Have you ever wanted to simply take a hiatus from life and do whatever you love instead? Professional snowboarders Eric Jackson, 23, and John Jackson, 29, did just that. Even though most of their year is already spent doing what they love—boarding as much as they can and winning awards along the way, such as the John’s Rider of the Year title from Snowboarder magazine—the brothers wanted to take the love of their sport to the next level. After doing some initial planning, the brothers began their five-month-long trip on April 2, 2012, covering more than 10,000 miles from Alaska to Chile. Wish you could witness the sick boarding, sweet surfing, and all the crazy moments in between? The brothers, in collaboration with Red Bull, had it all filmed in 16 episodes for their YouTube Series, Brothers on the Run.
Men’s Fitness: Where did the idea for your trip and Brothers on the Run come from?
John Jackson: From loving to travel and loving to surf on top of snowboarding all the time. How epic would it be to bring snowboarders and surfers together and do this big long journey from Alaska to the southern hemisphere? I think it’s something that everybody dreams of, at least I did for a long time—driving the whole Pan-American highway.
Eric Jackson: I feel like it's something that everybody wants to do. With a majority of people, you tell them that you are doing this trip, and they are just like, “What! I would love to do that trip!” It's one of those dream trips that doesn't come around very often.
MF: How did you prep for such a sweet adventure?
JJ: We tried to prepare as best we could, but the reality is that the decision to pull the trigger kind of came last minute. We were working on building the trucks and all our paperwork for getting across the borders. It was really a big deal. We have all these cameras and production equipment, and so we had to be prepared there. Be as prepared as you can, but just be prepared for the unknown. You don’t know what you are going to run into.
EJ: It was just a work in progress. That’s kind of what we figured — we never are going to be able to be fully prepared. So let’s just relax, go with it, and we’ll pick things up we need along the way. All we really need is ourselves. We didn’t want to just rush through the journey just to say we finished. We met so many cool people. What you put out there you get back. We were just putting out these good vibes and that was the type of people we’d meet.
MF: Did you have to prepare physically for the trip at all?
JJ: I spent a lot of time in the gym, recovering from a couple of injuries and trying to stay as healthy as possible—a lot of balance exercises, biking, yoga, swimming, and the basic strengthening. I feel climbing is some of the best training as well, benefiting the physical and mental. For this trip, I felt we needed to prepare mentally just as much as physically.
EJ: During the season, snowboarding is my main way of staying in shape. When riding, you use so many little muscles that are difficult to target in the gym. But every fall I go to southern California and work with a personal trainer for a few months, just to get mentally and physically in shape for the season. The Brothers on the run trip started in April after I had been snowboarding all season so my body felt really strong. I'm also really into yoga — I love to breath and stretch before I ride. It warms me up and puts me in a good mental state of mind.
MF: What did you eat to stay healthy and hydrated while riding?
JJ: Before a big day of filming I usually just ate a ton. On a long backcountry day, my lunch is stuffed with all the essentials on top of a big breakfast. I eat lots of protein, whole grains, fresh fruit and veggies, and I try to make it all organic. I probably pack in 3,000-4,000 calories a day, but honestly I don't really calorie count, I just feed the fire. Feed it well and it'll burn longer.
EJ: I'm big on drinking water — that is my beverage of choice. Hard boiled eggs are a great snack to bring in the back country, along with nuts and dried fruit. Smoked salmon is a good one too, especially when in Alaska or British Columbia
MF: Where were the most exciting places to surf and board along the way?
EJ: The scariest surfing was definitely in Mexico. There were some big waves there with Bruce Irons. That was a scary one for sure. It was definitely out of our comfort zone. But it was cool, it was good to push ourselves. It was really fun to watch the people who were actually really good.
JJ: If you were a good surfer, that would have been like your favorite spot to surf. For us it was like, yeah those waves are really good but I felt like I almost died. I think the favorite [snowboard] riding was in Alaska.
MF: Near the end of the trip, you both got injured and the trip had to end quite abruptly — John with a torn ACL and Eric with a strain on his MCL. What happened when both these injuries occurred?
JJ: Mmm, that’s a heartbreaker...We didn’t succeed in the trip the way we had intended: to reach Chile by a certain date to catch the helicopter to go snowboarding. We were pressed for time. We tried to film, cover ground, and edit all in the same boat. On the jump we got injured, we built it half-assed because we were pressured for light. We just literally rushed with no speed checks. I hit it first and totally misjudged it, more than I have ever misjudged anything. It was like a bad dream where you are falling out of the sky. The injury made us totally pull the plug. It was sad.
EJ: I hit the jump a couple of times and couldn’t land anything, and then I switched the trick up. My speed got a little faster and I didn’t go nearly as big as John did, but I just landed low on the landing and in an old landing track. I tweaked the knee immediately. I knew that it wasn’t super serious, but I was having trouble walking.
MF: You both were adamant about giving back in some way while doing this trip. How'd that go?
JJ: We wanted to do something that could actually sustain itself and make a difference in people’s lives. We had the idea to make a piece of jewelry through our jewelry company, Jax. A couple of friends have gone down to Nicaragua and worked on an orphanage several times. They are trying to build another orphanage, and we just felt like—this is it, this is what we want to build. I’m super glad we did, too. The kids are so amazing.
EJ: It was cool, too, because there was all this talk about making this piece of jewelry. To just talk about it is one thing, but to actually get the piece of jewelry made and go down there and see the kids the money will go to. That was so rewarding. It’s such a special feeling, for sure.