THE TARQUIN ROBBINS INTERVIEW BY TRENT BUSH

Tarquin Robbins is a legendary name that comes up in any conversation regarding early '90s snowboard history. Notoriously reclusive to the public eye, countless pros from, MFM to Scotty Whitlake to JP Walker, name Tarquin as a major inspiration, with style being as important a component as technical ability. As Cody Dresser put it in Kingpins Greatest Hits, He was the blueprint He was Mark Frank before Mark Frank came around. Tarquin was a major influence in where snowboarding was headed, and to this day his innovative approach to snowboarding dictate what we ride and the clothes we ride in. He was new school before the term was invented, and he helped define what it means to be a snowboarder to this day. - Trent Bush

Pro snowboarding is an unlikely career path for a kid from South African kid that lived in Florida. How did that happen?
Its kinda weird but I knew before I had even started riding that I was going to have a career in snowboarding. I know it sounds strange and considering I was still in high school in Florida of all places with no access to snow but the catalyst that attracted me came from Thrasher Magazine. I was really into skating at the time so seeing articles and adverts on snowboarding in Thrasher got me into looking further. I remember going in to a ski and golf shop in Florida and checking out some Burton snowboards, I wanted to ride them so bad, I remember getting a catalog and being all stoked. I would go out late at night on my skateboard and pretend I was carving turns as I bombed around the deserted streets in my neighborhood. In May 1988 the cover of Thrasher had Rob Roskopp on it shredding Tahoe and an article called Cold Sleep, that was it, I was hooked and wanted to do it Now I just had to figure out how.

Things were very different back then. Pretty much anyone that snowboarded also spent a lot of time on a skateboard. The attitude was pretty different, and even Thrasher, which is die-hard skate, had snowboarding on the cover. That was right before the whole neon thing really took hold. How did you end up in Boulder?
My cousin Paul and I took a trip to Boulder in the fall of 88, because CU Boulder looked interesting and we knew there were mountains near by. On the way back to Florida we went up to Loveland Ski area and rented Black Snow snowboards. It had been dumping and we had no clothes for it and it was fucking freezing, I was in Doc Martin boots and jeans, Paul was wearing Nike Air Jordans. It was so crazy, four hours later we were making turns and shredding pow! That was it, we were snowboarding and I wanted more! Moving out to Colorado was the plan, we literally got back in my truck frozen wet and drove the 36 hours back to Florida non-stop. A few weeks later we moved to Boulder and started snowboarding, I guess the rest is history [laughs]

I was still in high school at the time, working at the original Wave Rave store in Boulder. I remember clearly when you and Paul came in to get geared up, because you were the first guys I had ever met in person with South African accents. My brother Troy and I lapped you guys at Eldora and sprayed you every lap. Within a few weeks you guys were better than us, and you did the most stylish melancholy/method/body shift thing I had ever seen of the lift line cat track. It couldnt have been more skate-like. My mind was blown. Howd you get so good so fast?
I remember going into Wave Rave and seeing you and Troy, and after that my cuz and I used to go in there and pester you guys all the time Yeah I remember you guys spraying us, so I suppose in away you could say thats what gave me motivation to get better, I guess I now owe you one! I also think because I really disliked what I saw in snowboarding at the time and hated the Day-Glo shit and I really wanted snowboarding more punk rock like skateboarding that it pushed me to ride hard. I used to get the first issues of Transworld Snowboarding and rip the pages out of riders I didn't like, I guess I just wanted to skate on snow and thats what pushed me to rider harder, that and I just absolutely loved to ride.

Yeah we both felt the same way. Even though I was working at Wave Rave, and selling skateboards, the whole snowboard side had gone totally neon. That was our motivation to start Twist, and to hook you up with the kind of gear we wanted to ride, so I guess were even! You guys stayed with us in Boulder for a few years, but then you made the break to Summit County. Things were so different back then, and each city had its own snowboard scene, tied pretty tightly around the skate scene
Yeah for the first few years I lived in Boulder and went to school. We rode Eldora pretty much every other day, skipping class whenever we could get away with it. I started doing the Rocky Mountain Snowboard series, (not sure why cause I fucking hate contests) I was placing well and won a few events and big air contests so things started to happen. I got picked up by Wave Rave for clothing and then I got some help with boards. I cant remember when I moved to Summit County but I know the first year I rented a couch for $250 a month in Breckenridge. The next season I moved to Frisco and rode Copper, that was the start to the whole new school jib movement and for me when I knew this was what I was going do. Things just took off from there.

I remember skipping high school and riding with you and Quinn Sandvold a lot during those days. We were bummed when everyone moved to Summit, but it was definitely the best thing that ever happened to snowboarding as a whole, really centralizing and giving exposure to an entirely different attitude towards snowboarding. You were also one of the earliest guys to move to Vail
Not sure when I first moved to Vail but think it was around '93 or so. A lot of kids I rode with had made the jump from Summit to Vail and it seemed logical. From Vail I could get to Summit County, Loveland Pass and the Vail back country quick and easy and it marked a change in my riding style. I had gone from riding big boards to cut down shorter boards. I was living in a shared house in Beaver Creak with some rad kids, I was getting paid to ride so thats all I did. I traveled and rode as much as I could.

Coming from our mutual dissatisfaction for where snowboarding was headed back then, with tight stances and neon ruling the industry, who inspired your riding? Since there was no internet, almost no videos, we also had to wait each month for a mag to come out, only to be disappointed with what we saw.
Yeah in the early days I didn't really have much to go on, if I saw someone do something rad or a trick I liked then that would get me stoked. I always just tried to do things my way, I tried to make snowboarding an extension of skating or at least what I couldn't do on I skate board I thought Id try on snow. I would see things in skate vids and try emulate that on snow. My cousin Paul was my biggest inspiration and influence when we started riding. I think we just pushed each other and fed off the progression. If he did something then I was like fuck it, if he can do it then so can I, we just pushed each other to progress. When I moved to Summit County it was riding with guys like Dale Rehberg, Roan Rogers, Nate Cole, Russell Winfield, Mikey LeBlanc and Cody Dresser guys like Steve Blakley, my good friend Richie Whitlock, Quinn Sandvold, the Wastells man theres so many guys that were pushing riding in the area that it was hard not to draw from that and for me to many to name Outside of Summit I would probably say that I was looking at riders with skate style and tricks to learn from, guys like John Cardiel, Chris Roach, Jamie Lynn, and Mike Ranquet.

P: Tom Kingsnorth

P: Tom Kingsnorth

It was so great in Summit County back then when everything was new and raw, and everyone pushed everyone else to move everything forward. Its hard for people to imagine it now, but from our perspective, everything good happening in snowboarding was the stuff we were all doing to change it to exactly what we wanted it to be...
Man it was so good to be part of the scene, Colorado was just going off there were all these kids coming from the mid west and east coast and they were just killing it. Snowboarding was taking shape, new school was in, and the fight against the stagnant uncreative ski industry was in full effect. Colorado still had resorts that banned riders on the hill but many resorts were moving in the right direction. I guess the new school thing was happening everywhere, we were evolving and it was just try anything, there was no right way to do things just get out there and shred everything. We took skating to the snow, no picnic bench, fence, rail, stair set or lift shack was safe. If you could ollie it, bonk it, slide it or just straight up crash into it, it had to be done. Summit County was such a hot bed at the time, there was no shortage of good riders to shred with, we had rad stump lines to hit with a beast called the Stump of Manhood that in its prime when the snow hadn't built up around it enough was over head high. I think I was one of the only guys to ollie it from flat when it was at its full height with snow, and Jay Nelson conquered it as well. I think for all that where growing up around that time it was all new, you just made it up as you went along. Once I had moved to Vail snowboarding was changing and I was loving it. Riding with guys like E-Stone Fortier, J2, J3, Ninja J, Ali Goulet, Blotto, Chris Owen, and Travis Parker to name a few certainly had an influence on my riding. Snowboarding has always been about riding with friends to me, and a very social thing. I think I rode the best when I was just out fucking around and riding with my bros. I guess that goes the same for a lot of riders now days

The Stump of Manhood at Copper, and the entire stump line was such an amazing thing. We lapped that thing so many times, and I broke myself off more than once It definitely got much better once we cut down our boards and t-bolted our stances! We had a good crew on Wave Rave then, and you fit super well into the newer side of what was going on, at least as far as riders like Quinn Sandvold and Cody Dresser was concerned, but once we started Twist, we got you on immediately.
Yeah, my first shop and then clothing hook up was from Wave Rave, which is kind of ironic considering I was anti day glow shit and they pretty much made bright stuff at the time but hey I guess I was part of the movement that changed that as the transition to more work wear style riding clothing was taking place. After Wave Rave I got hooked up with Twist and through you guys things with Aggression took shape, and all of a sudden I had my name on a board It was like crazy, what the fuck, who's going to buy a board with my name on it? No one even knew who I was or did they even care… but my snowboard career had started.

That was such a cool time. Troy, Amani, and I had dropped out of college to start Twist, and I was still working at the Wave Rave shop to pay the bills. That was right before Justin Hostynek had rolled into town, and Evan Hecox was still in design school. We did a lot of contract work for Boulder brands doing graphics and laying out catalogs and ads for Wave Rave and Aggression, which Matt Nipper had founded. We did all of Aggressions graphics that year, and you ended up getting a model to be the face of the freestyle side of the line.
Yeah that was my first pro model was around 91 with Aggression Snowboards out of Boulder, they built a TR50, TR60 and a TR70, you guys did the graphics which had my face on the nose and tail of the board. Infamously when the board was launched at the SIA trade show in Vegas I was arrested for a small altercation at a night club involving me being trashed and getting in a fight with the bouncers while carrying a gun, yeah thug life [laughs] The following season we did the shot gun board as sort of a making fun of the Vegas thing and the fact that so many middle class white kids were trying to act all gangster on the hill yet came from posh family not the inner city.

That small altercation was one of the craziest things that ever happened at SIA! Back then, SIA was the largest tradeshow in Vegas, and EVERY snowboard party ended up as a knock-down drag-out brawl for some reason, so when the cops heard there was a gun involved, I think EVERY officer in town had shown up. Everyone piled into the Twist van to try to escape the insanity, but the cops blocked it in. They made everyone get out of the van, take off their shirt and spin 360, then lay down in the middle of the street with shotguns pointed- Troy and Amani were laying next to each other and couldnt stop laughing because we had picked up our Japanese distributor that day at the show and sold more in that day then we had sold in our entire history combined. Yes, the shotgun graphic was really appropriate, and to this day that remains one of the most coveted collectors boards out there. That was one of the first graphics Evan Hecox helped with once we brought him into Twist. Before that, snowboards were going longer and longer. There was a TR-60, TR-70, and even a TR-80 in the works. Then it seems like everyone was cutting down boards and overnight, they went short. You grabbed a paper plate and a Sharpie and showed Tony King and Nipper what you wanted the shape to be.
I guess we were just finding our way, experimenting, and learning what worked and what didn't. Snowboarding was still fairly new and that posed its own challenges, we could only take so much from surfing, skating and the ski industry, we had to find our own way. I loved riding big boards in the early days, even up to 180+ but that didn't work for jibbing. The early Summit County guys started cutting down their nose and tails to help with hitting stumps and picnic tables and ollieing things. We didn't need that excess crap. Stances changed to, we had to find what worked and what didnt, I guess I was just trying to see what worked for me.

P: Justin Hostynek

P: Justin Hostynek

Thats a good point, because most boards shipped with set-width stances before then, which were SUPER narrow and both feet aimed forward. Those Aggressions were built ski-style, with aluminum mounting plates inside, but they werent wide enough, and the binding screws would pull out because jumps were getting bigger and jibbing tore boards to pieces
When I rode big boards I wanted to ride big stances. 25+ sometimes. How my knees survived Ill never know!! I played around with all sizes dependent on what size board I was riding. I think I settled at about 21/22 which I still ride now. I think you can adapt to most set ups and at the end of the day were just sliding down the hill on lunch trays so I never really got to fixated on lengths or stances, I just wanted to push the boundaries on all fronts so how do you know if a 25 stance doesnt work if you dont try it. I dont recommend it though

Taking it all a step further, you were the first person I ever saw take their high backs off completely, which caused then entire industry to move towards shorter boots and lowback bindings
Again, back to wanting to feel like I was skating, I didn't want to be restricted and I wanted to tweak airs and liked to ride sloppy, it wasn't always the right choice and some conditions made it real hard to control but for the most part I never really had an issue. I ride with high backs now but still remove the forward lean adjusters and run em real lose and sloppy. I like that disconnected loose feeling. I definitely couldn't make it as a pro rider now days trying to stick some flippy corked thingy on a super booter but hey I dont need to [laughs] I must admit I really dig the no boarding stuff, seeing what Wolle Nyvelt dose with no bindings is awesome. Im definitely up for a bit of that.

I was always a step or two behind what you were doing. My setup was a huge TR-70 170cm with a 25 stance and no highbacks. It was a good thing I was young, because there is no way I could ride that now! I ended up tearing my ACL riding with JP Martin and Don Szabo in Japan thanks to you, and then blowing it completely at Jackson Hole [laughs]. But like you said, there were no rules. Who did you ride for after that?
After Aggression I got to ride for Tony Magnusson's Evol brand, this was a dream for me as I was massively influenced by H Street skateboards so this was a chance to ride for a legit skate brand. Tony looked after me and I loved riding for Evol but unfortunately I had no control on who made the boards. They looked good but man they sucked to ride. I just got fed up of riding crap heavy boards so left I was really bummed on that but nothing I could do about it. I hooked up with Neil Rankin and started riding for Solid after that, the boards where so good, so much fun to ride and so snappy with tons of pop. We started Future as a side brand and had a small team. For me that was what I really wanted. Again misfortune crept in and while I was on tour traveling with our team in Japan the investors behind Solid pulled out. I came back home broke having spent all my money traveling and now I had no ride. After Evol I signed for Division 23 and pretty much rode for them until I quit riding as a sponsored pro. I had my last pro model with them.

I still have one of your Future pro-models, unridden! Solid was such a great thing for Colorado. Thats all I rode after Aggression. There was so much energy around Colorado snowboarding at that point, and between Twist and Solid, Colorado had its own new school industry. Again pre-internet, the mags and vids that were out had little relevance to what was going on in our world, so we started Crucial Leisure (the worlds largest snowboard mag) Dave England started Skintight (the worlds smallest), and we were making movies like Anthem with our partner Justin Hostynek, Rick and Bobby were doing Fisheye and made Big Jean Fantasy, and Whitey was also making movies covering Summit Country riding. All that was left were bindings that worked for us, and Ethan Fortier came out of Vail with baseless low backed ones when he started Technine
Ive always had a lotta love for the T9 guys, from day one when they moved to Vail and started making bindings, Ive ridden for them. Its great to see that in all these years they're still doing things their way, for me thats what snowboarding is all about! 20 fucking years and still killing it, E Stone, Cole, J3 and everyone who's been part of it along the way, love you guys!!! Im proud to have been a part of their history.

All of those modifications in your equipment added to your unbelievably smooth skate-style riding. Where did that style come from? How important is style in snowboarding?
Im not sure where my style came from, I guess I always got stoked when I saw guys who made things look so easy and just let it flow, riding that was not forced. I always wanted to just kind of flow when I rode if that makes any sense. I guess style is something that comes from within and you can see when someone is trying to force it into there riding. I think today style is still just as important but also understand that things have gotten so gnarly that I guess just to make the trick and survive there is no time to consider what it looks like. Not only do you have to be so good, but to stand out, there needs to be some element of style thrown in. What differentiates between what we think is stylish or not is up to personal interpretation.

P: Sean Halsey

P: Sean Halsey

That style also came down to what you were wearing. When you were on Twist, you pushed us to make things that looked nothing like what was available at the time, like the first puffy jackets, flannel gas station jackets, and riding denim...
Back to when I started riding, I despised the day glow fake ski set so preferred a more hardcore skate/working class style of clothing, it was nothing more than taking street wear to the mountains. Its crazy to see now after 25 years that a lot of that style is still around especially in the urban scene. Even now its good to see that some brands still do their more technical outerwear in that style.

As snowboarding evolved during those years, all of these changes in equipment and especially everyone one-upping each other on the mountain really changed everything, leading directly to snowboarding today. You were definitely part of the first wave of guys riding rails.
When the whole jib revolution started, hell Im not even sure where that word came from but when we started all we were doing was taking what we liked about skateboarding on to the snow. The Factions Skate and Destroy still echoes in my memory thinking about all the fun sessions I had hitting picnic tables at Copper at the bottom of the Flyer and getting chased by the rent-a-cops hired by the mountain to keep us away. Not that Im advocating destruction of private property but all these manicured super parks with multitudes of perfect rails and super kickers didn't exist yet and I guess you can say it was because we had an insatiable appetite for riding all kinds of stuff that led to the birth of the modern snow park. I would never have dreamt of what was to come yet now I don't think there are many resorts that dont have some form of rail garden or super park. Rails were just one more skate-style thing that we were trying to conquer and back then, making it all up as we went along.

Yeah you can really trace parks back to pre-season riding at Breckenridges Whales, where we were building our own park out of their piles of snow they blew at the base. That was fun pre-season, but during the season everyone was trying to go much bigger. You built a lot of bigger jumps at places like Loveland Pass (Anthem Kicker) and on Vail pass.
Ive always been a fan of riding natural terrain and Colorado has such an abundance of great areas to ride but a lot of resorts, especially places like Breck and Vail have so much groomed trails that if you wanted to progress past what was possible on resort terrain then you need to hike out back country and build it yourself. Again this was all when resorts were only just starting to think about building parks for kids and only a few were making the effort. I guess it was just all about seeing how far we could push it. I never envisioned that snowboarding would get so gnarly but man to see what guys (and girls) are getting up to in the backcountry is just mind blowing! I still prefer to see jumps that are sketchy with crazy run ins and fucked up landings instead of perfect take offs and the obligatory powder field landing

Back then, snowboarding wasnt the only thing changing. Part of the whole Summit County thing was that riders were creating their own world up there. You were super into punk rock and Misfits when I first met you when we were teenagers, but then hip hop took over in the early 90s. You also started DJing most of our parties. That was a pretty cool time when hip hop was coming up. How did music influence your riding?
Like most teenagers, music for me was about expressing myself. I grew up with punk rock/hard core but never really pigeon holed myself to one specific type. Just like snowboarding its not just about riding rails or park or just coming out on a pow day, I love all aspects of riding. I still love my punk rock along with hip hop, rap, reggae, dancehall It's all good

I got into DJing to sort of relax and just play records. I loved mixing and scratching so it just kinda went from there. When I moved up to the mountains none of the local bars played anything decent and as the local scene was growing with a lot of like minded kids I found my self DJing quite a lot at bars in Breck and Vail. Yes music had a major influence on my riding and still does today, I think it can set your mood and dare I say its tempo.

You were always really different, and didnt seek out coverage like a lot of guys did at the time. In fact, I remember that side of snowboarding kinda pissed you off
I never really filmed much and have very few parts out there. I filmed with Justin for Anthem and also with Whitey for Kingpin Films along with a few other small films but generally was really anti filming. I just never really liked to go out and film, its not that I was camera shy its that I just wasn't really interested in seeing myself on screen and all I really wanted was just to ride for me. I think my fave part was in Anthem because of the slow-mo on the box, still love that nose tap late revert. I know it goes against being a pro, I would never have made it in this game now as you need to be dropping edits every two seconds but its almost like you've got to have a camera on you all day every day so as not to miss anything. Not that its wrong and I do get stoked seeing edits dropping so you can see the progression in real time but for me there was nothing better than waiting for that movie premier to see what riders where getting up over the year . You had no idea on how things were progressing until the movies came out in the fall. The hype, rumors and party were all part making the premieres unmissable.

Yeah, you definitely didnt chase the cameras, which probably adds to the mystique that surrounds you when your name comes up
Yeah I hated shooting so had very little mag coverage, still not quite sure how I had over seven years worth of pro models and yet very little media coverage I guess someone must have liked me [laughs]

It’s probably because you were such an enigma. Even the way you left snowboarding added to the mythical status you had. You seemed to pretty much just walk away from snowboarding, right when it seemed like it was at the height of your abilities and influence. Why did you do it?
Yeah it really boiled down to why I snowboarded in the first place, selfishly all I wanted to do was ride for me, no one else! I know its contradictory to get paid as a pro and yet not want to be used in their marketing plans or be filmed riding their products but thats how I wanted it. How I got away with it for so long is still a mystery to me but as said in the previous question, someone must have liked me I just got burnt out, I needed a change, almost like a mid-life crisis. I loved snowboarding and was definitely at the best stage of my ability and think I had so much more in progression left in me but it was like someone just flipped a switch and I wanted out. Ive always believed that we only get one shot in life, not necessarily one chance to make it big but more like if you want to change something or are not happy in your current situation then you have to make the change, no one else will do it for you. The last thing I ever wanted was to be told I was not good enough to ride any more. I just walked away, quickly

You were always very leery of the rise of the commercial side of snowboarding, and things like the hype starting to build of the possibility of snowboarding being in the Olympics
I think it is just a consequence of the progression and popularity of the sport and yes it did contribute to why I walked away, snowboarding was becoming very mainstream and I didn't see myself in that picture. The Olympics had nothing to do with me walking away from the sport and I dont want to get into the for or against debate but I don't believe it really belongs there. I respect the athletes that compete for their country but the IOC and the FIS are so fraught with corruption and their motives purely monetarily based that it'll never be a true representation of the sport. But hey fuck em, Ive always hated contest any way [laughs]

When you left, you really left
Ive been living in London for the last 15 years or so and love it. Its such an iconic city with easy access to all that Europe has to offer. Its so easy to get over to France or Austria that any time I want to go hit the Alps I can hop on the Eurostar or catch a flight and I'm there in a few hours. I never thought Id live in a city after spending so much time in the mountains and I suppose London doesnt really feel like a big city.

Im super stoked because after all these years, you are finally starting to get your due through the internet. I know youre riding again too, and also doing some things in the industry?
Ive had a bit of a resurgence with snowboarding in the last few years. Initially The Riders Lounge, the UK distributors for CAPiTA and Union took me on as a somewhat ambassador for them which sort of melded in to me taking over as team manager. There is a lot of good talent in the UK and the indoor dome scene is astounding so Im enjoying helping brands that are close and personal to me from my past find talented kids and watching as their progression takes shape. Ive also been instrumental in helping a few brands find distributors here in the UK, again these are companies that I have a long time close personal relationship with so making sure the right guys are going to be distributing their gear is important to me.

And yes, Im riding now more than ever, but only for myself of course. I love my riding and although I dont always get a chance to go freeride mountains as much as Id like to, I do get to shred my local domes indoor park every Friday night and fucking love it. I have had a few injuries recently and yeah, I aint getting any younger, but it definitely keeps me young at heart hitting the rails with the kids, only thing is I dont remember it hurting so much when I crash

Yeah. It hurts worse for sure!! Anything else?
I guess just a big thanks to everyone whos been a part of my life through snowboarding and more importantly thank you Trent for not only preserving our history but defining it. Thank You.

Right back at you