Olympic snowboarder, Danny Davis, talks music, business and “Peace Park 2014”, exclusively, with The Source. Tune-in to ABC this Sunday, 11/30, at 2pm to catch a 44-minute presentation of Danny’s latest Peace Park iteration.
Danny Davis is far beyond your average, professional athlete. He could even be regarded as an anomaly, of sorts. In addition to competing on the 2014 Sochi Olympics stage, and dominating the Aspen X Games in convincing fashion, Danny – arguably the best half pipe rider in the world – has complimented his worldly talents, on the slope, with innovation and entrepreneurship.
His desire to promote friendship, inclusion, collective progression and fun seems at odds with his industry, with him regarded as one of best snowboarders in the uber-competitive sport. This oxymoron, ironically, is what strengthens his appeal with both die-hard and casual fans of the sport, and makes his story incredibly dope.
Prior to the release of his new ABC documentary, Peace Park 2014, Danny was generous enough to give The Source a direct lens into the world of professional snowboarding: an exclusive opportunity to delve deeply into his latest “Peace Park” project iteration, talk about career accomplishments, get an understanding of who he truly is (off the slope) and enjoy a sneak-peak of what his fans could come to expect in the future.
Danny, The Athlete
Danny burst onto the national scene in 2006, initially winning ROY honors with Snowboarder Magazine, a publication that later named him one of the top 10 Riders of 2008.
Danny has accrued over thirteen, top-three finishes in competitions since 2006; which is no small feat. His most recent accomplishments to date, lie in a 2014 Winter Olympics appearance in Sochi (where he placed 10th) and taking home the gold, in the SuperPipe, at the 2014 Aspen Winter X Games.
Growing up, Danny’s two major influences were his brother and father. According to him, his dad was influential in complementing his desire to embrace the sledding/snowboarding culture, while his brother (who skated, snowboarded and surfed) was the main person that he sought after for inspiration.
Danny didn’t necessarily see snowboarding as a viable career option until his skills quickly progressed and professional opportunities naturally became apparent. Inking his first major endorsement deal, he says, was the best moment of his career to date. “I don’t even think I got a salary but I got photo incentive… That was just the beginning of it all”, he says. His parents were especially excited at the opportunity, reiterating that he could do this for a living, and shouldn’t “f–k it up”.
Equally as substantial a moment in Danny’s life was what he described as the worst career moment to date; a pre-contest, practice run in New Zealand that resulted in a broken back and femur. As if the rehab wasn’t enough of a setback, Davis would miss the opportunity to qualify and represent USA in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Danny on the 2010 incident:
“In breaking your femur, you gotta [learn to] re-walk, whatever, but you kind of learned to really love snowboarding again. You really are dedicated to get back to it because you miss it a lot.”
With a renewed love of snowboarding came a different opportunity; to challenge himself to improve despite the setback. Danny decided to ease back into snowboarding via riding switch – leading with your opposite foot compared to your natural riding stance.
“When I was coming back from this last injury this past year, I kind of started riding switch a lot when the doctor said ‘you could start cruising, stay on the ground, don’t hit jumps’… So I just rode switch, and then this year … I was doing a ton of tricks switch and that actually got me [pretty] far this season.”
Pretty far indeed.
At the Aspen X Games, his switch strategy was lauded by critics, as general interest began to move away from the more accustomed tricks. After a near perfect second-run, in which he landed the trick, Danny took home the gold medal.
In a sport where staying ahead of the competition is predicated on mastering new tricks, setbacks can be pretty devastating. “Maybe you were the best before you got hurt and then you come back a year later and everyone’s learned like 3 new tricks, and you’re still trying to relearn the ones you knew before”, said Davis.
So in comparison with other sports, rehabbing to regain 100% of your ability can still leave you at a grave disadvantage, competitively. This speaks volume to Davis’ work ethic and commitment to stay great:
“I never really thought that I can’t get back to 100% “You just gotta get through [setbacks]”
Danny, The Music Junkie
Since his youth, music has been an important staple in Danny’s life – both professionally and personally. With an already diverse background of musical interests in tow, Danny was introduced to a whole new genre after his brother took an interest in singing opera.
Bluegrass, soul, folk and hip-hop are his go-to categories, and he tends to use these types of music to drain out – via headphones – the generic music played during competitions. Having an open outlook on diverse music, however, doesn’t mean all a
re acceptable to bump in front of Danny. He hates EDM (electronic dance music) and genre variations that stem from it. “I can’t dig it, especially all the dub step”, he told me emphatically.
When asked by me to play the role of “record producer”, and select two bands/artists from different genres for an amazing collaboration, Danny paused before exclaiming a Daptone Records and Wu-Tang Clan pairing – an interesting combination
Danny once previously met members of “The Wu” through a mutual friend, and had nothing but positive thoughts on the encounter:
“If I could sit in an old Wu-Tang session, that would be pretty sick. They’re the only dudes that I’ve seen from that [era], and they were very genuine people. They were super cool. Definitely likeminded people who are just cool”.
Danny, The Entrepreneur
Through Danny’s different endeavors, and general outlook on life, it’s easy to sense his genuine focus on inclusion and community. When asked if this mentality is due to participating in a sport that is, in essence, individual (you vs. yourself), or if it was more reflective of his upbringing and personal relationships, he hinted at a combination of the two.
“That’s the nature of the sport. It didn’t begin as a competitive sport. Began as ‘get on the mountain and shred!’
“I think it also had to do with the way I was raised. [My friends and I] came up in snowboarding together and that’s just how it was. I never rode alone and that’s how I progressed.”
“There are some snowboarders though, who learned that way, who learned by being a prodigy. They learned being solo, and that’s how they progressed. They learn new stuff on their own. I’m happier when I got friends to cruise through life with.”
If you don’t believe his words, the proof is in the action he has taken – on an entrepreneurship level – to integrate his fans, friends and genuine love of sport into everything he’s done.
Davis and his professional snowboarding buddies have formed a supergroup, labeling their collective “Frends” – cleverly misspelled to lend credence to the idea that there is “no ‘I’ in friends”, according to Davis. Through business initiatives, and a golden mentality, the collective is attempting to bring the sport of snowboarding back to its origins, engrained in fun, inclusion and love.
The first opportunity to create with his buddies, for Danny, came in the form of headphones. Due to sponsorship exclusivity in other major categories (clothing, shoes, snowboards), headphones emerged as an opportunity category for the group to leverage. Music was extremely important to them as it came in handy during competitions, to perform better.
“If I didn’t have music when I was snowboarding on the hill, I’d be bored.. And especially during contests, it’s the biggest thing to help zone out and ride”
The headphone line, entitled “FRENDS” enjoyed success before being repositioned as a fashionable women’s line.
The “gnarly” feeling that came from creating Frends brand headphones with members of the “Frends” crew, coupled with a love for music, helped influence another entrepreneurial opportunity: a music festival. According to Danny, on a post-season camping trip with his buddies, they decided to invite fans and play some music. The first year, 100 people attended. The second year, the Frends crew commissioned a Led Zeppelin cover band and 400 people attended. For year three, the gathering was moved to Vermont, and one thousand people showed up. Now, expectations for the “Frendly Gathering Music Festival” lie somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 music enthusiasts! The annual festival plays hosts to dozens of bands/artists from around the world, representing a diverse set of genres. “There’s music for everyone!”, Danny exclaimed.
Interestingly enough, though, most spectators in attendance have no idea who Danny is – speaking to the broad, diverse demographic that this growing event has been able to attract in such a short period of time.
Danny, The Creator/Innovator (Peace Park)
The Peace Park was created with the objective of changing the landscape of competitive snowboarding. Danny saw an absence of creativity and style at the highest level of the sport, and leveraged an elementary approach to create something special.
“Basically I was doing all these contests with the Olympics, and they were all very, very similar… From contest to contest to contest, everybody had one or two runs they do, and that’s pretty much all you see them do”
Recognizing this issue, he joined forces with Burton, Mountain Dew and Snow Park Technologies to build off of the existing half-pipe concept, adding much needed uniqueness. Similar to a skate park, it changes every year and offers more opportunity to create as you ride.
“It’s about creating something new, fresh, fun”, he says. “A lot of us spend so much time in the competitive world, so we need a break to just cruise, play some music on the mountain. We just go up there to hang and shred… We only bring people up there that are likeminded in that way”
This year’s iteration, 2014 Peace Park, will feature the likes of Travis Rice and Mark McMorris, among many other riders totally fifteen. Also with much more snow to work with, the 2014 installment will be bigger and longer, measuring 1,000 vertical feet, according to Danny.
The documentary, Peace Park 2014, is set to air on 11/30, at 2PM on ABC. Use the hashtag #PeacePark14 on Twitter to follow the conversation.