Independents’ day

The editors of Sacramento-based Heckler magazine pay tribute to snowboarders, skateboarders and musicians in a new book

Mecca. Holy Land. Eden. Tahoe?

It can be easy for Reno residents to underplay the importance of the Tahoe area, because for the majority of our lives, the mountains are just scenery. Those of us who have never set foot in the bindings of a snowboard might think it’s a stretch to compare the slopes of the Sierra Nevada to a locale of biblical perfection, but to snow sport aficionados, Tahoe may very well be heaven on Earth.

“Tahoe is somewhere that people from all over the world will make a pilgrimage to, of sorts,” says John Baccigaluppi, an editor of Sacramento-based Heckler magazine. “You want to become a pro snowboarder, Tahoe is one of a handful of places in the world, really, that you go to.”

In the last decade, Baccigaluppi, Sonny Mayugba and Reno resident (and RN&R contributor) Chris Carnel have spent a lot of time on our area’s peaks gathering material for Heckler, a magazine that focuses on the interrelated subcultures of snowboarding, skateboarding and music. By the year 2000, what started as a free, 16-page, black-and-white zine had become a full-color glossy distributed in 30 countries with a circulation of 65,000 and an estimated readership of 325,000.

Now, the trio has compiled hundreds of Heckler’s best photos, interviews, essays and more in Declaration of Independents, released in September by Chronicle Books. Baccigaluppi and Mayugba spoke to the RN&R about the skate and snow scenes, the punk ethic and their love for the snowy peaks we often take for granted.

How did Heckler get started?
Baccigaluppi: I used to be a bike messenger, and I used to hang out at this skate shop. I did this other music zine, and this guy at the skate shop [and former editor] Matt Kennedy were talking about starting a snowboarding zine, so I said, “I’ll do the layout for it.”

And then the guy at the skate shop lost interest in it, so Matt [and I] tried to keep it going, but we couldn’t quite get it together, to get ads, and that’s when we got Sonny involved. And then once Sonny got on board, we were rolling ever since. Sonny sold ads, and we have a magazine. Matt kinda lost interest, and that’s when we got Chris Carnel there in Reno, after about three issues.

I read in your book that Heckler was banned from Donner Ski Ranch for a while. What was that all about?
Mayugba: In the early days of Heckler, we didn’t have any traditional forms of distribution. So we just had all the zines dropped off at the house here in Sacramento, and we would just give ’em to people. … We dropped ’em off at all the ski resorts. And I think Norm [Saylor], the owner of Donner, got a complaint.

Baccigaluppi: We had some ad that said “fuck” in it. It was a skate shop ad that said, “Not just another fucking skate shop.” Someone complained, and so they banned us from any distribution at Donner. … So we wrote Norm a letter, like, you know, “Bill of Rights! Free speech!” and all this stuff, and Norm was like, “Well, come on out and let’s talk about it.” We’ve been fast friends ever since. Norm Saylor’s a great guy.

Mayugba: He’s like family for Heckler.

Baccigaluppi: He’s one of the pioneers of snowboarding [and] snow sports.

Tell me about some of the other influential people in the Reno-Tahoe area.
Mayugba: Kevin Jones has definitely become a pretty influential rider out of “the new school.” Terry Kidwell, obviously. He’s kind of the father of freestyle snowboarding, which is kinda what snowboarding is geared at right now.

Is there a favorite resort for snowboarders?
Mayugba: Almost every resort in Tahoe has something to offer. With a place like Alpine or Squaw, there’s a lot of really good terrain. It’s a big, expansive mountain, but there’s hella people there, and the powder gets chewed up pretty quick. But Alpine has a really, really good out-of-bounds policy, so that’s really cool. … and they have super-fast new chairs.

But then a place like Donner or Boreal, yeah, those mountains are tiny, but Boreal’s got a kick-ass snowboard park. And Donner’s got rad out-of-bounds terrain, and it’s got the old resort-style feel, which is kinda rad too, you know?

What kind of changes have you seen at these resorts over the last 10 years?
Mayugba: I would say the first changes were people accommodating snowboarders. That would be the No. 1 change we’ve seen. Probably the second biggest change is … their flurry to try to get as many people up the hill as fast as possible. … “How quickly and how many people can we get up here?”

I think that skiing probably used to be more of a leisure sport. Now it’s become more of a fucking extreme sport. “How quickly I can ride this mountain?”

Speaking of extreme sports, what are your feelings on the whole “extreme” thing?
Baccigaluppi: We did a thing almost five years ago, where Sonny and I dressed up with full pads, full-face motorcycle helmets—just as much protective gear as we could possibly get on us—and just took photos of us running around in it, just screaming. The whole thing was just kind of a spoof on being extreme. We kind of wrote it up as an open letter to ESPN: “How come you’re dissing extreme running? Put us into the X Games, ‘cause we’re ready!” It’s definitely kind of played out in a lot of ways.

What about the corporatization of snowboarding and skateboarding?
Mayugba: On one level, it’s great for the industry, and it’s great for the athletes. Everyone’s getting paid more, and the marketplace is bigger. No one can argue with that; that’s kinda cool. But on the other side of the coin, something got lost in there. Sort of the specialness of it and kind of the “hard-coreness” of it. Something gets lost whenever anything goes big.

How does this all fit in with the punk ethic?
Baccigaluppi: It’s not really punk anymore. I mean, that ethic still exists within skateboarding, and even snowboarding, but only as much as that ethic still exists within punk rock. Punk rock is barely punk anymore.

There’s bands like Sleater-Kinney, who have been on the cover of Spin and Rolling Stone, or Fugazi is another good example, but they still live their lives and conduct their art/commerce by the same ethics that they started out with—kind of the ideals of punk rock. But those are the exceptions now. The rule is blink 182—[which is] so far from what punk rock started out as.

Mayugba: As far as how it relates to snowboarding and skateboarding—something that just kinda dawned on me right here—I think maybe in the beginning, for probably both skate and snow, the whole scene was kind of a punk rock thing, because it was kind of a do-it-yourself thing, and the people who gravitated to it were into that type of music and culture. And then as both scenes exploded, they got more mainstream and more diluted.

But it doesn’t mean that that part of it has disappeared, or even died. It’s probably even grown. Let me give you an example. Skateboarding is bigger than it’s ever been, probably bigger than snowboarding right now. The main thing in skateboarding right now is … hip-hop, that kind of style.

But at the same time, there’s a guy who runs a skateboard company called Legends [in Woodland, Calif.], and it’s a totally punk rock company. He’s a punk rock kind of guy—he’s totally doing it himself—and it’s like it didn’t disappear. It’s just that the whole scene isn’t that anymore. The scene is so much bigger that instead of the punk rock ethic and do-it-yourself being the majority, it’s now the minority.

Baccigaluppi: In the mainstream media, the punk rock roots of skateboarding just aren’t really covered anymore, or they’re given minimal coverage. But like Sonny said, it is bigger than ever. If you go out to Oregon or Washington and hang out there, there’s some of the best skaters in the entire world out there, and they could give a flying fuck about coverage or media. They’re up there skating so hard, and those guys are just punker than ever. There’s pockets like that all over the country. It’s just not the mainstream.

Mayugba: I started listening to punk rock when I was in fifth grade, and I’m 31 now. And to me, punk rock is not just a music anymore, a genre, it’s like a fucking culture; it’s a style, a lifestyle. You don’t have to have a Mohawk and spikes and sleeveless shirts to be punk rock.

Punk rock is kind of a way to do things. I mean, I know some hip-hop shit that, to me, is punk as fuck. Cause it’s the way they do it, you know?