The History of Internet Snowboarding: Part One | The full story of YOBEAT w/ Brooke Geery
In the grand scheme of things snowboarding is a VERY young sport. We’re still seeing our first generation of pro’s out there riding, we’re still dealing with basic issues like how many spins are too many, are contests cool, are tight or baggy pants more cool, etc. We’re still getting used to the minor up and down cycle of the industry that doesn’t mean snowboarding is dead and we’re still trying to hold onto our original DIY identity that corporations, big contests, mainstream owned snow media, and others try to strip away. One of the original websites to really tap into this feeling (and also really one of the original snowboard websites period!) was started by a then young teenager named Brooke Geery in 1997 on 2MB’s and a prayer. It was called YOBEAT. Brooke was a spunky little brat from the Ice Coast not afraid to tell it as she saw it. As the Internet grew from it’s rudimentary beginnings, so did the website. Once the mid-late 00’s hit Yobeat was putting out hilarious content that sometimes pissed off pro snowboarders and helped to push the corporate snow websites to step up their original content and daily update game.
Yobeat was taking over. Pro’s were writing the articles. They released a print magazine. They made a video. They released merch. They broke stories like ‘The Burton Letter’ that other websites wouldn’t touch.
Then after SNOWBOARDER MAG and TWSnow merged into one corporate monster, and large contests and started gaining ground as the underground started to submerge, right when we needed the renegade voice of Yobeat most, the site seemed to disappear. The daily unique content was replaced with heaps of uninspired web edits and a social media program. Then articles started popping up that were years old. What the hell was going on?
So I hit up Yobeat’s founder Brooke Geery to find out what the deal was.
Turns out she’s been off it for ages and makes a living through driving uber and lyft and AirBnB rentals. What happened? Where did her legendary daily drive go? Is snowboarding dead? Did she become a reclusive Portland cat lady? Did JP Walker smash her kneecaps out? We had to find out!!!
So we talked. We talked for hours and hours and all these questions were answered. But not just about Yobeat’s recent activities. We started back in 1997 when the Internet and snowboarding were just getting touchy feely. Interestingly enough, Brooke’s career path mirrored much of its growth and more. SNOWBOARDER on-line, X-Games and Grenade in their heydays, Burton scandals, TWSnow: Brooke had poked a finger into all of it, crossing paths with nearly every pro snowboarder, media personality, and industry bigwig in the process. The interview we ended up with basically covers the history of the Internet in snowboarding. And love it or hate it, don’t deny that Yobeat played a huge part in it.
Now that the $$$ pressure is relieved through uber’ing and lyft’ing, Brooke is looking at bringing Yobeat back! Look out
So grab a drink, put on some music, and settle in for a ride through the history of snowboarding on the Internet and the history of YoBeat through the lens of its founder Brooke Geery. This one’s a two-parter and strictly for the snowboard nerds. Look for the second piece tomorrow…..
YOBEAT Interview Part 1
Board Rap: So let’s start near the beginning. Most know the basics. Around 1997, AOL, small scale, etc. But how did Yobeat really get its foot into the industry’s ass?
Brooke Geery: Yeah, AOL came on disks and cost $3 an hour. It also came with 2mb of free web space, which I, along with my friend Rachel, who I’d met in the AOL chatroom “Snowboarding Online,” used to start the zine that would inevitably become the YoBeat people know and love to hate. It’s a long story so hold on tight.
No rush. Let’s hear it all.
SOL was one of the earliest snowboard resources online and in 1996, it was a pretty small circle. Accordingly, my media prowess caught the eye of Lee Crane and Shanti Sosienski and before I knew it they were hiring me to write stories about snowboarding for their web portal. Later SOL was taken over by Transworld’s then-parent company, and all that content became what is now TWSnow.com. So just like that, I wrote for Transworld.
I grew up Rutland, Vermont and it was easy to travel around to all the events, which in the mid-90s there were a ton of. I was also competing and riding for Original Sin, so I sort of just wound up in the mix. I would post things on the Internet for fun, and occasionally make some waves on message boards or however people communicated back then.
Right, the glory days of the 90’s.
When I was 17 I had graduated from high school a year early to “be a pro snowboarder,” but I tore my ACL doing two big air contests in one day, and then broke my ankle on the other leg skateboarding right before I was supposed to have surgery, and realized maybe my energy was better suited towards writing about snowboarding than doing it.
Damn I wonder what percentage of the snowboard industry got there because of injuries and not being able to ‘go pro.’ So many.
Most, probably. Instead of hucking myself off jumps, I worked at a video store in Killington, did various projects for the mountain marketing, wrote some stuff for TWSnow and it was awesome. In the spring of 1999, Rob Campbell, then editor of Snowboarder Magazine called me up and said, “Hey, we need a web editor. Your name came up.”
I was planning on going to college and didn’t really want to live in SoCal, but I’ve never been one to turn down an opportunity. I talked them into letting me intern and got them to pay me, making me the first paid intern at Snowboarder, ever. That was a crazy summer that I could spend three hours telling stories about, but just imagine an 18-year-old me living in a condo with a recently-divorced Mark Sullivan, a dude I referred to as the “gay Canadian” and Ethan Stone Fortier who literally ran Tech Nine out of a cave thing in our living room. I also got to go on a dream date with JJ Thomas for journalistic purposes.
When my internship was over, I moved back east, went to college at Plymouth State, which happened to coincide with the first of two years that the Blue Lodge was a thing, (although not the better of the two.) However, there was a really strong snowboard scene and I’d argue one of the best crews to come out of NH while I was there. I won’t name drop unless you make me, but it was a great group of dudes and dudettes, many of whom are still actively involved in snowboarding. That said, I’ve never really been a fan of being right in the middle of “the scene” and I actually wanted to move to Mt. Baker and snowboard my way through college at Western Washington University. I transferred after my freshman year.
That next summer, my old pal Shanti had scored a gig at Bluetorch TV, which was essentially the precursor to FuelTV, and she offered me another, much better paying internship and I moved back to So Cal that summer.
So you went from TWSnow to Snowboarder, which was totally separate?
TWS and Snowboarder were totally different than they are now, in competition not owned by the same mega-corp. Snowboarder was part of Surfer Pubs and was definitely more my vibe. TWS has always been the more corpo mag and I think Times Mirror or AOL or someone owned them at that point.
Lee Crane, who ran TWS online for years, and really built them to be the snowboard web behemoth they became, was always bummed because I was, “working for the competition.”
But then like now, it’s a small world and everyone who works at the mags were friends. Things were a lot more interconnected than anyone wanted to admit. Definitely different times. I don’t want to say the good old days but….I also used to get paid $.25 per word for snowboard web content.
Vanity Fair prices! Before we move onto your story. What were snowboard websites like in the late -90s? They must have been basic compared to now.
Well, there were only a couple and they were pretty rudimentary. I mean, all the old issues of Yobeat are still online. There was a lot of bright colored text on bright colored backgrounds.It’s honestly hard to remember, but in general it was words and photos, not videos, because there wasn’t enough bandwidth. All of the discussion was done in chat rooms or message boards, there were no comments and no social media. Not even Myspace.
Yeah I guess you couldn’t be dropping 5-min long edits every hour throughout the day back then. And also the snowboard industry wasn’t doing that itself yet, still on the annual video release schedule.
You couldn’t even host animated gifs at this point.
I remember making my first animated gifs at Bluetorch, which I was just about to tell you about.
So they were like actual web magazines.
Initially, Yobeat came out in issues, but we transitioned to a mag-style layout after I was done with high school/snowboard bumming. Things changed really quickly. I would have been Snowboarder’s first web editor. I honestly don’t remember who they ended up hiring – I feel like it still took a couple years at that point. The web wasn’t important or a consideration for snowboarding yet because not enough people were on it, ya know?
“The web wasn’t important or a consideration for snowboarding yet because not enough people were on it, ya know?”
Totally. Still print mags and September video releases.
When I interned at Snowboarder I didn’t even have Internet on my computer – which was a laptop that I brought from home. All I did was play asteroids all day. haha.
Let’s drop some names to put reference to the time period. Are we talking early Grenade days? Pat Moore? Bridges still in the East Coast scene?
Ok, At Snowboarder, Pat Bridges showed up on his way to go to New Zealand and asked me if he could borrow my computer for his trip. This is the computer I used for work. He used to borrow it when we both lived in Rutland (I was 16) to write his assignments.
Ross Powers won his first Olympic medal (a bronze) the year before I interned at Snowboarder. I remember because they made him a fake Wheaties box cover and we answered angry letters about it.
Grenade was just getting going – I remember Matt Kass rolling through the next summer ranting about it.
Pat Moore was basically a fetus. Lucas Magoon was like 9 years old and following us around Killington.
That Matt Kass Hump Day interview you guys did was wild.
lol thanks. A classic.
Ok. so you’d transferred to Baker, then back to SoCal.
So yeah I transferred to Western, but made another pitstop in SoCal to work for Bluetorch.
And this whole time slowly building up Yobeat?
Yobeat was sort of like my personal blog, and I happened to be into snowboarding. I would update when I was inspired or something interesting happened around me. It honestly depended on where I was living and who I was hanging out with how often I updated etc. I was basically working as a freelance writer so Yobeat kinda became the home for the stuff no one else wanted, and I just kept at it while I went through college.
I mean, I remember pissing people off at Plymouth because I posted that I didn’t like getting vibed out at the mountain (a belief I still hold) and then posted a bunch of responses. That was actually one of the points in time Yobeat was on fire. We’d just switched from “issues” to the “magazine-style” layout where you have a bunch of fixed links on the page. So I could post whenever I wanted. I was still hand coding HTML, but it was easier than before.
I also ran the PSC snowboard club website. Basically if it had to do with snowboarding and the Internet I ended up doing it. But I was always more focused on my life and these other jobs than Yobeat. It was 100% a passion project and I didn’t really think anyone cared.
“It was 100% a passion project and I didn’t really think anyone cared.”
So once it went more ‘web’ style it started taking off more. Where are we now like mid-00’s? And there was never any talk about working for Snowboarder or TWS again?
No. It didn’t take off until 2008. You’re skipping ahead too much.
Got it, but you never did go back to work at traditional snowboard media right?
This was 2000, and the beginning of the first dot com boom. Bluetorch was some tech company with way too much money and it was an awesome gig. I ended up being more of an editor than an intern, and Mike Artz and I had a blast spending some random corporation’s money all summer. We got to go to Brohm Ridge, which was this amazing Canadian halfpipe camp way up in the middle of nowhere and I remember getting to hang out with Victoria Jealouse there! We did Hood right, stayed at the Burton demo center, partied with a 9-year-old Shaun White and his mom, and hiked the halfpipe (it was pre rope tows.) That was also the summer I pissed off the Wildcats cause I called them a “snowboard frat.” But let’s be real – rich kids with nice clothes who loved to party and snowboard – sounds like a frat to me! I actually love all those guys though, and aside from some colorful emails, but I’m actually industry bros with most of the guys to this day. At the end of that summer I had managed to convince Bluetorch to keep paying me to run their snowboard site with Mike while I finished school, but unfortunately they were bleeding money and laid off pretty much the entire web staff the day before I was supposed to leave.
Whatever though, I moved to Bellingham, went to western, got a Baker pass and a journalism degree. I was still doing some stuff for Snowboarder and TWS here and there. Snowboarder had me write the token girl column the “you know what in a ski town” for like two issues until they decided they didn’t like it and gave it to Susie Floros.
Then I started writing Tiny Type for Transworld and did that for two seasons, I think.
“That was also the summer I pissed off the Wildcats cause I called them a “snowboard frat.””
Shit I remember all those. Tiny Type was almost like a printed version of the Internet in a way.
Andy Blumberg was the TWS editor and he’s always been a fan of mine so he gave me lots of opportunities. I interviewed Nate Bozung pre face tats and almost got to go to Morocco but it didn’t snow there that year. I remember it cost me $40 in long distance calls to find that out.
When I graduated I moved to Portland, with intentions to move to NYC at the end of the summer and be a real writer for an actual mag, but after a month or two I got over that idea and decided to hang in Portland. My first job out of college was selling snowboard gear at US Outdoor store and it lasted two months. Sales is not my strong suit.
After spending two summers in SoCal I knew I didn’t want to live there, so getting an editor job at one of the mags was never really on my list. But I was talking to people and Andy Blumberg actually connected me with the X Games and I got hired on to do snowboard research.
It was a sweet gig ‘cause I could do it from anywhere. The pay was terrible but my rent in Portland was $250 a month and I got to travel a little bit. I basically just called all the Boardercross athletes and interviewed them, and then wrote reports for the producers.
I would go to the X Games and try to help the on-air talent not fuck up info. They all loved me because I actually knew what I was talking about!
This is good break time if you have questions cause shit is about to get weird.
What year are we looking at now?
I graduated from college in 2003. Cable internet was a thing, and we stole wifi from our neighbors. I worked for ESPN from 2004-2006, I think.
And how well known is Yobeat within the industry at this point? Did people know you as Brooke from Yobeat as you were doing all these freelance gigs?
Yeah, I’ve always been Brooke from Yobeat, but Yobeat was pretty low key at this point. Like people beyond the core industry didn’t even know about it. Actually, shit I need to tell you the only notable Yobeat story from when I was at Western. It’s important later
Let’s hear it.
I don’t really remember the details, but some dude from Colorado emailed me asking if he could cover the Winter X Games for Yobeat. I said sure, and got him a badge. So Yobeat was at least big enough to get credentials at events and free lift tickets and stuff. So this dude goes to Aspen and goes to the media dinner and gets in a fight. Apparently in this scuffle, a door handle gets broken and I get a call that night from the Aspen police who are in hot pursuit of this dude I’ve never met. I literally didn’t even have his phone number. So whatever, I laughed, he sends me his terrible coverage, I don’t even post it and I go on with my life.
A few weeks later I get a call from someone at ESPN trying to charge me for this broken door handle. I apologized and was like, “I’m a college student, I don’t have $400 to give you, lady.”
I think it was Melissa Guilotti who is still around doing PR stuff. She handled it reasonably and was like, “we’re not coming after you, but understand no one from Yobeat will ever get credentials to the X Games again.”
Which brings us back to my job at the X Games. It wasn’t an issue until the first actual event, but then some list went out with my name on it and Melissa, who still worked there called my boss (who was a real hard-ass bitch) all pissed. Miraculously, I didn’t get fired, and when Summer X Games rolled around my boss was like, what do you know about wakeboarding?
Obviously I knew nothing, but I did know Bill Mccaffray from Bluetorch and he had since started Alliance Wake, so I gave him a call and figured it out. And that’s how I got into the wakeboard industry…
Aw yeah. Wakeboarding and wakeskating.
Yeah. So after a year in Portland I decided to move to Chicago with my friend who was going there for school. It was kind of on a whim, but I ended up falling through a roof and getting TBI a week before I was supposed to leave.
I missed the X Games (and still managed to not get fired!) and had to go back to Vermont for a couple months to recover.
I had a spot rented in Chicago though, so as soon as I was up to it, I moved there.
I still had my job at X Games but it was seasonal, basically four months on four months off, so you could live on it, but it was tough. I also didn’t love it so I was looking for other jobs obviously and Chicago seemed like it had a lot of media going on.
Long story short, I hated it there and ended up moving back to Vermont, this time to the sprawling metropolis of Burlington. I actually loved living in Burlington and this was another point that Yobeat really started to take off. I was roommates with Kevin Peckham and Chip Bleakney; Sarah Morrison also lived in town, and together we made magic. Sarah started writing Best Week Ever and posting it on her Myspace account (she had 27k followers which was a lot in those days) and I would post it on Yobeat too. Kevin wrote some of the funniest shit that’s ever been on the site, and we had an intern named Tessa who posted our stories for us.
Of course, living in Burlington and being involved in snowboarding, it wasn’t long before a job at Burton came up.
One of Burton’s longest standing employees, Chaka, was my upstairs neighbor and when they decided to hire a women’s team manager he suggested I apply. I got pretty far in the interviews – I believe I was in the top 3 candidates, but they ended up hiring Susie Floros. I was pretty over working for the X Games and I remember really wanting the job because then I could quit. But my boss at ESPN needed an answer sooner than Burton was willing to give me one, so I just quit with no other plan.
Would of been real interesting seeing you at Burton.
I think it would have done great for two years, but I wouldn’t have been able to handle it much longer than that. Every time I saw Susie I remember she looked so frazzled chasing around Hannah Teeter and Kelly Clark at halfpipe comps. I ended up doing a bunch of stuff for another AOL content-creation attempt, Lat34, and was a senior contributor for SG mag. Remember that? That was my bread and butter.
SG? Whats that again?
Snow/skate/surf girl. It was short-lived, but Melissa Larsen had been hired to make it cool and she always gave me awesome assignments like going skateboarding in Tijuana. Was a bummer when they pulled the plug.
I’m sure I saw it. But yeah babysitting for Burton athletes would take it out of anyone.
Totally, I just wanted the free travel, but I managed to work my way into some good stuff and actually ended up working at Grenade for a year too.
That was a crazy time that someday Schiff and I will write a book about but it was during this time period that I called Bill Mccaffray again and was like, “Hey, you know how you always wanted me to write about wake for you? Well, I know about wakeboarding now…”
Through ESPN, I had actually gone to a couple wake events and met a bunch of wakeskaters – more specifically the Cassette Team – who were fucking awesome. It was 2004/5ish and the economy was good. Magazines still made money, they web was blossoming etc.
So Bill was like, why don’t you do something with wakeskating? I suggested a webzine and that basically turned into my full time job.
On Grenade: “That was a crazy time that someday Schiff and I will write a book about.”
I was at Red Bull during this time and they were sinking so much money into wake, and I was like, ‘what the fuck is going on here?’ haha.
Haha, totally. It was absurd but awesome and I really loved going to warm places for a change! I rode that wake for a solid six years. Pun intended.
That brings us to the fateful 2008.
Alright let’s go. So this is Yobeat full time?
Yeah, wakeboarding tanked along with the rest of the economy and I ended up running all of alliancewake.com to remain a viable expense. I was also still freelancing and doing a ton of stuff for Future Snowboarding. I was at Mt. Hood Meadows opening day putting together a web story, and I took a picture of Nick Lipton jumping over Alex Burton. Nick was maybe 18 and was like, “What are you shooting for?” I told him and he asked, “Cool, can I intern for you?” At this point I was living in Portland again, and had an office above a Vegan bakery with my partner Jared Souney. I seemed like a professional so I said sure, and figured I’d never see him again. I don’t remember exactly how long it was, maybe a couple weeks, but one Monday morning, Nick just showed up.
He was disappointed to learn that I mostly did wake stuff and very little snowboarding and after burning his way through all 30 wakeskaters he asked, why don’t you do Yobeat anymore?
I said, “I don’t know. Write something and I’ll update it.”
So he did.
I still had to hand code HTML to update at this point, but luckily Jared is smart and was like, let’s put the site on WordPress. He designed it and built it and Nick and I started to update.
Nick always thought way bigger than me – he was like, there’s no reason this can’t compete with TWS and Snowboarder.
When he sold our first at to Evan Rose at Forum for $250 a month, I started to take it seriously. It didn’t hurt that Future went out of business so I didn’t have another snowboard outlet anymore. I basically used what I learned at Alliance and took some inspiration from what Future had been doing and ran with it. It was crazy – people were actually really excited.
…, there’s no reason this can’t compete with TWS and Snowboarder.
To be continued in PART TWO tomorrow for the rise, flat-line, and re-birth of YOBEAT.