Fly By

Fly By – A World of Stoke – By Dan Kostrzewski
frequency – The Snowboarders Journal #3.2

In mountain towns, a solid shop centers the local scene as a gathering place, market, and classroom. A place to flex a few boards, get a second opinion about stance width, and trade closet theories about meteorology. When looking for the unofficial snow report, when faced with a sidewall delam, or when ready to plunk down a paycheck on a new pair of bindings, there is only one logical place to go. The town shop, in a very democratic way, connects us all with snowboarding.

In Bozeman, MT the shop of record is World Boards. Famous throughout the Northern Rockies for their inclusive attitude, loyal pro team, and clever stickers that have emblazoned racks, towers, and boards from Park City to Whitefish – World has cultivated a cult following. The converted house is a retail fixture on West Main Street due to its solid history of supporting the local scene, and the staff’s well-deserved reputation for knowing the products they push. Even before it was recognized as Transworld Business Shop of the Year, the word of World’s employees held serious sway with everyone from traveling pros to snowboard industry bigwigs.

Like pets and children, a good shop reflects the personality of its owner; and the first ting you notice when you meet World’s owner Jay Moore is how positively stoked he is about all things sideways. Whether talking his way into the sold-out Sundance premier of “Dogtown and Z Boys,” cracking jokes at hour four of a tedious Burton softgoods presentation, or listening to his unofficial judging critique in the grandstand above the Olympic halfpipe, being around Jay indelibly infects you with his stoke.

Jay’s roots in sideways sports run deep. As a native Californian, his skate addiction started during the pool era when he and his brother would, “go watch Steve Alva and Duane Peters and all those old-school guys skate.” In 1976, Moore turned his natural interest in carpentry toward ramp construction. His first backyard halfpipe was profiled by Lance Mountain in the Ramp Locals section of Transworld Skateboarding’s second issue. Jay recalls, “It’s funny, Lance Mountain credits me as being the first person ever to use Masonite on a skateboard ramp.”

Jay continued constructing in his backyard, building what wound up bind called the Eagle Rock Ramp. He recollects, “It was in all the magazines for a couple years. Daily sessions with Christian Hosoi, Lance Mountain, Eddie Reategui, Tony Magnusson. It’s kind of funny if you look back at who’s been there. A lot of pros, if not most of them, skated it over the years. Thrasher Magazine called it the reigning god of ramps in ’86. We had pro contests in it; we threw some of the first ever skateboard jams. It was like a skateboard Mecca.”

In 1989, Jay and his new wife Lori relocated to Montana. He remembers the transition as a skate-culture shock. “When we moved here, skateboarding was as dead as it gets in Bozeman. It became obvious to me that winter in Montana was long, and winter was snowboarding. It was like wow, this is a great place to ride there’s nobody here and there’s soft snow everywhere. And you have the mountain to yourself.”

That same season, Moore talked the ski school director at nearby Bridger Bowl into hiring him as their first snowboard instructor. The resort had almost no exposure to the sport, but Jay was persistent. Initially, Jay wanted to teach because, “it was more like an excuse to stay out on the snow and make a job out of something that was fun.”

His teaching career lasted three seasons. In 1993, he and fellow instructor Ian Ford decided to buy out the inventory of a struggling, chronically cluttered shop and try their hand at the retail game. He flashes back to the day the idea took hold: “Ian Ford and I were at the Banked Slalom at Bridger. We were waiting in line for our turn and he said, ‘We need to start a snowboard shop.’ And I laughed and then hesitated and went, ‘Whoa. This could work’.”

He says the start up was an exercise in blind faith. “Man, talk about not knowing what to do. I didn’t know anything about paying taxes, payroll, business license…we just opened the doors. But, back then if you paid COD, anybody would ship you anything. I learned by doing and hard knocks.”

Jay says the shop survived because, “We were totally passionate. We were riding; we’d close the store on powder days and wouldn’t open it. We were in the core of the scene here and I think we had respect from people.”

He stereotypes the original founders and employees as being, “tech weenies, but we’d use the stuff. Kind of like a Tom Routh or a Mike Olsen-type. You’re not, like, and incredibly talented rider, like you’re not going to the Jamie Lynn level. But you can hold your own because you’ve been riding for so long and you’re actually interested in how to carve better. You’re actually interested in the thing being lighter and stronger. A lot of it was into the cause…you know, try to grow snowboarding.”

Jay feels passion is the reason the store’s feedback is respected in the industry. “It’s literally blood, sweat and tears,” he summarizes. “Being in the trenches for lots of years. If somebody asks me an opinion on a product, I’ve usually ridden it myself or know someone who has. Or, if someone asks me a trend, my region’s different than everywhere else, but at least I have cold, hard facts because I own the store.”

Jay also recognizes that the feedback loop is an important part of snowboarding’s progression. “I realize I’m only in this little corner of the US, kind of no man’s land up in the mountains, but it’s viable because we have opinions about why this board’s good or not, because we broke it or these boots hurt. We’re using the stuff. If you’re literally plugged in and aware because it’s what your daily-ness is, then you have opinions because you’re sick and tired of this or that, because you’ve been through it so many times.”

“I think there’s always something to be learned – and I include myself in that loop – from anybody, whether it’s a kid or a sales manager of some big company, because there’s just always so much to know. The thing about snowboarding is that it changes so much and so fast.”

Jay Moore is also widely regarded as one of the most accomplished judges in snowboarding. His resume reads like a laundry list of the sport’s grandest stages: Grand Prixs, National Championships, US Open, Junior Worlds, Nippon Open, X Games, Lord of the Boards, Vans Triple Crown, Sims World Championships. In the places where snowboarding has progressed under bright lights and a magnified competitive focus, Jay’s evenhanded evaluation has helped sort out the inovators from the imitators.

Jay’s involvement began in 1996 when he was talked into traveling to Vail for the first snowboard judging clinic held by Greg Johnson. “Greg realized that I had a lot of knowledge because I grew up in skateboarding and I was really adept at identifying tricks, and it just came really easy to me to see a run and tell you everything a guy just did and when it wasn’t hard and why it was good or why it wasn’t and who missed what,” he says. “I just started judging right there.”

After eight years on the judge’s stand, one might expect interest would wane, but Jay still seems to relish the underappreciated job. “I really enjoy it; it’s like you’re getting paid to have the best seat in the house of the most current progression because it’s happening in front of you. A lot of times during contests is when people will step it up. I think it’s great…it’s fun to have seen it evolve.”
With his wealth of international experience, Jay seemed like the choice when the Olympics came to Salt Lake City. But because Euro ski officials blacklisted the widely respected IJC, and Jay was a card-carrying member of the snowboard organization, he was locked out of the Olympic five-ring circus.

With a subdued tone, he reveals a statement by a European judging official, “When we were starting the IJC [International Judging Committee, a non-FIS sanctioned group of judges], I was told, ‘If you go don’t stay with FIS you’ll never judge the Olympics’ by a peer of mine at that time. And sure enough, five years later he’s the guy who is in charge to pick the judges.” He continues, “Some people protested. Jeremy Forester [head of USSA Snowboarding] protested and put my name in there to be picked and they said, ‘Well, USSA doesn’t have any say because this guy has been put in charge and whatever he says goes.’ So whatever, I was real close.”

But Jay shrugs off the snub, “It was weird, but it was cool. Stroke of fate. Jasen Bowes, our Burton rep, offered his key dealers tickets to the Olympics. So my wife and I went anyway…and we had a great seat and I didn’t have to sweat any of the details. I mean it would have been cool to be all official dude, and be put up where the judges are put up, and be part of the Olympic body. But when I look at it, it was just rad that I got to go. So there’s no bitterness whatsoever, I think maybe that’s because I was able to go in a cool, providential way.”

In a sport where personal beliefs are likely to tend toward agnosticism, mysticism or hedonism, Jay’s strong devotion to his religious beliefs makes him a rarity. He outlines his view, “To realize that God’s allowed me to do so many cool things – to travel around judging, and get paid to watch snowboarding, how cool is that? You look back at the providence of it all and the timing; I’m not one to say that was lucky, I’m one to say it was in God’s plan.”

Jay points to his faith as the defining reason he stays so perpetually stoked. Moore says, “When the chips are down, and when things get hard, my viewpoint is: wow, I can’t believe God let’s me do this,” he says. “He gives me the ability to ride, and I can sell snowboards, and make a living – how bizarre is that?”

“Some people are like the half-empty guy; I’m the half-full guy.”

When questioned about snowboarding’s current state, Moore presents a thoughtful view, “The current direction – the super-jibfest – that’s not snowboarding, that’s a part of snowboarding. Anything where you’re getting cornered is telling me I’m not creative. I’m the same; I’m a follower.”

He presents an alternative outlook, “I love the dude in the line at Bridger on an eight-year-old Sims board and he’s got duct tape on his boots and he’s in Carharts and he’s got a beard and he’s covered head-to-toe in powder. And it’s 2:00 and the dude’s probably been riding since nine. He is just there for himself.”

His view slowly crystallizes, “It’s good is snowboarding is going in that direction, more back toward freeriding and having fun. Not because people are complacent, because they realize snowboarding is all of that…You can get a tow-in on a sled to some big backcountry kicker, or by a trash truck to a homemade metal rail, and you can also go hike out your backyard on a little slope and learn how to turn.”

With impassioned views about everything from equipment breakage to the new Standard video, snowboarding seems to have been woven into Jay’s natural fibers. When asked what snowboarding has given back he says, “I’ve been heli boarding five times; I’ve ridden with Craig Kelly; I’ve been to Europe five times, I’ve been to Japan; I’ve been all over Canada – all this is because of snowboarding. It’s just fun.”

He continues, “I mean, going to a trade show is hell, but it’s not – in some sort of queer way I love it. It’s still interesting to me. I like seeing the creativity that comes out of Mervin or Burton, and then I like the real that comes out of companies like Never Summer or Option – like in the trenches, we’re here and not trying to be something we’re not – we’re just this. It’s refreshing working with real people, and there’s a lot of real people in the sport.”

His mind changes gears and flashes back again to riding. Drawing you in and infecting you with his stoke once again, he starts to construct a familiar scene. “I love it. I still dream about it. Huge powder day, dropping some giant something, wack a big layback off a big, old wave and then just a real quick toeside. Craig Kelly turn to get back in the pocket.”

He keeps rambling, lost in thought as he recounts the perfect run, “Isn’t it cool when you can pick a line on a blank canvass powder day? It’s like an artist when they learn how to paint and they finally paint something good.”

Then he articulates the sensation, “To be really worn out and have had a good day and challenged yourself; slammed a couple of times to wake you up and make you realize you’re fallible. Just feel a couple airs or grabs, a lot of good cranked turns…you know, that pleasantly worn-out kind of feeling. Just to be out in God’s creation doing that, that’s what I think is so cool about snowboarding.”