Ever wonder what kind of humans spend their day behind the keyboard oozing about snowboarding? Well, it’s about time you meet them. Internet met them at least. Why might you ask? Because usually if you’re good enough to capture snowboard culture in words or imagery you’re probably a pretty rad rider yourself and at minimum an interesting human being. So this series is all about pointing the spotlight back on the wordsmiths and photographers of our industry.
This go we’re chatting with Sam Tuff. She’s so great at introducing herself we just let her roll with it – but our editor Abby endorses “Sam Tuff is rad, comical, spicy, sweet, and an absolute shredder – SBC loves Sam!”
The background of Sam?
ST: I was lucky enough to grow up in good ol’ cowtown, so most of my childhood was spent ripping Sunshine with my parents and loitering around COP from open to close. I went to the National Sport School from grade 9-12, which meant I actually didn’t really attend much school, and spent most of my time ripping COP and travelling around the world to compete in Slopestyle. My parents are heavily involved in the snowboard industry, and were much more stoked to hear about a new trick I learned while skipping class than test results- so I was super lucky to grow up that way. Shortly after graduating I blew my knee and retired from competing. The next natural step in any snowboard rat’s life is to move to Whistler, and that’s where I am now.
Tell us about your relationship with snowboarding, please.
ST: My relationship with snowboarding could best be described as tumultuous, but we’re definitely in a very stable and loving relationship now. Snowboarding has been pretty much my entire identity since I was 4, and that definitely comes with ups and downs. Up until I started getting repetitively injured around age 15, if you zoomed in on any shot of me boarding, you were guaranteed to see a huge shit eating grin on my face. Around that point, I was lucky enough to be able to start considering it a career as well as the thing I loved the most, but mixing business with pleasure can get a little messy. Being hurt all the time and not being able to get the results I wanted was really frustrating and ended up with me kind of hating boarding for a bit (and shedding a lot of tears on chairlifts). I can say pretty confidently if I didn’t blow my knee and retire at 18, I probably would have quit snowboarding altogether- which would have been whack. My recovery took about 2 years and after that, I just got to board for fun, and slowly fell back in love with it all. I broke my back last year and was told I’d never board again, 90 days later I strapped back in, and every day that I’ve been able to ride since then feels like being 12 and riding COP first chair to last chair, not wanting to spend a second doing anything else. Snowboarding is the shit and nothing on earth makes me happier.
What was the first thing you wrote that wasn’t a school assignment?
ST: Oh boy, I’m not sure if this is the first, but it is one of the first things that comes up when you google my name – Betty of the Month.
When did you first merge snowboarding + words?
ST: I was actually just visiting my mom in Calgary and found a bunch of old school assignments that go back as far as kindergarten, where I found a way to bring up snowboarding in pretty much everything I wrote. As I got older I got more into writing and journaling, snowboarding was definitely a big topic that I liked to spit words about. I’m super grateful to have been given a lot of opportunities to write and speak publicly about my career over the years (shoutout Abby and SBC).
Last issue you wrote a hefty feature on the “Tuff Stuff” – no easy task to open up to the people like that, how did you approach it?
ST: I think a combination of the fact that I am a chronic oversharer, and that mental health has always been a casual dinner table conversation in my family, has meant I’ve never had any shame or issue in being a complete open book with that aspect of my life. I don’t think there is any difference between mental and physical health, especially when you take into account how directly the two affect each other in action sports. I honestly really didn’t understand the gravity of writing that piece until it was released, and I started seeing the flood of responses from people that maybe didn’t realize that everyone goes through some dark spots- even if their life looks perfect on the gram. Since then I’ve been able to have a lot of really important conversations with the people around me, and some strangers on chairlifts. I basically approached it the same way I approach most things in life, full throttle with no planning or calculation. Eyes closed, head first, can’t lose, baby!
Any upcoming writing or snowboarding plans?
ST: Always down to write some words for SBC! As for snowboarding, at this point, I really just hope the hills stay open this year. This summer is the first since I was probably 12 that I haven’t done any glacier boarding, but it’s been nice to get the full Whistler summer lake experience. Hoping to do some filming in the backcountry next winter, but I guess we have to wait and see what the world is doing before making any big plans. This season got cut short due to #ronaszn and there were a lot of tricks I wanted to put back in my bag, so I’m itching to cross more of those off the list next winter. My last day on the hill I tried to learn back 2’s with Maria Thomsen and I absolutely bodied myself, hoping for redemption next year.
What’s your personal approach to balancing work + boarding?
ST: I do freelance marketing, so I’m lucky to be able to work from anywhere with a wifi connection. It can definitely get super overwhelming sometimes, but I usually try to crush out emails in the morning while I stretch, and always hit the hill with a fully charged phone so I can pick away at things on the chairlift. I have chronic FOMO and I am much more likely to take a conference call on a chairlift than to miss an afternoon on the hill. Not 100% sure I would call it balance, but it works for me! I’m still learning how to be an adult so if anyone has any tips, hit my line.
SAM TUFF’S FAVOURITE STUFFS
Trip? JR Worlds in Yabuli China in 2015. I will be telling stories from that trip until the day I die. Also when I went to Baldface for a Burton Shoot during Turning Man.
Resort? Whistler Blackcomb baby!!!! Home love!
Snowboard? Burton Talent Scout, I’ve ridden that board since the year it came out and I’ll never look back.
Pocket Snack? Meat sticks. There is no pleasure on earth quite like handheld pocket meats.
Words to live by? Go fast eat shit!!