Happy 20th Birthday to Bonfire! This upcoming season marks the 20th Anniversary of the company that broke down the fashionista doors of snowboard outerwear with iconic items like the Fireman’s jacket and sponsored riders such as Jason Ford, Leanne Pelosi and David Benedek. To celebrate their birthday, they’re releasing some really stylie boots.
Leading the charge is former pro snowboarder turned company man, Brad Steward. Brad’s seen it all as a pro, as one of the first entrepreneurs of snowboard business, acquired by Salomon and maintaining an individual identity while holding it down in Portland, Oregon. 5ones sat down with Brad for a few minutes to gain some insight in these turbulent times from one of the pioneers of the sport. What we got was a no-holds-barred breakdown of what makes Brad Steward (and Bonfire tick). Listen up y’all as he drops some knowledge.
Name. Occupation. Location. Regular or Goofy. Astrological sign.
Brad Steward, Snowboarder, Portland Oregon, Reg, Virgo
Tell me how you got into the snowboard clothing business.
Wrote the name down in 1989, during lunch break at Sims Snowboards. Started Morrow (Snowboards) – Left one day – Went by the Mac store, bought a computer – Went upstairs and started to work on Bonfire.
A lot of people are saying “Expletitive, another boot company!” how are you responding to the critics? And how are you distinguishing yourselves from the pack?
We’re distinguishing ourselves by fully constructing, designing and developing our boots with our Italian boot design group. When final protos are finished, we take them to Asia for production. Most brands draw some boots up, e-mail a file to China and let the factories figure it out from there. We don’t do that – We get it perfect with people who’ve been making boots for years – Then go to the factory with specific instructions on how to make the boot. This is why right out of the gate we’ve got an incredibly comfortable fit.
What makes Bonfire different than the other snowboard companies?
In the beginning there was Jake (Burton) and Tom (Sims). Jake was a wanna-be surfer from the East Coast. Tom Sims was a 16-year old kid, trapped in the body of a much older man (with a really hot girlfriend). Guys like Steve Olson and I were the second wave. We set the template for every company started by a pro. We were first. Richards (former Morrow rider), LeBlanc, Airblaster, any rider driven company after 1989 gets second tracks – They’re all operating on the template we built: Pro riders building gear for other pro riders.
How has the merger with Salomon helped Bonfire and how has it hindered Bonfire?
It’s given us stability and predictability for our dealers and employees. Salomon has allowed us to grow, remain authentic and work under the shadow of Mt Hood.
I know all the shit about them being a ski company – And believe it or not, it’s actually a benefit most of the time. You’re either owned by the bank, a bunch of public investors who don’t care beyond the share price, or you struggle and stay awake at night worrying about paychecks for the team, health insurance and benefits for the people you love. I don’t always agree with Salomon, but they don’t always agree with me either. And the relationship works through mutual respect and a genuine love for being on snow.
As for the skiers versus snowboarder thing – It’s the only thing that some companies have to market. So they won’t let it die. Meanwhile they’re making stuff at ski factories or buying from ski suppliers or in the case of the largest snowboard company in the world (presumably Burton) – loading their management team and board of directors with former ski execs. I’ve never hidden our association with Salomon – Never hidden when it was good, bad, tough or otherwise.
You’re coming up on 20 years. Can you give us a peak into what that means for you and Bonfire?
It means literally tens of thousands of runs, in thousands of places with many good people all over the world. It means the hard work of many bright and interesting artists and production people. All for an idea that hit me in 1979 when I slid down my driveway for the first time.
Snowboarding innovation that you’re most excited about.
What advice do you have for those getting into the action sports game?
Remember what it felt like to be out of it? And when you get into it, reach out. Be good to shops and kids who ride. Don’t spend one moment being bitter or negative and always remember that the people who pay you work hard, pay for lift tickets and trust you to make good products that make them better riders.
Don’t ever let one of them down. Don’t ever take the honor of riding sick shit all over the world for granted. If you see someone struggling on the mountain to learn how to ride, help them. Just be good.
Current kit and riding set up.
Grip 157, Code Dark Bindings, Dialogue boots, Bonfire protos of the Cascade jacket, Volt pant and pipe gloves, Smith goggles, Louis Vuitton Scarf, Bonfire mismatched socks
Favorite day shredding.
Russia, Alaska, Any day with Shawn Foster and my kids, Every day with Curtes.
Time for the word association.
Powder: THOMPSON PASS
Burnside: SOFT WHEELS
Surf: SANTA BARBARA
Trevor Graves: BROTHER
Facebook: HIGH SCHOOL
Green: STICK FRACTURE
Big box: BURTON
Thanks Brad for spending time with us. We’ll look out for the latest from Bonfire including boots, recycled outerwear and much more.
Posted by Hoon on Tuesday, March 17th, 2009 in Snow.