Meet Brandon DesJarlais; business student, photographer, and professionally-sponsored downhill longboarder. The Oregon native has been lucky enough to spend the last few years traveling the world to skate down hills, but now he’s decided to come back to Earth and finish his studies at Portland State University. Now he’s faced with the challenge of chasing that downhill adrenaline rush while living in a city and leading a busy life… sounds familiar, right?
Q: We’ve seen your videos, and they’re insane. How exactly did you get into downhill?
A: Super randomly. Like any middle-school kid, I didn’t know what I wanted in life, or even what I wanted for my birthday that year. A classmate recommended I get a longboard. Prior to this encounter, I’ve never really heard of longboarding and it didn’t seem particularly interesting. I then found out that my best friend’s older brother was super into it, and was eager to help us discover the sport. That summer, over twenty kids in my area started boarding, always pushing each other to go down bigger and badder hills. It was all about who could conquer the next crazy run first, and who could do it the fastest. This was probably the most exciting and terrifying summer of my life!
Q: Everyone with a brain can see that it’s dangerous, but what keeps you skating down hills?
A: With a combination of both calculated risk and luck, I’ve never been seriously injured or hospitalized from bombing hills (plenty of road rash though). I’m more the type to go behind everyone else and take it chill when skating open roads. When I know the conditions and can control the many variables, that’s when I open up the throttle and push myself to the limit. The pure joy and excitement I get from riding is what keeps me coming back, and I can’t imagine letting an injury stop me. Whether it be riding down gnarly mountain passes or cruising through the streets, I simply love being on a board.
Q: What does flow mean to you? Would you use that word in describing the way that skating feels?
A: Flow, to me, is the seamless integration of style, power, and grace. Many riders are so focused on tricks and what their board does that they seem to miss out on that feeling of absolutely flying down a hill. Flow is a subconscious thing, the rawest form of expression on a board. It’s something you can really only achieve when you’ve been developing and refining your skills for so long that the actual act of skating is able to leave the forefront of your mind, and you can focus on everything else around you.
Q: You’re a downhill racer and you star in all kinds of downhill videos, but is there more to your job than just skating?
A: Much more. Four years ago, I began working as the team manager for Moonshine MFG, a performance longboard deck manufacturer based in Hood River, OR. They’ve given me the opportunity to compete at the highest level and gain invaluable business experience through various trade shows, marketing efforts, and more. A little over two years ago, I was blessed with the unique opportunity to stunt double for Vin Diesel in his latest film: xXx 3: Return of Xander Cage.
Skating was a hobby that I never wanted to stop doing, and I always hoped I could turn it into a career, although I didn’t really think it would be possible. So I kept at it just for the love and passion of it, not for any reward or promise of success. And then these past few years have been a really pivotal time, where I began to realize, “Hey, this is real, you can do this”.
Q: How important is content creation in your line of work? How did you get into it?
A: With longboarding especially, content creation is everything. It’s the single most important asset to companies in our community. In 2013, when I started to take my talent a bit more seriously, I started carefully considering what all the top riders were doing. One thing that seemed apparent was the constant flow of incredible content. I studied social media and analyzed market trends; what was popular, who was sharing the best content, who was responding and engaging with it... I set a goal for myself to take photos at least once a week and to post about my longboarding adventures every day.
Q: What’s the photo/video process like? Do you plan everything out or is it more about winging it and seeing how it goes?
A: As I was studying video and photography throughout school, I was very structured. I’d create storyboards and shot lists and really enjoyed the planning process. At times, the mental image of how something could look was more exciting than actually going and doing it. I’ve still got a handful of fun video ideas stashed away somewhere at my parent’s house. Recently, I’ve been much more lax with how I run things. I really enjoy the challenge of formulating a story and piecing together shot variety on the go and with limited time.
What’s been really fun is skating and filming in the same places for longer periods of time, rather than dashing from place to place as fast as possible to capture all the best runs. By focusing on a single area, you actually start to learn a lot about lighting, and how the same place can be dramatically different at different times of the day. Skating around Downtown Portland, all of these buildings turn into reflectors at certain hours, and it transforms my environment into a professional studio of sorts!
Q: I know you went on the Euro Tour this past summer, could you describe what that experience was like? And what’s the next destination?
A: Incredible. I’ve planned trips around Europe for almost 100 days every single year since 2016, and each trip has been its own unique adventure. Aside from all the skateboarding events, this Summer I spent most of my time between Berlin, Mallorca, and Paris.
For now, I’m a bit locked down with my studies in Portland. Although, I will be doing my usual 4 week trip down the West Coast this December to escape our notoriously rainy Oregon conditions. It’s still early days, but we’re starting to plan for a several month trip to China for next summer!
Q: Skating is obviously your main hobby & job, but is it also just the way you get around?
A: Every day! Full send through city streets is one of my absolute favorite things to do. Dodging traffic, slaloming pedestrians, and hitting the occasion urban hill bomb gets me soooo pumped. I’m a quick thinker and often my mind is anxious for something more stimulating, something to challenge and put it to the test. Commuting through the city like I do is truly a mentally and physically taxing endeavor, and I definitely don’t recommend to just anyone.
Q: How does the M1 complement your downhill skating? How similar is your racing setup to your M1?
A: Both work together such a beautiful and symbiotic harmony. My skill set from downhill skateboarding allows me to push the limit of what my Inboard can handle. The boards I use for competition are surprisingly similar to the M1; all I did was upgrade the bushings to fine tune the steering and make it a little more nimble, but the stability and stiffness of the board is what sets it apart from the rest. The fact that this thing can stand up to my abuse is impressive to say the least. It’s both a blast to ride, and a practical tool that allows me to avoid traffic and climbing hills myself.
The magical part of the Inboard is that I can take 2 steps out my door, throw down the board and blast up to the very top of the infamous “Zoobomb” in the west hills of Portland. From there, it’s a few miles downhill back into the city. The accessibility and ease of use allows me to inject a little bit of that downhill thrill into my errand running and trips to class, which for an adrenaline junkie like me, is an amazing thing.