Jan 30, 2013
Antonin Chamberland: One-man Wrecking Crew
Interview by Dean Seguin
If you’ve paid any attention to Quebec snowboarders over the last decade, you’ve undoubtedly been exposed to the unbridled talent that transcends the French Canadian border and permeates throughout the rest of the scene. Year after year, crops of rookies follow in the footsteps of their descendants, trailblazers like the 418 crew and Sugar Shack gang. It’s a tall order but someone’s got to uphold the integrity and honour of such a distinct and respected snowboarding pedigree.
Amongst the current rank-and-file crop to emerge from Quebec’s trenches, Antonin Chamberland has what it takes to be the archetype of the next generation. Little talk and much action, his unusual mix of physical prowess and mental creativity has led him to redefine what it means to be a master of metal. Anto is a beast when he straps in, unleashing something primal, fierce, and really quite the opposite of his kind and reflective demeanor. One of the most rail savvy riders on the scene, he’s also got the work ethic of a farm horse and is willing to be a team player or a one-man wrecking crew.
It didn’t take long for Anto’s certain je ne sais quoi to strike a chord with DC and land him a power-move deal a few years back. Since then he’s been proving he’s got the chops through wildly successful web spots—his This Is Snowboarding video for DC has racked up views well into the six figures—that showcase his appetite for all-out street assaults. After all, when your peers are as savage as Torstein Horgmo or as legendary as Devun Walsh, you have to prove you’re worthy time and time again to stay in the game.
Having spent last season putting it all on the line to impress the masses with bangers for the upcoming DC video, Anto’s taste for touring led him from Utah to Whistler and all the way up to Alaska—just to hit rails. But he’s following the trend of a number of his Quebec counterparts who are choosing to post up at home rather than make the fabled move west for backcountry booters. That means one thing is all but certain: his part will be full of the kind of kinks, gaps and creative jibs to make you want to run wild in the streets.
You just got back from vacation and you’re working the off-season as a firefighter—how’s that?
It’s a full-time job working for the city of Montreal. It’s pretty hard to get in; there are a lot of people who try. I don’t know how, but I made it. I was on the fire crew in St. Sauveur for three years, so I saw pretty much everything. It’s a great summer job—a lot of adrenalin and it keeps me in shape.
Sounds intense. Have you ever had to rescue anyone?
No, just cats and dogs.
Did you ever pose for one of those hunky calendars?
Let’s talk snowboarding. How was last season for you overall?
I’ll sum it up in five words: great, productive, painful, priceless and difficult. It was great because I made many friends, visited beautiful places and I’m still able to walk. It was productive because I have enough shots for a full part, learned how to sled, learned new tricks and won a contest. It was priceless because I had the chance to film in Alaska with Nic Sauvé, build jumps with Devun [Walsh] and Iikka [Backstrom], and shoot rails with Torstein [Horgmo] and [Aaron] Bittner. I got to go on a park shoot with Ryan [Tiene] and Lauri [Heiskari], and film with the legendary moviemaker Anthony Vitale. And, I still found time to work with the Demers brothers [Brothers Factory], which is always a great time. What I mean is that working with all these friends and idols was a priceless experience and a dream come true.
You also said the season was difficult... how so?
First, Montreal had its worst season ever, so I started filming a month late, and even then, the whole of January was shit. We managed to film, but how do you expect to send bangers with a few inches on the ground? Then, in the middle of the month I hurt my back and knee seriously, and I’m still working to fix my back.
How did you bang it up?
Backcountry plus first timer plus bad jumper equals tumble plus rag-dolls plus tomahawk [laughs].
Do you ever get spooked?
Yes, every time I hurt myself seriously, for the whole time I’m on the ground in pain, I want to just quit everything. When I find the energy to get back on my feet, the hurt that I’m feeling is gone and I want to get back at it. Especially when I had many good tries but made a few mistakes and ate shit real bad, but still think I can do it right — in that case, I’m unstoppable. I bailed hard this year and wanted to quit, and didn’t try again because it was that serious. But I will go back to it next year and keep on.
OK, let’s sing a cheery tune. Tell me about your favourite day last season?
It was my first day sledding, and the crew was Devun, Iikka, Ryan, Nick [Olsen, DC’s U.S. team manager], Anthony Vitalie [DC filmer and director] and SBC photographer Jussi Grznar. And no, I did not sleep the night before. I’d never ridden a sled before that morning... no clue what I was doing or where I was going. It was funny, but I made it up there. The alpine is an amazing place.
What about days that just aren’t coming together, how do you deal?
It fucks my day when I know I can do something and I don’t get it, or if I don’t get one shot per day on a trip. Usually, I’m good at finding solutions and making things work. But sometimes there’s nothing I can do and I just go to sleep. The next day is always better.
I’ve heard you’re able to cram everything but the kitchen sink into a Mazda Protegé. What’s your secret?
It’s pretty funny, but I’m the guy who has all the gear. Usually someone has a generator, someone has a set of lights, someone has extension cords. But I pretty much have everything, and I can go shoot by myself if I really want to. I can just roll up somewhere at night with no speed and I have the winch ready to go. Funny thing is I don’t have a truck or a trailer, I’ve just figured out a way to do it with my car.
Sounds like quite the system you have in place.
No one can figure it out either. People can help bring stuff to the car but they can’t figure out how to pack it all in and put it together. I even have an aluminum drop-in ramp that breaks apart into five pieces, and I just strap that to my roof rack and go.
One-man wrecking crew—you’re self-sufficient.
Well, when you start filming seriously, you don’t want to get fucked because you don’t have a generator or you don’t have a bungee or a winch. You’ve got to make things happen. If you get somewhere and want to hit up a rail so bad, you’ve got to have things on hand right then or you’ll be mad. People don’t want to spend money, but in the end it’s totally worth it. During the Empire Trick List, I was just by myself mostly, with a filmer, and I was fine because I had everything. That also gives me the ability to work with any crew. When DC came out here, they didn’t have to carry anything or buy anything, it’s already figured out.
How did it go when you invited the DC team to visit your hometown of Sherbrooke?
I feel like I did some smart things and made good decisions in the past year to get myself where I am. When I found out DC was making a movie, I told the guys on the team, “Look, if you guys are serious about making the movie, you should really come out this way.” But instead of waiting for them to call me, I went out in the fall and took photos of spots and sent them to Bittner and Torstein and Lauri and team managers. They were like, “He’s right, that’s where we’ve got to go.” Having all the gear, they didn’t have to worry about a thing. When there was snow, these guys just flew in. Bittner came three times over the winter.
What spots did you hit?
Mostly Sherbrooke and Montreal. I didn’t want to go to Quebec because that’s where all the crews go now. I wanted to go to Sherbrooke because that’s where I grew up and nobody knows that town, and it’s probably better than Quebec City. Nic [Sauvé] and Louif [Paradis] went there this winter and they agreed: Sherbrooke is gnarly—there are so many hills and so many rails.
So after reading this interview, all of the crews next year are going to be lurking in Sherbrooke.
Probably, that’s why I’m trying to scope more in Montreal and find new stuff around [laughs].
You filmed a bunch for the DC video. Was there a lot of camaraderie in that?
The DC guys are my new friends. You always want to go back home and ride with your original guys, but this crew is tight, and we’re all close so it went very well. Riding for DC is awesome because it feels like you’re appreciated, there’s room for you and you’re welcome. We all wanted to make that movie happen, we all wanted a good part and all worked for it together. We didn’t have much budget, but did have a lot of faith.
People are saying your part in the DC video could be a big step forward for your snowboard career.
It’s kind of early to say that I will have a full part, even if they told me so. You never know what can happen in the end. But it was a great opportunity, and I worked hard to get there. I gave 100 per cent, and I hope we redo it next year with more snow.
Do you think your part turned out the way you envisioned?
Yes and no. I had a lot of stuff I wanted to do in Quebec and just never had enough snow. There were rails I really wanted to hit, but it never worked. Usually, March is a good month to film in Eastern Canada, everything is softer and it’s easier to send it. You’re also ready and warmed-up because it’s the end of the season. It’s very personal, but I feel like I don’t have enough bangers. I had a good video part last year and I set my personal bar high this year. Still, in the end, I have a good full part that I’m proud of. Hopefully people will like it.
Do you approach snowboarding with a plan?
Not really; you just never know what’s going to happen. Maybe I’m going to get injured, maybe budgets will be cut and I’ll be dropped. I can only plan for the moment and take it day by day. For now, I’m working to put my video part together, and we’ll wait to see what happens next. In the snowboard industry, things move so quickly. You want to stick to something and believe in something, but sometimes shit falls apart.
You chased snow all winter, and then coming back to Quebec you got skunked. But you went up to Alaska—how was that?
I did the SnowMission contest in Quebec, and the next day I flew to Alaska with Nic Sauvé for 10 days. Nic got hurt doing Real Snow and he needed more shots, and the only places with snow still were Anchorage and Japan. He knew my work ethic and asked me to head up there with him and Will Demers from Brothers Factory. It was a rad trip, and after that I went straight to Whistler for a month.
Incredible. So you were just filming in the streets of AK?
Yeah, just rails [laughs].
Must’ve been a tease....
Yeah, that’s what everyone thinks, ‘Oh, you went to Alaska, got some heli time. Must have been awesome.’ No, I stuck to the city and hit some rails. It sounds crazy, but I don’t want to make the mistake a lot of rail riders have and think I’m going to become super good riding jumps. Even if it’s so fun to ride powder, I mean, I’m good at rails and that’s what brought me to the industry. Even if I wanted to make the move completely to jumps, I have to keep doing something my sponsors want. If I quit hitting rails, my sponsors will quit me. I have to keep it up with decent video parts. Then, if I slowly become better at jumps, it would be great to balance half and half. All this to say I needed more shots and Anchorage was a really good chance for me to make it happen. They had the snow and the rails, and it ended up being very productive. It’s so beautiful, even in the city with the mountains and the glaciers—it was sick.
Last season, you split $20,000 with Jason Dubois in the Empire Trick List contest—64 tricks in less than a month. Do you think people really started to take notice of you after that?
It’s hard to tell, but I thought the Trick List didn’t have the exposure they expected. But it did show people that I have a bag of tricks. I think two things could have helped people notice me: closing the Brothers Factory video, Next Level, and the This Is Snowboarding online video DC made.
Absolutely. Plus, your name was blowing up the interweb after winning the Nike Chosen One event in Breckenridge.
A few guys from Quebec were going down there for pre-season warm up, so I went there for the first time to ride a little before I started filming. Last-minute, Will Lavigne got us in the contest. It was pretty much my type of setup: a tough but mellow downrail. It was crazy because of the lineup of riders. I knew I did well but didn’t think the unknown French Canadian would win and take all. Anyway, I could then fix my car and drive back home.
How does it feel to be more recognized?
If people like what you do, it feels awesome. Even if you just cook dinner for someone and the person appreciates it, it’s a good feeling. So when someone comes up and tells you, “Hey, dude, I love your style and the tricks you do,” that feels amazing. I mean, you snowboard for fun and then someone comes up and tells you how much they like it—how could you not appreciate that?
So are you a good cook then?
No, I’m really not good in the kitchen. Not because I don’t want to be.... If I follow a recipe, I’ll make it happen for sure. But I just don’t like to spend time cooking when I have so many other things I want to do with my life.