Snowboarders with Jobs - Part 2

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

 

Roland Morley-Brown - Roly Ranger

 

What do you do for work?

Outside of snowboarding, I work in the film and television industry. Primarily in the art department as Standby, but also doing construction and set dressing. I’ll help the camera or lighting or sound guys if they need a hole drilling for a mic cable or some paint touching up somewhere.

You’re also occasionally in front of the camera?

Only on one show that I work on, which is I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. It’s like a combination of Survivor and Big Brother. I help the contestants run through the challenges they’re about to do, putting harnesses on them and stuff like that. I also bring them the gross food that they have to eat and pour fish guts on them and stuff like that.

What sort of stuff do they have to eat?

One time they had to eat these fermented duck eggs. I don’t know old they were, but they were literally black. You could smell them through a sealed Tupperware container from fifteen meters away. We also fed them blended flies as a smoothie. We just put flies in a blender and turned it on. It was fucking disgusting. And the person drank that shit right next to me. 

Have you ever gagged on camera?

Never, but in my mind, I am. The whole part of being the Ranger is that I have to be there with a blank face. It’s hilarious when they fuck it up. I’m cracking up internally.

 

"We also fed them blended flies in a smoothie. We just put flies in a blender and turned it on."

 

Does your character have a name?

I’m known as Roly Ranger. It’s not official, but I’ve been working on that show for eight years now, and over the last four or five, I’ve become more of a familiar face to the crew. So Ant and Dec [the presenters] started calling me Roly Ranger when they got a bit more chummy with me, and that name got around the crew.

How did you get this job?

I kind of fell into it. In 2011 I started as a runner through my girlfriend at the time who worked in production, and graduated up the ranks in the art department. I’ve been Standby for the last three or four years. It’s the best job in the whole jungle.

Where do you film it?

On the New South Wales side of the Tweed River, on the Gold Coast of Australia. Near a place called Murwillumbah.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

The hours and length of time that you work. I work seven days a week, between twelve and fourteen hours per day, for about eighty days in a row.

What’s the most fun thing?

Just being in a jungle and playing with obstacle courses and stuff. Every day there’s something different happening. It has a routine, but it’s always entertaining.

Wish you were there? We wish we were there. Photo. Dan Mullins

Have there been any particularly memorable guests?

We had Kendra Wilkinson. She was one of the girls from the Playboy Mansion and was Hugh Hefner’s girlfriend or something. A lot of them can be quite stuck up to the crew, but she was really cool. We also had Caitlyn Jenner, and she was pretty fun. She was actually on the show in 2003 when she still identified as a man. Then she came back on again in 2019.

What’s the balance between snowboarding and work like?

We shoot from the end of September until the middle of December. So I can come off a Southern Hemisphere winter, go straight into working, earn good money, then go straight into a Northern Hemisphere winter. So there isn’t too much of a conflict. I can just get cashed up and then do another winter. It’s pretty perfect. 

 

Roli Tschoder - Crane Operator 

 

What’s your job?

I’m a crane operator. But no one believes me when I tell them that.

How long have you been a crane operator?

For two or three years. After my accident in Kappl where I fell down the cliff, my boss was scared that I wouldn’t come back to work, so he came straight to the hospital and asked if I wanted to get my crane licence.

Was it difficult to get the licence?

No, you pay 500€ and do a week in school, and that’s it.

What did you do before that?

I was making concrete forms and moulds on the building site.

What’s the most difficult part of your job?

Not freaking out when people don’t understand you and what you’re doing. Also starting the day at 5am.

 

"They all put on their hardhats when I drive the crane."

 

What do the people at your work think about you?

They all put on their hardhats when I drive the crane. They know I can drive it good, but not that good. Sketchy, but on the safe side.

So it’s sort of like your snowboarding?

Yes, that’s what I think. I get it done. And no one died.

Are there any snowboard skills that help you with your work?

Learning to be chilled and not getting stressed, and working together in a team with people.

Are there any parts of your job that help with snowboarding?

Yes, it helped me a lot with building jumps. I can build big walls, and then I just fill them up. I save a lot of time because I make the blocks out of ice. So it’s the same as doing concrete in the summer. It’s just bricklaying.

Any funny stories from work?

One day I was sitting in the crane and I fell asleep, and the guys hit it really hard with a sledgehammer. That woke me up pretty quick.

© Theo Acworth Frontside air in Kaunertal, Austria.

 

Grant Giller - Aerial Mapping Pilot 

© Ryland West

 

What’s your job?

Hi I’m Grant Giller, and I’m an aerial mapping pilot. 

How long have you done it for?

About a year and a half.

Was flying a long-term dream for you?

My Grandpa was an airforce pilot, so flying was always something I wanted to do as a kid. Not so much aerial mapping, but it’s one of the more common jobs you can get when you don’t have a tonne of experience.

What’s the most difficult part of your job?

Preparedness for emergencies. 

Have you been in any emergencies?

One time when I was learning to fly, we vapour-locked the engine and weren’t getting enough power to climb out of a dangerous situation.

Did you have to climb out on the wing or anything like that?

No, we just messed with the fuel/air mixture a little bit, and it worked.

Was there ever a chance that the plane might have exploded?

No, it just wouldn’t have provided enough power. We were super low to the ground and heading towards a mountain. 

Did it feel sketchy?

Yeah, super sketchy! And I was still learning to fly, so I didn’t really know what was going on. 

How long were you in flight school?

I did four different certificates, which took me nine months. I started right after I won Superpark Standout, within the same week. That was a real gear change. 

 

"In snowboarding, you might not be sure that you can make something, but you just say screw it, I’ll try. Whereas in a plane, if you do that, you might die."

 

What’s the work/snowboarding balance like for you?

I thought when I started that I wouldn’t be able to ride as much, but the survey job is nice because it’s difficult to do it in the winter. You need good weather with minimal clouds, otherwise they create shadows. Also, people don’t want pictures of snow on the ground. So I was off from late December until early April, and I was able to ride at Kings & Queens of Corbets and also filmed a bunch.

What does an aerial mapping pilot actually do?

Most pilots fly from A to B. My job is taking the plane up and following these pre-plotted lines, so the camera or lidar in the back can survey the ground. You have to get to the right height and stay within 100ft of the route, you record it, and then you move to the next one. If you look at our flight track, it’s like mowing the lawn. 

How long does a flight last?

It depends on the amount of fuel. The planes we use have about five and a half hours, but I wouldn’t push it that far. You come down a bit earlier in case there’s a crashed plane on the runway or some kind of other crazy scenario that means you can’t land. So we usually fly for about five hours.

Is there someone else with you in the plane?

Sometimes you do it by yourself, but usually, it’s with another pilot. Sometimes I do the recording while the other person flies, or vice versa.

What are the aerial images actually used for?

A lot of it is farm planning or watershed management. There are a lot of government contracts that come through other subcontractors. Most of the time, I don’t even know. We just get told to fly to Oklahoma or wherever. 

So nothing illegal or sketchy?

Oh no. Sometimes we fly over areas that you have to get permission for. Like later tonight, I have to fly over Mexico. It’s not that big of a deal because we’re not landing, but the Mexican air traffic control could just straight up tell us no.

 

"If you look at our flight track, it’s like mowing the lawn."

 

What’s the most fun part of your job?

The most fun part is just having an aeroplane and the freedom from my boss to get the job done however we want. I got to fly over New York City recently. Taking off next to the skyline every day and flying up the Hudson River was epic. We also flew over it at night. So I’d say the journey is the most fun part.

What kind of planes do you fly?

I only fly piston-engined propellor planes. Mostly a Cessna 206, which is single-engined, and a Cessna 401 and Cessna 310, which are multi-engined.

© Phil McKenzie

 

Are there any skills you’ve learnt from snowboarding that apply to your job?

Oh yeah, big time. I really like to hit jumps on my snowboard, and that’s a lot of energy management. It’s exactly the same as flying a plane and goes hand in hand with piloting. On the runway or coming in to land, you have to check where you need to be, what movements are gonna give me more or less speed to do what I need to do. A lot has to happen before you can put the plane on the ground. So it’s good if you’re able to subconsciously focus on a lot of different things and make sure you’re not off the track that you’re supposed to be on.

Are there any skills you’ve learnt from piloting that apply to your snowboarding?

For better or worse, I got a bit more risk-sensitive. In snowboarding, you might not be sure that you can make something, but you just say screw it, I’ll try. Whereas in a plane, if you do that, you might die.

Have you had any particularly memorable moments in the air?

The first time I ever flew the line. I thought it was going to be way hard. You need precise movements, but once I figured it out, it was just cool. When I was a kid and wanted to be a pro snowboarder and seeing huge jumps for the first time, I couldn’t imagine myself ever doing them. Eventually, it just happened. I don’t remember when I stopped being scared of them, but it just happened. Same with flying.

Conquering your dreams!

For real. My grandpa died when I was living in Austria a few years ago, and I went home for the funeral. I was still loving snowboarding, but being there made me remember that I’d always wanted to be a pilot, but I never thought I was smart enough, and snowboarding sidetracked me. So I thought that there was no better opportunity than now, and I signed up for flight school right after his funeral. I went back to Austria, finished the season, then went straight to fight school. Shoutout to my grandpa for inspiring me to get here.