says this, but I distinctly remember watching Love/Hate and the KidsKnow videos when they came out and knowing right away that it was something completely different. There was an added layer, a deeper approach to those videos. It felt really honest. I loved that. I couldn’t figure it out. As someone that’s interested in making films, I could sit back and pull videos apart. But those videos, it seemed like such a mystery, almost to this day. I don’t think I ever met Shelby Menzel. He worked in snowboarding for such a brief time, and it was those two films in particular, Love/Hate and Burning Bridges, that—to me—have that flavor; like a creative outside snowboarding entering the space and made something that no one else would have been capable of making because they’re too close to it. So, everyone from those videos. Obviously, Darrell Mathes, Justin Hebbel. To this day Mikey Leblanc is this ongoing hero of mine. And I’ve gotten to spend a bit more time with him lately and it’s so fortunate because he is such a childhood inspiration. A lot of years have passed so you might imagine someone like that would be out of the picture. For Mikey to still be involved and still be so excited, and for me to have him as a friend, is crazy. Hanging out with him makes me feel like I’m 18 again.

Gap to the creeper | Photo: Marc O'Malley


When I was young, I remember hearing about Jason Collins, the basketball player, or Billy Joe Armstrong from Green Day, coming out, and it meant a lot to me. I still remember Collins’ name even though he wasn’t a popular player. Outside of snowboarding, do you remember hearing of gay celebrities and being inspired?

I don’t remember those stories in particular, but I do remember being really intimidated by that. Hearing people were gay would almost cause me more confusion because I would compare myself to them. Now I know that’s not really the way to go about things, but it always felt so distant to me. At a young age I had a hard time finding common ground.

Totally, I can see that. The thing for me at the time was I related to him because we have multiple things in common: I played basketball and he played basketball. Or Billy Joe likes punk music and I like punk music. That feels like a totally different thing than a gay celebrity that didn’t relate to me in any other way.

Isn’t that so interesting, that this one little thing, activity, or hobby, that is so integral to what you do, can become the one thing, with that one person, that you can relate to so strongly. Like, you play basketball and you’re gay!? It’s like, holy shit! It can really help to unlock some self acceptance. That feeling is really amazing.



Do you remember what your big inspirations were to keep going snowboarding when you were a kid? As a teenager living in Winnipeg.

It’s funny thinking about it now because nothing in life since has excited me as much as snowboarding did at that age. It wasn’t even a question about being inspired or bummed, it was just the only thing I did and only thing I wanted to do. Even in the summer, dragging snow and a flatbar to some terrible hill in East Kildonan. I had a super strong group of friends and a super tight sense of community, so I’m lucky in that way. There was always someone to go snowboarding with, and my house was right next to the hill, so I could get picked up on the way really easily. I was snowboarding four or five nights a week and both days on the weekend. I remember being 14 and thinking to myself, “I. Want. To. Be. Pro.” Andrew [Geeves] was already sponsored, and I was watching videos and seeing what people were doing and it felt like I could do some of those things. It weirds me out how badly I really wanted that, how it was all I could think about. It’s funny you always hear people talk about, “Don’t worry about trying to get sponsors, just have fun.” and here’s me: “I only want to turn pro.” haha.

When you got a little older and you moved to Whistler, did you feel that coming from a small, odd, snowboard community made you a little different, or made the way you approached snowboarding a little different?

I think so. It definitely made me appreciate, at a young age, big resorts or even cool snowboard events and just having access to a filmer. Knowing those opportunities don’t always come because you’re living in central Canada. Whenever cameras were around, filming for things I admired, I was like, “Okay I gotta fucking go off.” So maybe that gave me a different perspective. One thing I’m only kind of realizing now is that I always tend to snowboard better when I’m not surrounded by other pros and in an environment that’s very snowboard-industry-centric. If I’m just with my friends, with a couple options in front of us, I can block out everything and have way more success, like when we go on snowboard trips to film. I get in my own little world, thinking about what I can get in those eight days. I work really well that way and I think that comes from growing up in a small place like Winnipeg where there’s just less options, less distractions, less noise, and you’re focused on making the best of it. Superpark is the last place I’m ever going to get anything, but if me and a couple friends find something cool to mess around on when no one’s around, then I’ll get footage.


Switch back lip | Photo: Marc O'Malley


I hear stories on the podcasts where someone is a teenager and all of the sudden they are in the van with big name pros, someone really intimidating, and everyone is one-upping each other. All I can think is, “That doesn’t sound fun.”

[Laughs] Maybe when I was younger I could do that shit because I was just that horny for it, but getting older now, that shit is exhausting.

When you moved to Whistler, was Geeves already there?

Yeah, Geeves had lived there for a year already.



Was it easier to adjust to moving because you already knew someone there?

Well, everyone was there! I moved there a year after Jody Wachniak, Geeves, [Chris] Saniuk, Kevin Griffin, Darrah Reid-McLean, Gillian Andrewshenko. At first, I was still in Winnipeg, missing my friends. I just couldn’t take it. I was just waiting to get there. Chris, Jody, and Andrew lived together, and I went and visited them for two weeks at that time. That all made it really easy. I didn’t ever have to question, “Should I move there?” It just made sense.

Having such a tight-knit group of snowboarders from Winnipeg, having a ‘crew,’ helped you feel less like an outsider and more welcomed in snowboarding. Nowadays we’re seeing more crews like Pink Dollar Possy, groups like Soy Sauce Nation, or Seen Snowboarding. Crews that are specifically focused on aspects that have been historically underrepresented from snowboarding like race, sexuality, or gender diversity. Do you think having crews like PDP help people feel more welcome in snowboarding, more included?

You mean just the idea, of having a connected group of people, of the gay or any community?


Photo: Marc O'Malley


Yeah, like how those Winnipeggers welcomed you into the terrifying world of Whistler snowboarding. Now there’s a group like Pink Dollar Possy to welcome queer kids into snowboarding and help inspire them, in a similar way to how your friends from Winnipeg made you feel?

Definitely. It’s so exciting that there are more groups now and they are more specific to creating connections for people in ways that didn’t exist before. Like Seen Snowboarding for example: people are super excited about it, and it feels like a really next level connection, but at the same time, it’s literally just an Instagram account. If you break it down, that’s all it is. Something simple can start so small and so quickly become so much for so many people. That’s what’s really cool about nowadays, and with these groups—it doesn’t take much to get it going. Then, the more people that get involved, the more momentum it gathers. Quickly, it becomes so powerful for so many, and can really get people involved in snowboarding in a way that they might have never had access to—or inspiration for—in the past. In skating and snowboarding there used to be this whole energy of, “If you weren’t really good, or aspiring to be really good, there was no point for you to partake.” Whereas now, it feels as if there’s a shift, where you just need to enjoy it. I can just go and enjoy whatever small part of snowboarding I do, and it can be just for me and the people that I’m there with. I don’t need to be aspiring to go pro or be able to ride switch or do anything like that. That’s so sick. Because of that you can see snowboarding progressing in ways it didn’t have the ability to progress in before. I think these little groups have helped break it down, get more people in, and change what’s exciting. A couple of years ago, Seen did a meet up in Minneapolis in some park that had four inches of snow and a bunch of leaves on the ground. It was this whole group of queer snowboarders meeting for the first time. I was so bummed I wasn’t there because there’s this clip of this person going really slow and 50-50ing a squiggly tree branch that’s on the ground and I remember thinking, straight up, this is the sickest thing I’ve seen all winter. Like this is inspiring me more than anything I’ve seen this year. In one small way I think that’s an example of where we’re going with it: you can get really excited about it without it getting really gnarly...