Forum’s Aftermath pt. I
In October last year, a totally insignificant snowboard brand family known as “the program“ got shut down and sentenced to death by Burton Snowboards. The reason: Rather wanting “to focus on what it does best: make and support products that set the bar for snowboarding development and further progress the sport and lifestyle.“
Since then, shit got pretty wild on the sponsoring circus, but also on the personal sides of the riders, who helped representing these brands and to which they even might have meant way more than “just another paycheck by the end of the month”. The fore story behind that whole thing is: the program -which includes Forum Snowboards, Special Blend and Foursquare- was purchased back in 2004 from Four Star Distribution by Burton, in order to keep these brands alive and hold them in snowboarders’ hands, avoiding so that they get purchased by skier brands back then. In late 2012 unfortunately “the economy’s voice” has spoken and Burton’s Senior Management announced to exit these brands (plus further restructuring of other brands, including Analog, Gravis, RED, Anon and Channel Islands), to invest more into their own pockets and that’s basically it. We wanted to hit up some of their former riders and get to know what their thoughts are on this, as there barely was a real personal statement as far as we’ve followed the topic from then on, so if you care a bit about that shit, READ ON.
SOM: Mario, you’re doing pretty good considering that you’ve lost some major sponsors last season, thanks to the “industry’s voice” that spoke up and Forum got killed. You’re on Gigi’s Slash Snowboards now and on Colour Wear too. Happy to have a new sponsor, or in split thoughts and crying some tears about it?
Mario: For sure it was not easy in the beginning, as we got a good crew together at Forum and I was stoked to be with such good riders like Pat, Andreas or Jake. I’m happy and proud to be a part of the Forum history.
It is different now with Slash and CLWR. They are smaller brands, but I’ve got to say, I f*** love it. It’s so awesome to work with Gigi and Fredrick and Neil from CLWR. I can say what I like, or what I don’t, what I want to change and stuff. You really work together and trying to push the brand more and more. With Forum it wasn’t that feeling, it was different, but with Slash and CLWR you really feel that you’re a part of it, and that effects the riding too. I’m just so motivated and want to do the best, to represent the brand.
SOM: Was the idea of moving to Slash already there before getting the news about Forum, or how did that happen getting on Slash?
Mario: Gigi always inspired me ..his riding and his lifestyle. So I was pretty stoked when we got in touch and talked about getting me into Slash. He told me that Slash is still a small brand and can’t offer me becoming a millionaire, but at that point I didn’t care about money anymore. I’ve got crazy offers but I just wanted to ride for something, which I can stand 100% behind. And with Slash I can say that. It’s one of the best brands and it’s still real. We can make boards the way we want. The way we love to ride, and I think that’s way more important than the money.
SOM: What about Colour Wear ..is their anything familiar from the Forum days, when you had your outerwear from Special Blend? How does that new “home” feel like?
Mario: Colour Wear is similar to Slash. It’s still small, but everybody is so motivated. I think that is the key why CLWR gets bigger and bigger every year.
When I got on Special Blend, I was still kind of new in the business and couldn’t really say what I want to have, or what I want to change, or give ideas. With CLWR it’s different. We talk about the jackets or pants, what I want to change, about projects or sales. I’m so much involved there and that gives me the motivation. You feel that you’re a part of it.
SOM: Would you say –to come back to the actual topic here- ”Fuck it, that’s life ..that’s how it goes nowadays in snowboarding”, or still sticking to “WTF?!” considering the loss we’ve had now with Forum? I mean, you seemed to have moved on pretty quick, right?
Mario: Hmmm, I mean I totally understand it that Burton had to do that. They put a lot of money into Forum, to keep it alive. At some point they had to give up Forum, before it goes down with Burton, so I’m not mad that they did that. I was just pissed off about the way they did it. I’m sure they already new in summer that something will happen. So they’ve could at least tell the riders and employees to seek for a new job or sponsor… I mean, to find a new sponsor or job at this time of the season is almost impossible. But yeah, I moved on and it’s the past… got to look forward.
SOM: What is it you’ve appreciated most at Forum’s? What is it that you’re going to miss most of all?
Mario: I will miss all the riders and team managers for sure. We had such a good time and I could travel so much thanks to Forum. They really helped me out and taught me a lot. I’ve been with them for 5 years, so for sure there are a lot of good memories!
SOM: Did snowboarding get too serious among the years when looking at the industry and how it works nowadays?
Mario: Of course snowboarding changed and the industry isn’t the same anymore. But a lot of that change is our own fault. The industry changed and snowboarding changed. That’s why I love it to just go out there with my friends and enjoy the good powder. Just going away from all the hassle and having a good time.
SOM: On what board is Señor Cioffi riding right now ..old Forum gear to keep that memory alive or the Gremlin shit?
Niko: I’m riding our new GBP boards that are pressed out of Smoking Snowboards factory in Reno.
SOM: What is the current state of the Gremlinz boards anyways? Back then you could order the “Living the Dream” and now the “Sababa Land” ..are these the only ones and do you do international?
Niko: Nah, that was our first year graphics. This coming year I have my pro model board and we also have 2 other graphics: GBPeace and the Miggs pro model. Yeah, we do international mostly in Japan, we are working on getting them out every where.
SOM: So, what changed for you after getting the news about Forum being down, besides some paychecks less, what went threw your head?
Niko: Definitely lack of money was a lil’ stressful, but no one really knew ..but I saved a bunch of money so I wasn’t trippin’ much. I took it as a sign for me to move on to what I really wanted to do, which was make a snowboard company with my Gremlin family. We always talked about it and they were about to start doing that before Forum was over, so the timing in that sense was perfect.
SOM: Gremlinz are more radical than the average out there -simple question: Pure anger or emotional “Gismo” tears after the Forum news got out?
Niko: Hahha ..I think one of my first moves after I heard about the Forum news, was I went to Cabo for 10 days and had some healthy binge drinking. Not so much tears, but good times I’ve had there, sure.
SOM: What was the latest change on your personal sponsor list?
Niko: Still working on that. There’s been lots of talk but not much has happened yet. Hopefully these next couple weeks before winter something will come up, I’m open for anything ..holla at me!!
SOM: Did snowboarding already trade in its soul to mainstream’s bullshit and their deep-pocket sized brands taking over, paying the price with style and other things, or is there hope?
Niko: Definitely hope. I think street and backcountry riding is crazier then ever and filming the best video part you can, will never die out. People have got to respect that still.
SOM: You still do have the Gremlinz around, but what would you have done if not finding a new sponsor to give you boards?
Niko: I’m not sure. I believe in fate and everything has just been falling into place as it should for me. I had the best season of my life without Forum, so I’m just going with the flow.
SOM: What is there you’ve learned most at Forum back then?
Niko: Forum taught me so much and what I took the most from it, was my attitude about filming in the streets just in the sense of the work ethic and kind of spots I hit, is definitely all from Forum.
SOM: We’ve seen a little edit you’ve made for Forum to keep that memory alive, including sort of best-moments etc.. (check here) You seemed to be pretty fucked up when I watched that thing. What do you think of this whole move and what was your first reaction?
Peter: First of all I could not really believe when my team manager called me, telling me: “Hey, I want you to know this before you read it somewhere on the web”. I thought it was a joke first, but spotting “RIP Forum” all over the web made it clear. At first my reaction was like “why?” and alright, so it might be a new step for me, but nearly one year later I really can tell what is the deal and what happened after this crash or stop. For my side, it changed everything. I’ve lost something that was my life for the last years. Everyone seems to mean how beautiful this life is being a professional snowboarder. For sure it is, but you only see the best part of it and the happiest faces from ether posts on Instagram, Facebook or magazines. I was alone out there then. Contact to your friends from the industry quietly disappears. All your plans in snowboarding blow up and the worst thing that happens, it took your passion and love to this sport.
SOM: Don’t want to put anything in your mouth, but your “potential sponsor list” of possible brands you might could ride for in future just got cut down by one, hu ..or is that how it goes today, say “fuck it” and move on?
Peter: It is not only Burton who have got their problems. There are other brands out there as well who are struggling to stay alive. For Forum back then it was the best choice and best way to get bought by Burton. Otherwise back then Forum would have been dead. Burton kept a brand alive that was snowboarding for decades. Unfortunately they got into trouble and had to get rid of ballast. And so they concentrated on their core brand Burton and went on with it and left the other behind. For sure they could have sold it. But who would have bought it. Plus, Forum products were basically Burton products. Their technologies, their knowledge ..some of them even looked similar.
For us snowboarders it will be harder and harder in the Future for sure. Brands will always exist, but if they’ve got a budget for you is a different question.
SOM: So, what’s your plan when talking sponsoring now ..there were some news about sponsor changes of other former Forum riders since Burton made its announcement, but not anyone concerning you really, right ..what’s the deal?
Peter: I straight would have changed to Burton for sure, but unfortunately never got asked for. Tried a lot over the last season. Contacted so many brands. They all would have been stoked but didn’t had any budget left. It was in the middle of the season, why would they. I am not a Pat Moore who straight got caught by several brands. I am just a small fish in this big pot of riders. But one who worked a lot, doing the best for his sponsors, being fair and looking into the future. This was a hard hit for me, giving away so much energy and power into snowboarding and then what have I gotten back?!
SOM: Is the loss of Forum as your main sponsor, also reason why I couldn’t find your name in Isen’s rider’s list of “A Way We Go”?
Peter: Exactly. Your sponsors are the ones who get you into movie productions etc. They put the money in. That’s the support you get and that’s the support I was missing this year. This business ain’t running without that. You can’t go film or shoot really without it. All you can do is ride for your own, or being a good contest rider and save your life with price money of those. So no sponsors, no future.
SOM: So what are your plans for this up coming season?
Peter: Don’t think there are any up coming seasons really. Over it; ..after a season like this. Plus I had 7 good years doing this sport. Why not stop then. It’s only a shame I had to stop after a year like this fighting for my future in this sport and still being motivated and feeling more fit then ever. But I appreciate all the good times I had and everything, I’ve learned for myself out of this sport.
/// check back soon for more, as we’re going to continue this series with a few other former Forum heads out there!