During the WSL Quiksilver Pro France competition in early October the stars aligned and I found myself chatting with Travis Rice at his 33rd birthday party at Javier Mendizable’s house somewhere near Spain. Between all the laughter, food, beers, champagne and cuban cigars I managed to convince Travis to do this interview in his van, where we could escape the melodies of the live band playing in the garden. We got a little distracted by some wild horses, the stars and champagne, so what I promised would be ten minutes quickly turned into the better part of half an hour. We talked about secret late release board graphics, his new Brain Farm movie, Quiksilver’s impending return to it’s original glory and hanging out with the surf team in Jackson Hole.
I was unbelievably stoked but that whole evening was actually super mellow, hanging with the likes of Bryan Fox and Mikey Wright to name a few. It should have been no surprise to me that the Quiksilver snow and surf teams are so tight because they share the same values and methods of expression. Even though the trip was surf orientated, I came away feeling more inspired about riding a board than ever before. Hopefully you will too.
So here we are, sat in a van. It’s your birthday, you’ve just turned thirty-three, happy birthday! Can you set the scene of where we are tonight and what’s going on?
Man, we’re in South West France, on the precipice of Basque Country Spain, at the legendary Javier Mendizable’s house, who is kind enough to have us over, a fucking legendary band playing underneath a moonless, star filled night, several streakers already noted, blazing across the sky, sparklers on birthday cakes, fine champagne, incredible friends and family.
Amazing. It’s been a great night; I’m still a little star struck and in awe of the whole thing but I was talking to Evan, she’s your girlfriend, or wife?
Yeah, she’s my wife but she’s my girlfriend.
Well I was talking to her, and we got a little deep about astral projection and stuff like that. She was saying you were kind of into it as well. I wanted to ask if there is a connection between that and some of your board graphics on Lib Tech?
That’s a really good question because I think very many of my board graphics in the last decade could probably, from an outsider’s point of view, be surmised as someone’s astral projection. Just, the amount that’s going on and how crazy, how much stuff is in the graphic, there are certainly some astral elements in the pieces. A lot of them are actually just really incredible collaborations with various artists. Doing graphics is one of my favourite things to do, primarily for snowboards, because I get to reach out and work and approach an artist that I’m a big fan of. Lib Tech is kind enough to give me a healthy budget, and there is a real joy in sitting down, getting to know an artist and providing them with a background or context, like an idea or theme to bring out their own creativity. One of the things I tell them first and foremost is ‘hey, at the end of the day, this is your piece and the reason I’m here is because I back what you do’, I want it to be theirs. The fun part is collaborating on the ideology behind it.
You’ve got a whole quiver of boards with LibTech, is there something in the works with one or two artists for next season’s stuff, like 16/17? Do you start that yet?
Yeah, I’m already done.
Ok, tell me about that then. Maybe tell me about one of the artists that you’ve worked with recently.
I worked with a guy named Adam Friedman, we did a really cool project. I’m a big fan of his work. He has an amazing way of… It’s funny you ask about astral planes because he has a way of looking through, looking at a scene and seeing it in many different – I don’t want to use the word ‘lights’ – but, seeing it through many different moods. So, it was great being able to provide him with some base imagery, quite a bit of which is from this new film project we’re working on, more or less the dreamscapes that keep myself motivated to continue to search out new areas, new terrains, looking for geological oddities that happen to be in the perfect triangle of elevation, location and precipitation. That’s the three. So we did a really cool graphic together and sourced a couple of others from my favourite paintings of his, those graphics are amazing. The fun one for me is, I’m sure I shouldn’t be speaking about this yet but, I have a secret graphic that’s coming out late next year, late release. It’s supposed to be secret.
Is that off the record?
No, it can be walking the line of the record.
It’s a secret, don’t give too much away.
It’s more fun to talk about it that way. We’re only making a handful of them, and they’re hard to get. We have the elections coming up next year in good old America, and if you haven’t seen the incredible humour wrapped around the Republican debates… Anyway, I’ve got a late release that is going to come out around the same month as the Presidential elections next year, I’m not going to give away what the graphics are but I will say that I had the divine pleasure of working with an artist named Eric Yahnker on that.
You mentioned there your latest film project with Brain Farm. You did ‘That’s It, That’s All’, then ‘The Art of Flight’, both with Brain Farm. This is obviously the third one and I heard you’ve been filming for it coming up to four years now, is that right? Can you tell me about the idea behind that movie and some of the new locations that you’ve been seeking out and discovering?
Really we’ve been working on this film since the day that we finished The Art of Flight. We’ve been working on the planning and what the movie is about since then. We’ve been filming the last two winters, we shot a little bit the season before those, but mainly the last two winters. We’re shooting all this winter. It’s still with Brain Farm, our crew has changed a little bit but generally speaking it’s the same. We have two directors now. At the root of it, it’s a snowboard film, I’m a snowboarder. The peers that we’re really making this for are the core groups, our friends. If it doesn’t pass the test of our friends then I feel we’ve failed in making our film. It’s crazy because it’s a film that is trying to push further into the mainstream then even our previous film did, which is a hard thing to do. I feel like with our last movie we really walked a very thin and fine line of a core film versus a mainstream film. It’s a tough line to walk. Basically this next movie is kind of about the path that so many of us walk that has to do with really following the paths of water around the globe. For so many years we’ve kind of charged into the storm and we haven’t really honored the natural cycles of this planet. We have jumbo jets and helicopters and so many tools at our fingertips that we can kind of just up and leave and go wherever we feel that it’s good. This film I wanted to zoom out a little bit, to understand and follow the natural cycles of the planet.
That must have changed the way you filmed and also the way you found and accessed the terrain then?
It changed everything. Inevitably we were forced to be creative because you can’t always use machine to get to where you want to ride. You have to get very creative and sometimes the only way to access an area is to do it by foot and by sheer will power. In the middle of winter with a massive production and a quiver of 4K cameras that are designed to work in a studio and not in the middle of a blizzard, it’s incredibly challenging. This past project has pushed everyone to the brink and I can’t say enough good things about our crew, Brain Farm, and how much effort everyone has put into this project. Those guys work harder than I do, the camera guys carry so much weight and do it day in, day out.
Where were the locations that you were filming those last two winters?
Well, I mean, it’s funny being over here in Europe speaking to a lot of European friends. I really haven’t ridden in Europe for the last few years because our project has really been focussed on more or less skirting the Pacific. That’s really been the focus of the past few years for me. We’re not really talking about specific locations yet, but that’s what I can say. Ok hold on, I’ll add to this; the beauty of this new film is that before we even shot a single day I made a vow to never film anything that we’ve ever filmed before; it’s proving to be incredibly challenging. Even being back home in Jackson, I didn’t want to shoot a single feature or single jump that we’ve ever hit before and that has played true for the rest of the movie, it’s all new locations. It’s totally different from going back to the tried and tested areas or jumps that you know are awesome. So it’s been a lot more work, finding all new jumps. It’s challenging but super rewarding.
I guess the last thing I wanted to ask about, obviously Quiksilver have brought me out here this weekend, so it makes sense to ask. With this project, how have Quiksilver helped you and supported you?
Look, Quiksilver have been incredibly supportive of everything I’ve done. Not all of them, but a few of my projects, have been focussed on snowboarding as a whole and not just my own personal gain. One of the first projects they helped me with was The Natural Selection, which was a contest I did in Jackson Hole ten years ago, they were the only sponsor for that contest, them and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Since then they’ve been major sponsors on That’s It, That’s All and The Art of Flight. This is actually my tenth year with Quiksilver so we have a decade of history together, the freedom for me to have fun with the outerwear that I’ve designed with those guys has been awesome. It’s unfortunate because it’s such a good company with very creative people that work behind it. The past few years have been really challenging for them, basically with the error and judgement of purchasing Rossignol. That really hurt the brand financially but what I’m thrilled about, is about a year ago things kind of turned back around and being here, one of the main reasons that we’re here in Europe right now with the snow team is going over all the new product. For the first time in maybe three or four years I’m really, finally satisfied with where the level of product has gotten back to, along with acknowledging mountain lifestyle. Yeah, it’s one thing to have badass outerwear that protects you from the elements but having gear that works and is functional in cold weather environments is another. This is the first year we have three layer Gore Tex line and with all the splitting, camping and hiking we’ve been doing, I’m stoked. There’s also a full recycled materials outerwear line that’s looking badass.
Speaking to you last night and tonight you seem really excited about what’s happening with Quiksilver. For me, even only being here for a couple of days, it seems like there’s a lot of creativity bursting at the seams, trying to get out.
One of the biggest things for me, and the reason why I switched over and wanted to ride for Quiksilver in the first place was that at the end of the day, if you take a look at their logo, it’s the mountain and the wave. That is down to a tee, what is the north star in my life. I love the ocean, I live on a sailboat during the summer and I love to surf, but the mountains are my home. It’s that four season lifestyle that I wouldn’t trade anything for.
It seems like the surf and snow teams are really starting to bond more.
Yeah it’s been great! They all came out to Jackson Hole last winter. It was epic. We had Koa, pinning it on snowmobiles, Ando firing automatic assault rifles in the backcountry, we got those guys pow in the backcountry, they’d never ridden that before and it’s just fun. We come here and go surfing with Mikey and Koa and those guys, it’s all time. Doing step-offs on jetskis into solid six foot barreling Hossegor beach breaks, two hundred meters down the line from the Quik Pro France contest venue. I was worried a couple of times when I lost my board, because the current is so strong, that I was just going to drift into the contest venue and be in the way, getting dragged out during the heats. But really it’s that. I’ve known these guys for ten years and a lot has changed with the company, but a lot has changed for the better. It’s the mountain and the wave. It’s beautiful that the executives of the brand are actual die hard snowboarders and surfers. At the end of the day, that will be the guiding light. Ok, I’ve got a toast. Because we’re near the ocean. Here’s to tall ships, here’s to fast ships, here’s to small ships, but the best ships are friendships, here’s to you and me. (Laughs)
I’ll do a toast to meeting your heroes, having a sick party under the stars and dreaming of powder slashes in Jackson Hole.
Backing it. Have you ever been?
It’s a gateway drug. Jackson is all time, but it’s a gateway drug. There’s so much to be ridden at Jackson as a resort and when you get it on a pow day it’s unbelievable, the side country is super fun. You go and you ride there for a little bit, and you want a little more. From Jackson just go straight to interior British Columbia. If you can, go cat skiing or hiking, do that for a little bit and you’re going to want more, then you’re going to go to Alaska, and you’ll try to get sunny days, and then you’re going to want more. There’s so many different moods. And Europe fucking rules man, there’s so much good riding in Europe, I’ve only scratched the surface.
Words and Photos: Will Sleigh