Last year when we were putting the 20th Anniversary Heckler Magazine together IJ Valenzuela interviewed legendary Skier, Snowboarder, Skater and industry heavyweight Jimbo Morgan. Not knowing Morgan personally yet, and in the middle of a major time crunch, I decided to edit the interview for both clarity and length; a move which Jimbo took personally because he believed the edit distorted his original message and the direction of the interview. I never set out to offend anyone and was strictly trying to make the deadline on both time and page space; a misstep that I regret. As a gesture of apology and to make things right, I promised Jimbo that we would run the Truth Be Told interview in it’s full raw form. Now that we have launched our second digital issue, I felt like putting the original interview in full text, unedited, would be more than necessary. Apologies to Jimbo Morgan and everyone else who may have felt cheated or shortchanged by what got run in print. Here it is, Jimbo Morgan, Raw and Uncut. -Dan Conroy, Heckler Magazine Editor In Chief
If speed kills, then Jimbo Morgan should have been dead a long time ago. As luck would have it, going fast only made Jimbo’s life more interesting. Growing up Tahoe City and literally being a product of the mountains, this cat has lived nine lives over and over again. He continues to charge hard, even if its not in a speedsuit. You see, Jimbo was once one the fastest people on the planet on skis, and yes he did wear lycra, but don’t hold that against him. He also grew up snowboarding and skating with some of Tahoe’s OG’s. Coming up with Shawn Palmer, Terry Kidwell, Bob Klein, Alan Armbruster and the rest of the Tahoe terrorists back in the day, he has seen it all, and surprisingly lived to tell the tale. He now is at the helm of Tomahawk International Clothing, a brand that stems from his concepts of what outerwear should be. His team is a conglomeration of Skiers, Snowboarders and Skaters from the past and present. It represents his involvement in this lifestyle and how he chooses to rep it. He has his opinions, and they are as strong as his commitment to this life. Look for him shredding, skiing or telemarking with his kid in tow. He is one of the most gregarious people on Earth and is always willing to kick it and go real fast down the mountain.
Words and Interview by IJ Valenzuela
Coming from the 80’s, Tahoe was so small and snowboarding, skateboarding and skiing would seem to be so far apart, what was it like being kind of caught in the middle of these cultures?
I felt Like a Transvestite. They weren’t accepted in the LGB community or the straight community. Ha ha. I just always said if I grew up in Minnesota I probably would have played Hockey, Water skied and rode the shit out of Snowmobiles. Being from Tahoe City, CA you skied, skated and snowboarded maybe a little BMX that’s just what you did. I skied and snowboarded in the winter. I would ride my BMX bike from my folks house on the Westshore up to Dollar Hill to mile high and would punish myself skating that ramp. Miss those days so much. Awesome memories for sure.
Obviously, there has always been a crazy element to being young in Tahoe, you grew up around some of the true outlaws and are still here, still doing your thing, it seems so much has changed, what to you has stayed the same?
A sense of Pride. Talk to anyone from Squaw Valley and they will tell you it’s the best mountain in the World and they are probably right. But once you have traveled across the Big Pond almost 100 times and you see how small Squaw really is in stature to let’s say Big Euro Mountain’s or stuff in AK. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what anyone say’s to me because Squaw will always be the best place in the World to me. The chair is my psychiatrist, the runs are my therapy and the mountain is my sanctuary.
You were once the one of the fastest people on earth with skiing and still maintained your roots in a small but very burgeoning culture, how do you think that shaped your outlook on life and how to live it.
First thought is Have fun, Work hard and let your riding do the talking. Being an athlete takes a lot of hard work and to make it on say the US Ski Team is so gnarly. Making it past that to Olympic status will test you beyond belief. Plus being a punk with long hair really didn’t help my cause any. But at the end of the day it’s just sport and you have to realize that. There is so much more important shit in life going down then our little Snowboard World or Ski World bubble some people tend to live in. The most important thing to remember is just treat everyone with respect and don’t be a dick and life tends to workout OK.
You’ve seen people rise and fall, some get up again and some disappear altogether, what do you personally think about a culture that lets that happen? Well that is our cultures mentality with only the strong survive and I have to get mine type attitude.
I have seen many young kids come up after me and do really well for themselves and stay focused. But the flip-side of that are Drugs and Alcohol are very prevalent in our Society let alone Tahoe City, CA. A place where people come for their Vacation and they want to Party on the Hill and In the Bar’s until they close. Think about a kid who now a days might be making six figures for riding a board or some skis and making more than the old man brings home pounding nails. Now Junior is traveling the World and everyone thinks he is the greatest thing since sliced bread. He’s 18 and in Japan and no one is going to know if he takes a drink of whatever. It just gets tougher for Junior the better he becomes actually because now he has more fans and all they want to do is party and hang out and show Junior all the love in the world. Then Junior gets hurt, Junior screws up on a trip and breaks a bunch of shit or popped off to some company owner. Now Junior isn’t so rad and his stock has gone down and now he can’t find a sponsor. His ego won’t let him go apply for a regular type job be it flipping burgers or pounding nails. Some people can’t let go of their glory days and those are usually the peeps you see at the end of the Bar pissed at the world. Takes a lot to have longevity or be a Legend you know. But at the end of the day it takes people in the community to recognize this shit when it happens and reach out and help a young brother or sister out to get straight. I have done it for my friends parents to kids I have know there whole lives. They are not bad people by any means they are just a little side tracked and they need a hand and some mentorship to get back on track.
With your brand TOMAHAWK, what is your mission, your ethos I should ask?
Our feeling is, we don’t give a fuck what you ride as long as your having fun and hanging with your friends. Our mission is to just build the best clothes we can for the mountain and take all the input our riders give us and act on it. If it doesn’t work for them it’s not going to work for John Q Public that were pretty sure of. I also just really appreciate my day’s in the mountains with my friends and family because they are so few and in between. Giving my son a better opportunity then I had or at least let him have access to the Mountains is super important to my wife Stacy and I. We don’t care what he does but he has to do something you know? So our overall mission statement is to always spend more time in the mountains.
Given the past few winters how hard has it been to cultivate a ‘new’ brand?
It is really hard because some Mom and Pop Shop’s are set in there way’s and not sure if they want to take a chance with a new brand. Some times I put myself in there shoes and ask myself what makes us any different that we deserve to be in Mom and Pop’s Shop to begin with. The answer for me and Palmer is easy. Were taking back what’s ours. We helped so many brands out in the beginning giving them our in put and know how in building better products what ever they were. At the end of the day unless your a partner in said brand there isn’t much of a 401K type thing set up for an old boarder or skier bro. Unfortunately these people are one ACL away from being a Janitor and it sucks when you really think about it. But cultivating for me starts in my own community and if you can get your home town to believe in it that’s a start. I want to be in Dave’s in Tahoe City and Sport’s Ltd. in South Lake or Bobo’s in Reno. All my friends work there and I still have to stand in line. There are no free lunches these day’s and you either come correct and tell your story and understand what “Customer Service” is or your toast.
There will always seem to be a factioning between snowboarding and skiing, yet since pretty much the begining you’ve had your feet literally in both, what would you like to see the future mindset be?
That people challenge themselves to think outside the box and to not be afraid to put yourself out there and just try something new you never know man. I think the biggest thing and most important to me personally is to just be able to ride any and all conditions. Some times skis suck on wind affected breakable crud where as on a snowboard you might now even notice it. Or super icy sketchy days on steep shit when I’m on my board is really no fun for me. So what ever the conditions are I have a choice. I don’t eat Peanut butter and Jelly every day I need variety. But mostly these day’s I would say I ride my snowboard 60% to 70% of the time. If I go to an event I will most likely bring my snowboard. Easier to stand around in snowboard boot’s. Just very lucky I can do them all.
You are building a brand that takes the cross section of shredding, skiing, skateboarding, and the rebellious mindset that in this day and age seems to hardly exist in any of them, what is your take on the purity of it all?
So much of what we love about this culture has been marginalized, pasteurized and is generally frowned upon is there a way to keep that idea alive? Again authenticity and the story you tell. If you think your some dude who had this really crazy idea to start a company these day’s in any of the industry’s you just spoke about earlier your really high and clueless because it ain’t going to happen. The Bullshit Detectors are turned up to 11 and there is no more room for 5 year Joey’s. You either paid dues and made a name for yourself and stayed true to the game I truly believe if you have passion and drive it will eventually all workout. Bleed Black…………..