“Billions of dollars are being spent on marketing to get people to drink energy drinks and sugary beverages,” says pro snowboarder Austin Smith, “but there’s no one telling you to just drink water.”
Inspired by this marketing void, Smith and fellow pro Bryan Fox decided it was about time someone started championing the benefits of H20. So, to that end, they set up their own awareness-raising venture – a ‘movement’ they’re calling Drink Water.
It all started in early 2011 when the pair scrawled ‘Drink Water’ on their boards as a joke, mocking the many drink sponsors swilling around snowboarding. “We’ve never been fans of energy drinks,” says Smith, passionately. “I don’t want to promote something I don’t use and don’t believe in. If you don’t use it, you don’t tell kids you love it. […] I think it’s pretty obvious and well known that most people don’t support these products beyond the pay-cheques they receive.”
The idea may have started out as a joke, but seeing the potency of their simple motto, the duo were given a screen-printing press by friend and former Nitro Snowboards team manager Tonino Copene, who suggested they print out T-shirts, sweatshirts and stickers to help spread the message from their Oregon base. So they did. Before long, the pair found themselves selling apparel via their website and donating ten per cent of profits to water.org, a non-profit that provides drinking water to those in need.
“It’s more about raising awareness that not all snowboarders and skateboarders like energy drinks,” says Smith, who stresses that he likes his water from a tap, not a plastic bottle. “We’re still trying to figure out where we want to try and take this. Whether it’s about bringing more awareness [about the benefits of drinking] water in the snowboard scene, or trying to provide water for people that don’t have it, I’d just like to get kids psyched on water.”
It’s a brave move, though. Head to any action sports event, watch any video, and you’ll be bombarded by logos from one of many soft drinks companies trying to sell you their brand of caffeinated pop. In fact, without their cash, many events and videos may not exist. So, are these companies a necessary evil?
“They do provide a lot of opportunities within snowboarding and action sports,” concedes Smith. ”They’re pumping this insane amount of money into snowboarding and enabling it to grow even through this recession. It’s hard for people to say no to them, but somebody has to do it. I owe snowboarding a lot. I’ve gotten to travel around the world and meet all these amazing people. I value it so much and want to keep it cool. Right now, I kind of see it getting whored out and I’m trying to bring it back a notch.”