John Jackson Profile
In snowboarding, John Jackson is pretender to the throne currently occupied by Travis Rice. Chris Moran profiles Transworld’s 2011 Rider of the Year and winner of Grow for a Cause
Shaun White might be the face of competitive snowboarding, but for those who love the purer, feel good 'freeride' edge of the sport - where powder turns, cliff jumps and huge backcountry kickers showcase snowboarding in its rawest form - Travis Rice is king. And John Jackson? He's never far from the king, with few doubting that one day he'll wear the crown. He is - as one snowboard magazine pointed out - the Shredder-in-Waiting.
“Travis is so sick. I study his riding and watch how he approaches everything,” says John deferentially. “He's so calculated.”
Not that John was destined to be a fearless conquerer of mountains. Born and raised near the boastfully-titled Mammoth Mountain (it's little more than a hill), John and his brother cut their teeth on the halfpipes and funparks that the Californian resort is famous for.
“I'm the older one,” says John, “but right now Eric has a man beard that looks like Grizzly Adams so he looks older.” In fact, Eric's beard is currently a swirling 'monkey tail' design - a shave-a-thon move that raised $2,500 for the charity Protect Our Winters.
The pair seemed happy on the man-made jumps; they signed for the predominantly freestyle-based company Forum Snowboards, and it looked like a career trying to beat Shaun White would follow. But like the author Jack London one hundred years earlier, the Call of the Wild stirred up in JJ’s bones, and the overriding sensation to hike into the backcountry took hold.
“When you're up there on a line you can only be focused on that one goal,' says John.
"Conquering what's in front of you. Everything else disappears.”
Perhaps that's why John went for a Victorian-era Mutton Chop look for his beard-shaving on for Protect Our Winters? Either way, taking the freestyle moves he had learned on his home mountain to the steep slopes of Alaska and deep powder of Canada, John’s stock rose: he was both Transworld and Snowboarder Magazine’s Rider of the Year in 2010, and repeated the feat the next year - the first snowboarder ever to do so.
In a discipline which attracts riders more aligned with Bear Grylls than The Big Lebowski ‘dude’, John Jackson stands out. With his dreadlocks swashing over a charismatic grin and an almost-permanent laid-back persona (“I just cruise around in my truck and camp out wherever,” he said in a recent interview, “no strings attached,”) he could hardly look less bothered by the constant threat of avalanches and tumbles down the steep slopes. And with his interest of reggae artists there’s more than a hint of him being a grow-your-own kinda guy.
But no one in their right mind could call him a slacker. Citing the fact that he wanted “to spend more time in a heli,” and to “promote backcountry riding and big mountain freestyle,” John left Forum to join Burton Snowboards in 2011, and took a huge gamble with his career to film with Travis Rice for what would turn out to be the groundbreaking film The Art of Flight.
“I had to just man up and pay for most of it myself because I just wanted to go,” said John.
Few would doubt its success: the film landed Travis on the sofas of some of America’s hottest chat shows, and in his supporting role, John Jackson steals many scenes. It can only be a matter of time then, before Oprah has his number in her speed dial.
See also other SYS profiles!