Chatting with the Pros: Snowboarding Powerhouse Jess Kimura on Creating Opportunities for Women While Never Giving UpPublished on 04/03/2023 · 34 min readJess Kimura is a true icon in women's snowboarding. Get to know her as she chats with Expert Arielle Busch about her motivators, the industry, and creating opportunities for everyone who's been left out.
Photo by Ethan Fortier
Meet Jess “Danger Pony” Kimura: movie producer and creator, winner of ten Transworld Snowboarding awards (and two Women’s Rider of the Year Awards), advocate for mental health awareness and inclusivity within the snowboarding industry, and my biggest inspiration.
Jess is the definition of a powerhouse and will never give up. She’s a CAPiTA team rider and an athlete for The North Face, among her other sponsors, Union, Coal, Smith, and Monster Energy. She’s created a platform for women street riders to be showcased through her The Uninvited trilogy films that she created and produced. Additionally, in 2021, Jess also released her own film, Learning to Drown, which reveals some of her hardest struggles and biggest motivations. Jess Kimura is the type of snowboarder we should all strive to be like—tenacious, determined, lively, and refreshingly real.
Sitting down and chatting with Jess was an absolute honor! Connecting over shared passions and learning about how she’s created opportunities for riders like me was rather inspiring. I’ve been following Jess’s career for the last few years and watching the progress that’s been made within the industry, in part, because of her actions. I’ll say it again. She’s a powerhouse and quite funny too!
First off, welcome, and thank you so much for joining me today. I will try and keep my excitement contained, but I would be lying if I said that I didn't geek out a bit when you said “yes” to this opportunity. I'm super stoked to have this opportunity to chat openly and candidly with you about everything and have our listeners learn more about you.
Where did you grow up, and what did you consider your home mountain?
I grew up in Vernon, B.C., in Canada, and I considered my home mountain Silver Star just a local hill close to town. I live in Squamish, B.C., but I'm in Salt Lake City currently.
When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a scientist. Or I think I wanted to be a scientist then, but I didn't really know what that meant besides doing experiments and blowing stuff up with chemicals. I had the mini science kit with the test tubes and the beakers.
What made you start snowboarding? Do you remember your first experience snowboarding?
Skiing was the thing to do when we were growing up, not just skiing but going to the hill. It was 15 minutes from town, and we had a program in school where we got to go skiing for P.E. class. So I have skied since I was three, and all my friends started snowboarding when I was 13 or 14.
They were all just still learning and really slow. So I got a snowboard to try, but I really didn't like it. It was really hard. I didn't have the right equipment. That was for sure. I got something for like $60 from the ski swap. I just remember it was hard, and my board kept falling off and flying down the hill.
I can imagine. So, given that experience, gear does matter a little bit?
Gear matters. Okay. We'll get into that in a little bit. How old were you when you strapped on your first snowboard, and how old were you when you went pro or got your first sponsor contract?
There was a long gap between the first sponsor and the first contract, but I started at 14 and the first sponsor at probably 16 because I went for it pretty fast once I figured it out. And then I was 26 when I got my first paycheck. So there's a long time to not give up in there.
You're going to have to tell us about that one! ‘Cause as a 30-year-old who's still trying to learn new things and get in, I commend you. That's a long time to keep working at it.
Who are some riders—both when you were a younger snowboarder and now—that have inspired you throughout your career?
When I was younger, any girl I would see in any video or anything, anything, because there were so few, was a huge inspiration for me when I was coming up.
Marie-France Roy was huge because she was in the Rome video. She had full parts, she was riding with the guys, and she was accepted because her riding was so sick. So that gave me something to shoot for, and she was a super nice person. As I got more into it and got to know her, she was also an inspiration in the way that she believes in stuff, fights for what she believes in, and tries to use her platform as a pro snowboarder instead of just being a cool guy. So I'd say her, for sure.
I heard she came and supported you on something, right?
Yeah, she came to the first real video I was in. There was a premiere in Whistler, and I just messaged her. I didn't know her, but I messaged her and told her, “Hey, this premiere is happening. I'll leave a ticket at the front box office for you” or whatever. And she showed up, and it was so cool. And then she came to the afterparty at my house, stayed till the very end, and partied. So that was pretty insane.
So I'll leave you a ticket when I first make it big.
Yes! Leave me a ticket, for sure.
When I think of you, listen to an interview, watch a film—anything—grit and determination come to mind. That's what I think about when I think about Jess. You have this tenacity within that won't quell until you've achieved what you came for. It’s inspiring to watch.
When I watch your parts, your slams are so gnarly all the time. How do you keep getting back up and keep fighting? When do you feel like you developed that fighting spirit?
I'm not sure. Obviously, there was inner drive and stuff, but how I keep going is I get up. I say, “Get up.”
Sometimes I'd drop in to do a trick at a spot that I didn't want to do and didn't think I could do. But I would just turn my board towards it and start the momentum, and then it would be too late to turn around. And that's a metaphor for what I do. I just go and deal with it when I get there.
“I just go and deal with it when I get there.”
Laughing But it doesn't always work out super great!
Fail forward! It’s fine!
But as far as getting up, the goal every time I fall is to get up.
Clearly, you have a very strong voice in your head because sometimes the voice in my head is like, “I'm not listening to you!” So it's interesting to know that it really is a mindset that sometimes we do to have more control than we probably even give ourselves credit for.
Did you ever anticipate being where you currently are in your career? Did you ever have a moment where you were like, “Oh, maybe this is like the imprint that I will leave?”
Again, I think there was an inner driver I still find putting into words difficult. What is it? It's to be able to do things that nobody thinks are possible for someone like me. Doing that speaks to a bunch of other people who are watching and may not think they can do something.
That always drove me, but I didn't know the end goal besides filming the craziest video part ever. That's what the goal was always. And then it turned into "do the right thing, do what you should do with where you're at." And I think Marie-France had a huge influence on me with that.
Also, just having it take so long to find success. It wasn't this constant building thing. It was so many failures and many times that I was like, “I should just quit and go back to school.”
I had gotten dropped from my board sponsor the year before I filmed that Think Thank part. And I was like, “All right, I'm done.” The thing I just said earlier about the quitting thing, I quit all the time. But then I start again. I will go sit in the van when we’re out filming and be like, “I can't do this. I quit. I quit. I want to quit snowboarding completely.” And then 10 minutes later, I'm like, “All right, I'll try another time.” You can quit as many times as you want. Just start again.
I like that. Is there any facet of the career you have built that you are looking to expand on in the future?
I'd like to say this now—maybe I'll regret it—but I would like to do more speaking things, going and talking to people or doing talks, workshops, panels, etc.
Before, we weren't allowed to have a message. It was like, “Snowboard and shut up, and maybe the guys won't kick you out.” But there was so much represented in snowboarding, which might sound crazy to someone who doesn't ride. But, if you watch the parts and see the slams and determination and the ups and downs, there is so much more behind it.
So being able to talk about that more because I don't want to have those slams anymore. I don't want to. I'm tired. I don't want to kill myself anymore to get this message across. And at this point, it seems like I don't have to. So I can say it instead of throwing myself off the three-story building.
You don't have to fully send it anymore. You definitely earned your spot. And I feel like you've earned other people's spots for them. You've earned us an opportunity to help us get our spots. That's going to live on forever. So, yes, you don't have to slam yourself anymore.
So once you saw you were making waves in the industry, can you remember what some of your first goals were regarding the effect you wanted to leave on the whole snowboarding industry, the community?
Yeah, I wanted to kick the door down. I'm laughing right now because I remember thinking, “I just want to kick people's dicks off.”
Like all the dudes that are like, “You can't. Girls can't. We don't have room for you on the trip.” So I wanted to knock those guys off their feet, you know?
Let's dive in a bit further here. I want to highlight some areas of your career. When did you start to make your mark on women's snowboarding specifically? Was there a turning point or specific accomplishment that made you realize you were making a huge impact?
I don't know if I ever told myself I was making a huge impact because people pushed down all the girls' achievements for the first eight years of my career. There were a lot of supportive people, but high-level people in the industry would still tell me that what you're doing was not directly comparable to what the best guy snowboarder is doing right now. So I know I don't know if I ever consciously thought, “Wow, I'm making such a big impact.”
But it was probably the first part that I filmed in 2010 [Think Thank’s Right Brain Left Brain]. And then I think after that, it was probably after The Uninvited films came out, and I started seeing those girls—who were ready to quit before that and go back to school or get on with their lives—going pro and having success and getting budgets and getting all the stuff that they deserved.
Their riding got them there, but if you're talking about impact, just creating a space for them to show what they already could do so that they could get the support they deserved.
This one might be hard because you're humble right now, but what do you feel is your biggest accomplishment in snowboarding?
Probably being able to make it to this place by being unashamedly myself. I laugh because I've been in board or Zoom meetings with executives, and they're like, “Send us a meme.” And I'll put a fucked-up picture in the group chat, and they love it. It doesn't always go over well, but no one’s asking me to be something I'm not.
Which at the beginning of my career was a huge thing. I didn't fit in on the guys' snowboard team, but I wasn't super girly and the skinny, blond, pretty chick for the ads. I didn't even fit into the samples. So, I'd not be invited or left out at the catalog shoots. I felt like I wasn't what they wanted.
And that pissed me off, and I flipped it on its head and was like, “I'm going to really be what you don't want, and I'm not going away.”
Heck yeah. We all know this as women. We know how that feels in snowboarding, outside of snowboarding, and in the world.
I turned 30 this year and was like, “I'm going to own it.” I'm going to be who I am. And the people who love me are still around. I think that's more important than anything else. Those are the people you want to attract anyway, so I don't want to be someone else.
So on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate where women snowboarding existed in the industry when you first got involved compared to where you think it is now?
When I first got involved, it'd be like a generous three. And now it's an eight. The last two years have changed quickly, so it was cool to see.
Hearing you say that makes me happy. I didn't know what you were going to say to that question. I was a little scared! What was the main purpose or goal behind The Uninvited?
The first one was kind of a “fuck you” to the industry for all the stupid shit they would say, “Oh, well, the girls aren't as good.” “They're not marketable.” “They're not at the right level.” So I was like, “That's bullshit!”
I was hurt that year. I was at a premiere in Whistler, sitting outside with Maria Thomsen and Darrah Reid, and I asked, “What are you guys doing this year?” And they're like, “Nothing.” And I was like, “If I make a movie, will you be in it?” And they were like, “Fuck, yeah.” So that's where it started.
And I mean, the name is kind of self-explanatory. People can say all they want. All the guys were like, “Oh, we were supportive.” Like, no, you fucking weren't! And that's fine. It's fine. It the exclusion drove the film from a real, authentic place and made this level of determination.
It's a lot easier to succeed when no one thinks you're going to. Because once everyone expects success from you, people aren't as impressed with what you do anymore. And I think that's what I saw at that time in my career. Every year I would do crazier and crazier and crazier things, but it didn't have that same impact. People were expecting something gnarly already. And so I was like, “How can I make an impact and do something gnarly?”
It was always like, “Do something that no one else would try,” and The Uninvited became something like that because I used my own money for it. And I was like, “Fuck it, let's go,” you know?
How much of your own money did you put into the first one?
You funded the whole thing.
Yes, I did. In the end, The North Face came in. I signed with them, and they were so hyped about it. I never asked any companies for money—I mean, I had asked them for stuff for other girls on the teams or to find a budget to put some other girls on a board. I would just ask for small things, and it would be such a pain in the ass to get.
All the brands now can be like, “Oh, we would have supported it!” But it's like, “No, you wouldn't have!” The stuff that I was asking for? “Can you send this girl a piece of product so she can sell it and have enough gas money to come on this trip?” It was either “no” or no answer.
It wasn't like $1,000,000, but it was a good chunk of my savings at the time.
As I said, The North Face came in, made these Uninvited T-shirts, sent them out to us for a tour so that we could sell them, and gave them to us for free. So we made a couple of thousand dollars off that to do our whole tour, rent an Escalade to drive the girls around, stay at a real hotel, and take them out for dinner. So that was really cool of them.
And then Uninvited II, CAPiTA, Union, and The North Face got on board officially. And then the third one Uninvited III, Coal, The North Face, Ikon Pass, and Monster Energy. So it was cool for them to get on board and support it.
What do you think was the biggest surprise impact of the Uninvited films on the entire industry?
I think about how many girls formed careers out of them. That was the hope, but we had been rejected so many times, and I watched them struggle for so long that it didn't feel like anything would happen.
We're hoping they'll get a travel budget next year, but many girls who started out in The Uninvited are now pro snowboarders. So that's really sick.
What is the most fulfilling aspect of working with those women for you?
Being able to be the person that believes in them and that they can turn to for advice. So I kind of help them with all their contracts, negotiations, and a lot of stuff in their day-to-day life behind the scenes, and that's been cool for sure. Just the stuff that isn't necessarily public or seen on the big screen!
You're their mentor! That's awesome. It’s always the stuff we don't see that's more fulfilling. It's the side conversations, the whispers, the little bits of encouragement. That's the stuff I love.
So, do you think there will be a fourth film, or do you have other ideas in the works in that realm?
I'm working on an event this winter where I am trying to raise a “fuck off” amount of prize money to do an Uninvited contest where we can hand out some actual cash to the girls and have the sickest women's event ever. That should be in April. It's called the Uninvited Invitational, and hopefully, it will happen. But if not this year, it'll be next year. But pretty sure it's going to happen this year. The North Face already put up a lot of prize money for it.
That's going to be really exciting.
In your opinion, who should we be keeping our eyes on right now?
There are so many girls right now. I'd say Ylfa Runarsdottir has already done so much but has the most potential. I think she's physically the best snowboarder out there right now for the girls regarding what she's capable of doing and what could happen in front of her. The way that she looks at things, anything that she decides or wants to do, she can do. She has that connection between her brain and body to make herself do it. And there's this whole potential with jumping and backcountry freestyle and stuff that she could really move the needle on.
And Henna Ikola—her little friend from Finland—same thing. She’s jibbing right now but has this whole background in jumping that I feel like once you get her in the air, things could be really cool.
And then there are so many new contests that girls are ripping. I'm really stoked about Iris Pham from the States—she has such sick style. There are so many; I could name a thousand.
This is off the cuff, but when you were doing the films, did you have an age limit? So like, an eight-year-old who was a ripper could come?
Oh, a bottom age limit. Hahaha, this isn’t So You Think You Can Dance? (I do watch those talent shows!) They had an age limit of 30, and I was like, “This is bullshit!”
I know. I'm peaking right now.
I know! You're ready to audition!
Was there a bottom age limit? No, but how many little girls are riding street? Anniina [Perhovaara] was in the first one, and then in the next video, who was the youngest? I don't know, maybe in their teens or something.
But street riding is kind of messed up a bit. It's really dangerous. You got to really want to do it, and if you're not sure if you do, I wouldn't want to encourage someone to because the consequences are so gnarly. So I wanted to take people who were already into it and give them a platform to do it on instead of pulling people and being like, “I think you could be good” and throw them down a handrail.
What do you hope for in the industry regarding inclusivity? Where would you love to see the snowboard industry in the future?
Let people exist as they are in their categories—however they describe that to themselves. And not be like, “Oh well, you guys aren't as good as the highest-level white dude pro snowboarders who have had no roadblocks.” Instead, to understand that for all people—for queer people, trans people, girls, and people on the fringe or the outside—give them a chance and a space to develop their skills.
Because that's what the past three or four years have done in snowboarding for girls. There was a huge boom in the acceptance of girls, and as soon as that happened, all these girls got so good so quickly. The talent was always there.
And a lot of people will be like, “Oh, well, now the girls are actually good,” or “That video is actually pretty good.” Learn from that and see if you give people some acceptance and a chance—not to expect immediate results but give them a little space to grow, and it'll happen. It'll happen quicker than it did with the guys because they weren't waiting. Yes, individually, they were waiting for their opportunity to go pro, but they weren't waiting for a tiny opening for someone to say, “I think you can do this.” They were expected to do it. And I'm sure some challenges go along with that.
But I think that when you have a dream and you're held down for a long period of time, as soon as there's an opening, you're really going to make use of that time a lot more than someone who might take it for granted.
Absolutely. I always feel like people say, “Leave the window cracked,” and I'm like, “No, no. That door needs to be fully open. Wide open.” You won't know unless you give everyone an equal opportunity.
After Learning to Drown, you have quickly become one of—in my opinion—the biggest mental health advocates in the snowboard industry. We all know many people in the snowboarding and winter sports industry who have struggled with past traumas and mental health. But are there steps that the snowboard industry can take to create a more inclusive environment for people to be able to speak up more?
What the snowboard industry can do and inclusivity right now is two separate things. Many cool things are happening in the industry right now, like Laura Rogoski’s Mental program. She does this support group, a newsletter, a magazine, and all these meet-ups and spreads awareness.
Kelsey Boyer and Melissa Ritano have Save the Brain. They advocate for brain injury and all the mental health stuff that comes with it. And then there's S.T.A.Y., and I'm not sure exactly who headlines that, but I know Desiree Melancon’s involved with it and suicide awareness prevention. So I think there is a lot of talk going on and a lot more resources than there probably are in other sports right now that came out over the past few years, and that's really cool.
I feel like mental health awareness is becoming more of a conversation, but it seems like everybody relates to it on some level and has issues. And everybody struggles with it. I feel a responsibility as someone that some people might look up to. The worst thing, in my opinion, that I could be doing with my success or my position is to make other people feel like I have that “social media effect” where someone else is doing something cooler than me, or I'm not fun or good enough. I'm missing out. I'm whatever. I want to be honest. I don't want this “everything's great” facade because it's not.
You're seeing more people talking about it, opening up, making films, writing articles, everything. And it makes you feel a little bit more normal when sometimes you don't feel normal at all. This is the new normal.
So what has been the hardest, biggest roadblock within your snowboarding career? What would you say helped you through that?
Probably the mental health stuff and hitting my head so many times, which really exacerbates that. And also the inconsistency.
I felt like I was racing for years without being able to catch up. As soon as you get home, you unpack. You repack. You leave for another thing, and then you're like, “No, no. In November, I'm not going to take it. I’m going to do my therapy. I'm going to take time for myself.” And before you know it, seven more things come up.
Especially now. Before, being a pro snowboarder meant you go out, you film all winter, and then you can sleep all summer. Now it's like a full-time [role] with social media and everything. I hate to say it, but you become more like an influencer, and your sponsors expect you to participate in all these campaigns. Which is fine, but it's a lot harder because you never get time off. And sometimes, when I get time off, I feel guilty that I'm not working on this pitch or this project or coming up with new ideas.
Or, I totally shut down and don't get anything done to improve my physical or mental health because I'm just [pretends to hyperventilate]—like hiding behind a door, you know. That's one of the biggest roadblocks, feeling like I never get to recover from anything fully. And the ticket would be to figure out how to get a better balance and recover as I go.
And then also, obviously, all the injuries have been brutal, and going through all those surgeries and constant physiotherapy and seeing the consequences of all the stuff that I've done physically and mentally is kind of brutal.
I feel like I blocked it out for a long time, but when I saw Learning to Drown for the first time, I was like, “Holy shit. I ate shit.” It was kind of traumatizing to watch all that. I've always seen it, and we laugh at bail rails and stuff like that. But it was eye-opening to see that. So then my body and mind caught up with that feeling.
Before we go a little more gear-related, is there anything in women's snowboarding that you have personally found to be a huge success in the industry that you didn’t have a hand in?
I mean, just seeing the progression of the girls in the past few years. Seeing specifically the 2018 women's Big Air at the Olympics when they fucked them over and made them ride the Slopestyle course when it was so bad.
That was kind of a metaphor for how it had been for so long. Like, you get the shit end of the stick—you get no time, no training, no whatever—and then they're like, “Okay, go!” And then they’re like, “See, we told you. You guys suck. You'll always be the B level.”
And the girls came back a few days later at the Big Air, and they were like, “Uh-uh. This is our show.” And it was insane what went down. And it was even surprising to see that was the level they were [riding]. They had just been suppressed. Since then, every women's Big Air contest has been so exciting—so much more exciting than the guys. Not just for me but for everyone that I talk to. It's unpredictable. It's exciting. You don't know what's going to happen.
Okay, let's switch gears and go into gear. As someone who works in e-commerce selling snowboard gear for Curated, I want to know if you've ever worked on this side of the industry in any type of shop setting?
Yes, I worked in a skate shop when I was younger, and we sold snowboard stuff too.
You know what it's all about! You talked about the first snowboard that you rode on. What was the first snowboard that got purchased?
Well, that one was purchased, but it was taller than me and had ancient bindings that didn't do up. And then, my mom came home one day with a board she had bought from the shop. It was a Burton demo board—the Burton Element—Shannon Dunn pro model with Burton freestyle bindings.
And as soon as I got on that thing, I could do flips, spins, and everything. It was so game-changing for me because it actually fit me. I think it was a 143, but my other board was a 168.
Oh, my goodness. That's huge. Wow. I wish you had a picture.
Okay, so tell me about your current setup. What boards do you ride on for freeride or resort, and if you have a street setup?
The street setup is the same board I ride at the resorts—the CAPiTA Equalizer 146. I would ride a 143 in the streets, but I don't need to anymore. I like a bigger board. It goes faster and is more solid. It doesn't loop out on landings as much, so I'll ride that at the resort, on transitions, and even on light powder days.
And then, in the backcountry, I'll jump right to a 154 Equalizer, or I had a Spring Break Powder Racer last year that was so sick. The way that it floated in deep snow? Where I live, the snow is really, really, really deep, but it's not super light, so it'll suck your nose under. So you really need something that floats, more than I can explain to someone who's never ridden snow like that, where you actually kind of get stuck under it.
And I exclusively ride the Union Ultra bindings now. Those are super cushy with the big squishy bushings and super comfy bindings. I ride those for anything like street, resort, park, or backcountry.
How would you sell the Equalizer? What's your shameless plug for it?
I would say it's for anyone who wants to ride everything and also wants a board that can go out on the powder days. The new one that is coming out has more inserts toward the back, so it has more stance options. You can center it if you want to give it a ride in the park, and there are even more options to set your stance back, so you don't need a separate powder board. That was the biggest thing I wanted because I wanted to ride it on a resort, and then I wanted it to float in powder.
Do you have any future designs in mind? What are your favorite technological advancements in snowboarding gear in the last few years?
The best technological advancement in my mind has been those Ultra bindings.
Oh, my God. These bindings are insane. They're so cushy. I like my stuff to flex. I don't want super stiff stuff because I want to be able to tweak out grabs and have my style. I have sketchy ankles, and they're still so supportive. And most of all, they take off the impact. I couldn't even ride resort for a lot of years, and since I got those bindings, I've been able to rip at the resort and stay all day just because the hard pack [now doesn’t] hurt my ankle.
I don't know what exactly it is about them. I know they're super cushy, and there's that big bushing on the bottom. I'm not a super technical person, but they work, and that's been my favorite thing.
And then, with The Equalizer, I want to make it a board for girls who want to ride aggressively and aren't expected to be soft and gentle because I believe there are many girls out there who can actually ride.
A beginner can ride it too, and there's going to be a lot more room for them to grow as they get better, faster, and more aggressive. But I wanted something that could handle a real rider on it.
What terrain would you say it's perfect for, and what type of rider would this board be good for?
It's an all-mountain board. So someone who rides many days at the resort and likes to hike off the side and get into some powder days. If you want to jump and go in the air and go fast and be able to cut through bumpy snow without chattering out, that's what it's for.
When was the last time you filmed a street part?
Probably 2016, but it wasn't even a street part. That was like 50/50. But I went on a couple of street trips last year and got some clips. That was pretty fun. And even into the last of my street parts, I was still trying to ride powder, too.
How would you identify yourself as a snowboarder right now?
I just want to enjoy it. I enjoyed knowing I had gotten a crazy track on film before, but it wasn't for me. It didn't feel like [it was for me]. So I'm a snowboarder trying to learn how to ride for myself. And I like riding powder a lot. I have a snowmobile and a sled. I spend a lot of time in the backcountry. I'm not a big mountain rider by any means, but I want to take the same approach I took in the streets to the backcountry because that's something that I haven't seen yet.
There's a lot of girls doing it, but a lot of them are doing the big mountain stuff and riding lines and all that, which maybe one day I'll get into, but I'm trying to shrink it down more and take a more creative approach and just [be] playful, you know.
Besides Equalizer, what would be your next top suggestion for an aggressive female freerider?
Try one of the guys’ boards out, like the Mercury or the D.O.A. or the Birds of a Feather—I think you can get pretty aggressive on it too. So those would be my suggestions.
Okay, we will wrap up and do some fun rapid-fire questions! What is your favorite trick to throw?
Probably a method or a frontside powder slash.
I love methods. I don't know what it is about them, but I like when you see the freeze in the air, and a method can show it really well. People can make some cool angles with their bodies.
So that's what it's about! It's the angle you're making with your body! Do you ride bikes too?
It's like doing whips on a mountain bike, dirt bike, or whatever. That's like your style.
What would you throw if you could throw any trick knowing you didn't have to land it?
I don't know! Maybe a backside rodeo, but I would want to land it. I've always tried to do that trick and just go the other way. But maybe this winter I’ll get it!
I'll send the good vibes. So speaking of throwing insane tricks, what are your thoughts on Natural Selection?
It's really cool. The format is initially hard for the girls. Those guys have had so many repetitions, and the guys are more welcoming now, but a lot of the same dudes wouldn't let any of the chicks come out on their shoots. So it's like, “No, you can't be a part of it.” “No, you can't be a part of it.” And then all of a sudden, “Yes, you can.”
That’s not the Natural Selection dudes’ fault, but that makes it hard for the girls to come in and perform on that kind of stage, in that kind of arena, because they haven't had a chance to in forever.
But I think that's something that the industry realized too and was probably like, “Shit, you should do more to firm up the talent coming behind” because the girls in that have been at this level forever. They've been at the highest, but no one's been able to come up behind them because it's so hard. It's not something you can do on your own. It's just so hard to break into.
But I think that this year is going to be even better. More girls are coming up. Maybe in the past it wasn't as successful as they wanted it to be, even though the girls were ripping, but it showed other girls what they could do. This year it's bringing other girls in who were more freestyle-oriented, but we're like, “Why would I try to have a backcountry career? There's nowhere to go with it.” Now they're like, “Oh shit, there's a platform out there for us.” So I think we will see this upswing in talent and new talent and push the old talent harder. So it's going to be exciting to watch, for sure.
Would you be interested in being selected?
I've been asked a couple of times to do it, but I don't think I'm there yet, like not the kind of performance I'd want to put on to represent the girls.
I've been messing around the past couple of years in the backcountry and not training or getting serious about doing big freestyle stuff. I wanted my time to be able to do that first instead of jumping into turning backcountry into what it was for me in the street. It is something that I am still open to doing in the future, but not this year. I want to have fun this winter and get better.
Let's end on an inspiring note. What would you say are Jess's words of wisdom to the world, snowboard world, girls, and community that has felt “uninvited” before?
Just be yourself and know that you matter and your story matters. And don't be afraid to share that with people.
I extend a huge thank you to Jess Kimura for joining us and having a candid conversation about not just following your dreams but creating them and truly never giving up. Jess has made waves in the snowboard industry and created opportunities for those who were usually uninvited. Many female riders now and in the future will continue to be positively impacted by Jess’s imprint on the industry.
Jess has earned her spot at the table and will continue to knock the door down for more and more riders to have a platform but hopefully without having to throw herself off more buildings! She’s done things no one else would try, and her riding is truly inspirational.
From me and all the other riders who look up to you, thank you, Jess, for creating opportunities, always spreading good vibes (and memes), and being unashamedly yourself.
If Jess has inspired you to make that first turn, attempt that hard trick you've been avoiding, or maybe you're just a fan of her snowboarding and need help finding the perfect gear for your goals, come chat. I, or another Snowboard Expert here on Curated, am here to get you hooked up with free, personalized recommendations for anything you need for your next adventure!