I recently read a book called The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck. It’s good. It reminded me that, at the end of the day, most of the shit I worry about doesn’t actually matter. Of course within a week of turning the last page I was back tossing and turning shit over in my brain that doesn’t matter. But that’s life – we care even though we shouldn’t, and that’s probably what keeps a lot of us from being happy.
About 10 million other people have read that book since it first hit airport shelves, and I’d wager that about 9.9 million of those people have already forgotten its lessons. The .1, on the other hand, are living well.
Nate Johnstone is part of that .1.
He’s not only figured out how to not give a fuck about stuff he’s given lots of fucks about in the past, but he’s also come to understand what’s really important – and what’s worth sacrifice.
Nate Johnstone has retired from the competition and he’s totally okay with it. Not many professional athletes can say that. But through learning what he gives fucks about, he’s also learnt what I’m going to call The Subtle Art of Moving On. Which might be even harder. Maybe he should write a book.
Anyways, we caught up with Nate a few months after his final Pipe lap in a singlet, which just so happened to be at the 2018 South Korea Olympic Games.
Hey Nate, how are you?
Yeah I’m good, I’m actually just on lunch from work – I’ve been doing a carpentry apprenticeship. Been building houses, it’s going good.
Well thanks for making time to talk to us today.
No worries. It’s tough with bloody working full time! But you’ve got to do it… snowboard ain’t gonna last forever!
So first of all, how was the Olympics? Tell us all about it.
Yeah it was awesome! It was different for me this time. I knew it was my last one, so I didn’t have as high of expectations as I have in previous years. It was a lot more relaxing, which was nice.
Do you think that translated into your boarding?
Yeah, a little bit. I just was able to enjoy the whole experience, and not get too wrapped up in the competition. I took the time to enjoy the little things that surround the games – it’s such a big event and there is so much going on, and usually you get very caught up in your event. You treat it too seriously and you don’t get to soak all the other bits in. So I enjoyed this one a lot more than last time around.
"I definitely want to keep snowboarding in my life – I don’t want to give it up cold turkey." - Nate Johnstone
And post-Olympics, you’ve decided you’re going to take a step away from competition. Why?
To be honest I just kind of got to the point where my heart wasn’t in it anymore. I still love snowboarding, but the competitive side just wasn’t doing it for me anymore. When I was younger I used to thrive on the competition and winning, and I don’t know – over the years I’ve gotten older and I have a family now – competition just doesn’t mean as much. It felt right, the right timing to do all of it, to take a step back.
Do you think having a family has given you perspective on it all?
Yeah, kind of. I just wasn’t committed to the travelling and the time away from home. Following the competitive tour you’re away for months on end, and I just didn’t want to do that anymore. It’s not fair on my wife or my boy Louie.
Do you think you’re going to try to chase the free ride side of snowboarding now?
Yeah. I actually think it’s been naturally happening over the years. I can feel it when I go out into the backcountry; that’s where I’m most comfortable, where I get my kicks. It’s what I most enjoy. I can just cruise out and go camping now, and that really excites me.
At the risk of sounding cliché, it’s the more pure side of it?
There’s just not as much pressure, and I don’t know, maybe as you get older you realise there’s more to it than just winning competitions. Same with Mick [Fanning] – he’s realised that he’s drawn more to just surfing than competing and winning events. There’s that whole other side to it – finding new waves and enjoying being in the water. Same goes for snowboarding.
Do you see yourself needing a break from the sport at all, or is riding going to be a big part of your life over the next few years?
I definitely want to keep snowboarding in my life – I don’t want to give it up cold turkey. But, I’m definitely enjoying different things in life. When you do something for so many years, even though it’s awesome, it gets monotonous.
To be out here building houses, I’m learning things for the first time and I’m having different experiences. It’s enjoyable doing something different – and I think when I go snowboarding again I’ll be able to appreciate it more. I have to make the opportunities last when I’m doing it – I don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing now.
So when did you start doing carpentry?
I started as soon as I got home from the Olympics. Like, the next day – I got home Sunday and started Monday. And then I started Tafe the following week. Going back to school was probably the most unusual thing about it all – especially after not studying for 13 years.
Because I started my apprenticeship quite late there are lots of young kids, 16 and 18 year olds. So that’s been a bit of a trip! It’s been pretty funny.
Does it make you feel old?
At times yes, but it’s kind of just funny seeing all these kids at a totally different part of their life. They’re talking about what they’re doing on the weekend and who is going to buy alcohol. I’m going home to get some sleep because I have to get up at 5.30am to deal with my two-year-old.
It’s a lot easier this time around though, because I actually want to be in the classroom – I want to be learning – whereas when I was in school I’d do everything I could to get out of it.
How’d you decide on carpentry?
Well my dad is a jib rocker so I’ve worked with him over the years, since I was about 16 on and off. I was interested in the actual building of a house – every stage of the build, the whole way through. There are so many aspects to it, and it’s always really appealed to me.
Who do you want to say thank you to, over your time competing and riding?
My coaches, Ben Alexander and Ben Boyd. And all of the people along the way – Scotty James, Andrew Burton, Ben Watts, Hols and Kent. Those people are the people I’m closest to and I’ve spent the most time with, and have gotten me through hard times. There are definitely times when you’re on the road and missing home heaps, and they’re the people who help you make it out the other side. They’re the ones I’d thank the most.
What’s next for Nate Johnstone? Chasing good snow, building houses and hanging with the wife and kid?
Pretty much! I don’t really know what the plan is, to be honest. I haven’t thought about it too much – I’ve just been so busy since I’ve been home I haven’t had a chance to stop and think about it. I started working the day after I got home from the Olympics and I haven’t stopped since. I guess once the snow starts falling, I’ll just try to get down there as much as possible… do a bit of camping and find some pow!
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