First 2017 interview of the year with Moonshine MFG longboarder Brandon DesJarlais. He tells Thane Magazine about playing the stunt double for Vin Diesel in the return of Xander Cage, travelling around the world and, the perfect skate event.
Hello Brandon, how are you doing?
So good man! Hard to complain when you’re sitting on a beach in Mexico.
Living the dream?
Hell yeah, brotha! I’m super fortunate to be able to have experiences like this on a regular basis. It’s about 50% work, and 100% fun... always.
What took you south of the border?
I have some good friends here in Puerto Vallarta that I’ve been wanting to visit for the past couple years and, coincidentally, I had some credit about to expire with Delta Air Lines… so, it worked out well.. Also, it gives me an opportunity to escape the rainy weather back home and film the new 2017 Moonshine MFG line-up before the release in January.
What's your experience been like?
It’s been incredible man. Truly. I feel like I’ve grown so much mentally the past few weeks here. Maybe it’s all the salt water and delicious vegan cuisine! Haha!
It’s awesome living so close to the Ocean. My friends own a rad surf shop here in Vallarta called Tron X and they’ve been letting me borrow their boards as well as taking me out to all the cool spots in the bay. I’ve been pushing myself to surf, skate, and learn everyday.
I feel like 2017 is going to be a huge year for me. I’ve got a lot of positive momentum going for me and I’m focusing on optimizing that coming into the new year. Everyday I make it a goal to do everything 1% better. It may not seem like much, but compounded over weeks, months, and even years, the growth can be astonishing. Whether it be the height of my ollie, the way I communicate and truly listen to people, or the time it takes to finally push myself out of bed in the morning; it’s the little things that count.
What's the most important 1 %?
It’s always knowledge, and always will be. These past few weeks the focus has been on developing my personal brand into something bigger than myself. I’m an entrepreneur at heart and I plan to eventually start my own business.
Source of the momentum building?
Coming into 2016 I was a full time student and working as a sales associate at Guitar Center. In mid-January, everything changed when I received a call from Abec 11 during my writing class saying something about a Vin Diesel movie and that I needed to send them my headshot, measurements, and skate resume ASAP. Naturally, I ditched class to make this happen. After sending that email, I waited around all day with no reply, and no real idea as to what this even was. Later that night, I was hanging out with my buddies when a guy called me and said they wanted ME for this movie. After 20 minutes of questions about my availability and talents, it finally realized that I didn’t even know what the project was! I asked and found out that he wanted me to stunt double for Vin Diesel in the new film, xXx 3: Return of Xander Cage!!!
DUDE! Are you for real?
Yeah! And to add to the craziness they needed me in Toronto the next morning for a body suit fitting, when I was already scheduled to go to ISPO in Germany with Moonshine. Long story short, it all worked out!
What was the experience like?
Beyond words, bro. Honestly, the whole experience was surreal. I never would’ve thought that my passion – longboarding – would ever be featured in such a bad-ass feature film. And the fact that they wanted me to do it was a dream come true.
The trailer showed the skater with no lid. What would you say to impressionable kids who see dangerous skating in this movie?
They see other dangerous shit all the time: jumping off buildings, car chases, fight scenes, extreme sports… and we never see helmets on those guys. I wore a helmet, but it was their creative decision to show Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) without one.
What were the most fun parts about being involved with the process?
Hard to say. I had fun the whole time! But for me it was really fun working with so many professionals that have been around forever and getting an inside perspective of the movie business. Also getting to meet and chill with dudes like LJ Strenio, Luke McNeil, and Robbie Maddison was legit.
How famous are you?
A funny question. Depends on who you ask, I guess. It’s been interesting coming home to Oregon after every trip and running into people from high school that have been following everything I do. No matter what happens in my life, my goal is to keep the same humble, encouraging, loving personality I’ve always had. I try to include my friends and family in everything I do. Gotta spread the love man! I get so stoked when people reach out to me with compliments. It gives me a sense of purpose.
How will this experience impact the skate media you make?
It really made me look at things from a different perspective. These guys will spend all day setting up a handful of shots to make sure they’re perfect. I figured we’d be filming 20 takes per scene but, instead we were only doing only two or three.
Will life change after the movie comes out?
It already has. Working on this film has added a level of credibility to my resume. Many opportunities have come from this, and I can’t wait to see what happens when this finally drops on January 20!
We increasingly see longboarding in mainstream media. Is this good for us?
Hell yeah it is! Participation peaked a couple years back and we’re lucky the media is a little behind as it could re-spark a lot of interest in the sport… and really soon.
Does it need a spark?
It wouldn’t hurt. I absolutely love skating, and honestly, I just want other people to experience how incredible it is. Whether it be for a bit of stress relief/soul searching, or purely for the adrenaline rush, anyone can benefit from longboarding. There’s something so freeing about taming a piece of wood on the streets.
Will you make it to ISPO this year?
I wish! I had a blast last year. It was actually my first time in Europe.
I thought you said you missed last year because of the movie?
I was able to make it. I just missed all the set-up days. Thankfully, I work with an awesome team of people who were able to pick up the slack and make it happen. I love you guys!
What's stopping you attending this year?
We decided that since Moonshine is already distributed all over Europe, our marketing budget is better spent on community projects and helping build the scene here in the USA.
What's Moonshine? Made For Gbemi?
Hell yeah, they are! Moonshine is a performance longboard company based in the Pacific Northwest. What really separates them from other brands is that all their boards feature a urethane rail, making them super durable and 100% waterproof. I skate year round, and these boards withstand all the rain and abuse I put them through on a daily basis. Gone are the days of going through five decks every winter season!
What's your role at Moonshine?
My current titles are team manager and social media manager, but I’m involved in many aspects of the company... from design, to marketing and sales. I absolutely love working with them. Moonshine consists of such a rad group of people. I was very fortunate to find them two years ago when they were first starting out and get in on the ground floor. It’s given me a lot of influence to push a more supportive and welcoming vibe to the industry.
How did you get involved with Moonshine?
My buddy Max Watson has ridden for Loaded/Orangatang for quite a few years and when I saw him at an event riding a black board with black wheels I had to ask him what was up. He told me he was helping a local Oregon company test some boards and suggested I get involved. I didn’t really know what to think at first because I’ve never heard of them. After exchanging a few emails with the managers, I went to tour their factory in Washington state and I was blown away! Such a tight-knit and professional environment. You could tell these guys were really passionate about what they did. I had to get involved!
What was it about the company you liked the best?
Above all, I fell in love with the product. They make the best boards – hands down (or hands up if you’re into stand-up slides haha). Aside from that, I sensed it would be a great opportunity to work with them. Ever since I’ve been with Moonshine, my career has been growing exponentially.
Aren’t all manufacturers the same? Same rad guys who love the sport cutting dope shapes?
Not exactly. Many board manufacturers I’ve seen are either too focused on the money, or aren’t taking the right steps to grow their business. Moonshine is actually a sister company to Slingshot Sports which is one of the biggest and most innovative kiteboarding and wakeboarding companies. These guys have been around forever, and have had a lot of success developing new products and driving the watersports industry. They get it. The goal is to take that same standard for quality and apply it to longboarding with a “no bullshit” approach.
What are the right steps?
Innovation is king. You can’t expect to come into a saturated market with the same maple-ply decks everyone else has been selling for years and make a profit. It’s not sustainable unless you’re a marketing powerhouse. Even then I’m skeptical. If all you’re pushing is graphics, then your competition is Sector 9 and they’re selling name-brand decks for $30 less than you. You lose.
How much more innovation is there to be had?
There’s always something new to try. There’s so many more materials and concepts that haven’t been tested yet. It’s just a matter of time before the next improvement comes along.
Do you miss the Hippo? And Larry?
Of course I do! I grew up loving LBL. Larry is an incredible guy and he really helped inspire me to be where I am today. I had a big part in designing the new 2017 Moonshine line-up, and one of the new additions is a board called the “Elixir” which is my take on what I want a do-it-all freeride board to look like.
Best feature on this year’s lineup?
One thing that’s consistent between all the new boards is that they feature a new locally-sourced wood that’s 20% lighter, the same strength, and looks even better!
Aside from Moonshine, who else is a new Brandon supporter?
Most recently, it’s been a local Oregon company called Risq Energy. They make a product similar to 5-Hour Energy, but better tasting. I haven’t been a big fan of energy drinks in the past, but with how hectic my lifestyle has become, it’s just what I need to get me through long nights and longer skate sessions.
Still with Edge, GoPro, G-form, etc?
No EDGE. No GoPro. No G-form. No Seismic. No Buzzed. We just weren’t the right fit for each other. Over the past couple years been I’ve been trying to focus more on quality over quantity and this means being more selective with my sponsorships.
Won’t any sponsor do?
No way bro. I’ve got to truly believe in the company to be on board: what they stand for, what they sell, etc.. Forming an authentic relationship with a sponsor is the most efficient way to do things for both parties involved.
Who are you repping right now?
Moonshine, Abec 11, RipTide, Holesom, Harfang, and Risq.
Why those guys?
Moonshine because they make the best boards and know what they’re doing. Abec because they have the most diverse wheel line-up and are the real OGs. RipTide because I believe bushings can be the most important part of a set-up. Holesom because they’re all about good times. Who can resist bubblegum-scented pucks anyways? I can’t. Harfang because I love their creativity and passion to bring innovation into existing products. And Risq because I see a lot of potential in them.
Last time we spoke, you had just landed for your first Catalina. How did it go?
It was great man! Definitely one of my favorite events. It’s a shame to see it phasing out.
What’s special about it?
It’s special because it really feels like a vacation and not a skating event. Just a bunch of rowdy skaters taking over an island for the weekend.
Why are so many old favorites dying out?
I think it’s due to the current format of many events. They’re often set in remote locations and are boring for spectators to watch. If you take a look the more successful events in the traditional skate community, they’re linked to music and more of a festival vibe which brings in a much larger and more diverse crowd making it easier to rake in sponsorship and vendor dollars. Europe does it right though! Kozakov and KnK were fucking rad. I couldn’t miss the Red Bull No Paws Down World Championships!
Have you been to both?
I spent three months in Europe this past year and made it out to both.
Dude! What brought you out here?
Moonshine! I’ve been wanting to tour Europe for a while and they made it happen.
What did you expect from your trip?
Good times and epic skating. I have a few friends that I met here in the States that I’ve been wanting to visit for awhile.
Lamin? Haha yeah man. Lamin is gnar. He’s spent 4-5 weeks with me the past couple years. It was rad to finally meet up with him on his home turf. We plan on tackling a leg of the 2017 Euro Tour together. Gonna be lit! #eurobrah2k17?
How did you spend your time?
All in all, it was a lot of skating, meeting new people, and learning the subtle nuances between different cultures. I spent the first month or so traveling around with Alex Dehmel, Pablo Quiles, Maxwell Kaye, Luisa Schlanke and a few other going to Almabtrieb in Austria, Kozakov in the Czech Republic, KnK in Slovenia, and Teolo in Italy, as well as skating and chilling along the way.
After that I spent two weeks with my good friend Gualfredo in western Italy skating the Alps and exploring all the fine food and wine Italy has to offer. After that I spent some time chilling out and being mostly a tourist in Germany, France, and Spain. Then I headed to an event in northern Spain and pulled off a 2nd place finish behind the man Oscar. Finally I spent a little over a week in Stockholm, Sweden cruising around the city and taking in the final moments of my adventure with my best friend Lamin Cassama.
What were the highlights of last year?
+ Becoming more involved with Moonshine MFG
+ Stunt doubling for Vin Diesel
+ Having videos of me featured on Red Bull
+ Traveling nine months of the year all around the world
How’d you end up on those channels?
At the KnK event there was a whole media team assigned by Red Bull to capture the action. Problem was, they didn’t really know any of the riders and weren’t being super forward about what they wanted. That’s where I stepped in to try and help out in any way I could. In turn, they posted a selfie run of me going down the run as well as put me in one third of the main video. Super stoked on that!
Is video the most important marketing medium?
Straight up. It connects so much more with the viewer. People only spend a few seconds looking at even the most epic photos, whereas they’ll spend easily 10x the time watching a video and feel so much more involved. Thanks to the encouragement of Papa Les, I’m going to be doing a daily vlog on YouTube for the entire month of January. After that, we’ll see haha. There are many reasons for wanting to try this, but above all I think it will increase my efficiency with video production. Being forced to pump out a video a day is going to be super difficult, but it’s lighting that fire under my ass and sticking to it that’s going to get me to the next level.
What’s 2017 looking like?
Even better than 2016! I’m planning on spending the first five months of the year in southern California with the exception of the whole month of February in Puerto Rico. After that I’ll be coming back to the PNW to meet up with some Moonshine homies and tour around to some events in the US. Starting in July I plan on another three months in Europe followed by some time in Brazil, North Carolina, NYC, and more. Hashing out the details as we speak!
Living the dream?
Living MY dream!
How can it get better?
Eventually I’d like to own my manage my own business.
Is there any distance going down this year?
Distance racing? Unfortunately I’m not big into the distance racing scene anymore. I won the Maryhill Uphill race last year and have kinda phased out since then. Maybe I’ll pick it up again in the coming years. For now, I’m putting all that hard work and effort into cross-training.
Who should we interview next?
Nick Pappas. Dude grinds harder on a daily basis than almost any rider I know.
Thanks for your time again, buddy. We’ll make sure our next chat is sooner than two years!
You’re welcome brotha! Yes let’s!
Any last words?
Shoutout to all my friends – old and new – that have had my back through all this craziness. You guys are so awesome and I truly wouldn’t be where I am without your constant support and reassurance. If you guys ever need anything, you know who to ask. One love!
This interview appeared in Thane Magazine on January 3, 2017. Used with permission.