Jye Kearney is no stranger to the Australian snowboard scene.
Back in the day there were plenty of raw, rebelious, bad-arse snowboarders that helped shape snowboarding’s evolution but nowadays that attitude has since transformed into a media trained, coached ‘sport’. Jye is someone who would have been better suited to the early snowboarding era of Farmer, Ranquet and Kidwell where his off-the-hill antics would of being praised rather than condemned.
He has made a few mistakes, he has let some opportunites slip by along the way which has hindered his career but he is fully aware of this and it’s all part of the Jye chronicals which is far from over. His reclusiveness, mood swinging attitude which results in him riding for the camera when he feels like it, and with who he wants has all added to his mythologised character. He truly loves snowboarding and sometimes feels uncomfortable being the Burton pin-up boy and having to continually live up to the title of Australia’s best snowboarder. He doesn’t enjoy the limelight but realises he has a talent that the snowboard media want to expose. He has earned the respect of not only Australian snowboarders but also cemented himself as a player on the international scene.
We caught up with Jye in his new pad in Jindabyne and peeled back some layers. We came to the conclusion that Jye Kearney is just a content Aussie from the Goldy, that just happens to be naturally-gifted and has one of the best styles in the game.
Hey Jye, how’s things?! Where are you now and how have you spent your Northern Hemisphere winter?
Hey man, things are good. I’m back home in Jindabyne now just relaxing and waiting for the winter to start. My Northern Hemi winter was pretty good – we kind of got skunked on the snow everywhere we went but it was good times for sure.
I was shredding in Big Bear at the beginning and that was rad. I got to film with Transworld for their Sunday in the Park web series, which was a great opportunity for me. Then I went on trips to Stevens Pass, Portland and Anchorage, and also Calgary where a few of us got hurt on the concrete, which I know makes me sound like a pussy since all skaters fall on concrete. My ankle was giving me grief the whole time so I had to bail a bit earlier than usual.
Cool. So let’s rewind a bit – where did you grow up?
I grew up on the Gold Coast until I was about 10 years old and then moved to Jindabyne and have lived here ever since. I always go back and forth between the two places. My Nan and Pops still live there. I grew up surfing on the Gold Coast and didn’t really get into snowboarding until I went down to Jindy.
And your Mum and Dad were real young when they had you?
Yeah, Mum was 16 when she fell pregnant and was 17 when she had me and Dad was 18. They were high school sweethearts so they had already been together for a few years, but looking back it’s pretty nuts.
That’s crazy! I’ve met your mum and dad and they are super nice, hard-working Aussies. You must be pretty grateful that they gave you a lot of support growing up?
I’m definitely really grateful for everything they’ve done for me. They’ve given up everything for me just so I can be happy. I love to snowboard and they’ve given me that opportunity to be able to fulfil my dreams. A lot of people wouldn’t get that opportunity in life. It’s rad my parents are young as well, I really feel I can just hang out and talk with them and they really understand me. I mean, my Dad always wanted to go shred so it was easy for me to tag along and just go riding with him. It was cool that they were both into the same things as me.
I don’t know how much money my parents forked out to get me where I am today. They probably hated me for choosing snowboarding because it’s so expensive. Especially coming from the Goldy. Ha! I have to say I have the best parents, they supported me and hopefully they are proud of me and what I have achieved in snowboarding.
I first met you as a punk-arse 14-year-old on the Holey Moley camps that Russ Holt organised and Robbie Walker was coaching. Nick Wood, Chris DeCampo and Alex Scott were also on those camps. How was that?
They were the funnest times of my life. I was 14 and just snowboarding. It was before I had any pressure on me and I could just ride. It was pretty much a holiday with a bunch of friends travelling to the States, running amok and shredding every day. All the kids on the camp ripped so it was cool to be riding with people with the same ability as me. I remember I was always trying to be the best rider on the camps. I remember how good it was to ride with DeCampo, he was a good kid and he really pushed me. I’m not sure what he’s doing these days, it sucks not to see him around anymore though.
How do you think these camps progressed you as a rider?
Having Holty and Robbie as coaches was so awesome. I learned a lot from those guys. They were Australia’s best snowboarders at the time so it was perfect for us. They were really helpful coaches and helped us progress. I used to love to watch Holty ride. And it wasn’t just the coaching on the hill; I saw a lot of Aussie snowboarders, photographers and filmers all coming through Salt Lake City on shoots. It was the first time I saw how it all worked, which was a definite eye-opener. I saw all the hard work the boys put in to get a shot. I actually remember seeing Jeremy Jones filming for Mack Dawg in the streets and that made a pretty big impression on me.
At this time you started to really get noticed on the snowboard scene and people were starting to label you as the next best rider to come out of Australia. How did that feel and did you feel any pressure?
That’s kind of a tough question to answer. I mean for sure I was starting to get coverage in the magazines and stuff but I never tried to put pressure on myself. I guess riding for Burton there was always that pressure or at least expectation to perform, but it wasn’t negative pressure. I mean I was always trying to just be the best Australian snowboarder. That was my benchmark. I’m Australian and I wanted to be the best I could be and let my snowboarding show for itself.
That’s when you started hanging out with Ryan ‘Nugg’ Gardner. What influence did he have on you?
Nuggman was a huge influence on me. He was like my second Dad to an extent. I lived at his house in NZ every year and he took care of me. He hooked me up with all the international connections, he filmed and edited a short clip of me, which ended up blowing up and kind of put me on the radar and got my name out there. Nugg helped not just in snowboarding but also outside of it, always pointing me in the right direction. I probably wouldn’t be where I am today without his help. It sucks that he also isn’t around these days. I gotta say Benny Bright and Marcus Wehrle also helped me a bunch.
You’ve always been a pretty wild, unpred-ictable kid – the majority of your youth was spent hanging out with older crew. Do you think you grew up faster than a normal 15 or 16-year-old, or did it always feel like you were the grommet?
I grew up pretty quickly I reckon. I definitely think I saw a lot of stuff that maybe a normal 15 or 16-year-old wouldn’t have seen at that age. I was travelling the world at 14 and hanging out with all older crew. It was super fun and to be honest I was never really treated like a grommy – or maybe I should say I never really got the grommy bashings that I’d heard all the older boys got when they were growing up. Maybe it had to do with my height. I was 5’11 at 14. I’m still 5’11 now. That’s pretty big for a 14-year-old, so I think I slipped under the radar a bit.
Then your snowboarding took a turn – your attention started to focus on street rather than park. What made you decide to go down that path?
down that path?
Well I guess it came from skating. If I wasn’t a pro snowboarder then I would have loved to be a pro skater. I always liked the excitement of the streets as well – it’s totally different to hitting a back country jump or rails in the park. I’ve heard gunshots, car crashes, done some crazy late night missions in sketchy spots. Another reason was that I was filming a full part and I wanted some street stuff in there, so I went to Minnesota and was thrown into the deep end with Charles Beckinsale and Mikey Williams who were the best Aussie jibbers at the time. It was a rad experience for me.
You stepped back from contests and produced an amazing video part that blew up not just in Oz but in the US on TWS and Snowboarder and in Europe on Method Mag and Onboard.
That part was from an Aussie movie called Made You Look and I was pretty hyped on it. I just decided that I was still pretty young and wanted to take time off from going in all the contests and spend a season filming because I knew I could always come back and compete.
Then it felt that things went quiet. I know you were getting pulled in a lot of different directions, lots of invitations to global Burton shoots, people were comparing you to Mikkel Bang. But you turned down these opportunities and it felt like you didn’t want the limelight on you – you just wanted to ride.
It was a pretty hard time. I’d been travelling all over the world doing back-to-back seasons since I was 14 years old. I think I was in a different mind frame back then, I was 16 or 17 and I felt like at the time there was so much going on, so much shit that I didn’t really know how to deal with and different people telling me to do different things and all I wanted to do was just snowboard. I’m 21 now and I often think back and I fucking regret a lot of the decisions I made back then and I feel I blew a lot of really good opportunities. I wish I could go back in time and do every single one of the fucking opportunities I was given but I guess everyone makes some pretty stupid decisions when they’re young. I feel it would have been way better for my career now if I had seized those moments, but I feel I have the talent still and I’m super keen to try and crack it on the international scene now.
You also got some nasty injuries and you spent summers back in Jindy, fishing, resting and rehabbing.
Yeah, I’ve had an ongoing ankle injury for a few years now. I originally did it jumping off a tramp-oline, and then I went to Japan last year and, first day riding, I jumped off a pillow in waist deep powder and just heard it crack. That was me done, the trip was over.
I went back to Jindabyne, got into rehab and fishing, bought a pretty sweet house and had plenty of time to think stuff out. I guess it was a blessing in disguise really – I realised how much I loved snowboarding and how fortunate I was to be in this position, so I was just frothing to get back on snow.
Then it seemed you came back with a new energy, amped and revitalised. You entered into every contest in Australia and cleaned up – you won everything and were unstoppable. What happened? It seemed like you had new motivation.
I guess everything happens for a reason and I just came back so pumped to ride. All that thinking and time off gave me new motivation and I guess that was the outcome. I wanted to show everybody that I was the best.
Another reason was that I had just bought a house and for the first time I thought of snowboarding as a means to an end. If I won all the contests I’d be able to pay off my house quicker. It kept the fire burning and I also want to set myself up, and I’m so lucky that I love snowboarding, which helps. Ha!
That’s one of the best things with you Jye – when it comes down to it you’re a phenomenal snowboarder when it’s time to throw down, you do it, whether it’s the last run of the contest or on a photoshoot. What’s your secret?
of the contest or on a photoshoot. What’s your secret?
I don’t really know. I just have this thing that I never really forget how to do a trick on a snowboard. It might sound weird but I never need to warm up – it doesn’t matter if I’ve been injured for a few months or whatever, as soon as I jump on my board I just feel so comfortable. It gives me confidence that I can land all my tricks at any time and it’s not just a fluke or luck.
I would say you’re still one of the best (if not the best) Australian riders at the moment. What is your focus on now?
Ha. Thanks mate. I really want to try and do what I should have done two years ago and that’s crack it overseas. Try to film a legit film part for a decent production company. It might mean I’ll have to go and live over in North America for a bit longer. It’s hard because it’s not just your snowboarding – you do need the right contacts. I’m 21 years old now so I know what I have to do and I think the next five or six years are going to be my best, so I’m just going to keep having fun. I’ll do all the Aussie comps this winter but I really want to film a legit part.
Last words are yours my friend.
Cool. A huge thanks to Mum, Dad, Nan and Pops and my girlfriend. And my sponsors Burton, Arnette and First Tracks snowboard shop. Thanks for everything!
Photos by Ryan Anderson