David Benedek's Current State
Whether it's bending rules in the air (first frontside double cork 1260 anyone?) or in his genre-busting films, from Robot Food's "Afterbang," "Lame" and "Afterlame" to "91 Words for Snow," Germany's David Benedek has long been one of snowboarding's most creative forces. Feb. 6 saw the official launch of Benedek's most recent undertaking, "Current State: Snowboarding" -- a book that is so much more than a book and a true testament to the man's talent. Written, edited and designed by Benedek, "Current State" is 450 pages, covering snowboarding's most influential characters, interviewed, exposed and assembled to offer a window into shredding in the here and now.
From Jake Burton to Mike Basich to Scotty Wittlake, the culture's architects, luminaries and harshest critics are given an intelligent platform from which to examine snowboarding, helped along by world-class imagery and design. The book is actually two full-sized books that are fused at the edge of the back cover (see photo below), which makes every epic spread into a four-page feast for the senses. Expect a design award or two.
Knowing that nobody else in snowboarding could have pulled off this project with Benedek's trademark intelligence and light touch, we hit him up in Munich to find out how he's feeling now that "Current State" is actually in his mitts, three years after he first started working on it.
ESPN: What did it feel like when you opened up that first copy from the printers?
David Benedek: It's been quite the process. [Laughs] With such a long and elaborate project there are so many teeny steps in between before seeing a final product. So it's not such a big surprise because you observe every single step, basically. However, it's a pretty incredible feeling to see something you imagine actually become a physical reality.
That moment is probably the only reason why it might be worth putting so much effort into any one thing because, really, 90 percent of creating I find to be a terrible and agonizing procedure …
When did you start thinking about doing this project and when did you start working on it in earnest?
I started thinking about wanting to do a book, or actually wanting to do this specific book, about three or four years ago. It took me a good six months to narrow down the concept and find someone to invest money into it, which really wasn't very easy since it's obviously not a very economic undertaking. I started my interviews in late summer of 2009.
How many people did you interview, all told, and did all of them end up in the book?
I did about five or six pre-interviews with people I personally knew had a good overall perspective on snowboarding, simply to narrow down the focus of what I wanted to talk about. Those weren't for the actual book. I then ended up interviewing about 26 or 27 people, of which I think 23 were published in the book.
Name three "must read" interviews.
Shaun Palmer, because it's just friggin' awesome to hear him talk about the early days. Scotty Wittlake, because he's one of the most interesting and intelligent guys out there. Jesse Burtner, because he's got one of the healthiest and most reflected views on snowboarding.
Did the tone or scope or vibe of the book change as you got under way?
Yeah, that actually did. I think I started with a slightly more subjective look that also had to do with me growing out of professional snowboarding and wondering how snowboarding has changed for me personally since I began in the late '80s.
The more people I talked to the wider and more objective my view became, I think. Or I hope so, at least … I guess, overall, I wasn't entirely aware how healthy snowboarding was as a culture before talking to so many different people from so many different areas of snowboarding.
To what degree do you feel like you succeeded, from "I'm gonna do this" to finished product?
I actually feel pretty good about the final product. One thing that's really great about working on a print product versus a film is that it's static. If you don't like something, you can always go back and change it. In film you can't just re-shoot everything, especially if it's a documentary. So, in general, I think you can reach a much higher degree of what you set out for with graphic design than you can do with most other creative disciplines.
The flip-side being a ten-fold of potential to torture yourself by supposing a seemingly "better" result is somewhere else. So it's almost an endless process. That's certainly a reason why I took two years for the design process.
This is a very limited edition book -- 2,000 copies, with 1,000 pre-booked. What made you release it in such a special run?
Well, the book is very expensive and elaborate to produce and that's obviously nothing you can maintain with a huge print run. So I figured it'd be nicer to have a very limited product that would sell out quick and not have to worry too much about distribution. As long as the right people get a copy of the book I am content. [Ed. You have our address, right?!] Half of my print run was pre-reserved anyway, over a year ago, so right now I am basically just selling out the remaining copies. It's been pretty rad to see how many people want a copy.
Are you proud of what you've accomplished?
Yeah, I think I am a little proud. Not necessarily because of the end product but more in regard to having been able to push through this project and make it to an end that's somewhat close to my ambition. It's been a lot of work. Far more than I anticipated.
So what is snowboarding's Current State?
Oh, it's pretty good. There are so many active and vibrant little pockets in snowboarding -- people that are in it for the right reasons, innovating and pushing it into a very good future. I think we just occasionally get a little distracted by some of the mainstream stuff that's out there, but overall, I think we're doing great. Order your copy now for 89 Euros or wait a week and get one for $500 on eBay … Your call.