Kevin Porterfield is the embodiment of the TONIC spirit. He has lived and breathed snowboarding for most of his life, all the while focusing on what’s most important-keeping it fun and just doing it for the love. Even in his 40's he still looks like he’s just playing when he rides. It’s infectious.
I first met Kevin at Mt. Bachelor in 92'. At the time he was riding and running his own zine - Little People – which promoted all the best parts of snowboarding, and featured many up and coming Pacific Northwest riders.
Throughout the years he's worked in the industry doing everything from working for some of the biggest snowboard shops and brands (eg: Ride, Forum, Side Effect, DC, etc) to working with Red Bull head coach James Jackson. He even helped MLY develop the infamous M3 snowboards. Then, after years of travelling and being on the road, Kevin decided to settle down in Bend so that Mt. Bachelor and the Cascades could be his very own backyard playground.
Nowadays you can find him working for Tokyo Starfish, a leader in the legal cannabis industry in Oregon; or when he’s not working, he’s either doing laps on Mt Bachelor’s endless white waves, split boarding into the great Pacific Northwest’s powder wilderness, competing in the Dirksen Derby or the Gerry Lopez Big wave challenge, or spending his days camping, hiking and biking – in other words, living his TONIC.
Recently I got to catch up with Kevin and ask him all about his life – so, read on to find out how he found his love of snowboarding, what Dad Crue is,
and much more.
P: Even Rocky had a montage
What was your first sideways love?
I started Skateboarding when I was 13 and got a used Alva Fred Smith 3 complete from a buddy, learned to Ollie and hit some ramps. It was all I wanted to do for the next few years. I found mini ramps pretty quick after learning to Ollie and that was definitely my obsession for a bit.
How did you find snowboarding?
I saw snowboarding in the skate magazines about a year after I started skating and knew that would be my true love. It was the early half pipes and hips Terry Kidwell was riding that really sucked me in. It was just so different and exciting because it was on snow.
Funny because I’d only been skiing a few times with my friends and I sucked at it but loved being in the snow. Seems crazy looking back at it now.
P: Never stop playing
What was your first day on snow like?
There was so much anticipation of what it would be like. I’d been watching videos for over a year. It was the weekend of my 15th birthday and my buddy Bobby let me borrow his Burton performer 145. He gave me some tips in his living room and I hit the mountain the next day. I grabbed 2nd chair on the first day of the year at HooDoo ski resort, got to mid mountain, strapped in and went about 50 feet and got stuck in the flats. After about 30 minutes of pushing and falling on the flat beginner run, I made it to the bottom. After that I learned that unstrapping sucks. I went straight to the top of the mountain and realised it was better to roll down the steeps then Unstrap and push. By the end of the day I could turn on my toes and the next day I learned to turn on my heals. The next weekend I went up with my skate buddies and learned how hit small jumps. It all happened so fast but I was determined to learn how to ride.
"It was the early half pipes and hips
Terry Kidwell was riding that really sucked me in"
P: Try riding a super pipe on an 88' Sims halfpipe just for fun
How has snowboarding affected or changed your life?
It became all I thought about and wanted to do every day. After getting out of school I moved to Bend, Oregon next to Mt. Bachelor to chase my dreams of getting sponsored. After a few years I started getting free boards and that further fueled my fire. Then a company that was flowing me boards hooked me up with a job being the company tech. It was the best thing ever getting paid to drive around in a company van going snowboarding and hanging with shop kids. After that I landed a few sales rep jobs but found that I was talking about riding way more than I was really riding. After that I’ve made it my mission to have jobs that give me more flexibility to ride more and still pay the bills.
Why do you think you’ve never stopped riding even when friends have and what keeps you stoked?
I really think it’s because I keep evolving as a rider. From park rat to pipe jock and then falling in love with freestyle in powder. Nowadays I’m obsessed with the perfect turn and pow slash. Splitboarding has played a big part in keeping me in the game the last 7 years.
I still think of skateboarding when snowboarding but I definitely don’t go in the park much anymore. The mountain is my park nowadays and I try to ride powder as much as possible.
P: A rare park day
What draws you to splitboarding over resort riding?
I like the idea of riding untracked powder without the powder panic of my local resort. I’ve really grown to love the slow pace, and riding stuff that most people just look at from a distance. Out on your splitboard you are only limited by time and how strong you are. Earning your turns is one of the best feelings in the world!
Do you think more people will get into split boarding this season because of Covid-19?
Well in the US definitely because of Covid and the resorts having reservation systems in place. It’s going to push people out into the backcountry that shouldn’t be out there. Hopefully people will take it easy and stay safe.
Yeah, I did wonder if it might cause some safety issues…
I think it could be a dangerous year in the US if you live in Colorado or Utah.
Their snow pack is super unstable and with a lot more people it could get crazy. You hear of people dying every year in the backcountry.
There’s a super basic free online class called “know before you go” that everyone should do first to avoid any unnecessary safety issues. It’s a great resource: https://kbyg.org
P: Getting ready to split
Any other backcountry advice?
First if you're not sure of the snowpack in your area go take an avalanche course. Next take or bush up on a first aid course to help stabilize any unfortunate accident. When you’re in the backcountry no one is coming to save you for hours so you're all on your own. I recommend going out and learning how to ski around on your board. Just cruise out to a small hill and put a few miles on the skin tracks. Lean how your gear works and take a super mellow cruise.
What do you take with you when you go?
I like always take a big water bottle, quick sugars like gummy bears and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I always carry a probe, shovel, transceiver, first aid kit, extra gloves, extra goggles, zip ties, a little duct tape, a few extra parts and a bivvy bag. Then I always leave some extra water and snacks back in the truck for the drive home.
P: Stretching more
As you get older is there anything that you do
differently to stay fit and avoid injuries?
I think I’ve learned to stretch a lot more. I also learned to listen to my body when it’s hurting instead of just popping pain killers.
P: Surf slashes are always a good Tonic
Which current or past pros do you think embody the TONIC spirit the most?
My favorite rider is Chad Otterstrom. He is still killing it in the backcountry and at the resort. His Instagram is so inspiring for all the old guys still living the dream. I’m also so super stoked on how Josh Dirksen turns his board. You can see the true love of riding through Bend locals Peter Butch, Randal Seaton and James Jackson. They just have the biggest smiles and best style on the mountain.
Describe your perfect day…
Splitboarding with great friends, a foot of fresh powder, a little cold sunshine, a thermos of hot coffee, a few joints and having a zone all to ourselves. I’ve been super lucky to get that day everyone year the last few seasons. You know you're living your best life when you’re riding powder and
throwing high fives all day.
P: Cross training
What other activities give you a similar feeling?
I really like mountain biking for my summertime fix. Floating though the forest hitting jumps has a really similar feeling to ripping through trees on a board.
Who’s inspired/supported you the most
to live your current lifestyle?
My buddy James Jackson who was a shop owner and Red Bull’s pro coach has always pushed me to be better as a snowboarder and a person. Oh, and my buddy Corey McDonald is still living the dream with a pro model and running the park and events for Bogus Basin in Idaho. They are both in their 40’s, still sponsored and have figured out how to make a living in the industry. They both still ride every day and both are amazing humans who would do anything to help their friends out.
P: Having a slash with the Dad Crue
Tell us about the Dad Crue…
The Dad Crue is a crew of guys mostly in our 40’s that love riding fast having fun and charging powder. At its core it’s just my buddies Boone and Jorma. We were just out riding and filming our little Instagram edits when we started getting local dads hitting us up to ride. They were stoked on what we were doing and wanted to be a part of it. It’s been rad to connect with older guys that rip but have family’s and just didn’t have buddies to ride with anymore.
Photo: Taking stoke
And of course, I have to ask:
what’s your TONIC?
First would have to be big surf slashes.
Second would be floating a laid-out method in the pipe.
And last would be sitting on top of a mountain that I’ve climbed drinking a coffee and taking in the view, just before dropping into some untracked powder.
Finally, any last words?
No matter what the day, I’m always thankful
that I can still ride, live in the moment and never grow up.
Checkout Kevin's Instagram for more good vibes: @porterfield