The Dakota McKenzie Interview
Dakota McKenzie is one of a kind. An always-stoked ripper and chicken wing enthusiast from Anchorage, AK, he's driven as hell. The past year and a half he's been filming a part for his crew's movie, Evoke, while working a full-time job and going to college.
We met in the summer of 2015 at High Cascade's session 3 where he threw down like none other (scoring an invitation from Pat Bridges to The Launch). We've since kept in touch and he became one of the first people I called when starting MINIM. Now over two years later, we catch up to talk about film-making, the Anchorage shred scene, and freestyle snowboarding's recent trends.
Interview: Michael Williamson
Basics: what’s your name/age/where do you live?
I'm Dakota McKenzie and I'm 20, living in Anchorage, Alaska.
How long have you been snowboarding?
I first went snowboarding when I was 8, I think, so around 12 years.
Living in a state so revered for its freeriding, how has it been growing up mostly riding the streets? How big is the street scene in Anchorage?
The street scene up here right now isn't that big. There's not a lot of people hitting rails and what not, but it's been around here for a long time. I got into street snowboarding because that's pretty much what I grew up around. My stepbrothers had rails setup in our backyard when I started snowboarding and the hill that I started snowboarding at pretty much only had rails. I just didn't really look at freeriding when I was younger, but I definitely appreciate it and want to do a lot more of it now that I've gotten a little older.
Did you do more freeriding excursions last season? Are you hoping to chase some powder this winter?
I think so. I spent two weeks in Japan pretty much just riding powder and that was so much fun. It really sparked more of an interest in it for me. I definitely want to ride more powder this year, it's so easy to do up here. I wish I would've gotten into it more early on.
Yeah, but it’s definitely not a bad place to ride urban. When I watch your parts, I see so lots of the spots from past Think Thank movies that were incredibly influential to me growing up. It definitely brings me back and gets me stoked.
Yeah, Think Thank has always been one of my biggest inspirations. The first premier I ever went to was "Cool Story" and I remember freaking out because Chris Larson hit this spot right next to my house. I had never even thought of it as anything more than a fence before. Things like that were always cool. It makes me look at the city a lot differently. But yeah, Alaska is sick for snowboarding in general.
Who were/are some of your major influences?
There's so many (laughs). Definitely Think Thank and all of the other crews that have been here over the years. But Brandon Cocard and Louif too. I watch a lot of skating too so I'd definitely say Dylan Rieder and Kyle Walker have influenced me a lot.
That’s what I love about snowboarding. There’s so many places you can look for inspiration; especially skateboarding. What’s your home mountain, Alyeska like?
Yeah, I'd say most of my inspiration comes from skating. Alyeska the mountain is cool. There's lots of fun stuff to ride. Lots of sidehits and what not. There's not really a park though. The mountain doesn't allow too much for that as is the case with most resorts/hills up here. No one sees the value in it I guess.
Why do you think that is?
I just don't think they think they can make money off of it. I think the Alaska snowboard/ski scene is geared more towards those who don't go riding a lot. There's so many beginner programs and things along those lines, but after that there's nothing. Both Hilltop, the small mom and pop hill in town, and Alyeska have had sick parks in the past. I think it could also be the result of less people snowboarding and skiing up here because it seems as if every mountain up here is having troubles staying afloat right now.
It seems like an interesting shift because, looking at industry stats, people are still spending money on snowboarding. But the crowd of people who are vigorously pursuing it seems to have dropped. Growing up near Seattle, I was able to experience amazing events every year (Holy Oly, Ride Shakedown, Boxes for Days, etc.). Even though some still happen, you can see a big drop just over the past four-five years. Has there been any attempt to build a DIY park to help pick up the slack?
Yeah, there used to be a bunch of events up here. Never of the Holy Oly caliber, or anything like that, but local events. There used to be an event called "Trick or Street" on Halloween and we used to have "Mountain Metal Mayhem", which will always be the sickest contest to happen up here in my mind. As of the last couple years, there's been nothing of that caliber. I think Blue & Gold is doing a good job of trying to get things like this going again. But, the mountains are so hard to work with because the people in charge don't understand (or care to understand) freestyle snowboarding.
There's been a couple attempts at DIY parks up here, but nothing too crazy. There's not a lot of vacant hills to do that with up here. Someone always owns it and is scared of getting sued, so they get shut down pretty quick. But there's one that hasn't been shut down that's pretty fun. The guys who used to make Bear Cubs and Magic Hour Moves movies set one up that's still holding on that's pretty fun (if you put the work in to make sick).
Those guys seemed to be pretty integral to the Alaskan snowboard scene, so it’s cool that they’re active in the community. That’s why I love what the people at Blue & Gold are doing. You all seem to be pretty passionate about creating and growing a thriving local scene. Could you tell us about the video you’ve all been working on?
Yeah, we just premiered our first movie with Evoke Films that's associated with Blue & Gold called Evoke. We filmed for a year and a half snowboarding and skateboarding. I went to Japan and got some clips for it and some of the other guys went to New York and filmed some skating. But, other than that, it's all Alaska footage. It's the first shop movie to come out for like 13 years or something like that, so I'm so excited to be a part of it. It was such a fun process making it and everyone killed it. It turned out pretty sick. I'm really hyped on it.
What prompted you guys to make this? Who’s all in it?
We've been filming snowboarding and skateboarding for awhile now. We're all friends and hangout all the time. I think it was just a natural progression into making a movie. The movie has full parts from Caleb Kinnear, Jakob Blees, Gary Galbreath, Tim Blevans, Jason Borgstede, and I. We also have a bunch of other people involved that have footage in the movie and have helped make it possible.
Could you tell us more about the premiere?
We did the premiere at the Wendy Williamson Auditorium, which is part of UAA, the school I go to. We had somewhere around 400 people show up, but it was so much fun. Our friend Danny Redmond also got put on the shop team at the premiere, so that was a super cool experience too. It ended up going really well. Seemed like people were pretty excited about the video, which was so crazy to hear.
I’m super excited to watch it. I think it’s cool seeing all of the full movies coming out from small crews lately. The variety in filming styles, tricks, music, the whole thing is just super fun to watch.
Yeah, I think having a somewhat small crew is sick. It's just raw snowboarding and skateboarding with not too much done with it. Kris, our filmer, has a sick filming style too so he makes everything look good. Yeah, it just all came together. Kris really worked his ass off for this video too.
Yeah, the filmers seem to go under-appreciated a lot.
I think that tends to be how it goes. It's easy to give credit to the person in front of the lens because you can see all the work they're putting in. You don't really see the filmers. I think they get forgotten about when they should be getting a lot of the credit too. Like yeah, the riding can be sick, but if the person behind the camera doesn't know what he's doing, then you're kinda screwed. Kris knows what he's doing, so there's never any doubt in my mind when he's filming that it will look good.
For sure. What are your plans for next winter?
Next winter I'll be filming for the next Evoke Films video. I'm trying to travel a little bit, but mainly just trying to snowboard as much as I can!
Any specific places on the agenda?
So far, the only specific place I'm going is to Reno for a couple days to see my friend Caleb and snowboard in Tahoe. Other than that, it's all up in the air as of now.
Sick man! Well why don’t we wrap this up by asking where everyone can find the video and any shout outs?
The video will be available on DVD soon! you can keep up with all of that on the Evoke Instagram. Shout out to everyone that hooks me up and helps me out!