Todd Richards Sounds off on Snowboarding’s Roots and Why Coffee Is the Key to Happiness

There’s a phrase out there that goes something like this: “Don’t meet your heroes, they’ll just disappoint you.” Whoever coined it wasn’t a snowboarder and had definitely never met Todd Richards.

The soon-to-be forty-eight-year-old is a bonafide legend. In the sport’s nascence, he was among the group of riders to take elements of skateboarding and bring them to the snow – a trend that radically changed snowboarding’s trajectory. Todd went on to become one of the most influential and competitively successful snowboarders of his day and lays claim as one of the few to have ever beaten Terje Håkonsen in a contest. Recently, he’s built a reputation doing color commentary for NBC covering the Olympics and the Dew Tour, and just days ago received Transworld SNOWboarding Riders’ Poll Legend Award.

Months ago, though, we were sitting face to face talking story on couches at a glamping resort in Ojai, California. In shorts and t-shirts, we discussed where snowboarding has been, and where it’s going. “I want to start from the beginning. How’d you get into it?” I asked. Todd didn’t hold back.

“I initially hated snowboarding, like hated it,” he said. “Back east with blue ice, no edges, no highbacks, it was horrible. Anyone would’ve hated it.”

Damn, I like this guy, I thought.

Todd continued to candidly sound off on snowboarding’s early influences, why progression for its own sake is lame, and why snowboarding’s recent celebratory love affair with the turn is a total fallacy–according to Todd, “It never really left.”

Given his success as an on-air personality, Todd’s comfort in front of the camera was understandable. But what I appreciated about him most was his no bullshit demeanor. So often in interviews, athletes at the pinnacle of their sport pussyfoot around topics, worried about who they might piss off if they say what they really think. Talking with Todd, on the other hand, was a breath of fresh air. With decades of success, he’s got nothing left to prove. Or hide.

So what’s the key to happiness, according to one of snowboarding’s true living legends? “Flip everyone the bird and be who you are.” That, and coffee.

Video shot by Casey Acaster and edited by Brendan Zipfel. Interview conducted by Dylan Heyden

Pro Snowboarder Robin Van Gyn: ‘Women in Big Snowboard Films Shouldn’t Be an Anomaly’

Robin Van Gyn stars alongside Travis Rice, Austen Sweetin, and Bryan Fox in Travis’ new film project Depth Perception. Photo: Andrew Miller

This time last year, our founder Zach Weisberg and I were navigating around USC in the heart of Los Angeles to find parking. Travis Rice’s newest film, The Fourth Phase, was set to premiere at the Shrine Auditorium across the street from the Trojans’ campus – the same place that Bob Dylan played just a few months before. Point being, it was a sizable turnout at least two hours’ drive from the nearest mountain with the fanfare you’d expect at the premiere of a Hollywood blockbuster, not a snowboard film.

The hoopla is a testament to the wildly ambitious film projects that Travis Rice has undertaken over the years. From That’s It, That’s All to The Art of Flight to The Fourth Phase, and the reception they’ve received goes well beyond the world of snowboarding.

For Rice’s most recent project, Depth Perception he knew he wanted to film exclusively in the British Columbia backcountry. And he knew he wanted someone who knew the place like the back of their hand. Enter Robin Van Gyn. The B.C. local has made a name for herself over the years as a serious charger who rides powder with the best of ’em. She also just so happens to be the first female rider to star in a Travis Rice film. We caught up with Robin to get the scoop on the new film, and what it was like to shoot for such a big project in her own backyard:



Depth Perception is all filmed in the B.C. backcountry. What was it like to have Travis Rice and the other Quiksilver team riders in the film in your neck of the woods? Especially with your local knowledge.

Actually, that’s something that’s so special about snowboarding and the film is that, like, really growing up in B.C. you take for granted what you have because you’ve always just known that. You’ve known that the terrain is insane and it’s beautiful, and we live in this amazing nature Disneyland of the world, and really until you start traveling you don’t really realize that you live in the Holy Grail. And it’s been very apparent in the last 10 years for me, after traveling, to kind of realize that B.C. is kind of the world gem of snowboarding.

Totally. I think it’s notable, too, that you’re the first female rider to be featured in one of Travis Rice’s films. What are your thoughts around that?

Um, it’s an honor. Honestly, it is. I think there’s something else, though. Like at first I was like, “Woah, this is so crazy. I’m the first female to do a Travis film,” and I was really, really nervous. And there was a lot of pressure, too that it almost made me sick to my stomach trying to like swallow it before it even happened. But, you know it was really great and the guys were super supportive, especially Travis. He was really good about making me feel a part of the crew as much as everyone else, and that was amazing.

But the other thing that I think about, too, is, you know I’ve been asked a lot of questions like, “How does it feel to be the first woman to do that,” and on a darker note it almost makes me a little sad that it’s such a surprise for everyone that a woman would be involved. I mean if you look at the big picture, it shouldn’t be a surprise. It shouldn’t be an anomaly. It shouldn’t be just one token girl in a film. And I think, like, sometimes that’s kind of the way it goes. And, I’ve always filmed with girls, so I never really noticed it as much.

So, it is great to be included, and it is a step forward which is awesome. And I applaud Travis for taking it on because sometimes it’s not easy.

“We live in this amazing nature Disneyland of the world, and really until you start traveling you don’t really realize that you live in the Holy Grail.” Photo: Andrew Miller

Who are some of the snowboarders that led the way for you and inspired you?

It’s funny because most of those people are my closest friends. So, Leanne Pelosi and Marie France-Roy and Hana Beaman and actually Tara Dakides was a big one. I went filming with Runway Films – Leanne invited me on a trip – and it was basically the turning point for me. If I hadn’t gone on that trip, I don’t even know where I would be today. It was kind of like Leanne just called me up. And I had never really filmed. I had never had, like, a published photo. And Leanne had seen me snowboard like a couple of times, and they both just took me under their wing, and I ended up snowboarding beside Leanne for most of my career. She’s been such an awesome inspiration and she’s really brought me a lot of places, and I have to thank her so much for that.

And yeah, also being on the Roxy team. The girls involved there, I mean, Roxy made me who I am. They let me have the creative input to be who I am. They were basically like, “Well, what do you want to do?” And I was like, “I want to ride powderrrr.” And they were like, “Okay, well you’re just gonna do that. That’s gonna be your focus. And Amber Stackhouse who was my team manager basically just handed over the reins to me and said, “Do what you’re best at.” So I had my brand and Leanne and Hana and all those girls around me supporting it, and it just kind of happened like that. And it kept happening like that.

“I was like, ‘I want to ride powderrrr.’ And Roxy was like, ‘Okay, well you’re just gonna do that.'” Photo: Andrew Miller

So what’s next?

I’ve actually kind of been dreaming up a project with a couple other girls on the Roxy surf team. It’s kind of like an alternate reality piece between surf and snowboarding called Parallels. And who knows what will happen, but that’s my big dream is I kind of want to do something that I have a vision for, but I do want to keep filming with the crew I’m on also.

This post was originally published on The Inertia here.

Champion Skater Dennis Martinez Was an Addict, Now He’s Giving Former Inmates a Second Chance

“I should be in prison with him,” said Martinez about his good friend serving 678 years. But after turning his life around, now he’s in the business of second chances. Photo: Chris Peck

This is the fourth installment of  The Inertia’s INSPIRED Series, presented by Cobian’s Every Step Matters (ESM) initiative. This series looks at compelling moments, people, and places that inspire athletes to do what they do, that in turn inspire us. 

Dennis put down four bills on his desk in different denominations – a hundred, a twenty, a ten, and a one. “Each of these bills costs the same to make,” he said. “I tell my guys, ‘How much is this one worth?”‘ He picked up the one. “‘Not much.’ They usually say. So I respond, ‘You’re right, and this is you, brotha. This is what society says you’re worth. But the only reason these bills are worth anything different is because man places different values on them. Same story for you. You might be crumpled, spit on, torn. But, I don’t see it that way. You’re worth more than society says you are.'”

I was speechless. It was a metaphor I’d never heard before. People (in this case, inmates) adopt the value of themselves that society imposes on them, and to become more requires breaking that cycle of thought, recognizing past transgressions, and moving on – understanding that they’re worth more. Capable of more.

Dennis Martinez is a skateboarding legend. He was the 1977 World Freestyle Champion and remained good friends with skateboard royalty Jay Adams through to his tragic passing.

Somewhere along the way in the late ’70s, though, Dennis developed a drug habit, and the passion for skateboarding that fueled him was temporarily shrouded, if not entirely lost. “I was a drug addict for 20 years, 16 on the needle,” he said.

When the drugs took over, skateboarding took a back seat. Photo: Courtesy of Dennis Marinez

When Dennis talks about that time now, he puts what became his mission once the drugs took hold plainly. “I had to rob to get the money to get the dope to get the needle to get the hotel room to get the girl.”

And his life would have continued as such had it not been for two events that rocked him to his core. The first was when a judge gave Dennis’ good friend, Paul Dornberg, a 678-year sentence. And later, Dennis’ brother was charged with 27 counts of burglary. Both hit close to home.

In the case of Dornberg, Dennis said they used to commit crimes together. “I should be in prison with him,” he said. As for his brother, Dennis says that he was simply modeling Dennis’ behavior and got locked up for it. His brother is out now. “I went from being in front of a judge for my own sentencing to standing next to an ex-district attorney in front of that same judge trying to plea for our client’s leniency,” says Dennis’ brother. “From state prison to state court, from orange jumpsuit to Armani trial suit.”

Photo: Courtesy of Dennis Martinez

It’s those stories, though, and the ones of other inmates across the country in which Dennis sees himself. After deviating from the drug riddled path, and finding God, Dennis and his business partner took it upon themselves to give others a second chance, opening a drug and alcohol treatment center for men transitioning from prison back into society. The Training Center is a faith-based facility that offers the men housing, counseling services, treatment planning, anger management, and life skills workshops. The amount of respect shown to each person that goes through the program is evident down to the way that each person is referred to as a “client.”

Dennis and Jay Adams before Jay’s tragic passing in 2014. Photo: Martinez

“Not only does our program work, it saves the state money,” he said, emphatically. “It’s a no-brainer for them. It costs $62,300 per year to house a man in prison vs. $24,000 per year to rehabilitate a man in our facility.” Dennis pulled out a calculator, punching it hard murmuring to himself, punching numbers. Then he flipped it around. “That’s about $7 million we save the state per year!”

Following our chat in his office, Dennis took me around to meet the current crop of clients. Walking through the halls we passed a handful of folks he pointed out as graduates of the program that were now working at the facility full time.

“Let me introduce you to some of the lifers,” he said (prison lingo for someone given a life sentence). “One guy who just came to us this week after more than thirty years inside has this eternal grin on his face. He’s just so happy to be out.”

At the Training Center, the men are treated with respect, down to the way they’re referred to simply as clients. Photo: Chris Peck

Lifers, Dennis explains, aren’t like other clients. For one, they spent much of their sentence feeling like they’d never get out. They’ve defied the odds. And even then, once released the rules are different for them. If they screw up on the outside, there are no second chances.

We walked inside one of the shared residences – like a small two-story condo, with a living space and a few bedrooms. We chatted with the guys living there. The majority had only been out for a week or two.

“Man, the craziest thing to me was eating with a metal fork and hearing the sound of it clanging against your teeth,” said one of the men. Dennis starts busting up. “We had one guy a few weeks ago walk across the street and just hug a tree!” said Dennis, laughing. “It had been decades since he’d seen a tree.”

The guys remarked they were happy to take things slow in their first weeks of freedom – to just soak it in and take the time to complete small tasks, like getting themselves new IDs.

It’s these small steps, Dennis explains, that matter, and the guidance that The Training Center provides that give these men the opportunity to take steps in the right direction for themselves. As a Cobian ambassador, Dennis takes the message that “Every Step Matters” to heart, and each year Cobian provides sandals for staff and “clients” to help support their mission.

Photo: Chris Peck

When I went to leave, I heard footsteps behind me. One of the clients we’d been talking to rushed to the gate to say goodbye. “I was just in my cell… I mean my room…” he began, but stopped short, then flashed a grin. A reminder to himself that he was on the outside now.

This piece was originally published on The Inertia.