Luis Medearis

Fly By

See What Lu Sees

Priceless Self-Expression in The Onlyz

First published in Volume 20, Issue 3 of The Snowboarder’s Journal

Luis Medearis had never tried snowboarding before he started filming it in 2020. The former all-conference shooting guard had just graduated from William Jessup University near Sacramento, CA, with a bachelor’s in liberal studies. Following his years as a walking bucket Lu was hired to be the youngest high school varsity basketball coach in all of California, but a new camera and a serendipitous run-in with some snowboarders quickly changed his trajectory. In the just two years since, the 27-year-old has become a full-time filmer, befriended and ridden alongside countless industry heads, shot events, and is now working on a movie titled The Onlyz, which will showcase the lives of people of color in the snowboarding industry. Despite Lu’s fledgling footing on the scene, his film features the likes of Zeb Powell, Rob Roethler and LJ Henriquez and has transitioned from being an independent production to one supported by Burton and other brands.

“Now I have the best job in the world,” Lu says. “Literally.” 

Whether it’s because he put himself in the right places at the right times or simply let his energy and amicability do what it does when rare opportunities arise, Lu’s sudden success as a filmer is an interesting tale. He bought a camera somewhat on a whim and went for a trip to the mountains where he ran into Skyler Gallardo and a friend riding a pond skim at Sierra at Tahoe, CA. Lu asked if he could shoot some video of them. “I put together this really nasty edit; there’s like 10 back 1[80]s in it,” Lu says. “I thought it was awesome. It wasn’t.” Nonetheless, Lu was hooked. Soon after the skim session he was posting up on the knuckles of jumps in the park at nearby Boreal Mountain. That’s where he learned to ride, put his camera on a gimbal and tried his best to follow-cam whoever was around. Tuning further into the scene, Lu realized he could turn filming into a job—his job—and got the sense he’s in the mountains for a reason. 

“Now it’s December [2021], and Burton is having their One World premiere,” Lu says. “I’d just found out who [photographer Dean] Blotto [Gray] was. I sent him a [DM] on Instagram like, ‘Yo, if you’re ever in Tahoe hit me up, let’s hang out.’ I could barely ride, barely film, but a week later he hits me back. I end up going boarding with Blotto for a day, just me and him at Homewood, killing groomers. That night I met the team manager Zach [Nigro], and Peter Cirilli, who’s Zeb’s photographer now. This was only a few months after I’d ever heard the word ‘Burton.’ Blotto put me in touch with George [Burton] Carpenter and, after I’d put more time into filming, George and I went to Mammoth. Things just took off.”

Luis Medearis snowboarding in Aspen, CO.

“Luis Medearis is one of a kind. He always has the best attitude and is so crazy fun. I love working with him, or just hanging out, whenever I get a chance. In fact, I’ve never laughed so hard on a shoot as I did when we were all in Lake Louise, AB, watching Luis do karaoke. Love that guy. Here he is at the Culture Shifters event that Burton put on in collaboration with Zeb Powell and Selema Masekela in Aspen, CO, in 2022.” Photo: Jesse Dawson

As Lu traveled to mountain towns across the country, he noticed quickly that he was often the only Black person around. “You realize you’re the only Black person on that plane, or in that terminal, because the place you’re going snowboarding…the type of people that go don’t look like you.” Similarly, at events Lu was—and continues to be—typically the only Black filmer on the scene. He describes feelings of sticking out like a sore thumb in these settings, but the upside has been friendships with Zeb, LJ and other people of color in the scene that have developed rapidly due to the novelty of their situations. Lu saw his peerless position as a Black filmer as an opportunity to bridge a gap, a chance to bring an even greater number of people into the mountains. That’s what jump-started his work on The Onlyz. By playing both ends of the court, Lu believes films like The Onlyz will benefit the snowboard industry as well as the communities who partake in it.

“When you bring a whole community of people into something like snowboarding—which is so new—it grows,” Lu says. “People complain that budgets are small and they’re trying to make snowboarding bigger. This is the easiest way to do it: You bring people in that don’t know anything about it, you teach them the ways. There are going to be more people who are excited to go try the sport, and then tune into the sport, because I’ve never met anyone who’s tried snowboarding who said they didn’t want to do it anymore.   

“For Black people it’s dope because snowboarding is an opportunity to express yourself and get outside of the box that we’re put in. I want people to see that there are so many different avenues. You only see what you see. I’m from L.A., where you play basketball, football, or run track. What these mainstream sports do to my community is blind us—they don’t teach us anything, and then when we get out into the real world we’re shocked. But there’s so many things that we can do. There’s no box that we need to be put in.”

Lu’s love for basketball will remain, but the mountains satisfy something within him that the court can’t. That’s in part because he’s been quick to figure out that in snowboarding, there aren’t any lines to play between. Instead, riders draw their own. 

“I come from a sport where you have a coach and there’s a certain way to do things, so it’s hard for my mind to wrap around that, in snowboarding, you just do what you want,” Lu says. “Even when I’m riding, I’m like, ‘Oh, did that look good?’ Then I have to think, ‘Well, it really doesn’t matter. There are no rules.’ That mindset is why snowboarding, mountain culture, being outside and living the life you’re given is way beyond everything we have. Beyond college, basketball—that shit is transcending. Having that self-expression and no one being able to tell you shit… that type of freedom you can’t buy.”   


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