If you’ve had anything to do with action sports in the Collingwood area, then you know at least one of the Konings brothers. They’re like an institution up here. You’ve probably seen Kevin Konings on the podium at a snowboard competition. Or throwing his motocross sideways 25 feet in the air. And as the park groomer and build supervisor at Blue Mountain, you’ve seen Matt Konings while riding up the Century Express Chair. He’s also no slouch on the snowboard. Nor the BMX. And he regularly competes in both disciplines. Plus he builds the downhill mountain bike trails at Blue Mountain in the summer months.
Surprisingly, their passion for snowboarding developed in the most unlikely of places: Brampton. At the generously named Mount Chinguacousy. But regardless of the lone T-bar, or the vertical drop of (wait for it) 68 feet, it was that little lump of dirt that launched the Konings to where they are today.
Mountain Life: So you guys grew up in Brampton? Where did you ride?
Matt Konings: Chinguacousy. The cool thing about Chinguacousy was, it was our local little hill. Especially with Kevin being the older one, they let us design features for them. We rode there all the time. Then when Kevin was 18 and I was 16 we moved up here.
ML: You guys were riding BMX as well. Any other sports?
Kevin: That was about it. We did a little bit of skateboarding and some in-line skating. Yeah, there was a couple years of fruit booting. I played soccer too. Goal tender.
ML: And you race motocross now Kevin?
Kevin: I race MX occasionally. I ride at Cassidy’s place mostly. I’ve been doing that for about eight years now. I rode DH (mountain bike) before that, then sold my DH, my XC mountain bike, and bought an MX. I’ve never looked back. I haven’t touched my BMX this year. Being a dad now, I need to limit my activities, so, it’s not like I can come home, load up the bike and go ride like I used to.
ML: Why did you guys move up here?
Kevin: Our parents wanted to get out of the city and help the two of us pursue snowboarding. They felt there was something there, so that was a way to help us out. Not having to drive 1.5 hours to ride everyday meant instead of going riding once a week, we were out four or five times a week.
Matt: It was kind of my choice to finish high school up here. Going to Jean Vanier and seeing everyone in snowboard gear, was completely different than seeing everyone in Puma, Adidas, Kappa. I was like the outcast at my Brampton high school. Here it was like, I fit in.
ML: And were you competing a lot?
Matt: I raced BMX till I was 15. That was the last year after I got number 1 in my category. Then dirt jumping and park riding came up. I was the youngest in the group of riders, but that always built my confidence. I was fine with getting last place as long as i didn’t sandbag.
Kevin: I competed a lot. I still compete but not as much anymore. I’ll be 34 this winter, so I still do big air events and still give the 18-year-olds a run for their money
ML: You can still do that?
Kevin: I can yeah. I’m lucky enough that when I ride, I feel like I’m 18. My age has nothing to do with it. The more your body is used to abuse and impact, the more your body can take it. Lucky for me, in the summer, the motocross bike is very physically demanding, then I jump straight to snowboarding.
ML: And what titles have you won over the years?
Kevin: A lot of local Coors Light big air events, the Quiksilver Downlow, I’ve been overall winner of the You Look Good series. I feel like my biggest accomplishment was being selected as 1 of 8 riders to try out for the Canadian Olympic team in slopestyle. Unfortunately my placing at the first world cup was very bad… but you win some, you lose some, you have good days and bad days.
Matt: I think back in 2007 I got the most improved rider award. But being recognized for all my hard work in my job as terrain park supervisor, and now being a builder, and people coming up to me and saying, “you put in a ton of hard work for this, how are you riding at the same time?” It’s kinda cool.
ML: How has growing up as brothers helped you?
Kevin: Matt was my guinea pig sometimes you know? Why risk myself getting hurt, when he can go and get hurt first.
Matt: I think with us being so close in age, it’s just like we feed off each other. At the end of the day, we’re brothers, we’re best friends, we can rely on each other when it comes down to it. Any sport we’ve done, we do together. There are days when Kevin’s going dirt biking and he’ll get a bike for me and he’ll teach me through the track. He’ll be like, just stay in second gear all day, you’ll have fun, don’t worry about doing anything.
ML: Matt you’re the number one guy at Blue these days?
Matt: Yeah I’m the terrain park builder. The groomer. I’ll be building all the features this winter. Which is super rad. Blue is finally seeing a lot of potential for what I can be doing and they’re taking a chance on me to be able to do that. I build all the DH trails too. They can take my bmx logic and bring it to the DH trails. It was my first year riding a mountain bike and it was super fun. It’s something different.
ML: So the big question: why haven’t you guys moved west?
Matt: I’m a park kid. I love jumps, rails, and in my job, I’m fortunate that I can be somewhat of an icon to Ontario riders. Out west has never been a goal for me. My passion is snowboarding and I want to create a career out of it. If not a career as a professional rider, it’s still a career.
Kevin: If I should have done it, I should have done it in my early 20’s. At the time, I didn’t feel there was a need to. I guess because I was doing well with contests here and I was getting a lot out of snowboarding. Then I guess I let the years go a bit and realized, I probably should have made a move there if I wanted to pursue it to the highest level I possibly could. I love going out west. But at the end of the day, I’m a true park rider, so anywhere there are icy kickers, I’m happy. I can ride booters that are beaten up, blocks of ice, I just love it. We’ve been to contests with freezing rain, the whole course is iced over and they want to cancel the contest, and I’m the only one up there saying, it’s fine, it’s good. I just did a lap. It’s good. let’s go!
ML: Can you really compete against the young guys?
Kevin: At the top of a slopestyle course and you look at the start list and sometimes you’ve got kids that are 13 years old. The average age is like 21-24, so you’re always against the young bucks, but they don’t realize you’re that old.
Matt: The funny thing about the BMX contests is the kids still can’t do a basic tabletop. They can throw barspins and tailwhips, but they can’t do a tabletop.
Kevin: Nor can they flow a course. They can’t flow a park at all. They can do crazy techy tricks that I couldn’t even think of doing, but try to get them to link a park together and it doesn’t happen. They get lost. Plus they have no brakes.
ML: Are slams getting harder?
Kevin: No. Honestly no.
Matt: No. Except for the one where I was knocked out for five days. I think that one was super bad for everybody. Nobody knew what the outcome would be.
Kevin: The next day, I was like, Matt you’re not well, I have to call 911. He resisted it, but the ambulance came and they were like, “how long has he been like this?” I said, “a day,” and they were like, “code red!” They basically called for a helicopter to land at his house.
He got to Toronto and the doctors told our parents he had a 50/50 chance of living.
Matt: I constantly wear my helmet now. If I had had a helmet at the time it still would’ve happend, but not nearly as severe. That happened on my BMX. We’ve all had our fair share of falls.
Kevin: Everyone keeps telling me the older I get the more pain I’m gonna feel, but I don’t know when that’s gonna come. I still feel great. I feel lucky though. I’ve has so many dislocations on my shoulders, broke my wrists, torn ligaments, and then I see my doctor and he’s like you’re fit, your muscle mass is great you’re staying active. Keep doing what you’re doing.
Breaking my back was by far the most painful. I was going to the Ski and Snowboard festival in Whistler and practicing for big air at Blue when I went for a cab 9, but corked in a way I wasn’t expecting and compressed four of my vertebrae together. Man that was painful.
It healed up really well. It was basically a month of lying in bed.
ML: So what’s next for you guys?
Kevin: I don’t want to give up competing. Last year I did six events, which isn’t much, but I podiumed in five of them. It’s a pay cheque at the end of the day, but it’s not even that. I love it so much. I’m so competitive. My wife doesn’t like it. She thinks it’s dangerous and worries about me, which I understand. But for me, snowboarding is like walking for the average person. I get on my board, strap in and I’m just comfortable. I’ve been riding a snowboard going on 24 years now, I might only do it five months out of the year, but during those five months I spend a lot of time on snow. I’m gonna keep doing this because it’s what I love.
Matt: For me contests are just fun for dropping in and riding with your friends. I just want to make finals. To be the top ten or whatever, it’s fun being out there. Being in our 30s now, dropping in still feels great. Snowboarding, BMX, you’re just having fun with everybody. The funny thing is, Kevin and I can go into a rail event and still make finals with a tails slide to 270 out. Kids are trying all these spin on tricks and falling all over the place, but style and smooth is key in contests.
Kevin: My rail tricks have been the same for the last decade. They don’t change much, but a lot of riders don’t understand contests are about riding smooth and riding consistent as opposed to hucking yourself. It’s what judges want to see.
I coached for a bunch of years as well. And I might get back into it. I coached a lot of kids and watched them grow over the years and watched them grow from beginner snowboarders to pro level snowboarders. That was the best. To see them learn new stuff, put it in a contest run, get podiums…. the smiles on their face. That’s something really cool to see. I love seeing those kids succeed and to this day I’m still in touch with a bunch of them and I still give them pointers. Heck, they give me pointers, because they’ve learned some things that I haven’t so… that’s really cool.
ML: What there tricks you’re working on?
Kevin: I’m still working on some things. Last year I learned some doubles. It’s a matter of bringing them to the snow. But I’ve got a mortgage to pay for, bills to pay, I have an 8 month old son, and it’a all about the family now. I try when I ride now, not to get out of my comfort zone. I’m not gonna be back on a signed contract any day now, so I have to be smart about it, not be an idiot and huck myself. I’m not 18 anymore where I have a job that doesn’t matter….
Matt: I would like to learn new tricks, but same, the mortgage, the wife, the job… making sure that everybody’s good. And obviously the future is key. Halfpipe is my passion and I’d obviously love to get some more tricks in that, but sometimes just blasting big airs is so much more fun. If I could do doubles I’m sure they’d be fun, but in my mind blasting a big backside method is so much fun.
Kevin: Tricks aren’t always about how many spins you can do, style is the biggest aspect. How clean, how smooth can you do a trick. There are so many different grabs you can do. You can poke it and tweak it in so many different ways, you can always change it up. I love doing that now. Anything from a 360 to a 900, change it up, different grabs, tweak it, make it look better. I’m very critical of my riding in that way too.
ML: What was your best day of riding?
Matt: I would honestly say the best day of snowboarding was the day Kevin asked me to be his best man at his wedding. We had such a rad day. Kevin was helping me on a new spin, and he just rolled up on the deck and said, “July 4th. You’re the best man.” It took me a second. Then I was like, yeah, I’m your best man. It was my most epic day.
Kevin: We were younger doing a boardercross at Talisman. Matt crashed and broke his collarbone and got taken away in an ambulance. I said, “don’t worry, I go this,” and I won the event. I got a stack full of prizes and gave them all to Matt at the end of the day.
Matt: Last year’s Downlow was just a super key moment, Kevin having a newborn, a couple days old. That day was just awesome because everyone knew Kevin just had a little baby boy, but he was out there still destroying it.
Kevin: It was my first contest as a dad, but I still won. At 33 years old. That was a pretty cool moment. There were photos after with the hashtag whosaysdadscantrip. That was really cool.
ML: How is the Downlow?
Kevin: Best event in Ontario, by far. The owner lets Craig do whatever he wants and he builds a big ass superpark for the day for us and just lets us ride. It’s always the best day of the year; sunny, five degrees, perfect big air jumps. They shut the Outback down for a week and just plow the place. They plow the features, and it’s like here we go. It’s a good time. Love it.
ML: Who are your sponsors?
Kevin: I ride for Oakley, Lib Technologies, Quiksilver, Blue Mountain, Fathom Boardshop, Celtek and Skullcandy.
Matt: I’m sponsored by Salomon Snowboards, Bonfire, Spy, Celtek, Skullcandy and Fathom Boardshop.