When Carlos Garcia Knight snowboards, you watch – period. Not only is he one of most talented riders in New Zealand, but in recent years he’s become one of the most creative, and when a project with his name on it goes live, you know it’s going to be worth your time. He has an almost obsessive attention to detail and aesthetic, both in his snowboarding and his video projects, that works in harmony to create something that’s simply beautiful to watch.
Carlos has a head on his shoulders wise beyond its years. He has weathered that all-too-common storm of competitive pressure, injuries and the complexities of the snowboarding industry but has done so with maturity, integrity and steadfast self-belief. He remains true to himself and to his desire to evolve and create. He doesn’t succumb to a run-of-the-mill, predictable approach to snowboarding – he’ll do things on his terms, with a constant drive to make something special – something unique that he’s proud to share.
In 2022, Carlos lost his father, Javier, to brain cancer and took a break from snowboarding to grieve with his family. An unimaginably heavy burden, the weight from which took its toll on him as he was forced to reevaluate life’s priorities. Almost serendipitously, last winter he connected with Izrayl Brinsdon who lost his father to the same illness. Carlos and Izzy have a connection, albeit a sad one, that amounts to a unique partnership, one built on a love of creative expression.
Now Is Not A Good Time is a project that channels the energy that comes from sadness and siphons it directly into something positive. It explores Carlos’ growth from a competitive rider into one that does so purely for the joy of the turn. It’s a film that lets go of a traditional trick-based approach to making a movie and replaces it with what looks good and feels right to Carlos in the moment. Shot entirely on 16mm film, Carlos and Izzy draw inspiration from a nostalgic love of early snowboard films where the limitations of a roll of film actually enhance the filming experience.
It’s a wonderful depiction of Carlos’ growth – as a snowboarder and as a person.
We spoke to Carlos to find out more about the project.
Where are you right now?
I’m in my backyard <laughs>, outside, in front of this this beautiful Camellia tree and it’s super warm, proper springtime. I’ve been trying to go ride as much as possible and had grand plans to do a lot of splitboarding this season, but it hasn’t been the greatest winter snow wise, so I’ve been focusing on other stuff. There’s so much to do in Wanaka and so many interesting people around.
It’s been a weird season – have you managed to get some days in?
Yeah, my favourite days have been the ones that you go up and you think it’s shit weather, but it ends up being super fun. I’ve really managed to lower my expectations this winter. I had a lot of plans, and none of them have really worked out because of snow, so it’s just been nice to go up to the hill and see what happens. Riding smaller park features, stuff like that.
Last year you and Izrayl Brinsdon connected to shoot a film. How did that relationship start?
Izzy was actually the one that reached out to me at the start. I guess he had seen that I had bought a Bolex and was shooting on 16mm, messing around with it over the summer, and I think he was super keen to shoot something entirely on film.
He also saw a photo of me wearing a Sonic Youth t-shirt at Mini Pipe world champs, and one common thread was our taste of music.
From there, we just ended up like talking about our approach, how we’d want to film something and he basically had a concept straight off the bat and I was into it, so we just committed.
You guys seem to have a lot in common – does that help the creative process?
Yeah, it’s nice with Izzy, he’s just got such a clear vision we have similar interests and style and he brought a lot to the table in terms of kind of story and approach. But when you shoot snowboarding, you have to have an element of seeing what happens as you go along, so with that we ended up butting heads quite a bit which was pretty funny – not in a negative way – but rather to bring the best out of each other and to have complete honesty when shooting.
He’s just got such a unique style and approach, but he had never really filmed in the backcountry, so I was kind of showing him the ropes and it was just nice to have a fresh perspective.
How was that process of taking someone into the backcountry to film that hasn’t done it before? Must have been an eye-opening experience for him?
Definitely. I think he was nervous about the dangers of getting out into the backcountry, which is super normal and actually really nice to have that sort of awareness from the get-go. I think getting into anything for the first time, especially if there’s a danger element, can be intimidating. But it’s nice when you can go out with people who know what they’re doing, and props to Izzy for putting himself out there. He just fully trusted our team’s guidance and I think he did super well. He probably understands quite a bit more and going into the next project that he does.
You both share an unfortunate truth, your fathers both passed away from the same illness. Do you talk about your Dads or is there just a common respect between you?
Yeah, we did actually talk about our Dads quite a bit. Neither of us knew when we first linked up that they had the same illness, but we ended up finding out and bonding over that in a sense. It’s interesting when you go film with someone, Izzy and I were on our own program, not with a crew – it was just me and him and so you get to know someone so well when you’re on the road together. You spend so much time just hanging out and being in uncomfortable situations, and I think that kind of leads into being open with each other.
It was cool though, you know, if I was feeling like shit, then he would just, he would get it. We’d just share bits and pieces along the way – debrief in the onsen or in the car and share our experiences.
Let’s talk a bit about the project – how would you describe it?
I just kind of like let Izzy run with the footage and create a narrative around it. The approach that we took was just to snowboard and film exactly how we wanted and not to have that traditional pressure of a video. Shooting on film is cool in that sense – there are limitations – you only have a certain number of shots you can shoot. That changes your approach completely.
Other than that, I wanted to go and ride stuff that felt good and looked good and in the past I’ve gone out and really tried to push myself. This time around it was just all about letting go of that traditional approach and just going for whatever felt right.
And honestly, yeah, it was fucking fun – we just had a great time.
Did you want to make it more relatable to the average rider?
Yeah, the conditions were really horrible for the NZ part of the film, so we ended up riding in bounds at Cardrona a bit – riding exactly what and how we felt like at the time. Without being able to fly in helis and stuff, this was our best option and we ended up riding things I’d look at every day and think, man, that would be so fun to do, but never really do it. So we just committed to doing the stuff that we’d always wanted to do, but never had the chance to.
Izzy’s skate background helped with that I think – shooting a skate part, you sort of see something and try it right there and then, but snowboarding I guess it takes a bit more logistics and conditions to line up.
A lot of projects these days are shot on 16mm film – why do you think that is?
I mean, you can’t deny that it just looks so good. Aside from the aesthetics, it was what I was brought up on and inspired by – snowboard films used to be shot on film and there’s just a certain quality to it that feels nostalgic.
And then another huge thing is that is your approach.
As cliche as it is, the best part about making a snowboard film is the process. When you have endless opportunity, and endless options to re-shoot stuff, I think that adds to the pressure. When you strip back your expectations and focus on what’s around you and what you can do immediately, I think it brings out a certain style of riding that’s much truer to the person. I think that’s why shooting on film is interesting.
Where do you draw inspiration from? It seems like you’re really into short films, music videos, that type of thing?
I’ve, of course, always loved snowboarding and the snowboarding community but at the same time, I don’t just solely focus on that. It’s hard to talk about what you’re inspired by because it changes all the time. I think having other interests outside of snowboarding is healthy – there’s so much to do in life. I’m inspired by the people that I hang out with here in Wanaka, and also in Melbourne where I’ve been hanging out a bit more.
A lot of guys are still on the competitive grind and have been for years – why would you say you felt burned out by competing?
I’m not sure how people are going to interpret those comments from the film, but I think a lot of it was just the consistent pressure and the mindset that you had to be in. I was always quite competitive, but I kind of grew out of that, and became interested in other things. It was really challenging to stay in that in that mindset. There’s nothing wrong with being in that space, and I was also really inspired by a lot of other people that had done that in the past – but if you’re not completely in it, then it’s also really hard to do well. I think I saw the opportunity to do other things with snowboarding and I was willing to almost take the risk to try it.
I don’t want to sound ungrateful for the opportunities that I got or the people that were supporting me, I feel so incredibly lucky to have had the competitive experiences I had, but I was just also at a stage where I was being honest with myself and competing wasn’t where I wanted to go.
Do you miss competing at all – do you get the same fulfillment from shooting films? If I’m completely honest, I’ve never once been like, damn, I miss that. What I miss is the people and the chance to hang out with your friends and explore new places.
You started filming for the project last season in New Zealand – it seems hard to film in NZ?
I think it comes back to your expectations. In Europe and other places with high alpine terrain, you have such great lift access to side country stuff. New Zealand is so isolated and a lot of the terrain is quite low elevation, so you’re super reliant on a good snow year to film.
You just have to get creative and look at things differently, and I think that’s an exciting thing. If the conditions are on, by all means, go ride beautiful lines with your friends, but you don’t necessarily have to go out and go heli and do all this crazy stuff anymore. I think the challenge now is to look harder, not further, and I think that’s nice because it’s relatable to a lot of people.
You shot in Japan this year – how was that experience?
Well, it was my first time shooting in the North Island, and I had no idea what to expect. I need to credit Will Jackways hugely, he has always showed me the ropes in NZ, but he had been encouraging me to come to Japan the last couple years, but unfortunately it never came to fruition. This year it was like, right, we’re doing it, and we’re getting Will Jay to guide us.
He has 20+ years under his belt in Japan, so our time there was really stress free compared to going and trying to figure everything out yourself. It was cool to ride something completely different to what I was used to – there are so many options and zones and my scope changed completely compared to just looking at massive lines.
Which Konbini reigns supreme?
I ate more rice balls than Ramen, but we did find the best Ramen in Japan – I’m just not allowed to disclose the name.
Will J secret?
What’s on the cards for the next while?
I just want to focus on some more like bite-size snowboarding. This project actually took a lot of energy to pull together, much more than I anticipated. So I’m feeling pretty content to sit with that for a little bit and just focus on going snowboarding. I’m doing a big gravel ride in October, and then kind of shift into some summer activities and hanging out with my family and my girlfriend. Going to see what happens in summer, maybe a trip, not sure where yet.
Any shout outs?
I mean, I could say thank you to so many people, but most of all I’d just like to say a massive thank you to my family. This project is as much of a reflection on them as anyone else. Also want to thank Izrayl and his family.
Watch: Now Is Not A Good Time