Intro by Austin Hironaka
Interview with Nirvana Ortanez
Photos by Mike Yoshida
Soy Sauce Nation leaves me speechless every time we come together. There's something to be said about bringing all types of Asian people together for the same cause—to snowboard, to have fun, and to grow community. We all made new friends that week, got some killer board'n in, smiled from ear to ear for three days straight, and left feeling whole-hearted. It reminds me a bit of the very first Holy Bowly event ever held that was in Japan and only consisted of a few handles of Americans and an entire Japanese shred community! The vibes were right!
Big shouts to all the contributed in making such a special event for us Asian descent snowboarders! I'm already looking forward to next year's Asian Invasion!
Can you talk about how the event grew this year?
The event grew into something we never would have dreamed of for year two. From the 50+ people that made the classic summer journey out to Mt. Hood last summer into over 135+ people celebrating their ethnicity, culture, and love for snowboarding was overwhelming. In addition to the incredible turnout we had two partnerships that pipe dreams are made of. Kikkoman and Burton signed on to be our title sponsors! KIKKOMAN! Not to mention the continuing support from Roxy and Crab Grab, as well as the partnership with Woodward Tahoe and Boreal Mountain.
We also were able to have the introduction of Community Day. For the first two days we had 95 invited riders show up, ride to their heart's content, and for most, meet for the very first time. The last day everyone was encouraged to stay for Community Day, and many did, where the course and features were open for the public to ride. With Community Day we also held it down in the parking lot, with the help of Skate Like A Girl leaders — Kim Woozy and Sima Safavi-Bayat, along with community coordinators Khai Bhagwandin and Ashley McQuestion where anyone could come up to Boreal, win something from the raffle, and have a good time.
At the core of the event ethos is to provide space to feel comfortable, welcomed, make friends within the snowboard community, and just snowboard. We didn’t want to limit that to API, so we invited people from other marginalized groups, BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and people who were there to support us. The more events highlighting people that wouldn’t have the chance or opportunity to have a spotlight, the better and there is always room for growth.
Can you talk about what the features were this year specifically? (the soy sauce bottle, wasabi bowl, etc)
Big shoutout to the OG cat bosses and Boreal Park crew. Mizl who’s ties run deep with the Nation was on the forefront of making the set up the best it could be. He, along with Anny, brainstormed and brought to life some of the best features like the “sushi surprise” barrels, the soy sauce bottle hip jump, chop stick rails and wasabi bonk.
The barrels claimed one and many the first day, but the best thing about working with Boreal was that they were more than willing to adjust things and be receptive to feedback for making the park as enjoyable for all abilities to ride.
With these Stir-Fry inspired build, along with an array of classic progression features, whether you were lapping or hiking, having fun was not in short supply. Also whoever decided to put the course over by the rooftop was a genius. That spot is perfect for hanging out and taking a break to watch.
Getting Kikkoman involved is probably the height of your expectations. How did that relationship form?
Funny thing actually — Kikkoman slid into our DMs. We thought that for sure we were going to get some sort of legal action put upon us, but no! They said they loved what we were doing and wanted to get involved. Now how did a huge company like Kikkoman find us?
Everyone knows that stickers and logos are pretty much banned from the Olympics. There’s all kinds of rules with sizing and branding. Now, we’re not going to say who exactly in case someone from the ole IOC sees this, but a certain snowboarder somehow smuggled the sticker on her board while she was competing and someone from the Japan Kikkoman branch saw it then had someone look into it. Pretty nuts, but much respect to lil snowboard gal for that.
Most rewarding part of the event?
I would say the most rewarding part of the event is watching relationships form in real time. Not only did we all hang out during the event and on-hill, but we had planned for meet ups off-hill too. The first day a big group went out to Donner Lake, drank sake together, took a cold water plunge, and watched the sunset together. It was really cool talking to people who went and shared photos. Just the overall excitement from being in each other’s company is animating and also getting to eat group meals is another big highlight.
Thoughts on next year?
Lock down dates sooner so more people can join us ;) We’re just getting started and can’t wait for next year.