Legend Status: Mike Basich
After my last post about finding the value of snowboarding’s legends I wanted to get in touch with some of the riders who have reemerged in the spotlight to see why they’ve stuck around and why their experience is important to the future of the sport. By chance I ended up spending two weeks with Mike Basich in Japan this February. It was my first time there and close to his 50th. After 25-years in the game Mikey’s done some shit. Most noticeably he started the outerwear brand, 241, built a secret backcountry zone in Tahoe complete with snowcat and off-the-grid hand-built cabin, made his own documentary, pioneered the action self-portrait, did the most ridiculous heli drop-in to date (eat your heart out Travis Rice), and, at 39, still throws down laid-out backies over 40-foot road gaps. We chatted about where he’s at, what he’s learned, and his role in helping the next generation of pros through his position at Flow.
For the first time it seems like snowboarding is starting to find a place for some of its legends. Why do you think this is happening now?
I think it’s partly to do with timing and the age that snowboarding has reached. A lot of the general snowboarding population is older than before and they seem to have more interest in stories over hype. I think as well, those who became legends have had some time away from snowboarding to realize how much they enjoy it or feel the need to have it back in their life.
Was there always a spot for ex-pros who wanted to work in the industry?
Not a direct spot. No brand has really taken the correct steps to make a place like that for riders. As far as I can remember brands use the cookie cutter formula to pump out new young riders every year. A lot of legendary riders got burned out due to the emotions that go along with all the bullshit when you deal with sponsors. Everyone back in the day truly rode for the love of it, which left a lot walking away when contract decisions met emotions. I’ve lost tens of thousands of dollars because I lost control of my emotions. It’s a hard way to learn the biz.
What does it take to remain relevant for as long you have?
I remember Mark Gallup giving me shit decades ago for not caring what was being printed in the mags. That was the start for me to understand the formula that the industry runs on. It’s always changing but it really does take some understanding of what you need to do to stay in snowboarding and support your life. I’ve gone from being a competitor, which is based on athletic ability to being a rider more based on creativity. If you think of the difference, one is timeless to some degree, as long as you’re willing to go out of your way to capture and share it. In simple terms, it’s sticking with what you have a relation to and figuring out where that can be applied to the industry.
One of the ways you stayed relevant was by shooting photos of yourself. Why did decide to do that?
I’ve always been picky over how someone shoots photos of me. I’ve always given my input to the photographer, which sometimes isn’t welcome, but it did make me wonder if I could play both sides. It isn’t the easiest thing but I went out of my way to try to capture 100 percent of how I see snowboarding and share it. When shooting self-portraits you have to hike everything twice. After 10 years of that I wanted to free up some creative space to see what might come next so I moved way from SLRs and I’m shooting GoPro 100 percent now.
What has running your outerwear company 241 taught you?
Starting 241 was a step I took after not getting paid from some of the companies I used to ride for. I wanted to make something I could count on that was my own so I taught myself the business side from production to sell through. Through what I’ve learned from starting my own company, being a photographer and an athlete, I feel like I have a lot to offer both the team and photographers at Flow. A big part of why I signed up with Flow is to work with people. It’s challenging to me but I’m taking all I’ve learned and I’m putting out my arms to share it.
What’s your role with Flow?
It’s pulling from what I’ve done in the past, helping the team get coverage, bringing my knowledge to the newer and younger athletes on the team, and helping the riders be more of a team instead of a group of individuals. I do a little bit of coaching, like kicking the guys in the ass when they need it. Hopefully instead of them taking years to figure out how things work, I can give them a jumpstart on how to work with media more and think on business level. I help them play both sides. A lot of snowboarders now have agents and don’t even know how to communicate on a business level. Some do, but it’s a big difference from how it used to be, which was person-to-person—not having other people who speak for you. I also help develop product. Flow has definitely been on their own path since they started which is another reason why I signed up with them. They’re really about doing something they believe in.