Interview: Charles Beckinsale

“…with the deltoid muscle disappearing on my right shoulder I was unable to lift my arm and I thought without having that ability there was no way I could get back to riding like I was.” – Charles Beckinsale

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While still just a boy, Charles Beckinsale was relocated from his now ex-home town of Forster on the Central Coast of New South Wales, to the snow rich ski town of Jindabyne. This was a family decision made by his mom, one that he surely couldn’t thank her for enough. From there he discovered snowboarding, and the rest is history…well almost.

What happens when the present surpasses past problems and the curtains start closing approaching show’s end? Charles has faced many a challenging injury in his past, but his curtains aren’t nearing closing yet. Hence we caught up with Mr Beckinsale to find out just how he is still kicking on with a professional career, as well as keeping the dream alive through a mapped out future in park design.

So Mr Beckinsale, what essentials are a must for your Trunk?

My Snowboard is just about the only thing that gets thrown in my trunk and the only thing that I need to have a good time. Though, I don’t really have a trunk. I have a truck so it’s more of a tray. I guess I throw my Snowmobile in my trunk for when I go backcountry.

I was once told that your mom played a large part in throwing you into the snowy deep end? Something you’ll thank her for, for the rest of your life?

Yep. Mum packed my sister and me up and headed south from Forster, on the mid-north coast of New South Wales, taking us to Jindabyne for the Winter season about 13 years ago. She then packed up again and got us on a plane to Canada – she is very spontaneous. If it wasn’t for my Mum I would not be doing what I am doing that is for sure. She made the most of every penny and for that, I have priceless memories and a lifestyle that I wouldn’t swap for anything.

So you grew up on the snow fields of Jindabyne? What was that like?

I have done every season there since 1998 so it feels more like home than anywhere else these days. It’s a great place with good people and you’ve got the two best mountains and parks in the country right at your doorstep. I still love going back to ride and work at Thredbo every year. There is always a good crew, lots of sunshine, and a good park to have fun in. There’s nothing to complain about bar the lift tickets prices, ha.

Do you remember the time you decided snowboarding was going to be something you’d do for the rest of your life? 

After returning to Forster, following my first Winter season at Thredbo, I just remember thinking that I wish this could be there all year round; how am I am I going to wait eight months to do it again? Then the next Summer mum took us to whistler and it blew my mind! I have only had one Summer since and that was due to injury. Winter is where I have made my life so I end up chasing it.

You and your skills have quite an impressive past, having become an Australian face for DC Shoes. What are the pressures involved and expectations taken on when being one of the select few?

DC have been amazing to me. They have let me go out and do my thing. There is no pressure on me and they have allowed me to snowboard all over the world for years now. They trust I’ll work hard to produce a good amount of coverage each year so they are happy with me doing things my way. With their help, I have been able to create a viable lifestyle.

So many people have to get out of the snow industry because it becomes unsustainable, but with DC being so flexible with my snowboarding I’ve been able to keep representing them. I’ve  been with them for about 10 years now so they feel more like family. DC also supported me through injury and rehab.

The best part about being with them is that they support my other career in terrain parks as well. The whole time I have been riding I have been working in terrain parks, which has been sort of like an apprenticeship for when I’m unable to ride at a high enough standard to be a sponsored rider. However, I don’t see myself slowing down for a long while.

From what we can tell you’ve lived an awesomely full professional life. Could you please give us some insight into the pros and cons of being a professional rider? 

The only con I can think of would be shooting when the conditions suck, but you’re on a trip and have to get shots (I had to think hard to come up with that, ha). It’s been a positive experience so far for me! I like having next years boards to ride and the latest gear.

I enjoy shooting and filming, but I don’t do it as a full-time grind like the big time pros. I think that’s why I haven’t burnt out after all these years. It’s more about fun for me so the work side of it doesn’t overshadow the riding.

In your experience have you ever had any challenges with regards to disputes with team riders, which you’ve had to overcome? That would make things interesting…?

I think everyone has at some stage. A lot of it comes from the industry and hearing he said she said. There are times when team managers feel you are maybe not as relevant and they want to push a new kid with a crazy image. The older you get the more you realise it’s bullshit you really don’t need to be caught up in. Everything goes full circle and it comes back to riding and good friends at the end of the day.

So, diving into a deeper facet of your career, you’re one man who has been riddled with, in a way, an impressive list of injuries; could you please list these for our readers?

It’s been a rough ride, ha. I’ve broken my wrist, broken my humerus, separated shoulder (AC joint), 17 dislocations to my left shoulder which lead to surgery, one separation to my right with nerve damage resulting in the loss of my deltoid muscle, an MCL tear in my left knee, blown out ACL in my right knee, but I’m healthy now. You learn from your mistakes I like to think.

Was there ever a time when you thought to yourself that you might not be able to keep going?

It was in 2005, I had a summer that year. I had both shoulders operated on, but with the deltoid muscle disappearing on my right shoulder I was unable to lift my arm and I thought without having that ability there was no way I could get back to riding like I was.

However, through a lot of physiotherapy sessions, I ended up training my bicep muscle to do the work of the deltoid muscle; that sort of thing is big these days, ha. Times like that remind you how good life is when you are healthy and not to take it for granted.

What kept you coming back for more? I remember falling off my tricycle at the age of three. I got up, turned around and left the red three-wheeler, tipped overlying in the middle of the road; good riddance.

I’m not sure…It sounds ridiculous when you put it like that, and after just listing all my injuries my Dad thinks I’m crazy, ha. I really think it’s the whole picture of snowboarding: the lifestyle, the pow days, and the feeling you get when you ride a perfect jump or land a new trick. It’s really all of the above.

Please tell us about your new career in park building? Was this a natural step for you considering your history of injuries?

That’s one positive that comes from being injured, you have a lot of time to just stop and think more long term. I thought about where I wanted to be after riding professionally was over and how to get there. I was the Terrain Park Manager at Thredbo by this time and had done five years working on the day crew prior. So I set out to learn how to weld and build better rails than what we had.

I also learnt how to drive a snowcat so that I could build my vision of a perfect jump, so that when I’m all washed up in my mid-thirties I can be a terrain park director at one of the best parks in North America or Europe. I haven’t figured that part out yet completely.

What projects/parks have you worked on?

I have worked on Thredbo parks for the past ten years. I worked at Squaw Valley in California for three years and I’m in my second year working at Whistler. Over that time I have worked on event and photo shoot projects for Monster Energy Drink, Redbull, Ripcurl, MTV, Forum, Burton, the TTR World Tour, the One Hit Wonder, Sandbox Films and worked with the Australian and NZ Snowboard and Ski magazines.

We’ve heard only good things about your park building skills. What do you have lined up in the near future?

Big things I hope! I’ll be back home in June doing the season running the Thredbo parks again and most likely back in Whistler again next year. I’m in a pretty comfortable position, but hopefully, some big opportunities present themselves. I’m always up for a challenge.

Heard you have a little black book that you hold close to your vest? (Heard a lot of things, there’s not much about you on the net!) Please tell us about it, and are there any secret’s held within said book that you’d like to divulge?

That’s funny, I do keep a black sketch book. It’s full of park feature ideas. Anything from your everyday park through to a lot of big photo shoot features that I would like to build. It’s hard to get enough cat time to bring them all to reality.

I have built a few of the ideas already for events like the Ripcurl Throwdown and the One Hit Wonder set up among other shoots, but I have only built a handful of what is in there and I keep sketching up ideas as they come to me. I find you have to otherwise you will forget them. It’s handy when it comes time to put a park together from scratch as I can look to it for inspiration.

Lastly, if you could give our riders/readers one last piece of advice, what would it be?

It might sound a little cheesy, but if you have a dream or a goal within snowboarding, it’s all achievable with hard work and focus. Whatever you do don’t get eaten up by the party scene.

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Photography by Vaughan Brookfield.

Browse the Trunk Junk collection; maybe even pick one out for yourself.

© Jonathan Boonzaaier 2016

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