An Interview with Neal Lyons, Pro-rider for Canon Skiboards
March 17, 2000
By Alicia Parks
An Interview with Neal Lyons
Let's chat about the 2000 X Games...
Q: I am sure you have been asked a million times, "how does it feel to get the gold?" So, to spare you the redundancy, share with our viewers how it feels to know a dream of accomplishing something like this becoming a reality. Is it hard to believe? Are you in shock? Was it a thousand times more amazing than you imagined? What came to mind when you realized winning the gold was becoming a reality?
A: "Life is made up of goals and striving to achieve them. Everything that we do, I think is goal oriented, at least everything I do is. Why do anything that doesn't improve your value as a human being. Regardless, after last season, which I pretty much just chuffed through, I made some key career decisions. First, I trained a lot in the off season -- weights, jogging, exercise bike. I figured that my conditioning shouldn't be a factor in where I place, only my skill. "Secondly, I signed with Canon Skiboards (who have been the greatest people to me). It's a very simple relationship, they keep me happy and I do my best to keep them happy. My dad was always like, 'why don't you go where the money is' and s*** like that, but I knew I was where I wanted to be. I think when I won, I was more happy to do it for Canon than anything else, and that, I think, is how you should feel when something that big happens. Why represent something that you don't respect. If I was with Salomon or wherever else, I don't think I would have cared enough to do my best. It would have just been a financial thing. "Finally, and this may sound kind of obvious, but I started to practice. Last season, the only time I rode was at the competitions. I snowboarded the rest of the time. Over the summer, after signing with Canon, I just sort of realized if I could do this well without practice, what would happen if I practiced? I guess I got my answer. Yet, I still don't ride as much as I'd like to. I think in my two plus years of skiboarding, I still haven't ridden more than 50 days. "These three decisions help set me on my path to victory. And when I won? Well, it was a trip to say the least. I got second at the trials at Mountain High, behind Mike Nick, and though I was happy with that. It didn't really convince me that I had a chance to win at the big show. I felt that I was still pretty far behind Mike and in addition, names like Brinton Gundersen and Serge Maheu weren't there. But the course at 'Snow' was definitely suited to me. I think that I'm probably the most consistent rider on the tour right now and there has never been a competition with as many obstacles as there was there. "When I won, I know it sounds cliché, but it didn't sink in for a while. I don't think it did for Canon either. I knew I had medalled when I finished my run, but when I looked at the scoreboard, it might as well have said 20th. Everything was moving around me in slow mo' and there was no sound. I was in 'the zone' I guess. I was just so stoked that my dad was there to see it. He drove down just for the comp with a bunch of my best mates and we tore that place up that weekend. Looking back on it now, I just think it was the current crowning achievement in a long drawn out process. I've Fruitbooted since 1994 and competed since 1995. I've seen many people win and seen many people give it up. I don't get too hyped up about it. It was just my turn. Someone decided that I had finally paid my dues I guess. "
Q: What goes through your mind before, during and after riding down the slope during your competition. (Are you not thinking, just enjoying the ride? Is the pressure unbearable? Do you feel calm?)
A: "At the X Games, I changed my procedure a little. I was dying in warm-ups. I was so pissed. I hadn't had a bad day all year and it figures that it would come THAT day. I stopped warming up and just went and chilled in the warm room at the top. There, I just blocked everything out. I threw on my Walkman (which is usual) and focused all of my energy onto me. I didn't watch anyone's runs. I was last in order so I just sat there until it was my time to go. I was so relaxed before each run and that's so unlike me. "I wouldn't say I put a lot of pressure on myself, but I just won't settle for a substandard performance on my part. That day I just played out the contest format. Contests are between me and the judges and no one else. Sitting up there and not watching the other runs allowed me to focus on what I needed to do rather than worrying whether or not my run, as it was in my head, had what it took. My whole mentality is that I can only do as well as Neal Lyons is able to do. It's then up to the judges to decide whether or not it's better than what everyone else did that day."
Q: Do you have any superstitions you abide by before competing? If so, what did you do before competing at the 2000 X Games? (Do you have to eat a certain food? Listen to a certain song? Think about someone special?)
A: "I have tons of silly superstitions that I follow without a doubt. There's the whole ski thing. My skis are MY skis and I feel that if I'm loyal to them, they'll repay me tenfold. I will not change skis before a contest. I don't even know what I'd do if I had to. I like them worked in. The duller the edges the better. I'm very attached to my skis. I'll rarely give them away either. I'm like that with everything though--very sentimental. "Next, stickers can only go on the left ski. That one came about because I always had to ride the skis on the same feet every time. My bindings are even marked so I know which one is the left and right. From there I just made it mandatory that the left is the sticker ski and the right is left pristine. "Music is always key but what I listen to depends fully on my mood. If I wake up mellow then I'll listen to metal to pump [me] up. Usually Slayer or old Metallica or whatever I feel at the time. If I wake up pumped, on the other hand, its definitely hip-hop to put me on a style tip. If I can dub the beat into my head, then I know I'm going to be on that day. While I wait for my runs, its always Rage Against the Machine, simply because they mix both of these elements beautifully. "Finally, and unless you know me, I don't know how this'll sound but I have to feel that my clothes are right. I've got to feel like I'm looking' good or else I won't ride well. Watch me on ESPN adjust my jacket after each trick. (I didn't even know I did that until I watched it, but it all has to do with proper presentation). I would like to stress however, that only I have to care what I look like. I could really [care] less what everybody else thinks. It's personal style and how you perceive it doesn't make a difference. As long as I feel on, it's on."
Q: Tell me what you thought of ESPNs exposure of skiboarding at the X Games?
A: "What they showed was great, it's what they didn't show that I have a problem with. Everyone was on that day, and about ESPN limiting their coverage to the top three? That's [bull]. They could have at least shown some highlights of other runs. Then they edited what I said [in an interview] so that it sounded like I was nockin' Mike and Nicky. If they had played that interview further you would have known I was just [messing] around. I think they made Mike look bad as well. Showing how nervous he was right before he bails on his final run. He wasn't even that nervous before his last run. He was in first place for [goodness sakes]! That interview was conducted way earlier in the day. ESPN made it look like he couldn't handle the pressure or something. ESPN is all about making a buck, which is what TV networks do. I don't question that. It's just the way it goes. They're a business first and that's that. "Snowboarding is huge and if we expect to get the coverage that they do then we have to attract equal attention and of course right now, that isn't the case. We did make a solid impression this year though, so I'm more interested to see whether they step it up next year or not. We didn't really give them any reason not to."
: Any other comments in general about skiboarding you want to share?
A: "Well with regards to the question above, I just think that this industry has to start taking care of itself rather than leaning on others to do it for us. ESPN's motives are out of our hands. All we can do is put a better product on the table if we want them to show us more respect. Talking and whining is [bull], what we do on the mountain and in our offices should be what this culture is concerned about. Everything else will fall where it's destined. The problem with skiboarding is that it emerged at the same time as all this network hype so we feel that that's what it takes to succeed. Snowboarding and all those other sports were built from within and that's why they are where they are today. We got to stop bending over for people who really don't matter and focus on strengthening our culture. Right now it's been fabricated by people like Disney and from my standpoint we just seem real hollow right now."
Now let's talk skiboarding...
Q: What is your favorite thing about skiboarding?
A: "I really like the personalities involved in the sport right now. Don't get me wrong, there are still a few minds I don't really respect, but for the most part, the people are cool. I come from in-line, where heads have gotten crazy and out of hand. It's like a bunch of wannabe gangsters on wheels. Of course, there are many exceptions there as well. I look forward to meeting up with everyone at each stop. I've had tons of epic times with these guys, days I'll never forget."
Q: If you could describe how skiboarding has influenced your life, what would you say?
A: "It's taught me to take care of myself --a lot of days on the road and a lot of sketchy situations that make you act responsible in a hurry. I think Jarvis has had a lot of influence on me as well --settin' my head straight when it needed to be. I've grown up a ton since I joined this fraternity. But even the messed up times, I wouldn't trade for the world."
Q: What is your most memorable moment during your skiboarding career, so to speak?
A: Though it's still fresh in my mind, I think down the road when I look back on it, my recent trip to Germany will be right up there. Thirteen of perhaps the most exciting days of my life. Everything happened on that trip, bad and good. I think I came away from it with a whole new mind set. I'll look at things a little differently now. It's a whole other lifestyle over there. It's crazy to talk with people who hold fresh perspectives on things. It just makes you realize your place and I have to respect that."
Q: How did you get involved in skiboarding? When did you discover it? How long did it take you to get used to it? Learn tricks?
A: "I guess my first introduction was via Sled Dogs. Some guy flowed me a pair at a Fruitboot contest and I rode them once. Let's just say I had my fill in that one day (two runs). I was serious into snowboarding at that time, so it was going to take a lot to curve my interest. I did do a Misty Flip my first day though. Aside from how horrible sled dogs were, the concept was fun. Anyway, the following year is when skiboarding makes its debut at the X Games. Jarvis got hooked up by Gauer through his skate sponsor and won the silver medal on only like three days practice. Jarvis brought in-line style to the sport for the first time.
After the Games, Gauer sponsored SB-1 and so they figured they should get their money's worth. They asked Dave if he knew of anyone who would be able to pick it up just as quickly. That's when I got the call. Next thing I know, I'm on my way to Squaw Valley, Calif. to shoot this video. All expenses paid and they even pay me 75 dollars a day. Technically I was pro after only two runs on Sled Dogs. So, when you watch SB-1, remember that my footage is my first two weeks on skis of any kind."
Q: What is your favorite trick to do? Or do you just prefer to sail down the mountain?
A: "My favorite trick is whatever trick I'm doing. That's why I chose to do it at that moment."
Q: What snow sports were you involved in before skiboarding entered your life? Are you still active in other snow sports?
A: "I was a snowboarder, still am, though I've only ridden twice this year. I competed for three years on the Ontario Half-Pipe circuit. I was a reserve for the Canadian National Team in 1998. No big deal, I won a couple of competitions last year. It's cool to have the respect of the other riders though. When I came back from the X Games last year, at the first competition, they made a big deal of it. I got second, but everyone was more interested in my skiboarding experiences. They 'slag' me sometimes, but I know they're all stoked. I haven't seen any of those guys since I won. I'd love to see 'em, see how they're all doing'. Other than snowboarding, I like to rally my Jetta in the snow and make snow angels. Snow angels are definitely cool. Chicks dig the effort."
The insider 4-1-1 on Neal Lyons...
Q: When were you born? Where were you born? Where do you currently reside?
A: "I was born May 10, 1977 in Brampton, Ontario, Canada. I currently reside in Streetsville, Ontario. It's a village about 35 minutes west of Toronto. I love it there. Small town within throwing distance of the big city. (Though in recent years the city has been coming in a little too close for comfort). I want to move to a ski-town next year, I think. I'm over an hour from the nearest resort and it's not even a mountain--maybe like 500 vertical or something. It takes about 30-45 seconds to run it, top to bottom. I'd love to live in California. Laid back, surf and ski the same day. Sounds great to me."
Q: What (aside from skiboarding) do you like to do for fun? What do you like to do for relaxation?
A: "Listen to/play music. I write songs and play guitar. I'm a power chord master, but I can rock out. Music is probably the largest part of my life. I'm obsessed with it. Constantly acquiring, always looking for new vibes. Other than that, I write a lot of poetry and play hockey maybe two or three times in a good week. Answering emails has been taking up a pretty big chunk of my time lately, as well."
Q: So, skiboarding probably keeps you pretty busy ... but what do you do in the off season? Job? School? Hang? Chill?
A: I used to be a sales rep for Mentos breath mints, but I had to give it up when my travel schedule started to get hectic. It was a cool job -- cruise around in my car and listen to music. My breath was always fresh, that's for sure. My schooling ended after I dropped out of University in my second year. I wasn't ready for it, yet. I was in pre-law, majoring in PolySci and Geography. I'll go back, maybe. I enjoy learning -- it was the assignments I didn't agree with. Too many other things to draw my attention away. Chilling is certainly a fine art and I got the best group of friends to practice with. Summer's in the Toronto area rule. Party in the city or go to someone's cottage. We got all the venues up here."
Q: What is your favorite food?
A: "I'm a meat and potatoes kind of guy. Serve me up a fine roast and I'm a happy camper. Anything plain is good. As Oddy always says, I'd take Chef Boyardee over a classy restaurant any day."
Q: Favorite movie?
A: "Recently I'd have to say American Beauty was pretty well done. As a Canadian I should definitely mention Slap Shot. I've seen it a couple of hundred times for sure. When it comes to like skate videos and stuff, I kind of like the ones that revolutionize the art. VG3 is probably my favorite Fruitboot video. It was the first video Dave Paine produced in the series and it changed the way in-line films were shot forever. The best thing about Dave is that he's still progressing [stuff]. Whiskey is definitely a classic snowboard film -- the first to show how it really was."
Q: Do you have any pets?
A: "My brother's got cool fish. He has a whole tank full of meat eating savages. They're still pretty small, eating like crickets and stuff, small feeders. Soon they'll be chuffing' some major sea food though."
Q: What is your favorite color?
A: "Black, but I know some smart a** is going to be like, 'But its a shade,' so I'll say green. Lots of neat things are green. Uhhh ... like leaves in the summer, yeah that's right!"
Q: What is your sign?
A: "I'm a Taurus through and through. Stubborn as a mother... Just ask the ex.! Taurus' are the best though. Mess with the bull, you get the horns!"
Q: Okay, your turn ... Anything else you want to mention, talk about, or shout out?
A: "I'd like to thank Canon Skiboards first and foremost - Drew and Mike: They helped me realize a love for this sport that I didn't have until this year. I'm proud to be a member of the team; the Tri-Nation of Domination, Micah, Oddy and I -- brothers forever. I got to thank Dave Jarvis who has always been a true friend. I'd do anything for that guy. Got to throw some hype to the crew at SkiboardingOnline.com; my cousin Dave; Alex, my brother Greg and D Brown -- preaching the true essence of skiboarding. And finally I'll pass on the love to the Canadian Contingent, who always got my back. We tore Vermont up and next year's going to be even uglier."