The first time we came in contact with Brian Seaward was immediately following a 68cm snowstorm that had locked us down at Strawberry Hill Resort on Newfoundland's west coast for two and a half days. My Father, three of my uncles (Dominic, Pat and Allan) and the three Smallwood boys (Ramsay, Bill and Joey) were anxious to start their snowmobile trip but none of our usual guides were willing to tackle the deep snow.
“… following a 68cm snowstorm”
At that time we were operating Strawberry Hill as a ski resort and we had zero interest in sledding – often mocking the poor “Sled Heads” who did. Sleds were poorly designed and were terribly unreliable in those days. Worse, they simply couldn’t deliver the kind of fun we were having on our skis.
Needless to say, I had no interest in riding myself so I looked about the local community where all hands pointed to a young man named Brian Seaward. Not that his endorsement didn’t come without misgivings – “Oh yeah – Brian will take them. He won’t be concerned with the amount of snow. And he’s strong enough to lug the lot of em home on his back let alone get their sleds unstuck. Young fellow can sure ride. Cracked he is!”
“… he's strong enough to lug the lot of em”
I arranged for him to meet the boys at the Irving station in Pasadena and once they were underway we (ny cousin Daniel and the rest of our guests) headed towards Marble Mountain for an epic day of skiing. The snow was incredibly deep and we had every mogul run to ourselves. We laid fresh tracks on every descent before we went back and made perfect eights out of each line. By days end we were absolutely radiant – fresh air and the exhilaration of a “once in a lifetime” snow day has that kind of effect.
When we got back to the camp I was somewhat surprised to find my father and the rest of the crew in a rather somber state. They weren’t engaged in their usual banter; no laughs, no talking – hardly even a single criticism shared. They actually seemed rather numbed, so when I asked about their ride I did so with apprehension – wondering about all the things that could have gone wrong with their day.
“… could have gone wrong with their day.”
They answered without any of their usual passion;
“Good boy – lots of snow!”
So I went right for the jugular with what I believed to be the most probable source of concern;
“How was your guide?”
They simply shook their heads;
“Boy never saw anything like that before. Young fellow is some good rider!”
Not the response I was expecting for I assumed he was riding too quickly, got astray, or worse – spent the entire day stuck in the deep snow. So I asked;
“What do you mean good rider? Better than me?”
They knew better than to answer that straight up;
“Boy – you’ve just never seen anything like it. You can’t compare him to anyone or anything you’ve ever experienced. You know how you head up a steep hill and eventually you just run out of speed and have to turn back down? Well he hauls the sled up on one ski, changes direction and just keeps climbing higher. I’m telling you – never seen nothing like it. That kid is wild! And strong! We’d be stuck on a hill and he’d ride right up alongside, stick his sled in the snow, throw you around and pluck you free before jumping right back on his sled to head even further up the hill to get the next fellow out. I’m telling you – He’s not normal”
“… he's not normal”
No doubt, I was a bit put out. The reason I gave up sledding was because I got bored with the machines limitations and discovered a whole new world in skiing. But to hear my father sing the praises of another rider – someone that could outperform me – well I just had to see this for myself.
The next day I called Brian to explain what the boys had to say about his riding and asked if he would be available to take me out for a run.
To make certain I wasn’t going to be left behind I rented the fastest sled I could find at the local bombardier dealer; A Formula Z 583 Triple, Triple. I found a nice big pair of army mitts, broke out my down filled lumber jacket and donned an old fur skin cap.
Can you imagine my surprise when Brian showed up on this space age machine that was about the same size as a big dirt bike; a 1996 Yamaha Phazer Mountain Lite. She was really nothing more than an engine and track – but oh what a track. I’d never seen anything quite like this. It was 136” in length and boasted 1.5” paddle lugs which looked more like tractor cleats when you compared it to the “conveyor belt” on the bombardier.
His dress was also unusual for a typical sledder. He wore a fitted two piece suit made of heavy cordura material, light mechanix gloves, a pair of thickly padded snowboard boots and topped it all off with a motocross helmet.
“… pouncing through the snow pillows”
On Brian’s command we left the resort and I tucked in neatly behind him – anxious for the first opportunity to find a wider section of trail so I could blow right by him. That never happened for we were hardly off the property when he zipped off the main trail into a tightly turning rabbit path that zig zagged up through the steeply wooded hillside. He darted between the trees, pouncing through the snow pillows like an arctic hare. There was no following his tracks and only for the fact that he exhibited a bizarre “stand up” riding position, I was at least able to keep an eye on his helmet as it grew further and further away.
Eventually we emerged in a clearing where Brian proceeded to bank the machine in a wide circle, building up his momentum for a steep incline along a narrow cute between a rock face and the encroaching tree line. It was an amazing performance and I pulled up short to watch the spectacle unfold. No sooner had he mastered the chute when he turned about and came right back towards us – not in the chute mind you, but instead launching off the rock face where he dropped about 25’, plopped through two drifts and then yanked hard on the bars to ride out another banked turn before shooting back up through the chute for a second time.
By now I had shut my sled off and simply watched in amazement as he twisted and twirled his sled around the clearing, through the woods, and over every obstacle in sight. No, I had never witnessed the like and from that moment on I knew this was something I wanted to do more than anything.
More importantly, having spent a lifetime absorbing every ‘Warren Miller’ and ‘Greg Stump’ extreme ski film – I figured I’d discovered a whole new genre of action sports to develop and utilize as a fulfillment piece for the resort. No more telling people about the experience they could expect at Strawberry Hill – from here on we’d be selling it to them.
Though it took us a couple of years to launch (I had to learn how to ride after all and ended up chasing Brian for two winters) we finally started the Boondockers video series. Of course we were completely unaware of Sled Necks, Roops of Hazard or 2SCS but even after we saw their head start – we knew we were making something completely different and decided to carry on.
Today Boondockers is based in Salt Lake City Utah where it has developed a strong and loyal team of participants, followers, fans and friends – which is pretty much the same way I think about Brian and Boondockers everywhere
Looking forward to riding with Brian and his 14 year old son Lucas this weekend – I hear he’s every bit as cagey on the sled as his Dad.
Sweat your brains out boys!