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BASE Jumps and Wolf Packs – Suz Graham Interview

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Suz Graham, one of the gutsiest ladies in women’s action sports, has recently made the move up to Whistler from Utah and I couldn’t be more excited to catch up with her. Flying off cliffs, back flipping off huge kickers and ski BASE jumping are all in a day’s work for Suz, but she assures me that she’s no stranger to fear, especially when she finds herself alone in the dark. As the only woman to ski BASE jump in North America, she is pushing boundaries for women in ways that men aren’t able to. Suz has spirit and strength physically and mentally. It is truly refreshing to find someone speak so candidly about being a woman in this male dominated industry.

Read on to find out where Suz gets her inspiration, how to “send-it rather than sex-it”, and why she thinks elevators on mountains would be the coolest thing ever (oh wait, aren’t those called chairlifts?).

J: Hey Suz, welcome to Whistler! Besides the groceries costing way more, how is living here compared to the United States of America? Why did you make the move?

S: I made the move for a few reasons… mainly I just needed a change. I needed to shake up my world a little bit and experience something new, I grew up in Utah and while it was extremely hard to leave, I knew I wanted to experience living somewhere new and getting to know some new mountains, a new town, and open myself up to new opportunities. A lot in my life had shifted and changed in the past couple years, and after a bad skiing accident last year I was finally rehabbed and ready to go. I already felt like I was beginning a new chapter in my life so a move just made perfect sense. Plus I was born in Calgary so I have dual citizenship, so the free healthcare and all the perks of being a Canadian are some awesome bonuses. But yeah, whenever I fill my car up I kind of die inside just a little… gas is expensiiivvvveeeeee. 

J: Yeehaw, a fellow Albertan! So, I’ve heard you the only girl out there doing ski BASE jumping? Do you ever feel like you just need some sister support when your about to fly off a mountain?

S: Yes, I am currently the only girl who ski BASE jumps- it's going to be really cool when another girl or the next generation of girls start doing it, but it's such a small niche, and honestly it can be extremely dangerous. I don't encourage people to get into it unless they are truly ready to take on the responsibility of adding so many variables to an already complex sport. But I won't lie, I would really love a partner in crime, and am envious of the dudes who have their little bromances… I have all sorts of guys that I jump with, trust, and love them like family but it's just always going to be different being a chick.  

J: I will just tell you now I will not be joining you any time soon. Do you even get scared anymore when you’re out there on top of the world?

S: Oh yeah. I am usually pretty good with discerning rational fear versus irrational fear, and that comes from making calculated decisions… but sometimes my head gets in the way and when that happens I have to take a step back. I've backed out of jumps, lines, etc before because I just didn't feel level headed about it and got scared. Fear is good though, every time I've been injured or had an accident I was too relaxed and just not on top of it- fear keeps me on my toes and keeps my head in the game. It keeps me focused, which is going to keep me safe.

Suz throwing a not-so-small back flip at RedBull Cold Rush. Bryan Ralph Photography.

Plus, I'm a huge wuss in other ways… like the other day I jumped up and sprinted out of a steam-room because I was alone and it was dark and I heard a loud noise. And I look in my backseat every time I get in my car at night to make sure there isn't a man hiding there with a knife. #paranoid, (inappropriate hash tag usage?)   

J: Hah! I check my backseat to, I think that was in the movie Urban Legends, #scarredforlife (hash tags are never inappropriate). Anyway, is there anyone or anything that is really inspiring you to go bigger and faster?

S: Yes, I am always inspired by other women I see out there who are pushing action sports and themselves. This is especially true in sports that are outside my own. One example I have been blown away with in my recent move to Whistler is seeing so many girls absolutely killing it in the Whistler Bike Park. I started to get pretty into downhill-mountain biking this summer and have been so humbled and inspired by so many girls out there that have blown my mind. I love stepping outside and seeing girls send it. Another reason I'm so stoked on the new website, www.femalewolfpack.com , is it’s constant, mind-blowing inspiration. I see the potential that each of us has to progress the action sports world in such a profound way and that is one of my biggest motivators.   

Suz sending at Red Bull Cold Rush.

J: That website does have some amazing videos on it; everyone should go check it out. More on women’s sports… I really appreciate what you spoke about in your blog, that the site (Femalewolfpack) is a place for sport, not for nudity or sexual exploitation (sorry boys).   This is so refreshing to hear! Promoting one’s talent with their sexuality is a great and  way to get "followers"  but seems to just increase the separation between men's and women's sport… defeating the purpose of what you ladies are really working towards.  Thoughts? 

S: So yeah, I'm glad you saw what I wrote about it on my blog… I have always been an advocate of 'sending it rather than sexing it', and am proud to say the vast majority of published photos, and 99% of my coverage has all been me actually doing my sport. There are the occasional headshots and lifestyle shots but it's always complimentary to an active one and I've personally never taken any nude or sexually suggestive photos. I've been asked to, but declined. I'm proud of being a woman though, and I'm not saying that I'm opposed to flaunting what you've got… but don't let the media portray you as just that. We, as women in action sports, are ATHLETES NOT MODELS, and we wonder why we don't get invited to competitions or get more coverage in films and media? It's a fine line that is our responsibility to walk gracefully. My advice to females in action sports is just to not let yourself be taken advantage of. Big name men's interest magazines like Playboy, FHM, and Maxim have featured female action sports athletes and rarely is there even a single shot of the athlete actually doing their sport, just full page spreads of them in  lingerie. Does any one else see the issue in this? Or am I just crazy? Okay, that's my rant.     

J: You’re not crazy! Great rant and well said. What  can we find you  doing when you're not chasing adrenaline rushes?

S: It's all about balance to me. I need my down time and am really into yoga, reading, playing the piano, cooking and I love to bake. I need a little bit of both extremes or else I feel unsettled. 

Suz reaching one of those extremes

J: Any special projects you are working on this season? 

S: On top of self-producing my YouTube channel (a new video out every two weeks),  I am also working with local filmer/photographers Mike Gamble and Justa Jekova to produce a short film to be released next year- it's going to encompass skiing, BASE, biking, etc and give a little insight into my life and lifestyle. I'm super excited about it. 

J: Sweet. Sounds awesome! Ok, Pop Quiz! Favourite Whistler spots to get extreme? 

S: I have been having a lot of fun in Spanky's lately- there is just so much to do and so many fun rocks to jump off of, I got a little too extreme yesterday when I got cliffed out in the Christmas-Tree area on Whistler.. (I think that's what it's called) and had to do some sketchy down climbing-rock-billygoating… not my favorite thing to do ever. 

J: Oh yes, I’ve visited those sneaky cliffs before. Place to chill?

S: I really like hanging out at coffee shops and getting some work done on my computer, I have been heading to Blenz or the new Mt Currie Coffee Shop in town. I do lot's of video editing and brainstorming here. 

J: Eat? 

S: Fuji market is my jam. I go there a couple times a week at least- you can't beat the $2.95 California rolls and cheap late-night sushi. 

J: Tourist watch?

S: The best is walking through the village late at night when you see the girls in miniskirts and high-heels struggling to walk around when it's dumping outside, always quality entertainment. 

J: Nothing like the Whistler Village stroll on a Friday. American boys or Canadian men?

S: I like how you used the boys vs. men wording there. Well, when in Rome…. er, Canada… 😉 I like 'manly' men and Canada certainly has no shortage of those!

J: Haha, agreed. Jumping off buildings or jumping off mountains?

S: Hmm, I'll have to go with mountains on that one for sure, but in buildings' defense… they have elevators, and as much as I like hiking, elevators to a BASE jump are the most awesome things ever. 

J: Touques or beanies?

S: I haven't quite transitioned to the touque… but who knows, I may make the switch in a couple months here eh. (Did you see how I threw that 'eh' in there?!! progress…) 

J: I think you are going to do just fine here! Finally, any sponsors you want to thank?

S: Yep, thanks Fischer, Oakley, FiveTen, GoPro and ClifBar!

To catch some of Suz’s adrenaline rushes this Winter, check out her Blog and YouTube channel and on Twitter @Suzagram.

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