Wyld Instinct’s “Tortoise”: Exclusive Online Video Premiere, Interview and Photo Gallery


Words: Evan Litsios

Wyld Instinct started as an ambiguous movement—a sketchy idea combined with a willingness to send. Two years ago, Ryan Finder opted to travel and follow his passion for snowboarding instead of going for a nine to five. He drove to Mt. Hood, OR from his home in Asheville, NC and spent a summer working at Mount Hood Ski and Snowboard Camp. From there, he decided to put a name to his journey, calling it Wyld Instinct. He taught himself how to film and edit, gathered up the homies and hit the road. They became the epitome of a grassroots crew, living in their cars, couch surfing from one location to the next, snowboarding every day and hustling for food and gear.

Wyld Instict embodies a vagabond lifestyle. They aren’t sacrificing their golden years to companies, doing internships or working part time jobs. They’re making it happen themselves, with all the resources that friendship and positive action can provide. It’s raw community, and the desire to live a certain way. It’s a group of friends who know how to rip. It’s stateside Car Danchi. It’s waiting on the weather, sleeping on dirty floors and killing time in scummy mountain towns.

The Wyld Instinct crew is living the dream, as dirtbag snowboarders go. They aren’t on any pro teams or affiliated with heavy business folk. Heck, some of them can’t even buy beer. Finder sees them like the tortoise racing against the hare. It isn’t clear what they’re racing towards, maybe just a good time. This is the story of their first year together, from the mouth of the lead Tortoise himself, Mr. Ryan Finder.

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Photos: Ryan Finder.

How did Wyld Instinct come about?

I was just so stoked after spending the summer at Mt. Hood and wanted to reconnect with people. I was interviewing people who really inspired me to snowboard. I had a camera and a microphone. I loved doing that, but halfway through things kind of shifted gears. It became more like me having a camera and filming people snowboarding.

And then you decided to just hit the road, right?

Well Kaleah [Opal Driscoll] was down to join, and met up with me in Tahoe. I had a dream, I had a camera, I wanted to travel, and she just wanted to do the same. Our first stop was Salt Lake City, and driving around that city is so hard to do without just wanting to snowboard. So it all started when we got there. Everybody was really nice, took us in, and showed us where to go. It started turning into a crew and an end project.

We started to reconnect with people from Mt. Hood who were all saying, “Come here! I want to ride with you.” So we made our way up to Washington [State] to meet up with Eythan Frost, Jake Rose, Ian Sullivan, and Justice Hines. We stayed with Justice’s family for a bit. I stayed with Eythan and Dylan Hallowell for two months in eastern Washington. The mountains in Washington are amazing and are unlike anywhere else. We’re definitely planning on spending more time there this winter.

So you put some miles on the ol’ Subaru. Any idea how many?

I’m not sure, but definitely a lot. We went between Utah, Oregon, back to Utah, Colorado, then to Washington, up into Canada, back to Washington, then to Mammoth with Kaleah for Superpark, and then back to Oregon.

Were there any super-poor snowboard rat moments?
Well I think the whole trip kind of went like that. It was awesome. It’s not a bad life. It’s humbling because you get to see inside the snowboard industry. You don’t really see much about the dudes who aren’t making any money from it. It puts things into perspective, just how much we love snowboarding, because I think if we didn’t love snowboarding we wouldn’t have been able to live the lifestyle we lived this winter.

Do you think you’re running away from certain types of “normal” responsibilities?

Yes and no. I think there are other paths that I could have taken and things I could have chosen to see, but as far as disregarding responsibility, no. I think it’s just that I’ve taken on some different responsibilities than the more popular ones. I think I have a responsibility to myself to keep enjoying life, and part of enjoying life to me is to go out and film snowboarding as much as possible.

Could you tell us a little bit about trying to fund a winter-long project like this?

I think the biggest part, money aside, it all comes down to how bad you want it. If you want something, in one way or another you can have it regardless of how much money you have. And that’s kind of why we’ve all come together in this grassroots way. We all have this responsibility to each other to keep filming and snowboarding, and we don’t see any other option. Even if it’s a spontaneous something to get that next dollar. For example, I’m making videos for a few businesses, and doing videos for Board Insiders. There are lots of odd jobs to make a little extra cash, but it comes together in the same way, just people helping people.

What inspired the name “Tortoise” for your movie?

The name came from the story of the tortoise and the hare. I think the moral of the story is to never give up in the face of defeat. I look at the hare as the whole industry, the big names. Before I even picked up a camera I’d just look at it as an unreachable goal. The scene in North Carolina is growing a lot, but back in the day I just lived for snowboard videos that came out of other places. And it’s been so cool to do that this year, to be out filming and trying to make it work in the face of defeat. So I look at us as the tortoise. And the tortoise eventually wins in the end. So, of course, I’d like to eventually “win” —if we haven’t already, that is! Because just being able to go out and travel with our friends the way we did this winter has been a huge win in my book. It’s been awesome. I can’t wait for more winters. This is our life. If we weren’t filming it, we’d still be doing it.

Do you have any advice for kids who want to be poor snowboarders?

My advice is to just go out and do your own thing. Don’t try to do something that someone else has done. Really work hard to find your own approach to something, and if you love it, run with it. What do you have to lose? Also, go car camping all summer to save money for next winter. Don’t pay rent—it’s a really good life. It’s a different life. A lot of people don’t see how fun it can be. I guess for somebody who lives in a house and has everything set up that must be nice, but this lifestyle is easy and it’s fun.

Inspiring. Any last words?

A big thanks to Boardshop 5420. Everybody involved in the crew has so much love for that shop. The owner is such a great guy and he helped us out a lot. Big ups to Joey in Calgary. When we went up there the snow was beat. It never got above 10 degrees. Everything was bulletproof, but Joey came in with a trailer full of everything we needed to put together street spots. Big ups to the Hines family, who made a second home for us in Washington. The crew at The Summit at Snoqualmie, they were our boys this winter. Big ups and thanks to Mt. Hood Riders. That’s about it, but we had help from so many people, so thanks to everyone.


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