In the Japanese culture, the Kunoichi is the term for a female ninja – the kanji characters that make up the name, ‘ku no ichi’ mean “talent” …but literally translate into “9 and 1”. Some experts say that extra “1” in the mix is to represent our additional female…um…orifice that the guys don’t have. Our “vageeeeen” as Borat would say. Anyway, what the hell does this have to do with snowboarding you may think?
Because it is all too appropriate that I think of this term when observing Jess Kimura’s tight skills in catching ninja-like air off ramps, smooth jibbing on rails….a technique that’s all hers. Fast and aggressive, she is the kunoichi of the snowpark and welcomes in the challenging battles of getting her technique and maneuvers down – she definitely has the war wounds to prove it too.
The Japanese theme is also appropriate because, although Canadian-born, Jess is half Japanese (she can’t speak Japanese but she can curse you out in French).
The adventure began even before the interview itself. Sweet but stealthy, I almost had to hunt her down as ninjaettes are extremely busy, you know. The last word of her came out of Mammoth – something she suggested about Skyping for her interview….but yet, she doesn’t have a Skype account she later admitted….but yet, her boyfriend does…but yet, it’s all f^&*ed up (as elegant ninja speak goes). It almost became as fun as a game of Shinobi.
Finally though – victory – as I cornered her and got the following top secret information from this superstar snowboarder who will be making a debut (as the only female rider) in Think Thank’s new snowboarding feature called, ‘Left Brain, Right Brain’ to be coming out this summer or fall. More on Kunoichi Kimura:
RRRG: Hi Jess, first tell us where you’re from – where were you born?
Jess: Vernon, British Columbia.
RRRG: Were you raised there too?
Jess: Yeah, I lived there until I was about 18…and now I live in Squamish, which is halfway between Vancouver and Whistler.
RRRG: How did you get into snowboarding?
Jess: Growing up, I had a pass from when I was like three years old at the local ski hill because it was really close. On the weekends, I would go skiing with my friends and we just got bored of it and we all started snowboarding…..but my friends were really slow and I got sick of waiting for them so I bought a snowboard at the ski shop for like $50 bucks – the worst one ever – and I just started. I sucked so bad the whole first year and never wanted to do it again but for some reason, in the second year, it picked up. I remember doing a back-flip off a little jump somebody made – and the feeling of doing that (when I couldn’t even turn toe-side yet) kind of got me hooked and made me think that I should keep going…
RRRG: This was in your first year that you tried to do a back-flip?!
Jess: Yeah – I couldn’t even turn yet….
RRRG: hahahaa…..awesome! How old were you when you started then?
Jess: I think I was like 13 or 14….I’m 23 now.
RRRG: So was there any particular person who really inspired you to stick with it?
Jess: At first it was probably this dude that was the best; his name is Tulsa. He was the best rider from all the mountains around where we were. His name is Tulsa Cameron and he kind of took me under his wing brought me to competitions and signed all my waivers, pretending to be my dad. He showed me how to snowboard for-real and not make excuses – so it was pretty cool; he was like my big brother.
RRRG: So when you first started getting the hang of riding, were you primarily riding with guys?
Jess: Yeah, except for my best friend, who I also started with; her name is Carla and we’ve been doing everything together forever pretty much.
RRRG: So were guys nice to you ladies?
Jess: They were cool because they saw us trying really hard. They would make fun of more the girls that would come up and make big claims and walk around like they were the sh*t – and then not prove anything. But Carla and I were always working just as hard, hiking just as hard, helping/building stuff and we were always out before them and going home after them; riding park all day. We were totally into it because we loved it.
RRRG: But have you been in a situation where the guys didn’t know you? And they second-guess your skills because you’re a female boarder?
Jess: I get in those situations all the time. More now than ever I think..
Jess: Oh yeah, because I’m out shooting and filming and in a situation where I’m filming a competition and I’m the only girl there. The guys don’t know who I am or don’t know anything about me and they’re like, ‘Oh are you so-and-so’s team manager or girlfriend?’…like, “Are you here to bring us water’? And that’s just something you deal with all the time but if it wasn’t for people like that I probably would have never gotten this far because I have a problem with trying to prove people wrong if they tell me I can’t do something. I deal with it all the time because I work in construction and I get that even more in that industry. I was laboring for a masonry company for a couple years and then I started doing my apprenticeship: turning bags of concrete, cement blocks, huge rocks…it’s not turning around plywood. I get the same kind of attitude from men – even 40 year old men – and you just have to prove them wrong.
RRRG: How do you get amped up into beginning a new, bold trick? Do you get nervous?
Jess: Yeah…mmmm..well, I don’t even notice what I feel anymore like, as far as bad feelings. I just focus on exactly what I’m going to do and stare down the jump or rail or whatever I’m going to do …..picture it first in my head and make myself turn my board and drop in (even when I’m not ready sometimes) – and once I know I’m going towards the point of no return, I know I can’t ditch out of it.
RRRG: You just go for it..
Jess: Yeah and pretty much not think about any of the bad stuff that could happen. Even if it’s not the trick that you wanted to do, making yourself go off the jump and just do something small and stupid to make sure you don’t let yourself just go up to it and stop. And then the next time do the same thing and the same thing and the same…you just want to make sure you go through with it at any state that you are in.
RRRG: Yeah…I can see how the repetition makes one more ‘comfortable’..especially for beginners. It’s good advice…you are in Mammoth right now? What are you guys doing there, are you competing?
Jess: Yeah, I’m in Mammoth. I don’t think I’m going to compete; Super Park is going on right now. so I’m filming.
RRRG: Oh cool! By the way, great PMS – Peep Show videos. What role do you play in that? Are you doing the filming in that as well?
Jess: PMS is just the name of their website. No, it’s not my creation…I just ride with those girls.
RRRG: They’re great webisodes – in #2, I see you crash on a metal tube and I cringe. ow……but then you get up and just do it over and over and over again; and you look confident and strong through the whole thing (even on the one you bit it on). So what’s up with competing? Do you enjoy it?
Jess: Yeah, I do. I’ve done a lot in the past – I used to do a lot of half-pipe contests and I raced motor cross, which is kinda funny….but I have done a million contests. I like contests if they’re created by somebody with a snowboarder mindset, not some guy in a suit who thinks he should put on a World Cup event, you know, like contests that are going to be fun and formatted mellow and ensure that the riders have fun too; I’m down for those kinds of competitions.
RRRG: Are these women’s events? Or are they coed?
Jess: They do both. A couple contests that I go to won’t have a girl’s category and it’s just about the best person winning.
RRRG: Which area is your home mountain?
Jess: Well, I’ve spent about one day riding at Whistler this year and maybe a week at Seymour down in the city in Vancouver. So I’d say Seymour but I’ve been pretty much on the road the whole winter. I don’t really have a home mountain this year.
RRRG: What kind of board are you currently riding on?
Jess: Capita Space Metal Fantasy
RRRG: Are you currently working on any new tricks or stunts?
Jess: Not really – just making sure that I’m really well-rounded. I’m going to make sure that before I learn 7’s or 9’s I know all four 540’s…making sure that I’m climbing the ladder properly and having my bases covered. I’m really stoked on hitting hip jumps lately – I’m trying to go big on those….and quarter pipes…anything with transition, I like.
RRRG: What did you think about this past winter Olympics? Do you think the snowboarding competitors get an equal amount of respect as the other competing athletes? There was some bit of negative news in the media this year and I won’t even bring it up specifically – but it was mostly related to the snowboarders.
Jess: Well, I think that’s what some of the snowboarders are asking for going into the Olympics and knowing what it is and how much politics is involved. Obviously, there is going to be a reaction because they’re…”snowboarders”. And this is like the “ski organization” and it’s run by a bunch of tight-asses. So if snowboarders want to enter into the Olympics, they should know what they’re getting into. I used to do national team stuff and compete in world cups and that’s the reason why I stopped all that sh*t. It sucks so bad to have some idiot telling you what to do when that’s kind of the antithesis of us riding in the first place. So if someone wants to compete in the Olympics, it’s cool, but they should understand what they’re getting into and know that it will be cheesy as hell.
RRRG: Now, you talk about ‘filming’ a lot….are you a filmmaker? Do you have any specific projects you’re working on?
Jess: I’m not a filmmaker..I just don’t have time for that right now but I film with my camera wherever I go and I have so much footage piled up and one day I’m going to compile it all but for now, I barely have enough time to sleep. But I’m always working on stuff like web videos – especially to help girls out that don’t get a chance to get a lot of exposure.
RRRG: What has your proudest moment been in snowboarding?
Jess: I think it hasn’t happened yet. I know that it will because a lot of the work for it is done. When my video part comes out for Think Thank this year that will be my proudest moment cause I put everything like my heart, my soul, my blood, my tears…and a lot of blood….filming that part. Like I’ve never worked that hard for anything in my life and all I wanted to do was film a part that was going to be super groundbreaking in the women’s industry and make people take girl’s snowboarding seriously again cause so many people it’s a joke right now and I don’t want it to continue. So we’ll see when that comes out in the summer or the fall. It will be the first time I’ll get to see all my footage together and my first real, legit role in a guy’s video.
RRRG: THAT is awesome. And I love how you are the opening scene of the trailer – sick. You’re the only female in the video. Do you do any film editing?
Jess: I didn’t for Think Thank – that’s their own thing. I help those girls a bit with the Peep Show stuff but it’s pretty much one or the other and that’s what those girls found out too because they were riders before they started that….. and now they realize if they want to make videos, they’ll pretty much have to quit snowboarding. You really can’t do both; it’s really a selfless thing to get involved in.
RRRG: Who are some of your greatest inspirations – snowboarding or otherwise.
Jess: Dave Carnie is one…who made Big Brother magazine. That was the first thing that I saw where I was like, ‘This sh*t is crazy.’. Some of the stuff he would say and write about in a sick skateboard magazine – so cool – and they did do snowboarding stuff back in the day. I think certain writers – because I really like writing – have been pretty inspirational to me. And then in snowboarding – Marie Francois – because she was the first girl to film a super legit video part. Was pretty sic…..
RRRG: So I want to know a little bit more about your background! Are you mix? Half Japanese?
Jess: Yeah….I’m half Japanese.
RRRG: Do you speak Japanese?
Jess: I wish I did….I speak like, not even a little bit of it. Every time when I meet people from Japan and I tell them I’m half Japanese, they get so stoked and they’re like, “Oh, you speak Japanese?” and I’m like, “Nah…..” but I speak French! That’s from snowboarding in Quebec so much – I really wanted to learn.
RRRG: That’s awesome….! Have you been to Japan?
Jess: No, I haven’t. I was supposed to go this year but it didn’t work out with my schedule. I went to Europe this year and then I’ve just been all over the States and Canada.
RRRG: So how do your parents feel about your snowboarding career? Are they freaked out or what?
Jess: Yeah, they’re freaked out. There was a really long time that, every two days, I’d get a phone call from the hospital (the people from the hospital knew me) just because I got hurt so much cause I was going so crazy on sh*t; I just can’t settle down a lot of the times and I got some really serious injuries a couple years ago; lacerated my liver and my ribs caved in.
RRRG: Holy sh*t. Doing what?
Jess: I over shot this thing, like a rail-over – like a step down jump but instead of a take-off there was an uprail so you had to gap over 40 feet. I went too fast, got stuck on the end of the rail and then just fell so hard on my face that my rib caved in and punctured my liver. I was in intensive care for a week and it was pretty gnarly……I just try not to tell my mom stuff and she doesn’t really watch me compete. I remember her coming to one competition and all I heard when I was in the air was her screaming. I just try to tell her the good things and pictures and not show her the bails or I’ll tell her to look away.
RRRG: Okay, well hope she doesn’t read this interview. hahaa…When you do get injured like that…..what keeps you going? After you’re all healed, what is it that makes you want to go back out again?
Jess: I think a good question would be more like what would make me stop. I don’t see any reason to. I never have. Someone asked me the other day, ‘What’s wrong with you? Every time you get hurt, you just go harder…are you stupid or something?’. And I thought, ‘Am I stupid?’. I think I’m just super driven in snowboarding. All I can think about when I AM hurt is how I can’t wait to get back out and I’m not thinking, ‘this hurts, this sucks.’. I just can’t stop for some reason.
RRRG: Well, stay in one piece please – so you can keep riding. :) So….your boyfriend. Does he ride too?
RRRG: Would you date a guy who wasn’t riding as well as you?
Jess: Yeah, I think I have…but I mean, a dude that didn’t even care about snowboarding. He was more like a skater….as long as he skates better than me.
Jess: It’s gotta be one or the other..
RRRG: Yeah, for some reason I can’t picture Jess Kimura with a dude that can’t stand on his board. Who are some of your sponsors?
Jess: Capita, 32 Boots, Etnies shoes, Nixon watches, Electric Goggles, Union binding
RRRG: What are your other hobbies when you’re not riding?
Jess: Skateboarding, playing guitar, play drums badly, art, working, powertools/building/construction type of stuff – I love building everything and anything; all the furniture in my house I built, I built a ramp for my car.
RRRG: You are truly rad Jess. You really represent for females just going out and doing it and not living with how societal traditions define how a “girl” should be. Thanks so much for this interview and all you’re doing to have women recognized in snowboarding. We wish you the best of luck and we will be watching you!
Interview by Christine Cauble