Josh Vagne is somewhat of an enigma. Illusive and quiet-spoken, he is a man of few words, but of monumental talent.
Rising through the ranks of the structured competitive scene as 12-year-old, he burst on the stage as one of the best young slopestyle riders in the country – wearing an enormous helmet and all black outerwear, saying very little as he won basically everything there was to win at the time.
Elevating himself to one of the most promising junior snowboarders in Australia within a few years, raising eyebrows not just locally, but abroad, I remember Josh’s flawless, almost robotic style and effortless approach to his snowboarding – and for a time it seemed there was no trick he couldn’t land perfectly. He was the name on everyone’s lips, and rightly so. He was humble, consistent and supremely talented – destined to tread a path towards international competitive slopestyle success.
But just as it appeared his career was taking off, Josh took a break from snowboarding. Whether it was the pressures of competition, the structure of training regimes or just a curiosity to explore other parts of life remains something only he can speak to. It took a lot of people by surprise as one Australia’s more promising riders kind of just vanished.
After a two-year hiatus, in which Josh says that he basically just went skateboarding every day for stress relief, he has since come back to snowboarding and in some ways his riding has come full circle as he takes on a new role as a coach for young riders. But he’s not going full iPad Halfpipe Coach just yet – with a few incredible video parts under his belt, he still has his sights set on ticking a few boxes on the list of a professional snowboarder.
We caught up with Josh to hear more.
Josh, thanks for taking the time to chat to us. First things first, where are you from and how did you get into snowboarding?
Hey guys thanks for having me – I have grown up in Jindabyne practically my whole life moving from the North Coast of NSW when I was 5. My dad was a surfer and loved the idea of snowboarding so got us into it straight away when moving down here.
True or false, you were a lifesaver a swimming pool? Any good stories?
True. I was a lifeguard for a number of years in the summer, there was a range of funny things that went on at those jobs but fishing full grown adults out who tell you they can swim was always a laugh.
You came up through the competitive Slopestyle scene when you were young. Was there a point where you realised you had a talent?
Yeah – I got into the competition scene at a pretty young age, definitely didn’t think I was the one with the talent but I did well at a few of those comps.
Did you like competing?
At the start competitions were fun, but for me it definitely wasn’t plausible to be spending that type of money travelling around from comp to comp, and to be honest I didn’t enjoy most of those bigger competitions. There was definitely fun had along the way, but saving all that money to see it disappear so quickly was not easy.
In 2016 you had a breakout season where things really clicked and you kind of starting blowing up – you swept the Burton Tight Lines competition for example – what do you remember from that era?
That year was definitely the best season for competitions I had ever done before. I remember being super stoked at the end of the season being able to do a decent trip overseas off the money I had won throughout the season. My riding was feeling good and was finally good again after breaking my hip 2 years before.
You were then on Burton? Did that change things?
Absolutely, I had ridden for DC for a number of years and things just weren’t going anywhere with them. I was in talks with Burton and after that came to fruition I definitely felt like I was riding better and with more support.
It seemed you were on top of your game, and then you kind of disappeared – would you agree? What happened?
I definitely disappeared for 2 years, competitions and stress just got the better of me while snowboarding and just needed some time off. Didn’t buy a season pass for first time and just skated every day I could for 2 years.
What brought you back?
Got my love back for snowboarding with the friends I was skating with, having those fun arvo sessions and feeding off everyone else’s skating was something I missed in snowboarding. Not mad I did this at all because I feel like my riding has been positively affected by this time off.
Did snowboarding put you back track or was it something else?
Snowboarding definitely has kept me back on track at the moment, I am super keen and hungry to go and do more of the stuff I love about snowboarding
You’ve moved more into filming and riding street these days – who are some of your influences?
I love to watch a bunch of the street stuff but seeing people from Australia doing the stuff really gets me hyped and excited to push myself. Andy James and Jye Kearney are two guys to me that have constantly killed it and done some crazy stuff over the years.
You’ve filmed for a few movie projects now – Circuit Breaker and Before Long – what have you learnt from those trips?
I have learnt a lot from those trips, Jye kind of showed me the ropes in Finland for my first time and I’m grateful for that. There is more hard work than a young me saw in these videos which I loved. This last trip to Japan there was a lot more people but was such a good team environment, definitely to just help out where you can and get along with everyone.
Do you like riding pow?
Absolutely love riding pow, still yet to get into the backcountry somewhere and send myself off a big jump but hopefully that will come. Had some awesome days in Utah this past season riding some insane snow.
You’re an incredible skateboarder – does skating influence your snowboarding?
I for sure think my style and riding changed after coming back from just skating for a while. I will always love skating and it will always benefit snowboarding I believe.
Is filming something you want to continue doing? Do you have other goals in snowboarding?
Definitely would like to keep filming, would love to film a full-length movie somewhere along the line. But besides that I’m just having fun with it and trying to ride best I can to see what opportunities can come from it.
Best video part of all time?
I can’t put it down to one part but I’ll say that Blender and was definitely one of my favourite movies.
Is basing yourself in Jindabyne a good thing?
I love Jindy – being close to the hill in winter is a plus, but come summertime the skate park is super out dated and have been waiting on a new one for years now. Small town but it’s definitely fun!
You’re coaching kids now – what do you get from helping the next generation?
I am super stoked to be joining Ryan Tiene in Turn and Burn at Thredbo, working with up and coming kids was something I have always wanted to get into. Makes me really think about my snowboarding and break stuff down I don’t ever really think about.
Can you teach style?
I don’t know if you can specifically teach style, but for me growing up I feel like watching some of the people I thought had great style definitely made me think about it and want to ride something like that. I think you can influence style, not teach it.
Anyone you’d like to thank?
Would like to thank my sponsors Burton and Modest for always supporting and helping me. Also Mum and Dad for all the support before the brands were there and all the homies from home for always getting me stoked to snowboard.
Follow Josh on Instagram @joshvagne