Snowboarding has always been concerned with the visual. Competitions require watching crowds, in bleachers and on TV-facing sofas, and backcountry exploits only become known through videos and photographs posted on online and published in magazines.
As a photographer, Jérôme Tanon has been bringing these visuals out of the mountains for more than a decade, and his work has likely appeared in every publication that documents the sport. From this high vantage point, he saw something: a lack of visual representation of female riders. In the winters of 2019 and 2020, Tanon set out on a mission to remedy the situation and atone for his own complacency in it by documenting the lives of the women in snowboarding. The result is his new book, Heroes.
To elevate the collection of images, Tanon made them on a medium format Pentax 6x7 film camera. Unlike the DSLRs that action sports photographers typically wield, the Pentax can't fire 20-shot bursts. Each roll of film only has enough capacity for ten photos. What's more, he printed the images onto a limited collection of dead-stock paper.
In the book's preface, Mary Walsh, a writer, photographer and former editor of Snowboarder Magazine, likens the unorthodox method to the experience of female riders: "For them, every attempt on a handrail is always as pivotal as the one before it. With camera-imposed limitations, Jérôme had to navigate the same knife's edge of success." For him, every shot counted, just as every photo opp, movie clip or competition heat does for these women.
Heroes highlights 30 female snowboarders in its 288 photo-, art- and story-filled pages. Here are nine riders you should know now, before adding the book to your shelf.
Desiree Melancon is closing in on two decades of professional snowboarding. In that time, she's produced a nearly uncountable number of video parts — even during her early years, when female film parts were rare — and earned countless photo features in magazines, plus multiple Snowboarder Rider of the Year awards. Pushing herself that whole time, Melancon has also been vocal about women's place in the sport and raising its profile.
After competing in the 2006 and 2014 Olympics in boardercross — races in which four to six riders share the same course — Fujimori went against the advice of those around her and switched disciplines. The late-stage swap didn't stop her from earning a spot at the 2018 games, this time as a freestyle competitor. The Nagano native has since left the Japanese national team to pursue freeriding and a snowboarding career defined less by stopwatches and judges and more by creativity.
In middle school, Naima Antolin used to take the public bus to the outskirts of her home city of Seattle so that she could catch a carpool up to the mountains. Such effort at an early age ingrained in her a sense of ownership in the sport; "I feel a shift in the social consciousness of the snowboard industry, I'm seeing a lot more girls being given a lot more opportunities," she writes in Heroes. "I also think it could be our downfall, I don't want to be given anything."
If you caught the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, you might recognize Anna Gasser from the highest position on the podium for the games' inaugural Big Air event. The Austrian shredder has earned enough other medals and trophies to decorate a very large room. More recently, she took her aerial prowess to the backcountry for a spot in Burton's movie, One World.
Nirvana Ortanez found her snowboarding community when she got a job at High Cascade Snowboard Camp in Oregon in 2014. It was there that she met Andrew Kelly and teamed up to create Soy Sauce Nation, an Instagram account that serves as a community for Asians in snowboarding. "The group is about community building, discovering new friendships, sharing stories and being proud of your heritage all the while ripping the mountain or park," she told Melanin Base Camp in 2018.
Before retiring from competition last year, Christy Prior was no stranger to snowboarding's most competitive venues. World Cup podiums, X Games medals and accolades from other events top her on-paper accomplishments. Those feats are augmented by an appearance at 2014's Sochi Olympics, where she competed for her home nation of New Zealand.
In Heroes, Leanne Pelosi reveals that the career she actually hoped for was one as a pro soccer player. The native of Calgary then recounts how a car accident diverted her from that path and how a one-year break from school to spend a season in Whistler turned into a new life as an athlete of a different sort. Now she's a member of The North Face's team and has a snowboarding CV that won't fit on a single page. Catch her in the Vans film Listen to the Eyes.
Canada's snowboarding scene's epicenter is British Columbia, but Annie Boulanger learned her turns on the far smaller peaks outside Montreal. She made the westward trek eventually, where she mastered big mountain riding and earned invitations to film with crews like The Gathering, Alterna Action and Absinthe, despite the lack of female representation in snowboard movies at the time.
Laurie Blouin is another French Canadian, one who snagged a silver — the first medal in freestyle snowboarding for a female Canadian — at PyeongChang in 2018... after she was stretchered off the course following a training run crash. Blouin remains at the top of her game, too — she took home Big Air gold at the recent world championships in Aspen.