This article first appeared in The Snowboarder’s Journal Issue 15.2.
It’s 36 degrees and raining heavily on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe. Highway 267 to Northstar has been closed all night. The lifts at Squaw Valley are on wind hold. The road to Mt. Rose is under several feet of snow. Almost two feet has fallen in the high country over the past 24 hours, close to 80 inches in the past week, along with 100 mph winds. It’s an early February morning, and Tahoe hasn’t seen a winter like this in a decade.
Tim Eddy sits at the kitchen table in a ’90s-appointed three-story condo in King’s Beach, CA tapping out a beat with his fingers and sipping coffee with his wife Hannah. They’re kind of a package. They both rip on a snowboard, both laugh a lot, both eat healthy and try to lead sustainable lives. Hannah does art. They like to build things. Along with the Eddys are K2 teammates Johnny Brady Jr., Kael Martin and Kyle Miller. It’s a relaxed-but-motivated group that has fit well into the Eddy program for the last five days.
The trip began with a soggy rhythm section in the front yard at the “Chillderness”—Tim and Hannah’s small off-grid home in the hills above Truckee, which they recently sold—then progressed to storm sessions in the Mt. Rose backcountry, mini-golf off I-80 near Boreal, and West Shore laps. The weather’s been tricky, but we’ve been out the door early every morning. Making the most of what the mountains have on offer is standard for Tim. He’s just happy to be riding whatever, whenever. Over the past decade I’ve seen him send Chilean handrails, Japanese pillows, hand-dug transitions and sunbaked cat-tracks with genuine stoke. He’s never trying to one-up anyone. He’s just a talented snowboarder doing whatever seems fun in any given moment.
One might wonder if Tim has been cultivating a daft image over the years. He’s been known to toss a backflip most anywhere, and maybe do it wearing a red one piece and a jester hat. The 30-year-old’s less-than-serious approach is the antithesis of traditional sports.
But it’s not an act. Tim’s motivations run deeper than any career aspirations. Yeah, he’s a goal-oriented dude. The ongoing betterment of the Chillderness, he and Hannah’s veggie-oil-powered camper rig, and their forthcoming Split The Difference book are evidence they follow through on big (and small) notions. It’s all part of a conscious pursuit of a positive mental state.
“Maybe we should go up to Boreal? It’s super-windy there too, but it looks like they’ve got a lift open,” Tim says.
It’s hard to argue with the eternal optimist. But first, we begin to talk story as the rain hammers down.
The Snowboarder’s Journal: You were born in Massachusetts?
Tim Eddy: I was born in a place called Concord, just outside of Boston. I lived there till I was 4, and then my family migrated west, to Sacramento, CA.
Can you tell me about your family?
I’ve got a brother, Brian, who’s two years older than me, and a half-sister, Jess, who is 46. My mom Lynette lives down in Reno, and my dad Robert passed seven years ago, in 2010.
My parents met in college at U-Mass. My mom was working a graveyard shift, going to school, and raising my sister as a single mom. Then she met my dad at the cafe where she worked. They moved in together, graduated, moved to Boston, and they just couldn’t hang with the weather, so they moved out west. My mom was an aerobics instructor; my dad was a stock broker.
My mom started doing tons of volunteer work, and now she has her master’s in social work, and she’s been kicking butt. She’s got this nonprofit and all the homeless youth in Reno have a resource center that she started. It helps them get jobs, education, clothing, food, shelter… she’s been doing that for a while. And she’s working on a Housing First project down in Reno for the homeless.
Tell me about your childhood.
[Claps] Childhood! My childhood was fun. My parents were really into the outdoors, and we were halfway to the ocean, halfway to the mountains. Every single weekend we’d go camp, all year-round. Friday, right after school, we’d drive and hit every state park in California.
Me and my brother started skateboarding when I was 11. I started snowboarding shortly after that, when I was 13. I had some friends who snowboarded, but being in Sacramento, you didn’t really know what snowboarding was. I thought it was like ski-racing. Then they showed me a snowboard movie, and I was just like, “Ohhhh, so you guys are skating on snow, but doing all the stuff we wished we could do on our skateboards.”
The next weekend we went snowboarding, and, from that point on, all I wanted to do was snowboard. Every single weekend we’d figure out a way to get to the hill, go night boarding after school. My brother was old enough to drive so he’d take us a lot. Two years later, my parents decided that we were gonna move to the mountains and we went to Truckee.
You were riding Boreal first?
Boreal was the only mountain I rode for the first three years. It was like a skatepark, and it was the closest to Sacramento. Passes were super cheap. When we moved, I started riding Squaw [Valley] and Alpine [Meadows] and the other places around North Lake Tahoe.
You got sponsored early on?
I got my first local sponsor through the rep when I was 15. That lasted a season, then I was on the am team. I went to a charter school here in Truckee and I could snowboard every day. I did my junior and senior years in seven months and graduated when I was 16. Then I was riding Boreal all day, jibbin’. It was the early 2000s and snowboard parks were going off. We were hitting wooden rails in front of people’s houses—there are so many vacant houses here—jibbin’ whatever we could find. There was tons of snow in town every winter. As I got older, I matured a little and realized that there’s more to it than just jibbing, and you could do whatever you wanted.
There was a moment when the light bulb turned on in that regard?
My team manager was dictating the way I was gonna be as a snowboarder. He was like, “This is what’s marketable right now; this is what’s in; this is the kind of snowboarder you’re gonna be. You’re gonna fill this niche [on our team]. You’re gonna ride this board, and you’re gonna wear this outerwear, and ride with this style, and these are the kind of guys you’re gonna be looking up to.” And for a 15-year-old, you’re like, “Yeah, I guess this is what it takes to be a pro snowboarder. I’ll just do whatever they tell me, cause I’m getting free snowboards.”
As I got older, I started seeing other snowboarders that I looked up to weren’t obeying those rules. And I was like, “Oh, OK. That’s not how it works.” I started going against the wishes of my sponsor. That caused a lot of conflict, so I just bailed. Quit. It was kind of wild to throw away all that work, but then things picked up again because I think people could see that resonating in my riding.
How old were you then?
From 15 to 18 I was drinking the Kool-Aid. When I started snowboarding on my own terms, we would go ride the resort, trying to find transition, little side hits, little doubles, little walls to turn on—we were seeking transition. It was a way to go out all day and laugh at stuff. We would try to find the humor in everything we could. That’s how I would snowboard off the camera. When I quit my sponsors, Travis Parker reached out because they were just starting Airblaster. He was from Tahoe and through friends of friends I met him, rode with him a little bit, and we connected with our approach to snowboarding. I finally felt like I was riding with my dudes.
You got on K2 Snowboarding at that point, too?
I didn’t have a board sponsor for a couple years, and then when I was 19 or 20, I got on K2. And I’ve been with those dudes for 10 years now. [Ed: He went pro for K2 in 2014.]
Can you talk about hanging out at Mt. Hood and how that
influenced your approach?
I did four years as a coach, and then for two years Hannah and I opened a little food truck called Pizza Party, so I was there six years total. I got hurt a lot between age 18 and 22. That’s when I was working at High Cascade, mostly. So, my winters were short, but then I had all summer to shred, and Hood was where I snowboarded a lot. The vibe at Mt. Hood is sweet. It’s good times boardin’. Tons of slush, transition. And I got to meet a lot of really awesome people there, including my wife.
Tell me about that.
It was our first year at High Cascade. She was a counselor; I was a coach. It wasn’t until the very end of the summer that we talked for the first time. We got to spend the last week of camp together, hanging out a lot. And then it was just, “Ok cool, camp’s over, you’re going to college.” But we kept in contact, and I felt like I needed to pursue it. I flew to Boulder to visit her, which was a pretty rare situation. Then it wasn’t just a summer romance.
From that point on, we would visit as much as possible. Any other relationship I had always failed because I want to snowboard all the time. But Hannah totally got it. [She] would be like, “No, don’t come visit me, go on that trip. Because I would go on that trip; that sounds sweet. And I want to go snowboard anyway.” She understood that snowboarding was this totally different thing.
When did you guys get married?
June of 2015. We had been dating for eight years. We knew we were gonna get married—that was obvious—but then Hannah’s parents were coming out to visit, and her sister was coming out to the West Coast for a wedding, and my mom and brother lived in Reno at the time. We were like, “Everyone’s gonna be here in two weeks—let’s get married on that Sunday.” So we called everyone and we were like, “Guys, we’re getting married next week when you are all here.”
And they were just like, “OK, cool, let’s do this.” It took about 10 minutes of planning. We hiked up Donner Peak, our favorite spot, did the ceremony, then went back to the cabin with all our local friends. We didn’t want it to be a big old extravaganza where people have to change their lives to come out to our wedding. We had a huge barbecue and skated and camped. Our immediate family was there. Simple. A few hundred bucks later, we had a wedding.
Would you say that’s exemplary of how you operate?
It was a case study in the Eddys operation for sure: minimal planning, minimal resources and maximum efficiency.
Tell me about how that frees up your life.
The biggest shift was when we downsized big time. Both our parents were dealing with financial issues when the economy crashed seven or eight years ago. We saw the negatives it was causing, not only in our families, but with everyone at that time. We never wanted to get into that situation. We sold our condo and sold out of that lifestyle of bills and being locked into a certain routine that was dictating our lives. Our lifestyle became so simple that it didn’t take anything to sustain it. But we were battling some permitting issues by trying to live fully off the grid and the man finally won. So, we’ve embraced this next chapter and just bought an 800-square-foot base camp in Reno with a workshop/art studio, garden space and 12 solar panels. It’s biking distance to an awesome co-op. There’s room for the truck camper to park when we’re taking breaks from our adventures, so there are no worries.
Breaking your back in 2011 gave you some perspective as well?
I freakin’ shattered my tailbone at Mt. Baker. I was laid up for three months. Couldn’t sit, couldn’t…anything. It was a year after my dad passed away, and I had a lot of time to think. From that point, my life has gone in a new direction, a direction that just makes total sense. I feel like I’m in the groove, in the energy source, doing what I want to be doing and everything’s working out.
To get more perspective on where I was coming from, my dad was battling depression for years and years. He ended up committing suicide. That was a heavy wake-up call. Essentially, his depression [had to do] with a lot of financial issues, and all these things led to a crazy downward spiral, and then he took his life. Then I got injured, and I was really starting to question my position in the world. I was like, “What does snowboarding even mean to me? What am I doing?”
Suicide is this unspoken thing. People don’t really want to come out and talk about it. But it’s relevant. It’s obvious. Mental illness is a huge, huge thing.
I was selling all my dad’s stuff after he passed away, cleaning out his office. He had a brand-new printer; I was selling it on Craigslist, and this guy called. He was asking me why I’m selling this brand-new printer; what’s wrong with it; and I’m like, “It’s all good, it’s in a box, my dad just passed away, I’m cleaning out his office.” This guy got a little more in depth and said, “Do you mind if I asked how your dad passed away?” I explained that he was battling depression, and it was overwhelming, and, you know, he took his own life. And that has been a theme in my family—there’s a lot of depression, and since then there’s been multiple suicides. It’s kind of littered throughout my whole family along with drug addiction, and all these crazy things.
This dude happened to be a geneticist in Reno at the university. He was doing an international study on depression and genetics, and the correlation that they’ve found between families where they’re seeing [depression] show up just as much as hair color and eye color and height and weight. He explained how the only successful way that they’ve seen people overcome depression and continue beating it is through finding a passion, and following that, rather than medications and things like that. The medications help, but it’s not a sustained solution.
Then he goes, “How do you feel? Do you have any depression issues or mental illness issues?” And I was honestly like, “I can’t even really understand or comprehend depression—which has been hard because it’s in my family—and I don’t really know how to relate because I feel so lucky to be so positive. I feel great.”
And he goes, “Well, what’s your lifestyle about?” And I explain that I love snowboarding, skating, surfing, camping, biking, all these things that inspire me. Before he hung up with me, he goes, “Don’t ever give that stuff up. Follow your passions. Don’t give it up for anything else. For money, for whatever, a stable life. Just follow your passions. Because those could be what’s keeping you alive. Doctor’s orders.”
Growing up, you generally get the sense that adults are waiting for you to figure it out, get a real job, and start pursuing a career outside of your hobbies. But hearing that from him was this huge eye-opener where I was like, “You know what, I owe it to myself, I owe it to my family. I’m just gonna keep pursuing these passions.”
I gave up the whole notion that I would ever sacrifice even a moment on my snowboard for it being my job. And I was just like, “Every time you strap in, do what you want to do 100 percent of the time.”
From that point on, my snowboarding really took off, and my career solidified. Everyone was just like, “Whoa, there’s new energy in Tim’s snowboarding, and his whole perspective.”
So, in my professional life I was getting rewarded for doing what I wanted to do. That’s when Hannah and I decided we were gonna give up everything that was holding us back and pursue that life of simplicity, where material things don’t dictate our choices, and we make our choices based on what we feel is right.
That’s when we sold our place, got the property, and built the cabin. We felt more comfortable with our relationship with the environment and it was this cool combination—it was benefiting the environment, but also benefiting our lifestyle. From that point on, our life just skyrocketed, and we’ve been on this path of awesomeness ever since.
In one year, my dad passed away, and also my cousin committed suicide, my grandma died, I blew my knee out, broke my tailbone…It was a rough year. And I wouldn’t change it for anything. Because I feel like my dad is in a better place now—he’s not dealing with his demons; he’s finally at peace mentally. Wherever he is now, at least he’s not in pain like he was. I was able to catapult my life into a direction of authenticity. It made me realize you can’t base your decisions on anything except for what you think is right, and what feels good, and what makes sense to you. The right things have been showing up at the right time ever since. My whole viewpoint now is to share that, you know? And be like, “You can make decisions based on what you want to do and what you think is right. You can be true to yourself, and the universe will respect it.”
So that’s the goal now. With my snowboarding, with Do Radical [Ed: See more from Tim and Hannah on Instagram @doradical], and everything, we’re just trying to inspire people to pursue what they want to do, regardless of what it is.
Do you think true authenticity is almost counterculture these days?
For sure. It’s a scary plunge. Because society is not set up for that. There are no safety nets for us. And it is kind of counterculture to drop everything and be like, “I’m just gonna pursue what I believe in. And if it works, it works, and if it doesn’t, then I might be in big trouble.”
But I have this theory that if you are living authentic, everything will work. Because you’re coming with a different perspective, a different energy. I see it more now than ever. People are branching out, and it’s cool.
Do you think we’re having a shift, not just in snowboarding, but in broader self-consciousness, where people are realizing that consumerism and all these marketing ploys don’t have any depth?
We’re being fed a false sense of accomplishment that [gives you]
these highs for a very short time [through consumerism], but
there’s no depth to them.
When I was 19, I went to Africa with my mom and my aunt to do volunteer work at some orphanages, schools and hospitals. We met with one of the chiefs in the Masai tribe [in Kenya] and he was explaining the contrast between their nomadic life and the Western life. For them, it’s so easy to have too many goats, and too much shelter to bring with them, and too much food and water. They have to live really simply, so they are always shedding material things. In Western civilization, you can never fill a bank account. It’s impossible. So you’re always looking for more and more and more, and you never reach a point where you’re satisfied. Because you think you have these goals, but your satisfaction is short-lived. Instantly you’re striving for more, and then for more.
People are now looking for more deep accomplishments that are not within the material world; they’re with interactions with people and more tangible experiences.
So, by showcasing things like riding a tandem bike across the country [in the summer of 2016] through Do Radical, you’re showing that you can obtain satisfaction without huge amounts of resources and material goods?
Hannah and I are just regular people. As far as our resources go, we’re nothing special. We’re trying to show that it doesn’t take anything except being confident and following what you want to do. We have it all within us to go out and do whatever we want. Do radical, you know. And just go out and live. So that’s the whole goal: to inspire people and show them these approachable ways of enjoying life. And maybe giving something back. Whether it’s socially or environmentally, there are no rules. Having a more fulfilling experience, that’s the goal.
This year you’ve been working on a book about splitboarding?
We’re doing a project called Split The Difference. It’s a book about any and all things to do with splitboarding. It’ll feature camper cuisine, little tips for when you go split, and locations and maps and art and all kinds of things. The idea is that the proceeds of the book are gonna go to [environmental nonprofit] Protect Our Winters. It’ll show the human-powered experience on a splitboard and also give back to snowboarding. Then we are gonna do a book from our bike trip, and that’s gonna go to another environmental nonprofit.
The goal is to just go out and create content, and create these projects that can generate awareness and revenue for correlating nonprofits that are connected to the topic of the project. Like maybe do a surf one with the Surfrider Foundation. Just do what you would do as a professional snowboarder or an influencer or whatever, but do it in a way that we can have a lot of energy behind it because we feel like we’re pursuing something righteous.
Do you see that growing and evolving? Is it where it’s gonna go for you from here on out?
Long-term, that’s where my stoke is at. And Hannah, the two of us, that’s what gets us excited. Thinking of what we can do with Do Radical in the future, there are a hundred and one options there. There’s just no questioning when we’re doing those projects. It makes sense.
Do what you love and believe that it’s gonna turn out good because your heart’s in it.
Absolutely. I’ve always noticed that when I do things I truly believe in, those things always succeed. When I’m doing things I’m not sure I believe in, they generally don’t work out that well. Now we’re taking everything that we’ve learned, and we’re just trying to put it in motion.