Industry Profile: Rome SDS Rep John Graham
19 Jul, 2011
Job Title: California Rome Rep
Employer: Rome Snowboard Design Syndicate
Years on snow: 28 Years
Days on snow: 2000+
Currently Riding: Mod Rocker 156 with Mob Bindings
Currently I am: Feeding my 4-month-old daughter Zoe!
Shay: Tell us a little bit about yourself
John: I’m into long walks in the village and coffee by the ice skating rink, I enjoy sushi dinners and curling up in front of the fire with a good DVD. I like warm snow boots and eskimo kisses…whatever! “I don’t sit down, I don’t shut up and I don’t want to grow up”, that pretty much sums me up. I’m the son of one funny, charismatic and worldly S.O.B.. With his lead I became a student of the world at a very young age, travel, friendships, and fun were the motto. I was born to be a snowboarder. I grew up a victim of divorce but with a silver lining. Mom stayed in Cali and Dad moved to Montana. Needless to say it worked out, Mom in summer and fall, Dad for winter and spring. Confused I labeled myself Monta-fornian and/or Cali-tana’n. I became a mix of the beach and the mountains. Humble and honest while confident and fearless. I’ve been shredding for days now and plan to shred for many many more. I have a solid crew of shreds I ride with and log about 60-80 days a year. I surf and skate for fun but snowboard to feed my addiction. I actually do like Sushi, Thai food kicks ass too! While traveling across country on the Maloof Money Cup Road Tour this year I discovered Lebanese food, so good! I just became a Dad, I had my first child in February and l am so loving that! Other then that I rented a show about the Hubble Telescope and I’ve been feeling pretty tiny since watching that.
Shay: How has snowboarding changed your life?
John: Well in late November of 1984 my family and I were playing in the snow on the back forty of my Dad’s northwestern Montana spread. My uncle Rusty, who was a pro ranked podium super bike racer and avid skier, was visiting from Colorado. He let me ride this snowboard thingy he had bought and wanted to try. He had only used at A-basin once before. It was a snowboard made for “backhill” riding. So I guess with that said you can sort out that it had rubber bands for bindings and a fancy little rope to hold onto…for style? Anyway I instantly asked Rusty if we could lose the rope. Ten minutes later…I was building a jump! There it is, the launch of my addiction!
Now as for how it has changed my life, well that’s easy. It has been and always will be the coolest thing I’ve ever done. The connection to the planet, the reward factor and the camaraderie with your friends, its all impossible to duplicate. Snowboarding just keeps giving me more and more to be thankful for everyday!
A perfect example was a trip to AK I took this April. I won a trip to Tailgate Alaska thru a sales contest the Rome SDS was having. I worked my ass off and was rewarded for it. We flew up to Anchorage, joined up with a handfull of the other winners of the Rome Ticket to Alaska contest and loaded into an RV. If you don’t know, AK is insane! It truly is an epic place and is a perfect example of how sick our planet is and also how privileged we are to live in an era where shredding timeless terrain like that is accessible. Seeing how mega it all is was breathtaking. Well the rest of the winning crew turned out to be very rad people and we all had the time of our lives. Driving around Thompson pass, partying in the RV and simply taking it all in. Epic! That trip pretty much sums it all up! All these years of shredding and Repping have been a great pay off!
Shay: How did you get your start in the industry, who or what opened up more opportunities for you?
John: Well when I was in college I had a job at a small resort in Missoula, Mt. They use to give their resort employees two free lift tickets to every resort in the State. It was perfect, I worked 4 tens from 12:noon to 10:pm Monday thru Thursday. On my days off I’d go ride all these free resorts and compete in their snowboarding events. Turns out I was pretty good and ended up getting sponsored. I rode for a few years as a regional rider. Then moved up and I started filming with MVP productions out of Washington for a few years. I had a handful of shots turn up in the Mags over the years too. Then shortly after school I turned my back on the industry and went to work for the ole man to make the “big bucks”. I later got fired by him for showing up late to work because I was snowboarding. That’s when I accepted my fate and let snowboarding be my guide. That’s also when I was offered an opportunity to Rep. A buddy of mine Bryan Noe, who was riding for D-23 at the time, knew about a factory rep position that opened up with then Atlantis and Type-A. Needless to say I took the job. That was 1998. That’s when it all started with Rep’ns anyway!
Shay: How has your previous education or work experience helped you in your current job?
John: I guess collage helped out a little. I learned through work experience more than just hitting the books though. But I believe a solid educational foundation is paramount to anyone’s success. Someone once wrote that “your formidable pro years happen to be during your formidable collage years” so there are hard choices to be made at some point in the snowboard world. I was lucky to have a hard working role model like my old man to teach me the business stuff. But when it came time to applying all that to my snowboard addiction, that was tough. I’ve always said that if you believe in something it can be done. That whole mind over matter shit! If you think positive and be confident you can do anything. Whether its business or snowboarding, if you come up short or overshoot some shit your paying dues. But if you know you can stomp it, well then make it look smooth and do it with style!
Shay: Tell us about your role at Said Agency and a description of the work you do?
John: Right now I’m the Founder of Said Agency. I started the agency around the time Rome started to turn heads, everyone’s heads! So I guess that was 2003. The brand was growing and I was doing things way different then everyone else at the time. I was bringing the rare riders approach to repping, that was something very original. As the word hit the street, I was getting a ton of response from my retailers. They wanted me to rep more of the products that they carried in their stores. Well some brands come and some brands go but I’m was always…me, a little ole 100 day-a-year shredder selling authentic snowboarding brands. That was/is, awesome! But one thing always comes full circle; the road is what we love. For example; myself and my sub reps are like a Motor Head song. I can think of two songs that apply! Road Crew and (_______). And as for my role, I guess I’m the band manger. Ultimately I get everyone into and out of shit! But most importantly I form solid partnerships with my retailers and the brands I rep. To be honest without everyone supporting each other it’s hard to get anything fun accomplished. After all this industry is all about having a blast with your friends. Its like this, Methods don’t look or feel as cool if your crew wasn’t there to see it, right?
Shay: What’s an average day like at work for you?
John: Well I’m up early with a cup of coffee that has way too much french vanilla coffee creamer. I hit send and receive on my MacBook Pro then log into Facebook. I update the www.facebook.com/CaliforniaRomeReps and the www.facebook.com/CaliforniaVoxReps profiles pages with some fun shit the brands did or some crazy shit we did the night before. After that I’m in the truck and headed to one of my local mountains. Squaw is always my first choice but the winds can blow. If that is the case I’m off to Northstar at Tahoe. After one of the first tens chairs and a few hours later I roll by Totally Board or Dave’s Snowboard shops and talk about that mornings fresh track and see what’s new. Then I’m off to one of my riders houses to hit send and receive again. That’s a normal day.
An average workday? Well, it’s stopping by no less then 4 shops and driving no less then 150 miles. It’s staying up late and getting started early. It’s eating like crap and drinking like a fish. Its surfing couches and borrowing towels. It’s showers at 24 hour fitness and Wi-Fi at Starbucks. Its arrogant CHP’s and over priced gas! It’s the best!
Shay: What are some memorable experiences from working in the industry?
John: I have been Repping the Rome Snowboard design Syndicate since Nov of 01’. I was actually the first rep hired for the brand, ever! That is a whole lot of memorable-ness! I mean it’s been insane! I have seen and done the craziest shit over the last 10 years working with the SDS. I mean from the first dealer council in Kirkwood, to the sales meetings in Montréal, to the flop house in Tahoe, it’s all been so fucking fun. But some of the best times were during the early 90’s. During my riding days, when snowboarding was raw! When shit was new! Man we would pack up a film crew and hit the road and just wing it. Everything was so kick ass. Everyone hated snowboarding and we were breaking new path. Just the ability to live the shred life was enough! Those were the days! I wish the up and coming kids could take a history lesson and learn what it was all about. It was about being original. That sadly is a lost philosophy. Nobody has respect for the sports front-runners. Nobody takes accountability for being a copycat either. It’s just getting too corporate…still! When did selling out become cool? Wait that’s no answer! You want to here about the time we…
Shay: What do you think are the biggest challenges that the snowboard industry faces and what changes would you like to see for the future?
John: Oh man I’m going to get in trouble for this answer. The biggest challenge is hypocrisy. The shops don’t walk their talk anymore. Shops will tell you one thing and then completely contradict themselves. It’s a joke. They want “new”, “core”, “authentic”, “break out”, and “up and coming” brands. But when it comes time to truly support these types of brands they quickly turn their backs on these said brands by not paying them. They tend to pay the big corp-o brands before they pay the brands they ask for and want. Then when these brands don’t make it they hate on them. In a massive way they crushed the dreams of the snowboarding entrepreneur. Snowboarding needs change and innovation not stagnation. Basically shops need to stop selling the easy shit and start selling the real shit!
Shay: Education vs Experience…which do you think is more important?
John: You have to have both now days. Experience is crucial. You have to be authentic and genuine. Being smart and fake gets you nowhere. There are things only a shred knows about the industry. Things books don’t teach. But with that said there is too much to lose now too. In order to make the right decisions both financial and strategically you need an educational foundation. Really it’s too easy these days to be a rider and attend school in the off-season. If snowboarding is your thing then ride all winter and work/learn in the summer. It’s like being a squirrel. If you want a comfortable winter you best stack it up in summer!
Shay: What advice would you give to people wanting to work in the industry?
John: Never give up on your dreams! If you can dream it, it’s possible! Ask for everything you want. If they say no, then find out a way to for them to say yes! It may take a shit load of work but you’ll hear yes eventually. I’ve always said, “you don’t get what you don’t ask for”. If you told me back in that winter of 1984 that I was going to take a journey from a back yard shredder, to shop rider, to regional pro, to a rookie rep, to pioneering new lines, to Transworld’s Rep of the Year I’d have told you to hurry up and take your turn because I just want to hit that jump again! But cliché as it sounds; you really do get out of it what you put into it.
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