The Art of Mountain Boarding: An Interview with Dave Steifvater
“Mountain boarding? What the eff is that!?” were pretty much the exact words that came out of my mouth when I was asked to write this piece. It sounded awesome, and after checking out some YouTube videos and reading up on the sport itself, the awesomeness pretty much just kept growing. I heard that, if there was anyone who could tell me about the sport, it was local mountain boarding pro, Dave Steifvater.
Dave grew up here in Colorado and has turned mountain boarding into a full blown career. As a former skateboarder, he made the transition to mountain boarding about 13 years ago and hasn’t looked back. I recently had the chance to talk to Dave about his experiences and learn a little bit more about the Denver scene. In this three part interview, you’ll have a chance to check out what he had to say!
R: Tell me what initially got you interested in mountain boarding.
Dave: Well, I got started back in 1995-96ish when snowboarding was still pretty new. A lot of ski resorts wouldn’t even allow snowboarders on the mountain, it was still pretty much a skier-only type thing unlike today where you can take a snowboard up on any mountain you want. I also loved skateboarding and there was a lot of downtime in between seasons. I was up in Boulder one day and saw these guys ride by on these monster truck lookin’ boards. It was like a Tonka truck with these big jacked up wheels. And these guys were bustin’ tricks of this planter and I just thought it was really cool. So, I went around to some skate shops and found these wheels called XT wheels at the time. I got those and it kind of brought the two worlds of skateboarding and snowboarding together. It brought my favorite parts of both worlds together into one board.
R: Do you still skateboard or are you primarily a mountain boarder?
D: Not so much and the reason is because of the incident that happened down at the Denver skate park. It was two years ago on April 14th that that happened and it really turned me off of skateboarding. It was like years of going to skate parks and watching the developing attitudes among the kids at the skate parks, which was kind of pushing me away from it as it was but that incident really turned me off. I still have a skateboard but I haven’t ridden it in two years.
R: Yeah, I go down to the Denver skate park sometimes. I haven’t ridden it. I have a cruiser board though so I don’t actually do any tricks or anything and it’s cool but I don’t really want to roll around with those dudes. It’s kind of intimidating.
D: Yeah, it’s a little intimidating and it’s not necessarily how good they are. It’s the attitude that they bare.
R: So, since you’ve done skateboarding, snowboarding and now mountain boarding… are there a lot of differences between the three or are they pretty similar? Like for instance, if I wanted to pick up a mountain board even though I’m a skateboarder, would I be able to pick it up pretty quick or is it something I’d have to get used to?
D: You would be able to pick it up very quick. We’ve always claimed it’s the missing element among the board sports. You know you can surf so you’re riding the water. On a wake board, you’re in a lake. And with a skateboard you’re on the concrete so what’s missing? The dirt. So, it’s like the missing element of all the other board sports. It’s easier than learning how to skateboard or snowboard. I mean, I could teach you how to mountain board in minutes. You can ollie immediately. On a skateboard it took me three months to learn how to ollie and then I couldn’t even ollie straight. It took me three solid days of trying very hard to learn how to snowboard and that’s pretty typical across the board for anybody. It took me several tries to learn how to surf and wakeboarding was a little easier. If I put you on a mountain board today, no boarding experience whatsoever, you will be riding it today and having a good time.
R: What are some of your favorite places to mountain board?
D: So, recently there have been a lot of mountain bike parks popping up around the area. Belmont Park up in Boulder is one of my favorite places to ride. They just put like $3.5 million into this park and they did an amazing job. You can take riders of all levels and go and have a good time and then for guys like me, they have some pretty intense stuff that keeps me on the edge of my game all the time. Golden has a bike park that’s a lot of fun. There is also a mountain board specific park up in Empire called the Altitude Sickness Park. I love it and enjoy riding up there. Those would probably be my favorites. From time to time I’ll go out to Ruby Hill or Governor’s Park. There are just some big, open spaces that you can carve up and just ride. There are some places up in Idaho Springs like Little Bear Road. that are fun to ride but you kinda have to be more experienced to ride up there. It’s very diverse. You know from the freestyle terrain to the downhill terrain, there are a lot of places to ride. Skate parks have been popping up all over the place. They just built the Arvada Skate Park and I think that’s one of the greatest skate parks to ride.
R: What’s the scene like? What’s the attitude toward new boarders? Is it kind of clique-ish? Is it not? Is it kind of underground?
D: Mountain boarding is kind of underground. You know the snowboarders and skateboarders have their own take on it and we get attitude from them but the mountain boarding community is very welcoming. It’s more like a family. Everybody knows everybody and everyone is happy to see each other. If I was gonna travel like to Utah for instance, I could meet up with other riders and hang out. They’d welcome me into their homes and I’ve done the same for other riders too. That’s pretty much how it is worldwide. Even in other countries it’s like that. They don’t care how good you are or what your experience level is. It’s just a very open family style community.
The other side of it is we also really promote safety. You know, in skateboarding it’s not “cool” to wear a helmet. In mountain boarding, we realize its one of the most dangerous sports there is. It ranks right up there with freestyle motocross as far as being one of the most dangerous things to do. You know, longevity is one of the things we wanna see everybody do. We’ve all seen someone get hurt badly and we wanna make sure that everybody goes home at the end of the day safe and happy. Not beat up and dead or you know, off to the hospital. Another thing I really enjoy is you see someone riding and you’re like, “Hey, wear your helmet” or “wear your pads”. Helmets are the biggest thing that are pushed because it’s hard to get people to wear the other pads and stuff, but we just wanna make sure everybody’s safe and having a good time. Very family orientated, very safety oriented, and very FUN oriented.
R: From what I’ve read it seems you’ve made a pretty good career out of mountain boarding, have you not?
D: Yeah, I’ve been doing it for 17 or 18 years now. I’ve been in the top three in almost every contest I’ve ever entered. Granted there were a few that I didn’t do so well in. I’ve been able to travel to most all of the United States and a fair portion of Europe. As far as it being a career like, I don’t make good money at it but it typically pays for itself. Meaning, if I invest money in a trip I usually come back with that money or something worthwhile. That’s not easy for everyone to say because we don’t have high-end sponsors or anything like that. It’s not easy to walk away with money from everything but I’ve put myself in a position where that’s worked out. At the same time, it’s been work. You have to work at anything to get something out of it so I’ve done countless numbers of demos, which is, you know, driving a truck 17 to 24 hours across the country. We call it “stop, drop and roll” which is basically when we roll up, literally drop the ramps and an hour later we’re doing a demo.
It’s been a huge part of the success of getting my name out there and being known when these little kids and these assortments of people come to these demos and you sign autographs with them, they get to know you. Then later on they pick up a board because they saw you and they’re interested and they want to talk to you. It just grows the sport.
R: Are there different kinds of mountain boards?
D: Unfortunately, it’s not. Mountain boarding has been on a rollercoaster ride for a long time. We’ll hit these nice peaks where there will be several different types of mountain boarding companies with lots of different types of boards. Right now we’re in this kind of a lull and there are only about two mountain boarding companies. Back in about 2000, I would say, was when you saw the most diversity in mountain boards. It was during a time when technology had really caught up to what we were trying to do. It was a metal frame board called a “frame board” and they came from like a 132 cm to a 186 cm board and that was like three steps in between. Boards weighed between 30-50 pounds and we had to come up with the technology to laminate the deck, similar to a skateboard deck and that was called the “uni-body” board. That changed the whole aspect of free style. At that time you had the decision between like a regular sized board to a long board. The 186 cm was like 6.5 feet long. At the same time, because there were such a variety of boards, you had two wheel boards, three wheel boards, four wheel boards, six wheel boards and eight wheel boards. Each one had its own take on how the mountain board should be, whether the trucks should be on top or bottom of the board. Two wheels in line, three in line, triangular, etc. The eight wheel board looked like a tank with trucks on it. It was called the NPE land board. It had this extra box put on and the way the wheels worked… it was such a huge variety at the time.
There were a lot of companies that had similar boards but because of the economy and because the scene is more popular in Europe, Australia and Brazil and places like that, it’s kind of fallen off here in the U.S.