034: David Benedek/The Great Connector

David on the classic Lame kicker. Photo: Nick Hamilton

“People always say ‘You retired at your peak’, but I’m always like ‘No way, I milked the shit out of it’”.

For episode 034 I welcomed one of snowboarding’s most creative and influential characters onto the show – David Benedek, who for a decade bestrode the global snowboarding scene like a veritable colossus.

David, switch backside rodeo 12 at the height of his Imperial Phase. Photo: Frederic Egil

Think of any significant cultural snowboarding development from 1999 to 2008 and chances are Benedek was involved. From the moment he burst onto the scene with a podium at the 1999 Air and Style, his career was one long list of significant milestones, from that classic trio of Robot Film movies, to his ground-breaking double corks.

Transworld cover, September 2002. Photo: Nate Christenson

And then, seemingly at the top of his game. Benedek suddenly made the Cantona-esque decision to retire so he could concentrate on his off-the-snow creative ambitions. Since then he has produced the book project Current State, studied at film school and today makes a living as a renowned and award-winning creative and designer.

Post retirement pow turn. Photo: Hansi Herbig

At the end of January 2018 I headed to Munich to catch up with David and have a brilliantly wide-ranging conversation about his snowboarding past and creative present.

Among the highlights? David on

  • His creative process.
  • Why he retired when he did – ‘I milked the shit out of it’.
  • The bubble of inflated self-confidence that comes with being an athlete.
  • The appeal of the mystifying.

Such a great chat this, with a fascinating, erudite and compelling thinker. Myself and David had a great time catching up and discussing his life and career, and I hope this comes across in the episode. Thanks for coming on the show David, it was great to see you.

Listen to the episode here:

If you only have five minutes…

Listen to this section - David on why snowboarding initially appealed to him

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Show Notes

  • The perils of losing an interview.
  • David’s lost interview with Bob Klein during the Current State years.
  • Last meeting – three years ago.
  • David’s working method – have an idea and work out how to do it.
  • Today’s working lifestyles.
  • ‘The post-agency age.’
  • Creation versus curation.
  • The banality yet necessity of hard work.
  • Struggling with creative pressure.
  • The bubble of inflated self-confidence that comes with being an athlete.
  • The hidden cost of being a professional athlete.
  • Ignoring your limitations versus conforming to artistic expectations, and how it affects the work.
  • Giving yourself permission.
  • Current projects – splitting time between writing and design work.
  • Learning the screenwriting form.
  • The director as auteur.
  • Classic three-act screenwriting structure and tropes.
  • The sprawling Current State project.
  • A multimedia follow up to Current State?
  • How underachieving modern digital multimedia experiences can be.
  • Snowboarding today.
  • “I milked the shit out of it”.
  • Robot Food – Afterbang, Lame and Afterlame.
  • First Air & Style victories.
  • How David’s career unfolded – and how he tried to constantly change it up.
  • First break at the Air & Style.
  • The powerful Yankophile appeal of snowboarding.
  • The appeal of the mystifying.
  • The relative emotional dullness of being an adult.
  • Sharing a room with Jason Ford.
  • When the spell was broken.
  • ‘People who really push trends don’t really necessarily know what those codes mean’.
  • Is disillusionment an inevitable part of growing up?
  • The spark today.
  • Finding flow in everyday life.
  • What inspires David today.
  • Recent snowboarding trip to Kitzbuhel
  • Choosing the big trips.

People Mentioned

places mentioned

  • California
  • Innsbruck
  • Seegrube
  • Munich
  • Hintertux
  • Kitzbuhel
  • Chatter Creek