The other day Beckna said to me he’s not really sure if many people care about what he has to say… well, to start this off properly, I really hope many people do care about what Mr. Thomas Eberharter has to say. For me, Beckna is one of those guys that are definitely needed in the snowboard industry. He’s an Austrian shred legend, he was a long year pro snowboarder, and, most important, he truly loves snowboarding. Nowadays he’s the Snow TM of Vans, the brand that sponsored him as a pro since pretty much forever, and keeps an eye on all the nippers, dudes and dudettes at the Vans program. He’s still living snowboarding, rides almost every day during the winter, and if you’re up on the Hintertux glacier, you can see him from time to time kicking some jock asses with a proper Method on the kicker line. He’s the man, and if we had more people like him working in our industry, I’d dare to say that the future of snowboarding is in safe hands.
Hey Beckna! Let’s start this with the usual deets: who are you, how old are you, where do you live, what’s your star sign?
Well, my name is Thomas Eberharter, better known as Beckna in the snowboard world. I am 36 years old, I was born and raised in Mayrhofen in Austria and I am still living there with my family. And I am a pisces as zodiac sign.
Do you have kids?
Yes, I am a proud dad of two beatuiful young ladies by the name of Johanna, 4 years old, and Charlotte close to one year old.
Awesome. How was summer?
The summer was pretty good actually. Up to now we had no big surf trips or other holidays, but plenty of climbing, hiking, golfing and some skating at home with my friends and family, so it was good times mostly even though there has been a lot of rain in the valley just like it was all across in Europe this summer, from what I hear.
What about photography? I heard you’re quite a decent photog.
Well, I was working with professional photographers for over 15 years and I always had a interest in photography – plus being around amazing riders most of the time it was just natural that I started shooting a bit myself. It‘s a great hobby and there is still so much to learn for me. It was and still is ridiculous witnessing first hand the transition from analog to digital, from slides to digital raw images and back again mixing both for some etc. But yeah, I’m definitely into taking pics more and more lately…
Speaking of being around with amazing riders, you’re the Vans Europe Snow TM, right?
Yeah, I‘ve been riding for Vans since 1998 and about 6 years ago I thought it would be good to get to know the other side of the business. So I‘ve showed some interest and was lucky to get the European Snow Team Manager at Vans. I feel blessed having the oportunity to do what I love and still get to ride like every day during the winter pretty much. Every here and then you can still kick some ass of the young cats, haha.
How many days do you get to ride in a year?
Ha! Should I really tell you?
Well, I am still living snowboarding, although with my family and the Vans Job plus helping out more and more at home with my families hotel and restaurant business the priorities have shifted understandably – but during the winter I still ride almost every day. Sometimes it´s just an hour or two during lunch break, but in total it feels like even more then during my active days as a pro as there is less time waiting for the filmer or the photog to be ready, haha!
I want your job.
I just feel blessed still being able to ride and progress. I mean just because there is no paycheck for riding coming in anymore does certainly not mean that you give up riding. Hell no! Actually I appreciate the time on my board much more these days – you do it for yourself again just like when you started and that‘s giving you the best feeling and natural high you can ask for. Snowboarding is awesome. I mean look at how much fun Nico Müller is having on his board for instance…
Totally agree with you. Nowadays I feel you can see which riders do it for the paycheck, and then you can see the ones doing it because they just love snowboarding.
Yes, perhaps you are right. With the Olympics and all that pushing the sport in a certain direction some people easily forget why they started to ride in the first place. I grew up at a different time and looked up to guys like Terje, Craig Kelly, Tommy Brunner, Terry Kidwell, etc. who all had a different mindset than someone going for Gold in Sotchi now as far as I’m concerned. But then again I don’t really care that much about it. As long as I’m healthy and able to ride, still out there in the mountains that does not bother me too much.
Who is your crew these days?
My crew is and will always be the Ästhetiker posse when it comes to board-riding. Plus there are a lot of friends back home like Eli, Gigi, Roman, etc. who I like to ride with and go and explore our home mountains with our Splitboards. Basically I like to ride with everybody who has the passion, and has a smile on his face after a big slash.
I think it’s really important that we have guys like you working in the industry; guys who love snowboarding that much. What do you think about the current state of snowboarding?
Well, we live in a hectic time. The golden financial era seems to be gone in snowboarding and it will be a tough year for most of the brands on the market that produce hardgoods mainly. It seems like there are too many equal products for too less people out there if you ask me. So naturally the big fish will swallow the smaller ones and eventually we’ll see a lot of brands disappear within a year or two from now. On the other hand we had the best winter since a decade or longer last year in Europe, where most people rode more powder then in the previous 5 years combined and I saw smiling faces everywhere pretty much all winter long.
And then again we are in the middle of the biggest economical crisis of our lives where markets and rating agencys dictate if the Euro remains or we all pay in Schillings and Deutsche Mark again. Perhaps the capitalistic system is soon to collaps? Who knows…
If someone is really interested in the current state of snowboarding he should read David Benedek’s book of the same title I’d say. He definitely thought longer and deeper about the current state of snowboarding than me. [Note from myself: If you can get your hands on a example of Current State: Snowboarding you should lock yourself one day and read it from soup to nuts. I'm one of the lucky guys who’s got a copy and I probably haven’t spent 89 Euros better.]
Did you ever get tired of snowboarding?
Not really, actually. But I have to admit that I get tired of the industry and the media at times. I still don’t get why riders above 30 are not “marketable” anymore. I mean look at Steve Gruber – the guy literally “smokes” 95% of the younger pros these days and still lives snowboarding every day all year long and gives full throttle. I guess the majority of people who know him would agree with me on this. Still he barely finds a sponsor where in my opinion they should be lined up in front of his doorstep because you will not be able to find someone more authentic then him in our sport.
Yeah, you’re probably right. I love watching him shred. But what about the kids, who’s on the come up that you’re excited about?
There are so many amazing young riders out there at the moment that it’s hard to pick someone out. Personally I like seeing riders who have the whole repertoire and mix up their riding. But snowboarding is so specialized in each discipline these days that only few riders can do that. I like to watch Stale Sandbech for instance – he just seems to have fun riding every time I see him. Either being it a big pipe, a jump, some rails or some nipple deep pow like we had in Davos last year.
OK. Here’s another deep one: what’s more important for you, having a degree or having experienced life as a pro snowboarder and TM?
Huh, let’s put it like this – I am happy and thankful for the live I get to live and for what snowboarding has given to me. A degree would be good for sure if you’re after a certain career. Nobody can ever take away the experience of travelling the globe for almost two decades though, and if you are not a complete dumbass you will take stuff with you from those travels and make something out of it.
What is the best thing about not being a full-time rider?
Well, I guess it’s that you get to ride for yourself mainly again. As a pro you get pretty mixed up with the same routine every year that one tend’s to forget that you need those days out there with your friends just fucking around. But when you travel between North America and Europe every second week, doing contest after contest or when you have a filmer pointing the cam at you the whole winter it’s not easy to find the time for just riding. This gets extra hard I have to admit when you are not living in the mountains and have a great resort right outside the doorstep.
What also makes me wonder is the fact that a lot of riders spend more time behind the computer these days – tuning their blogs or buying their Facebook friends instead of being out there riding or looking for new spots.
Last question: let’s say it’s Saturday morning and it dumped all night. What’s your favorite pow spot in the Zillertal?
Nice try… I’ll just say that there is perhaps much more snow up on the Arlberg then. Zillertal is situated way to south for this last storm and did not even get a third of the snowpack compared to the Stubai, the Paznaun or the Montafon. Actually I heard it’s really, really good in Montafon…
Alright. Let’s go to Montafon, I guess we’re done here anyway. Do you want to say thank you to anyone?
I would like to thank you guys reading this little interview. You are the ones that drive snowboarding – the core. Don’t let anybody take away your fun in snowboarding. Think of how blessed we are actually. It almost feels like riding a magic carpet down the mountains.
So now switch off your iMac, MacBook, iPad, iPhone or whatever computer and give yourself a bit of a digital diet and get out into nature. Word.
Big ups as well to Alex Papis and Christian ‘Eli’ Eberl for providing us with these sweet shots above!