To celebrate Airblaster’s 20th anniversary, we spoke with one of the brand’s founders Jesse Grandkoski about the origins of the company, upcoming projects, the people behind it and the “all about having fun” attitude surrounding the this 2 decades old brand.

2023 marks the 20th anniversary of Airblaster and the brand is still one of the sickest in the snowboarding world according to us. Like a fine wine, the brand is getting better with age. For their original and functional products to their fun and organic values, there’s no reason to not like Airblaster.

To get a little behind the scenes and learn about the company and its founders, its athletes team, upcoming projects, the vision behind the brand, keep reading!

So, 20 years of Airblaster. How do you feel about it? I’m proud of having started a brand with other awesome dudes without prior business experience. We still made it this far and were able to face all the challenges along the way. I’m proud of what we accomplished and that we were able to figure it out. Are you still running the company with same crew as when it first started. The crew evolved a lot and isn’t the same as it was at first, but is still small and tight knitted compared to other more corporate brands. That’s a big challenge for us. We don’t just create products, we also need to be employers. Hiring people is complex and a regular challenge. Being in Portland, we are surrounded by other major brands like Nike and Adidas, which have a very strict system with roles where there’s a person for every task. At Airblaster, we need people that are self-motivated and that can shift their focus to many different roles seasonally. At the end of the day, we think that allowing employees to go out of their lanes is more rewarding and are stoked that after 20 years, we still have the same authentic values we had 20 years ago.

Airblaster always had a pretty stacked team. How did you manage to have amazing athlete rosters year after year for two decades? That’s an interesting question as there’s always a flux in the team department, but keeping a great team is always key for any brand. The fact that Travis Parker was involved with Airblaster from the start was a huge catalyst for us. Having him as one of the founders has always been a very big draw towards the company for amateur and professional riders. Travis always had the respect from all of his peers and that gave us long lasting credibility. We also treat our team very differently than many other brands. By that, I mean that we don’t really recruit riders based on what they would bring to the brand from a marketing perspective. We add riders on the team when we know they are into the company and are friends with our team. We want to be a family and have long lasting and meaningful relationships. If you look at our team trips, they are also really different. They’re always a lot of fun to go on as we don’t really have any particular alignment. We’re really trying to focus on fun and what comes out of it is always the best.

Without any experience in the business, what motivated you to start Airblaster at first? The love for snowboarding. I grew up in Whitefish Montana and started snowboarding at around 13 years old. Around the same time, Travis Parker moved to Montana and we quickly became friends. We started snowboarding together, which was basically the foundation of my love for snowboarding that would later be translated into Airblaster. Going to “Big Mountain” with Travis and having a good ol’ time, having freedom to go wild and to do whatever we wanted out there. You only had to worry about evading ski patrol! That’s what snowboarding is to me. We had a pretty awesome snowboard crew. We were learning new tricks and watching each other’s progression. I loved snowboarding because you could express your own style. Fast forward a few years, and I ended up having an opportunity to go to a nice college. I did that for four years and Travis would often come visit and sleep in the dorms illegally. At some point, he moved to Vail and pursued his snowboard career. Around 1999, I started to work for High Cascade snowboard camp, and that’s when I realized that the new generation of kids were introduced to snowboarding very differently than how I got introduced to it back when I first started. Snowboarding was getting so serious and based on trick difficulty and landing everything perfect at that time. Seemed like the kids at High Cascade needed something to remind them that it’s all about having a good time out there with your friends. That's what led us to create Airblaster. We wanted to create a space where kids could have their own style and be themselves. Pursuing professional snowboarding is another thing that motivated me to start Airblaster. At that time, filming clips and producing shots was the main thing to do as a pro rider and I didn’t really like it. It got too serious… instead of working hard to get one good clip, I’d rather ride all day with friends and have fun. With Airblaster, we basically wanted people to fall in love with snowboarding again.

So you reunited with longtime friend and pro rider Travis Parker and started a brand based on fun and not taking it too serious.  Travis and Ialways stayed good friends through time and had talked about starting something many times. I moved in with him after college in Salt Lake City. We were living with legends like Chris Engelsman and Corey Smith. At that time, Travis was at the peak of his career and wanted to start something while he was still on top. Since snowboarding doesn’t last forever, it was time for him to start his own thing. The actual idea for Airblaster really started later at High Cascade as Paul Miller and Travis Parker were skating together. Travis was making good money and wanted to plan for his future. Paul had ideas for a brand and wanted to meet with us to talk it through. The next day, we met with Paul and started brainstorming, drew pictures and wrote down names. That’s when we came out with Airblaster.

Why the name Airblaster? As I said earlier, snowboarding was very serious and performance driven back in the early 2000s. That’s why we chose that name. It’s funny, it’s not serious and it means something all snowboarders like: to blast airs. It just sounded ridiculous and we loved it. Airblaster first started with original accessories, how did you decide on the first products you guys put out? At first, we had no idea of what we wanted to make. For most brands, it’s usually the opposite. Brands have a product and then find ways to market it and sell it. We knew we wanted to influence snowboarding in a positive way, but had no idea of the products we would make. Our idea was to market an idea more than a product. At first we decided to make 3 t-shirts and a beer koozie, then we made the Air Leash, which was bright and big and fun. I’d say that it’s what put us on the map at first. Back then, leashes were mandatory at ski resorts and our goal was to make this rule a bit more fun with a flashy product. Then the Air Leash evolved, we added pockets, made it bigger and added a bag that you could attach to your leg. Wearing it was a true statement. If you have an Airleash, you are down for fun.

When did you decide to launch Airblaster’s outerwear line? Not too long after starting the brand, there was a hype on our Air Leash and Leg Bag and a demand for more products, so we made the SARS jacket (Sunlight Accident Resistant Shirt). That was around the same time as the first SARS pandemic. The jacket came with a mask in it, so instead of putting sunscreen on your face all day at the mountain, you could put the mask on your face and be good to go. After the SARS jacket, more and more people were asking for outerwear, so we started making more. It didn’t take too long before we had a full outerwear line. When did the Ninja Suit come about? The Ninja suit came a few years into the brand. We had this idea to create better long underwear. We knew that the worst thing about regular under garments is that when you fall, snow always gets you in the back, but not if you wear a one piece! That’s where the idea came from.

What do you guys have in store for your 20th anniversary year? Same as usual: Promote snowboarding in a positive way. We’re taking trips to film videos. Go watch our latest vid called Feburado. Airblaster always made movies throughout its history. Without the big budgets, our goal was to take month long trips and just document the trip. Not just the bangers, but everything fun and worth shooting. We also just came back from a trip to Japan and will put out a new edit with that footage soon. Other than that, we will just continue to focus on offering accessible and inspirational snowboarding experiences through our brand.