"The first time I met Kevin Ignacia was at the Munich airport when he dropped off his good homie Kevin Trammer. Trammer and I were about to go on a Vans trip to Russia, and I remember Kevin being very humble and thinking what a good homie he is to drive his buddy all this way. A few years later, our paths crossed again in Innsbruck, and we connected. He's a good skateboarder, a good life enthusiast, a little bit of a fashionista and an overall nice dude to hang out with. He's just starting to experience the process of filming snowboarding and getting after it. I'm excited to see what he will bring into snowboarding's world in the future." - Benny Urban
Interview: Theo Acworth
Where did you grow up, Kevin?
I grew up in Delft, between Rotterdam and Den Haag. It’s a small city that looks a bit like Amsterdam. Lots of canals and bridges.
It sounds cute.
How did you get into snowboarding?
My mom was always online looking for coupons and stuff, and she found one that was an hour’s snowboard lesson for two people. So she asked if my younger brother and I wanted to do it. We would sometimes ski, so at first we said no because we were happy with that, but then we tried it, and it was cool. She got us a year’s pass and gear. We’d go four times a week or something to the indoor.
Which dome were you riding?
We started riding at De Uithof, in Den Haag.
When did you start connecting to the snowboard scene there?
It took a while… My brother and I would always go together, and we were kind of the new guys. There was a super tight pack of dome guys there who were already doing tricks, and we thought that was pretty cool. But they were not so nice to us.
They cool-guyed you?
Not really… It was more like, ‘Who are you guys, and what are you doing here?’. So it took us a while to get into it. And I had a bigger mouth than my brother, so I was like, ‘Fuck you guys’. They would give us shit about our old gear. My sister used to snowboard, and I’d ride her old boots, and they’d give me shit about those too. It was like a fashion show. My brother was thirteen, I was fifteen, and the other guys were around the same age or a bit older.
“You might go there thinking you're going to have a sick session, then someone makes one shitty comment, and it just brings you down.”
That’s definitely an age range where people can be really shitty.
Yeah, and we were also easy to pick on because we looked different. They’d make racial slurs and stuff at us like ‘Look, a black guy on a snowboard, make a wish’. What the fuck. They said because it’s so rare to see a black guy on snow that you can make a wish when you see one.
Dude, that’s fucked up. That must have made you feel seriously isolated there.
Luckily I always went with my brother, but it was shitty to experience something like that.
Was there anyone there who had your back or was speaking up and supporting you?
I had two friends there, Nina and Isabella, they were really nice. And another guy called Jordi. But the others I never really got along with. But then De Uithof had kind of a breakdown, the park was shit, and the snow was really bad, so we started riding Snowworld Zoetermeer. Then when we came back to ride Uithof sometimes, those original guys started giving us shit about riding the other dome, saying we were rich kids and stuff. Man, we just liked snowboarding and wanted to get better at it.
That sounds like a lot of really shitty energy being directed at you.
Yeah. But it was just between those two domes. If you look and Landgraaf where Jesse [Augustinus] rides, it’s pretty chill there. No one asks you who you are or where you’re from, not like a city dome.
So when you moved to the new dome did you feel it was more welcoming?
When we first went there, we’d see all the guys from the videos that we were watching from the dome scene, which was cool. Anthony Indawood was riding there, and he came up straight away and said that he’d never seen me riding there before and said what’s up? This is a big guy in the Netherlands, and he’s not bitching about my board or anything and is just asking how I’m doing. That was definitely a better dome to be in. Everybody was just nice, and we really felt good there. They’d have training for the Dutch team once a week or something, so it was a really different environment to the city dome where people would just come on their bikes and then judge you based on what you were wearing and telling you that you couldn’t join in.
That sounds like a much better space to be in. How did you deal with that sort of negative energy?
I always found a way. If you want to waste your lives bitching about me, go ahead. I was just having fun and snowboarding. My sister gave me her iPod, so I would just put music in and couldn’t hear anything, even if they were saying it. And I was always with my brother, so we were always together. But you might go there thinking you’re going to have a sick session, then someone makes one shitty comment, and it just brings you down. I wouldn’t say it heavily affected me, but why do that? Just shut the fuck up.
That’s really gnarly, dude. Sorry to hear that that’s something you have to deal with.
Those guys were always filming and literally telling me no, I couldn’t join. I dressed a bit different, and I thought maybe my style sucked or something.
“My moms said they saw clips of me riding without a helmet and that my beanies looked cool, but they'd prefer to see me in a helmet, and would it be ok if I wore one? I guess that was about five years ago, and I promised that I always would. Now it's just part of me.”
Did that ever change? Did you ever manage to cross that boundary?
Yeah, whenever they would say stuff, Anthony would tell them to shut the fuck up. He always had my back.
That’s rad that he made a real effort to speak up for you.
People would listen when he said stuff. Not just letting the homies laugh along with the joke at the new guy because he’s different.
Good to hear. So I wanted to ask you about helmets. Have you always worn them? They really seem like part of your vibe.
When you’re a kid, you do what your moms say, and my moms told me to wear a helmet, so I did. I moved to Austria when I was nineteen, and before that, I’d been sort of off the helmet for a year because we were filming a lot, and I’d always see shots of people without helmets and thought it looked way cooler, so I also did it. My moms said they saw clips of me riding without a helmet and that my beanies looked cool, but they’d prefer to see me in a helmet, and would it be ok if I wore one? I guess that was about five years ago, and I promised that I always would, even if it’s slushy. Now it’s just part of me. Even at Moonpark, where we’re shaping ourselves and know it’s safe, I’ll still wear it. I kinda like it. I feel really good with it. It’s just my style, and I’m not gonna change it.
I definitely think of it as part of your steeze.
It also makes me feel better when I’m trying a new trick or something. The odds that you fall on your head are small, but it can always happen. Anyone that says their head isn’t made for a helmet or they can’t find a fit, there are so many helmets on the market. I wear skate helmets mostly. They’re light and a bit slimmer.
I think it’s cool that you do it because your parents asked you to, and you listened. Sounds like you have a good relationship with them.
They’re the best. They’re super cool and really open. I have two moms, and they’re not like any other moms out there. I know everyone probably says that, but even my friends say it. They say that they’re really welcoming and you can always come and eat at our place. They’re super supportive and let us do what we want. Like when I was nineteen and Anthony said I should go to Austria and snowboard in Mayrhofen for a season. I told my moms, and they said, ‘Ok, that sounds cool, go do it. They’re really cool.’
Any good life lessons they taught you or things that you’ve learnt from them?
Maybe it sounds cliché, but having two moms, I think you grow up respecting women a lot more. They always told me things to do and things not to do if I ever had a girlfriend. That I should always be respectful and stuff like that. But they also taught me about just being open and having the confidence to do what I feel like doing in life. Like if homies ever come to Innsbruck, letting them crash on my couch and stuff. So I think just treating other people how you’d want to be treated.
That sounds like a good perspective to have. So you’ve got two younger brothers and an older sister. Are you all pretty tight?
Yeah definitely. My sister’s super cool. She’s five years older, and my brothers are two and a half and five years younger. My moms are a bit older, and my sister is teaching them a load of new things. One of them didn’t want to wear a dress at her wedding, she said didn’t feel like it. She recently went to a museum about LGBTQ stuff and afterwards said that maybe she was just gender neutral. I thought that it was pretty rad that she was able to say something like that at her age.
That is rad.
My sister is also really protective of me and always took me to cool places in Amsterdam with lots of POC so that I wouldn’t feel alone. Also telling me places to avoid if they were just some racist hoods or something. She’s definitely been a big influence on me, and she knows a lot about racism and is always there for me. If someone discriminates against me, I would always call my sister before my mom. Then we can both rage about it. My mom would say, ‘Oh that’s really mean’ whereas my sister would say, ‘That’s fucked up’. At that moment, that’s what you want to hear. She could always see that snowboarding was a white-dominated sport and always asks me how things are going in Austria. She’s really caring and wants to know that things are ok.
“I think the craziest thing that happened to me was someone giving me the Hitler thing, the Nazi salute. That was one of the first times when I really asked myself what the fuck I was even doing here.”
How is your day-to-day experience in Austria?
I feel good and supported by my friends, but by the people in Austria, not at all. It’s difficult sometimes. I’m not really hanging out with older Austrian people, so maybe their only experience of POC is what they see in the media. When they see me walking or skating on the street, it’s something new for them, because they’re only used to seeing everybody white. There’s this old lady who lives on my block, and for some reason, she just hates me and is always mean to me. She has a big dog and once told me that she was going to set the dog on me.
Are you serious? Jesus, dude.
That’s actually super crazy. I was walking with a homie just playing with a ball, and the dog freaked out. I said sorry, and she said that if it happened one more time, she would let the dog loose. So, of course, I did it one more time just to piss her off. And I told her that if she did that, then I’d call the cops, and they’d put the dog down. There are also times when I walk past some of those small bars in Innsbruck and just don’t have a good feeling because people just stare at me.
Damn, dude that’s fucked up. And a gnarly experience to have on a daily basis. I can’t imagine what that’s like.
Yeah, always the constant fear that someone might mentally hurt you by saying something, even if they don’t know you. But always at these small bars, or if I’m just pushing on my skateboard, old people on the streets are yelling at me. I don’t know what they yell because I can’t always hear them, but it’s probably bad. I’m skating, which is bad, and I’m also a POC on a skateboard, so it really hits them. It’s pretty rough. I think the craziest thing that happened to me was someone giving me the Hitler thing, the Nazi salute.
That’s beyond fucked. I’m so sorry to hear that.
That was one of the first times when I really asked myself what the fuck I was even doing here. I was just walking at night, and I got pretty scared. Straight up Neo-Nazi shit. The situation with the lady with the dog was crazy, but this guy? He was only maybe twenty-eight or something.
Fuck, I thought it might have been an older guy, but someone that young? That’s insane.
Yeah, and he was with a group of friends, so I got super scared.
That’s awful mate. It sounds like a pretty crazy contrast between the snow/skate scene which is pretty open and becoming more aware of systemic racism, and the wider Austrian society, which quite clearly isn’t.
Yeah, it’s pretty crazy. You have a good day on the mountain, then come down and get yelled at.
Do you see yourself staying in Austria?
No. No chance. It’s nice, but I’ve lived here now for five years and I think I’ve seen enough.
We have some of the best access to the mountains, but if you have to deal with bullshit like that, I can’t imagine why you would want to stay. You get bad people anywhere, but…
But there are a bunch of them here. Once, I wasn’t allowed into a bar. That actually happened. I was with Dennis Ranalter, and we were doing this little bar-hopping tour. He asked if we should go to one spot, and I told him I’d always got a weird feeling when I passed it. He said let’s get a beer, why not. The guy then told us, ‘Sorry, it’s a private party today’. People next to us were getting in with no problem. White people. The guy said that we could stand outside and drink a beer if we wanted, but kind of in an annoyed way. I’ve never felt that uncomfortable before in a bar. I asked Dennis why we were doing it, and he said that now, we were just doing it to provoke him, which was kind of cool. So we finished the drinks, and the guy asked if we were leaving. We said no, we’ll take two Aperol Spritz, please.
That’s a boss move, but horrible that this still happens in 2022, in a city with 140k people. I know we’re in the mountains, but Innsbruck isn’t a village.
Yeah, and it’s always portrayed as a sporty and student city, so I think people should act like it too, instead of telling us that we can’t enter a bar because of our skin colour.
Do you see any progress being made or a way forward?
It’s definitely something I think about as I deal with racism a lot. I think it’s like an illness. People just don’t know what’s out there, and they see it, and they’re afraid of it. It’s just all out of fear. They look around and see there are more of them than there are of us, so it’s really easy to pick on people or say something that their friends think is funny but is hurtful to me. I hope it’s going to happen less here in Innsbruck, but I don’t know. It’s hard to say.
In terms of the action and outdoor sports community, do you feel like there’s been progress elevation and representation of POC?
Yeah. I think it’s becoming more of a thing, and I see more and more POC from all around trying to ski and snowboard and not feeling excluded, or just being active outdoors.
You’ve been modelling a bit recently, and we’ve been doing commercial shoots for brands like Adidas Terrex. How do you feel being a part of these shoots for these huge brands and knowing that they’re trying to diversify their representation?
I spoke about this with Ymi [co-worker and co-model]. Sometimes it’s a bit cringe. An Asian girl and a black guy as a couple doing mountain stuff… But that’s also totally normal, and we should be able to do that. Of course these brands could have started doing this way earlier, but at the same time, it’s cool. And maybe younger and more diverse people out there who look like me will see this stuff and think that it’s possible for them to do these things too.
Hope so. Is the modelling something you see yourself doing more of?
Acs from The Distillery in Innsbruck keeps asking me, so I guess I’m doing something right. And it means I can afford to go and do fun stuff. I would hustle in the bar and wasn’t sure how I could take the time to go on a longer trip. But now, in two days of shooting, you get pretty well paid, which means that I can do more trips. It’s really nice and really helps me out. I don’t always have time to model when I’m asked, but I always make sure I get it! I never expected to do something like this. My mom always told me I should do something with modelling, but I think everyone’s mom says that.
I think mine did too.
But now it’s actually happening I think I should try it more. Get a portfolio together and send it out a bit.
I remember you were a bit stressed about the first shoot we did for Terrex because you’d just started getting gear from Vans. Is that still something you stress about?
Well, I haven’t told Bruno [Rivoire, Vans TM] yet… but the shots aren’t part of big campaigns, sometimes they’re just for B2B [business to business]. And the money that I get from it means that I can snowboard more. So it’s not really a bad thing for Vans. I hope they’re happy about it.
“For now, I'm just rolling with it. As long as it stays fun, that's fine.”
100%. If you were actually modelling Adidas snowboarding gear then that would be a bit different, but we’re doing stuff like trail running and hiking, which is a totally different market.
Yeah, and if it was normal snow outerwear, I just wouldn’t do it. I’d rather miss what I would earn modelling than miss out on the gear and support from a brand like Vans.
How’s the balance between work and filming going?
Last winter, I was working twenty hours a week in Kater [Innsbruck bar], but I think I’m going to cut it down to ten. Last winter, we had Kurzarbeit [Austrian COVID support], so you weren’t allowed to work, but you got paid. I wasn’t really supposed to, but I went on a two-week trip to Finland with Escape. Kater was totally cool about it. I just have to inform them early enough if I want to go somewhere. But if I only work ten hours, that’s much easier to manage.
Is this the first winter you’ve been on a proper street trip?
Yeah. I always tagged along on stuff and got some single clips here and there, but this trip was sick and got me totally hooked on street riding. We had two dumps in Helsinki, which made it really fun. We were there for two weeks, and we could literally ride everything we wanted because there was so much snow. I didn’t get too many shots, but for a first trip, I got some stuff I’m proud of.
How did you end up getting linked to the Escape guys?
Gian [Sutter] would stay at my place when he came to the park openings in Austria. He came with Dario [Burch] once, and they mentioned that it would be cool if I filmed with Escape. I thought it would be super cool, but then we stopped talking about it. Then he came again and left me an Escape sweater on my bed when I left, so there was no way back. I went to Helsinki, but in the end, none of the guys that I knew were on that trip.
Who was there?
It was Lou [Staub], Amon [Eisenmann] Martin [Lässer] and Lionel [Merch]. I’d met Amon over Instagram, but I hadn’t met any of the others. Flo Fischer was also there. I was kind of alone and super nervous at first, just happy that I was able to join. But after a few days, it was all good and easy.
You got plans to shoot some more with them?
Yeah, I hope so. It’s a super fun crew. I was always a bit nervous at the spots, but Lou would just tell me that it was all good, that I got it. I feel like I can do more and I want to do more, so I hope there’s another winter with Escape.
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So you’re getting some new support from K2 as well as Vans. Do you have a plan about where your snowboarding is going?
For now, I’m just rolling with it. Trying to do the best that I can and get some more out of it, but I don’t have a desire to be a pro snowboarder. That would of course be sick, but I want to do more so that I can get more. Maybe go to the US and film and ride a bit there. But I’ve got no real desire to get my name on a board. As long as it stays fun, that’s fine.