Legend Status: Bryan Iguchi
In the early ’90s The Guch was killing it. He was one of the leaders of the freestyle/jib movement coming out of Big Bear. He became the first rider for Volcom and held down a top spot on the Burton team. Then, in ’95 he moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. His sponsors thought he was dropping off the map so they promptly cut him and he disappeared from the public eye. That’s often the misfortune of visionary people: sometimes they’re a little too far ahead of the curve. But what The Guch realized is that he didn’t really know anything about mountains. Even though he was shredding slopes around the world, somehow the terrain he ended up riding always seemed the same. For him, leaving SoCal and embedding himself in Jackson and the surrounding Teton Range was the only way to truly progress. Taking a cue from street skaters who constantly scavenge cities for new spots or surfers who travel to find new waves, he set out to explore new backcountry terrain. And, well, we know how the whole backcountry thing turned out—a generation of pros have built their careers finding spots and filming in the middle of nowhere. Meanwhile, The Guch has been quietly pushing forward, until at age 38 he’s breaking into the spotlight once again.
Top Photo: The Guch in New Zealand by Scott Sullivan
Method in Arlberg, Austria. Photo: Vernon Deck
You’re working towards your guide certification and you’re part of Volcom’s Legends program, mentoring the team. When did you start educating yourself about the backcountry?
When I moved to Jackson I wanted to find the best snow and the best riding. As I got a grip on that, I realized it’s critical to know when and why it’s going to be safe or unsafe. A few years back I was really confident in my mountain sense. Once I began doing the formal education I found it very humbling. I took a couple of steps backwards with my confidence and it’s been a slow process to rebuild that. Being a guide is something I aspire to do, but it’s nothing I want to rush. I’m in a unique position right now. I’m learning as much as I can by taking classes and spending time with professional guides trying to balance my career as a rider.
What avalanche certs do you have?
I have an Avy 2 in the US, a Level 1 CAA [Canadian Avalanche Association] and OEC first aid. It’s enough to work as a tail guide and start getting some practical work experience to move forward. I didn’t start doing the classes for the certifications—I did it because I want to gain a deeper understanding of the mountains.
Shear testing in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Photo: Vernon Deck
What guide training are you doing?
I’ve done the “Guides Training” for the past three years at Baldface and some apprenticeship time in the field with them. I’m trying to work more with professionals, going to guide meetings whenever possible, and trying to absorb their protocols. I’ve been working with the Volcom team here in Jackson as an unofficial guide for years. Coordinating photo shoots and finding new terrain for filming has been a huge part of my practical training. I do my best to get into terrain that the riders can do their thing while keeping them safe. Working with the team and the general public is very different. Choosing appropriate terrain for a diverse level of riders in ever changing conditions can be difficult and requires good decision making. It’s a different mindset finding flowing lines and being efficient with a variety modes of access. At home I work with the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and his past April I was a guest host at Chugach Powder Guides in Alaska. I was there for the clients and to work with the guides, exposing me to a different client base and some great experience. I plan on taking some more classes over the next couple years and continuing the process.
Why did you leave Volcom originally?
I left to start a company called Faction Denim with Tim Pogue. Tim was the team manager in the early 90s. He brought me onto Burton and kick-started my career. He started Ride Snowboards shortly after he put me on Burton and I guess I regretted not going with him. Years later he came back with an opportunity to start Faction. Volcom had grown into a very successful company and I had done everything I could for them as a rider so I left on good terms. I felt like a business venture would be a good transition from my riding career. But Faction fell through the cracks. I continued snowboarding and reunited with Volcom shortly after the company dissolved. They brought me back into the family and the relationship is better than ever.
What was the vision for bringing you back on?
It was based on a Legends program Billy came up with for Jamie Lynn, Terje and I. They were shifting the team around and there was a chance to bring me back on in a different light.
Arlberg, Austria. Photo: Vernon Deck
How did the Backcountry Awareness Tour come about?
Billy Anderson and I were talking about the future—the team, marketing, and just where snowboarding is going. We talked about the videos, the media, and how a lot of it’s being done in the backcountry. We decided to do a shop promo tour, but instead of just doing appearances I thought it would be good to give people a backcountry awareness presentation, basically a free awareness class. I really wanted to offer something to inspire riders to get on the right track to exploring the mountains safely.
It seems like there are a lot more people heading to the backcountry these days.
For sure, it’s been an evolution. The whole sport has as progressed; the ski industry, everything, people are getting out and doing it. It’s important that people have enough resources and take the initiative to do it safely. We had a really good response from the riders on the tour.
There’s often criticism that snowboarding doesn’t support its legends as much as surfing and skateboarding does. Do you think this is starting to change now?
I like to think so and feel like I’m experiencing it. I’m very fortunate that I’ve been able to continue to ride. I’ve stayed true to riding and it’s coming back around. My career is the best it’s been. There were so many times when I thought it was over. I definitely see snowboarding following the same cycle that skating and surfing has. It’s the youngest of the board sports and it’s maturing into a multi-generational lifestyle.
Southern Sierras, California, 1993. Photo: Wooly
Are brands realizing the value and knowledge that guys like you bring?
I think some are. During the tour I connected with guys who have been snowboarding as long as I have and it’s great to hear their stories. They love riding as much as they did when they saw their first snowboard video. They started as park riders, now they’re backcountry riders, going out on splitboards, and their kids are riding. They’re progressing too… It’s cool to see families riding together. Those are the people, whether they’re pros or whatever, who are lifers. Snowboarding is much more than something you do when you’re young and some of the companies are seeing value in that.
You have your son Mylo now who’s two-and-a-half. How does that feel to introduce him to the world of snowboarding?
It’s the best feeling in the world to see his excitement when we go to the mountain. He’s got a little snowboard and he’ll grab it and want to take a run. I’m not forcing him into it but if he’s feeling it, he’ll say: “Dad, I want to go snowboarding with the guys.” The other day he just grabbed his board and strapped in and out of it all day. I’m really looking forward to sharing this lifestyle with him. I can’t imagine being a kid and growing up around this environment. I didn’t find snowboarding until I was 15-years old.
Nose wheelie in Japan. Photo: Ryan Boyes
What does it take to remain relevant and what keeps you motivated?
Passion, paying dues and progression. I still ride all the time. I haven’t lost that passion. I try to ride every day I can and continue to grow as a rider. Every time it starts snowing I’m checking the weather, constantly monitoring it, doing research and planning the next mission, via tram access, sled or splitboard approach and I’m getting better at understanding how to make the most out of my riding. There’s a lifetime of knowledge to be gained as a backcountry rider and I see infinite potential for exploration and progression. I guess that’s what keeps me motivated.
What’s the future for you?
It’s kind of a work in progress. I want to continue working with Volcom on product development, mentoring the team, contributing wherever I can. We do a shoot pretty much every year here in Jackson so I’m constantly searching for new places to ride. The excitement of discovering and riding new stuff is the biggest thrill I get so I want to keep getting out there and doing it. Basically my dream is to continue to grow as a rider and share it with my friends and teammates. I love the snowboarding community and want to stay involved in it. I keep thinking snowboarding is going to change for me. It’s changed so much in the public’s perception, but for me it’s still the same, just going out in the mountains with my friends and enjoying it. I mean it’s changed a little objective-wise. I’m not going out and doing the gnarliest stuff all the time, or trying to find the biggest jump—now it’s splitboarding, spending time with my family at the resort and meeting up with friends for a session… It’s the lifestyle that I truly love. I’m just trying to raise a family in the mountains and keep the dream alive.