The Inertia Mountain Contributing Editor
The Blake Paul Interview

With his ease in the air, Blake Paul has come to define style in the sport. Photos: (L)Jack Dawe, (R)Andrew Kooyman

The Inertia

If you were attempting to write a novel about an archetypal backcountry snowboarder, your protagonist’s inception would probably bear a striking resemblance to Blake Paul’s origin story. Born in Vermont, his family moved to Jackson Hole when he was seven. Paul spent his formative years on some of the most technical terrain on Earth. He was mentored by snowboarding legends, Bryan Iguchi among them, and burst onto the scene with notable video parts in Manifest and Snowboarder magazine’s Forward. These days Paul spends his winters seeking out every last stash in the Brighton, Utah sidecountry before heading out across the globe to film for some of snowboarding’s premier projects with the Vans crew. His summers consist of some travel and glacier riding but always a healthy dose of skating and surfing in Southern California’s iconic locales. That fusion of culture and terrain combined with militaristic discipline when preparing his mind, body, and equipment for the relentless beating all three will inevitably take over the course of a long, frigid winter as a pro snowboarder are what makes Blake Paul a reference point for what it means to be a preeminent professional in this day and age. 

“What stands out to me when filming Blake is just how on point he is,” says filmmaker Jake Price (Afterlame, 9191), whose own prolific work ethic is a thing of legend in snowboarding. “He has a very structured daily ritual. Smoothie, eggs, and stretching in the morning. His sled is always ready to go, boots and gloves dry, board waxed, and a crisp North Face jacket that looks like it was just dry cleaned. His shit is always dialed, never forgetting a thing, and always on time. Blake was initially a pretty cocky kid, hard to read, cool guy, but he had frosted tips. He stole Austin (Smith’s) girlfriend, so I thought that was pretty cool…We first went into the backcountry together while I was still at Volcom. (Blake) tagged along under Bryan Iguchi’s wing in the Jackson backcountry. Manifest had come out, and that film went to the top of my list of favorite snowboard movies of all time. Blake was the driving force as the fresh talent, and that really put him on my map… Van’s Landline was really where it was time for Blake’s opportunity to shoot with me and his moment to graduate into the pro ranks with a master’s degree. I feel so lucky to get to spend so much time filming with him now. Blake is just the best.”

It’s a common misconception that to be a professional snowboarder, you have to spend your winters living on the bleeding edge of progression, sacrificing your body to learn the most technical trick de jour. In reality, staying power in snowboarding means doing a few tricks well — and off of nearly any feature.

“There are really just so many impressive moves Blake has pulled in front of my lens,” Price continues. “His bag of tricks isn’t the most progressive, but he has perfected every move. His style is smooth. Maybe it has something to do with not wearing a beanie because if he crashes, it’s the sure punishment of an ice cream headache that I’m sure he dreads.” Known for leaving his hat at home, Paul’s on-hill fashion is a throwback of sorts, some combination of post-day-glow/dad-core, which would be hard to pull off if it wasn’t backed up by his effortless style.

While the nature versus nurture discussion often comes up when exploring the origins of a rider’s style, there is little room for debate, according to Price: “You’re born with style. You can perfect it by emulation. You can buy it, maybe. But to have your own unique style is the pinnacle of snowboarding.” Price, whose filmography involves projects with style masters from Gigi Rüf to Arthur Longo believes that “the masters don’t have to think about style. Their life oozes natural grace and flow. Blake operates smoothly and consistently, just like his snowboarding.” 

Paul is now set to embark on his third year as a competitor on the Natural Selection Tour. As the brainchild of Travis Rice and the most exclusive event in snowboarding, Natural Selection purports to provide the decisive answer as to who is the best on a board. Yet, the platform has struggled to account for the je ne sais quoi of riders like Paul. It’s possible that the laid-back ease of his riding, which has become the signature quality of his iconic video parts, actually works against him in a competitive context. No matter. The fact that he has been in the mix three years running is an incredible achievement in and of itself. Regardless of the number that the judges place next to his name, what is undeniably true is that when Blake Paul drops in, snowboarding will look dope AF.

How’s your winter going?

It’s been going really well. We’ve gotten super lucky with a lot of snow at Brighton. I’ve basically been in Utah since the beginning of December. We’ve been going up almost every day. There were four or five crazy cycles of snow that just pulled through and a lot of friends in town, so it’s been a blast.

The Blake Paul Interview

Mmmmm….Utah. Photo: Jack Dawe

Based on what I’ve seen you posting, Utah’s winter is off to its best start in a long time. 

Yeah, a lot of people are comparing it to old record years like 2010 or something. There was a good base early on, so many of the classic hits have been going off earlier than normal. But yeah, probably the most snow and consistent storms that I’ve seen at Brighton. 

Are you filming for a project right now or just stacking phone clips?

We’ve been doing a little bit of both. Definitely a lot of laughing and having fun getting back to snowboarding and getting some phone clips. The last two weeks or so we’ve been filming more and hiking out. We’re working on a project for Vans and another project with Brown Cinema. We started the Brown project last year. It’s a tight-knit crew of riders and filmers making it happen with everyone’s sponsors’ support. 

Is Brown Cinema the project Jake Price and Jared Elston are also working on?

Yeah, exactly. Jared is filming for it, and Jake Price worked on it last year. Brock Nielsen is heading it up. I’m hyped to be involved for sure. Just being able to ride with people you don’t usually ride with. Everybody is close friends, and it just seemed like a good idea to film together, we want to make sure that it’s fun and we’re not stuck on trips or in places that we don’t want to be. So that is kind of the vibe. Brown has released movies in the past with riders I look up to, so it’s cool to be a part of it now. 

Have you been filming at the resort or in the backcountry?

Honestly, because it’s been so good this year, we’ve been just ripping a little bit of 16mm (film) at the resort. Just hitting certain features that are fresh. We’ve hiked out a few times and built some other stuff as well. I have like one day splitboarding, and I probably have 30 days riding Brighton, which is pretty hilarious. I don’t know if I’ve ever stayed so consistent with riding one spot, but there’s been no real reason to leave.

Are you gearing up for Natural Selection?

Yeah, we had a meeting the other day, and they randomly selected who our duels opponent is going to be. It’s me against Brock Crouch. It seems like a super mellow way to start it off this year. We’re collaborating on where we want to do it. I’m supposed to pick the venue. I had an eye on Jackson, Brighton, and this lodge called Great Northern outside of Revelstoke, British Columbia. Great Northern is stoked to host us and have us do it there if it works out. We just have to find a piece of terrain where we want to compete and hope the conditions and everything line up.

The format is loose, which is nice. But they want us to have at least one natural feature and one built feature. Two or more features in every run, the more the better, but it’s hard to find multiple features in a row. I think they want at least four runs from each of us. We’ll film it all from the drone and other cameras, submit the raw footage to the judges, and that’s how the first event is going down.

I didn’t realize you could pick any venue you wanted.

Yeah, there are a couple of different elements to Natural Selection this year. I think people are slightly bummed that the Jackson course isn’t the first venue anymore. The Natural Selection and JHMR park crew put a lot of work into building it out, and I feel like that was the most popular and praised event on the tour, so in a way, it does suck that we’re losing that Jackson event. But looking at the bright side, you’ll see a bunch of different snowboarders in a variety of different locations, and it may have more room for riders to express themselves how they want.

It’s not like X Games Real Snow, and it’s not like your traditional backcountry contest with a live feed or a limited amount of runs. It’s almost like this is an in-between hybrid style. It will have a similar vibe as filming, taking away from the whole competition side of things a little, which I appreciate. 

So you live between Jackson, Salt Lake, and California, right?

Yeah, I mean Jackson, not so much anymore. I live in Salt Lake in the winter and in California in the summer. My parents lived in Jackson until 2017. They are retired now and moved down to Arizona. They still snowboard in their seventies, though, which is pretty awesome. Before they moved, I would go back to Jackson and live there for the winter, but I would always be down in Salt Lake, too, because many of my friends live there. Then eventually, I just transitioned to getting a place in Salt Lake.

I started surfing, skateboarding, and snowboarding at the same time, and I still enjoy them equally. It’s nice to have a good balance of passions and work versus play. Spending time in all three places helps feed those passions, and each zone feels like home in its own way.

So you’ve kind of grown up all over as well?

Yeah, I mean, I didn’t really recognize how unique that was when I was growing up. I didn’t appreciate it as much or have as much gratitude for being able to bounce around a lot as I do now. With our friends, you’re either in Portland, Salt Lake, or Southern California. There’s like a triangle of places where my community of friends hangs out, and it’s just nice to not be stuck somewhere. I mean, I definitely like to spend time at home, but once I’m in one place for a month, I start feeling stagnant. It’s a nice opportunity. I feel fortunate to be able to travel around like that.

Do you consume a lot of surf, skate, and snowboard media? Do you have a sense of what’s going on in those worlds?

Yeah, 100 percent. I mean, there’s more skating content overall, so maybe that’s why I watch it more, but I definitely watch a lot of skating, and I keep up with what’s going on in surfing. I’m a fan of both, I always have been, and I feel like you can get pretty similar feelings — especially with surfing — to snowboarding in powder. It’s all a little bit different, but it’s all connected.

The Blake Paul Interview

Skate, surf, snow: turns like these show off Paul’s unique, and diverse, skill set. Photo: Alex Pashley

In your approach to snowboarding, do you ever try to emulate skating or surfing when you’re on the mountain? 

I feel like all three have these subliminal, subconscious similarities that you tap into sometimes without really trying to tap into them. I think I try to do all three how I would want them to look, but it’s more about what feels right and natural. The emulation of one to the other happens with certain tricks. Like I’ll notice that I’ll be snowboarding and pop a back one on the cat track, and it will feel like popping a flat ground back one on my skateboard. Surfing on a bigger wave feels like you’re snowboarding. But I don’t think I’m ever trying to emulate a certain way of doing it. It just happens subconsciously. 

I was watching your Yesterday part earlier, and the trick that stood out the most to me was the frontside 180 nose grab off the drop. It’s hard to make a front one look good, and you found a way to make it look fun with a lot of style.

Thanks, I appreciate that. That’s a random one. I think I just started doing it because I have long arms and a big nose on my board. On the front one, the nose just pops up right there. I remember doing them, and I didn’t know if they looked cool at first, then we filmed that one, and it felt decent. Maybe it was just the way that cliff worked. Sometimes you think of a certain combo of a grab with a 180, and it doesn’t really look that cool, but it just depends on the feature, the shot, and how it all works out.

How do you think of new tricks? Do you have a list written down or do you have a mental checklist that you’re working through? 

I have an idea of tricks that I don’t often do, for sure. With riding powder and natural terrain, it’s easy to repeat the same ten tricks. You’re just more limited. Certain tricks work for certain features, or sometimes the feature isn’t the best. Maybe you can’t hit it switch, and you end up doing similar tricks a lot. I think as a result of that, I’ve gravitated towards enjoying a simpler side of snowboarding. These days I like watching a more intelligible, creative side of snowboarding. A lot of the styles in the older videos stick out. I like watching people that look good just standing on their board. 

I know I have other tricks I should do or film, so I just try to piece them together when I can. With Brighton being so good right now, we’ve been filming a lot of stuff that will end up on Instagram, and that’s when I try to learn new tricks. I haven’t ever really done a proper switch backside rodeo so that one is on my list, but I’m not going to try it for the first time on a bigger jump that I’m filming for a project. So I’ve got to mess around with it, film it on the phone, see what it looks like – like “is it getting good enough to film?” – so I’m confident doing it big enough later.

I feel like the sport has progressed a lot, and we’re kind of at this point where it’s like, “what else is a snowboarder gonna do?” There’s so much incredible variety in snowboarding that you can kind of pick and choose the people you think best represent what you’re into and appreciate. I’m not really worried about progressing tricks, in a sense. And that’s not to say that I don’t want to do my personal best, or try hard to push myself to do things that I feel are tough for me, or put out better footage every year, but I feel that it’s more about spots now, how the trick looks and feels on film. Also, making sure I’m not forcing it and still having fun. 

I didn’t ever start snowboarding to win a contest or anything. So as I’ve gotten older, I’m just trying to return to that mentality of, “hey, just do what feels good” because at the end of the day, with any snowboarder I want to watch, I want to see them do what they want to do, I don’t want to watch them do what other people want them to do.

That makes sense when watching your riding, which really is style personified. How does that mentality square with competing in Natural Selection and the current competitive avenue you’re heading down?

I don’t think I have a crazy competitive bone in my body. I definitely have the drive to do well. But I just don’t enjoy the pressure or nerves that come with it all. I do appreciate the rewarding feeling and opportunity to ride and hang with so many amazing people in snowboarding. Looking back at Jackson and Baldface over the past few years, there are some special memories for sure. But I guess it’s just a balance mentally, trying to flip the switch and have fun while competing. I’d rather enjoy it than be like, “oh, I should have really battened down the hatches and put on my competitive hat to secure the win.” I definitely like to push myself snowboarding, but I don’t feel the need to perform for the crowd all the time, I guess. (Laughs.)

You’ve made your first couple of trips to Alaska in the past two years. How was it finally getting to ride in AK?

I first went up there in 2021. I went to Haines, and we had a sick crew. It was all dialed. Everybody was saying, “the next five days are gonna be insane,” weather-wise. When we woke up on the first morning, we thought we were going to ride right away, and then it suddenly got super warm. You could see a bunch of roller balls in the mountains. They had this crazy historic weather event where a warm wind and high temps came way farther north than they thought, and it just shut the place down. So we waited for a couple of days, but it was not worth going out, so we never went. We flew up to Alaska, didn’t even strap on a snowboard, and then flew out. We went out for a little scenic heli ride just to check out the mountains because we paid our minimum of $500 to do it, but that was it. 

This year, I thought I was maybe going to go to Alaska through Natural Selection, and then I got last place and didn’t make it. I was like, “fuck, I’m getting skunked on going to Alaska twice, haha.” Then, in April, I got a call from Alex Pashley over at Smartwool. He had just put me on the team, which was rad because Alex was also the first team manager ever to get me a paycheck back when he was with Dragon, like 13 years ago. Austin Smith told me that Pash was hyped to get me there because I’d never been and had some bad luck with my chances. It was me, Austin, Pash, Mary Rand, Spencer O’Brien, Blair Habenicht, Curtis Ciszek, Liam Gallagher, Conner Winton, and Colin Wiseman. 

We went up in the heli right away on the first day, the snow was really good, but we eased into it. The whole goal was to have fun and ride mellow stuff. There were pretty sketchy avy conditions with a lot of weird wind-loading and activity the previous week. We got into a fun zone and shot a few things. It was some of the most fun and longest runs I’ve ever had. Then the next day, we went out, and the wind started to gradually pick up, so we rode a couple of things and built a jump. The wind quickly got worse. We took a lap, and the whole in-run of the jump had been fully drifted over, and the heli couldn’t even land. The pilot was over it. He said it was the sketchiest landing he’s ever done. The helicopter was moving and shaking all over the place the entire time. The noise was intense. They pulled us out for the day. We thought the snow would get good again, so we stayed another two days, but that was it — it never got better, and we only got one-and-a-half days out there on that trip.

That’s how Alaska goes. You have to be committed, have a lot of money, and be ready to get super scared. The respect I have for all the old Absinthe movies, the J. Rob and Manuel Diaz footage, Jeremey Jones, and the early shots of everybody in the old TB movies is huge. It’s weird up there. Some stuff can be mellow and look super gnarly, and some stuff can be super gnarly and look really mellow. It’s hard to even explain, it’s like the ultimate place to snowboard, but it’s also so dangerous and hard to get it good. 

The Blake Paul Interview

Instagram or otherwise, that shit is beautiful. Photo: Alex Pashley

You’ve become known for your Instagram edits in addition to your riding. What is your relationship like with social media? Do you block out the noise, or are you super connected and informed, paying attention to everything that’s going on?

I’ve gone through phases of putting a limit on it or not looking at it, but these days, I’m just trying to be more mindful about how I spend my time. I have a love-hate relationship with it. I think a lot of people do. I love to stay updated, look at everybody’s clips, and watch everything that’s going on, but I also find myself like, “why am I spending my time here? I don’t care.” 

Many people like to talk shit about social media and how it’s rotting our brains and all that, but you can control your relationship with your phone. Maybe some people get pissed when someone posts something, but it’s like, “you’re looking at it, and you don’t have to.” I think we need to make it more of a positive thing. Social media has brought a lot of people together. It’s a really great creative outlet. It can launch brands and careers. On the other side, there are a lot of weird aspects of it, people seeking validation, this sense of a fake reality, and I can’t imagine what it’s like for someone growing up with it in school. It does have its good and bad sides. You just have to balance your time and be mindful of it. 

You’re going to be 30 in March. What advice can you give the younger generations just coming up? 

Try not to care what others think. Do what you want to do, as long as it’s positive, of course. Express yourself how you want to express yourself, do what you want to do in the moment, and don’t fear the future. They say that if you think about the future, you live with anxiety; if you dwell in the past, you live with depression. But if you focus on the present, you’re at peace. It’s important to live in the now and enjoy your time here. Make an effort to do the things that make you happy and pay attention to your mental health. 

I think a lot of people take life, work, getting money, and gaining stature so seriously that they can burn themselves out, maybe their approach isn’t authentic to themselves. There are a lot of crazy outlets to make passions into jobs. I definitely feel lucky and fortunate to be able to do that, but I don’t think it’s as far-fetched as the world might make it seem. I get a lot of inspiration and motivation from people that have made their passion into their work and look at life with the right attitude. There’s a ton of opportunity and fun to be had out there, don’t take it all too seriously though. 


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