Max Wippermann is Smart, Fast and DTF
Max Wippermann is definitely a do-it-his-way kinda guy and has been that way since I met him. Possibly most well known these days for things like his fuck switch opinion, spikes in his board for traction (versus grip tape alone), and now his first place podium at Soldiers of Downhill last week, if you just youtube him a second, you’ll start to realize how influential Max has been in helping shape the downhill scene in the Pacific Northwest for years as a youth. Now living in upstate New Your for college, Max is riding Washington homegrown brands Omen Longboards and Free Wheel Co along with Venom, Rogue and Garmin. While most skaters at Max’s level have skate sponsors, Max is always DTF (down to film) and has leveraged his extensive video profile to work with Garmin and not only capture his footage, but some of the details like speed and elevation change during the run as well. We hit up Max after his Soldier’s win and the release of his video from the final heat to catch up and find out more.
Hey Max, congrats on Soldiers of Downhill! That’s a pretty fast track right?
Thanks, Les! Soldiers is pretty wicked. It has what I like to call a “technical straightaway”, meaning it’s always curving left, right, up and down. Then there’s a wicked fast chicane towards the bottom that really seperates the men from the boys. Full tuck into that thing is pretty horrifying. We were bumpin close to 60mph in the final heat.
You’ve been racing for some time now, you’ve been to soldiers before?
This was my third year racing Soldiers. I got 2nd in 2013, 3rd in 2014 and took the win this year.
What are the fastest, gnarliests races in your opinion right now? Does Soldiers make the cut?
Soldiers is definitely a pretty gnarly race, mostly because of how narrow and rough the pavement can be at points. I often tell people, there are chill places to go 60 and there are scary places to go 60. You definitely have to be on your A-game to hold it down at that speed at Soldiers. Angie’s Curves, although it’s been discontinued was easily the most balls-to-the-wall race I’ve ever been to. We pick up speed so quickly on that straightaway and continue to speed up all the way until a huge right-hand drifter. Major adrenaline rush there.
I really enjoy point-of-view race footage from during race heats, but lots of riders seem to hate wearing cameras. You seem to be DTF (down to film!) and always on it. How did you manage the Garmin partnership and why Garmin vs Go Pro or other cameras?
I’ve been DTF since the beginning, mostly because I love watching the footage myself. I get to go home after a race and relive each heat, analyze where I went wrong or right and improve myself for future racing. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in the footage that I find myself leaning forward into my computer screen like I’m trying to tuck harder. It brings the adrenaline of racing back home with me. I’m stoked that other people enjoy watching it too.
Partnering up with Garmin was an awesome opportunity. Garmin is known for their work with GPS units and they’ve carried that technology over into action sports cameras. The idea is that athletes have a story to tell and the more information we can give our audience, the better of a story we can generate. I think this video from Soldiers really illustrates that. It becomes way more apparent where we put it on the line when you can see exactly how fast we were going.
Do you have a favourite raw run from this year we might have missed and should watch?
This video of the consolation finals from Killington, Vermont is a pretty fun one to watch. Killington has a HUGE straightaway before the finish line and it can be strategic to not be in first place coming into that. If you position yourself in second or third place, you can have a great draft to make the pass before the finish line. The tactic is called sandbagging and is generally frowned upon. Fun way to race though.
Is Soldiers one of your last races of the year or are you heading on to the South American IDF tour? Aren’t you in University?
Soldiers was my last race for 2015. I’m studying Advertising and Public Relations at Rochester Institute of Technology in Upstate New York. We have a long winter ahead of us.
Is finding time for skating a tough balance against school?
It hasn’t been too bad. My summers are completely free to travel and I’ve been able to hit the Euro Tour three years in a row now. I miss a few events per year because of school, but it really hasn’t been as big of an issue as I thought it would be. I remember I was absolutely dreading going to college because it would cut into my skate time, but if anything, I have more time to skate in college than I did in high school. High school totally sucked.
You’re from Washington, so Winter skating is really just wet skating? The weather at school isn’t exactly helpful for winter season skating is it?
I am originally from Seattle and the winter season is incredibly wet. Not too cold, just very rainy. Winter skating in Seattle actually played a crucial part in my development as a skater. I’m very good at racing in the rain and my board control has benefitted a lot because of it, even in the dry.
Winter in Rochester is rough. It is definitely the biggest thing holding me back from skating as much as I’d like. Rochester’s winter lasts most of November through March, sometimes even April. I think it was the month of February this year that went above freezing temperature for a whopping six hours total. It’s a pretty depressing time to live in upstate New York.
What was the move from Washington like in general? Do you miss your local runs at all? Have you found a new crew to skate with at school?
I’ve got a few homies up here that I skate with, but the scene is pretty small. If I do get to ride downhill, they’re usually solo runs. That said, I make it out to a ton of events on the East coast, almost more than I can handle. I think I’ve been to four events in the past five weeks. This weekend I finally have off and I can’t wait to Netflix and chill.
It was a bummer to leave Seattle. That’s really where everything took off for me as a skater. All of my homies are there and I definitely miss my local runs.
With the move, I’ve picked up a few new hobbies like riding fixies and playing disc golf to fill the void. At this point, I feel pretty confident that I could live anywhere in the world and have an enjoyable life.
I forget that Loryn Roberson and you are a couple sometimes and at the same school too? You traveled together this season across the USA and then to Europe?
Loryn and I actually got engaged in January! She graduated from Central Michigan University with a degree in Public Relations, same thing I’m studying. She helps me with my homework sometimes.
We had a crazy summer living out of our new van, the Wippervan and then we took our 16 year old Omen teammate and stepchild, Edward Kiefer to Europe with us to race in Norway and the Czech Republic. After we got back from Europe, we continued to live out of the van for another month before we were able to move into our apartment in Rochester. It was about three months on the road all together. We survived.
Wow, congrats! Do you two get out and skate together much? What is it like balancing skating together vs just ‘dating’?
Loryn and I board all over the place here in Rochester, mostly for transportation. When we’re at races though, we kind of split up and do our own thing. I get pretty in-the-zone and competitive and she loves talking and catching up with everybody. We have a pretty good system.
I’ve seen some couples competitive sporting events lately, what about a team event for couples downhill racing? Would you and Loryn win? Want to call out another couple for a pink slips race and we can set it up?!
I would imagine couples downhill skating to be more like figure skating or synchronized swimming. We could twirl our partners around make cool formations while going down the hill. I would definitely get Kyle Wester and Spoky Woky on our team.
Power couples for sure! With the season winding down and you back in school, do you have some goals in mind for the coming year? Hit the gym? Work on skating switch? Package and sell Wipperman Spikes?!
Definitely gotta stay in shape this winter, so I’ll be at the gym. Switch can take a hike, I’ve been over that stage of my life for almost five years now haha.
Wippermann Spikes are too easy to DIY for anyone to sell. That’s kind of the beauty of it. It costs less than a dollar to cover your board in spikes if that’s what you want to do. As long as they’re still called Wippermann Spikes, that’s cool with me.
A photo posted by Max Wippermann (@maxwippermann) on
Any shout outs? Parting words? Sponsors to mention?
Huge shoutout to Omen Longboards and Free Wheel Co. for allowing me to get out to more races than I ever have before. Nate Blackburn, Eddie King and Matt, the owner, have all been awesome to work with and I’m proud to rep my local Seattle brand. Dreams came true this year. Venom and Rogue kill it. Both companies make products that I truly believe in and Justin Rolo is pretty much the sickest team manager anyone could ask for, just gotta watch out for sack-taps when we’re getting roudy haha. Garmin has also been huge in getting me set up with cameras so I can record my race heats. Downhill racing footage is difficult to come by sometimes and I’m stoked I can be bringing epic footage with GPS overlays to make them more exciting.
Stoked to catch up with you Max and really happy for you on the win, congrats again.