032: James Stentiford/Thank You Snowboarding

James by Nick Hamilton, Val d’Isere 2005

“I’ve always been confident of who I am and what I stand for, and nobody was going to change my mind.”

It’s second time lucky this week on the Looking Sideways podcast as I finally managed to bag my interview with UK and European snowboard legend James Stentiford.

Booosh. Classic Stentiford Backside Air

‘The Silverback’ has been an unmistakable presence in UK and European snowboarding for over two decades, venerated for his outstanding riding career, his approach to snowboarding and life, and the influence he’s had on countless snowboarders.

No fronting on this AK line. Photo: Milner

I’ve been friends with James for most of that time, and so in January 2017 I headed to Chamonix to spend three days following him around the backcountry during a blizzard, and sat him down to discuss his life and career.

As you’ll discover, James is still the same old single-minded and driven character he’s always been, somebody with a highly-honed sense of self and an almost pathological desire to follow a lifestyle that will allow him the freedom he wants to pursue his lifelong sideways passion and spend time with his family.

Another fruitful Milner/Stentiford Alaskan collab in the bag.

Today, with his professional career is over, James runs Stentiford Snowboarding, guiding snowboarders to their best-ever experiences in destinations around the world, and finding another way to pursue the passion that has defined his life.

Among the highlights:

  • James on the importance of mentors
  • Bold decision-making, and how this habit was helped James achieve the life he wants
  • The difficulty of retiring from a professional career.
  • How nature always wins out over nurture – according to James.

Big thanks to James for having the patience to come on the show for a second time, and for an amazing week around Chamonix on the Stentiford Snowboarding splitboarding course. And special thanks to Claire Burnet at Chamonix Tourism for the help with my trip.

If you only have five minutes…

Listen to this section - James on nature versus nurture

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Show Notes

  • Powder in Chamonix.
  • The best winter since 94/95?
  • The early Chamonix freestyle years.
  • The influence of Justin Allison.
  • Justin’s ground-breaking internationals film parts.
  • Deciding to commit to snowboarding.
  • The influence of Ben White.
  • James’ issue 2 Whitelines interview.
  • A lifelong obsession with sport.
  • Taking the healthy path and an early age.
  • The roots of James single-mindedness.
  • The bravery of taking key decisions.
  • How James’ purpose has changed.
  • “It’s hard to know yourself and make the right decisions”
  • Balancing this life with being a parent.
  • The importance of an understanding partner.
  • The selfishness of the professional athlete.
  • How age brings compromise.
  • ‘The graveyard of ambition’.
  • How mentors help make bold decisions.
  • “Sport was my religion from being a young boy.”
  • Sport running in the family.
  • An ability to translate physical problems into outcomes.
  • Nature vs. nurture.
  • What separates the mavericks from the rest.
  • The skateboarding eureka moment.
  • First time snowboarding.
  • “It felt like we were part of a secret club”.
  • First big decision – dropping out of University.
  • Growing up should be a constant process.
  • James’ only ‘proper’ job.
  • First season in Chamonix – 93/94.
  • 25 winter seasons.
  • ‘Chamified’ at Le Tour.
  • How Chamonix has changed in that time.
  • James’ love/hate relationship with Chamonix.
  • Advice for a trip to Chamonix – and finding snow away from the crowds.
  • Combining a snow trip with a cultural experience.
  • How James handled retiring from professional snowboarding.
  • How Neil McNab pioneered the idea of a guiding company.
  • Turning down a marketing role – another crucial decision.
  • The difficulty of transitioning from a professional career to retirement.
  • Finding happiness in nature and outdoor experiences.
  • I owe the most to skateboarding – the culture, the friends, the attitude, the community”.
  • The action sports cycle.
  • The state of snowboarding now – the middle aged years.
  • Snowboarding’s current creative purple patch.
  • “I think you become the person you are by fucking up a lot”.
  • A grand don’t come for free.
  • The best times are the simplest times.

People Mentioned

Places Mentioned

  • Chamonix
  • Lavanche Bowl.
  • New Zealand
  • Garmisch-Partenkirchen
  • Avoriaz
  • Devon
  • Gloucester
  • Le Tour
  • Les Contamines
  • Iceland
  • Sainte Foy
  • Zinal-Grimentz
  • Zermatt
  • Crans-Montana
  • Lenzerheide
  • Laax
  • Courchevel
  • Gargellen
  • St Anton
  • Lech
  • Kamchatka
  • Japan
  • Svalbard
  • Georgia
  • Pipeline
  • Krasnaya-Poliana
  • Kyrgystan
  • Macedonia
  • Hossegor

Companies/Brands/Organisations Mentioned