If you have a slight interest about snowboard culture, you are going want to learn more about this project and most likely get your hands on this amazing piece of rad archive that is the book "BARELY MADE IT". We sat down with the man behind all of it, Patrick Armbruster, aka Brusti, one of the biggest snowboard actor out there. So get comfortable and find out if how Patrick barely made it through one of the gloriest times of our snowboarding world.
Interview by Theo Acworth
Photos by Brusti
What was putting this book together like as an emotional experience for you?
This book has been lingering in the back of my head for over 10 years. I knew I had to do it and I knew it would become such an intensive project that I had to put everything else aside. It became a hurdle I had to tackle before I was able to continue any other project or life in general. When Chris Heubl from Pleasure Magazine contacted me in 2021 and approached me with the idea of making a guest editor issue that’s when I started to seriously dive into my archives. Making this guest editor issue took me 3 months and I knew that it was now or never for my book.
So I was basically confronted with all our past trips, moments, pictures, memories for a year and a half. Over 20 years have passed and I sort of was reliving a lot of it again. Funny memories came up and the realisation of what a different life that was back then. Basically every week we were in some other corner of the world, constantely living out of our bags for about 9 months out of the year…for many years. Just living the high life of snowboarding. So yes, it was very emotional!
Did it turn out like you thought it would? Any surprises along the way?
The book has been out for exactly one year now. It turned out exactly as I’d hope for it to turn out. It’s perfect from my perspective and what I wanted to show and tell. Everything from paper, size, weight, layout and the chronology of it and of course all the great comments & stories I’d get from all the riders really gave the photobook an additional layer and depth. When I started I thought it would be nice to get a few quotes from the riders and the more I worked along I kept reaching out to more and more riders…as you know getting a quote from a rider doesn’t just take one email. The majority of the summer I was chasing everybody…some of them I had to write, call, text 10-20 times. But in the end everybody participated…whenever I’d get a quote for me it was like: sounds amazing, I get it, check, next. But I knew I had to get some of it clean written and I asked my partner in crime Drew Stevenson to help me with all text. Luckily he was coming to Europe last fall for a longer trip and was willing to help. When I handed him all the quotes he was like: what are these guys trying to say?…I mean I know what they are trying to say but jesus…he ended up calling everybody personally and was making sure that he rephrases and cleanwrites it according to their meaning. Of course each call turned out to become a 1-2 hour catching-up-after-such-a-long-time-call…while our clock was ticking!
So the written part I totally underestimated and without Drew this part would have never turned out as great as it is and added tremendously to the book
Has the passing of time changed the meaning of any of these photographs for you?
Well…back in the days I’d go through all my slides once a year and clean out my droors and make room for new images. Back then I’d focus mainly on the best shots, meaning mainly action. Nowadays I found a lot of historical value in the supporting images that captured the surroundings. For example there is this one shot of Terje Haakonsen in Davos at the world championships in 1995. While he was walking up on the coping of the pipe (does anybody still walk up a pipe anywhere nowadays - hence on a world champonship?) he manually shapes the take off with the edge of his board to make sure he got the wright vert. I snapped this picture almost 30 years ago before I knew Terje personally. When I found this shot I though it’s priceless. Back then nothing special.
Did you realise at the time what it was that you were a part of and what you were documenting?
From the moment I discovered snowboarding I was hooked. Every free minute I thought about getting on the board, reading all the magazines I could get my hands on, spending time in the local snowboard stores... hanging out checking new gear or grab new catalogues. All I wanted was a life that these guys in the early snowboard videos and magazines had. Traveling the world, shred and party. When I first met Terje and got introduced to him in 1996 at the Air & Style I was sort of star struck. Every time I had a picture published in the magazines I was previously buying and reading I was getting more hyped. I knew this was something really special to be part of.
For nothing in the world I’d change this experience. It brought & taught me everything.
How many images did you uncover in your archive that are unpublishable due to legal reasons?
Please describe them loosely if you’re not able to show them.
Since I’m the publisher of the book and it is basically only available on my website and a few selected stores, I had no censoreship. But I also didn’t want to just throw in random pictures just to feed the voyerism if you know what I mean. The two pictures that I asked for approval were the naked shots of Romain de Marchi and Marius Otterstad. Especially the one of Marius is all time…just celebrating this very moment in his hotelroom. Both of them replied instantely: I got nothing to hide, go for it.
Give us one rowdy story from your time with Method (ideally something not published/heard before):
Not sure if you know but I was one of the original founders of the Method print magazine in 2002 or 2003. During that time I was mostly on the road filming our snowboard movies (Absinthe Films) and did not spend much time in Innsbruck. So my contact with the office was mainly by email or phone.
So what happened with my shares…not sure anymore how much they were maybe like 5-10% but somehow they got deluted and deluted until one day they were worthless but the magazine is still around.
Here I am…knock knock! haha!
Drew Stevenson helped you put the book together. Can you give us some insights into your relationship and what it was like to work together again?
My dear friend Drew. What would my memories be without having had Drew in my life…?
We met early on in Davos in 1996, he had Jesus like long blond hair and for some reason we met in the Mc Donalds there. He was in charge of Onboard and I just signed a deal with the oponent magazine: snowboarder monster backside magazine from Germany.
Throughout the following three years we constantely met at all the events and I’d constantely spend time and hang out with Drew and the Onboard guys…it was were I felt home. It was the dirt & blood of snowboarding during that time and Drew was the leader not only of the magazine but somehow the spokesperson of European Snowboarding.
I get the goosebumps thinking back to all these moments. In 1998 I broke my ankle and leg severly. Shattered my joint which I eventually had to fuse. Drew came to visit me and took me out of the hopsital one afternoon. We went pedalo riding on the lake of Zurich. We both were tired of working for the magazines. During these years the main focus was the magazines that would come out on a monthly basis but the pinnacle of the pyramid were the annual snowboard movie productions. MackDawg, Standard, Kingpin…and of course the Forum videos were the main productions. Of course still all on VHS. Nobody could wait to geth his hands on the new videos each fall. And if you were in it…you were pretty much the new celebrated hero in snowboarding. Being featured in one of those videos came with invitations to the Air&Style and all these other invitational big air contests.
And this is what we came to conclusion on this very afternoon on the pedalo: We both felt that the European riders did not get enough attention in the videos as most of the riders were US or Canadian and a few Scandivanians. We wanted to add another creative outlet to our involvements in snowboarding and make our own movie!
We told ourselves: if not us who else. We knew all the riders, sponsors and resorts. For one year we planned and talked on a daily basis (I vividly remember talking to Drew’s Aussie slang for like an hour every day…my english progressed exponentially during that year) and in 1999 we started the production of TRIBAL - one of the very first European snowboard movies with 100% European riders all filmed in 16mm. Drew unfortunately had to leave Europe in January during that very first winter to go back to Australia and I was left alone with this gigantc project. Coincidentally I run into Justin Hostynek in San Diego on my first filming trip going to Chile and coincidentally his origins were just outside of Zurich and luckily he had already produced a few snowboard movies and the best part was: he had no plans yet for the season and joined forces. Onboard payed the bills and we were set for a perfect launch of our first film together and what turned into an over 20 year long partnership under Absinthe Films.
Drew always stayed close and after he came back from Australia he launched the Method Video magazine which came a out a few times a year on VHS, which then turned into Methodmag print&video magazine. Drew was also the driving force behind the TTR (Ticket to ride tour) which for many years was the alternative tour to the FIS that combined all independent snowboard events. For a moment it looked like there was a realistic chance that snowboarding would stay within the realm of snowboarding but FIS finally managed to kill that notion entirely and nowdays this topic is forgotten and the FIS is the one and only player in the snowboard circuit. Unthinkable back 20-25 years ago when the riders were boycotting all the FIS events.
How many people from the book are you still in contact with? Have there been any surprising changes in lifestyle or career that we might not have heard about?
I still keep contact with like a dozen of the guys in the book. I’m the godfather of Wolle’s daughter Mila, with Terje we have regular calls, Travis randomly shows up at my house when he lands in Zurich, Gigi Rüf, Nicolas Müller, Steve Gruber, JP Solberg, David Pitschi, David Vladyka, Romain de Marchi and of course Michi Albin who lives like 10 minutes from me and with whom I shared many years of that story and used to live together for years is the closest one. And of course Drew I hear every few weeks at least. But you know everybody lives all spreadout throughout the world but I’d like to think that we all shared such intensive times in our lives together that these friendships will last a lifetime even with the ones I barely ever hear or see anymore.
How’s life treating you these days? What are you up to?
It became pretty steady. Once I decided to take a step back in 2012 from Absinthe Films mainly due to my severe pain in my ankle and spent the first year in Zurich, I got together with my very first Swiss girlfriend which now is my wife. We have two kids. Our daughter just started school and I love it.
13 years ago my former girlfriend and me built a crazy house in the Atlantic rainforest of Brazil in a surfer town called Itacare. Over the years we turned this into a hotel business called KA BRU BRAZIL - operating 2 villas and 2 boutique hotels with over 40 employees. The BRU in KA BRU stands for BRUsti:)
It’s just as crazy as Absinthe Films but instead of snow we got the sand.
I take care of marketing and visuals and a lot of the financial side of things.
It’s pretty rad: www.kabrubrazil.com
Apart from that I have an agency in Zurich and still shoot pictures a lot professionally.
I also just launched a limited fine-art print sale on my website: https://www.patrickarmbruster.com/shop with 30 selected images from my book.
Check it out.
Last words are yours:
I’m approaching 50 soon…but things still feel adventorous and loose at times.
Stoked to have been able to live that life and to contribute to the story of snowboarding.