Interview by Alastair Spriggs.
Photos by Jarrod Au. @jauphoto https://jarrodau.com
“Don is someone who I look up too even if he’s half my age. Not only his snowboarding ability but also his attitude in life. He’s the most talented and positive person in the snowboard world today. Homie is gonna take over the world, watch the fuck out.” - E-Man Anderson
[Fill up on Insta clips by heading over to Don's. Those pretzels are insane]
Reverts, early grabs, some of the most innovative moves I've seen lately… What inspires your style and approach to boarding?
I’m just always thinking of new ways to have fun. I feel like a lot of people around me are better snowboarders so many different levels but I just like riding what I feel like riding in the moment. I’ll ride the park every day by myself and do a bunch of swivels and reverts because I see no one else doing it. It inspires me to be unique and do something different in my own way. There are people up there sending cliffs that people have been sending for years, which is way gnarlier than what I’m doing and I respect every snowboarder on the hill. We should all be doing what we want no matter what. That’s where I’m at.
Give me a quick rundown on the early days of Don Wheeler.
I was born in Mission B.C., east of Vancouver, and grew up riding at Hemlock Mountain because my Mom was a snowboarder. Before I was even born she was boarding with me in her stomach. She was pregnant and boarding laps with me. I think I got the feel of it in the womb. I soon moved to Chilliwack B.C., and became detached from snowboarding because I was further away from the hill but spent a lot of time skating which kept me snowboarding.
I call Chilliwack my home base because that’s where I skated every day. After dealing with some family issues my mom decided to move us to Whistler. We got a little two-bedroom apartment in Alpine and had roommates. She sent me up the hill with the roommates every day instead of up putting me in daycare. My roomies would take me snowboarding be hyped because I could keep up. They were just this Aussie couple, I owe them a lot.
I’ve heard some rumours about your skiing days. What is this nonsense?
[Laughs] I started skiing when I was nine until I was 13. I didn’t really have any friends in school who were boarders so I started hanging out with a big crew of skiers. A few of my homies were wealthy and they started funding my competitions because they saw potential. I was travelling around, competing, building points, it was a lot. Ultimately my four years of skiing came down to a big air competition where I couldn’t go upside down. I over inverted my cork and got disqualified. At that moment I knew this wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. I decided to get back into to boarding and started hanging out with the OG local snowboarders and in the skatepark a lot more. I discovered the snowboard culture and loved it. I'm not about competitions and flying around, building points…
It looks like you’ve been all over the map recently. How was Cali? What went down?
So sick dude. It was really unexpected actually. It was pouring rain in Whistler and I was on Instagram watching Lenny Mazzotti’s story and just felt like I needed to be there. Within 10 minutes of seeing the video, I booked a $255 roundtrip and confirmed everything with Lenny. My homie Austin Johnson joined me and we mobbed down to Cali. They hooked us up with all the necessities and we filmed a few episodes of Sunday in the Park. The vibes out there are next level.
Then your social media just kind of blew up right?
Yeah, so my old Instagram account got deleted this summer for copyright issues and I wasn’t stoked to start over. I was thinking about how last time I went to Cali I got thousands of followers just going there, maybe I needed to do that again, reinitiate myself again down there [laughs]. The first day I was there Justin Mulford made an edit of me and all the big snowboard publications reposted it, from there everything kind of blew up, I was tripping. There’s been so much exposure and it’s all be very beneficial to me. Honestly just go to Cali and film an Instagram edit [laughs].
What’s the go-to trick?
Oh man, it changes all the time. At the beginning of the season it was switch back 270 bring back. But I’ve been doing a lot of them. Now I really just love front board pretzels. That’s probably going to be my favorite trick forever.
What’s the secret behind the pretzel?
[Laughs] Go watch Kody Williams 2K14 edit by FootyFIEND. I’ve been telling people to watch that. The way he does them in that edit was the first time I’ve seen someone do it like that. It blew my mind and I studied them. You have to be fully on your front foot, no slooping the nose, coming off to the side, you gotta hop right off the end; Kody Williams style. I can’t claim anything personally but this definitely helped.
Who are you riding with this these days?
Mainly when I’m in Whistler I’m riding with the D.O.P.E. homies. Brin Alexander James is a go to. He’s so sick because he boards everything. Also Scot Brown here and there, and Rhett Haubrich and E-Man. I've boarded with E-Man more than I have ever. E-Man is always on the D.O.PE story, filming on the iPhone and getting everybody hyped. Always gotta get it for the D.O.P.E story.
Describe D.O.P.E Industries. What does it mean to you?
D.O.P.E is family. A sick, organic, local family, where everyone cares for one another. There’s no bullshit, no broken promises, and no one is trying to make money off of anybody, we’re all just doing it for fun. For example, the other day Colton Conway was killing it all day in the park on an old RIDE board he picked up from the Whistler Re-Use It centre. Brock took his board off his feet and said: “Colton you’re on the team, here’s your board.” He needed it, he’s killing it, and that’s what it’s all about. I’m super hyped to be a part of that.
Anyone in particular on the D.O.P.E team that you look to?
For sure. Layne Treeter is my favorite rider. I think it's super sick to say that because I ride his pro model board and I've known him for a while. He's just a homie to me. His riding and his style and personality over everything is the best.
What are your plans for the rest of the winter and what’s the deal with Hi8us?
Well as it stands right now, we have footy from the Kelowna trip we did earlier this season. And it's not that much, we got a few shots when we were there. Essentially the beginning of the trip we were thinking of just making an edit of the trip and calling it Hi8us. But then as the trip went on and we started thinking of it Hi8us is a sick name, filming on Highway 8, it'd be sick to make a 10-15 minute project instead of just a little edit for Kelowna. We are scheming on doing a trip to Calgary in the next week here. Go out and film, and stack a bunch more street footy to release to Hi8us video. I hope it works out. No matter what it'll be something but we can get out on another trip and keeping stacking I think it'll be tight for sure. Aside from that I pretty much play every day by ear. If you plan to be spontaneous you can never let yourself down.
Thank you to my mom for boarding with me in her womb, my pops for taking me skating all the time, and all the sponsors backing me right now. Thank you Jordan and all the homies at FootyFIEND, Riley from Union, Stepchild, Brock, Layne, E-Man, and all the D.O.P.E. crew!
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