Interview by Josh Bishop
Constantly redefining his style and what is possible on skis, Jacob Wester is truly an individual. While raw talent and phenomenal air awareness propel him to the vanguard of professional skiing, Jacob’s off-snow lifestyle is unlike any of his peers. From spending months surfing in foreign countries, to experimenting with musical instruments, to his exploration with a tattoo gun, Jacob’s off-snow interests are just as diverse as his bag of tricks. To top it all off, he helped design the Alpha 1 with Armada, his English vocabulary is superior to many Americans, and he may shatter a world record this season. While his competition resume and media exposure are extensive, very few people know the real Jacob Wester. In an attempt to voice his opinions on tall tees, skiing professionally, and his off-snow hobbies, Jacob took time out of his hectic travel schedule to converse with NS.
How old are you, where are you from, and for whom do you ski?
I am 21 years old, born November 17th 1987. I am from Stockholm, Sweden, and I ride for Armada Skis, Oakley outerwear and goggles, Dalbello boots, and Sweet Protection.
How is your season so far, are you stoked?
Yeah, I would say I am. Considering the circumstances, I have a pretty high level of stoke right now. I had a lot of fun early season and did well at a bunch of city comps, like the one in Zurich, and in San Francisco, it was really fun. I had a good start, but during the first Dew Tour, we had some really bad weather, I messed up on my run, and tweaked an ankle really bad, so I am still recovering from that.
photo: John Vandervalk
That sucks. How is recovery going? Are you spending a lot of time in the gym?
Yes, I went home right after the Dew Tour, and my ankle felt really bad and I didn’t think I was going to be skiing for a while. But with going to the gym almost every day and not skiing at all, it healed up really fast. After about two and a half weeks, it felt pretty much 100% so I went back out to Colorado to ski. I skipped the next dew tour [at Mt. Snow, Vermont] because I didn’t want to rush it. Went back out, went skiing in Colorado and realized the first day that my ankle was no where near recovered at all, so that was a bummer. So this past week, I’ve just been hanging out, trying to go to the gym a lot, and skiing very limited, just doing 360s and straight airs to get my ankle strong again.
photo: John Vandervalk
What are you goals for the season?
I really want to follow up my video part with Matchstick to produce another dope segment. I was really stoked on the one we put together last year. I only went on one real trip with them and filmed a bunch of park stuff, and it turned out to be good. Those guys are really good about milking what they have. I only hit like three park jumps, but they’re using so many different angles and heli shots, so it all turned out really well. I’m super stoked on that. So I’m going to try to put together a really good segment this year, try to go on at least one trip, and do a bunch of park shoots this spring. Other than that, maybe do well at one of the Dew Tour events.
Would you care to comment on any rumor that you’re going to attempt to break the world record for the largest air on a hip?
Well, there might be something going on with Matchstick later this season, if not breaking the world record, then there might be a big hip built and I definitely want to go as big as possible. I know it’s possible to go bigger than I’ve gone before. If it turns out well, I want to have someone there to make it official and everything, but it’s not going to turn into a one man show with a lot of dramatic music.
Sick man. What is your favorite YouTube video?
I would say that currently, the Look Around You series is definitely my favorite. Just look it up on YouTube, search “Look Around You.” It’s parodies of 1980’s educational videos. It’s absolutely hilarious. LOOK AROUND YOU. Chimpanzee riding on a Segway is really good too, that freaks me out every time.
YouTube is classic après-ski entertainment. What tricks were you most stoked on this year?
This year, as in 2009, I’m pretty stoked on a corked 3 I did the other day in Breckenridge. But to be serious, last year, I did the JOSS and had tons of fun on the big JOI jump that he built. It was one of the best jumps that I’ve ever hit and I managed to do a couple dub corked 12s on it and one of them made it Reasons, which I just saw the other day, I was really happy with the shot.
What happened at JOSS? Why wasn’t your video judged?
So this filmer that worked with me failed to present the video within the deadline, so it never got judged. That’s about it, the submission was disqualified, they played it for the audience, but it was never judged, which is a bummer because I was super stoked on how it turned out.
photo: Jeff Schmuck
Other than your video not being judged, how was the contest?
Yeah, for me, it was really well executed. The only thing that it was lacking, I’m sure everyone knows this already, was a crowd friendly venue. It was just 10 days of skiing on random features. It was really cool and the features were crazy, but your average, 45-year-old dad and his kids won’t stand around for five hours watching it. They need something more of a traditional competition. I know Jon is doing that this year, he’s doing both a traditional competition for the audience and a film competition for everyone else.
photo: Felix Rioux
That’s sick. So, Alpha 1 this year, new ski from Armada, rumor has it that you had a tremendous amount of influence in the design.
Yeah, not to brag or anything, but I’m pretty sure that ski was made after some comments I made about the AR6. Where I thought the AR6 was a little too wide for me personally. They’re great skis, but I wanted something a little skinner with lower swing weight for me to work on the double flips and that kind of progression of the sport. Armada was really listening to me, and this summer I got the first prototypes of the Alpha 1 and they are exactly what I was looking for. I don’t know, I was hesitant about them at first, I thought the concept of a rockered park ski wasn’t really going to work, but I took all those thoughts back after skiing one day on the Alpha. They are definitely my weapon of choice for pretty much anything except really fast groomers, but who skis that right? The concept really works and everything feels a lot easier on them.
Do you think more companies are going to follow suit in years to come and produce similar products?
Yeah, for sure, I think that’s going to be something that we will see. I know Armada has a patent on the elf shoe tech, but I am sure other companies will copy it as much as they can legally. Which is just good for Armada because it shows people that we are setting the standard for the sport, like we’ve done for several years now.
photo: Sofia Sjöberg
How long have you been with Armada?
This is my fourth year on the Armada team and my first year on the pro team so I am really stoked on that.
Was there any initial break-through moment that Armada contacted you or did you send them a video and hope for the best?
I’ve actually never sent a single promo in my life. I’ve always been like, “if I’m good enough, the sponsors will come to me.” It just feels like I’m bragging putting out a promo tape. I know it works for some people, especially nowadays when there are so many good skiers, so it helps the sponsors out. But I’ve never done that, they just came to me after the US Open Big Air when I placed 4th in 2005. A few weeks later, Chris O’Connell at Armada called me up and wanted to sponsor me. It was a huge thing for me obviously, I was super stoked on it, that was like my chance to come to the states a lot more and I got a chance to film with Poor Boyz a little bit that year too. So it was a huge thing.
Other than the US Open Big Air in ‘05, the first time I heard the name Jacob Wester was seeing shots from the hip in June Mountain, CA.
Yeah, that was that same spring where we built that monster hip. It was actually built for a Mack Dawg shoot, but they were kind enough to let the gay skiers hit it. And that was actually one of the coolest things, because we hit that all day. Me, Andreas Håtveit, Anthony Boronowski, and TJ Schiller hit it all day. We started going pretty big, and after a while, we realized we were going bigger than anyone has ever gone on a hip. After the shoot, the Mack Dawg riders came up to us and told us that we just showed up a bunch of pro snowboarders, and that felt kind of cool.
After seeing you on the hip at June, you didn’t really have a full segment or podium in the major US competitions. What happened the following season?
The season of 2006, I didn’t really do much except for a bunch of Euro comps where I actually did pretty well. I won a comp in Switzerland where I won a car and placed second at another event where Andreas Håtveit took first. That’s one thing you notice about Euro comps, no matter how big they are in Europe, word never really spreads and no one this side of the ocean really hears about them. Personally, that was one of my best competition seasons, just for doing small comps. I didn’t really do well in other comps in the states. Also, I did film with Poor Boyz that year, but they didn’t put me in the movie, so I guess they didn’t have enough footage. I did get a segment in the extras, so anyone with a copy can watch it.
photo: John Vandervalk
What about the following season? Where was the transition from hitting big hips and getting segments in the extras of Poor Boyz movies to stomping some of the most progressive tricks in the world?
First of all, I placed 5th in X-Games Slopestyle in 2007, which I still consider one of my biggest accomplishments so far in the sport. That was obviously a huge thing. Being 5th at the X-Games, you’re top 5, so you’re automatically in for next year, that’s always good and it really felt that I was up there with the pros, and wasn’t just a hang around kid anymore. But after X-Games, I did the US Open too, and placed 2nd in the big air, so I had quite the streak for a couple weeks. After that, me and Jon teamed up because we saw Mike Wilson doing his Wilson Flip, the double underflip, and we were so sick of seeing switch 1080s at every comp. We knew it was going to take something new and something different to really stand out from the bunch, so we had all these ideas about learning double flips. That fall, before the X-Games and everything, we did them on water ramps, just double back flips to get used to going upside-down twice. And we built a jump up in Åre, Sweden in February, just a really poppy true table, and did our first double back flips. That’s how it all started. Jon had his Kangaroo flip and I had an idea about doing something similar to the Wilson Flip but with an extra rotation, which soon turned into the double cork 12. We were going to showcase that in the JOI in Åre, but I managed to get 10th in the qualifiers, so I never got into the comp. Jon did his Kangaroo, so that took off. But I landed the Wilson Flip and the double cork 12 during practice, so that was good enough for me. I didn’t really care about placing in the comp I was just so pumped about landing three new doubles in two days of practice on the jump, so that was really cool. So 2007 I would say was my international breakout season for sure.
photo: Jeff Schmuck
Tell me a funny story about Henrik Harlaut.
Oh man, Henrik, little Henrik. The thing is, I don’t have any stories about him, he’s just that kid, all the time. He just never stops amazing you with the things that come out of his mouth. Do I have any funny stories about him? Well, actually, YEAH. This is about how obsessed Henrik gets with ski movies. This one time in Norway, we were shooting still photos with Mattias Fredriksson up in Folgefonna. I had my guitar with me; I travel with a guitar a lot. I was sitting in my room, just jamming out, trying to learn new songs and stuff and I started playing this little tune that I recognized, and it turned out to be the little intro to Tanner Hall’s segment in Teddy Bear Crisis. It was really easy, so I figured out how to play it, and started playing it a bunch, and then I hear Henrik in the other room, reciting the entire Tanner Hall monolog in the beginning of the segment. I hear him saying, “I was going to go hit Chad’s Gap and Pyramid Gap, then do the X-Games, the World Super Pipe Championships, and then I hit the wall…It’s like taking the medicine away from a dying person” or whatever he says. I heard Henrik recite that entire monolog, perfect, spot on, word for word. Just for himself too, I don’t even know why he was doing it. Afterwards, I called him out for it and thought it was hilarious and wanted him to do it again so we could get it on tape, but he was too embarrassed to do it because he didn’t know anyone could hear him.
photo: Sofia Sjöberg
That is pure gold. Talk about traveling in the summer, what do you do when you’re not skiing?
A couple years ago, I picked up surfing and it was actually Jon that taught me how to surf. Before that moment, I never really had any other hobbies aside from skiing. I started surfing and it just took over my life. Last year I spent at least 75 days surfing. It’s just what I do when I’m not skiing. That’s all I do when I’m not skiing. I go on trips and then I come home and I’m restless for two days, then I go on a surfing vacation. Skiing is a means to surfing. Other than that, I am traveling all December, January, February, March, April, May and then I usually take June/ July off to go surfing. Last summer I went to Indonesia, to Bali, to surf and got two months of really good waves down there. In August and September I spend those months in Snowpark, New Zealand to get back on skis and get ready for the city comps. I go home, and that time of the year there is actually some surfing in Stockholm. Whenever there are strong winds, the Baltic Sea gets some small ripples, and we surf on it, it’s never really big, but when it is it can get messy. I stay home a lot in the fall, go down to Zurich and do that city comp down there, Freestyle.ch, and do all the other city comps, this year I went to San Francisco, then to London the week after that, then I went surfing again, and went back home and did the Stockholm comp. After that, it starts over again and that is a typical year.
photo: Oliver Maccabez
Other than surfing and going to the gym, do you have other activities to prepare for skiing?
Yeah, I am one of those guys that go to the gym for a month every single day and just get in such good shape. Then I get sick or something, and I can’t go to the gym for a few days and I’m back on the couch again. I get really lazy, and don’t work out at all. Early season, I get really motivated and just spend a few days a week in the gym. I try to focus on legs and core, but that gets boring, so I do all of it and do an upper body workout as well. I bench 180.
One of your other hobbies seems to be drawing and tattoos, how did you get into that?
So I used to be drawing all the time when I was a kid, but I’ve never really been good at drawing, don’t ask me to show you any cool drawings. But, I picked up drawing again this fall, and I happened to tell my girlfriend one day out of the blue that I would like to get into tattooing because it looked really cool. And what do ya know, one day, right before my birthday she’s like, “I got an early birthday present for you” and she bought an entire tattoo studio kit, everything you need, which is awesome. It’s the best present I’ve ever received. So right now, I have it set up in my apartment and I’ve been practicing a lot on fruits, fake skin, and my leg. I found out that it is really hard and it does take a lot of time to get into it. But I’m pretty serious about it, I could really see myself doing it after my career is over.
photo: Sofia Sjöberg
Do you like pretzels?
I love pretzels! The one’s with salt on them you mean?
Yeah salt and mustard or cinnamon sugar, what’s your favorite?
Definitely cinnamon sugar.
Well, you’ve seen me pretzel rails, I can do it, but it’s not something I like doing a lot because, I don’t know, rails scare me. I know I’m going to piss off a lot of people here by saying this, but whenever I’m in a slopestyle comp it feels like the jumps are really good but there is always three dumb metal things in my way to screw it up for me.
Speaking of pissing people off, what are your thoughts on Tall-Ts?
Oh man, yeah, that thing kind of took a spin huh? So I was at the Armada house for the Armada team meeting in Orange County, California in May and they had this questionnaire for all the team riders to fill in for our profiles like they do every year. One of the questions happened to be, “What is the worst trend in skiing right now?” and actually, I did not call out tall-ts, I said, “Tall-Ts over your jacket” and in this drunk state, I had been surfing all morning and I had like 10 beers, I rarely drink, so as I’m filling in my profile I happen to call out Jon Brogan’s style of ride away and said, “The worst thing in skiing right now is tall-ts over your jacket, and the Brogan ride-away. Because, I was trying to come up with a descriptive word for it, just saying ride-away doesn’t really say much. I’m talking about the one where you lean back like you can’t ski and almost fall over, when you landed with perfect control and changing that position the moment after. It seemed really strange to me. I was just annoyed at the moment because I just saw an edit of it. And yeah, the hate storm began, you know.
People got freaked out...
People did get freaked out, which is understandable. Just to make everything clear, I didn’t call out Brogan specifically, I’m sure Jon Brogan is an awesome kid, I’ve never met him, but I’ve seen him ski and he’s really good at skiing. But, the style where kids land in control and then look like a banana immediately afterwards throws me off. I mean, that is one thing that annoys me with the whole after bang thing. It seems like people are focusing too much on what they look like after hitting a jump it gets dangerous because they’re looking up hill and crash into people. I’ve seen it on several occasions where someone lands switch, maybe not in the best control but are still trying to look dope so they look up-hill and run into people. That’s just dangerous.
photo: Jeff Schmuck
Will the world really end in 2012?
Only according to Pat Goodnough.
Jean is shorter than Brutis, but taller than Imhotep. Imhotep is taller than Jean, but shorter than Lord Scotland. Lord Scotland is twice the height of Jean and Brutis combined, but only 1/10th the height of Millsy. Millsy is at a constant height of [x – y]. If Jean stands exactly one nautical mile away from Lord Scotland, how tall is Imhotep?
Imhotep is invisible.
What’s the largest number you can think of?
45 000 000 000 001.
What’s your favorite straight air maneuver?
I like doing straight air liu-kangs. The one’s where you don’t kick, you just grab your liu-kang right off the take-off and hold your leg like that the entire time all the way to the landing. So you land with one leg, then let go.
That’s a glorious answer.
Hell yeah, I was thinking about doing one in X-games Big Air, but I went for Kangaroo instead.
photo: John Vandervalk
Who are some up and comers in the sport that you are looking at as the next level in skiing?
I got to send some huge props out to Henrik Harlaut, just because, I know that it’s almost like he’s up there right now because he placed 3rd and 5th at Dew Tour, and 1st at Aspen Open, but every time I watch that kid it just blows my mind how good he is. I would say right now, he is top 5 in the world for allover park skiers. It’s just ridiculous to watch, he’s so young too, and it’s scary for sure. I would say he is the future. Just wait one or two years and he will win everything. The main part of it is he’s just so unaware of his talent. I keep hearing him say, “man I wish I was as good as this kid…” and I’m like, you’re already way better than half the field at a comp. It’s pretty cool.
Prior to signing with Dalbello, you skied with the same pair of bright red boots for the past five years. How did you compete at your level with such a worn, over-flexed boot?
I have never been anyone who gave a fuck about my equipment. As long as my skis have twin tips on them, I don’t really give a shit. As long as I don’t think about it, it doesn’t affect my skiing. I got those boots from my old Scott rep in February of 04’ and just kept using them because I liked how the felt. They were comfortable, they fit my feet really well, and I didn’t want to waste two weeks every season breaking in a new pair of boots. And, I didn’t have a sponsor that could give me a pair of boots. I didn’t realize how bad they were until I tried on a pair of fresh boots, but I don’t think it set me back at all, I just buckled my old boots as tight as they would go. They were pretty smelly when I got rid of them this spring. Oh and, my new Dalbellos are the best thing that happened to me so far for sure. They’re awesome, and they’re Rasta colors. Lord have mercy.
What was your most disappointing day on skis?
I’d say, the week before X-Games in Keystone, because I thought I was going to ski and rip it all week, then I put my boot on and it was like, “nope, that’s not going to work.” I still went to the hill and did straight airs, but I was hurting all day.
Has skiing increased your knowledge of other cultures and different perspectives on the world?
No, I can’t say it has. I haven’t really gotten the chance to go to any cool places like India, Russia or South America. I mean, I already know that they eat a lot of fast food in the US, and that French people won't speak any other languages than their own. I went to Japan once but I don't remember much of it. I love their culture though.
Given that English is your second language, how did you develop such an extensive vocabulary?
I guess taking it in school for about 10 years helps, but I would assume that I learned most of my English from TV. We don't voice-over movies here like they do in Germany, France, and the rest of Europe, we actually understand that the actors actual voices is a huge part of a movie experience. I mean, what's wrong with subtitles?
Explain the structure of the Swedish school system. How were you able to stop attending school at a certain age to pursue skiing?
I was not. My high school teachers didn’t get what I was doing, even if I showed them a cover shot that I got, or a movie part, they would just tell me that there was no way of having a career in a "sport" like that. So I just stopped showing up.
photo: Felix Rioux
What are your thoughts on IKEA?
Well, since I just got myself an apartment, IKEA has been the place to go lately. You just get tons of furniture for a few hundred bucks, mount everything together, and WHAM; your place looks like you hired some high-end interior decorator. It all just goes so well together. Wow, I'm getting old.
How do you feel about the status quo of ski movies in relation to snowboarding, skateboarding, and surfing films? Is there room for improvement or are ski filmmakers on par with other sports?
I don't know man. I mean, I hate ski movies. I can't stand them. It's just like you have seen it all already, and every year there's 10 exact replicas of the movies that came out the year before. Now that everyone and their moms are dropping edits online, I can't help but think that the ski movie DVD concept is dying.
What is your favorite ski movie of all time? Have there been any movies that you watched on a daily basis to get stoked for skiing?
I thought Session 1242 was the last innovative ski movie. After that it kind of went downhill. I used to watch the old Free Radicals I, II, and III on VHS all the time though, I don't think any movie will ever get me that pumped.
Who is the most influential person on your life?
I would have to say my parents are.
Who is the most influential skier on your career?
Tanner. Who doesn’t want to do what he does?
Name one trick that you absolutely struggle doing.
Anything switch unnatural. Up to 720s are OK, but they feel so awkward. That’s definitely my Achilles heel.
photo: John Vandervalk
What are your thoughts about skiing outerwear companies? Some companies seem to be pushing the envelope while others are drowning in a sea of mediocrity.
Meh. There's a lot of really haggard stuff out there, for sure. But I don't really have an opinion on what needs to be done. Keep it simple, I guess, I think a lot of us are sick of crazy patterns that look cool from up close but resembles vomit from a distance.
Other than Henrik Harlaut, who else is the future of skiing?
Phil Casabon. I'm amazed by his style, seriously, that kid blows me away right now.
Are you the undisputed scrabble champion of Swedish internet gaming?
(laughs) Yeah I guess I play a lot of it. Like 10 rounds a day probably, it's like crack. I haven't tried crack but I heard it’s addictive.
What is your favorite movie that makes you think?
Primer, by Shane Carruth. It's about time travel, without the cool neon lights. Watch it 5 times. If you think you "get it,” I think you’re lying.
What is your favorite movie that makes you laugh?
Probably Dumb and Dumber, if I may be so cliché.
When and where did you learn to surf?
In Brazil back in 2006. Jon actually taught me, or at least tried to. Hooked forever since.
Speaking of surfing, you are sponsored by a Surfboard company in Sweden. How did you get on that program?
Yeah, they’re this small Swedish surf company called Nord. I actually called them up and asked them if they would like to give me a board or two if I repped their stickers on my skis. That's actually the only time I've ever asked someone to sponsor me. I was going to buy a new board anyways, so I thought, "eh, why not give it a shot".
photo: Sofia Sjöberg
If you were forced to choose one destination to spend the rest of your life, where would it be?
That would get so boring. I would have to go with California. There's both epic surf and skiing. I would get so sick of LA though.
It is a well-known fact that Henrik Harlaut loves Taco Bell more than any other food available in the United States. Do you share his affinity for the Mexican inspired cuisine or do you prefer something else while in the states?
Mexican food isn’t bad, but I refuse to eat from any of the fast food chains, for several reasons that aren’t necessary to mention here. I try to eat healthy though. I cook a lot of food myself, lots of chicken, tofu, salmon. I eat like 3 cans of tuna a day too. I have an insane metabolism so I have to eat constantly to keep my weight.
Is nutrition a big part of skiing? Do you do anything specifically with your diet?
Not really, I try to eat a lot of protein, lots of carbs, and no junk food. It's worked so far.
If Jon can organize the best competition in the world with the largest and safest features, why do other events embrace small features, and more dangerous jump designs, all the meanwhile providing inferior amenities to athletes?
It seems like many events focus a little too much on what's good from a TV viewers’ perspective, and not from the riders. A competition course that looks like a video game with a lot of cool and innovative features stacked close to each other might seem cool from your couch at home, but it's very limiting for us athletes. As long as it's all controlled by ratings and money, it won't change, which is very discouraging.
Describe one time that you have been the most stoked on skiing. Whether it is a contest, photo shoot, or learning 3s as a kid.
That has to be, for sure the JOI in 2007. Even if I didn’t do well in the comp, we had four or five days of practicing on the biggest, best park jump I’ve ever hit. We had 45-degree weather, no wind, and sunset sessions everyday. The landing was perfect, not too hard, not too soft, but kind of slushy. Either that. Or the one the year after at the JOSS 2008 because it was the same set-up but the jump was even bigger. I think I did six or seven different double flip variations in three days. Actually, the first day when only about 10 people had arrived, there were only 8 or 10 of us sessioning the jump all afternoon with no wind, just trying tricks, I think half of the field did double flips that day. There is no way to describe that. I’ve never been that stoked on skiing for sure. When you’re hitting an 80ft table that shoots you 25ft over the deck, and even landing on your back won’t hurt, you know you’re having a lot of fun.
Any words of wisdom for the faithful readers of NS?
You know what, just don’t take me too seriously. I do like skiing even if it doesn’t look it all the time and I am really truly blessed to be in the situation where I ski the sickest destinations all over the world, all year round for a living. I’m just having a lot of fun. Go out there and give ‘er. See you in the park.
photo: Jeff Schmuck
Jacob is currently in Sweden recovering from his ankle injury at the Dew Tour. For more updates with photos, words of wisdom, and insight into the life of a professional athlete, check out jacobwester.com