Chatting with the Pros: Tim Humphreys on Adapting to Changes as a Pro Boarder

Published on 02/07/2023 · 25 min readNidecker snowboarder Tim Humphreys sits down with Matt K. to talk about his perfect board, the Supermatic bindings, and finding his balance with social media.
Matthew Kaminski, Snowboarding Expert
By Snowboarding Expert Matthew Kaminski

Photo by Ed Blomfield 

With the 2023 season approaching, the stoke is high, and snow is falling all over the country. Today, I got the chance to sit down with Nidecker team snowboarder Tim Humphreys, who is out of the Lake Tahoe Area. For those who don’t know Tim, it’s easy to pick him out throwing massive rotations in the jumpline at Mammoth, followed by a floaty backcountry line he accessed from his sled. One might also call him the GoPro God; that thing is like his third eye! Check out his Nidecker part from 2020. I’m still wondering how he pulled off that backside 720 two minutes into the video.

Tim grew up riding a small hill on the East Coast just a few hours north of NYC. I think I can speak for all of us when I say those first moments on a snowboard define who you are for the rest of your life. Tim knew he had something special from a young age, but it took years of dedication fighting through injury and competitive snowboarding to end up where he is today. In a sport that seems like it’s always changing, Tim remains dialed in and continues to throw down some mind-blowing snowboarding parts each season.

Tuning in from his domain in Truckee, Tim and I dive into what it takes to become a professional snowboarder, including his uprising in the sport. We also discuss some of the new gear Nidecker has in store, including the Supermatic bindings! Lastly, we talk about our dream days on the mountain and build the perfect snowboard for Tim. This is definitely one interview you do not want to miss!

Watch our conversation below and read on for more!

Tim, what's up? How's it going today?

Hey, what's happening? I’m doing great. Enjoying the nice weather.

Cool. Where are you right now? What's your home base?

Right now, I'm up in Truckee, California, just hanging out in north Lake Tahoe. Got a lot of really close resorts and good backcountry access, and the season runs pretty long out here. So, just waiting for the snow to fly.

I was out there back in April. They did the Freeride World Tour qualifiers out in Kirkwood, and I got a chance to ride some of those mountains.

Nice. Did they have those steep lines that are always closed off—the really cool-looking ones?

Yeah, we were in The Cirque there. They kept it closed all season and then let us go at it, which was kind of a dream.

That's awesome.

A view from the top of The Cirque, Kirkwood, CA. Photo By Matthew Kaminski

What was your first time snowboarding, and what did that look like? What were you into at a younger age?

My first time on a board was in my front yard or at this park near our house. How I ended up riding was my brother and dad went out snowboarding just the year before, just on a whim. My brother was all, "I want to try snowboarding." My dad said, "Yeah, cool, let's go." I was super young. I was six or seven or something. I didn't even know they had gone snowboarding or even what it was. I straight-up had no idea. I grew up in New Jersey. The closest mountain was Mountain Creek, which was an hour and 10 minutes away, and no one around was really into it. So after they rode, they went to a snowboarding shop. They had gotten a video or two and brought them home, one being Mack Dawg's “The Melt Down Project.”

It was the best video I had because I was like, "Oh, my God. These guys are jumping cliffs and doing flips, and there are seemingly no rules.” I grew up in suburban New Jersey, where there were the most rules, and this just seemed so free. Nobody was telling anyone what to do, and I think that really drew me in. I probably watched that video a thousand times and then maybe rode a little bit in my front yard. The first time going to a resort was at Windham Mountain in New York, and we used to ride there a bunch.

My parents had signed my sister and me up for some lessons, and pretty much after day one, they were like, "This kid needs a coach." I was just a little cracked seven-year-old on a snowboard with no rules. And my only perception of snowboarding was “The Melt Down Project” because I'd watched that video a thousand times before my first day of snowboarding. That's all I knew. There was no internet then or any of that. I didn't have any other exposure to snowboarding; that's what my brain knew of snowboarding. So that's just what I went out and tried to do. I tried to find weird natural side hits, jumping over stuff, and getting yelled at for dipping into the trees—because that was not allowed—and stuff like that.

That brings me to my next question. What made you want to continue to that professional level? I'm sure having a coach and having that drive right there alone.

I didn't have a coach at the very beginning. We were going on a couple of random weekends. Windham was still two and a half hours from my parent's house. They just upgraded me from ski school to a freestyle instructor at the mountain, just a guy riding around and helping me out, showing me how to ollie on the snowboard and do 180s, and things like that. So I didn't have much coaching until much later after I was doing really well at many local contests and starting to get invited to more. So the coaching didn't even happen until I was in high school.

There's a big gap between when I started. I probably started when I was seven, and the first contest I did was maybe 11 because I didn't even really know there were snowboard contests. I may have seen one in a snowboard video, but none had ever come to the mountain. And then I did some random Big Air when I was 11, and I got third in it. I'd been jumping off stuff my whole life, jumping on trampolines, diving boards, and everything. And they had a pretty big step down. I was surprised my parents were even like, "Yeah, hit it." But I think my dad just wanted to watch me chuck my carcass.

I got third place, and then this Burton rep came the next year and found me. He said, "Dude, we saw you at that contest, and we never saw you the rest of the year, but here you are, dude." And he hooked me up with some gear, so I was on that program for a minute.

Nice. Where were those competitions at? Where were you going for those?

That one was all Windham Mountain. I didn't really start going to Mountain Creek until after that contest, and I had Burton flowing me gear. I ended up doing some Wednesday night pipe contests. They used to have this series at Mountain Creek. They'd have the Specialty Sports Pro Am. There is always the local USASA series. So I was always ending up qualifying for nationals and stuff like that. I did that a few times.

At any of those points, did you realize that your professional career here was really taking off or that you actually had a chance to become a pro snowboarder?

None of that even came close to hitting me until I was 19 and out of high school. Then, honestly, the come-up was the struggles. It was a lot of work, and no one jumped on board or recognized talent.

I had won some regional things, but I was always top three or top five: all-around solid boarding. And then by the time I was a junior, I won the first Grand Prix slopestyle that there ever was. But then, of course, there was a bunch of bullshit that ended up coming along with that, where they had to cut down the course for the finals, and then they gave somebody else the FIS win or whatever because they were like, "Oh, the course of the finals wasn't a legit FIS course because it didn't have six features." I'm like, "Well, I got the big check and the trophy, so whatever."

It was really hard getting recognition coming up, especially on the East Coast. Eventually, I think after that Grand Prix, I finally broke through and linked up with the [Burton] team manager, Dave Driscoll, who was a solid dude. He was flowing me a lot more gear, getting me into some stuff, and helping me out. So then I finally started pushing, but I couldn't break through. I was still stuck at this level. I was competing around all these people and getting better and better, but I just hadn't punched through and made it where I felt like I had made it.

Photo by Sam Ingles

When did that point happen? When did you notice that you did? Is there a specific point where you were like, "Oh, man, this is the comp that I won”? Or “This is where I want to be with my level of riding"?

So there's a few points where I feel that happened. But I think the first major one was when I got signed to a brand, and that was when Andrew Mutty called me randomly in the summer. I just graduated high school. I'd been winning pro contests, but nobody had signed me on. It was hard to get in there because I still lived on the East Coast. I wasn't out West as much, and it was just tough out there. I was deferring from college for a year. I was like, "Oh, I'm going to defer. Maybe see what happens." Then that summer, Andrew Mutty just gave me the call and gave me some budget and was like, "You're on the team." When he called me up, he said something super ridiculous. He was like, "Hey, is this Tim? Hey, you want to ride for f_cking Flow or what?" And I was like, "F_ck yeah."

I didn't know how the professionalism or any of that stuff would be. And then it's just funny that's how it ended up becoming. So, I blindly accepted it. I'd never really ridden the Flow gear before. The first time I ever rode Flow gear was at that sketchy ICER Air in San Francisco. Do you remember that? The scaffolding [for] big air had a sketchy gap, and that girl Bev fell in the net, and they were trying not to put a net, but we all refused to hit the jump until they put one there.

I did pretty well in that, then I started doing well at other contests, and some more sponsors came on, like Sessions, Neff, Skull Candy, or something. Then once I had the Flow deal and was out there with them, I was hanging out with Scotty Lago and Mutty, going around doing all these photo shoots, filming, and being more and more in the scene, not just showing up at contests but doing photo shoots in other places. So then that's when I was like, "I'm here. I made it."

Yeah, that's huge. You have all these sponsors come in, you have all these different things going besides competitive snowboarding, and I know, that's got to be your upbringing. That's how you were able to get recognized.

The contests were how I got my foot in the door, for sure. That was the only way then. It was so tough to be a video part guy because you still needed somebody to give a budget to these production companies to buy you in. Unless you were independently wealthy and had $20,000 to throw to Standard, Absinthe, or whoever and be like, "I want to buy a spot in this movie." And they're like, "All right, if you're good enough, then we'll put your clips in."

Photo by Ed Blomfield

What's your opinion on competitive riding? Because it's definitely something we don't see you doing as much, and I know we talked about how you might even want to step back into a little bit of it.

It's the next evolution because I kept going up and up. 2007-9 were really good years for me. I had gotten one weekend in the U.S. Open. I had won Big Air. I got second at SlopeStyle. I got second at Toyota Big Air. I got a lot of second places. I got second at a Grand Prix. I got second at the other ICER Air where Travis Rice did that double-back rodeo 10 for the first time, and everyone went nuts. I was losing to a lot of really legit people. Struggling to get the win, but I was losing to Shaun White, Travis Rice, and Eero Ettala. I was right there with all these heavy hitters.

But then, unfortunately, I had three years of injuries. First, I came up short on a jump at Super Park and bruised my heel, which was the worst injury ever. It kept coming back. I couldn't walk. I couldn't do anything to heal it faster, and it was an ongoing, recurring chronic injury for three years.

I was on the rocket ship upwards, and then bam, three years of injuries. It made it so hard to come back because that was right at the beginning of when Double Corks were becoming things, and I'd been pushing to learn those and get those down. Then I'd gotten invited to X Games a few times, and I think it was in 2010 when I qualified third in SlopeStyle.

I had sick running qualifiers. It was one of the best runs I ever put down. I had the Double Cork. I was like, "Yeah, I'm back, baby." I got invited to Big Air. Lay some double corks in practice. Burst to the contest, straight to my back, halfway down the landing. That was the splatty flat-landing one.

I should have just pulled out of the contest, not even ridden. I should have pulled out of SlopeStyle the next day. I just tried to keep fighting through and riding because I was there and wanted it so bad. I'm pretty sure I got last place in both, then never got invited back, so that was heartbreaking.

Right around then, that's when I made the transition. That was when I picked up a GoPro, and that saved me because I was struggling at contests, having a really bad go, and getting hurt a lot trying to play catch up with all these guys that were learning all these crazy tricks.

Photo by Ed Blomfield

Looking at your Instagram, it's hard not to notice all the point-of-view videos and everything, but honestly, one of my favorite posts that you have is that stack of GoPros—just showing off the generations of how it has come to evolve. How do you think social media has impacted the sport? How has it allowed you to grow as a rider, or does it think it's limited you as a rider?

Social media is something I'm always at odds with because it rebirthed a bit of my success after I fell off the contest scene. But I never really started snowboarding for contests anyways. I started riding because of "The Melt Down Project," and I wanted to go do 720s off of cliffs and weird freestyle stuff. I think it has done nothing but help [snowboarding] grow because it just exposes more people to more snowboarding content. Because when my brother bought "The Melt Down Project," I'd never seen a snowboard video before. Before, you would need to go into a snowboard shop and purchase a VHS to watch snowboarding.

So I think social media helps snowboarding. There's a lot more connectivity. There's a lot more discussion about actual snowboarding in the comments. Now we're at this weird point where everybody's seen it so much that it's almost like they don't care anymore, so it's just whatever. So that's why I'm trying to figure out new ways to come up with some new content styles that may provide a little bit more value to the viewer.

For me, it's been a double-edged sword. When social media emerged, I made it and broke through and started filming with Standard and other bigger production companies, but then social media and internet videos killed them off. But at the same time, I was also at the forefront of using that. So was I an architect of my demise in that sense?

During the COVID pandemic, I think many people realized that they're done living vicariously through social media and want to go out and get it for themselves. So I suggest making some videos focused on giving people the confidence or the information, or inspiring them to do that.

How'd you get connected with Nidecker? What made you want to ride with Nidecker?

Nidecker just straight-up bought Flow, so that was how I ended up there. I had been riding for Flow since 2006-2007. So I had been riding for them that whole time, and then, just out of nowhere, Nidecker is like, "We're buying Flow." And I'm like, "Okay." And they kept me on board.

I went from a freestyle-focused company to Nidecker, which was much more freeride-focused. I like riding backcountry, but I still like riding park, too. So sometimes I feel [like I’m trying to make ends meet] to ride a more freeride-focused board but in the park, but we've been working with the board designers a little bit to get some more freestyle-y, playful boards out in the line. I think that's one thing they're missing, so I've been trying to help them diversify.

What's your go-to board from Nidecker right now? What are you grabbing? You probably have a couple you like to pick from.

Going out to rip the park, I'd ride the Sensor Plus from Nidecker. The board has a little bit of directional feeling and directional shape, but it's mostly camber and has good torsional flex. It's actually a really good jump board. I like it a lot on jumps because it has a big side cut. So it's a little bit stiff on the jibs. Most of the Nidecker boards are stiffer. Nidecker has an even more directional board called the Thruster. But that thing actually rides really well in the park, too. It looks like it's all directional, but it rides more like a twin when you set it up. So yeah, one of those two, either the Thruster or the Sensor Plus.

All right, so now we got a foot of fresh snow. It’s been dumping all week, so it’s built up. You’re about to ride some powder. Now what?

Cold pow day. Beta 162. No question. Beta is this fish board and it's got rocker in the nose and tail a little bit, so it rides a bit smaller than its 162 size. So I normally ride something like a 159 in powder. 162 is a lot of board sometimes, but with the camrock profiles, you can ride them five centimeters bigger, and they don't feel like too much extra board, especially when you're on the groomed and hard pack. But once you get into the fresh, you still have that float of a 162. That plus the fish shape, especially if it's still a storm day, I'm probably riding trees because there's not going to be visibility out in the open. So smashing some trees, and having the shorter fishtail definitely helps out.

If Nidecker came to you and said, "Hey, Tim, here are the reins. Make whatever type of board you want." What would that board look like?

My ideal boards are softer in the middle than on the nose and tail. I like loose boards in the middle with a big side cut. My thinking behind it is that the big side cut helps you for stability at speed. And when you're trying to take off on a jump, you can hold that nice long setup turn and arc without just shanking left or right at the end, especially at speed. But then, big side cuts tend not to ride that great at low speed, but when you make the board super soft in the middle, you can force the board to twist by commanding it with your feet. So it's more of a board that you're ultimately in control of, and you can bend the side cut and bend the board into tighter turns just by flexing your legs and feet while you're in the turn.

It’s the best of a lot of worlds and a playful board. I like boards that are playful at first, but once you lean into them, they're there for you. I like boards that are easy to wheelie and crank 5-0s and nose presses on rails. But then, once you land on the tail, you'll not slip out. So yeah, mid stiffness, softer in the middle than on the nose and tail, longer side cut. That's generally what I like on a board. If I were going to make a pow version of it, I'd up the stiffness throughout the whole thing. It's definitely something we're working on.

Photo by Sam Ingles

Are you on Flow bindings, or do you run Nidecker bindings?

Still riding the Flow bindings. I've tested the new Supermatics.

Nice. What was your opinion on the Supermatic bindings? I'm glad you got a chance to try them out. I want to know what you think about them.

I tested some early prototypes about a year ago, and I actually got them and was like, "All right, let's see what these things can do." And I was down in Mammoth for about a week. I think I put four or five days straight on them, only hitting jumps at Main Park. And I was, on purpose, trying to go halfway down the landing and just hard impact and see if I could get these things to break. And they survived the whole week; I didn't have any issues. And I was like, "Oh wow, these things work well." I had an early one, so the clicking action wasn't the smoothest, but it was four versions before production. The bindings actually treated me great. The whole reasoning behind why they developed them the way they did is a blend of some patents Nidecker had and then some Flow patents, too.

The binding couldn't have existed without Nidecker buying Flow. And the main allure is that it's a quick entry binding like all the other step-ins, but it doesn't ride differently than a normal binding. The main problem with every step-in binding on the market is that none ride like regular snowboarding bindings. Flows ride like regular bindings. Regular bindings ride like regular bindings. But Burton step-ons, or the K2 clickers, none of those feel right when you're riding, especially in the park. So I think where the Supermatic hits is that it's the first step-in binding that performs like a regular binding because all the other step-ins are too responsive, or they're just responsive in the wrong places. They're great for freeriding and other things, but for park riding, no one's been able to create anything in step-in that has felt normal until the Supermatic.

Cool. I appreciate your input there. I've been looking at them and trying to get on to them, so they are definitely on my radar.

Yeah, they're definitely sweet.

They're cool. I saw them in our inventory, and I've had plenty of people asking about them.

Yeah, they've been selling like hotcakes. I saw some threads online where people were like, "Crap, they're already sold out. They've been out for an hour." So there are a lot of people who are interested.

I'm really excited for a few years down the line. This is just version one, and it's already pretty awesome. I was cranking 1080s on all the big main park jumps halfway down the landing with no problems. I'm excited to see where that technology goes in the future because right now, the main trade-off with the Supermatic is it weighs a little bit more than your normal binding. It's kind of cool. They look bulky, but they're not as heavy as they look.

Who was your biggest influence in the sport growing up? I'm sure you had a lot of guys that you looked up to. Maybe someone that you really wanted to ride like, or you saw what they were doing and wanted to mimic that.

There's a lot of influences that I had in my riding. When I was younger, riding for Burton, I always had the DVDs they gave me. So there were always lots of JP Solberg and Romain footage, and they always rode together. Gigi too. The whole old Uninc. crew. Those guys had a really cool style because I like jumps, and they were all hitting backcountry jumps, which was the sickest thing because pow wasn't a thing that I'd been exposed to yet, but I really wanted to.

So I liked different aspects of their riding. Romain was there just for the full all-out send. That guy goes so big and hits the gnarliest shit. And then JP Solberg for the easy sick jump style. He just had the illest tweaks, composure in the air, and overall smoothness, especially when he was riding into and landing off jumps. He was always just butter smooth. And then I liked a lot of Gigi's riding for creativity and how he would ride weird, different, cool, and unique things.

Over the years, I have pulled little bits of inspiration from all sorts of different riders. Even now, whenever I see a clip, I'll see somebody do something on Instagram, and I'm like, "Oh, man." It'll give me an idea. So I'm constantly just absorbing inspiration from everything I see, or even other sports like skateboarding. People are doing something weird on the skateboard, and I wonder, "Oh, how could I do this on a snowboard?"

Who is your biggest supporter? Who's your number one fan?

I never even thought about who was my biggest supporter. I don't know, but maybe my parents.

That's cool. That's huge, too, to have parents that always believed in you, and brought you to the mountain.

They believed in me, especially when I was younger. I ended up where I am now because my parents just believed in me. They could have said, "You want to snowboard for a living? You live in New Jersey. What are you, stupid?" They totally could have just said that to me.

I want to bring everyone in, just stoke everyone out. That's why I started liking snowboarding from the beginning because I was some kid who was into action sports in suburban New Jersey, where that wasn't cool or dope. I was winning pro contests, and nobody in my high school gave a shit. It didn't make me cool. So they're like, "Why isn't your hair spiked? Where are your earrings? Why aren't you wearing an Abercrombie and Fitch shirt? What the hell's wrong with you?"

Photo by Ed Blomfield

Right? “Who's Burton?” I grew up in Jersey, too, so I see that. A lot of people had no idea what snowboarding was.

All right, so I want to wrap it up with one more question here. What does your dream day look like? What are the perfect conditions and setting? Maybe it’s with the homies, with the right amount of snow, or the right jump. What does that dream day look like?

Yeah, just ripping some sick pow with the boys. Great conditions, great weather, and some high-flying fun. It'd probably be in Alaska. I imagine the snow is perfect. The snow is amazing. There are just no worries in the world. Everything's covered up.

We had ridden the day before. We had built three jumps, and then we get heli laps on those jumps, and they're sick. We might even have two helis. We ride some lines in the morning. We hockey stop over every steep roll, and absolutely nothing slides. The slough is chill. Everything is good. I'm with a fat crew of people. We're just somewhere out in Alaska, or we're on sleds. The stability's great, and we're just slaying sick lines. It doesn't even have to be anything super gnarly. We'll break for some lunch. Then we'll make a lot of airtime jumps but not a lot of dangerous landing impact. They're big up and over 100-foot jumps with so much hang time, but we're never concerned. Shredding with friends and flying through the air are the two main things that keep me returning to snowboarding. So I have to have those.

Snow looks promising this year. I think I've got a good vibe that we're going to see a bunch of snow all over the country here. So let's hope for snow.

I'm praying for snow this winter. Last winter was a scam.

Tim, thank you for taking the time to chat with us today. I look forward to seeing what you have in store for us for the 2023 season. I also look forward to seeing anything that you guys got coming out.

Thanks for having me. I am always stoked to be on here and talking about snowboarding. It's what I do. I eat, sleep, and drink it. I always love the opportunity to chat with some friends and hype some people up on some boarding.

Photo by Ed Blomfield

Talking with Tim has fired me up for this winter season. I was skeptical about the Supermatic bindings, but after hearing what Tim put them through, I know they will be able to handle just about anything I throw at them. I want to give a huge shoutout to Tim and Nidecker for taking the time to sit down with me today. The Stoke is on for this season, and I can’t wait to get out there with my own camera and start filming some of my lines!

And remember, if you want help finding the perfect gear for you and your riding style, chat with me or one of my fellow Snowboard Experts here on Curated!

Matthew Kaminski, Snowboarding Expert
Matthew Kaminski
Snowboarding Expert
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