photos & words / sean kerrick sullivan

Who is John Jackson? You might want to find out, but so does John Jackson. We know John is one of the best snowboarders out there, a big-hearted friend, an ethical businessman, a wild hippy, a hard worker, a teacher and a student. He’s the last person to make claims and he will tell you that he’s still trying to figure it all out, just like you and me.

In a fake-it-till-you-make-it kind of world, where trending pro-athletes polish every turd they come home with, John strays far from the crowd, walking the path of do-it-till-you-make it. In the second season of his TV show, “The Book of John J,” viewers are invited to ride along behind the scenes with John on the road for the winter as he evolves as a human, and snowboarder. Heavy riding is the name of the game, but what you don’t see in other movies are the inevitable highs, lows, and self-discovery on the road as a top backcountry pro in a homebrew RV for six months, chasing the white wave.

I spent over a month with John, Bjorn Leines and Shandy Campos in the heart of Interior BC for a few episodes, snowmobiling into the Alpine out of our home base in a tiny town with a population of something like 40. Every day it snowed and every night… it snowed. For about a month. It was isolation at its finest. A tight crew, working out of a small cabin with an ancient wood stove and nothing but pow and pillows to hunt every day. That’s what we like to see, but truthfully, I only felt sunshine on my skin for a grand total of 30 seconds the entire trip. It wasn’t easy. Bjorn and John ripped the place to shreds and we would have stayed forever but a warm spell blew in and when a school bus sized pillow peeled off of a face we were shooting and exploded towards the crew, we knew it was time to get back on the powder highway.

A detour to Whistler got Johnnyboy some sunshine and powder, some of the best days of the year, but that ended as quick as it started and it was April, meaning time to migrate North to Alaska. We convinced Johns brother Eric to join us and the stoke was high. Our first top in Stewart revealed epic terrain basking in sunshine, but was absolutely destroyed by the wind. To add insult to our injury (we had drove 14 hours or something to get there) John’s snowmobile blew up, leaving us high and dry. And for the record, Stewart is in BC, on the Alaska border, and is notorious for skunking crews. It’s known for the worst mountain weather in North America, so to have even seen it under blue skies was a treat and we all were grateful for that.
Two or three more days and nights of non-stop driving made up for the time lost in Stewart and as we pinned it to Valdez the northern lights guided the way every night… We were driving all the way! There are a lot of rights of passage in life and snowboarding, but the magnitude of the opportunity to hit this road with our crew was not lost upon us, as civilization fell further behind us, the natural world took us into her fold, the magnificence of the Yukon and Alaska is truly biblical. Words and photos will always fall short.

We pulled into the Alaska Snowboard Guides parking lot around 2am. Welcomed with warm food and beverages, lead sled guide Justin Befu showed us the brand new snowmobile they had waiting for John, and showed us his maps. The weather was good, too windy to fly in the heli, but it was cold and the skies were blue. So if we were down to climb mountains and traverse glaciers on our snowmobiles, he would get us on the goods. You know we were down and with Japanese legend Shin Biyajama joining our crew, Ejack and John J went on the warpath, sled throttles pinned, blasting across multiple 10+ mile glaciers at 70pmh, hiking heli lines and staying out in the Chugach until after dark each night. Alaska had been destroyed by a month-long wind event that season and we had to go deep to get the goods. But had it been a normal year we would have had the same experience as every other paying heli client, albeit a little wilder, but we’ve all done that, and the opportunity to take the sleds out into the Chugach was one-of-a-kind. To look back and sum it all up, we spent more time learning about ourselves than we did actually snowboarding, but that’s the way life is supposed to be, it’s just funny to me that these days most people won’t admit it.