I met Lyon Farrell in Switzerland at the end of last winter. One of the first things I heard him say was, “I’m an enigma”. This made me laugh. Firstly, because I don’t think it’s accurate, and secondly, how many 22-year-old snowboarders use the word enigma? The actual definition is ‘a person or thing that is mysterious or difficult to understand’, and I’m not sure if that totally applies to him, as he wears his heart on his sleeve. Either way, I liked him, and called him up for a chat when he was home on the island of Maui, Hawaii. We discussed what it was like to have Mike Ranquet as a chaperone aged eleven, his years on the contest circuit, a desire to win, and a simultaneous awareness that he might be chasing something that doesn’t exist. I got the impression that he doesn’t quite know where to direct his energy, but regardless, he’s having a good time figuring it out.
At some point, his mom Angela [two time windsurf World Champion and Extreme Games 1995 Gold Medalist] walked into the house, and the conversation took on an unexpected and entertaining dynamic. You can’t always plan these things, sometimes you’ve just got to roll with it. To some extent, that’s exactly how Lyon moves through life, so it makes sense that the interview went this way too.
Extracted from Method Mag issue 22.3
Interview. Theo Acworth
What was it like having Mike Ranquet as a skate coach for a short time? Do you ever bounce ideas off of him or talk about where you’re at with your snowboarding?
L: Oh yeah. For me, he’s a sounding board. He’s also like the crazy uncle. I wouldn’t be surprised if right now he just kicked down the door and said, "What’s up motherfuckers!".
How did you meet him?
L: I actually met him before snowboarding was really a thing for me. He was skating my local park. He’d just got his hip replaced and was barely able to skate though. His buddy Steve knew that I had a vert ramp at my house, and he asked if Mike could come and skate it. I was like, dude, I don’t know about this guy. He can barely roll around on a board! I was such a little shit when I was younger. So he comes over and just blows my mind, doing huge backside airs.
*Lyon’s mom Angela walks into the house*
L: Hi mom. Theo, this is my mom Angela.
Hi Angela, how’s it going?
A: Who’s that?
L: It’s Theo, say hi.
A: There’s so much pizza here!
L: I got two mopsis, because it’s better to have a mopsi on deck.
What’s a mopsi?
L: It’s a type of pizza that’s so good that everyone wants to eat it, so you get two of them.
Angela, what do you think about your son’s dietary habits while he’s recovering from his knee surgery?
A: When I’m in charge, they’re good. When he’s in charge, they’re shit. Lyon, who is this person I’m talking to?
L: This is Theo.
I work for a snowboard magazine, and I’m interviewing your son.
A: Would you like to interview me? Because I’m way more famous than my son. Especially at 11 o’clock at night when I’ve had a few tequilas.
For sure. Are you proud of your son?
A: Very. He’s phenomenal. He’s an amazing human being.
L: Thanks mom. She doesn’t usually drink, though, so this is good timing.
It sounds like you give him the space to do what makes him happy?
A: From the moment he came onto this planet, he knew who he was. He was born pretty much saying, ‚Hello! I’m here!’ I thought he was so cute, then his brother came, and he was way cuter. Sorry.
Tough break, dude. But to let your kids wander around the world from a very young age is pretty cool, so I guess that makes you a cool mom?
A: I am a cool mom, right?
L: For sure, she’s the coolest mom.
Are there any particularly good stories you can tell me about Lyon when he was younger?
A: We had this quarterpipe at the bottom of our driveway, which was really steep. I don’t know why we put it at the bottom. I don’t think we knew anything about skateboarding. He’d look at us, and we’d tell him to be careful. He’d look back and say, ‚Mom, I got this!’ Aged seven or something, flying down the driveway. I’d be freaking out, and he’d look at me like, ‚God, what’s your problem, I got this’. And he actually did have it. I really learned that you can’t tell a person that they can’t do something if they think that they totally can. Encourage someone to do what they think they can do instead of taking the cotton wool approach. As soon as you tell them to be careful, they will be, and that messes up the entire process.
Well, you seem to have survived thus far, Lyon. Angela, you were a professional windsurfer, right?
A: Yeah, but that was between the ages of nineteen to thirty. So no one told me anything. But when you’re seven or something, then your parents will be telling you what to do. When he was eight we told him that we’d pay him to clean our toilets, thinking he’d maybe do it once. The freaking kid, he cleaned them three times a day and expected me to pay up. I had to make him stop.
“Aged seven or something, flying down the driveway. I’d be freaking out, and he’d look at me like, ‘God, what’s your problem, I got this’. And he actually did have it.”
Hustler. It sounds like he had a good work ethic from a young age?
A: A very good work ethic, very business-minded. That’s why he’s a billionaire, and he’s only twenty two.
I didn’t know you were a billionaire, congrats.
A: We’re going to have a plane.
You want to buy Method Mag?
L: Yes. I’ll buy that, I’ll buy XGames, we’ll just do the whole thing. We have a pilot too, my uncle Bob can fly the plane. Mom, what was it like seeing me at 13 just going for it and trusting me to do it?
A: Trusting you? I trusted that lady from your middle school.
L: Oh, Miss Peterka?
L: Oh my god. So this woman. We were going to put him in this very fancy school here. Everyone said that if you go there, there’s no skipping school. I told his teacher that he’s a skateboarder and that he had to go to a contest. And then she told me that Stacey Peralta used to be her neighbour, and they had the first halfpipe in their backyard, and that whatever Lyon wanted to do was fine. Then she said if you were going to skip school, skip 8th grade because that’s the best one to skip.
A: So that’s why Lyon took that year off aged thirteen. He went to New Zealand for four months, and then Breckenridge for four months. Because of her.
L: Really? I didn’t know that.
A: Yeah, she was square as square could be, but she was so cool, she just said go for it. I mean how the hell are you supposed to know what to do to? I’d never had kids before.
A: No one at the school ever thought they’d let us do it. They were all very preppy. To get in, you have to do this whole interview and tests. Lyon’s scores were really bad, 64 and 64.
L: Yeah. Consistent, though.
A: They totally loved him. He talked his way into it.
L: In the interview, I told them that I wanted to be a doctor so that when I fell and hurt myself skating at XGames, I would be able to fix myself up on the spot. They loved it. I only went for a little bit, it was really pretentious.
Angela, do you ever make it out to any of his contests?
A: Not as much as I should. But I actually bought a ski pass this year so I can visit him all the time and shout from the sidelines, ‚That’s my son!’.
Are you that kind of mom?
A: Screaming with pom-poms? That’s totally me. No. I’d be the quiet one asking if he or his friends wanted some water.
Lyon, are you down to have your mom around you at competitions?
L: Yeah, definitely.
You should be proud of that, Angela.
L: My mom being around at contests helps me do better. She doesn’t come to many, so when she is there, it’s amazing. I feel pretty lucky.
A: But I am quiet. I’m not the jump up and down type. As much as I would like to be, it’s just not my personality. But I am really proud.
That’s ok. I don’t think it’s a requirement to jump up and down.
L: It’s funny how the people who are around you at a contest can affect you. Everybody came to XGames the first time I went. That was major. But I also like being by myself when it comes to contests.
A: He’s a Sagittarius.
Ah, that explains a lot.
A: It’s true! They’re very independent.
L: I love my family being there. But sometimes I get too emotionally attached to how they’re feeling. I want to make sure that they’re stoked and happy, which can be a lot to take on. I do wish my mom would have been there a lot more though.
A: I wish that too. It was just a hard time. Life. Divorce. Life. Shit. Crap. All that stuff. And Lyon sort of got moved off to the side. I know he’d wished we’d been there more, but somehow all of the other crap took over. But he did really amazingly, despite it all. That’s what I think.
L: It was a lot to navigate at a young age. Looking back on it, I wish my family could have been at everything. But everyone was going through shit, and there was a life at home that was being navigated too, and I was out in the world doing my own thing.
A: Actually, and this is being completely transparent, it was a lot for a young teenager to be taking on while your family is in chaos and going through shit. You’re trying to be the best that you can be, and no one is there to actually be at your contests because we were all freaking out at home and not able to do that.
Ok, I didn’t realise that was the family dynamic at that time.
A: Yeah. Lyon handled himself. It’s a lot for a fourteen-year-old to be away from their family when their family is going through total upheaval. To function and do what he’s done without what everyone else had, without the family cheering from the sidelines at every contest, he really did it by himself. I was sending him to stay with this coach, or that person, whoever. Telling him that you can do this or you can do that, but guess what, I’m not there, so handle it. That’s a lot for a person to take on.
That is a lot. But it seems like you’ve managed to navigate it ok Lyon. You’re far more grounded and self-reflective than most people your age. So I guess harder journeys can sometimes have good results, in the end. The relationship between the two of you also seems really special.
L: I always know my mom has got my back 100%. The whole divorce thing was right when I started snowboarding. When I was skating, I was one of the only people in my friendship group with parents who were together. Then I moved into snowboarding, and all the other kids had such solid family structures, and that was right when my own family was starting to fall apart. I didn’t want to say that, but fall apart.
L: I really appreciated sitting at the dinner table with families like the Gerards, the Henkes, the Hunts, the Canters. Just doing that is really important. It was a bummer to be so far away from home, but I still got to feel that love and feel supported. My mom was really good at making sure I was in those kinds of environments. Her knowing how to navigate that was really nice for me. I was also living with Simple Snowboarding for a while when I was fourteen, which is this crew of Kiwis and Canadians. That was hectic. I was the youngest one, and my parent’s divorce was really fresh. Me and Tyler Nicholson did not get along. Like not at all. We were supposedly so similar, but we would just butt heads.
A: Lyon would call me from the closet for an hour and a half, just totally bumming out. But now they’re buddies. Tyler is so lovely and cute.
L: I definitely got thrown into the deep end. There were so many kids in one house. It was full-on. When the landlord would come over, we’d have to break down our bunk beds and put them in the vans and drive them up the street, so they didn’t know they were housing so many kids. When I first met Mikey Ciccarelli I thought he was the Justin Beiber of snowboarding, just a superstar. Carlos Garcia Knight and I were fanboying so hard. He was the coolest.
A: He’s the nicest person on the planet.
“I want to be homies with everyone because you never know where life will take us.”
I’ve never met anyone you’re talking about. Maybe Method needs to come and hang at a major contest?
L: You should! So many of the kids are so rad. It’s so sick that we’ve known each other for so long. Going from crying in a closet because Tyler was bullying me to where we are now, dropping into US Open, and we’re best friends. I couldn’t have lucked out harder. There was a lot to navigate and figure out, but I had snowboarding to help channel all of my frustration and energy. I just attached that emotion to snowboarding because of the timing of the divorce and stuff. It’s cool now with my mom saying that stuff. It’s actually only recently that she’s started talking about it and feeling like she needs to show up. I’ve been able to do so many amazing things, and I wish my family had been there to see it all. They got glimpses of it, though. It’s cool that we’ve come to this place where we all feel a lot closer and more healed and comfortable.
*Angela returns to the room, arguing with her daughter Phoenix and talking about a game called Mexican Train, which is apparently more fun than dominos*
L: Mom, do you have any good Mike Ranquet stories?
A: When Lyon first told me that ‘some guy’ called Mike Ranquet was coming to skate our ramp, I was like, ‚What? Are you freaking kidding me?’. When I first started snowboarding, Mike Ranquet was really fucking cool. To me, he was the bomb, the guy. I went to New Zealand in 1995 with the Sims snowboard team for a photo shoot, and that was the whole Ranquet era.
Hold on, I thought you were a windsurfer? How come you were with the Sims team?
A: I had friends.
L: During your professional career, you might have been quiet, but you made so many friends around the world. Wherever I was, you would tell me, oh, you should hang out with this person, or visit these people, and they would just take me in and treat me like family. That really pushed me to want to be friends with everyone from everywhere. I sometimes feel like people think it’s weird that I want to snowboard from people with other countries. One day I’ll be 50, and everyone is going to want to know each other and not just the small bubble of American snowboarders. I want to be homies with everyone because you never know where life will take us. We won’t always be doing these contests, so it’s nice to have those connections.
“I started projectile vomiting all over the hotel we were in. Literally painted the walls.”
A: Tell him the smoking story. That one was funny.
L: It wasn’t funny for me!
Ok, I have to hear this one.
A: So we hired Mike to take care of Lyon. We sent him to California to skate all these parks.
L: It was for the Woodward Am Jam.
A: Lyon was always very anti-smoking when he was little. The worst thing you could possibly ever do was smoke a cigarette. So he calls me from the Venice skatepark, freaking out. I asked him what was going on, and he says, while hyperventilating, “Mom, Mike is smoking a cigarette!”.
L: It was actually a joint. He told me that later on. He said he just took a hit from a random dude at the bowl and then gave me shit for telling my mom. That was hilarious. I don’t know why I was so anti-smoking. I think it was because dad smoked cigs for a while. But back to Mike. He was kind of chaperoning me to all these contests. I guess I was about eleven.
You were eleven, and you had Mike Ranquet as the person responsible for your wellbeing?
L: Yeah, we just went to California one time. We’d pull up to skate contests, and people would recognise him and say whatup. I just didn’t get it. Snowboarding wasn’t a thing for me at that point so I didn’t know who he was. At the end of our trip, we were down in San Diego. He got in contact with Bob Burnquist about skating his megaramp the next day. I ended up eating some bad food, and in the middle of the night, I started projectile vomiting all over the hotel room we were in. Literally painted the walls. It was so bad. Mike hadn’t had kids yet, so looking back, him having to navigate that whole thing was so funny. He has these crazy arms and was waving them all over the place and freaking out, just saying, ‘You got this little buddy!’. Poor him. We didn’t end up going to Bob’s house.
Maybe we should make this into a book. The adventures of Lyon Farrell and Mike Ranquet.
*Angela comes over and reminds Lyon to take his blood thinners*
L: Thanks Mom.
*Angela leaves again*
L: Mike is the funniest dude. On Maui, there were literally no kids my age that would skate vert or pools. I’d have to skate with forty-year-olds. We would have these sessions, and I would always just be such a little shit. There was this one guy called Emmet and he had the wildest style. Trucks with no bushings, his kingpin was so fucked. It made no sense how he was able to ride his board. I would always make fun of him, and I did it so badly one time he actually left the ramp. He was so baffled and pissed off that I was talking shit to him that Mike wrote me a full-blown letter. My parents printed it and handed it to me. He was saying that you should never talk bad like that, that I should respect my elders. He really put me in my place. I was a cocky little shit, so he wrote me this massive letter, and I bawled my eyes out. I felt so bad and so sorry. He really checked me at a young age.
That’s cool that you got that side of him too.
L: My parents were progressive, and they thought Mike was cool, so they trusted him to look after me. I don’t know how many other people would let someone take their kid to California. If they told anyone, they’d probably think they were crazy. Mike would talk shit on a whole other level, and I would just listen and copy him. It was such a contrast between him and me. This wild, hip replaced guy who had a huge influence on snowboarding and me not knowing shit about him. He fucking revolutionised the way people looked at snowboarding. He brought skateboarding into it. If you know, then you know, Mike Ranquet is the fucking man. I got to ride with him and Chris Roach, such rad dudes. They changed the game in a lot of ways. I feel really lucky to have that kind of sounding board. As much as people think he’s a wild man, he’s a pretty incredible human being and has an amazing outlook on snowboarding and life.
“He really put me in my place. I was a cocky little shit, so he wrote me this massive letter and I bawled my eyes out. He really checked me at a young age.”
I presume you’ve been snowboarding with him as well as touring skateparks?
L: Yeah, he showed me around Mount Baker. After transitioning from skate to snow, riding with him during LBS and experiencing that place with him and guys like Terje and Temple Cummins, that was probably one of the most memorable and special times that I’ve had so far in snowboarding. That was special. Mike made me realise that you’re chasing that childhood energy. You’re just having fun and only focused on what you’re doing. He was doing the same exact thing that I’m experiencing now. Knowing that I get to carry that same energy with my friends when I’m older, that’s awesome. I see the future, and I can’t wait for that part of my life too. I’m so stoked on where I’m at now, but hanging with someone like Mike who’s been in and out of it. He’s true to himself, and when he’s with everyone, he’s just there, and the vibes are high.
Ok Lyon, we’ve been rambling for a while and I think we can leave things there for now. Any closing thoughts for us?
L: Mike taught me another amazing thing. My dad’s best friend Phil lived in Marina del Rey, and we stayed a night with him when we were in California. He met Mike, and then a few minutes later, he looked at him and asked if he was in a Coors Light commercial like twenty years ago. It turns out that they’d met each other there, and they fully hit it off again! He said, ‚Lyon, you see that? I just ended up in a random person’s house. It turns out I know the guy. Twenty years prior, if I was a fucking asshole to him, he could have carried that with him until now and might have just kicked me out of his house. This whole experience could have changed.’ That was so interesting to me. The way you show up now will have repercussions in the future, and you never know when you’ll end up in that situation where you’ll see someone again. He provided a lot of insight to me at a young age. Both about wildness, but also about respecting people and appreciating the time you spend with them. From my experience, he shows up as a very caring and loving person. Some people would say that he talks a lot of shit, and maybe that’s true, but it’s also true that there’s a lot of gold in that shit.
“You never know when you’ll end up in a situation where you’ll see someone again. The way you show up now will have repercussions in the future.”