Snowboarders with Jobs - Part 1

How many people do you know from the hill or follow online, but you have no idea what they do when they’re not snowboarding, or how they pay the rent? If you’re like me, the answer is a lot. Some people are lucky enough to snowboard all the time and get paid to do it, but for most of us, there’s more going on than you’ll see on social media. I’m always amazed to discover what people get up to outside of snowboarding, and it often only takes a short conversation to find out.

Part 1 of 2

Extracted from Method Mag issue 22.2

Interviews. Theo Acworth

Benno Bauer - Youth Social Worker

© Theo Acworth

 

Where do you work?

I work in a youth centre, sort of being a second parent for kids with shitty parents. Or maybe more like a good friend who can help and advise them through difficult situations that they don’t know how to handle themselves.

How long have you worked there?

Five years, and I just signed a contract for another five years. I love it. There’s a skatepark next to the youth centre, and I also teach the kids to skate. You can see them grow with it, and they’re always thankful that we show them this other world they didn’t know about. 

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Trying to be someone they respect, but also a person they can really trust and rely on. I’m not their parents, I don’t tell them what to do, but I give them advice. We help them if they’re looking for jobs, sending applications and stuff. Most of them aren’t good at that stuff. We also help them with any legal troubles they might have or if they have to go to court. 

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

That the kids come back to this place knowing there’s a stable person here. They’re young, but we’re on the same level, and there are some that I would definitely call my friends. We just want to be their buddies because their parents just don’t give a shit. 

 

"At one point, I was standing between two guys with knives in their hands. You have to step in and calm them down, tell them it’s not worth it."

 

© Theo Acworth Nosepress, Austria.

 

Is your job ever a struggle for you?

I used to be a nurse and kind of learnt to deal with that then. You see a lot of shit when you do that job, a lot of misery. When you get tired, it can come up to you, but if you’re a steady person and you know how to deal with it, it’s pretty easy. I never take anything with me. When I leave my job, I go out the door, and that’s it. One year we had the police there almost every day. At one point, I was standing between two guys with knives in their hands. You have to step in and calm them down, tell them it’s not worth it. We also have lots of kids who take drugs, and one 13-year-old girl overdosed and died. She was there every day, and it still happened. Sometimes you try to help, and they just don’t want it.

How many people are there working with you?

I have such a great team. I also work with Jonel Fricke, and we’re eight people in total. If situations get close to us, we have a mediator and therapy that we can use, but I never had to use it. I never take anything with me. I was a bit of a shitty person when I was that age, so I can relate to them. They think of me like an adult who never drinks or smokes. But if they get to know this side of me, they understand and respect that I’m also in their world, you know?

Are there any skills you learnt from snowboarding that relate to your job?

Dealing with diverse people from different countries who handle their lives in different ways. Everybody does their own thing, and that’s the same in my work. People might act a bit different depending on where and how they grew up, but at the end of the day, everyone is the same. With snowboarding, we’re all like kids just playing around in the snow. I still want to keep that feeling in my work.

 

"This isn’t a job for me, it’s more like a hobby, but I get paid for it. It’s just hanging out with the homies."

 

Are there any parts of your job that relate to snowboarding?

Snowboarding is so free, and that’s such a big part of being young. I’m 32. Why am I hanging out with kids? I like it because of that. We just hang out. We don’t worry about what’s going on tomorrow. I think that’s the mindset a lot of snowboarders and skateboarders have. It’s not really work for me, and I’m just around my own. Being rebels, listening to gangster rap, smoking cigs and then going back to hang with the same group the next day and doing the same stuff. This isn’t a job for me, it’s more like a hobby, but I get paid for it. It’s just hanging out with the homies.

 

Simon Pircher - Bar Owner

© Theo Acworth From left to right - Sebi Madlener, Didi Kienle, Simon Pircher.

 

What do you do for work?

I run a bar together in Innsbruck with two of my friends, Sebi Madlener and Didi Kienle. It’s called Brooks ODB. Brooks is a reference to Innsbruck, and ODB stands for Old Dirty Bar. It’s not actually dirty, but it has a nice bar/pub feeling to it.

Have any of you had experience running a bar before?

Just Didi. Sebi and I didn’t know shit. I’d poured a couple of beers, but I’d never even heard of half of the drinks we have now. I’m definitely not the best barkeeper, but I can make a good whiskey sour

 

"When I went to the city to ask about a new sound system, they knew who we were and already had a thick folder of complaints about us!"

 

Was it difficult to get any of the permits to do it?

There was another bar here before us, so the permits were already there. But when I went to the city to ask about a new sound system, they knew who we were and already had a thick folder of complaints about us! If I’d known that, I probably wouldn’t have gone. Sometimes there might be sixty or seventy people outside, and the neighbour would call the cops, but now they have Didi’s number, so she calls him instead.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Being able to run a business with your friends. Everything is pretty uncomplicated, and it’s always fun. There are always loads of homies in here. It’s small, but that’s what makes the vibe really special.

How’s the balance between work and snowboarding?

It’s super flexible. We have three other people who can support us in the winter, so work and snowboarding go pretty well together.

Are there any snowboard skills that also apply to your job?

Just being patient. It might take a while to get a clip, and sometimes it takes a while to close the bar. You might have to tell people five times to leave, but you just have to be patient with them. 

So usually you’d be the one getting kicked out of spots, but now you have to kick people out of your own spot!

I never thought about it like that, but yeah. I try to do it as nicely as possible. Sometimes people might be mad, but you just have to be empathetic and feel their vibe.

 

© Sebi Madlener Roof drop to frontboard, first try. 

 

Are there skills you’ve learnt on this job that also apply to snowboarding?

Working with ice.

Got any good bar stories for us?

A recent one that comes to my mind was about Tun [Kintzelé, local skater and regular nudist]. He was in the bar, and he very politely said, ‚Excuse me, would it be ok if I removed my clothes and did a nollie heelflip in here?’. We don’t have a lot of space, but I said of course. So he ripped them off, and did a nollie heelflip. It wasn’t the cleanest, but he did it.

 

Maria Kuzma - Architectural Activist 

 

What is your job?

I guess you could say I’m an architect who works on humanitarian type projects. But I call myself an architectural activist. By activist, I mean someone who’s an advocate for change. So I’m working on prototype building projects that I believe are solutions for the future. They tap into the circular economy and use waste-derived materials/systems that are just better for the environment. I’m also working on a startup company called Nu Cycle

How did you get into doing what you’re doing?

I worked on some big sky-scraper kind of projects in the city but realised that they weren’t great for the environment or the world overall. Snowboarding kept me on the fringes a bit, so in the end, I naturally avoided the status-quo jobs that usually entail being an architect, and that’s what led me to where I am now.

What project are you working on at the moment?

It’s a prototype of a new school building in Brazil, and we’re working with both the public and private school systems. The initiative that we are working under is called Recycle Build. We’re prototyping new materials, spaces and installing IoT devices in some waste-water gardens that are fed by the building. The waste-water systems deal with toilet waste so that it doesn’t go into rivers and pollute them. It’s a closed-loop system. It’s so simple, and a lot of the time, people actually aren’t convinced that it will work so well. I didn’t either until I literally stuck my head into a few of them. 

How many people are there in your team?

Recycle Build has overall, 25. There are more, as in any build project, but this is our core team.

 

"We don’t run like a normal architecture firm that get paid by clients and do as they ask. We don’t have clients in that traditional sense. Our strategy has been to find solutions to those problems that we feel need to be addressed and find a feasible strategy to fund and implement those solutions."

 

What’s your specific role within this team and this project?

I’m the project architect, and I also do a bunch of other things. We don’t run like a normal architecture firm that get paid by clients and do as they ask. We don’t have clients in that traditional sense. Our strategy has been to find solutions to those problems that we feel need to be addressed and find a feasible strategy to fund and implement those solutions.

What sort of stuff does Nu Cycle do?

Nu Cycle implements waste-to-value technologies, materials and systems through analysing and offsetting a company’s waste impact. There’s a company that’s on the Nu Cycle’s network with a pyrolysis machine in Indonesia, which is where I am right now, so I’ll be seeing it soon.

What exactly is pyrolysis, and what does this machine do?

It’s a system that, through the process of pyrolysis, turns un-recyclable plastics or similar materials into a usable form of bio-diesel. Indonesia is an archipelago of islands and doesn’t have a centrally based waste-management system, and there is an abundance of plastic waste. So pyrolysis is perfect for Indo.

Maria Kuzma burning in Zillertal, Austria

From your perspective, what good things are going on in the world that people might not know about?

Climate change, the global waste problem, problems with the fertility of our soil, the acidification of our oceans... People think that all these complex problems need complex solutions, but the solutions are actually quite simple. Take biowaste as an example. Pair that with the declining fertility of our soils, and you have a solution. We have the waste to fix the soil. It just needs to be structured, systemised and implemented. People think it’s really complicated, but it’s actually really fucking simple, with the right mindset, of course. Composting, agroforestry, I mean that’s just one example. The new-earth can be super sci-fi and tech. It just needs to be paired with these really simple and earthy and grass-roots systems to work, I think.

So there is hope for the future of humanity?

Oh, for sure there’s hope.

That’s good. So are you dealing with things on a governmental level? How does that play out?

Yeah, that’s what we’re doing right now in Brazil, a public-private partnership. There are investors pairing up with the government who are asking to implement our Recycle Build concept to a larger low-income housing scheme. We won’t be building isolated low-income housing schemes. We believe that these separated socio-economic classes or hubs are not a successful toolbox to design to. This circles back to what I said before about having more control with what projects you work on. Ideally, I want to avoid working on projects that create more problems rather than solutions. Working at a government level can give you the leverage to make a lasting positive impact. It’s just really overwhelming sometimes to make it happen. My project partner Pedro [Oliva] is in Brazil, and he’s in so many meetings convincing people on the private and government level to get involved. You need the money, and you need the resources, which is just as important as the money in the end. What we’re doing is being well received, it just takes time and lots of energy.

That’s rad to hear. So you’re seeing people changing what they’re doing, even if it’s slowly?

Yeah, one step at a time. Companies are having to adopt new business structures and practices in order to survive and be more sustainable for the future. There’s a lot of traction in the snowboard industry to prototype and even swap out their resins to one of Nu Cycle network’s waste-derived BPA free bio-epoxy resins [Change Climate]. I’m working on a green-up campaign with Protest right now, which I’m positive will end in an impactful collaboration. I’m literally doing the storyboards for it now. I also have companies in the snowboarding industry approaching me and asking all the right questions around how to better evolve their practices to be more sustainable. So it’s becoming clear that it’s not a choice for them to change. They just have to if they want to survive because the consumer mindsets are changing quickly.

 

“People think it's really complicated, but the solutions are actually really fucking simple, with the right mindset, of course.”

 

Can the technologies and systems you’re working with be implemented in hard-good production as well as soft-goods?

Yes, Nu Cycle and Nu Cycle’s network of companies and systems are pioneering this stuff. We’re evolving, growing and implementing step by step. We’ve been talking to a handful of different snowboard companies. We’re looking at boards, surfboards, bindings and also doing waste impact assessments at the factory level - right at the source. We can make an impact right at the material development and production side of hard-goods by harvesting waste from the environment and putting it into our products instead of spitting products out into the environment that are virgin waste themselves. 

An elegant solution, giving value to something that’s considered waste and using what’s already there instead of creating something new. 

Exactly. It’s all already there. One step at a time, we’re slowly convincing companies and people that it can be done and asking them to please get involved.   

 

What’s the most difficult part of your job?

Implementation and execution. Going from having an idea, finding a team, implementing and executing it, that’s definitely the hardest thing. It takes time and energy, especially during COVID, which has just slowed everything down. That’s not necessarily a good or a bad thing, though. 

What are the best things about your job?

If you listen to the news or you’re clued in about what’s happening to the environment and these ecological disasters that we’re living through, it can be quite depressing, and it definitely gets to me sometimes. I like to think, though, that I’m just focusing on the solutions. So the best thing about my ‚job’ is that I guess it feels like there is some sort of overall purpose to it all. I’m trying to build projects and implement solutions in an attempt to help the environment and people’s connection with nature. In the process, I’m also snowboarding and surfing. So that helps with the overall anxiety levels.

Continued in Part 2, soon.