Cover Story - 21.1 Elena Könz

Interview: Theo Acworth

Cover and portrait by Jérome Tanon

Hey Elena, thanks for finding the time for us. You said you’ve been coaching at the moment. Skate stuff?

Yeah and trampolines, all sorts of stuff. It’s a camp for kids in the Freestyle Academy in Laax. 

Last time I was in there I did a backflip on one of the trampolines and almost flipped into the vert ramp by mistake. I have almost no aerial awareness. 

Oh really?

Yeah, pretty sketchy. But I don’t want to talk about trampolines, I wanted to talk about gender equality, or lack of, in snowboarding, and ask you about any barriers you’ve faced due to your gender?

I’ve actually never felt like I haven’t been fairly treated. When I got older I started to realise that there were some differences and that things could have been easier though.

You were a member of the Swiss Olympic team for a few years, did you receive the same pay as the guys?

They looked at each of our incomes and what we were paid would vary from person to person. The Swiss Olympic Committee gave their support really well and fairly, so that was a good experience.

That’s cool to hear. I read that Adidas have committed to ensuring equal gender representation of their athletes, I thought that was pretty cool to see a brand stepping up like that, and I guess media needs to do the same.

Yeah you always see this cool stuff that guys are doing, but not so often girls. Actually we should say women instead of girls. We always say men and not boys so that’s already a small step we can take to start making a change.

That’s a good point.

Sometimes I feel like you have really cool magazines but they only feature guys, and then there’s only one magazine for girls which maybe not many people look at. Or that people are just doing small things to keep the girls happy. It’s not the same.

From our perspective, it is tough when there isn’t a lot of female content sent to us, but that just means we need to work harder at pushing what we do have to be an example and encourage brands to do the same. If we don’t, then a whole generation of female riders might be missing out on role models because they’re not being presented with them.

I mean I can understand it from the magazine perspective because there are more male riders than female, but it’s a bit of a hamsterrad, a vicious circle to get out of. So there have to be some people who take the first steps to change it, because if they don’t, then it never will.

It was cool to see Jérôme making that push himself as a photographer with his Heroes project. You have some sick shots in there, as well as your beautiful artwork. The handplant shot is rad, it’s not always an easy trick to shoot analogue unless it’s really stalled, which I guess this was!

Yeah that was tough, he kept making me do it again. But it was good. He believes in us and is so sure we can do it, he doesn’t just say ‘oh you’re a girl, so I’m already happy with the shot’. I know some photographers who are happy with their results pretty quickly, even if I think I could have done it better. I mean I’m sure that guys have to deal with these things too.

We’d planned to run that hand plant shot in the Heroes feature, but unfortunately there wasn’t enough space… so we decided to put it on the front cover instead. *reveals the cover over Facetime*.

What. No way. That’s crazy. 

We actually don’t have the mag printed yet so I did a DIY version and stuck the cover on an old issue just so you could get a feeling for it. I hope you’re stoked!

That’s insane! Wow, yes. 

I’ve been trying to keep a straight face this entire time. As we were saying earlier, if brands and media don’t step up to ensure female visibility, then no one else is going to. That’s not the only reason I put it on the front, I put it on the front because it’s a fucking sick handplant. We’re psyched with it, and we think you’re an amazing snowboarder, and we couldn’t be more pumped to have it as a cover.

Thanks so much. My first cover! I’m really honoured, I never thought I would be in Method, and I really like the mag, it’s so cool. I would never have dreamt of this. 

Did you know that this is our first-ever female cover? I’m kind of embarrassed to say that, but I’m stoked that we’ve now broken that trend.

I always thought that getting a cover wasn’t something that was possible for me. Not somewhere like Method. That’s so sick. It looks so nice!

I think so too, it’s black and white which I love, the handplant is rad, this is real snowboarding.

I can’t stop smiling. I was so tired before you called and now I probably won’t sleep tonight. I can’t wait to get it in my hands.

We can’t wait to send it to you!

It took 20 years for Method to have a girl on their cover? Really?! I spent two years following women in snowboarding for my "Heroes" project, and meeting up with Elena Könz in Laax was a highlight. She rips any terrain, and it was easy to get this side-hit handplant photo, even with a medium format film camera. I love that photo, the way she tweaks it, standing still for a fraction of a second. Back to the roots of snowboarding. But why did it take 20 years to get a female cover!? It's my fault. I did not care. I did not think shooting with girls was important, and I did not question why we had no girls in all our film crews over the years. I write "I" but really, it's a "WE". When I finally realised this and took a U-turn to shoot only girls for a couple seasons, I saw everything from their view point. No budget to get filmers, no photogs around, no coverage, only good for portraits and catalogs. Only good for Iinsta modelling. Well, fuck that! Things are changing, finally, and right before your eyes ladies and gentlemen, right here with this historic cover. I can't be more proud to see "Heroes" making a change. Thank you Elena for opening my eyes. For opening our eyes. 

- Jérôme Tanon